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7 March 2012
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The Halo Bulletin: 3.07.12

8. March 2012 01:01

Halo 4 Reveal

We'll never tell.

Before Monday, I think some people pictured our studio as a makeshift infirmary, filled with bed after bed of hospital-gown-clad 343 employees, eerily singing "I'll never tell" as if the haunting tune was stuck in an endless loop. The reality of our situation, however, was the majority of us spent our days curled up in a fetal position under our desk, tears streaming down our faces, sobbing about our need to share something, anything, with our information-starved fans.

While it's been difficult for us to keep our cards so close to our chest, I know it's been even more difficult on all of you, as your hunger for Halo 4 knowledge went from a slight rumbling in the pit of your stomach to a sonic boom-like roar heard by anybody within a one-million-mile radius. We hope Monday's taste not only whetted your appetite but also provided enough satiation to help you survive just a little bit longer....

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about (because you live under something that is a natural formation, perhaps), Monday was the day we officially released the first in-game look at Halo 4, in the form of a behind-the-scenes video and three screenshots featuring the Master Chief and the Battle Rifle. Even if you've already seen the aforementioned pieces, go ahead and take a gander at them again, because today, for your weekly Halo Bulletin, we're answering several of your Halo 4-related inquiries.

So watch the video, check out the screenshots, and then begin digesting the Frankie-provided morsels below because, as you are about to see, your favorite Scottish Franchise Development Director was kind enough to tackle each and every question I hastily threw his way. Well, beside the one about his sudden lack of facial hair, anyway.

Halo 4 Screenshot

Halo 4 Screenshot

Halo 4 Screenshot

Frankie tells.

What do the media mean when they say "perks?" -Krevilz

Well, I think they're talking about performance-enhancing abilities from Call of Duty, if we're going to be perfectly honest. I should clarify that we never used the terms "perks," other than when asked about them. That was a term coined in questions about our admittedly mysterious content.

The systems in Halo 4, and I say that in the plural because there is no single element that defines that aspect of our game, are interconnected and related directly to your in-game experience as a Spartan IV, but they're not exactly like any specific existing template or scheme. We'll be explaining more about the Campaign and Multiplayer systems as the year progresses, but suffice it to say that the new features we're hinting at for Halo 4 will not be mirror images of the stuff they're being compared to now in online conversations.

Can you elaborate a little more on the armor customization and how it affects gameplay? I'm expecting a vague answer, but anything new on the subject (even a little sliver) would be extremely appreciated. -ZippingFilly812

You will have a wide degree of control over your appearance, of course, but as we have hinted, there will also be elements of your ability and performance as a Spartan IV that you will have some control over, that will actually impact your gameplay experience, although it should be noted this will not allow players to arrive in a game session with what are traditionally called "power weapons" or a massively asymmetrical advantage over opponents. Now, there's a lot of speculation about how this will affect balance - and when we have more details to share, that experience will start to come into focus, but our philosophy is still to provide a balanced and enjoyable game for all types of players, regardless of skill or experience.

Will there be a public multiplayer Beta, like the Halo 3 and Halo: Reach Betas, where everyday people got to play them? With this being 343's first Halo game and entry in the franchise, it seems like something very important.

While we are testing Halo 4 code, gameplay, and systems at significant scale to get excellent data, input, and feedback, we are focused on polishing and shipping our experience for the duration of the year, and splitting resources to manage and build a beta is not on our schedule.

Halo 4 Reveal

Will Armor Abilities and/or Equipment return? -Daedalos42

Without going into too many details, in Halo: CE, you'd fight for control over armor abilities based on timing and map control, and that's something that evolved over time until it became the Equipment pick-ups in Halo 3 and eventually the Armor Ability loadouts in Reach. Halo 4's system will be a logical evolution, but based on lessons and inspiration from the (matchmaking) successes and less-than-successes in prior titles.

What is your general approach to the marketing of Halo 4? Can we expect more/bigger info blowouts before release or will you keep things closer to your chest this time (compared to other Halo games)? -Sempik

We have some surprises in store. We're not simply cruel teases—it's a combination of genuinely wanting to surprise fans and, of course, the production reality of making sure everything is cool before revealing things. Previous Halo marketing campaigns have kind of taken on a life of their own and are definitely a part of the overall launch experience for some hardcore fans. I think we have some ideas, traditional and not-so-traditional, that certainly embrace marketing, but a couple of things that go beyond product marketing into what I can only tease as a fairly different experience. More on that later in the year, but expect at least a human presence from 343 Industries at many of the big events in the gaming calendar year.

So you guys mentioned that the Multiplayer will have its own story and explanations. Will they intertwine with the single-player Campaign and story? -DS xHunterZx SD

That's an interesting question and the short answer is that they are connected, but you shouldn't spend too much time wondering how. All of our current experiences, games, terminals, books, etc., are all interconnected. Sometimes directly, sometimes tangentially, but from this point on, everything matters. If you're new to the series, don't panic. None of the external experiences are necessary to understand the game plot, and vice versa. Each Halo story will work as a standalone piece, but the more you experience, the more resonance (and Easter Eggs) you'll get.

When will the full game be released? -Burninhell647

In precisely 2012. The actual ship date (and other details) will be rolled out in the not-too-crazy-distant future.

Halo 4 Reveal

Seeing how Halo 4 is the return of Master Chief, when can we expect to get some Campaign information? -Maggot081608

We're going to be rolling out more information throughout the year, and you will certainly find out more about both Campaign and Multiplayer relatively soon. Of course, now you have to define "relatively."

Is there going to be a nice balance of playlists in Halo 4, like ranked and social? -A Critical H1T

We aren't going to go into detail about matchmaking systems or playlists for a little while, but there will definitely be options for traditional Halo fans to enjoy, and some very new experiences that we're pretty excited about. Our playlists will be tightly focused, consistent, and properly polished. This will be especially evident at launch, but like with prior Halo games, these playlists will be organic and will evolve, but sensibly and appropriately.

What is the difference of philosophy of visuals between Campaign and Multiplayer, and will we see a more cinematic look in the Multiplayer with different techniques usually reserved for single-player? -DemonCarnotaur

The technology for both Campaign and Multiplayer graphics is effectively identical, but the philosophies will vary depending on the game mode/map. Certainly the traditional MP stuff we've already shown continues Halo's tradition of clean lines of sight and recognizable environments designed to propel and lubricate map flow and fast-paced gameplay. The technology in Campaign will be used differently to accommodate a more cinematic experience, but there are a lot of approaches we're taking to the whole game this time that will add layers of nuance to those approaches.

With all the care being put into improving and pushing the Multiplayer and single-player experiences forward, will the same care be put into features such as Forge and Theater? What are your goals for improving community content in Halo 4? -AtlasIsShruggin

We will do our best not to disappoint fans of the existing Halo feature set. Every aspect of the game is being approached with a passion and fervor to improve, grow, or streamline. More detail soon, but I suspect most folks will be pretty happy.

Halo 4 Reveal

How close to a traditional Halo experience will we be able to get? Will there be a place for fans of the original trilogy to get to play Halo as they remember it? -MATCLAN x MT

Every Halo game is different, sometimes subtly, sometimes radically. You can expect that tradition to continue here, but the short answer is that the core things that make Halo Campaign and Multiplayer feel like Halo will be intact and immediately available to players.

Will other characters, besides Master Chief and Cortana, from the previous games or novels appear in Halo 4? -Assassin 11D7

One of the luxuries of being in the game business is the ability to keep story and surprises completely shrouded in secrecy for a very long time. I can at least confirm that there will be some very interesting new characters joining the fray.

What stage of development are you at currently? -UnrealCh13f

Crunch. We're finishing levels. Improving perf. Finishing gameplay. Finishing UI. The Campaign is playable from beginning to end. Cinematics are being fully realized. Music is composed, final orchestra sessions are booked. Some levels are graphically polished and beautiful, others waiting their turn in the schedule. Testing and polishing of systems continues. Crunchy.

Halo 4 Reveal

Are there going to be more, fewer, or the same number of guns in Halo 4 compared to Halo: Reach? Is there one gun that when you saw it you just went "WOW!" -Someone

It is not the same number of guns. I can state bluntly that we have made significant changes to the sandbox. Perhaps the most radical overhauls and additions it's ever had in a single iteration. Fans should expect to see very new stuff. And not just weapons. As usual a couple of things will get deleted (or changed), but on balance, it will be more new stuff. And yes, a lot of guns have made me go wow. New ones and old ones. Almost every single gun sound effect makes me go wow.

The HUD shown in the gameplay clips lacks a health bar. Will this change, has this changed, or will Halo 4 use the same health system as the one in Halo 2 and 3? -Gravemind

Health has been changed. There are no health pickups, but we'll have more news on how that system works in gameplay at a later date.

What will the ranking system be like? -xMcCarthee

It will be altered. More news later.

Halo 4 Reveal

In the new footage we see the game type set as Slayer yet the score goes up not by individual kills but by points. Is this a custom game? A new Slayer variant? Or is this how the default Slayer scoring is going to be? -zNiTeY

The footage of MP you saw is taken from our internal Network test build and actually features a mashup of various game styles and UI elements, so don't spend too much time trying to figure out what's happening in it, because outside of surface elements, it's not going to teach you a lot about any particular game mode. However, our new implementation of Slayer will score differently than the traditional 0-50 method of yore, and is one of 100 things we'll share with you more deeply in the coming months.

Is the music in the video that was released on Monday from Halo 4's score? Furthermore, who is the lead composer? And if you can't tell us who it is, can we have a hint? -Neloms

Effectively, all of the music you hear from this point out is going to be from the game. It's one of the things we're most excited about. We can never emulate Marty's legendary scores, so we're taking it in a different direction, but one that still, we think, fits the Halo universe beautifully. Our composer will be revealed soon enough, and as soon as a fairly dry contractual date arrives, we will be ecstatic to introduce him to you. And it will be soon-ish.

Will skulls be returning to Halo 4? -Negative 9

There will be interesting ways to replay Halo 4, as is traditional in the series.

Will there be any Covenant presence in Campaign or Multiplayer? Be it weaponry, equipment, architecture, etc. -Lloyd Jo en es

Yes. The Covenant will definitely return, albeit in a completely (graphically, politically and sonically) overhauled form, but they may be the least of your problems.

Halo 4 Reveal

Will the mid-construction mech seen on one of the Multiplayer levels appear in some form in the campaign of Halo 4? -Franc and Co

The Cyclops 2 seen in the center of War House will not be playable. But we will have some vehicle surprises, at least one of which will dwarf that weapon.

Any chance we'll be getting Forge info anytime soon? -Nuclear Taco 42

We will discuss the future of Forge later this year. It will not be sad news.

Does the BR have spread? Is it hitscan? -xBrutaIity

The BR is a three-shot burst weapon. It is hitscan. In its current tuning, it has recoil (not bloom) which causes it to rise slightly (in a predictable and suppressible way). It is not a replacement for the DMR as has been discussed in the community. You will not see bloom as it currently exists in Vanilla Reach on any weapon, but there will be different methods for reticle targeting that vary depending on the weapon, and players will have a wide arsenal of weapons to choose from. More news about that later.

Will there be multiple editions like with previous Halo titles? (Standard, limited, legendary) -Revenant1988

After we announce the release date, we will announce what content will be available at retail.

Will assassinations return and if yes, will we have more unique weapon moves, for example the Energy Sword in Halo: Reach? -D4RKNESS 360

Short version, yes. Assassinations are altered, but they're back. The weapon question isn't something we're going to answer today.

Halo 4 Reveal

Will there be any other media (books, comics, etc.) released in the lead-up to Halo 4, or will we have to gather our clues and form theories about the Campaign primarily from Cryptum, Primordium, Glasslands, and the Halo: Anniversary terminals? -Monkey Bloke

At least one more Karen Traviss novel, with important connective elements, will arrive between now and launch, although the final Forerunner chapter from Greg Bear will arrive afterwards. For some pretty specific strategic reasons. As you can imagine, juggling all these things is crazy hard.

Is Jen Taylor voicing Cortana? Who were the woman and man in the motion capture part of the Halo 4 video? -Jedi Otter

The man and woman in the video were incredibly talented actors. Their roles in Halo 4 are pivotal and essential to the story we're telling, but we'll talk more about those and other actors in the future. I think Halo fans will be calm and happy about our casting, including MP V/O, but we're not revealing more at this time.

What kind of features will Halo 4 provide to the machinima community? -farmer scott21

Halo has been a cornerstone of the machinima community. It's also a personal passion of mine (and others here on the team), so we will continue to embrace and support that community, but I honestly don't have too many details to share at this point.

Will Halo 4 include Gravity Hammers and Energy Swords (or adequate replacements) for Grifball? -Kalbelgarion

It will be (more or less) possible to play Grifball in Halo 4.

Will there be remakes from Halo 3 maps like Guardian? -xRCNx VorteX

We aren't discussing MP maps beyond Wraparound and War House, and while the vast majority of our maps will be brand new, we also know what the ladies (and gents) like.

Halo 4 Reveal

Why the decision to use Spartan IVs in Multiplayer instead of the ol' Spartan IIs? -randomrosso93

That will become apparent in the fiction of the game components, but the "feel" of Chief as it relates to the "feel" of a Spartan IV will be practically identical for gameplay purposes.

Will there be a color-blind option? Even in Reach where contrast is high, people such as myself have a hard time even with Blue Team's colors against the dark grays of Countdown. -HamboBlank

We have a lot of color-blind players in the studio, including myself (100% red/green, which is why I seldom break the Tashi Ceiling), but we will not be producing a color-blindness "mode." However, we have considered it as an art team, in how we choose palettes and types of contrast. The Spartans and UI elements help tremendously, and so far I am doing a bit better than I'd expect in that area.

Now that we conquered the heavier stuff, I thought we could throw some lighter questions and answers in as well. Off we go!

Mister Chief

When will we see more Mister Chief? -Spec ops Grunt

Unfortunately, and I apologize personally, but yes.

bs angel note: What is this I don't even

Does Frankie really have a shrine to Star Wars - Episode 1? -FireSharter


How much Mountain Dew will I need to drink when Halo 4 releases? -Assassin 11D7

A healthy, delicious, and sensible quantity.

Why am I playing better when I sit uncomfortably on the floor? Will this apply to Halo 4 as well? -Naqser

I thought I was the only one who did the floor thing.

Can you describe your favorite addition to the game? -Snipers Recon

Something that Jeremy Clarkson would cause a traffic jam with.

Pancakes or waffles? -SomeLuckyCharms

They are both equitable bacon/syrup conveyances.

Why is it when people ask me if I've got questions, I always draw a blank? -RC Master

Try drawing live rounds.

How on earth do you manage to feed the 200+ people who work in your office? Do you have a canteen or do you just let them out at lunchtime to wander the streets in packs scavenging for scraps? -scarab

Catered meals, obviously, but also hoppers full of junk food, like how you'd feed a cat if you went on vacation. This is not a joke.

How's the water looking? -UnrealCh13f

Looks wet and wild.

Considering there's nothing I can say that will top that last line, this officially brings today's edition of your Halo Bulletin to a conclusion. Until next week, my friends....

bs angel

P.S. Just in case you didn't get your fill of images today, here is your customary Friday Caption Fun picture. Embiggen, snag, and then contribute your witty quip to the latest round of caption festivities. Off you go!

Friday Caption Fun