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25 May 2012
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The Halo Bulletin: 5.25.12

25. May 2012 21:00

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

Forward Unto Canada

Whenever I go from Point A to Point B, it's inevitable I end up at Point Z. So needless to say, when I drove to Canada on Sunday, unplanned adventures were had. It is because of those unplanned adventures that I learned two very important lessons: One, when your GPS says, "Bear right," it does not actually mean there's a bear on the right. And two, when you're crossing the border, you shouldn't refer to your passenger as "the dude riding shotgun," because apparently customs agents are a little sensitive about the last word in particular (It's worth noting the resulting 10-minute cavity search is not nearly as bad as some people say. At least, from a bystander's perspective, anyway).

You may be wondering what I was doing in Canada. Besides eating maple donuts (the maple part of which got stuck on the inside of the bag, curse you, Mr. Horton!), I also had the pleasure of visiting the Forward Unto Dawn set—the digital series we're debuting in October. It was fun to see the crew and cast; they really are an amazing bunch of people.

Our actors are engaged, excited and bonding in a way that's actually super appropriate to the way their characters are intended to behave. The locations and sets are equally engaging. Some of the stuff our production designer has imagined - and then built - is truly jaw-dropping. Seeing the faces of some very lucky community members who had a chance to visit up there with us made the whole thing worthwhile. Seeing them stand in those sets and feel, for a brief moment, like they were in the Halo universe, well that's irreplaceable.

One set, a dorm room, was so badass that every single male from our team said roughly the same thing: "I WISH THIS WAS MY BEDROOM." I say male because our female staffers loved it, but didn't necessarily want to LIVE in a bedroom with a giant golden computer as the centerpiece. For the record, I was not one of those females.

The level of detail was exquisite, right down to the data scrolling by on the display monitors. When you stand inside the set, it feels like you're standing inside the place or thing it represents. Only the grunts or Teamsters remind you that you're not standing in a cryochamber, or on a distant alien world.

We've been coy about the identities of the folks who are working on Forward Unto Dawn, but once E3's dust has settled, we'll share more of those brilliant talents with you. And speaking of E3... well actually, let's touch on something else first: A Halo 4 weapon, and a brand new one, at that.

Halo 4 Railgun

The Halo 4 Railgun

Halo 4's arsenal includes numerous weapons, some of which you're familiar with, and others of which you are not. One of the all-new aforementioned items you'll have at your disposal in Halo 4 is the Railgun. Manufactured by Acheron Security, its official designation is the Asymmetric Recoilless Carbine-920.

The ARC-920 Railgun is a compact-channel linear accelerator that fires a high-explosive round at incredible speed, delivering both kinetic and explosive force to hard and soft targets alike. (Insert discreet cough here.)

Before we go any further, I must ask you to raise your right hand and repeat after me:

"I, (insert your super 1337 gamertag here), solemnly swear to remember that the following information is not only subject to change, but in all likelihood will change before the game ships. I will also remember that when one of the below details does change, I will not be angry at bs angel, or send her angry messages. And that goes for as long as we both shall live."

Now that the formalities are out of the way, let's chat about the current iteration of the Railgun. To give you a reference point, we'll compare it to the Spartan Laser.

Like the Spartan Laser, the Railgun has to be charged before firing. There are appropriate (and awesome) audio cues when that's happening. The Railgun's charge time feels like approximately half of the Laser's.

One of the more notable differences between the Railgun and the Laser is the Railgun does not have a zoom function. While I initially saw that as a negative, it turned into a positive because the lack of a zoom function eliminates those moments when you're making an adjustment, someone shoots you and pulls you out of zoom, and you end up overcorrecting and missing your target. The Railgun offers more of a static experience where the corrections you're making, whether someone is shooting you or not, are going to be the same. If you move left, the reticle is going to stay to the left. If you move right, the reticle is going to stay to the right. Ultimately, it lets you muscle your way through taking fire, allowing you to be clutch with a one-hit kill weapon.

The Railgun does not do as much vehicle damage as the Laser, but strategically placed shots are able to change a vehicle's force and direction. When its projectile hits a vehicle, it has the potential to send it flying, rolling, or perhaps even off a cliff because of the kinetic energy (similar to repeatedly hitting a Warthog with a Brute Shot).

Once the Railgun has been fired, it feels instantaneous; the moving projectile doesn't feel like it has a lot of travel time (think Rocket Launcher vs. Laser). Overall, in its current iteration, it's considered a power weapon as it is super lethal and deadly accurate. When the game ships, though, it may end up shooting marshmallows. Marshmallows of death, doom, and destruction, but marshmallows all the same.

Office of Halo Intelligence

Office of Halo Intelligence: Part 8

E3 is 11 days away. Frank O'Connor, Franchise Development Director, will be there, of course, revealing new information, expanding upon already released information, and watching the press get some hands-on time with Halo 4. When I asked him to take a quick break from his preparations to write an OHI entry for today's Bulletin, he said no. The following is what he typed up after I informed him he didn't actually have a choice in the matter.
I am such a hipster that I was at E3 before it was even E3. That's literally true. I distinctly remember hassling Brad Dourif about the Dune movie outside the Nintendo booth at the Vegas CES where what became E3 used to be off in a tent in the corner.

E3 is a blessing and a curse. It's a fantastic showcase for the industry, a truly magical experience where the best and brightest in gaming get to show off their impending wares, meet with the retailers who are tasked with selling those wares, and become inspired and excited for what the next months and years hold for the games industry. And of course as a spectacle, it has effectively become a consumer event, a bit like the Oscars, where the drive for all the George Clooney facemaking and fake clapping is really the audience watching at home.

And it's probably not a secret that while the business rationale for polishing content and creating presentations for E3 is really the retail business and the financial nuts and bolts it entails, the real pressure is reinforced by the need to create something magical for fans to get excited about.

Everyone in the studio, from artists to testers, from engineers to accountants, from animators to audio specialists, is driven by the pressure to create something amazing and impressive. And it's tough. E3 often sidelines staff and resources, focused on creating "out of order" polish areas that break the logic of a schedule. Which is why we have talented producers and associate producers who create plans, years in advance to ensure that E3 stuff has no effect on the overall shipping schedule. They are unsung heroes, so consider this their song.

And the rest of the staff are knuckles down, heads down, spirits up, working 12, 15, even 24 hour shifts to make sure that the stuff we do show at E3, is worth your time and ours.
We sometimes refer to it as a goat Rodeo, but it's a lot more coordinated, often with laser-focused concentration on making sure that we're not misusing human and technical resources that would be better used polishing and shipping the game. E3 should be an event that helps lift your game, and shine light on it, not hurt the main project. And so that's where we are.

Can't say too much about what we have to show in a couple of weeks, but I can say confidently that we're looking forward to sharing more and more of our game, our ambition and our innovation with you guys over the coming months. And as fans, as gamers, we ourselves are looking forward to seeing what our colleagues and competitors are showing at E3, just from the same place of excitement and curiosity as you guys.

Of course, when we go to E3, we're typically trapped at the Microsoft booth and only get to hear about stuff, rather than actually seeing it. Invariably someone will drop by whatever meeting room we're trapped in, and tell us about how absolutely epic something looks in a distant corner of the show. That we can't go see.

If you're anything like me, you're ready for the news and excitement that is E3. If the wait still seems torturously long, you're in luck because we have two different credit-based opportunities that will hopefully make the passing of time a little more bearable. So grab your Halo: Reach disc and begin scoping out the things you still need from the Armory, because with the following festivities, you'll be one step closer to making that helmet (or whatever you've been eyeing) a reality.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Custom Challenge of the Week

Last night, during the Xbox LIVE Community Playdate, I splattered numerous people while behind the wheel of a Warthog. Unfortunately they were all on my team, but a splatter's a splatter, right? If you enjoy that very special moment when vehicles and players collide as much as I do, you'll also like this week's Halo: Reach Custom Challenge of the Week.

From now until next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, setting up a Campaign or Custom Challenge with the Warthog as your "Kills with Weapon" Goal will result in five times the usual multiplier.

Let the splattering begin!

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Super Jackpot Weekend

If Warthogs aren't your thing but Multi Team is, then you also have a shot at bumping your total number of credits to the next level because starting today and ending on Sunday, hopping into the Multi Team playlist will present you with the chance of receiving a 34,300-credit bonus. I know I always end with the line, "Go get some," but you really should... get some.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to work on E3 stuff again. Until next week.

bs angel

P.S. Discuss.