The Halo Bulletin: 10.25.12
by bs angel
25. October 2012 20:00
11 days and counting
Several months ago, during the infamous Halo 4 news drought, I spent my days curled up in a fetal position under my desk, tears streaming down my face, sobbing about my need to share something, anything, with our information-starved fans. Last week I regressed to the same traumatized state, only this time for the opposite reason: I realized there was no possible way we were going to be able to cover everything about the game that you've asked about before it actually comes out. It was always our intent to leave a handful of surprises, though, so surprises you will have, assuming you've managed to stay spoiler-free.
While there are some things we want you to experience for yourself, there are other things we want you to know right this very second, which is why we've been pushing out large amounts of Halo 4 content at a fast and furious pace. The past three Fridays have given you Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (our five-part, live-action web series), last Thursday we premiered "Scanned" (the official launch trailer produced by David Fincher and directed by Tim Miller), and yesterday we released a brand new gameplay trailer (happily nestled between Sons of Anarchy segments). We have a few more tricks up our sleeve (in fact, I'm traveling across the pond for one this weekend), but divulge them I will not. Because then they wouldn't be tricks. And they wouldn't be up our sleeve.
As the calendar counts down to November 6, many teams within the studio find themselves busy polishing (and still creating, for those on the Spartan Ops and DLC teams) the updated experiences that will be launching alongside the game. We're refreshing Halo Waypoint (on console, web and mobile web), fancying up the forums (or simplifying, depending on how you look at it), and putting the finishing touches on a completely new Halo 4 stats experience and the soon-to-be-released Halo 4: Interactive Guide. While change is sometimes difficult, every decision we've made is based upon providing a better experience, so we're going to do everything we can to help you become acquainted with these altered areas. We'll provide text and image tutorials for each one, and also support in the forums. No, we aren't going to let you get lost in the newness. We will, however, happily show you around your new digs.
We know the wait is becoming near unbearable, so to keep you distracted, we're going to throw a lot of information at you in not a lot of time. In this Bulletin, we're lifting the curtain on a new map (OMG NEW MAP!), we're revealing all the objects available in Halo 4 Forge (OMG FORGE!), we're providing an update about the Halo 4 War Games Map Pass (OMG YOU CAN HAZ!), and, since we covered the Master Chief and his evolution last week, we're going to kick things off with the same thing this week, only this time with your favorite A.I. Oh yes, it's time to talk about that blue lady that is definitely not a natural formation.
Evolution of Cortana
Considered by many to be the most powerful artificial intelligence ever created by humanity, Cortana was paired with the Master Chief in a last ditch effort by the UNSC to end the war with the Covenant. Now perilously beyond her operational lifespan, she teeters on the brink of rampancy as this new world's threat is finally revealed.
She may not have a physical form, but we can still take a look at how Cortana has evolved appearance-wise over the past almost eleven years. So embiggen the picture above by clicking on it (we didn't have a fancy-schmancy shot of her from CE, so please excuse the quality of that one in particular), and bask in the beauty of her various holographic iterations. Don't stare at her too long, though, because once she gets in your head, it's near impossible to get her out. Just ask the Chief...
A multi-tiered Big Team Battle map designed to support Dominion and vehicular play, Vortex was originally based on concept imagery of a wide, windswept valley leading to a large wind turbine generator. The valley was lined with rectilinear fins or blades that directed the air towards the turbine like a wind tunnel. Built around the wind turbine was a settlement of high-tech huts that might have been erected around the power source of the turbine's generator. We set out to convey the notion of a deserted, dry ghost town to influence the natural setting, supporting the grand mystique of the Forerunner structures lying dormant, idling with dust and wind blowing through it.
That initial inspiration evolved into the idea of an ancient Forerunner complex unearthed by human inhabitants who worshipped them and aped the forms of their architecture in their primitive buildings. This was further refined into the idea of a Forerunner weather processing complex, which maintained the visual identity of the wind tunnel idea, directing the air through tall fin-like structures into the mouth of a central structure, which then directed the wind currents up into the tall tower above the west base.
Early in development, Vortex was large and open. After initial playtests, we realized it was slightly too large and engagements were too infrequent. One difficulty we encountered when shrinking the map was that it made vehicle paths more constrictive, so we had to slowly expand the roads. This expansion impacted the placement of the bases, which we had to adjust in order to line them up along the highly geometric, symmetrical axes of the Forerunner architecture. Through subsequent iterations, large rocks were added and the bases became more closed off to focus the encounter spaces.
There are upper and lower paths that link all the bases together and provide vehicle lanes beneath the central base. These lanes have plenty of rocky cover and some connecting paths to allow infantry to utilize them with some degree of safety. If you happen to prefer vehicular combat, the power vehicles are located in the cave and side bases.
Sitting high in the map is a large, central Forerunner structure that is accessible by ramps, man cannons and gravity lifts. It has a few sniper points but much of the base is only accessible from the interior. The smaller bases around the edges of the map are used for spawning and as Dominion bases. All of these have multiple access points, as well as various vehicle spawns and ordnance drop locations.
The hardest design challenge we had with Vortex was making sure there was fun interplay between vehicles and infantry. We went through iterations where vehicles were dominant and people were complaining that they couldn't traverse from base to base without getting killed by a vehicle. Adding man cannons as quick entrances into the middle base helped this problem greatly. Semi-related, at one point during Vortex's development, the man cannon on the eastern end would always shoot the player into a wall and kill them. While I found it hilarious, others found it frustrating, so we improved the consistency of the jumps.
Sightlines made long range weapons initially dominant on this map, so we added caves and tunnels to circumvent the long open roads and provide additional options for medium and short range players. Despite being a very large map, the traversal time from one side to another is surprisingly short. One small piece of advice, though: getting caught in the open on the vehicle paths will result in a one-way ticket to Splattersville. Consider yourself warned.
Now that you know the basics about Vortex, you probably want to see it in action. Assuming that's the case, check out the brand new video below featuring a recent game in which I dominated anybody and everybody. Okay, so maybe I didn't play in this game, but if I had, the previous sentence would totally ring true. Anyway, press play, and enjoy!
Halo 4 Forge
Existing in Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, Forge is a game mode which offers the ability to edit multiplayer maps. You can add, remove and move around map objects such as weapons, vehicles, power-ups and props. You can even modify some of the structures found on the map, with a handful of maps allowing an extreme level of modification within large open spaces. In Halo 4, Forge is introducing several new features, such as the real-time highlighting and labeling of objects, the ability to lock, duplicate, and magnetically link objects together, and the option to change player traits in a given location on a map.
Forge is available for all ten Multiplayer maps shipping with Halo 4. There are also three additional spaces that were created just for this mode. We originally revealed Halo 4 Forge at RTX via a live demo with special guests Jack and Geoff from Achievement Hunter. Since then, the Forge fanatics amongst you have been begging for a detailed list of all the objects that will soon be available for your building pleasure. There's no time like the present to share that list, but before we do that, here's a brief description of Halo 4's Forge maps.
And now, here is a semi-comprehensive breakdown of all the objects available in Halo 4 Forge. (I say semi-comprehensive because I'm sure I missed something along the way. That's just the way I roll.)
Dominion Base Shields
Dominion Vehicle Pads
Base Status Monitors
Turret Status Monitors
Structure - Impact
Nature - Impact
Structure - Ravine
Nature - Ravine
Structure - Erosion
Nature - Erosion
Bridges and Platforms
Doors, Windows, and Walls
War Games Map Pass Update
The very first Halo 4 bundle we put together was the Limited Edition. We were extremely excited about it, and filled it to the brim with everything that was available at the time. Since then, in an effort to provide options for as many different people as possible (those on a tight budget, those who enjoy Multiplayer, those who like in-game content, etc.), we have created additional SKUs, the standalone War Games Map Pass being one of those things. The standalone version was advertised as including bonus content (two in-game helmets and an emblem) that the LE version did not have.
In an effort to aid completionists in their quest for collecting as many items as possible, we wanted to include the in-game content in BOTH versions. Now that the "I"s are dotted and the "T"s are crossed, we can finally confirm that the LE War Games Map Pass and the standalone War Games Map Pass both come with two bonus in-game helmets (Scanner and Strider), as well as a unique in-game emblem (Falcon). We're also excited to reveal the specifics of the three map packs included in the Map Pass.
The Halo 4 War Games Map Pass confirms your access to three War Games map packs as they become available in December, February and April, and represents a savings of more than 15 percent versus purchasing the packs individually. Descriptions and tentative release dates are as follows:
Crimson Map Pack (December)
Maps: Wreckage, Harvest, Shatter
Witness the chaos of a clash of civilizations in Wreckage, with its blend of claustrophobic spaces and dangerous exposures and venture into the human colony environs of Harvest, and explore a human foray on an alien moon in Shatter.
Majestic Map Pack (February)
Maps: Landfall, Monolith, Skyline
Landfall's emphasis is on infantry battles against a glittering ocean on a distant world, while Monolith exposes you to the naked vacuum of space - and the firepower of opposing teams, and Skyline's distinctly industrial feel provides new challenges in somewhat familiar, but occasionally confined spaces.
Castle Map Pack (April)
Maps: Daybreak, Outcast, Perdition
Daybreak is set in a military facility against the backdrop of an idyllic mountain range, while Outcast plunges you into the warrens, canyons and arches of an alien edifice, and Perdition takes players into the heart of an urban sprawl, with tactical speed and situational awareness its key features.
And with that, another Bulletin comes to a close. Oh, and one more thing: to celebrate less than two weeks out, there will be a Super Jackpot present in every playlist in Halo: Reach until launch. We upped your chances of hitting it ever so slightly (and by ever so slightly, I mean a significant amount), so get yourself some credits, and hopefully that helmet you've been eyeing in the Armory. 11 days, my friends, 11 days...