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30 January 2013
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The Halo Bulletin: 1.30.13

01.30.2013 18:00

Catch the Disease

When I step onto the Grifball court, opposing Spartans begin to resemble pin-shaped pieces of steel and my hammer starts quivering in anticipation of nailing every player in sight. I may not be the most skilled person to ever hit the court. However, I am well aware of the fact that it's not the size of the hammer that matters but instead how you swing it. And yes, before you ask, I can definitely swing it. All night long, as a matter of fact.

I've been playing Grifball since shortly after it launched. That's right; I caught the disease long before it was cool (helpful hint for newbies: Use the cream. It really helps with the itching). But while I know its history like the back of my Gravity Hammer, those of you unfamiliar with this particular virtual sport may not be aware of its roots. So in honor of Grifball's Monday launch, I asked Burnie Burns - Patient Zero himself and creator of both Grifball and the popular Machinima series Red vs. Blue - to touch on the topic in a way only he can. Whether you're familiar with this smashingly fun pastime or new to the swish-swish-stab of it all, join us for an entertaining history lesson on how exactly Grifball came to be.

Burnie Burns Grifball

Hi, Burnie! Let's start with the basics: Who the heck is Grif?

Burnie: Grif is the Red Team's lovable slacker in our Halo-based series Red vs. Blue. He is voiced by Geoff Ramsey, Rooster Teeth's lovable slacker. Grif serves two purposes in the show: He provides a comedic balance to Sarge and he also helps us figure out which of our audience members can't tell the difference between the colors orange and yellow. For the record, he is orange. [bs angel note: Don't look at the picture above. Cough.]

And how did the ball variant of Grif come to be?

Burnie: Microsoft asked us to make a promotional video for the Halo 3 Heroic Map Pack which featured the map Foundry. We got the codes about a week early and knocked out a really fun video called "D.I.Y." which focused on the Forge elements of this particular add-on. After we turned in the video, we had a few days until release. We used that extra time to make some crazy creations in Forge and even a couple of game types. One of those was a clear standout: Grifball.

Clear standout, indeed. What was the creation process like for this particular game type?

Burnie: I have always liked alternative sports games - titles like Arch Rivals, NFL Blitz and Pigskin 621 AD. So, I wanted to make some kind of Halo-based sport. We made a "paintball" variant first, but it wasn't terribly different than playing SWAT with pistols. Plus, it's a very poorly kept secret that most of us at RvB are pretty mediocre Halo players and can't shoot worth a damn. So, I started looking at the Assault game mode and thinking about how we could use the bomb as a ball. We made an initial variant that was a one-sided goal with people taking turns on offense; then we added the second goal and it really felt like a sports game. There was an older Halo 2 episode of RvB where Sarge talked about a game named Grifball. Gavin Free (Slow Mo Guys, Achievement Hunter) was helping me with the testing and he suggested forcing the ball carrier to turn orange in the true spirit of Grifball. I wanted the players to be physical, so I took away the guns and gave them hammers and swords.

How much iteration did Grifball go through before landing on the final variant?

Burnie: I would say it went through four or five versions before we took it public. For about two days, Gav and I were the best Grifball players in the entire world. After that, the community grabbed it and ran with it. It's impossible to say how many versions have existed since we turned it loose. The biggest revisions came from expert map makers like Nokyard, who refined the wall blocking Foundry's maintenance bays. He made it a real barrier. Our first wall was a seriously miserable construction. Then the crew at GrifballHub started tweaking the gameplay to keep it competitive and make it more accessible to new players.

One of the neat things about Grifball is that it continues to evolve. What is your favorite thing about the Halo 4 version?

Burnie: Just the fact that Grifball appears in the official playlist is an amazing experience for me. We are very proud to have contributed something to the Halo franchise that actually contributes to the gameplay experience. I don't think that most of the people who play Grifball even know the connection with Red vs Blue. Plus, I get to add a Game Design section to my resume. Which I totally did.

As you should have! So, as someone that has numerous Grifball games under their belt, what is the funniest thing that's happened when playing this game type?

Burnie: It's always hilarious to get the opposing team to take each other out. Friendly Fire is traditionally left on in Grifball; it adds to the mayhem of the initial rushes. A great runner can get two of his opponents to take each other out when they come to hammer him and it clears the path to the goal.

I may or may not fall for that every time. Besides the above, what other strategies do you recommend for Halo 4 Grifball?

Burnie: If you're a new player, camp the opposing team's spawn point. It's a legitimate strategy - and a great way to get a Killionaire. If you find a good team in Matchmaking, be sure to party up with them. You will dominate. The best part about Grifball is the rhythm you can get in with a hammer. It's not unusual to find yourself hammering away in massive streaks.

Thanks for the advice. Before you ride into the sunset, I have one more question: If Grif were here, what do you think he'd say?

Burnie: He would call in sick. Even Grifball is too much work for him.

I can totally relate. Thanks for chatting, Burnie, and for creating one of the most bestest game types in the history of ever!

Next Week's Matchmaking Playlist Update

We were incredibly excited about last week's update (So excited, as a matter of fact, that we accidentally released it six hours early. OOPS.), and we're equally excited about this week's update (except for the part about releasing it early. Sorry). Here to talk specifics is Bravo. Just to warn you, he's got a thing for Team Doubles, so his write-up is more than a bit wordy. In light of that, I recommend grabbing a chair and at least two beverages before digging into the below, which includes everything you could ever want to know (and then some) about next Monday's Matchmaking playlist update.

Week of 2/4:

On Monday, Spartan Ops continues with Episode 8, which will once again contain five new Spartan Ops missions. We've seen some great feedback on the second half of season 1 thus far, and we hope you're enjoying the missions and cinematics.

Halo 4 Team Doubles Screenshot

We're also extremely excited about the premiere of Team Doubles in Halo 4. Seriously, we're just as pumped as you are. The Matchmaking team, Multiplayer team and Community Cartographers have been working day and night in order to prepare this playlist for your enjoyment. We've got 3 different game types that will be featured when the playlist launches.

Infinity Doubles offers the Infinity Slayer experience in 2 vs 2 form. In this variant, players have the option to choose their custom loadout, and instant respawn and radar are enabled. Personal ordnance will kick in at the traditional 70 point mark, but the options are tweaked specifically for Team Doubles. Games are played up to 300 points.

Doubles Pro offers an experience that features preset game loadouts. The score limit is the same as above, but radar, personal ordnance and instant respawn are disabled. Here are the loadouts that will be featured:

Loadout 1:
Starting Weapon - DMR
Secondary Weapon - Magnum
Armor Abilities - None
Tactical Mod - Resupply
Support Mod - Dexterity

Loadout 2:
Starting Weapon - BR
Secondary Weapon - Magnum
Armor Abilities - None
Tactical Mod - Resupply
Support Mod - Dexterity

Loadout 3:
Starting Weapon - LightRifle
Secondary Weapon - Magnum
Armor Abilities - None
Tactical Mod - Resupply
Support Mod - Dexterity

Loadout 4:
Starting Weapon - Carbine
Secondary Weapon - Magnum
Armor Abilities - None
Tactical Mod - Resupply
Support Mod - Dexterity

CTF Doubles offers the ever-popular Capture the Flag game type, customized for 2 vs 2 play. Custom loadouts and radar are enabled, and respawn time is set to 10 seconds. Flag settings provide an optimal experience for small maps and teams: 5 flags to win, 3 second return, and 15 second reset. Lastly, your flag does not have to be home to score.

We're still finalizing the map pool but are happy to announce that players who enjoy the comforts of split-screen play will have the option to select on-disc maps in the first voting slot. By offering slightly modified versions of Haven, Abandon and Solace, split-screen players can be sure that they'll have the option to play on a map that offers the best split-screen experience. Additionally, we plan to offer several of the best community Forge maps in this playlist and will continue to update the map pool on a regular basis to keep everything fresh. Additional details regarding the playlist will be posted before it launches, so keep an eye on the Matchmaking section of our forums.

Halo 4 Infinity CTF Screenshot

The Capture the Flag playlist will be receiving some updates as well. For starters, Relay and Exile will be added to the playlist. Also, the flag reset time on Adrift, Abandon, Solace and Relay will be dropped to 15 seconds to account for the smaller map size. The biggest change, however, will be the addition of Infinity CTF to the voting options - in this new variant, players will have the ability to call in personal ordnance in order to add variety, power and, in some cases, total chaos to their flag runs. Keep in mind that because of the high amount of points associated with objective play, players who capture a flag will immediately receive personal ordnance in exchange for their hard work (in addition to the traditional pat on the back). Be on the lookout for Infinity CTF in the Capture the Flag playlist!

Also happening this week is the unlocking of two new Specializations: Rogue and Tracker.

Rogue: Spartan optimization for single-operative missions which require a lone Spartan to be deployed on their own for incredibly long durations of time, even years if required. The Stability armor mod allows users to increase their aiming stability when being fired upon.

Tracker: Spartan optimization for long-range target tracking (trans-continent and off-world), particularly in scenarios where conventional tracking has failed or such a substantial time has passed that the trail has gone cold. The Requisition armor mod allows users the ability to recall their own ordnance requests in order to acquire more helpful weapons in the field.

Leveling up through these Specializations will grant you access to armor sets, emblems, visor colors, weapon and armor skins, and lastly, armor mods. If you're a fan of precision weapons, the Stability armor mod is a must-have - it'll allow you to keep a cool head and a steady shot when under enemy fire. If you love getting personal ordnance (who doesn't) but you'd rather have a Sniper Rifle than a Needler (shame on you, the Needler is fantastic!), then the Requisition armor mod may be of interest to you. It will allow you to call in a new set of personal ordnance options if you are unhappy with your original set. Good luck with both of these!

Unless you've had your head buried in the Community Forge Test playlist, you're probably well aware that Grifball is now available for a smashing good time. We've seen a great reaction on the forums, and hope you're enjoying the variety of gameplay and courts just as much as we are. For details on the specifics of this playlist and the various game options, head here:

Grifball Playlist Details

The Community Forge Test playlist will take a break once we introduce Team Doubles next week, which will feature some of the maps you've been playing (with updates, of course!) and also some new maps, as mentioned above. We plan to bring the Community Forge Test playlist back at a later date with new maps, and possibly team sizes and game types. One more thing: Last week we announced that we're hard at work on a unique playlist for the competitive community, and we've decided on a name: Team Throwdown. We are still nailing down the specifics, but the playlist will feature multiple variations of settings in the voting options, and we are releasing it ahead of CSR so that we have time to collect feedback and tweak settings as necessary. We look forward to releasing this playlist and hearing your feedback.

We hope you're enjoying these Matchmaking updates. If there's no Matchmaking Update next week, it's because I'm playing Team Doubles and forgot to come to work.

Spartan Ops Update

Episode 6 of Spartan Ops premiered last week. As many of you devoured the fiction summary of the first half of Spartan Ops Season 1, I asked Brian Reed, franchise writer and author of Spartan Ops Season 1, to provide the same summary for last week's chapter. We will continue this tradition for Episodes 6-10, focusing on the previous week's installment in order to avoid spoilers. So, enjoy an inside look at last week's episode, and after that, enjoy a sneak peek at next week's episode (if you inferred a tease is waiting for you below, then you're doing it right, just FYI).

Halo 4 Spartan Ops Screenshot

Episode 6 – Scattered

And we're back from our midseason cliffhanger! One of my favorite moments so far while working on Halo was when episode 5 hit and I got a message from a fan: "How dare you end on a cliffhanger!" I'm excited people have taken to the crew of the Infinity and they want to know what comes next.

Because when we shot the end to episode 5, we weren't exactly sure ourselves...

See, in a lot of ways, episode 6 is where we as creators figured out what Spartan Ops was all about, on both the game and the animated sides of the coin. I've compared it to TV shows in the past, and how they mature over time. Think of your favorite show that has a couple years under its belt. Then go back to the first episodes and you'll see the show you know and love, but it will likely feel wonderfully awkward. That's because, just like their fans, the show runners were still learning exactly what their show was all about.

We always had a good outline for the Spartan Ops Season 1 story, so we knew where we needed to end up, but an outline is like saying "We are going to France," without knowing just what café in Paris will serve as your final destination.

By the time I started scripting episode 6, we had already shot mocap for episodes 1 -5. I had the chance to see the scripts being acted out by our talented-as-hell actors and we were getting our first glimpses of what Spartan Ops was going to be. We were also quickly discovering what it needed to be if it was going to grow as big as we hoped.

So with that in mind, episode 6 was a bit of housekeeping, wrapping up all our cliffhangers, while also establishing new threats for this half of the season. With all of our character set-up out of the way in the first five episodes, we were able to get into more action here. Thorne in melee combat with multiple Elites! Glassman running for his life, his torso about to be vaporized by an explosive vest!

But I'll tell ya, I think the single most action-packed scene in this episode is actually Halsey's sandbox speech in the opening minutes. She was figuring something out for me as I wrote her words - but more on that next time.

Speaking of next time, here is a screenshot from Episode 8 of Spartan Ops. No, you won't find this anywhere else on the web. Why, you ask? Because I snuck it out of a screenshot gallery that isn't slated to be published until Friday. I won't tell if you don't...

Halo 4 Spartan Ops Screenshot

In-Game Halo 4 File Share Update

As you may have noticed, the in-game Halo 4 File Browser is now fully functional. Hooray! This feature will allow you to search for a friend's custom game types, the most popular custom Infinity Slayer map and much more. We've compiled this quick guide to review some of the features. To navigate to the File Browser from any menu screen, simply press "Start," then go down to "Settings & Files", and select "File Browser". You will see the following screen:

Halo 4 In-game File Share

From the main menu, first select what type of content you're looking for. For the purposes of this demonstration, we'll choose "Films & Clips".

Halo 4 In-game File Share

Under each item, you may choose from the following options:
  • Temporary History: Access custom maps, game types, and films that have recently been played. This list is temporary though, so be sure to save anything you want to keep.
  • Local Files: Access files that are stored locally on this Xbox 360 console.
  • My File Share: Access files that are stored remotely on your File Share.
  • Recommendations: Access files that have been recommended by your friends.
  • File Share Search: Search for a File Share by Gamertag.
  • New Custom Search: Search for files on other people's File Shares. You can search by a player's Gamertag, or use filters to find specific files determined by your search preferences.
  • Most Downloaded: Files sorted by number of downloads in the last 7 days.
  • Most recommended: Files sorted by number of recommendations in the last 7 days.

Let's take a closer look at the "New Custom Search" option:

Halo 4 In-game File Share

From this screen, you can refine your search based on the following criteria:

  • Multiplayer Game Type: Limit your search to a select game type.
  • Age: Limit your search to the last 24 hours, week or month.
  • Sort Criteria: Sort your search by "Date Added", "Highest Ranked", "Most Viewed", or "Most Related".
  • Map: Limit your search to a select map.
  • Author: Limit your search to a particular author.
  • Tag: Limit your search to match a tag. The file must be tagged with the appropriate tag to appear.

We hope this allows you to share and discover an endless amount of community-created content (and, in case you were wondering, the Halo 4 File Share is still on track for coming to the web version of Halo Waypoint in late February).

Now that we've covered that, I think we only have one more thing to discuss: The Games on Demand version of Halo 4. Should you want the digital version of Halo 4, it will be available via Games on Demand starting on February 5. And yes, that's the "in-six-short-days" February 5.

And with that, you have officially reached the conclusion of this week's Bulletin. I'll see you next week, for more of the same. Until then...

bs angel

P.S. Discuss.