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6 February 2013
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The Halo Bulletin: 2.6.13

02.06.2013 19:36

Got to keep on moving

Nom Nom Nom
As seen on a random 343 whiteboard.

Every morning, upon entering the studio and embarking upon the customary stroll to my desk, I greet my coworkers with caffeine-laced, too-early-to-be-this-spirited salutations. Today, though, upon my second or third hello, I got the following in return: "Who invited Barry White to the party?" If you've ever heard me talk, you'll immediately understand why this is notable. My voice is high, almost earsplittingly so, and becomes more or less shrill based upon my excitement level. Some people say my ability to emit soprano-pitched sounds at a rapid fire rate is impressive. The majority, however, do not.

Regardless of the specifics, it's clear to anybody who engages me in conversation that I'm a little under the weather. And that's really not surprising, considering germs are spreading through the studio faster than the rush of Flood Infection forms after the forcible burst of their popcorn-like mothership. Actually the more I think about it, the more I realize that's a fairly accurate description, especially since my primary orifice is exploding at a regular rate right now (for some reason, my editor would like me to note that's a reference to sneezing). It's not slowing me down though, which is hopefully evident through the release of this publication. Ain't nothing gonna break my stride, and all that jazz.

Before we dip into the meat of this week's Bulletin - the contents of which tackle the next Matchmaking Playlist update, Spartan Ops, and some hints about a few still-hidden Campaign easter eggs - I'd like to give you a more general update. Majestic, in all of its small-sized map glory, is looking fabulous. We've been playtesting the heck out of it and have also shown it to press (and even some friends from across the pond this morning), and reception has been overwhelmingly positive. We're getting close to lifting the curtain on this particular map pack, so sit tight for details and you will soon be rewarded for your patience. Another thing we're currently focused on is the next Halo 4 title update. Relevant work is nearing completion, and it's on track for a late February release. Once its contents are locked down, we'll share some specifics. You can expect that to happen within the next two weeks. I should also mention we just got a special delivery consisting of the very first hot-off-the-presses cover of Silentium - the third novel in the New York Times bestselling Halo Forerunner Saga written by Greg Bear. The book itself, which details the Didact and the Librarian facing the consequences of a mythic tragedy, is at the printer preparing for its March 19 release but this very special cover is currently resting delicately in my hands. Don't ask how I'm still typing, because IT'S MAGIC.

Anyway, onwards to the rest of the Bulletin!

Spartan Ops Update

The eighth episode of Spartan Ops launched in the wee hours of Monday morning. You can watch the CG cinematic and check out descriptions of the five new playable chapters in our handy-dandy hub for all things Spartan Ops. Also available in that same location are the cinematics and chapter descriptions for all previous episodes. So whether you're brand new to Spartan Ops or just need a brush-up on this week's content, click here for all your Spartan Ops needs.

In an effort to avoid spoilers for those that have yet to experience the awesomeness that is episode 8, we'll be saving that summary for next week. This week we're focusing on Episode 7, so here to continue our fiction summary tradition is Brian Reed, franchise writer and author of Spartan Ops Season 1. Enjoy an inside look at last week's episode, and then get a sneak peek at next week's episode, assuming you're into that sort of thing (as if there's anybody who isn't!).

Halo 4 Spartan Ops Screenshot

Episode 7 – Invasion

Roland has been a great character to discover. For me, it was when I realized he wouldn't understand Halsey that he moved from "snarky AI with a flyboy attitude" to a fully formed character. In general, the AIs of Halo aren't possessed of the urge to be "a real boy" per se. They're all-in-all pretty stoked about how crazy-smart they are, impending rampancy be damned. But Roland, he's proven to be easily bored by mundane things like running three-mile-long starships. He's been excited to watch the Spartans do their thing, and to even join in on the action from time to time. I think he was genuinely excited to hear Halsey's answer to "Why'd ya do it?"

By the way: The backdoor password Halsey says originated from an accidental text I sent to my wife one afternoon. I didn't realize my phone was awake and I entered some gibberish that autocorrected to "Undid iridium" and sent itself. Lucky me, I'd just written Halsey and Roland's scene the day before, and I'd had no idea what her secret phrase should be in that moment. The original draft of the script was "[CLEVER PASSWORD]".

Last thing for this episode: The Infinity invasion is almost entirely down to the fact that I felt bad for Lasky as we were breaking the outline. The dude is captain of the mightiest ship in the fleet and he mostly gets to stand around on the bridge and talk to Roland. In trying to come up with something fun for him to do, we hit on the idea of the Prometheans invading and that lead to all the ideas that carry us into Spartan Ops season one's third act... and beyond.

Speaking of beyond, here is a screenshot from episode 9 of Spartan Ops, for those of you that are excited about its impending launch. No, I won't tell you what's happening. You'll have to figure that out for yourself...

Halo 4 Spartan Ops Screenshot

Next Week's Matchmaking Playlist Update

The newest member of our Matchmaking Systems Team brings something incredibly unique to the studio. It's hard to put my finger on what exactly that is (I can tell you it's not dashing good looks or expert-level gameplay, HA!), but the following video can probably shed some light on him in a way only video can. So without further ado, here is your official, super serious introduction to Bravo, which was captured during a recent shoot. It's worth noting he has no idea I'm sharing this video so if I go missing after the Bulletin is published, you'll know why. So you push play, and I'll start running. Off we both go!

Week of 2/11:

Bravo here! On Monday, Spartan Ops continues with episode 9, which will once again contain five new Spartan Ops missions, and as promised, Team Snipers will make its glorious return to Halo 4 Matchmaking.

We've tweaked it a bit - the new and improved Team Snipers will utilize the following settings:

Mode Team Snipers
Teams 4 vs. 4
Score to Win 600 [60 Kills]
Loadouts UNSC Sniper Rifle Only
Instant Respawn Disabled
Death Cam Disabled
Motion Tracker Disabled
Ammo Unlimited
Time Limit 12 Minutes
Personal Ordnance Disabled
Grenades Disabled
Ordnance Drops Disabled

These settings will appeal to diehard sniping fans by offering a playlist that focuses on one thing - sniping. With no radar, grenades, ordnance or secondary weapons, you can be sure that the better marksmen will come away with victory.

Halo 4 Snipers Screenshot

For those of you who prefer a bit more variety (and chaos) in your sniping matches, we're also proud to bring back Shotty Snipers. This variant will appear in the Team Snipers playlist voting options but not as often as the traditional snipers-only mode. Here are the settings for Shotty Snipers:

Mode Shotty Snipers
Teams 4 vs. 4
Score to Win 600 [60 Kills]
Primary UNSC Sniper Rifle
Secondary Shotgun
Instant Respawn Disabled
Death Cam Disabled
Motion Tracker Disabled
Ammo Unlimited
Time Limit 12 Minutes
Personal Ordnance Disabled
Grenades Enabled
Ordnance Drops Disabled

As you can see, the only differences in Shotty Snipers are the addition of the Shotgun and two Frag Grenades in your back pocket. We'll be launching the playlist with several medium-sized maps - slightly modified versions of Haven, Abandon and some Forge favorites will be available. Also, we're in the process of building additional new Snipers game types that we'll introduce in upcoming weeks. For those of you wondering about the duration of the Team Snipers playlist fear not - we plan on keeping it around for a while.

As if Snipers wasn't enough to get you excited for the upcoming week, we're also proud to announce the addition of Team Objective, which will group together 4 vs. 4 Team Regicide, Oddball and King of the Hill (she's back!). The biggest changes you'll see to these game types are that Complex Oddball has been removed, and instant respawn has been disabled for both KoTH and Oddball.

Team Doubles went live on Monday morning and we've seen great feedback on all of the included game types. We have already made some updates to the playlist: Some of you may have noticed that Infinity Ordnance was not specifically tuned for 2 vs. 2 play, as we had announced. As soon as we noticed this problem, we deployed an update overnight. You should now see options that are more appropriate for Team Doubles - this means no Incineration Cannons, Rocket Launchers, Sniper Rifles, Overshields, etc. in personal ordnance. Keep in mind that some of these are still available as recurring weapon drops on some of the Team Doubles maps. In response to community feedback, we've also disabled instant respawn in Infinity Doubles to improve game flow, addressed some wacky spawn issues on Haven and fixed the Sticky Detonator spawn on Dispatch. It will now be on a 180 second resupply timer with 2 spare clips. These fixes will be live on Monday, along with next week's update.

Halo 4 Team Doubles Screenshot

Your feedback, as always, is valuable in making these quick changes and fixes to playlists that are released. If you'd like to leave feedback on Team Doubles or any of the playlists that are available in Halo 4, check out our brand new War Games Feedback section of the forums, which features dedicated areas for players to leave feedback on specifics aspects of Halo 4 Matchmaking. We plan to use this section to fuel discussion that will influence changes and updates to the Matchmaking experience.

As of right now, we're planning on releasing Team Throwdown, our premiere competitive playlist on February 18th. As we mentioned earlier, this playlist will be launching ahead of CSR so the Matchmaking team has time to tweak the playlist's settings and options before everyone begins the race to level 50.

If there's no Matchmaking Update next week, it's because I told bs angel that I am not feeling well (insert exploding orifice here), but am actually at home playing Team Snipers and racking up an unhealthy amount of headshots. [bs angel note: I'm not at all suspicious. Just FYI.]

Halo 4 Campaign Easter Egg Hints

Halo 4 Screenshot

Our Campaign team slaved away on that particular part of the Halo 4 experience for many-a-months. Over one million of you completed the Halo 4 Campaign in the first five days after launch, and thousands of you continue along that path - sometimes numerous times over. Here to shed a little light on that which has not yet been found is Lead Campaign Designer Jesse Snyder.

The Halo 4 Campaign still contains many secrets left uncovered. Hidden in various missions by our venerable mission designers, easter eggs have been lying dormant, ticking clocks simply waiting for a pair of eyes outside of 343 to see them. Eyes that could be yours.

Did you find any secrets as you played through Campaign? Initially, fans found many things that they thought were easter eggs. Discovering that, in fact, many were still hidden, we were relieved. Avid secret hunters claimed that some of our treasures would be found within days of launching the game. "Certainly, they'll find them any day now," we thought. Time would prove both us the aforementioned secret hunters wrong.

Act quickly and maybe you'll find an easter egg on your own, but that time is about to pass. We've decided to give you some hints to help you uncover our secrets, without telling you where they are outright. Additionally, we'll be giving you more hints in future Bulletins. Knowing how well we've hidden our easter eggs, it only seems fair. Even though this may sound cliché, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again." Never stop searching. Some secrets might be right in front of you.

Halo 4 Easter Egg Hint

What is it?
An appreciation of architecture, and a return to nature.

Where is it?
It may be beautiful, but returning here is deadly.

Halo 4 Easter Egg Hint

What is it?
A deadly ambush waits for you
If you have the will to power through
Kill them all, your reward is great
Weapons to turn the tide of fate

Where is it?
After the enemies rain from the sky
Before the doorway through which you fly
You must return to the rock on which the ledge is by
Patience is a virtue, but your death is nigh

Halo 4 Easter Egg Hint

What is it?
A congenial sight.

Where is it?
Lost in the belly of the beast.

If you find the easter eggs in Jesse's write-up or in the game, post in the Bulletin discussion thread. Those of you who do so just may get a teeny tiny surprise. And with that, I do believe it's time to call this sucker done. Hope to see you same time, same place next week. Until then...

bs angel

P.S. Discuss.