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[Locked] Halo Insider Updates (4/29)

OP ske7ch

Howdy folks -
I'm making a new pinned thread to keep track of ongoing Halo Insider update posts. I've made a couple thus far, and have copied the originals over to keep it all contained in this thread so it's easier for everyone to keep tabs on. I'm going to keep this thread locked so it's clean and just contains the update archives, but please feel free to spin up discussions here in the Halo Insider forum. You can find the latest updates here at the top with past updates as replies down below.

Halo Insider Update - June 29
Hello Halo Insiders! (you are an Insider, right? If not, what’re you waiting for? SIGN UP!) As you know, development on Halo: Reach and MCC for PC is well underway but our plans to kick off flighting last month didn’t quite land where we’d projected. You can read more in our last blog HERE and in the Insider forum HERE but suffice it to say that the game itself is a complex project but so is the act of delivering builds to flight participants via Steam. The good news is that since the last blog, the team has made great progress on a number of the blocking factors we’ve discussed previously and we’re getting really close to kicking things off.

Recently, the team checked off a pivotal milestone with the first pre-flight release of a PC build to a small private test group. The purpose of this ‘flight’ was strictly to verify the process of preparing a build, creating a whitelist and player entitlements, delivering the build content to participants, and verifying that some preliminary in-game telemetry was working as intended. With all of that in the rearview, the team is now on the cusp of moving into the next stage which will be activating our first public Insider flight which we expect to begin in June.

While that is all progressing and we get closer to Insider flighting, I did want to take a moment to talk about some plans we’re working on for the upcoming E3 expo. As you no doubt know, E3 is a pivotal industry event where Xbox and others go to show off and talk about new games and exciting updates coming down the road. Finding a way to bring a slice of the Halo: Reach PC experience to E3 is important to the team, the studio, and our partners across the company. To that end, the team has been working on a demo experience of Halo: Reach that we’re currently readying for the show floor at the Microsoft Theater in LA. Admittedly, none of us in the studio love the idea of bringing Halo: Reach PC content to E3 before we’ve kicked off Insider flighting. We know the community is incredibly eager and anxious and much more time has passed since we initially announced the Insider program than we wanted or anticipated.

I want to be clear that the work that went into creating this one-off experience for E3 has NOT caused delays in flighting nor have we intentionally held back flighting for marketing purposes. Truth is, a lot of the challenging issues the team has been working through to get flight ready – things like security and build fulfillment and entitlements – don’t apply to the build being readied for E3. In fact, this small E3 build is the same build that was used for the pre-flight milestone I mentioned above. It was important to the team to not do “throw away” work nor negatively impact the overall flighting or development schedule. According to lead producer Michael Fahrny, this E3 build served as the “goal post” the team worked towards to get ready for broader fighting.

If you caught our social stream, you already have an idea of what this build entails – it’s a single campaign mission, “Tip of the Spear”, running on a PC with mouse and keyboard controls and a built in 10 minute timer to help promote throughput in a busy expo environment. This build is very much work-in-progress with a number of features in various states of development while others are still missing entirely. This build was isolated a while back specifically for the purposes of E3, meanwhile the team is still moving forward with new build updates every day, meaning the current state of the project is already much further along than what we had to commit to for E3. In fact, even the build we showed on today’s live stream is over a week old and not indicative of what we’ll have on the show floor (more PC UI is still coming in, among other bits of polish).

As the team here gets ready to activate the first wave of Insider flighting (which, as a reminder, will only include a subset of registered Insiders and is expected to grow over time), a few of us will be down at E3 offering hands-on with a work-in-progress Halo: Reach experience and gathering feedback from players. If you’re going to be at E3, we hope you’ll stop by and say hello and take “Tip of the Spear” for a test drive! In addition to being one of the first to get hands-on, you can also score some swag (which I’m told includes collectible pins for everyone and a chance to get Halo: Reach mouse pads and posters).

Thank you for your support and patience – we’re excited to kick off the first round of Halo Insider flighting on Steam very soon!
April 4 Update

Hello Insiders!
As you may have noticed, a welcome email began rolling out yesterday to everyone who has signed up for the Halo Insider program. Due to the very large volume of emails, this will be rolling out over a few days as we continue to establish our email systems and ensure we don't get flagged by ISP spam filters. We wanted to take this opportunity to welcome everyone, test our email system, and give Insiders a way to ensure that they are in fact able to receive our emails (otherwise when we do start flighting invites, we won't be able to reach you).

VERY IMPORTANT: THIS IS NOT A FLIGHTING INVITATION!

We are getting closer to kicking off the first flights on Xbox One and PC but we're not quite there yet. We will let everyone know when the first flight emails do start going out via posts in this forum (and we'll echo across social, etc..). I know I've said this a few times in a few different places, but I wanted to stress again that the first flights will be intentionally limited in scope. Only a small percentage of the huge Halo Insider population is going to get into these initial flights. Much like we did with MCC last year, we will be starting small and expanding the audience over time in subsequent flights. We know everyone is super eager and excited to jump in but we have to approach this in phases and keep the group manageable and aligned with the specific needs for a given flight. We have a lot to work through beyond just the game build itself - the process of building out the flight audience, communications, logistics, entitlements and delivery of the build, etc.. is quite complex and we want to "walk before we run."

Ultimately it is our hope that eventually everyone who wants to participate in a flight will get a chance to. But until then, I just want to help manage expectations and we ask that you please be patient - bombarding us here or on social will not change your odds of getting selected. And we also wanted to remind everyone that the Halo Insider program is more than just flighting - research surveys will also periodically be sent out allow an opportunity for you to share your personal thoughts and feedback to help the team with all manner of Halo franchise initiatives.

So, how are things going on the development front? Quite well! Internal playtests of Halo: Reach are well underway on both Xbox One and PC with a focus on bug fixes and polish. We've also got some folks starting specific focused play around mouse/keyboard controls for PC as we would like to get that in a pretty good place before we get it into Insider's hands. This will be a huge area of focus throughout development and definitely something we will look to the Insiders for input and feedback.

Last week I indicated that we would likely lead with Xbox One over PC due to it being slightly ahead but as of this week I'm not so sure that will be the case. This project is fluid, with a lot of dependencies and pieces in motion, so things are bound to shift back and forth as we inch closer to the first external flights. I'm told the PC build is coming along great though a major milestone to get the PC specific UI in place is still on the horizon and is one of the gating factors for it going out to external flighting.

We know everyone is eager and excited to learn more and get hands-on. We're eager and excited, too! Hang in there, as we've said, this is a journey that will take some time. Thanks for joining the Halo Insider program and joining us on this journey!
April 17 Update

Howdy Insiders!
It's been about two weeks since the last update and as I'm settling back in after some time away for Spring Break, I wanted to share a quick update. I know folks are more eager than ever to see and hear more about both Reach and MCC for PC. And I you're even more excited at the prospects of getting hands-on with the game when flighting kicks off. The team is still hard at work on many facets of this massive project and we're getting closer, but at the same time there have been a few minor bumps along the way.

Previously I've said that "if things go according to plan, flighting should begin this month." As we're now in the back half of April, I'm still optimistic this will be the case but it's also possible those plans may not fully land as we initially hoped. Folks that have been around and follow me know that I'm all about trying to be as up front and honest as possible - both with good news and less favorable news. This means that sometimes we may share information about the current state of affairs and targets and plans that could end up changing slightly or dramatically. As long as folks want an open dialog, I'm happy to keep the information flowing, but we just need to all be mindful that talking about stuff early means there's always risks of changes - but I'm committed to keeping you abreast of the full story and when things change, sharing that info as soon as possible so we're always all on the same page. Cool? Cool.

So, over the past weeks the 343 publishing team and our partners at Splash Damage and Ruffian have been working nonstop to bring Reach to MCC and get things up and running well on PC. We've had a few small private external flights of Reach on Xbox One thus far which continue to help the team validate work and identify any show stoppers or big issues that need to be addressed before we roll anything out to a broader flighting group. Not to tease, but I have Reach MCC running on the Scorpio dev kit at my desk right now - that's where we got the screenshot of the campaign UI that Uny shared in the last community update. On Xbox it's looking and playing great already.

PC is considerably more complicated and requires a lot more work. We have internal builds floating around and have had lots of internal playtests that have been helping to generate bugs and gather valuable feedback. One of the team's main priorities to support PC flighting is getting the mouse/keyboard controls feeling as good as possible and there's been good progress on that front. Some key things are still coming together though - for example, in yesterday's playtest build, the full UI and functionality to remap keys isn't in yet so if you want to change defaults, it requires launching a separate application. That works for now, but isn't a viable experience for any kind of external flighting. I will say that it felt pretty good though and it looked fantastic. The "Pro Team" at 343 - a group of former pro players assembled to help focus on the competitive design/balance/experience for Halo Infinite - has been chipping in and spending a lot of time playing MCC on PC. We're looking to these experts as our first line of defense to help us keep moving in the right direction for the "feel" of the game. Yesterday Postums and I had to play against Mikwen and Heinz in a bloodbath of a Slayer game but it was all good in the name of testing and feedback. (I killed at least one of them once)

The other big factor and dependency for flighting is getting telemetry implemented into the game build to ensure our team can get the critical data and insights they need to validate all the hard work they're doing and the specific goals for a flight. This is complex and all new work that has to be done for each flight. I'm also learning that just the process of carving out a 'safe' build that can be flighted to external people is a learning process. While we've done this with MCC on Xbox all last year, doing this on Steam is a brand new process and is something we're still learning as we go.

To help tide folks over, Postums is working on an April development update blog which we're targeting for release sometime next week. Our partners at Splash Damage have passed along some insights and updates into the work they're doing and we're also poking our colleagues here to maybe throw us a screenshot or two. When we do get closer to the first public flight, we're also going to do a proper stream and showcase Reach and where it currently stands. Since the flights won't be under NDA and participants will stream that content, we want to get out in front of that and play it ourselves to provide proper context and insight for players on what will be a work-in-progress build.

We're still seeing a steady flow of Halo Insider sign-ups and we're incredibly thankful for the outpouring of support across the community. Hang in there - we're eager to share and show more as soon as we can!
Halo Insider Update - April 29
With the end of April nearly upon us, I wanted to jump in and share another quick update. Twenty-eight days ago I tweeted that "if all goes according to plan, this is the month public flighting will begin!" While many suspected that was an April Fools joke, the reality was that we did have aspirations and plans to hopefully kickoff flighting in April. That wasn't a joke.

In a post on 4/17 I noted it might not happen and now with only a day to go, I can definitively say there won't be any public flights this month. I know excitement and anticipation is off the charts and everyone here inside the studio shares it as well. But this is a really complicated project and we all agree that quality trumps everything else and we need to bring MCC to PC at the bar Halo fans and PC players expect and demand. That's turning out to be more challenging than first anticipated in some aspects while there's been great progress and work done in plenty of other areas.

At this point I'm not even going to attempt to share another "target timeframe" for the first public flighting beyond saying that the 343 publishing team and our partners at Ruffian and Splash Damage are working hard to get the pieces in place to support flighting as soon as possible.

We have an April Development Update blog just about ready for release (should be out no later than tomorrow afternoon) which will offer a bit more insight into how the project is going. Overall, it is progressing well and Reach is already pretty fun to play on a PC. We look forward to showing you first hand once we're closer to a final public flight start date. Until then, check back tomorrow for the update blog and we'll do our best to keep everyone informed and look for opportunities to address your questions along the way.
thanks!