By B is for Bravo -
Greetings! The Halo community team is back on the road, currently spread throughout Germany, Australia, and those who might still be stuck in the snowy mountains of Aspen, Colorado. This specific blog is coming to you from Cologne, Germany, and has been beamed up to the satellites for worldwide perusal. If you’re reading this, the transmission has been successful.
We’ve got a quick update today, but one that covers a variety of topics which may interest you as we dig into recent updates as well as items in the works.
First things first, Infinity’s Armory launched last week just before the X Games festivities kicked off, and the full patch notes can be found here – they include Forge updates, improvements, and dozens of new pieces, as well as map exploit fixes, UI improvements, and more. We hope you’re enjoying Infinity’s Armory so far and are looking forward to what’s on the way.
Before we move on, a quick word about last weekend’s X Games adventures. Traveling down to Aspen to watch some of the best players in the world compete for X Games medals was truly one of the highlights of my career, and one of the most enjoyable moments for me as a Halo fan. There was a certain energy in the air that was quite unique to this competition. Perhaps it was the altitude, but more likely it was a sense of something new to fight for, on an all-new game, in front of an audience comprised of new interested parties in addition to captive veteran viewers. This was Halo 5’s first major live event in North America, and it’s my hope, whether you tuned in all weekend long on twitch or caught the recaps each day on ESPN, that you enjoyed what you saw, too. We can’t thank you enough for supporting the game we all love, and hope you’ll join us for more in the coming weeks and months. Lastly, congrats to EG and CLG, who put on some of the best finals we’ve seen in quite some time. To see a recap of the final day, head over here.
recent and upcoming game updates
First things first, we’ve made a variety of updates to Halo 5 this week, including playlist and service-side tweaks. To start, here are some words from Engineer Brian Richards, which you may have caught in this week’s earlier blog:
Brian Richards, Services Engineer
One improvement we’re making affects how ranking impacts matchmaking search times for certain players. Over time, it’s possible for players to get skill values that make it difficult for them to find matches. This was an issue that lead some players to create alternate accounts or party up with people of much lower rank to find matches. We’ve implemented changes in our algorithm to get players at all skill levels even faster matches. This should improve matchmaking times and increase the number of people eligible to match for players at all skill levels as well as players in international regions.
Based on feedback from the community, we also made some changes to the Onyx and Champion CSR. Players noticed that it was possible to place into Champion (at least temporarily) simply by being the first 200 people in Onyx to complete their placement matches in a season. We are doing two things to increase the competitiveness for Champions. First, the new minimum CSR to earn a Champion rank will be 1800 rather than 1500. Additionally, we’ve placed a cap on the highest CSR you can earn after your placement matches at 1700. These changes will make Champions a more elite group and reward players that prove they're amongst the top in the world.
The services team is currently reviewing data from both these changes and reports you’ve sent in via Twitter and Waypoint (thank you!) to determine the effectiveness of these modifications and decide if additional adjustments need to take place for further improvements. We’ll continue to keep you updated on these same channels with any observations or tweaks.
This week, we’ve also made some changes to the matchmaking lineup. For starters, a weekend social slayer playlist is now live, and it’s called Game Day Slayer. If you happen to have a few hours to kill before or after the big game this weekend, hop in with some friends in some relaxed matches of Slayer.
Next up, based on feedback, Arena Breakout has been removed from the Team Arena playlist. When the mode was first introduced in a weekend playlist, we saw an overwhelmingly positive response, and the decision was made to move it into the Team Arena playlist as these settings (starting weapons, shields and health, etc) closer aligned to the playlist’s settings when compared with original Breakout. Over the past 2 months, we’ve seen feedback that the mode is a bit too different from standard Arena, so we’ve removed it from this lineup. We know many of you like the mode, and we do too, so the multiplayer team will continue to brainstorm ways to make it available in the future.
Additionally, based on community votes, we’ve added the top Community Breakout maps into the Breakout playlist for this season, and they will join the original “on-disc” Breakout maps. We’ll be keeping a close eye on favorites over the next few weeks. To ensure the playlist contains the best of the best, we may run another poll in the future to trim and ensure only the top favorite maps remain in the playlist. The Multiplayer team is also getting ready for future Community Forge playlists, and we’ll provide more info as we get closer to the next one.
Warzone REQ Cost Changes
Over the past few weeks, various teams around the studio (Progression, Sandbox, Warzone, Community Test, and more) have been reviewing Warzone gameplay data and player feedback to determine what types of changes can be made to improve game balance, and maybe even change up strategies ever so slightly. Based on these investigations, we’ve made a few changes, and I’ll let Lawrence Metten tell you more.
Lawrence Metten, Senior Multiplayer Designer
Since the release of Halo 5: Guardians we’ve been watching you play, listening to feedback, and evaluating potential adjustments to Warzone and the REQ System. In last week’s Infinity Armory update, we pulled the trigger on two tweaks, making it easier to hit late-game levels and increasing the length of time dropped weapons stick around before they disappear.
On Tuesday, we rolled out another change, lowering the required REQ Level of many of our single-use weapon REQs.
One of our main goals with the REQ System in Warzone is to create compelling card choices at every level. Players should be forced to make tough decisions on what they call in no matter what level they are or how much REQ Energy they currently have. Big red flags for us are whenever a card becomes a clear-cut favorite at its level or if a card is rarely used.
The latter is what had been happening with the Carbine since the game’s release. The Carbine is a powerful precision weapon in the right hands, but it just wasn’t stacking up against the other level 4 card options. Combine that with players equipping comparable Battle Rifle loadout cards one level earlier, and almost no Carbines were being used in Warzone. We’ve dropped the Carbine a couple levels (to 2) where it will hopefully find use early in matches before BRs hit the field.
The SAW, Suppressor, Bolt Shot, and Light Rifle also had their REQ Level cost lowered. Read the full list of changes here.
This is only the start for REQ Card level tweaks. We’re watching…
A NEW BLUE
As part of the Infinity’s Armory update, you may have noticed that the blue team color in multiplayer has been slightly adjusted. Here’s a bit more background on the change:
Launch multiplayer Blue vs new multiplayer Blue (this change went live with Infinity’s Armory last month)
After launch, we noticed in the data that Blue team had a slight advantage when it came to winning matches, so the services team went to work on determining why this might be. To properly measure Red vs Blue balance on the maps, Senior Engineer Tom Mathews went to work on building some tools from scratch. I found the entire process rather interesting, and I think you will too.
Tom Mathews, Senior Engineer
When analyzing the impact team color has, we knew we were looking for something that would affect target-acquisition time. It was pretty clear we should initially focus on the SWAT gametype to minimize other factors.
The first thing we went about doing is combing through the vast amounts of telemetry we gather on each and every game. There were a few different key metrics that were interesting, but at the end of the day the simplest metric we landed on was looking for chokepoints that were biased for one team or the other. Basically, we take the number of times Blue Team/Red Team died in a given area, and then divide it by the number of times they traversed that area. What results is a heatmap of particularly lethal areas whenever either team enters that area.
Coupled with callouts, the ‘name’ for a particular area that shows up when you’re moving around in the game, we were able to have a pretty nice visualization. Since we know the height of each callout, we can create a nicely-layered three-dimensional heatmap:
One specific finding that was interesting was an area on Eden, where Red Turbine becomes Red Bend (circled in Yellow above). In this case, it’s the Red team that has the advantage. There was an unusually higher number of SWAT deaths for Blue team in this area, and we couldn’t immediately figure out why. Once I fired up the game, though… well, see if you can spot why Blue Team would have a bit of trouble in this area when Red Team wasn’t:
This is a quick look into the tools we’re building to better understand Halo 5 gameplay in the wild, and we’re happy to say that since the color change within Infinity’s Armory, we’re seeing significant improvements to overall Red vs Blue balance as a whole. Stay tuned for more updates on balance and more.
On last month’s live stream, we began talking about some of the upcoming game types that the multiplayer team has been working on. I’ve had the privilege of joining and watching quite a few playtests since then, and while they have been quite a blast, it’d be much more informative if the gentlemen working on these modes gave you a behind-the-scenes look at what is currently in the works for the February update:
Max Grossman - Multiplayer Designer
Folks, your cries have been heard: this month we are bringing you a bunch of new game modes. This update will bring back fan favorite game modes that have been reimagined for Halo 5. All of our new game modes have one thing in common: they all use TheBallTM!
Our first ball-based mode is an upgraded version of the classic Neutral Bomb Assault mode, simply called: Assault (cue Halo theme). The core rules are more or less unchanged: a ball spawns on the center line of the map and players must deliver the ball to the enemy team’s goal and it explodes (Woot!). That’s about where the similarities end. We went back to the drawing board on when and where the ball spawns, the abilities of the ball carrier, and the arming process itself. When the game starts, the ball will spawn at a unique location each time it spawns throughout the match. The order of locations is always fixed so players can learn to predict the next spawn. Once a team establishes control of the spawn location, they can pick up the ball.
Carrying the ball in old games wasn’t always fun – it felt like work. You didn’t get to shoot, you moved slower, and everybody was trying to kill you all the time. In Halo 5, this was exacerbated by the even faster player movement, so when looking at redesigning the ball carrier, we wanted to make carrying the ball a skill that players could learn. We tried a lot of different tweaks from changing movement speed, changing the way navpoints work, modifying damage resistance, disabling ball throwing, and more. Eventually, we decided that there were three key components to the ball carrier: they needed to win melee fights, be able to survive while arming the ball, and be able to make it to the enemy base undetected. To meet these goals, we made the melee attack with the ball an instant kill, gave the carrier an extra thrust, and implemented the same “Spotting” mechanic present in Capture the Flag. While arming the ball, the carrier can use their two thrusts stay alive or to close the gap on the enemy and beat them down. We think that the new carrier mechanics will give players a new skill to learn and enable a skilled ball carrier to win the game for their team.
While buffing the ball carrier, we found that games were ending extremely quickly, rarely lasting more than a few minutes. We turned a bunch of different knobs to try to find a better balance between our newly empowered ball carrier and the Spartans trying to kill them. We experimented with different arm times, forcing the carrier to stay in one place for longer; we modified the spawn zones so dead players could more quickly react to the ball being armed; we changed the size of the deliver zone so that players could more easily deny the zone with grenades; and we changed how the ball disarms so that when an actively arming ball is picked up by the other team, arming progress instantly resets. Constant playtests and working with the Pro Team helped us find settings that created a fun and competitive mode.
Another piece of feedback we have heard from the community is the desire for some more relaxed modes. We thought to ourselves, “well, we have this new ball mode thing, what can we build from that?” There is only one mode that makes any sense: Grifball! (cue Halo theme again).
Grifball has seen many variations over the last few games and this time, we wanted to make sure we got it right. We called in the leading expert on all things Grifball, Jeffrey “Nokyard” Fischer. We flew Nokyard out to the studio a few months before we started development of the mode to make sure that we understood exactly what is important to Grifballers. We had many design discussions with Nokyard and he even built the first Halo 5 Grifball Court which will be launching alongside the mode this update (it’s unlike any Grifball court you have ever seen before). Nok worked with our Weapons Designer, Daniel Wiksten, on trying to get the damage and impulse blast of the hammer to feel right. This collaboration helped us hammer out (pun intended) the delicate balance of Gravity Hammer vs. Sword vs. Ball that Grifball so heavily relies upon. We leveraged Nokyard’s wealth of Grifball knowledge to try to make the most exciting Grifball yet, complete with thrusting Grif, Ground Pound kills, and ball throwing. Playing Grifball during playtests over the last few months has been some of the most fun we have had in the new building. (Bravo note: I can confirm)
As long as we are bringing back classics, we thought, why not bring back another. So, also coming in the next update: Fiesta (cue Grunt Birthday Party “hooray!”)
On top of these new modes, we wanted to make sure that you, the players, had all the tools you need to make any ball mode that you can imagine. Miller Tinkerhess, the engineer who built our ball mode, is here to tell you more about that.
Miller Tinkerhess – Software Engineer
Halo has historically had a rich variety of ball game modes. When we started work on Assault for Halo 5, we knew we wanted to build it in such a way that we would be able to reuse it as a basis for other ball modes. We decided early in development that we would keep an eye out for tuning knobs, toggles, and switches that we could turn into custom game mode options. We’re looking forward to seeing how players tune their custom games to recreate classic modes, and also combine the custom game options with the power of Forge to create brand new play experiences!
Some of the options are pretty basic, like score to win, how long it takes to deliver the ball, or how many points you get for delivering it. You can choose whether the ball carrier’s navpoint is always on, never on, or uses a spotting mechanic like in Capture the Flag. Some options are a little more nitpicky, like how long it takes for the ball to despawn after being dropped. You can even separately tune how long it takes for the ball to spawn at the beginning of the match, how long it takes to respawn after scoring, and how long it takes to respawn after being thrown off the map.
If you want to get a little wilder, you can set player traits on the ball carrier, like in CTF. That means you can adjust their shields, health, damage resistance, motion tracker range, thruster speed, movement speed, and jump height, just to name a few! You can also enable or disable ball throwing.
Then there are options that transform the mode into something totally different from Assault. You can individually enable or disable ball scoring for when it’s being carried and when it’s been thrown, with separate delivery times and point values for each. You can also turn on scoring just for holding the ball, including setting how often you get points for holding and how many points you get.
The work on custom game options really started paying off when we started to develop Grifball. Using the same test map we were using to play Assault, we set the delivery time to zero seconds, put the Hammer and Sword in our loadout, disabled the line of sight spawning check, and we were playing Grifball.
Finally, we’ve also added a couple of interesting features to support players’ creativity in Forge. If you place multiple ball spawn locations on the map, the ball will take turns spawning first at one location, then the next, then the next. You can also place multiple return zone locations to give the attacking team a few different options of where to deliver the ball. I’m personally looking forward to seeing the crazy custom games that Forgers come up with!
ACHILLES Armor ACHIEVED
We’d like to congratulate the following few Spartan Companies who have completed their level 3 Commendations – quite an accomplishment, by the way - and earned the coveted Achilles armor:
And a shout to those who are getting awfully close, including Osiris and Partyupgaming Sweaties. We’ll be keeping an eye on the progress of these companies as well as other who rise up through the ranks. To those on the road to Achilles, we salute you.
HALOWC: TOUR COLOGNe Preview
In just a few hours, competition will kick off here at the Cologne, Germany stop of the Halo World Championship Tour. At the end of the weekend, we’ll be sending four teams to the Halo World Championship Finals, and I sat down with Richard Simms and Dan Gaskin of UK casting fame to give me their top players to watch for the weekend:
Jim is possibly the best player in Europe right now, and after his recent performance at the X Games in Aspen, he's quickly becoming a fan favorite and a pleasure to cast over as he utilizes the Spartan Abilities. He’s got incredible aim and map movement, and he's come so far so fast for someone who only came into the competitive scene during Halo 4. Who's going to get 'Jimbod' first?
Mose has been the 'online kid' for the past 2/3 years, and he has come a long way. After a second place finish, he has now solidified himself as a top European player, and he’s really found a team that can let him play his game and display his talents. Super aggressive playstyle with a natural slaying ability, but mixed with the right amount of coordinated teamwork. He's a player who isn’t afraid to try new things and take a calculated risk to get the win.
After seeing Speed play against Millenium, we are all ready for round number 2. His sniping game has always been on point, but as of recent, he's been hitting some shots that only Neo out of the Matrix could hit. Not only does Speed have to do what Speed does best, but he has a team of 3 young aggressive players that he has to keep in line as a team captain. Mixing the ability to captain a team while playing your game is something that is no easy task, and the question is can speed step up once again in Cologne and help take his team to the Halo World Championship Finals?
Tune in this weekend at Twitch.tv/Halo to catch both the Cologne, Germany and Sydney, Australia stop this weekend as we send teams to the finals.
In this week’s Community Spotlight, we’re taking a look at a new batch of Forge maps. To help me collect these maps, I grabbed Ducain23, Warholic, and our own Unyshek. To download the maps, just send a Friend or Follow request to the creator, and take a peek at their File Share from the Active Browser. Let’s dig in!
One of Uny’s top picks was Confinement, a Containment remake that has been getting some buzz as of late:
Containment Remake (Halo 2)
Creator / File Share: D3LTA V, TheRunnerUp 32, and Sarizon
Waholic suggested Halvalla, which has also gotten a lot of recent praise:
Valhalla Remake (Halo 3)
Creator / File Share: No God Anywhere
A word from Warholic:
The Forge community has been reliably quick to recreate some of our favorite Halo maps and today we get to break ground once again on one of our favorite Big Team Battle maps from Halo 3, Valhalla. To recreate this map, its author began a meticulous process of measuring out his terrain in grid like fashion as if the map was an archaeological excavation. The results of this fine calibration leaves us with a perfect scale of our beloved battle ground. The map supports 16 players and is recognizably equipped to match the original vehicle and weapon layout. In a desperate attempt to twist our minds, the map has been renamed HALVALLA and you can find it in the file share of “no god anywhere”. This forger has also done an incredible job recreating other classic Halo 3 maps such as Construct (Contract) and Citadel (High Citadel), so make sure to check those out as well.
Ducain23 suggested we check out Elevation:
Game Type: Breakout (but a slightly more…Action Sack-y variety)
Creator / File Share: teamsolocrysm
PLAY OF THE WEEK
Searching for the top clip from each week brings me joy. This week, we spotted a fine barrel roll (cue Peppy quote), landing, and icing on the cake kill executed by xboxrecordat. As of typing this, StrongSide and I have watched this a27 times and counting.
Also, we also caught Spartan The Dog’s clip and couldn’t help but include this, too.
And that my friends will do for this week. We’ll be back with more next week, and be sure to tune into Halo World Championship Tour: Cologne & Sydney this weekend on twitch.tv/Halo, if you’re into that kinda thing.