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Brute Force

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It's Friday! After a brief reprieve we're back with a special Halo Community Update with our new furry friend, Atriox, and a bounty of Halo Wars 2 goodness, a preview of this weekend's HCS EU Finals, the long awaited return of Canon Fodder and a sneak peek at the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians update. Let's do this.

Halo Wars 2

The next chapter in the Halo Wars saga is rapidly approaching and we've got some new details to help make the wait for Feb. 21, 2017 a little bit easier.

Last night at the Game Awards 343's Dan Ayoub treated fans to the world premier of a brand new trailer for Halo Wars 2 featuring a closer look at villain-supreme, Atriox!

If you'd like to gussy up your desktop with some sweet, sweet Atriox artwork we've got you covered HERE.

Halo Wars 2 Extra Life Charity Stream

Do you want to see some Halo Wars 2 gameplay this weekend? Team Xbox will be playing Blitz Firefight on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 11:00 a.m to 12:00 p.m. PST as part of a fundraising Extra Life charity stream.  You can watch the stream at Beam.Pro/Xbox and of course if you feel inclined to help out, donations are greatly appreciated with all proceeds going to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

Halo Wars: Definitive Edition

Atriox may have stolen the show last night at the Game Awards but Dan Ayoub also brought us another bit of great Halo Wars 2 news with the announcement of the special Halo Wars: Definitive Edition early access pre-order bonus!

So what exactly is the Halo Wars: Definitive Edition? How does one get it? Read on for everything you need to know!

Halo Wars: Definitive Edition is an enhanced version of the real-time strategy classic, Halo Wars, offering an updated chance to go back to the early beginnings of the iconic war between the Covenant and UNSC and experience the epic saga in brand new ways. Halo Wars: Definitive Edition has been rebuilt to be better than ever:

  • Optimized to run natively on Xbox One and Windows 10
  • Improved visual effects, graphics and audio
  • Up to 4K resolution on Windows 10 PC
  • Includes all DLC from the original game
  • Brand new achievements
  • Bonus Content

Whether you’re an existing fan or new to the series, the Halo Wars: Definitive Edition experience is the perfect way to get ready for Halo Wars 2 before it launches on Windows 10 and Xbox One on Feb. 21, 2017.  

Halo Wars: Definitive Edition - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I get Halo Wars: Definitive Edition?

A: Halo Wars: Definitive Edition is part of the Halo Wars 2: Ultimate Edition, which also includes the Halo Wars 2 Season Pass.

Q: How do I get early access to Halo Wars: Definitive Edition?

A: Everyone who pre-orders the digital version of the Halo Wars 2: Ultimate Edition for Xbox One or Windows 10 will receive a token for Halo Wars: Definitive Edition.  Tokens begin rolling out on Dec. 20, 2016 and will be sent in waves.  You can order the digital version of the Halo Wars 2: Ultimate Edition from the Xbox Store, Windows Store, Xbox.com or participating retailers.

Q: I pre-ordered a digital version of Halo Wars 2: Ultimate Edition.  How do I get my Halo Wars: Definitive Edition code?

A: If you ordered from the Xbox Store, Windows Store or Xbox.com, the code will be sent to your Xbox message center.  Log into your Xbox One, the Xbox App on Windows 10 or Xbox.com to check your message center.  Tokens will begin rolling out on Dec. 20, 2016.  It may take 7 – 10 days to receive your token after pre-ordering Halo Wars 2: Ultimate Edition.

If you pre-ordered the digital version from a participating retailer, you should receive a token for Halo Wars 2: Ultimate Edition.  Log into your Xbox account and enter that token.  Your Halo Wars: Definitive Edition token will be sent to that account within 7 – 10 days (starting Dec. 20, 2016).

Q: How do I redeem my Halo Wars: Definitive Edition token?

A: Check this page for how to enter tokens: Xbox.com/howtoredeem-console

EU HCS Pro League Fall 2016 Finals Preview

This is going to be a huge month for the Halo Championship Series as players and fans alike get ready for two back to back, action-packed weekends of high-stakes professional competition. This weekend we shift our focus across the pond for the EU HCS Pro League Fall 2016 Finals streaming live from Leicester, England. If you, like me, find yourself stuck thousands of miles away, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know going into the event and how to follow the action all weekend long. And if it makes you feel any better, I’m told the ESL UK studio is completely sold out anyways so even if we could find a means to get there, they wouldn’t let us in.

Great news is that the entire weekend’s action will be streaming live on Twitch.tv/Halo (also available on Facebook.com/eslhalo). If you’re in need of a refresher on the EU Fall Season, ESL has you covered with this handy highlight video. You can also keep tabs via Twitter by following @HCS, @ESLHalo, and @ESLUK, and of course you can tweet right back at the HCS EU casters and teams using #HCS.

ScheDUle

All the action kicks off on Saturday, Dec. 3 with Relegation play starting with the Winners Bracket Semi-Final #1 at 12 p.m. GMT. Play will continue throughout the day as teams battle it out in a best-of-seven series. Times are subject to change but the current approximate Relegation schedule is as follows

  • 12:00-13:30 GMT – Winners Bracket Semi Final #1
  • 13:45-15:15 GMT – Winners Bracket Semi Final #2
  • 15:30-17:00 GMT – Winners Bracket Final
  • 17:15-18:45 GMT – Losers Bracket Round 1
  • 19:00-20:30 GMT – Losers Bracket Final

Championship Sunday kicks off at 10 a.m. GMT with the pre-show and moves into a full day of intense matchups. Times are subjects to change but the current approximate Finals schedule is as follows:

  • 10:15 – 11:45 GMT – Winners Bracket Semi-Final – FabE vs. Pulse
  • 12:00 – 13:30 GMT – Winners Bracket Semi Final – Vibe vs. Infused
  • 13:45 – 15:15 GMT – Winners Bracket Final
  • 15:30 – 17:00 GMT – Losers Bracket Round 1
  • 17:15 – 18:45 GMT – Losers Bracket Final
  • 19:00 – 20:30 GMT – Grand Finals

Note that all times are in GMT but for those of us in the U.S., it’s -5 hours for EST and -8 hours for PST. That means Saturday kicks off at 7 a.m. EST / 4 a.m. PST.

Hosts with the mosts

Bringing you all of the weekend’s action will be a stellar lineup of caster talent including our own Bravo:

Key storylines / WHAT to Watch for

Will FABe repeat and bring their total winnings to nearly $100,000 across two seasons? How will Jimbo and the rest of FABe respond after making the trip to compete at HCS Las Vegas? Which team will rise to the top of relegation?

I reached out to our main man on the ground, Simms, to get his thoughts and perspective on what fans should watch for this weekend and what he feels the key storylines are going into the EU finals.

Simms:

Coming into the finals the main story line is FABe wanting to prove once again that they are the very best in Europe. FABe recently made the trip to the HCS Open Circuit Finals in Las Vegas to get a bit of pre-event practice and get a taste of the NA scene and how the big boys play. FABe are already down on Summer Season as they kept a clean sheet during regular play but dropped a series during the Fall to team INFUSED but the even bigger story line was the fact that it was their old teammate, Kimbo, who they dropped after summer finals, who ruined the clean sheet for them.

This weekend VIBE takes the second spot while INFUSED drops to 3rd after defeating them on the final day of Pro League. At the Summer Season Finals it was INFUSED rocking that shiny second place as we entered the live Finals but unfortunately they failed to play at their full potential and ended up walking away with 4th place. This 3rd/4th spot is quite a rivalry as it was VIBE that eliminated INFUSED at Summer Finals in a final Game 7 Slayer match. INFUSED had originally been winning all their Slayer maps but the pressure just seemed to overcome this young roster lacking experience on the main stage. With roster changes on both sides, both teams are fired up for this event and looking stronger across the board. I cannot wait for this match up!

Another team to watch is 4th place underdogs, PULSE GAMING. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE FRENCH! Throughout EU Halo it’s kind of been a meme, but the French just always turn up on LAN. Halo 4, MCC, and even HWC French rosters have always caused upsets and put on a damn fine show at live events. The players and the esports talent within France both have always been of a high caliber and, in Halo it's no different. PULSE have not made a single team change this season and they are going to LAN. Rumors circled about team captain Norwen (a.k.a. 'SLG') being offered a place on INFUSED during the offseason but this team is still four men strong and I honestly cannot wait to see if they manage to upset any of the teams attending this weekend. Either way, they have done France proud by making it this far!

Relegation time! So PROPHECY has had a massive fall from grace after two players on this roster finished Top 8 at HWC and took home $75,000! This is the second time they find themselves in relegation - only this time they haven't won a single series in the Pro League. A 0-10 record is a massive dark cloud on this roster, but in no way does it tell the full tale of these four incredible, and even legendary, players. VwS missed out on Finals glory as they lost 3-0 against PULSE gaming in the final days of Pro League. This weekend we'll have the same scenario again with legendary and amazing team players as well as fierce and fired competition.

As VwS finished higher than PROPHECY, VwS have the home advantage of choosing which of the two teams that made it out of the EU Open Circuit Finals they wish to play. BITTERSWEET (formerly known as MDR2) is a roster comprising of three former Pro League players in the form of Warlord of Summer Season INFUSED, Solar of Summer Season PULSE and Anima of Fall Season VwS along with EU Open Player Shady. It's a very nasty line up so it's by no means a surprise that VwS picked to avoid them Round 1 leaving PROPHECY to have to deal with these guys. We have to note that if VwS and BITTERSWEET win, Anima will be playing against his ex-teammates who dropped him earlier in the season. The second place team to climb out of Open Circuit was EGOED, comprised of morguhhh, Quad, SimpIay, and Zhuh. It's a very nice roster and one that did take a game from MDR. Can they take games off the pro teams? Now that's another question only this weekend will be able to answer! The passion and play is there but it will be no easy feat.

Overall I think we will see a changing of the guard come Saturday. PROPHECY is in trouble but I've said this before and this team has been here before only to live to fight another day!

 - Simms

Thanks, Simms! Anyone else just read those few paragraphs in the “Voice of Simms?” I’m bummed to miss out on the “cheekiest of Nando’s with the boys” (his words, not mine, and I honestly have no idea what that means but it sounds awesome and I feel like I’m missing something epic) but I’ll definitely be tuned in back here stateside watching this fierce competition and drama unfold.

Remember to tune in to Twitch.tv/Halo starting Saturday at 12 p.m. GMT and join in on the action. My little birds around the studio here have told me that there may even be some REQ Pack code giveaways throughout the weekend!

There's never a dull moment here at 343 and this week has certainly been no different! Here's a quick run down of a few random odds and ends of interest (or not, in which case, you should scroll down now!)

  • This week has been a strange dichotomy of both celebration and stress as the core development team took some time to surface and celebrate a recent "Sprint" milestone while other teams around the building are neck deep in the final phases of releasing the next Halo 5 content update while still others are heads down hard at work on Halo Wars 2. The community team falls in the middle category as we've been eagerly compiling patch notes, coordinating videos, rounding up sweet assets and talking to teams across the building about the work they did. You'll see (and play) the fruits of this labor soon.
  • Speaking of "play," our internal 343 Halo 5 tournament officially got underway today with a fierce opening round of matches across all three skill brackets. I'm sad to report that my teammates and I lost 0-2 right out of the gate (though we did have fun). It turns out Grim's team also got handily defeated 0-2 and Uny, in the elite "Spartan" bracket, also lost in the opening round. In the interest of time it's a single-elimination affair so that's all folks, we're done. I'm working with some folks to hopefully live stream the grand finals "Spartan" match next Thursday afternoon on our Twitch channel. More on that to come!

  • On the topic of sprints - there's a large amount of work happening all across the studio on some foundational work and secret sauce for unannounced future stuff. There's a lot I haven't had time to digest yet but it's been very interesting seeing a lot of production, tech and workflow frameworks being refined and improved in addition to some high level proof-of-concept testing. Expect a lot of vague teasing for quite some time.
  • The Halo App received an update this week with the addition of a Halo Wars: Definitive Edition Game Details Page, NA HCS Fall Season Finals Bracket (eSports Page) and a new "REQ Giveaway Module" on the eSports Page that, starting this weekend, will allow fans to participate and submit REQ codes announced during the live stream right into the module in the App. A big shout out to the 343 team for all of their work on this latest update!
  • Our own caster-extraordinaire and HCS producer Mike "StrongSide" got engaged since our last update to our HCS/Community Producer (and the real reason any of us gets anything done) Ellen "FaithSide." Congrats you two!!
  • We've had daily playtests this week of some content included in the upcoming Halo 5 update that mad scientist Tom French and his team have been cooking up. I can't wait until we can pull back the curtains on what is a super fun, non-traditional way of playing Halo 5 (along with some that feel very familiar). Sorry, I imagine you're tired of the teasing and tired of hearing "soon" by now but I promise, it's almost here.
  • I just found out that Super Fiesta is coming back to Halo 5 Matchmaking later today! Based on fan feedback and analytics it's safe to say that the "Anniversary Throwback" playlist ended up being quite popular. I want to give a shout out again to the Forgers who spent so much time making those awesome throwback maps! We'd love to add more classic re-creations down the road so please keep up the great work. We've heard the cries of fans loud and clear - you want something like this as a permanent addition. Many people on the team do as well. It's not going to happen immediately but it's on the list as the team continues working on playlist enhacements and additions for 2017.
  • Speaking of playlists, earlier this week I put out a call on Reddit and Waypoint to ask for your ONE addition you'd love to see in Halo 5 Matchmaking. Thanks so much for all the great, constructive feedback! I'll tell you that I haven't even finished compiling yet folks across the team have taken notice and it's directly spurred some meetings and side conversations already.
  • Did you catch the news about the production deal struck between Microsoft/343 & Pilgrim Media Group to develop a Halo esports reality show? In case you were wondering, this has absolutely no relation to the Spielberg partnership announced long ago (and no, I don't have any updates on that front).
  • Also in case you missed it: Halo: Smoke & Shadow - a digital first e-novella written by Kelly Gay was released this week along with Halo: Tales from Slipspace, a graphic novel anthology by Dark Horse Comics.
  • Lastly, and perhaps least importantly, when I first started at 343 a few months back I was lamenting the fact that I'd yet to acquire any DMR Reqs and it was really bumming me out. Well I'm happy to report that yesterday evening while sitting in the office working on this update and watching the Game Awards I took a pause to jump into Halo 5: Guardian and at long last I opened a REQ Pack and was granted a "deemer." Of course it's a Rare Level 8 variety that I'll be hard pressed to actually get to use but at least I finally have one in my inventory. Feels good, man.

And now, here's Grim with some Fodder to feed on...

ISSUE 93

It should come as no surprise that our latest instalment of your favorite fiction-flavored feature focuses on a few recent and upcoming tidbits that lore-mongers will no doubt find intriguing. Ready? Let’s begin.

RED SHIFT

Last night’s epic Halo Wars 2 trailer shed new light on the backstory of Atriox, the calculated and menacing Jiralhanae leader of the Banished. While the trailer certainly speaks volumes on its own, keen-eyed viewers will undoubtedly fixate on a myriad of delectable details, such as a seasoned Sangheili executioner wielding a crackling bloodblade similar to ones often seen employed by lethal Elite commandos and assassins. 

CHASING SHADOWS

One of our favorite aspects of the Halo universe is the amount of scattered details that serve as connective tissues across narrative eras and various types of media. Folks have gotten their hands on Halo: Tales from Slipspace noticed a familiar looking squad of Elite commandos featured in Jon Goff’s story “Hunting Party.” With that in mind, let’s talk about the Silent Shadow…

The Silent Shadow are a unique Sangheili special forces division made up of several different individual squads. In Halo: Tales from Slipspace, readers encounter one such squad led by Resa 'Azavayl, a 1st Blade officer in the Silent Shadow. In “Hunting Party,” Resa’s team is on an exhaustive mission to wipe out Jiralhanae forces across multiple systems, a campaign that has completely monopolized the existence of Resa’s squad since the aftermath of the events in Halo 3.

As time moves on, the nature of the mission begins to wear on Resa’s subordinates, his team continually more suffocated by a weariness to continue a mission that no longer makes sense considering the changing state of their world. Resa however, remains both blinded by, and driven by, old loyalties and festering delusions of vengeance.

This isn’t the first time Halo fans have encountered the Silent Shadow however. In a previous story – Halo: Evolution’s “Headhunters,” also penned by Goff – Spartan-III Headhunters faced off against one of the Silent Shadow’s squads on a Covenant-controlled moon during the height of humanity’s war with the alien alliance. The Silent Shadow is nearly always recognizable through their use of a unique and advanced combat harness that often incorporated experimental technology and weaponry. It isn’t known if Resa’s squad is the last remnant of the Silent Shadow, or if vestiges of the deadly division remain scattered across charted space.

WILD HORSES

Speaking of Halo: Tales from Slipspace, we partnered with our friends at Dark Horse Comics to catch up with a few of the talented and creative minds behind some of the stories in the graphic novel anthology in order to gain an inside perspective on some of their influences and approaches for spinning their respective tales.

Q: What was the process like for creating an anthology series with such a large and diverse group of creators? How did you come to work on your specific story or with your creative team?

John Jackson Miller (“Undefeated”): I learned about this project a good while ago. I had a conference call with Dark Horse and the 343 editorial team, and was given access to a lot of research materials. 343 was very helpful in both cases when it came to suggesting possible roads I could take my stories down — and then in helping me to massage those manuscripts to make them fit the Halo world better.

Jonathan Goff (“Hunting Party”): With 343 and Dark Horse working the production end, this was very much just me working on a 10-page story; no different than working on a single issue. I had no contact with the other creators, but 343/Dark Horse had a firm grasp on the stories and voices and made sure what I was crafting would fit within the whole while being its own experience for the readers. That stated, when I saw the list of creators I was honored to be among them.

The origin of "Hunting Party" was first that it was one of a handful of ideas I pitched, second that I thought it would be fun to tell a bit of a companion piece to "Headhunters" from Halo: Evolutions focused on a team of Elites who are of the same ilk as the spec ops assassins in "Headhunters."

343 then came back to me and said: "Hey, we like this one idea in particular but... what if the Elites are after this new character we've got coming in Halo Wars 2?" From there what started as a straightforward "badasses doing badass things" story evolved into the tale that is in the book and the introduction of Atriox. It was a great collaboration and perfect melding of the original idea with a smaller moment within the larger universe that I would never have known to approach.

Dave Crosland (“Knight Takes Bishop”): I was approached by Dark Horse about the anthology. Once I read Tyler Jeffers' action-packed script for "Knight Takes Bishop," I was eager to tackle the story. Also, when Len O'Grady hopped onboard as my colorist, I knew we could make something visually stunning that was a lot of fun to read. Len is a chromatic master, and I think his colors and visual effects are what ultimately make the pages sing with so much energy.

Tyler Jeffers (“Knight Takes Bishop”): Looking back, it certainly seemed daunting early on. We had what seemed like a rather large amount of blank pages that needed to be filled. Thankfully, we have a great partner with Dark Horse. We worked closely with them on the majority of the creative team selection as well as refining the story ideas we wanted to tell with this release. In regards to the people who were asked to contribute, we all agreed that we wanted to look at artists and writers who could provide what we felt would be something new to the Halo franchise. Dark Horse then reached out to the creative teams; we paired up artists and writers as best we could and then proceeded into full production on the book. It was so exciting to see everything start coming in. The first scripts, early penciled pages and every step afterwards seems to have flown by, but all of us were really enjoying what we saw. Funny how quickly those pages filled up! I found myself asking Dark Horse if we could get more pages on at least two occasions.

Q: How would you compare your creative process for this book with the creative process of your previous work?

John Jackson Miller: I’ve written video game comics for Dark Horse before. On my other project, I was collaborating with the lead designer of the game because we were drawing on elements that were baked into upcoming releases — and as a result, when things about those unreleased games changed, we sometimes needed to adjust course to reflect that.

With both Halo: Tales from Slipspace and the Halo: Fractures anthology — the playing field was a little less changeable because it wasn’t intertwined with a game that was a work in progress. “Undefeated,” in Tales from Slipspace, is an immediate sequel to Halo 5: Guardians, so I only needed to know about conditions in the milieu immediately afterward. My Fractures story, “Defender of the Storm,” was a tale of the Forerunners, set in the distant past — and likewise, there wasn’t as much of a danger that I would collide with other developing story elements. That was helpful. Writing in a shared universe is sometimes like aiming for a moving target, especially where games are concerned — but with Halo, it wasn’t a problem.

Jonathan Goff: I used the exact same process I've used on each of my projects - brainstorm, outlet, review, script, review, rough thumbnails, eagerly/gleefully await art, receive art, geek out, letter placement and tweaks to script in order to better utilize the visual storytelling in the art, eagerly/gleefully await letters, receive letters, geek out at the fact the pieces have become a whole, read for final edit, make letter notes, wait for final book, and hope people enjoy it!

Dave Crosland: I'm a wet media artist, through and through. I am all about ink, paint, pencils, paper - tangible mediums. But some projects call for the digital approach, mostly for the sake of speed and efficiency. I worked on a fully digital project earlier this year and felt it made sense to keep the same digital process for Tales from Slipspace. My work on Tales from Slipspace allowed me to really apply my personal style via a digital medium.

Tyler Jeffers: Surprisingly, this wasn’t much different from other projects I have been involved in. I have written or produced other creative endeavors for projects with 343 Industries, as well as my previous employer, the McFarlane Companies. However, working on Halo with 343 Industries has certainly had me more focused on video game content. This project definitely reminded me how much I missed working in comics. Jumping back in and writing an action-packed 10-page story was a great way to go back to that.

And when I found out Dave Crosland was going to be drawing my story, I couldn’t stop grinning. I have been a fan of his for quite some time. He and Len O’Grady really did an amazing job with the art. Everything I like about the story is stuff that they added. The dynamic sequences, the artistic details as well as the color choices all moved the mood and pacing of the story to a great end result.

Q: Are you a fan of Halo? Were you concerned about contributing to such an established and beloved universe and franchise?

John Jackson Miller: I got the Halo edition Xbox for the family last Christmas, and it’s been fun getting to watch the video game story unfold. (I tend to be a spectator as I’m not adept at shooter games — but fortunately, my kids have skills!) So I’ve been able to see what all the excitement is about.

When you’re writing in a franchise for the first time, you always want to enter the realm gradually, learning the ropes of writing for that world as you go. It’s the same thing with Halo. I specifically was looking for character-focused stories that I could write that wouldn’t be overly complicated with other continuity elements; the more I could narrow the focus or footprint of what I was doing, the better the odds were that I could capture the spirit of Halo while avoiding bumping into other stories that were out there. I certainly have written stories in shared universes before that are wide in scope and draw from all corners of a franchise but it’s really important for a writer to work up to something like that.

Jonathan Goff: I am, and have been, a fan since the launch of Halo: Combat Evolved - great game, great franchise. In addition to being a fan I've had the pleasure of working with the team at 343 Industries for some time - first during my stint at McFarlane Toys then as a member of the 343 team for a few years. That working relationship, combined with the fact I've been lucky enough to write for the franchise on a previous occasion with the Halo: Evolutions prose anthology, placed me on pretty solid ground coming into this project. Being able to call back to my Evolutions story, "Headhunters," by introducing a new team of Elite assassins also added seem fun and deeper personal connection.

The most challenging part was making sure I gave Atriox a voice that fit 343's needs. As a new character coming in Halo Wars 2, my story "Hunting Party" is one of his first introductions in the Halo universe, so ensuring he gives enough of himself away to be interesting but not so much as to make him wholly known was a fun exercise. I worked a lot with 343's Kevin Grace who's had a big hand in Halo Wars 2 to make sure Atriox was true to their intentions for him. And having had a working relationship with 343 and knowing the universe the way I do they were great at giving me room to tell the story and play with the characters. I hope readers have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. Though to be fair, regardless of the words, Simon Roy's art is fantastic!

Dave Crosland: I appreciate its wild ingenuity, immense world-building and supreme standing in the realm of first-person shooters. I wasn't concerned about contributing to the franchise as much as I was nervous that my style wouldn't gel with the meticulous detail and design of Halo's creatures, vehicles, and cybernetic warriors. Luckily, between my drawings and Len's colors, I think we came out on top.

Tyler Jeffers: I consider myself a semi-hardcore fan. I played every Halo game since Halo: Combat Evolved and try my best to read every novel released since Halo: The Fall of Reach. But I know (and work with) plenty of guys and gals that know an incredible amount of granular detail about Halo and its universe. I still have to pinch myself on occasion while working for 343, as it is an interesting challenge when working on something you have been a fan of for so long. Creating something that is adding to the rich Halo franchise certainly looms over you a bit as you start writing something like a comic script. Especially when you consider how dedicated the fan-base is with Halo. The fans are tireless and incredibly dedicated to the universe. We are very fortunate to have such a passionate group of people who love Halo. I hope my little fast-paced, action-packed story gives them something to enjoy. I certainly enjoyed creating it.

Q: What is your favorite thing about Halo (such as characters, weapons, technology or vehicles)? 

John Jackson Miller: I’ve always been big on functional futuristic battle armor; it’s definitely been fun thinking about the hardware in Halo. I also really liked the idea of the ancilla, the onboard AI in the Forerunner armor, which I got to deal with in the Fractures story. 

Jonathan Goff: My favorite thing about Halo is the sense of wonder it can evoke. The characters, worlds and tech all speak to amazing possibilities while being based on realistic military action. From the second I first stepped out of the life pod in Halo: CE and set my eyes upon that ring I was hooked.

Dave Crosland: My favorite thing about Halo is the overall world they've built. I only know the game through stills, cutscenes and the few play-through videos I've watched. But they all convey a sense of weight and history. The world of Halo feels lived in, used and bloody. And that really jives with one thing I enjoy about good science fiction - a world that's total fantasy, but somehow feels tangible.

Tyler Jeffers: I really like Spartan-IIIs. I have always thought the origin and intent of the Spartan-III program was an interesting contrast to the Spartan-IIs like the Master Chief. If I had to choose another, it would be a vehicle called the Booster Frame, that was introduced in the animated release from 2010, Halo: Legends. I am sure it is a byproduct of some early childhood affection for the X-Wing that is responsible, but the design of the Booster Frame is just so slick. No cockpit, no frills, just a Spartan sitting on a flying gun with missiles attached to it.

Q: The video games deal with more well-known characters of the franchise. What challenges did you face trying to build stories with lesser-know characters?

Jonathan Goff: There is a bit more freedom with the lesser-known characters, which allows for more risk. They fill in the corners of this vast fictional reality and while the main characters need to serve set roles within the "laws of narrative" in order to provide an audience with narrative touch points and emotional attachments, the tertiary characters and those further removed from the story's core can be taken in more unexpected directions. Lesser-known characters are also great fodder for creative experimentation within the rules of the established fictional universe. So, I guess the answer would be that the hardest part is knowing those rules and where and how they can be bent or broken yet remain true to the franchise and that's something that has to be parsed writer to writer and project to project. 

Dave Crosland: "Knight Takes Bishop" is a straight up action short, rather than a character study. For me, it was all about creating exciting visuals while staying true to the established look and feel of Halo.

Tyler Jeffers: A big challenge was that it is such a fast-paced story. But the most challenging aspect was that I kind of wanted to make the main character somebody we didn’t know about. My intent was to have readers go along for the ride with a new character. It also worked in my favor in regards to the timeline. Because it takes place shortly after the end of Halo 4, replacing Spartan-G059 with a more well-known character may have actually been harder to accommodate. In addition, I wanted my story to be very minimal in regards to dialogue. I felt having a more well-known character running and gunning without saying a single word would be a hard sell for some people. After discussing the idea with a few colleagues at 343, I got the approval to explore a story tied to a Spartan-III. Which, as I mentioned earlier, is a subject I am already interested in.

Q: For John Jackson Miller, what did you find challenging about writing “Undefeated”?

John Jackson Miller: Halo uses a lot of real-life physics but there are some elements that have been fictionalized, and knowing the rules for how the universe works is key when you’re doing a story that delves not just into what happens, but how?

We have in “Undefeated” a starship that’s adrift and out of communication, and in order to survive, the occupants have to improvise solutions; a lot like the Apollo 13 astronauts did. The main challenge for me then was finding out what the technical matters involved were when it came to the Halo universe. I needed to know what systems would still work, which ones could be done without — and I even needed to know the specifics about how certain weapons were manufactured. The 343 team was extremely helpful in working with me to think through the dynamics involved.

Q: Also for John, what made you want to open “Undefeated” with a reference to World War I and Armistice Day?

John Jackson Miller: While the war was officially set to end in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, because of the imperfect communications of the day, many units didn’t know what posture to take. Should they hunker down and wait it out, or grab whatever territory they could? They didn’t know. As a result, it was one of the bloodiest days of the war. A lack of information turned out to be deadly.

The ship in “Undefeated” is left without any information about what’s going on at all as a result of the events of Halo 5: Guardians. And that lack of information, I knew, would be central to the main conflict of the story. The characters in “Undefeated” all have good intentions, but without any guidance as to the bigger picture, they take a situation that’s already dangerous and make it worse.

Q: For Dave, how did you reconcile your own artistic style with the established art of the franchise? Were there certain aspects of Halo’s art you felt you needed to emulate and others you felt you had the ability to play with?

Dave Crosland: Working digitally allowed me to reconcile my personal style with the established style of Halo. While I can still go nuts with my basic drawing approach, making art on the Cintiq keeps me a little grounded. And I think that made for a nice marriage of our two styles.

I certainly felt the freedom to play around with the finish on the artwork - the roughness of lines, splatter, and special effects. The need to emulate came in the character designs, their weapons, and gear. But even then, there was always room for exaggeration. In the end, I felt like I was allowed to echo the hardcore design of Halo, but still play around and put my visual touch on our story. I likened it to the way each director of the Alien franchise brings their personal aesthetic to that series of films.

Q: Now we notice that the panels in “Knight Takes Bishop” go from straight and clearly structured to rough and misshapen. What made you draw the art this way? Was it because of Tyler’s script or were you playing with your style?

Dave Crosland: The panel borders were totally inspired by Tyler's script. At the beginning, we're seeing the clinical aspects of the Spartan's world -- debriefing holograms, mission objectives, her commute & insertion into the field. Even in the two-page infiltration spread, we're viewing the action from a distance. So I used cold, unemotional panels to frame those scenes. But the minute our Spartan comes crashing through that skylight and starts raining down on those Covenant goons, I wanted the panels to reflect the violence and chaos of combat. We're diving into that close-quarters brutality with the Spartan. And the rough panels are meant to ground us in the mission with her. We can feel the heat of the near misses, smell the stink on those Elite soldiers as she slaughters them with their own energy swords.

Q: Jon, the first page of “Hunting Party” has a freeform styled introduction. Did this type of introduction present any specific challenges?

Jonathan Goff: The intro is written and presented in a very specific manner. Whether or not it registers to the end reader, the intent of the presentation is to provide a rhythm and bounce to the reading experience. The intro is taken from a journal entry, so the reality of the words as they would exist "in-universe" is that they would be formatted more traditionally, but I was looking to provide a glimpse into the character's actual emotion as he was writing the words. The breaks and indentions reflect the flow of his mindset and add an additional subtle layer of life by providing breathing room and emphasis.

Q: What was it like to work with Simon Roy? Do you feel like your styles matched up?

Jonathan Goff: The way technology has evolved the creative process over the last decade means Simon and I worked together without ever directly working together. I did loose thumbnails for the script, but that was just meant as an ad for whoever the artist was on the story as we were working in a bit of a shortened timeframe. Once I found out Simon would be illustrating the piece I was ecstatic.

I think our styles matched perfectly and I hope he feels the same, or, at the very least, had fun with it. One of his strengths is the life he brings to characters and worlds through his line work and camera placement. A great example is the second-page splash of the Silent Shadow assassin squad. The rough layouts I'd done had this page being more typical/over-posed, or at least that was the idea in my head. But what Simon was able to do was put the characters in all their badass glory into a shot that feels of a moment and true as opposed to staged. That kind of understanding of storytelling and the confidence to place characters in a moment instead of taking the easy "cool pose for cool pose sake" route, speaks to me and inspires me as a storyteller.

Thanks so much for joining us today, guys!

So before we close, we also wanted to highlight that our friends at Dark Ink recently released two new gorgeous lithographs, one of which is featured in the back gallery of Halo: Tales from Slipspace, and we figured would be of particular interest to lore fans. “Monn I’zar” is an epic piece done by Josh Koa, and you can grab one for yourself here! (On a personal race-loving note, check out “Ghost Pilots” by Steve Thomas as well!)

Monn I’zar knew the stories of the Demon were all lies. Metal men who could cut through entire battalions of the Covenant’s finest? Nonsense!

However, face to face with that creature of legend, in that final moment, Monn was a believer.

And with that, I’m out. Until next time… Live well, play Halo, and stay tuned…

<3

Grim

<<LATE BREAKING UPDATE//1017PT>> 

This just in, we've got the descriptive text for Halo: Envoy by Tobias Buckell (coming in 2017) hot off the presses, and didn''t want you to have to wait for it. Enjoy!

It has been six years since the end of the Covenant War...and yet on the planet Carrow, a world on the edge of the Joint Occupation Zone, a decisive new battle suddenly erupts. Human colonists and the alien Sangheili have already been living a tension-filled co-existence in this place, with Unified Earth Government envoy Melody Azikiwe attempting to broker a lasting peace between their two species. But as civil war now engulfs the Sangheili settlers, Melody must act on an additional covert assignment courtesy of the Office of Naval Intelligence: find a way to free the SPARTAN-IIs known as Gray Team, held in stasis since the end of the war by a cunning Elite fleetmaster consumed with vengeance. And none can anticipate the ongoing violence leading to the discovery of an even greater, unstoppable threat, hidden for eons below the surface of the planet….

Okay, actually done now. 

Halo 5: Guardians Content Update, Update

Over the past few weeks the excitement and hype has been steadily building as fans and developers alike await the release of the next big content update for Halo 5: Guardians. At long last I’m happy to say that the time is nearly upon us and the launch is imminent. We’re still working away on all the glorious screenshots, videos and REQ card imagery that’s required to blow out this update but I can’t in good conscience send you away for the weekend without giving at least a small taste of what’s in store for next week!

"Voices of War" REQ Pack

One aspect of the update I’m personally excited about is the recently revealed “Voices of War” REQ Pack. Like many of you I found myself in the “holy %@& I never knew I needed this!” camp when I first heard about this. And let me tell you, after getting some first-hand experience with all three announcers in a playtest last week I can confirm they’re all awesome. 

This REQ Pack will unlock three new announcers that you can toggle between to commentate in your Warzone, Warzone Firefight and Arena matches. You’ll gain access to three distinctly different announcers: Spartan Buck, Yabda the Merciless, and 031 Exuberant Witness. It’s important to note up front that unlike everything else coming in the massive Halo 5 update, this particular REQ pack is not free, it’s a premium purchase that will be available for $9.99 which includes all three announcers.

Of course this is a completely optional addition to the game but hopefully you’ll find it as awesome as I have. To help whet your appetite, the team shared a sample with me from the VO recording sessions:

But Wait, There’s More!

I can’t fully pull back the curtain quite yet so you’ll just have to trust me when I say this update is jam packed with goodness including new features, a massive expansion to Forge and of course many sweet REQs. Some astute observers already discovered this in the short teaser trailer that ran at the end of the Nov. 15 livestream but in case you missed it or were still in doubt, I’m excited to officially reveal the RETURN OF THE REACH GRENADE LAUNCHER!

The full bounty of sweet, FREE, content is coming to an Xbox One or PC near you in a matter of days. Make sure you monitor Halo Waypoint this coming Tuesday, Dec. 6 for part one of our two-part blowout of everything you need to know.

In the meantime, stay well my friends. Enjoy some Super Fiesta and HCS EU Finals this weekend and we'll see you in a few short days for a very busy and exciting Halo 5 update week!

-ske7ch

[PS FROM GRIM - As someone who is both huge fan of Halo and a huge fan of racing, there's nothing better than mixing the two together. With that in mind, we wanted to give a shout out to our friends at Turn 10 and Playground Games for taking home Best Racing Game at The Game Awards last night with Forza Horizon 3! And thanks to @thyReaperMC for the killer Puma pic. Okay bye now for realsies.]

[Why are you still scrolling? The update is over. Seriously, go home.

But come back on Tuesday.]

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