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Campaign Relief

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Greetings! Since the last community update, we’ve released the Ghosts of Meridian, had two livestreams, released the Warzone Firefight Beta, and kept a very close eye on feedback, including the many fantastic threads on Warzone Firefight rounds, objectives, and difficulty, your thoughts on Tyrant and Skirmish at Darkstar, recent sandbox updates, and more. We’re tracking down issues with custom games traits, Grifball betrayal thresholds, CSR only moving one point at a time (we pushed out an update to resolve this earlier today), and more. We’ve also noticed that you’ve been using the Spartan Laser a bit more since the buff, and using it well. Here are some stats from the data scientists:

Spartan Laser Kills - Increase After Patch

Laser Variant
Spartan Kills Per Use
Damage Per Use
Spartan Laser
+ 26.2%
+ 10.5%
Endgame
+ 58.3%
+ 14.4%
Selene's Lance
+ 69.8%
+ 36.8%

While there is no direct correlation just yet, we also observed that overall Splatter kills in Warzone have reduced 37.5%.

In addition, teams across the studio are hard at work on a variety of updates, including many that come straight from feedback you’ve given us. Modes and playlists like Infection, matchmaking preference options, more Forge goodness, UI updates and post-game medals, Campaign balance updates (more on that in just a bit), and lots more that I can’t talk about just yet is in the works. Many of these will be landing with Memories of Reach, which is currently slated for an early May release.

Let’s dig in, starting with Halo 5’s newest experience: The Warzone Firefight Beta.

Warzone Firefight     

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely already survived a few enemy onslaughts in Warzone Firefight. For those of you who haven’t yet jumped in, we’ve extended the Beta an extra day to thank you for your patience as we added more server capacity yesterday morning. On Thursday alone, you played 287,086 hours of Warzone Firefight, and we’re also learning things about the wayyou’re playing and where you’re succeeding (or not). For example, data has shown us that almost 50% of you who ran into the “Defend the Garage” objective in round 3 met defeat yesterday. The data on your experiences as well as your feedback will be crucial to the Warzone team as they continue to work on the full mode. Once you hop in and play, be sure to leave your feedback in the dedicated thread, which the Warzone team is constantly refreshing. We’ll see you online in the playlist this weekend.

For more on the Warzone Firefight Beta, including an interview with designers David Ellis and Lawrence Metten, head here.

Infection    

As we announced last week, Infection is indeed on the way. Just like Warzone Firefight, you’ve politely asked that we build the game type for Halo 5, and the Multiplayer and Art teams (to name just a few) at the studio have been hard at work bringing it to life. Daily playtests ensure that the mode and maps are buttoned up for all out 12-player survival madness, and also that I get my fair share of shrieks and screams in for the day. We’re currently playtesting Infection on both Infected developer-made maps as well as community-created maps. Here’s an idea of what I mean:

An infected Riptide variant

The Crypt - a custom-built Infection map from WyvernZu

Forge ???

On Monday of this week, I walked over to the Forge team and asked if they were working on anything cool, even though I totally knew they were. They sent this over, without comment, for today’s blog.
 

Arena Refresh Update


Over the past few weeks, the Multiplayer team has been testing out refreshed Arena weapon layouts based on your feedback on Waypoint with the goal of updating these map variants in real-time based on continued input.

In this spirit, the team has already pushed an update to several of these maps earlier today, including the Coliseum, Fathom, and Empire variants. Here’s a quick list of the most recent updates:

Coliseum

  • Removed Binary Rifles

  • Swapped Sniper Rifle and Rocket Launcher weapon pads (Sniper to “Yellow Tower” / Rocket Launcher to “Green Tower”)

  • Suppressor moved to bottom of the Grav Lift

Fathom

  • SAW weapon pad modified

    • Max ammo reduced to one magazine total (no reloading)

    • Respawn time reduced from 3 min to 2 min

Empire

  • Shotgun moved back to Tower One

  • Plasma Pistol moved to “Mid” the small street in between “Tower” and “Pit”

These new versions appear on Empire CTF, Coliseum Assault, and Fathom Assault in Team Arena – once you play them, head into the master thread in the Matchmaking Feedback section and let us know your thoughts. We’ll have more information about the full Arena Refresh timeline in the near future, and the multiplayer team will continue reviewing your feedback and making adjustments based on your experiences and input.

Extra Fiesta

Fiesta debuted in Halo 5 earlier this year, and we heard from many of you that you wanted to not only keep the party going all night long, but also into other game variants. Earlier today, we deployed an update that made Fiesta CTF, Fiesta Strongholds, and Fiesta Assault available in Custom Games, meaning you can fire up these game variants any time you’d like. Typically, these have been built into Custom Game options, but this would’ve taken quite a bit more time to deliver. So rather wait until those updates can be integrated, the Multiplayer team built some new variants that you can play right now, and I’ll go try to convince some people here to make Fiesta CTF a week-long social playlist one day. Be right back.

Next up, let’s talk Campaign balance updates that are coming with the Memories of Reach update. To give you the details, I now toss it over to Chris Proctor.

Halo 5 Campaign Balance Update

Chris Proctor, Senior systems designer

Hi everyone, I’m Chris Proctor, designer at 343 Industries. For Halo 5, I was the designer on Covenant AI, Squad AI, most Forerunner weapon redesigns and final difficulty tuning, and I’m now the designer for all AI and difficulty tuning.

Having had a few months to digest player feedback, reviews, let’s play videos and internal feedback, I’ve been working on an update to Halo 5’s campaign balance, aiming to address parts of the game that players yelled at us about, or that bugged me and the rest of the team enough to address even without external feedback.

Given that we’re constantly updating the game adding new content for Multiplayer, and we’ve got Warzone Firefight and other cool stuff on the way, I took the opportunity to touch global difficulty tuning and address areas where Halo 5’s difficulty was spiky, too easy or inconsistent.

I was pleasantly surprised to get the okay to make these sweeping changes, given how rarely videogame campaign difficulty tends to be updated after launch.

Issues

  • Players and reviews commonly cite the Warden as an unfair difficulty spike on higher difficulty, particularly the triple-Warden fight towards the end of the game. Looking at this in depth, it’s partly because of the Warden himself: his attacks are difficult to avoid, he’s hard to get behind to shoot in the back, his front armor is durable. It’s also because supporting enemies don’t allow any breathing room – having multiple turrets firing continuous, highly damaging beams at you while you’re trying to dodge Warden attacks is pretty rough.

  • Two-player co-op play is slightly more difficult than intended, but single player is a little too easy.

  • Covenant encounters are generally easier than Forerunner. Elites melt a little too fast under squad fire, and Grunts and Jackals are too little threat. However, Storm Rifles are very accurate and fire long bursts, making for an uneven experience if enemies happen to target a stationary player.

  • Players would lose track of enemies in Forerunner encounters and die to an enemy that got behind them. Soldiers are able to bamf frequently to break line of sight, and Crawlers are fairly durable for a fast-moving, close range and lethal enemy that requires aiming down.

  • Certain vehicle sections were much harder than others. Squad AI would often die in a Warthog gunner’s turret, making Warthog sections frustrating in single player, even more so when several enemies with homing weapons could fire on the Warthog at once.

  • In two or three player co-op, Squad AI could get stuck running back and forth between players wildly mashing the “Call for Help” button.

Generally, this balance update smooths out the common spikes, increases the difficulty of mid-tier encounters, and makes certain enemies less frustrating or more satisfying to fight.

Thanks to the Test and Campaign teams for running through the campaign before and after the update to make sure nothing broke and give balance feedback. I’ve listed couple of specific changes below.

Specific Changes

Please note that enemy-specific changes will also apply to Warzone AI – the Warzone team has been playtesting these adjustments, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on all feedback, (especially as it pertains to Warzone Firefight difficulty).

  • Reduced two-player difficulty slightly

  • Increased single player difficulty slightly

  • Made Warden attacks a little easier to dodge, particularly on lower difficulties

    • Face Beam tracks moving targets less accurately

    • Gravity Bomb has less homing

    • Melee attack has slightly less range

  • Made the Warden slightly easier to kill from the front

  • Reduced AI Focus Turret damage output

  • Reduced AI Storm Rifle, Suppressor and Light Rifle effectiveness

    • AI Storm Rifle: fires in shorter bursts, projectiles spread out more and move more slowly. Jackals are now less effective than Elites with the Storm Rifle

    • AI Suppressor: fires in longer bursts, projectiles have less homing. Crawlers are now less effective than Soldiers with the Suppressor

    • AI now fire shorter bursts with the Light Rifle

  • Increased AI Plasma Pistol, Needler and Beam Rifle effectiveness

    • AI Plasma Pistol: slightly higher accuracy and damage

    • AI Needler: AI now fire longer bursts (i.e. can now supercombine players on Heroic and above), slightly higher damage

    • AI Beam Rifle: slightly more damage (mostly this will make it a two-shot kill instead of a three-shot kill in Heroic single player, allowing Jackal Snipers to actually kill a player from time to time)

  • Added a “tackle” animation to Sword Elites – shoutout to Pat Gillette for making the sweet sword tackle animation

    • Instead of stopping to swing at a moving target they can swing on the move

  • Increased Elite, Elite Officer and Soldier Officer durability

  • Reduced Soldier bamf frequency

  • Killing a Crawler now deals area-of-effect damage to all nearby enemies, softening them up or killing them outright

  • Reduced frequency of Squad AI getting killed while in a gunner’s turret in a player’s vehicle

  • Made being killed by an attached Plasma Grenade non-revivable, similar to lethal damage from a Binary Rifle

  • Increased AI special ability chance with higher player count in co-op games, e.g. Plasma Pistol overcharge, grenade throw

  • Increased AI promotion chance with player count in co-op games

    • i.e. in cooperative games you will encounter more high-ranked enemies where promotion paths exist (most noticeable with Grunts, Elites, Jackals and Crawlers)

  • The first player to press the “Call for Help” now has priority, other players will have to wait their turn for a revive – shoutout to Mr. Robert Kingsley for the code fix for this

Community Spotlight

For this week's Community Spotlight, our very own Unyshek caught up with Forger Black Picture to talk about his new version of  Orion. Yes, you read correctly: Black Picture has boldly taken on the task of updating the map you may remember from the Halo 5 beta and launch period. Our multiplayer team is bringing the new version into our internal playtests, and we gotta say - the updated map looks awesome. Take it away, Uny.

Unyshek: Hey Black Picture! It’s a pleasure to have you here to talk about one of your recent Forge projects; updating Orion. We’re very excited to show off what you’ve done with the map and are looking forward to playtesting it within the studio. Before we get started, why did you choose to take this on as a Forge project?

Black Picture: Hey John! It’s good to be here! The reason why I decided to give Orion an update is because I’m looking to get into level design, and I thought it would be a great challenge to help improve the playability of the map. It would also help build my art skill set, something I taught myself while doing a co-Forge with Whos Blaze on a map called Goliath - which was a huge help in making this project easier to handle.

At first glance, it’s easy to note that you fundamentally changed most of the structures. Can you quick give us a quick rundown of these changes and why you made them?

The main reason why I changed most of the structures was for gameplay reasons. After asking multiple friends from Forgehub and Creative Force what their opinion of the map was, I picked up on three main issues with Orion: it was hard to traverse through, Blue base could be spawn trapped, and Red base was too powerful. Many of the changes I made seek to address these issues. Blue base was given a basement and more routes to traverse through. Red base had the stairs shifted over to change the line of sight for the Sniper looking towards blue tower. Cave was changed from a rocky platform to a cement platform to help with clambering into the cave where it used to be awkward to clamber. Those are just a few of the changes to help improve on the map.

I also noticed that you chose to update the aesthetics of the map and give it a facelift. The Forerunner door that looks like it is straight out of the Silent Cartographer is one of my favorite additions. How difficult was it for you to change the look of the map while still making it easy for a player to distinguish where they are on the map?

It wasn’t too bad, but that was my main concern about this map was to not completely strip the identity of it. There were key points on the map I wanted to keep the same, while also improving on them. The rings in top center are the same, however they now float up and down. Over at Red base cage, I got a construction vibe theme ever since the beta. I also wanted to keep pride rock the same because it is a key visual part of the map. A lot of the visual changes were to help players decipher where they are on the map.

You also reverted some areas of the map back to how they were in the Halo 5 Multiplayer Beta. I’m looking at the ramp up from the Sniper Rifle area to Top Middle in particular. Did you bring this back because you felt it created better flow to the map?

Yep, it felt like top mid was very awkward to travel to and through. And it felt like the ramp along with making top mid bigger helped with the flow of top mid. Also the ramp helped break up line of sight from the cave to bottom mid.

After this, what is going to be your next Forge project?

Well, I’ll be taking a small break to take my wife on a trip to Japan for a bit, but once I get back I’m thinking about doing a updated version of Pegasus and then doing an original design with the Creative Force team.

Thanks for joining me today!

Hey thanks for having me!

Play of the Week

There is no question about this week’s Play of the Week. While we’ve seen many great clips, it’ll be tough to top Snip3down’s most recent acrobatics on Plaza.

That’ll do for this week, friends. I’ll leave you with a piece of concept art that I saw laying around earlier this week.
 

Until next time,

Bravo

p.s. Head over to the latest Canon Fodder to learn about the next chapter in the Halo tabletop legacy, Halo: Ground Command.

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