News

Chasing Shadows

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We’re not in Kansas anymore, eh? Anyway, welcome back, Halo faithful! And good news – if you’re reading this, that means I wrote it, and if I wrote it, that means that I didn’t go blind by doing anything particularly irresponsible during this week’s epic solar eclipse. Like many of you, a large contingent of the studio marched inexorably up to the top of the parking garage to unite in our common curiosity and admiration of the celestial celebration. As someone who spent nearly two decades in science education entertainment pre-this Spartan life, I was particularly stoked to share a passion for real science alongside all the wonderful folks I help create fake science with each day. And while the solar-observing ocular aids may have been in short supply, the inevitable oohs and ahhs were not. I can only hope that wherever you are, you were able to experience some of the wonder and majesty of creation, whether observing in person or streaming awesome images online. After all, there was a giant halo in the sky.

This week, we’ve got a smattering of subjects to tackle and talk about, so let’s get right to it. To begin, we head to the beautiful Köln, Germany for an update on a few Halo Wars 2-related bits and bobs we shared at gamescom.

GAMESCOM

Just this morning, we dropped some juicy new details and assets for the upcoming Halo Wars 2 expansion, Awakening the Nightmare. One of the biggest specific newsbeats was the announcement (or confirmation, for the particularly internet-savvy) of the Awakening the Nightmare release date, which is only almost exactly a month away! You'll be able to take control of Banished forces, and take on the Flood, on September 26 for both Xbox One and Windows 10 PC.

To recap, the Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare expansion includes new Banished campaign missions, a new co-op multiplayer mode in Terminus Firefight, two new Banished leaders – Pavium and Voridus – with new units and abilities, and two new multiplayer maps. For the full skinny, check out our official gamescom update HERE.

NEW DIRT 

Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these days you'd like to meet to go over everything – they say that time's supposed to reveal stuff, but I ain't done much revealin’.

It’s that time again, the time of the week where we parse out the next tidbits of some upcoming sandbox tuning updates to Halo 5. So, without further Adele, here’s top community confidant ske7ch with new details!

Weapon Tuning Update

Annnnd we’re back! Welcome to week three of our methodical rollout of loose details for the upcoming Halo 5 weapon tuning test. Before we dive in to today’s suite of to-be-tuned weapons, here’s a recap again for those who haven’t been following these updates and aren’t up to speed with what’s going on:

  • Halo 5 will receive a Weapon Tuning Update later this Fall that includes adjustments to a number of weapons* and one power-up.
  • The 343 Sandbox Team has two primary goals behind this tuning update:

          1. Revitalize and re-balance the Halo 5 sandbox to a more desirable state

          2. Establish/strengthen unique roles for each weapon and reduce role redundancy

  • As part of this process, players will get a chance to help play and test these changes in the wild to provide data and feedback to the 343 Sandbox Team. Timing and logistic details are still being finalized – stay tuned for more. 
  • We will be sharing high level context around the weapons included in the Tuning Update in the weeks leading up to the public test. Note that we will not be sharing the exact specific details for what is being adjusted on each weapon – this is intentional to protect the integrity of the test data (and some of those finer details may change as work continues).
  • When the test has concluded, the final re-tuned weapons will be rolled out across the entire game (Campaign, WZ, and MP).

*Note that when we kicked off this conversation I said there were fourteen weapons and one power-up set to be included in the Halo 5 weapon tuning test. As the team finalizes plans, these specifics are shifting slightly – we’ll continue to roll out the list of weapons being included and will have a final complete roster before the test formally begins but it may not be exactly fourteen anymore. 

Testing the Tuning

The team is just about done locking down the final plans for how/when/where players will help us test these weapons. The current plan is going to involve temporarily repurposing the Team Arena playlist, which will be updated in two stages. First, the base playlist will be updated to ensure that the appropriate on-map weapons are all accounted for and in-play across the various maps/modes Team Arena offers. In this first stage, these weapons will be the current, default versions and will essentially act as a foundation to gather some preliminary “apples to apples” data and give players a point of reference before the re-tuned counterparts are added.

Following that first preliminary period, the Team Arena playlist will get updated again – this time with all of the re-tuned weapons replacing the default versions – and this will stay active for a period of time to allow for plenty of hands-on play time along with a wealth of game data and player feedback. Once the test period has concluded, and all of the data and feedback is reviewed, the team will make any final adjustments in preparation for the Halo 5 game update coming later this Fall (which also includes the 4K enhancement for Xbox One X!).

This week we’ve got three more weapons to add to tuning test mix:

            

DMR

The Designated Marksman Rifle is an accurate, semi-automatic weapon that’s designed to shine in long-range combat while being less effective at mid-range and even less so at close-range. Currently the DMR is living outside that intended role.  The desired tuning adjustments to the DMR are to strengthen its place in the sandbox as the long-range marksman weapon that’s very capable of attacking far away opponents but isn’t as dominant in close-quarters engagements.

Gunfighter Magnum

The Gunfighter Magnum fills the role of a fast-firing, semi-automatic sidearm with medium accuracy that excels at close-range. This weapon generally performs as intended, but the tuning update is directed at making the weapon slightly less effective at longer ranges, so that it really stands out as a close-range weapon that can go toe-to-toe with other close-range weapons with some accurate shooting.

SMG

The SMG is designed to be a high-rate-of-fire-but-inaccurate-bullet-hose of a weapon. It’s intended for close-quarters combat, and to be less ideal at longer engagement distances. In the current sandbox, the SMG is a bit too effective outside of its role as a close-range weapon. The tuning changes to the SMG are designed to more clearly establish and cement the close-range role of this weapon.

Additional Resources

To date we’ve had a few different blog articles on Waypoint that help to provide more insight and background into the upcoming Halo 5 weapon tuning test. Here’s what you may have missed:

  • Aug 3 Community Update – Initial overview and background behind the upcoming weapon tuning test
  • Aug 10 Community Update – Active Camo, Energy Sword, and Beam Rifle
  • Aug 17 Community Update – Fuel Rod Cannon, Grenade Launcher, and Rail Gun
  • Weapon Tuning Feedback Forum – Join the discussion and share your early thoughts and questions on the upcoming weapon tuning changes
  • Halo Community Feedback Program – Once the test begins, one of the official methods we’ll be using to collect player feedback is via HCFP surveys. If you’re not already signed up, now’s a great time! Beyond the tuning test, this program is used to gather feedback on many aspects of the Halo games and franchise on a regular basis. Please consider signing up and sharing your opinions with us!

Check back next week for the final few weapons and the final details on the timing and specifics for the public test coming soon to Halo 5. 

Back to you, Grim!

HCS UPDATES

Thanks ske7ch! The Halo Championship Series is back underway in earnest, with action on both sides of the pond getting underway just a few days apart. To break down some of the news beats hitting the airwaves, here’s our very own Mike “StrongSide” Cavanaugh.

EUROPE

In the EU Halo Championship Series, there’s still time to get in on the action in the first Open Cup, get all the info at https://www.gfinity.net/halo-5/cups. We’re excited to see Europe’s top talent battle it out to prove their regional supremacy!

NORTH AMERICA

In North America, the NA Halo Championship Series Fall 2017 season kicked off yesterday with a bang! During the off-season, rumors spread regarding potential roster changes for nearly every team. In the end however, only a few would make a change.

TEAM LIQUID

To the shock of many, Ace was dropped from Team Liquid, while Spartan returned to Team Liquid in place his place, rekindling a fire with previous teammates Eco, SubZero, and Stellur on pursuit of the #1 seed leading into Dreamhack Denver. Although after Liquid’s brutal loss against Team EnVyUs in their first match of Pro League, it looks like Team Liquid needs more time getting adjusted to this roster change.

RONIN ESPORTS

With Spartan joining Team Liquid, Ronin set their sights on new and younger talent, Sabinater, who had been showing off his skills the HCS Summer 2017 playlist by ranking #1 multiple weeks in row. He also attended his first HCS event at Dreamhack Atlanta with eRa eternity placing 5th/6th. Although going down 3-1 in the series to a well-polished Splyce in their first match of the season, this roster has a lot of potential to grow, and were the only losing squad of the day to not get swept.

LUMINOSITY

Luminosity lost their main-slayer in Ninja, but were able to pick up well-experienced Halo 5 player, Rayne. Matching up against OpTic Gaming in for their first match is no easy task as LG quickly went down 3-0 in the series. This team will need to practice up as they will not want to fall behind in the early season.

TRIED & TRUE

Splyce, OpTic Gaming, Team EnVyUs, Evil Geniuses, and Naventic (formerly Oxygen Supremacy) did not change up their roster before this season and it is paying off for most of them. All but Naventic have won their first match in the season in a dominating fashion, but there are six more matches left with everything still up for grabs. Needless to say, the battle for #1 seed is going to be an exciting fight to watch!

Thanks, Side! And don’t forget, today features our Match of the Week with an epic rematch between Splyce and OpTic Gaming. This series will be one you won’t want to miss, as Splyce are coming hot of their first tournament win, Dreamhack Atlanta – a victory earned by taking down this very same OpTic Gaming squad. The perennial kings at OG however are more fired up than ever after losing back to back HCS tournaments to nV and Splyce at Daytona and Atlanta respectively. Tune in at 5:30pm PT / 8:30pm ET to catch this match-up at mixer.com/Halo and twitch.tv/Halo.

EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Extermination is back in Halo 5 matchmaking as the next featured playlist. This this 4v4 round-based mode tasks you and your squad with working together to eliminate the entire enemy team – before any of their members can respawn. For a more in-depth look at the mode overall, make sure you check out our original blog we published earlier this year.

Also, as with Extermination’s first go-round, the playlist features incredible community-built maps that are an absolute blast to play on. However, this time the ante has been upped even further with an additional five new fan-forged arenas, bringing the total number of available maps on rotation to twelve. In fact, let’s check out those sweet new playspaces…

Abyss | Sgt Slaphead | Map Link

Augury | AceofSpades0707 | Map Link

Yggdrasil | Pat Sounds | Map Link

Dethrone | Erk x15 | Map Link

Helheim | Pat Sounds | Map Link

In addition to the new maps you see above, several of the returning community-created arenas have received some valuable TLC to improve playability and flow. Extermination went live just this morning in Halo 5, so grab a squad and head into matchmaking!

COMMUNITY PLAYDATE

If you fancy yourself a cool new 343 Ice Unicorn skin for your Halo 5 Assault Rifle, make sure you jump in to the Extermination playlist tomorrow, Friday, Aug 25 from 2-3 PM PT. If you match up with our full 343 squad during that hour, you'll earn yourself the skin! See you there.

TAKE A LOOK, IT’S IN A BOOK

The next couple weeks will be looking good for fans of Halo’s extended lore, as a couple new pieces of fiction find their way to eager eyes and ears. On Aug 30, Issue #1 of the Halo: Rise of Atriox comic mini-series drops.

The day before however, signals the official release of the next full-length Halo novel, Halo: Retribution by savvy Spartan scribe Troy Denning. While we’ve already to linked out to print pre-orders before, today we also wanted to give folks a first auditory glimpse of the epic tale from our friends at Audible. Below, you can find audiobook excerpt previews from the first two chapters of the book, in both streaming and downloadable MP3 form. If audiobook is your platform of choice, make sure you preorder the upcoming tale HERE.

CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT

CHAPTER TWO EXCERPT

EXCERPT MP3 DOWNLOAD

Also, in case you missed it, this week Mr. Denning himself tweeted out another little preview to whet your proverbial whistle.

HALO: MOARFLEET

Of course, the two aforementioned titles aren’t the only readable Halo projects bearing down on the fleets of your attention, as another highly anticipated book is hot on their heels – Halo: Warfleet. This spacecraft reference book has been something deeply desired by some of the Halo community’s most passionate and faithful canon cataloguers, and we’re stoked to get this lovingly crafted guide into folks’ hands beginning Sept 6.

Halo: Warfleet features breakdowns of dozens of human and alien star-traversers, including ten extra-detailed cutaway illustrations of some of Halo’s most i c o n i c entities. Eager readers have been clamoring for a tease for months, so today we’re more than happy to oblige.

The above image is a gorgeous art piece created by Darren Bacon depicting a post-Escalation Infinity refit and an Autumn-class cruiser undergoing final “float-out” assembly above Earth. Also, our cheeky inclusion of the table of contents should give lore fans plenty to salivate over in anticipation for the full release.

Here we see an example of the book’s bread and butter – awesome renders with detailed data and lore callouts. The above image is from the Forerunner section and highlights one of the craft seen in the original Halo Wars.

Perhaps the most tantalizing tease is this small sliver of one of the awesome cutaway images by legendary illustrators Hans Jenssen and John Mullaney. Detail-oriented fans are going to love these.

I also wrangled friend, beard brother, and fellow scribe Kenneth Peters (343 Franchise Writer, Materiel Master, and primary penman on Halo: Warfleet) to get his thoughts on helping helm such a passion project. Here’s what his beard had to say.

WARFLEET: THE KENTERVIEW

GRIM: So, for folks who might not be familiar yet, what is this Halo: Warfleet book all about? Give us a quick overview!

KENNETH: Warfleet is a resource guide and cross-section book that details many wondrous starships and support craft from the Halo franchise. For the first time ever we get to take a look inside ten iconic UNSC, Covenant, and Forerunner ships and stations to see what makes them tick. In addition to the amazing cross-sections, we also provide illustrations and data for over twenty additional ships and support craft. 

GRIM: As the creative captain from a writing sense on this book, what excites you personally about this project? I know maritime minutia is something you’re particularly passionate about – can you elaborate a bit on why?

KENNETH: I’m very passionate about Halo’s technical architecture as applied to spacecraft: the how’s and why’s that drive the ships, power the life support, and aim the guns. I have a science and military background, and have always been interested in the numbers and facts which lie behind the tools we use and the weapons we employ both in real life and in the games I play. It was handy that Halo leans towards the plausible in its science and technology, with echoes of contemporary naval design, which means I didn’t have to throw out my years of reading Jane's [Information Group publications] and first-hand experiences!

I’m also a big fan of science fiction and gaming in general. Halo presents multiple examples of how the interplay of art, world building, level design, and practically combine; you not only see these ships in the distance, you stalk through them in first-person view, weapon in hand and aware of every bulkhead and corridor! 

GRIM: Talk a little bit about the format of the book – there are three main presentation methods included, what’s up with that?

KENNETH: A whole lot of awesome, that's what's up!

  1. Cross-Sections: These are the incredible full-color cross sections by Hans Jenssen and John Mullaney. These are the heart of the book, and depict the most famous ships and stations in the Halo universe. A LOT of work went into these ships, both in terms of collating nearly two decades of design documentation and textual reference, and cross-referencing(where possible) with actual game level geometry. There were also inconsistencies and rough edges we needed to address both in the art and text that took some time and collective discussion to iron out.
  2. Secondary Spreads: Tyler Jeffers and Carlos Naranjo worked their digital magic on the secondary spreads, which showcase a range of capital ships and smallcraft that we’ve directly interacted with in the video games, as well as some we’ve only seen from afar. These spreads contain a lot of information, and will keep the wiki and lore folks busy for quite some time! Not only are they awesome looking in their own right, but they have callouts and sidebars on topics as varied as reconciliation debt to details of the Covenant’s Ren shuttle (seen in Halo: Legends).
  3. Data Drops: Halo: Warfleet is lavishly illustrated, and we commissioned new pieces from Isaac Hannaford and our talented team of artists at 343 to complement encyclopedic data ranging from how slipspace drives function to points of interest around the galaxy.  

GRIM: What was it like working with Hans Jenssen and John Mullaney? I know we were always salivating each time we got a new art drop in depicting epic Halo ships in brand new ways.

KENNETH: What was it like? Amazing. I’ve been a fan of their work for Star Wars and Aliens for a long time, so it is no exaggeration to say it was a dream come true to be able to work with John and Hans. Both are extremely professional, questioning, and exacting. They were also collaborative partners and subject matter experts, helping us work through some particularly onerous questions about interior layout.

I also want to specifically call out Neil and the artists at Spartan Games for the work they do on Halo: Fleet Battles. Not only do we utilize Fleet Battles assets in the book (including the awesome Halberd-class destroyer), but Spartan Games were key in raising the profile of Halo starships as a subject worthy of further exploration both internally in the studio and among the fans. The game also helped us hone and define elements of function, and there are several data points that changed from the Halo Bible to better reflect “combat experience” gained in the tabletop simulations. We’ve been really excited to see how energized and people are with the tabletop game and how that has translated to fan projects such as the awesome Sins of the Prophets mod. I’m hoping that people use Halo: Warfleet as a launching pad for their own creations in Fleet Battles and further explorations of the universe, in whatever medium they choose.

GRIM: Who would you say this book is primarly for? Is it only for the hardcore Halo fan?

KENNETH: With this kind of book there’s no need to make a choice, as it appeals to people who just like fancy ship pictures just as much as it does the fans that want to know what a Hanley-Messer reactor looks like. There were some adjustments to make sure the book appealed to a wide audience, but these were additive materials and not subtractive. That included the creation of a glossary, additional art for the secondary spreads, ship silhouettes, and even more callouts than we originally planned to include.

GRIM: If you had to pick a favorite entry in the book, what would it be?

KENNETH: It’s not fair to pick favorites, but I have to say the Dragoon.

GRIM: Thanks again for chatting, Kenneth! And for fans still looking to get in on this space-faring action, you can preorder your own copy of Halo: Warfleet right HERE.

FORGEHUB TOURNAMENT

The fine folks over at ForgeHub are hosting a pretty awesome community creation tournament that you should definitely keep tabs on, even if you aren’t competing yourself! Check out their sweet tournament trailer to see what they have to say about it:

For more info, be sure to check out their official submission thread. Good luck to everyone involved – we can’t wait to see what awesome creations come out of it!

RADAR BLIPS

  • DXP is the thing for me – This weekend brings more delightful doubleish XP goodness in Halo 5, with Extermination, Warzone (vanilla), and Snipers all getting the nod to increase your experiential earnings.

  • Noble intentions – In case you haven’t heard, the Noble Map Pack for Halo: Reach has finally gone FREE, joining it’s Xbox 360-era DLC siblings in the zero-cost category. Yay!!! You can find the Xbox Marketplace link right HERE.

  • So much for “war never changes.” – In case you missed it last week, we chatted with 343 Lead Multiplayer Designer Lawrence Metten regarding some particularly intriguing Warzone adjustments that actually went live just this morning. Make sure you get all the details right HERE, and jump into the new experience, see what you think, and let us know your impressions in our official update feedback thread!

  • Menke Matchmaking Menagerie– 343’s Josh Menke posted his latest Halo 5 Matchmaking Feedback Update this week, and covers a pretty wide range of topics, including tighter matchmaking, thoughts on 12-man WZ fireteams, playlist changes, MMR, and more.

  • Store Slayers – Don’t forget, the next Microsoft Halo 5 tournament takes place next Sunday, Sept 3 at locations all across the land. For overview on the program and participating Microsoft Store locations, head HERE.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT

This week's Community Spotlight takes a brief hiatus (kinda) from screenshots, and focuses on some alternative types of Halo-inspired artistry. Starting us off are a couple of incredible homegrown UNSC Warthog builds. Like, legitimate, you-can-drive-this-for-realsies builds. Click each of the Hog images below to head to their corresponding Reddit threads and follow the conversation. So awesome.

And in the spirit of our earlier poetic waxing on Warfleet, it's only natural that we highlight some starship-inspired community talent. The visual of Halo warships dueling with lances of plasma and swarms of missiles is evocative, and has helped inspire some amazing artistry, especially in our tabletop community with Halo: Fleet Battles and Halo: Ground Command.

Andrew Adent

Doug Ummel

Nicolas Sabin

Vincent Gregory

Vincent Gregory again, because these are rad.

We're always excited to see how people are painting their Fleet Battles ships and fighters, and through projects such as Sins of the Prophets we get amazing concepts such as this Forerunner princeps by Elizabeth Cope.

Also, I lied. Here’s one set of screenshots, specifically to celebrate this week’s eclipse.

That brings us to the end of today's adventures. have an awesome weekend, and safe travels for anyone coming out to PAX West next week!

Until next time… Live well, play Halo, and beware the Grim + Uny combo in studio bubble-hockey bouts.

<3 Grim

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