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Welcome back folks, we’ve got another edition of the Community Update coming your way to help you catch up on a variety of Halo happenings, from cool collectibles and community creations to upcoming esports action and more. Ready? Set? Go.

FINALLY FUNKO!

Kicking us off is an awesome announcement that came out recently from our Consumer Products team, who revealed a return of Halo-themed Funko! Pop figures. Personally, I’m a big fan of these big-headed little guys, and have been clamoring for a reemergence for ages. Halo’s return to Funko! is marked by a classic character quartet – let’s take a look at who we’ve got!

MASTER CHIEF JOHN-117

An iconic look for an iconic hero, the Chief comes liveried in his classic Mk.VI Mjolnir armor, and sports a ridiculously adorable Pop-styled Cortana in the “standard” get-up. There is also a store-exclusive variant that features Chief wielding an energy sword, in case he happens along any Elite opposition on his way out of a Covenant vessel.

ARBITER THEL ‘VADAM

Ahh, Arby – it’s not just memorable roast beef. The most elite Sangheili’s Funko! look recalls his role in the Great Schism, a look as delicious as it is definitive. The “normal” edition adorns Thel with his resplendent (and canonical) silver Arbiter armor, while a special variant paints him in the gold made confusingly famous by Halo 3’s peculiar hue. Welcome to opportunistic merchandising 101, class.

GUNNERY SERGEANT EDWARD BUCK

If we were doing a new Funko! line, we knew there was no way we were gonna get the Buck outta there. While ol’ Eddie has found himself sporting some fancy-schmancy Mjolnir in these later days, his hot-dropping ODST BDUs will always be a fan favorite. We’re not quite sure how Veronica Dare feels about his head getting even bigger with this figure, but it’s worth the risk to add it to our shelf.

SERGEANT MAJOR AVERY JOHNSON

Man, for a dead guy, Johnson still sure knows how keep standing tall. In the past year alone, we’ve seen him come back as a playable Leader in Halo Wars 2, take center stage as the star of the latest Halo Legendary Crate, and now reimagined in Funko! Pop glory. Wielding a M6 Grendel/Galilean Nonlinear Rifle – with infinite charge, we assume – Sergeant Johnson knows what your collector shelf likes. He also comes in a cigar-chompin’ variant.

YOU ACTUALLY CAN BLAME THESE ARMORS ON NANOTECH

Funko! Pops aren’t the only cool new way to add some of your favorite characters to your shelf – Our friends at Jada Toys have a brand-new collection of awesome Nano metalfigs. Each action posed figure stands approximately 1.65" tall, is 100% die-cast, features premium metallic paint, and will be available at most major retailers this Feb. Also, stay tuned to @Halo and @HaloGear on social, as we may just have a complete 12-figure set sitting here that we’re itching to give away soon.

MINECRAFT & MULTI-PLAT

This week, our friends upstairs on the Minecraft team announced that the super popular Skin Pack 1 has arrived on the Wii U and Switch versions of the game, giving Nintendo fans a chance to play as the Master Chief, a Grunt, and a Brute. You can read more about it in their official announcement HERE.

HALOWC UPDATE

As the Halo World Championship 2018 season moves inexorably closer to its first open event, the excitement of both fans and players alike grows ever stronger. Recently, we announced – along with our friends and partners at MLG and Gfinity – the broadcast talent lineups for both the Orlando Open and the London Finals. Check out the amazing swath of humanity below! Although, I’m still not sure why we didn’t go with this one

FLAG SKINS

Fans have been clamoring for more specific information on when they can procure the upcoming nation-flag weapon skins in Halo 5. As we’ve mentioned before, the flag skins will become available when the HaloWC regional finals take place in those respective locales. As a reminder, Regional Finals will be London (UK), Sydney (AUS), Mexico City (Mexico), and Columbus (US & Canada) – this means that London will be first up to have their flag skins come online. Below you'll find the current availability dates for each region.

  • UK: Feb. 19-26
  • AUS: Mar. 5-12
  • MEX: Mar. 12-19
  • US/CAN: Mar. 19-26

Again as you can see, the skin packs will be available for a limited time only, so make sure you jump on your favorite flavor when it comes around!

EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! 

Earlier this morning, another new playlist jumped back into the Halo 5 rotation. All hail the return of Extermination, the round-based mode that tasks you and your squad with working together to eliminate the entire enemy team before any of their members can respawn. It’s an action-packed game mode that applies an extra sense of urgency to the already high-stakes energy of both Slayer and Breakout. If you haven’t tried it before, definitely check it out now!

COMMUNITY PLAYDATE

We’ll be jumping in the aforementioned Extermination playlist with our 343 Community squad on Tuesday, Feb 6, from 4-5pm PT – grab your team and try and take us down! As usual, and squads that get matched up with us during the appointed time will – win or lose – receive the 343 Ice Unicorn weapon skin for their assault rifle. GLHF! And now, a word from ske7ch regarding updates on Halo 5 weapon tweaks and tunes.

Weapon Tuning Update

Thanks, Grim! We appreciate all of the great feedback we’ve received from players sharing insights and suggestions around additional tuning tweaks for Halo 5. The sandbox team has reviewed internal and external feedback to come up with a short list of weapons that are undergoing some additional fine tuning. Here’s a quick summary of the weapons and corresponding goals the team is currently working on (we’ll share more specifics once the actual changes are locked):

  • Battle Rifle – The primary goal with further BR iteration is to address feedback from players who experience discomfort when using some BR variants. The recoil that was introduced to the BR is a bit too much when using scope attachments.
  • Carbine – With the Carbine, the goal is to address player feedback that the weapon still feels a bit too inconsistent, particularly at longer ranges.  
  • DMR – The sandbox team’s goal is to address feedback that the DMR isn’t adequately filling its intended role following the last round of tuning changes. The role of the DMR is intended to shine in long-range combat while being less effective at mid-range and then even less so at close-range.
  • Storm Rifle – We haven’t talked much about the Storm Rifle in the past so first, a little bit of background: This fully automatic weapon is designed to excel at close range, with large plasma projectiles that are strong against enemy shields and organic material. While its very lethal up close, the heat that’s produced forces the wielder to fire short, controlled bursts or risk overheating. Since the Storm Rifle wasn’t included in the earlier rounds of tuning updates, but many weapons around it were, the goal here is to address feedback that its now shifted more out of balance in relation to the rest of the sandbox.
  • Brute Plasma Rifle – The Brute Plasma is similar to the Storm Rifle in that it wasn’t part of earlier tuning adjustments. Like the Storm Rifle, the Brute Plasma Rifle is also a fully automatic close-to-mid-range weapon, but it fires smaller plasma projectiles that are very strong against shields but weaker vs. organic material. The Brute Plasma rifle is also more accurate than the Storm Rifle and thus outperforms it versus ranged opponents. The team’s goal is to address current feedback that it’s a bit too effective at stripping shields and overlaps a bit too much in with the Storm Rifle in its intended role.

These five weapons are currently being tested internally and we’ll share additional details as soon as the final spec and release date is locked. Stay tuned!

In addition to the weapons above, we’ve also received a lot of feedback on the Magnum and the Sniper Rifle which are both being earmarked for future tuning consideration:

  • Magnum – Following the tuning changes to all the other precision weapons in Halo 5, the Mangum ended up as a bit of an outlier in the sandbox. Currently we know this weapon outclasses nearly everything else with a similar intended role and it’s something the team is going to be taking a closer look at. However, given the Magnum’s implications in competitive play and the fact that we’re already underway with the Halo World Championship season, we’re holding off from making any public changes until sometime after the world finals have concluded. We’ll have more to say on the Magnum in the coming months.
  • Sniper Rifle – There’s a good amount of feedback from players at the highest levels of skill that the Sniper Rifle is currently a bit too effective and “easy to use.” Overall, the Sniper Rifle is currently performing as intended for the vast majority of players but the team will continue to monitor performance and feedback from players across all skill tiers. If any adjustments are warranted it will come later, once the Halo World Championship has concluded. Note that for the sake of the Halo World Championship, starting ammo was reduced from 12 to 8 rounds based on feedback to better balance it for high level competitive play. The team will continue to monitor how it performs and what effect the reduced ammo has to help inform future decisions.

343 TEAM SPOTLIGHT

Thanks for the update, ske7ch! The Team Spotlight feature is back, and today we’re featuring Mr. Mark Snyder, fresh off the frigate to join the squad here in Redmond. Find out what he does, what makes him tick, and what you might even have in common!

Howdy Mark! Welcome to the 343 Team Spotlight (and welcome to 343!). First off, what’s your role here at 343?

Hello! I’m the new Events Manager for the HCS team.

What does an Events Manager on the HCS team do? What does your job entail and what kind of things will you be working on day-to-day?

Primarily I’ll be working on planning and executing our esports events. This includes working with a variety of teams and departments here at 343 as well as working with our partner tournament organizers. Floor plans, equipment lists, schedules, shipping and storage needs, onsite experience for players and spectators, and staffing requirements are all items that I’ll be working on for our upcoming events.

You’ve got a wealth of experience working across the industry – can you tell us a bit about what all you were up to prior to joining 343?

Before joining 343 I worked with quite a few of the big NA Tournament Organizers; MLG, ESL, UGC, UMG, Gaming Generations, Millennial, and more.

How’d you get started in the esports scene?

My friend maygit was actually the first person I knew that got into competitive gaming, and he’d talk about MLG and professional Halo players making hundreds of dollars at tournaments. I started playing MLG customs with him and some other locals, and they mentioned MLG was having a tournament nearby, so I took a trip to Chicago in 2005 to attend the conference championship, and after that I was hooked!

What’s your all-time fondest esports-related memory?

Probably LAN’ing Halo 1 2v2 in a van on the way to the 2006 MLG playoffs. We ended up blowing a fuse in the van, and playing Halo 1 split-screen on a 6” LCD screen wasn’t the ideal way to play, but it was a perfect way to start off that road trip.

What’s your history with Halo specifically?

Halo was the game that got me into competitive gaming and it was also the title that I first started running tournaments for almost a decade ago. I’ve been playing since the series launched, and although I’ve worked mainly on the esports side, I still jump on and replay almost every Halo campaign when I can find the time (I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve ran through Truth and Reconciliation).

What prompted you to join the 343 team?

Initially, a text message from a friend that the position was open. But the opportunity to work with the developer of the franchise that has played such a factor in my life was not something I could pass up. I’d been lucky enough to have worked with the HCS team here at 343 since the HCS launched, back when I was with Iron Gaming, and through the Pro League at ESL, so I jumped at the chance to join the team I’d enjoyed working with over the years.

How have your first few days been? Anything in particular take you by surprise or stand out? Is the studio everything you dreamt it would be?

Busy! Honestly, I was, and still am, surprised by how big 343 is and how much is done here. I’ve always been so focused on the esports side of Halo that I think I took the rest of the Halo universe for granted. I loved the books and the shows, but I think every day I find something new here, some piece of Halo history. I still take walks through the museum here after work, or I’ll check out the statues in the lobby. It’s great being surrounded by so much Halo.

You’ve been around esports for a long time with multiple companies, games and events – what’s your take on today’s landscape? Where do you think esports in general can go in the future?

It’s amazing. I don’t know how else to describe it; if you had asked me what I thought esports could grow in to, I would have been called crazy if I said sold-out arenas and tournaments on TV. I still think esports isn’t done growing yet. We’ll see larger tournaments, bigger prize pools, more leagues. I can’t wait to see what records esports break next.

What’s the most challenging aspect of being an esports events manager? What do you enjoy the most about it?

I can’t think of a single most challenging aspect around it, and I think that is a big reason why I enjoy it so much. There is nothing quite like an event to get you to think on your feet and challenge you with something new every single time. Each event has so many moving parts, so many teams and factors that go into it, that you learn something new at each and every event. Some events, finding the right venue may be more challenging than you expected, other times it could be power, or internet, or community outreach, to explaining to a vendor what “that e-gaming stuff” is; it all kind of varies with what kind of event you’re organizing and what your focus and goal is.

What are you most looking forward to as you work on your first Halo World Championship on the 343 team?

Getting to meet the Halo community around the world! I’ve gotten to work the last few Halo World Championship finals the last few years, and each year meeting the players from overseas was always a highlight for me, but being able to see the local Halo scene in so many amazing cities, that’s going to be something I’ll never forget!

For someone else aspiring to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you give them? What skills and background do you think are necessary to be successful?

The best advice I can give someone would be to learn to do. You don’t have to start by running an event in a sold-out arena, but you do have to start.

Take chances, never stop listening, and know what your goals are. Learn what you’re good at, but more importantly what your weaknesses are and how to overcome or work with them.

What’s your personal favorite Halo game? I assume you’re more a MP guy than a Campaign guy? Favorite all-time MP map?

My favorite Halo is still Halo 1. Halo 2 is a very close second, but no other game has glued me to the TV like that first playthrough with my brother right after Halo 1 came out.

My favorite map would be Midship, but there was also always the go-to Seeley Circuit in Halo 1 whenever some friends got together.

We’ve got a lot of really good players on the HCS and Community team here. How do you think you’ll stack up? Do you have the skillz?

I learned a bit over a decade ago that I wasn’t going to be a Halo pro, but I’m looking forward to jumping into some matches with the team here. Halo 1 may be a different story though, I still have an old s-type controller factory sealed, I may need to break that out one of these days.  

Any final thoughts or shout-outs you’d like to share with our readers?

Just want to give a big thank you to every single Halo player in the Midwest that kept showing up to all those tournaments over the years. I also want to thank my parents for letting me go to all those events over the years, and my brother for inviting me to play Halo with him all those years ago!

Thanks Mark!

MCC DEVELOPMENT UPDATE

Yesterday, our beloved ske7ch delivered our first in a series of inside looks into the project and progress of improving and evolving the Master Chief Collection. It's a must-read, and you can check it out right HERE.

RADAR BLIPS

  • Pass Aggressive – Don’t forget, Halo Wars 2 is now on Xbox Game Pass, which means that even more folks can dive into Halo’s latest strategic adventure to face off against the Banished forces on the Ark. As an added bonus, all Game Pass subscribers also get a discount on all DLC, and with plenty of awesome post-launch Leaders on hand, there's a huge variety of ways to enhance your multiplayer and skirmish experience! For more info on Game Pass, head HERE.

  • Patch Atoms – The Halo Wars 2 team is also working on a new balance update, the evolving details of which you can check out on the Waypoint forums. If your interested to see where things are headed, you can check out the discussion right HERE.

  • Out of Reach – If you play Halo: Reach and still regularly visit Waypoint to review your detailed stats, we put out an important PSA regarding its functionality. You can read the details right here.
  • Match Key – 343's Josh Menke would like folks to know that in effort to continue to give folks the best Halo 5 matchmaking experience, work continues on rebalancing matchmaking settings across all playlists. This week's latest changes are optimized to give the tightest matches possible while at the same time making sure anyone can match at any time of day without excessive wait times. You can also check out Menke's latest H5 Matchmaking Feedback Update right HERE.
  • Final Rise – The fifth and final issue of the Halo: Rise of Atriox comic miniseries arrives on Feb. 7 from our friends at Dark Horse. You can grab your own copy at your local comic shop or online HERE. Helmed by the creative team of John Jackson Miller, Jonathan Wayshak, Jeremy Colwell, and Aleksi Briclot, Issue #5 looks to wrap up the series in a powerful way. Here's the skinny: Brute chief, Jovus, believes himself the most dangerous brute in the galaxy. But Atriox's fearsome legend has reached even the most distant UNSC outpost. When the two brutes come face to face, their clash shapes the future of the Banished.
  • KikiCon For anyone heading out to the Silicon Valley Comic Con, this Apr. 6-8, make sure you say hi to our very own Kiki Wolfkill!  

MONTAGE MANIA

Recently, HaloisBack.com held a community montage contest that produced some pretty amazing results. Here is site creator HAblePwn with a quick overview:

The HaloisBack Montage Contest 2017 has come to an end! We received over 80 entries this year and awarded $600 in prizes!

A huge thank you to everyone who retweeted, shared, watched, and entered montages into the contest. A list of the winners can be found in the image here.

If you would like to watch all of the entries in the contest, please visit: http://haloisback.com/montage-contest-2017-entries/. We look forward to announcing another montage contest again later this year! Stay tuned…

-HAble (HaloisBack.com Creator)

Thanks HAble! And trust us, some of these montages are absolutely ridiculous, and winners include ones that we've featured here before, such as Ubernick's "Turbulent" montage. The whole contest was another great celebration of the amazing content that the Halo community continues to pump out on a consistent basis, and definitely deserves some perusal. If you are looking for top community video content, look no further!

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT

As we mentioned recently, we’re always looking for new and fun ways to showcase cool community creations. With that in mind, you’ll start to see Community Spotlight content move onto some of our social channels, though the Community Update will still showcase a few awesome bits and bobs here and there, like you see below!

Halo Codex shared a homegrown live action short that we thought was an awesome effort worth giving a shout. Check it out!

I’m not sure I can even explain why, but this video creation by R1gaT0ny made me laugh. Here, you try it out.

While the actual matchup might be pretty depressing for most, SupremeOptimus’ Halo-flavored take on Sunday’s upcoming big game setting is a great way to get you back in a good football mood. I love the use of actual fans in the audience! Give it a look! Also, now I miss Ricochet.

Let's close out with a few awesome screenshots.

And not a screenshot, but still...

And with that, we draw to a close for today – hope to see you online for our Community Playdate on Tuesday!

Until next time… Live well, play Halo, and don’t forget to batten down the hatches.

<3

Grim

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