By B IS FOR BRAVO -
PAX Prime has come and gone. Many of you ascended on Seattle, and we prepared a preview of Halo 5: Guardians for your awaiting and capable hands. Warzone designers (in immaculate disguises) watched your first Warzone matches, got real-time feedback, and kept an eye on what was easily understood, and what may require adjustments – UI and player instruction, spawns, routes, sightlines, and more. We reunited with old friends – folks from GrifballHUB, r/Halo, HCS pro players, cosplayers, speedrunners, toy collectors, and many more, and also met new ones, including one gentlemen who played Warzone 17 times over the course of 4 days, waiting in line for over an hour each time. Sean, a special care package is on the way. Note: I almost wrote “car package” in the last sentence. This may have likely cost us considerably more money, and also my job.
Jay Fresh joins members of the 405th at PAX Prime (including Mini Chief & Mini Palmer)
On the evening of the final night of PAX Prime, following a few days of bite-sized sneak peeks, we released the opening cinematic to Halo 5: Guardians.
You Ask, You Buy
If you’re like me, you’ve watched Fireteam Osiris drop onto the surface of Kamchatka many, many times. I don’t think I’ll tire of watching Spartans skydive into battle, hearing the first comm checks, watching Vale singlehandedly clear out a drop ship, or hearing Locke’s “You ask, you buy.” I trust you’ve already clicked on the link above, but if you haven’t yet checked out the opening to the Halo 5 Campaign, do so now.
To get a behind the scenes look at the creation of the piece, I grabbed some time from 343 Cinematic Director Brien Goodrich and Senior Animator Greg Towner, who generously provided some production commentary. Read on for details.
Production Commentary – Halo 5 Opening Cinematic
Greg Towner and Brien Goodrich
BRIEN: Hi, I’m Brien Goodrich, the Director for the Halo 5 Opening Cinematic.
GREG: And I’m Greg Towner, Senior Animator on Halo 5. I worked on the previs, motion capture cleanup and animation for the entirety of the Opening Cinematic sequence.
BRIEN: The Opening Cinematic sequence really was an incredible amount of fun to create. It’s a piece that stretches from these intimate and subtle character moments all the way to this hugely insane, over-the-top action. It really ended up being fantastic collaboration that literally spanned continents in order to bring it to life.
GREG: Things started with an early draft of the script which featured the introduction to Fireteam Osiris in the back of the pelican. Using very simplified “cube” versions of the characters, I roughly blocked in the sequence, centering the characters around the floating disc.
BRIEN: I think there was this initial idea was that the transmission from Lasky would be on the wall of the Pelican, but with four characters in the confined space, it just didn’t feel right.
GREG: Yeah, it was overcrowded. So by using the disc, we were able to give the Spartans some space, and let them each have an introductory moment. While rough, the cube guys provided enough information to do a camera pass which then became our working edit.
BRIEN: Yeah, the cube guys were great. I remember when I first saw Greg previs, it’s was just these blocky animated characters, almost like chunky 3D stick figure Spartans. But even in that form, we had something really cool that was starting to work.
Spartan Edward Block
GREG: Things got a little more complicated for the rest of sequence. Once Osiris jumps out of the pelican, all of the animation is hand keyed. Utilizing the same “cube” Spartans technique, I blocked in a very rough pass so we could get a feel of the size and scope of the action. Before 343 I had worked on the Transformers movies so I’m accustomed to doing big action set pieces.
BRIEN: Ha. Yes. The sky dive and downhill fight previs was completely fun. Greg had this great temp music and SFX track and you could really imagine the spectacle of it all. From there we worked to push and shape the previs, to really lock down the blueprint for the piece.
GREG: And once that bluepint solidified, the timing changed very little. For a vast majority of the sequence, I animated over top of the cubes. The whole thing moves at such a high rate of speed that it was important to not go off track. I used lots of reference from the stunt team we shot in LA and otherwise utilized classic animation techniques.
BRIEN: We brought in a great stunt team lead by Thom Williams to help get all the physical action reference spot on. Those guys and girls were awesome – and fearless.
Stunt work for Locke’s takedown
GREG: Once the animation was finished, I worked with Eric Black to bake the animation out and package it up for delivery to AXIS.
BRIEN: We brought AXIS into the process early on and centered in on constructing this sort of joint production pipeline. It actually represented a real breakthrough in terms of production process for a piece of this size and quality.
GREG: We essentially completed all the character animation and camera work at 343 and then handed off to AXIS for significant finishing work.
BRIEN: AXIS did an amazing job with Look Dev, Geo Layout, FX, Simulations, Lighting, Compositing and so on.
GREG: We should point out that AXIS is in Glasgow Scotland and 343 is in Seattle.
BRIEN: True. Our Cinematics producer, Damon Conn worked his tail off coordinating the efforts between our two studios.
GREG: He did an absolute great job wrangling all the feedback loops and dealing with all the shared assets.
BRIEN: Those incredible Osiris Team faces that you see in the piece were actually created in house at 343 by our character team and then integrated into AXIS’s look dev and render pipeline.
GREG: Both teams did an incredible job on the faces. And Profile did a great job on the all the facial capture solves as well. I did a few passes tweaking the face animation on top of the capture data, but their initial solve deliveries were outstanding.
BRIEN: As Greg mentioned earlier, the whole skydive and mountain fight is key frame animation, but we also spent a good amount of time in performance capture. We shot and captured all the actor performances at Profile Studios in LA.
GREG: Profile built a very crude mockup of the interior of the pelican. The actors had marks to hit based off of the previz layout, but also were allowed quite a bit of wiggle room to make the performance their own.
BRIEN: We actually shot the whole piece with nearly everyone present in the capture volume at the same time, even Lasky and Palmer. They appear on a video com, but we captured them as if they were right there with everyone so we could get all the timing bits correct.
GREG: And in the end, most of the pelican sequence is a single take with some augmentation to allow for Nathan Fillian’s performance to be incorporated later.
BRIEN: Yes, due to scheduling, Nathan was unable to be part of the initial group shoot. So we brought him in later with as much of the other group as we could get. I think I even had to play Tanaka for part of it to get the timing interaction correct.
GREG: Ha. Overall, I think my favorite aspect of the whole sequence is how we pulled off the action portion in a single camera move.
BRIEN: Yeah, that was definitely no small task. It ended up working great though. The camera has enough weight and noise to feel legitimate and fantastic at the same time. Greg nailed the right balance there. The camera really helps support the excitement and momentum of the piece and most importantly, carries the player directly into the game.
GREG: And the response has been fantastic, and as people start to dive into it further, I’m sure they’ll spot little details we added… Looking at you Buck, and one, poor little grunt…
BRIEN: I would like to specifically mention and thank WB and the 343 audio team for all their incredible sound work and Kazuma Jinnouchi for an incredible musical score. Brian Reed for a great written blueprint, Stuart Aiken and Debbie Ross and the whole team at AXIS. Our Producer Damon Conn and our Animation Director Steve Dyck. Josh and Tim for their support and the entire 343 Cinematics Team – you guys are the best in the industry and I’m grateful to work with you every day.
Brien Goodrich, Cinematic Director – Halo 5, 343 Industries
Greg Towner, Senior Animator – Halo 5, 343 Industries
Back into the Action: Building the Warzone Respawn System
Being a brand new, epic scale game mode, the development of Warzone has required the design of systems that are brand new to Halo multiplayer, and crafted to create the best epic-scale multiplayer experience to date. Last month, we talked about the design of the Warzone Power Core, with look at early development of prototypes, and how the final base design came to be. This week, to ensure that you’re ready to hit the ground running, we’re digging into Warzone spawning, with details straight from the multiplayer team.
Kevin Franklin, Multiplayer Design Director
If you’re a seasoned Halo veteran, there’s no question you know how spawning works. Standard Halo works using a system of Points & Influencers.
- Are fixed positions players can spawn at
- Are placed by designers, or by community members using Forge
- Are designated by Initial [Where you spawn at the beginning of the match], or Standard [where you spawn during the match]
- Can be team orientated
- Are projectiles, players, player viewpoints, or toggelable regions that affect how likely you are to spawn at a point.
For years, this has been a simple and elegant system that’s worked very well in Halo. Points are carefully placed to provide an effective spawn that gives you cover, or sets you on a path around a level towards a power weapon. Influencers keep you out of harm’s way of grenades and rockets or spawn you away from enemies and near your teammates.
Halo 5 Spawning
In Arena, we’ve worked very closely with Pro Team to make sure that we’ve fixed spawning exploits and sneaky advantages that could ruin your day. If you find more post-launch, let us know and we’ll get on to fixing them. Our goal with Arena was to provide a fine-tuned, traditional Halo Spawning system that suits the expectations of esports and our competitive community. To be clear, our goals are not to completely remove map control or spawn control from our competitive players, but to provide an experience that requires a balanced skillset to master, without a single strategy to dominate the enemy.
Warzone however, has created an all-new set of spawning challenges. We want to ensure we spawn players in the action, but provide spawns safe enough for players to take a breather in what can often be a chaotic experience, especially late game. Throughout development, the Warzone team has been very passionate about evolving the spawn system - our design goals were simple, let players not worry about spawning if they don’t want to, but provide control if they’d like to spawn close or far from the action, or at/near a specific team base. This article will provide fantastic perspectives from Design, Engineering, and Test on how we got there. It was a massive team effort to deliver our spawning system and I’m very pleased with the results.
Spawning in Halo is a magical dance of code and content that all takes place in a fraction of a second. We have an incredible group of engineers, designers, and testers on the team that put countless hours into making sure you have a great spawn. If you have a bad one, even one out of 100, please let us know – I can promise that we care about them and will work to improve the system!
I’ll let our incredible team take it away from here and provide their perspectives and detail.
Players cycle through captured bases to select their spawn location while waiting to respawn in Warzone
Lawrence Metten, Sr. Multiplayer Designer
Crafting the ideal spawn location is an art. Proximity to objectives, priority, and facing direction all influence player behavior and have a significant impact on the flow of a Warzone match. The Warzone spawning engine has two big considerations; spawning the player as close to their selected spawn location as possible while also ensuring that they do not spawn in danger or near enemies.
Each Warzone spawn point is manually placed
To make sure we have safe locations for players to spawn on capturable Warzone Bases, we place spawn points in three groups we call “rings”. The first ring is made up of spawns placed inside the base. These are the highest priority spawns that are most commonly selected by the engine when the player selects the base as a spawn location. If there is combat inside the base, however, the engine will ignore spawns in the first ring and instead evaluate spawns in the second spawn ring. This second ring is comprised of spawns placed just outside the base. Our third ring is the failsafe ring and contains spawn points significantly further away from the base. Our spawn engine will only spawn players in the third ring if combat around the base is so chaotic that all spawn points in the other two rings are suppressed.
A placed “ring two” spawn point outside of March on Stormbreak’s East Armory base
In addition to spawning on placed spawn points players can spawn on out-of-combat teammates anywhere in a capturable Base’s spawn zone.
William Archbell, Sr. Software Engineering Lead
As Warzone features maps 4-5 times the size of previous Halo maps, we quickly realized our traditional fixed-point spawn system wouldn't cut it. To solve that problem, we built a system that generates new dynamic spawn locations at the exact moment a player spawns. Using a hybrid of fixed locations and dynamic spawn points offers an improved selection of locations in any circumstance. Combining our battle-tested arena spawning system and hybrid spawn points gave us the brand new 'Bro Spawning' you'll see uniquely when you play Warzone.
“Bro Spawns” spawn players behind teammates within a base’s spawn zone
Bro spawning works initially on the macro level. The first stage is to find groups of players using clustering analysis to understand who is working together as a team. Each set of players is then evaluated to determine if it's suitable to for a player to join by looking at a number of factors: confidence level in group directional heading, number of players in the cluster, combat status and enemy player presence. Once compatible clusters have been identified it becomes possible to start generating spawn locations dynamically around that group.
“Bro Spawning” can spawn players behind teammates on their way towards a Warzone Boss objective
The initial prototype for generating spawn locations used technology we'd built to determine ordnance drop locations in Halo 4. This worked surprisingly well but was heavily tailored to identify good locations to pick up ordnance from. To solve that we built a new 'school of fish' system for spawn point generation. The premise being that a player would spawn at the back of the group and immediately have other players to follow. This guarantees that within seconds of spawning a player understands where they should be moving to based player movement.
Cheyne Arteritano, Warzone Test Team Lead
Warzone Spawning is one of the most complex yet beautiful systems we’ve built for Halo 5. In a game mode where there are Covenant, Forerunner, Marines, and Spartans fighting on foot, plus Warthogs and Banshees zooming across the map, still being able to find a way to spawn players safely is truly an accomplishment.
In Halo 4, we had limits as to how we could spawn players. For example, we were not able to have unique spawning systems for different game variants. This effected Big Team Battle tremendously. We had to use the same sized influencers across all maps. If we made an influencer too big to support a BTB map like Vortex, it could potentially create bad spawning experiences on a smaller 4v4 map like Haven. This resulted in having enemies spawn within view your view but very far away. With Halo 5, we were able to create our own specific spawn system for Warzone. In regards to spawning, Warzone has no limits.
My favorite part about the Warzone spawning system is the fact that you can be sprinting into battle and have ally Spartans spawning right behind you, having your back as you take on enemy Spartans or Bosses. It takes a team to win games, and the Warzone spawning system embraces that.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek into Warzone spawning, and we look forward to your feedback in just a few short months.
Play of the Week
Over the past few weeks, our highlighted plays have taken many different forms – from epic multiplayer moments to perfectly placed Plasmas in Campaign, we’ve seen a wide variety of clips, and we’re just getting started. This week, we’ve got quite an inventive move from Dirty Corona. Enter Pitfall Legendary Slayer – the score is 49-49, and we’re in a traditional 50-yard line standoff. When your teammate starts getting shot, your first inclination is generally to return fire. However, this week’s hero thought one better, and pulled off the following clip. Dirty Corona, we need more Spartans like you.
Last month, I received an email from a Halo fan who described to me an epic work of armor creation like few others before it. I was told the tales of a Halo 4 Master Chief armor that had been made from scratch, with over 3000 hours of build time to date. The creator, Phil aka EVAkura Armor, had put countless 12 hour days into this labor of love, which is perfectly scaled to the Master Chief himself. Last week, as we all prepared for PAX Prime, we asked Phil (and his MC actor, the 6’9 Jonathan Groves) to come to the studio and show us his creation. We hung out, talked about hex patterns and rondo, and were unsurprisingly amazed with the armor. Continue reading for more pictures, as well as a quick Q&A with Phil.
Phil (front and center), Chief (rear and center) and…a bunch of us, who are far less talented.
Bravo: Hey Phil! Thanks for joining us. We recently had the chance to check out your Halo 4 Master Chief build, and had to share it with everyone. Let’s start at the beginning – where did the inspiration for this build come from?
Phil: Thanks for having me! This build came about when Jonathan Groves, from the World's Tallest Spartans, contacted me and asked if I could build the first 1:1 scale Halo 4 Master Chief which was hobbyist created, and highly accurate head-to-toe. Since I already had been wanting to demonstrate that a foam build could be as accurate and detailed as a Pepakura crafted one, as well as create an improved version of my first attempt at an Exo-suit; one that included a textured hex pattern, the challenge was too great to pass up!
There are quite a few unique components of this Chief armor that we haven’t seen before. Tell us about them!
Since the Exo-suit is a separate entity of its own, I wanted to take advantage of this fact and created "hard mounting points". These are areas on the Exo-suit that have been modified to accept any version of Halo 4 armor - the armor literally bolts to it! Other features include utilizing the hinged panels (like the ones on the front of the Master Chief's chest) to truly function and house electronics, and a realistic hard spine that was created from scratch using rondo (a mixture of Bondo and resin).
What was the most difficult component of the build?
Without a doubt, creating the Exo-suit to be realistic as possible without compromising much mobility. The fact remains that each area which covers a joint was designed and redesigned at least twice, and in some cases, four times. Even though I joke about it some, I truly have another half of a Master Chief laying in a pile... the parts that didn't quite make the cut!
Chief is out to prove once more that Halo is no corridor-shooter
What’s next for you?
You are going to make me spill the beans, aren't you? My next project is creating a 1:1 scale, fully articulating, Promethean Crawler-Sniper! I will continue to have smaller projects happening simultaneously, but this is my next grand adventure. My plan is to have it capable of either wall or ceiling mounting, include integrated electroluminescent lighting, and be as realistic as possible. It should be pretty impressive at 8'10" long.
Sounds incredible. We want one. Where can we keep up with this, and your other projects?
I post all of my updates to my Facebook page!
Thanks for talking with us today! We can’t wait to see your future projects. Bring ‘em by any time!
Thank you! It was an absolute pleasure.
Before we go, we also must shine the spotlight on a community-made map from Forger Xsjados. He’s recreated Beaver Creek in Halo 2: Anniversary, and after running around and playing a few matches on the map, we think it looks pretty darn good. If you’d like to see a quick walkthrough / comparison to the original, head here, and to download the map, just search for Xsjados using the Find Player feature. To give you a peek, here’s a quick look at the map from Top Red, which can get awfully cozy with a Sniper Rifle in hand.
Before the weekend begins, be sure to check out the latest issue of Canon Fodder, where Grim reveals the art and plot of Joe Staten’s Shadow of Intent.
That’ll do for this week’s update. Until next time,