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Computer Chronicles

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As usual a lot has happened since our last Community Update and the pace shows no signs of slowing. This week we shared a first-look at Halo: Reach and Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC, continued promotion for our rapidly approaching first stop of Halo: Outpost Discovery, and traveled to Dallas to support a Halo esports event this weekend at DreamHack Dallas via the HCS Grassroots program – and that's just the start.

Inside this Community Update you can find a recap of our massive MCC Development Update blog, details on the Halo 3 tournament at DreamHack Dallas, an outline for Halo 5's playlists during June, more behind-the-scenes coverage of Halo: Outpost Discovery, and plenty more. It's a hefty update, so let's cut to the chase and dive in!

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

MCC Development Update - May 2019

Yesterday we did a deep dive and answered tons of common questions about Halo: Reach joining Halo: The Master Chief Collection and our journey to PC. While I'll do my best to touch on the highlights here, it's worth giving the entire post a read so that you don't miss a single bit of information.

Ruffian Games Interview - Reach, 4k, Customization

Our previous MCC Development Update included an interview with our partners at Splash Damage, and this time we wanted to focus in on the efforts of our friends at Ruffian Games. This Scottish crew has been working hard with us to bring Halo: Reach into Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Xbox for a while now, we're excited to show off the results when flighting begins.

Since Reach's visual enhancements and player customization are two of the most popular topics, I wanted to bring those questions and answers to the forefront here.

During development of Reach for MCC, what are some of the technical hurdles you must overcome? What bits have been the most unique in trying to bring a much older game to life on new hardware with different features?

Reach was originally developed with a specific visual style, partly accomplished by having a deliberate motion blur rendering solution built in. It served its purpose back in the day on Xbox 360, but in today’s world of 4k and HDR that works against what we’re trying to accomplish. Defining the solution that stays true to the original artistic intent, whilst taking advantage of the huge fidelity gains on offer today - finding that balance has been a bit of a challenge and sparked a fair amount of debate. However, Reach looks far crisper, smoother and more dynamic than it ever has - especially on Xbox One X - so we think it’s a challenge we’ve overcome well.

What is your latest accomplishment or milestone?

Character Customization is coming for Reach - in a way not seen in MCC before. Building that future-proof system has been a lot of effort, and we’re now starting to see those rewards on screen - and we’re excited by what we’re seeing.

What is the team’s priority and focus on?

The finish line for the console version is very much in sight for us - it’s maybe a boring answer but clearing our bug list and hitting the very high-quality bar we’ve set really is the focus. But also - Firefight!

Again, this is just a small taste of the full interview. To see what else they've been working on and are excited about, head on over to the full MCC Development Update!

Engineering Chats - Framerate, FOV SLIDERS, etc.

Following after our chat with Ruffian, we sat down with two Engineers on our Publishing Team to discuss a few of the other features that have generated a lot of interest since our announcement. Below are a few burning community questions fielded by Sean "Scoops" Cooper and Andrew Schnickel:

To kick things off, since our April Development Blog people want to know more about features such as Uncapped Framerate. Can you dive into how work is going on it?

Andrew: Definitely. Things are going well. There are a lot of challenges, but we’re making good progress. We know it’s a highly requested feature, so there’s been a lot of focus on it.

When you say challenges, what sort of things have you run into that are making this difficult? I mean, isn’t it just copy paste or save file as?

Sean: I totally forgot about that trick. Let me save as > Uncapped.fps and we will be good to go.

Andrew: Hahaha. It would be nice if it were that simple.

Actually, there was already an “infinite framerate” flag in the code. Unfortunately, there are a lot of rendering artifacts when it’s enabled; its purpose was to render frames as quickly as possible for performance profiling rather than being a shippable feature. But it has been a good starting point!

Example of FOV Turned up to 120 and left arm displaying as a floating arm when throwing a grenade.

When you say investigate these features, are there any you have already dug into that have posed challenges on PC and would be even more problematic on console?

Andrew: Field of View is one that comes to mind.

Sean: Each Halo game, including the remastered visuals, had their first person render models tailored or otherwise tested for specific FOVs. These FOVs are not the same from game to game for various reasons (design, technical, or a mix). Each Halo has had slight differences even within them from Multiplayer, Campaign, and even split screen being they were built within these constraints.

Now fast forward to PC FOV and I assume we have a whole new set of technical challenges to overcome with this change?

Sean: True. Due to design constraints and how the titles were scoped depending on the FOV you pick, you will run into design limitation issues. What does this mean for competitive space? Players no longer make a trade off picking up the Spartan Laser which obstructs their view normally. Models don’t appear appropriately and can even cause things to start looking… Weird. We are working through various scenarios while design is defining what default scope they would like the FOV to be capped for certain activities, but also to leave the door open for those who want to explore even wider views.

In my attempt to recap yesterday's massive MCC Development Update, we'll now be jumping over towards the new progression system, Reach's playlist offerings on day one, and hear from ske7ch about flighting!

Progression - XP, Seasons, Challenges

Our team has heard your requests for a progress system inside of MCC and is excited to share a glance at what we had in mind. Please note, season content contains placeholder art, names, descriptions, and unlock values and does not represent actual Halo: Reach unlockables. All of it is work-in-progress, and is therefore subject to change, so I'll warn you ahead of time to not get too attached to any one thing in particular.

Let's dive in with some pull-quotes from the Progression section of the MCC Development Update, penned by Max Szlagor, MCC's Design Director himself. As a reminder, to get the full story and relevant information, be sure to read the full section in yesterday's blog!

When we first started planning the addition of Halo: Reach to MCC, we knew there was an opportunity to improve the MCC engagement and customization experiences. As outlined in our last blog, we wanted to build up our legacy and engagement pillars. Halo: Reach featured a compelling progression system and a series of interesting unlockables to strive for.

We wanted to preserve the idea of earning in-game currency for playing and performing well while making the distinction between level XP and currency clearer for players. We also wanted to offer the Halo: Reach unlockables as a goal to chase in our new take on this progression system. 

In the future, MCC will include the concept of game seasons, each with a unique theme. In addition to an overarching account level system, players will have the opportunity to unlock seasonal based rewards. Attaining certain account levels or completing challenges will award in-game seasonal points, which can be spent to unlock rewards, such as armor pieces, Halo: Reach Firefight voices, and nameplates.

Example of several tiers of season unlocks with placeholder content, name, date, and descriptions.

Example of what a season unlock prompt may look like where players spend season points to unlock tiered rewards.

Seasonal unlocks and any unspent season points will not disappear when the season rotates. Players will be able to go back and unlock items from a previous season, though they must be unlocked in order. The first season and its unlockables will all be centered on Halo: Reach, though as mentioned, players will be able to earn season points and XP by playing other games in MCC as well.

In addition to XP, levels, unlockables, and seasons, we are looking to bring a challenge system into MCC. The timeline for when this feature will arrive is still in discussion, though a lot of design and thinking has gone into the system. The goal is to offer rotating daily and weekly challenges that can award season points in a variety of game modes. Please stay tuned for more information on this part of our progression system.

If for some reason you don't have time to read the full update, one final callout for this section is that MCC will sync your progression and customization across Xbox and PC. That means that anything you've unlocked on Xbox will be unlocked when using the same profile on PC and vice versa.

Reach Playlists at launch - Invasion, MLG, TU Settings, Etc.

If you remember before MCC's launch in 2014, the anticipation and hype surrounding the blog post that would outline the launch playlists was real. Being a fan, I was simply eager to understand what options would be available for me on day one. Since Reach's announcement many of you have been similarly curious about what would be offered and we're happy to share where we stand on each topic. Before diving into the details, I want to surface the goals that the MCC Team kept in mind when designing these options.

  • Provide a robust playlist lineup for Reach players on day one
  • Highlight the most unique and definitive Reach game modes and maps
  • Respect legacy where possible, but intelligently diverge from legacy behavior where necessary to provide best experience for modern audience
  • Build a strong foundation for future matchmaking updates in sustain

Also, to clarify before jumping into specifics, the majority of player feedback we've seen (and agree with) is that the TU settings are the preferred standard.

Competitive Games (Ranked)

  • Reach Hardcore (featuring the Zero Bloom No Sprint (ZBNS) settings and maps used in the MLG v7 ruleset)
  • Invasion (to preserve the established Spartan vs Elite balance, we will not be forcing the TU settings into it)

Social Games (Match Composer - 1v1, 2v2, 4v4, 8p FFA, 12p Infection, 8v8)

  • Slayer (TU setttings) – DMR starts (high weight) and AR/Pistol starts (low weight)
  • Flag & Bomb (TU setttings) – Stockpile, Multi/One Flag CTF, & Multi/Neutral/One Bomb Assault
  • Zone Control (TU setttings) – King of the Hill & Territories
  • Asset Denial (TU setttings) – Headhunter & Oddball
  • SWAT (TU setttings) – SWAT & SWAT (Magnums)
  • Snipers (TU setttings) – Snipers
  • Action Sack (TU setttings) – Fiesta, Elite Slayer, Dino Blasters, Bro Slayer, Flag Slayer, & Speedpile
  • Infection – Infection & Alpha Zombies
  • Grifball – Grifball, Grifball Dash, & Blargball

Additionally, a collection of Firefight's key experiences will be available to matchmake outside of Competitive and Social Games. Even though matchmaking will focus on TU settings, TU, vanilla, and Anniversary variants will be built-in and selectable from the Custom Game lobby. While I think we're in a pretty good place here, we're always listening and encourage you to sound of with your thoughts and feedback on this offering for Halo: Reach.

Now it's time to pull some lines from ske7ch's Halo Insider update so that you can be up to date with the latest on flighting!

Halo Insider

Hello Halo Insiders! (you are an Insider, right? If not, what’re you waiting for? SIGN UP!) As you know, development on Halo: Reach and MCC for PC is well underway but our plans to kick off flighting last month didn’t quite land where we’d projected. You can read more in our last blog HERE and in the Insider forum HERE but suffice it to say that the game itself is a complex project but so is the act of delivering builds to flight participants via Steam. The good news is that since the last blog, the team has made great progress on a number of the blocking factors we’ve discussed previously and we’re getting really close to kicking things off.

Recently, the team checked off a pivotal milestone with the first pre-flight release of a PC build to a small private test group. The purpose of this ‘flight’ was strictly to verify the process of preparing a build, creating a whitelist and player entitlements, delivering the build content to participants, and verifying that some preliminary in-game telemetry was working as intended. With all of that in the rearview, the team is now on the cusp of moving into the next stage which will be activating our first public Insider flight which we expect to begin in June.

As the team here gets ready to activate the first wave of Insider flighting (which, as a reminder, will only include a subset of registered Insiders and is expected to grow over time), a few of us will be down at E3 offering hands-on with a work-in-progress Halo: Reach experience and gathering feedback from players. If you’re going to be at E3, we hope you’ll stop by and say hello and take “Tip of the Spear” for a test drive! In addition to being one of the first to get hands-on, you can also score some swag (which I’m told includes collectible pins for everyone and a chance to get Halo: Reach mouse pads and posters).

Thank you for your support and patience – we’re excited to kick off the first round of Halo Insider flighting on Steam very soon!

First-Look

If you prefer all of the above information wrapped up into one nice livestream, this week's 343 Social Stream has you covered! ske7ch, joined by Max Szlagor and IK Grubb, went over all of these details while giving the world a first-look at Halo: Reach on PC. As ske7ch mentioned above, the build has been prepared for us to show off in Xbox's E3 booth at the Microsoft Theater and contains only a single campaign mission, Tip of the Spear, for fans to play and provide feedback. If you'll be down there, be sure to swing by and give it a try!

With that said, start making some popcorn, sit down, and enjoy the show!

Playlist Update

As if enough MCC news didn't happen yesterday, we also pushed another weekly playlist update as we continue tuning each experience to be the best it can. The focus of this week's update was to make several adjustments to Halo 3’s Infection offering based on a combination of player feedback and in-game behavior data. We’ve also updated the pairings of Infection maps and game variants that work well with each other and increased the Braaaains game variant to be more common overall. The Halo 4 map variants in Rumble Pit got some adjustments too. 

The complete breakdown of these changes look like this:

  • Added Braaaains to Narrows, Epitaph, and Haunted Manor (Foundry).
  • Removed Braaaains from Isolation and Rat’s Nest.
  • Removed Save One Bullet from Epitaph, Narrows, and Haunted Manor (Foundry).
  • Removed Creeping Death from Epitaph, Guardian, Snowbound, and Blackout.
  • Changed Legendary Slayer map variants in Halo 4 Rumble Pit to remove duplicate power weapons.

Let us know what you think of these changes, and recommend additional tweaks you'd like to see, by using the existing MCC Multiplayer Feedback thread in the MCC Forum here on Waypoint!

Halo Championship Series

DreamHack Dallas

At last, after many rounds of teasing little tidbits of information, DreamHack Dallas is finally here! Top teams, consisting of some of the most storied Halo pros, are all converging on this $50,000 event to show off their talent.

The DreamHack crew have built out an incredibly useful site which shares tons of information about the event, including the schedule, format, prize pool breakdown and more, right here at dreamhack.com/halo/info. Competitors, in-person attendees, or online spectators can all glean something here. To make sure you're up to date with the latest details, we also recommend following @HCS and @DreamHackHalo on Twitter!

For those of you wondering where to watch, go no further than mixer.com/DreamHackHalo and twitch.tv/DreamHackHalo this weekend!

Talent

Familiar faces return to the desk at DreamHack Dallas tomorrow as Lottie and Lethal host and provide analysis, respectively, throughout the entire weekend. Casting the live action, we'll have Dan Gaskin, Tsquared, Clutch, and Wonderboy assisted by Heinz's observant eye.

We're gonna make a Montage

To get people properly hyped for the event, our very own Muggsy edited an incredible Halo 3 montage featuring the sickest (in a good way) plays from the Halo community. Spare the two minutes to watch it and get excited for more competitive H3 action this weekend!

Halo 5: Guardians

Last week Roaming King joined our social playlist rotation and this morning Castle Wars replaced Core Play to give us two new offerings. Begin storming the enemy team's base to steal their flags or follow the hill to rack up points in your pursuit of victory.

June Calendar

  • June 4: Summer 2019 Arena Season begins
  • June 4: Big Team Battle moves to ranked with the Season roll
  • June 6: Forerunner Slayer rotates in for Roaming King
  • June 13: H1 Anniversary Throwback rotates in for Castle Wars
  • June 13: Warzone Assault goes live for the weekend
  • June 20: Rock ‘N’ Rail rotates in for Forerunner Slayer
  • June 27: Husky Raid (NEW!) rotates in for H1 Anniversary Throwback
  • June 27: Warzone Turbo goes live for the weekend

E3 Daily Logins

During the week of E3, we'll be rewarding Halo 5 players with Daily Login Platinum REQ Packs! Starting with the Xbox E3 Briefing on Sunday, June 9, and going through the show's run of Thursday, June 13, logging on to Halo 5 will reward you with a Platinum Pack. Be sure to jump in and take advantage!

Ranked Big Team Battle

As we talked about in previous Community Updates and our Big Team Battle Refresh blog, we'll be testing out ranked BTB with the start of the new Arena Season on June 4.

On top of this, we're looking at potentially looping various playlists into ranked for one month at a time, similar to what we've been doing with Head to Head, leading to up to three ranked rotational playlists popping up through the course of a Season. What would your thoughts be on seeing Snipers, Halo 3 Classic Throwback, and Head to Head show up like this?

Halo Wars 2

Continuing the discussion around ranked playlists, earlier today Season 13 went live in Halo Wars 2. While there are no corresponding balance changes for this Season, we're keeping an eye on feedback and making sure future tweaks are made very intentionally and for the betterment of the game. To provide feedback on this Season and share your thoughts on the current balance of the game, head on over to the Halo Wars Forum here on Waypoint!

Halo: Outpost Discovery

Behind-the-scenes

We've been sending Grim around the country to show you how an event as massive as Halo: Outpost Discovery comes to be, and since our last Community Update he's shown off some of our bigger props and even jumped into the chassis of a new Warthog.

Studio41b

Parker Brothers Concepts

COMMUNITY PANELS

We're about to call out, "Pencils down!" on this since we're almost on the last day to submit your Community Panels for Halo: Outpost Discovery! I've already heard some murmurs of some promising panels and am looking forward to attending as many of them as I can this summer. To serve as a one final reminder, participants of accepted panels will also receive a complimentary day pass for their contribution to the event.

To submit your panel idea before the deadline closes tomorrow, click here and head to HaloOutpostDiscovery.com!

Art

Brace yourself. Seriously, even Chief is bracing himself in this Halo 3 concept art. 

This piece depicts Halo 3's opening cutscene, in which Cortana speaks to Chief's endless supply of luck even in the most dire situations. Although a landing like this definitely requires a bit of good fortune, I enjoyed seeing Chief's level of ingenuity before jumping for the Forerunner Keyship – though the preparation may have been pretty minimal. Regardless, because of this Felix Baumgartner inspired jump, we've got a mesmerizing bit of concept art and an unforgettable opening cinematic.

As always, here are download links for you to enjoy and share!

Since I'll be down at E3 to show off MCC with the team, the next Community Update will go out on June 20. If you want to see what E3 is like through my (or ske7ch's) eyes, we'll be actively posting Instagram Stories on the @Halo account, so be sure to give it a follow to see our adventures in Los Angeles! 

Thanks for joining me for six months of Community Updates! It's been a fun ride so far, and I think we're just getting started...

Until next time,

- Uny

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