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Halo 5 Weapon Tuning Test

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve been sharing context, high level information, and helping to prepare you for the upcoming Halo 5 weapon tuning test. The 343 team is putting the final pieces in place and things will officially get underway next week with the release of a game update for Halo 5! (Update 9/6 - The weapon tuning test is now officially underway!)

Today, we’ll dive into everything in as much detail as possible and walk through the plan, timing, logistics, and specifics of the tuning test along with when, where, and how players can participate in this exciting process. 

Tune Time

If you missed it, on August 3rd we spent some time talking about the road leading up to this update, and some background on why this is taking place two years into Halo 5’s lifespan. You can go back and read more in this blog post, but the most important part – the WHY – can be boiled down to two primary goals:

  •          Revitalize and re-balance the Halo 5 sandbox to a more desirable state
  •          Establish/strengthen unique roles for each weapon and reduce role redundancy

The 343 Sandbox Team has been pouring over nearly two years’ worth of game data and feedback to help inform a variety of adjustments and tweaks to various weapons (and one power-up) in Halo 5. Following a great deal of internal playtesting and iteration, we’re now readying to release these re-tuned weapons to the wild to get game data and player feedback to determine the final results.

One of the most important components through this entire process is that the players themselves (you!) have a role and voice in helping to shape the final outcome. This is your game as much as it is ours, and touching a sizable swathe of the sandbox is not something the team takes lightly. And it’s important to note that this update is relevant to all players and playlists, not just competitive – once finalized, these changes will be updated throughout the entire game (Campaign, WZ, and Arena).

While we genuinely hope and believe that these changes are all for the best and will ultimately make the game better, we also realize that not everything may work out as we intended or garner the type of player response we’re hoping for. As such, it’s important to us that this plan allows for iteration so the team can react to feedback and make adjustments. The team can have all the data and best intentions in the world, but if a change ends up not working out as we’d hoped, it’s not getting shipped, plain and simple.

This doesn’t mean that we expect every player to love every change – with a game and community as varied and nuanced as Halo 5, it’s just not going to be possible to make everyone totally happy all of the time. Some folks may not like certain changes, while others may think some of these changes are great.

The team’s job (which isn’t easy!) is to wade through all of that feedback and sentiment, compare and contrast the subjective with the objective data, and land on changes that satisfy our goals and have an overall positive impact to the game and community.

What about campaign and warzone?

The weapon tuning test is being conducted solely within Halo 5’s Arena, but once completed, the re-tuned weapons will be updated across every mode of play. While it would be great to facilitate a large-scale public test spanning all of Halo 5’s game modes, it’s unfortunately not viable on a technical level. The 343 team has been extensively testing the re-tuned weapons across Campaign and WZ and will be paying extra special attention to the impact of these changes in Campaign & Warzone once the update is released in November. 

name that tune

There are currently twelve items in the Halo 5 sandbox being re-tuned and rolled out in the public test this month. That’s not to say there may not be more / different changes at later date – for example, the team is looking at grenades as well (particularly Frag & Splinter Grenades) - but for the purposes of this tuning test, these are the sandbox items that will be adjusted.  

To help ensure that player behavior, feedback and data is “pure” and unbiased, we aren’t digging into the exact tuning details and backend numbers of each weapon change. In general, each of these items is being tuned in ways that help re-balance the overall Halo 5 sandbox to a more desirable state while also helping to better establish the intended unique role each weapon plays.

Here’s the list of everything that’s being re-tuned in the Halo 5 Weapon Tuning Test:

Assault RiFLE

The iconic AR is a fully automatic weapon that’s fairly effective at mid-range via burst-firing, but more effective at close-range when the trigger is held down. The weapon tuning changes to the AR are designed to reward more skillful use. If you recall, back in April, we revealed there wasn't much difference between a Diamond level player and a Champion level player in regards to AR effectiveness.

This retuned version should be more rewarding when used effectively and hopefully more balanced when battling players that are wielding different weapons. 

Battle Rifle

The Battle Rifle is another iconic Halo weapon that’s known for high-accuracy burst fire and exceling at mid-range combat. Currently the Halo 5 BR is a bit too effective at all ranges, so the tuning update is designed to help better distinguish its prowess in mid-range engagements. This isn't to say that the BR will outright lose any fight in close or longer ranges either - an accurate player who lands their shots should be able to have a fighting chance even at close-range. This is something we'll be monitoring closely. 

Carbine

The Carbine is a highly-accurate, fast-firing semi-automatic weapon that’s great at suppressing opponents and cleaning up kills. Today in Halo 5, the Carbine is overly effective at long range, so the upcoming tuning update changes are aimed at strengthening its role as a rapid-fire suppression rifle without being dominant and oppressive from far distances. 

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.

Active Camo

The lone power-up included in this tuning update is Active Camo. As everyone knows, the role of this power-up is pretty straightforward – when picked up, it makes a player harder to see! However, in some cases Active Camo is slightly less effective than desired, so the tuning tweaks are aimed at making it bit more of a valuable power-up for players.

Energy Sword

The iconic Energy Sword is a long-time staple of the Halo sandbox that fills the role of a melee weapon that’s very effective at close range, and includes the ability to lunge at targets. In Halo 5, players that are wielding the Energy Sword also gain a movement speed boost that makes them more difficult to target, and an even more dangerous threat (especially if they’re sprinting). As it stands, players with an Energy Sword in-hand are able to traverse maps a little too quickly and close the distance with an opponent a little too effectively in some scenarios so the tuning tweaks are designed to address this. 

Beam Rifle

The Beam Rifle is the Covenant’s answer to the classic UNSC Sniper Rifle, and fills the role of an effective mid to very long range weapon with a very fast rate of fire but with the downside of potential overheating. In March, Halo 5 received a small update that included a tuning tweak to the UNSC Sniper Rifle to make it a bit less effective when firing from the hip. The Beam Rifle currently has the same issue the USNC Sniper Rifle once did – it’s a bit too effective against targets when fired from the hip. The tuning changes being made to the Beam Rifle are designed to create parity with the UNSC Sniper Rifle update that went live in March, ensuring both weapons continue to excel in their intended roles but don’t over-excel in hip-firing situations.

Fuel Rod Cannon

The Fuel Rod Cannon fills the role of an explosive projectile power weapon with a high rate of fire. The projectiles’ blast radius, coupled with the high rate of fire, has yielded some problematic results in the heat of battle, so the tuning update aims to address that.   

Grenade Launcher

The Grenade Launcher was an awesome addition to the Halo 5 sandbox when it debuted with the Monitor’s Bounty update in December. This weapon fills a unique role – it fires ballistic grenades which detonate with explosive damage after one bounce. As a bonus, the trigger can be held and then released manually to detonate the grenade and add an EMP blast which can stun vehicles for a short time. The tuning update to the Grenade Launcher is aimed at further establishing its role as a mid-tier weapon that’s versatile at applying indirect damage through creative use. This includes how fast the grenade travels, how it bounces, etc…  

Rail Gun

The intended role of the Rail Gun is a “sniper” style of weapon that can be charged up to kill an opponent from mid to long range in a single shot. Currently in Halo 5, the Rail Gun has excelled outside its intended role by being overly effective at close range, and as a snapshot weapon – instead of being a carefully planned, charging Sniper weapon. The tuning adjustments to the Rail Gun are designed to make the weapon require a bit more deliberate, planned usage in battle. 

In order to keep these changes focused and prevent potential issues with multiple versions of the same weapon floating around, the re-tuned versions of these items will only exist in the specially designated playlist – you’ll be unable to use these weapons in Custom Games or Forge. 

Tuning Test Trajectory

To facilitate this public test, a few things will be happening over the next several weeks as we move through each phase of the weapon tuning test. Here’s our current plan but please note that things could shift slightly – if there are any deviations to this schedule we’ll be sure to let you know. 

Week of Sept. 4: Phase One  (UPdATE 9/11 - Phase one has concluded)

A game update will be released for Halo 5 on Tuesday, Sept. 5. This patch will let us bring in the new, specially tuned versions of the weapons that are included in the test. However, these weapons will come into play later on, in “Phase 2” of the test. There’s nothing else included with this update.

Following the game update, the Team Arena playlist will be updated as a precursor to the weapon tuning test. None of the newly tuned weapons will be included yet – instead, the playlist is getting updated to make sure that the weapons that will be tested are available on the maps. Think of this as a baseline starting point to allow players (and our game data) to have a true apples-to-apples comparison between the original weapons and their newly tuned counterparts. You can find the specifics about the Team Arena update a little further below.

It’s really important to play and get acclimated with the baseline weapons during this period, so that you have proper context once we roll out the re-tuned weapons for testing.

The Team Arena “pre-test” will stay up until Monday, 9/11.

Monday, Sept. 11: Phase Two  (UPDATE 9/11 - PHASE TWO IS UNDERWAY!)

On the morning of Monday, Sept. 11, the Team Arena playlist will be replaced with the aptly named “Weapon Tuning Test” playlist. This will have the same maps and modes that you will have just spent the prior five days playing in Team Arena, except now the twelve weapons will be replaced with their new, updated-tuning versions for public testing.

During this phase we obviously need as much player input and participation as possible. Jump in, play games, see how things feel, and let us know what you think!

Monday, Oct. 2: Phase Three

On Oct. 2, the Weapon Tuning Test Playlist will be removed and the original Team Arena playlist will return for normal play. This is the true OG Team Arena playlist – the one that existed prior to Sept. 5. – and it’ll remain in place for the foreseeable future.

This phase is essentially the end of the public portion of the tuning test, and is when everything returns to normal while the team here finalizes reviewing data and feedback to drive the final spec for the new weapon tunings. Once those settings are locked, we’ll put together a comprehensive overview for players to detail exactly what’s changing and how the team arrived at those changes.

Early November: Phase Four

In early November, a larger game update will be released for Halo 5 that adds 4K support for Xbox One X along with the new re-tuned weapons (and a few other odds and ends) which will replace their original default counterparts across every mode of the game (Campaign, Warzone, Arena).

Of course, even after all the testing, data, and feedback, the team will still be monitoring things very closely to make sure the tuning changes are working out as intended and if any further tweaks are needed.

Tuning Talk

As we’ve stated many times over, player feedback is critical to this process and something we are very much relying on to help inform the final tuning adjustments. The easiest way to help this cause is to just play the game – in both the updated Team Arena playlist as well as the Weapon Tuning Test playlist. Our team of data scientists and business-intelligence ninjas will be gathering up loads of data that will be used to evaluate very specific metrics for each of the items being tested.

The other way you can help out is by giving personal feedback. There are two official avenues we’d like players to use:

  1. Halo Waypoint Forums – We’ll have an official pinned thread in the Halo 5 forum that we’ll be monitoring closely and ask that players try to focus their feedback there. We can also jump in to answer questions and provide clarity as needed. There’s an initial Weapon Tuning Discussion Thread available right now and we’ll create a new thread once “Phase One” kicks off and then one more thread once we move into “Phase Two.”  UPDATE 9/11 - Phase One has concluded and Phase Two has begun! Use THIS THREAD to share feedback on the newly tuned weapons in the "Weapon Tuning Test" playlist.
  2.  Halo Community Feedback Program – The HCFP is a larger opt-in survey program that we already use to get all sorts of valuable feedback on a multitude of Halo related topics. If you’re a fan of Halo we’d love to have you join this program – the more people participate, the more varied and comprehensive feedback we can get! During the weapon tuning test at least one HCFP survey will be sent out to specifically gather input around the re-tuned weapons. If you’re not already in the HCFP program you can join up and learn more right HERE

Time to Test!

At this point there’s nothing left to do but enjoy the coming weekend and get ready to jump in to the updated Team Arena playlist when it goes live next week! If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to head over to the Weapon Tuning Test Early Discussion thread and let us know. (UPDATE 9/11 - The Phase One feedback thread has been closed. Phase Two is underway! Share your feedback on the newly tuned weapons in THIS THREAD)

On behalf of the sandbox team and everyone else at 343 that’s working to bring this game update and weapon tuning test to you – thank you! We look forward to playing together online and digging into your data and feedback as we work through this process together. 

Appendix: Team Arena Update

On Wednesday, Sept. 6 the Team Arena playlist is getting a temporary make-over as a precursor to the actual weapon tuning test. This update is primarily to get necessary pieces in place to facilitate the tuning test – i.e. we need to make sure that the weapons that are part of the tuning test are actually available in the playlist (but there are a few other minor tweaks being made to help facilitate gameplay such as the way the pistons function on Torque). We’re doing this in the first phase so players can get better acclimated with the playlist itself and familiarized with all the weapons before we introduce the re-tuned versions.

Remember these Team Arena changes are only going to be in place for about one month – week of Sept. 4 through Oct. 2. When the tuning test concludes everything will revert to the way it is now. Some, all or none of these changes might end up becoming part of the Team Arena down the road but that’s something the team will work to figure out later (based in large part on player feedback). 

Updated Loadouts

We’re also experimenting with changing the starting loadouts for Team Arena to BR & GunFighter Magnum. Additionally, during the weapon tuning test period, Team Arena will adopt the “Ability Tracker”, which is the modified version of the Motion Tracker used in HCS Settings (this version of the tracker has reduced functionality and only displays enemies that are using Spartan Abilities or firing an un-silenced weapon).

This change is part of a broader goal the team has around differentiating and refining the play styles between Social/Casual play and Ranked/Competitive play and freshening up the overall multiplayer experience in Halo 5.  In the future, Social playlists will likely stick to the default Motion Tracker with AR & Magnum starts, but this tuning test gives us (and you!) an opportunity to test something new for Ranked play specifically. The team sees the newly tuned BR as a better fit for the starting utility weapon role, while the newly tuned Gunfighter Magnum fills the role of a sidearm that supports close quarters combat and aggression in a different manner than the AR has.

As Halo 5 moves into year three, the team is excited to hear your feedback on these new weapon tunings and updated loadouts. Please let us know what you think! 

Why Team Arena?

There was discussion around just making a brand-new playlist specifically for tuning test, but we opted to temporarily re-purpose Team Arena to help ensure a strong player population, familiarity, ease of access, and make sure that CSR and MMR values are accurate and pre-existing for players.

Team Arena Change List

Here’s a list of exactly which weapon placements and map changes will be updated in Team Arena (to ensure that weapon tuning weapons are available on-map) the week of Sept. 4. As a reminder, these are not meant to necessarily be permanent, but rather adjusted for testing purposes only:

Coliseum

  • Removed Brute Plasma Rifle from Top Mid

Eden

  • Replaced UNSC Sniper Rifle on Blue Nest with Beam Rifle
  • Removed Brute Plasma Rifle from Red Nest

Fathom

  • No changes

Torque

  • Added SMG to Red Spawn
  • Added Battle Rifle to Red Tunnel
  • Added SMG to Blue Spawn
  • Added Battle Rifle to Blue Tunnel
  • Replaced two Frag Grenades in Red Yard with Plasma Grenade
  • Replaced two Frag Grenades at Blue Yard with Plasma Grenade
  • Replaced Splinter Grenades in Red Closet with Silenced Assault Rifle
  • Replaced Splinter Grenades in Blue Closet with Silenced Assault Rifle
  • Replaced SMG at Red Deck with Boltshot
  • Replaced SMG at Blue Deck with Boltshot
  • Removed Halo 2 Battle Rifle from Blue Yard
  • Removed Active Camouflage from Bottom Mid
  • Opened entrances to Red Tunnel and Blue Tunnel from Bottom Mid
  • Edited piston behavior in Bottom Mid, Red Yard, and Blue Yard to ascend and lock at lifted position at the 6:10 gameplay mark
  • Enabled piston movement to pistons at Red Street/Red Tunnel and Blue Street/Blue Tunnel to move upward when a player stands on top of them and then return to their original positions

Plaza

  • Replaced Boltshot at Eastgate with Gunfighter Magnum

Regret

  • Replaced Storm Rifle in Tunnel with Energy Sword

Stasis

  • Replaced Rocket Launcher with Sniper Rifle on Top Mid [Strongholds Only]
  • Replaced Rocket Launcher with Railgun on Top Mid [Slayer Only]
  • Replaced Shotgun in Alley with Grenade Launcher
  • Replaced Recon DMRs with Boltshots at Red Base and Blue Base
  • Replaced Frag Grenade clusters with SMGs at Red Base and Blue Base
  • Replaced Brute Plasma Rifles with single Splinter Grenades on Red Plateau and Blue Plateau
  • Removed Splinter Grenades from Red Yard and Blue Yard
  • Removed SMGs from Red Base and Blue Base initial spawns
  • Moved Stronghold base from Upper Lane to Nest [Strongholds Only]
  • Moved Stronghold base from Bottom Mid to Blue Yard [Strongholds Only]
  • Moved Stronghold from top Bunker to replace Gravity Lift in bottom Bunker [Strongholds Only]

The Rig

  • Replaced Scattershot at Yellow Corner with Grenade Launcher

Truth

  • Replaced Energy Sword at Top Mid with Fuel Rod Cannon
  • Replaced Plasma Pistol at Carbine One with Energy Sword

As noted earlier, the sandbox team is looking into re-tuning grenades, and the Splinter Grenade in particular is something we’ve heard a lot of feedback on (and generally agree with). You won’t see updated Splinter Grenade’s in this Team Arena playlist iteration (mostly on account of limitations we have within the game systems – new grenade variations can’t be changed on a per-playlist basis) but please be aware it’s definitely being worked on.

Lastly, just a final reminder that these playlist changes are only going to be in place for the duration of the weapon tuning test. When the test is finished, Team Arena will revert back to its original state. Some, all or none of these changes might end up becoming part of the Team Arena down the road but that’s something the team will work to figure out later (based in large part on player feedback).

Appendix: Additional Reading

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
  • Aug 24 Community Update – DMR, Gunfighter Magnum, and SMG
  • Weapon Tuning Feedback Forum – Join the discussion and share your early thoughts and questions on the upcoming weapon tuning changes (UPDATE 9/6: This thread is now locked)
  • Weapon Tuning Test Phase One Feedback Forum - Use this forum thread to share your feedback and questions regarding Phase One of the weapon tuning test (9/6 through 9/10). (UPDATE 9/11: This thread is now locked.)
  • Weapon Tuning Test Phase Two Feedback Forum - Use this thread for official feedback on the updated weapons in the Weapon Tuning Test playlist from 9/11 through 10/2.
  • 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!

 

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