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San-Diego Comic-Con and A Hero Reborn ViDoc released

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We’ve returned from the adventures of San Diego Comic-Con, each of us in (mostly) one piece, with new stories to tell. We met Halo fans from around the globe, showed you some new things, and played hours of real life Breakout. There are many more stories yet to be told – stories of characters, environments, champions, and more – and we’ll do some of that this week in this very blog, starting with the first in-depth look at the development of the recently announced Warzone map, Raid on Apex 7.

But before we get started, I’d like to touch on a few items, the first of which is the Halo 5: Guardians Limited Collector’s Edition. When we last left off, we let you know that we had heard the feedback that some of you prefer a physical disc instead of a digital copy, and that we were exploring options. Today, we’re able to confirm that for those who would like a physical disc, we’ll provide an option for fans to exchange their digital copy for a physical copy at no additional cost. We’ll get into details as we get closer to launch, and we’d like to once again thank you for the feedback.

The Halo 5: Guardians Limited Collector's Edition - fans will be able to exchange their digital copy of Halo 5: Guardians for a physical copy at no additional charge.

Next up, the playlist team is currently putting the finishes touches on the Action Sack playlist, which will be the next featured MCC playlist. Additionally, we’re looking to make some tweaks and changes to voting options across additional playlists based on feedback you’ve shared – we’ll talk details as we get closer to the release. If you’d like to sound off, be sure to join the discussion in the Matchmaking Feedback section.

San Diego Comic-Con

At San-Diego Comic-Con this past weekend, we shared new Halo experiences that are on the way, revealed new worlds, and met up with some of the most passionate, skilled, and creative Halo fans on the planet. SDCC is a special event for Halo, in that it allows all of us to celebrate nearly every corner of the franchise – both in and out of the game. On the show floor, players had a chance to play Warzone at its first public debut, while others duked it out in the Breakout Arena, joined us for panels, cosplay meetups, and more. Halo fandom comes in many flavors, and no event represents and promotes this variety quite like SDCC. Collectors, cosplayers and costumers, fiction fanatics, and creators of all kinds have a special place at Comic-Con, and we like that quite a bit, so we come down each year to hang out. With free stuff. Everybody loves free stuff. 

Over the years, the show has become a meetup location for fans from every corner of the Halo universe. One of these reasons, of course, is our friends over at the 405th Infantry Division.

[tweet]<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Members of <a href="https://twitter.com/405th">@405th</a> taking sides from <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SDCC15?src=hash">#SDCC15</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/Halo">@Halo</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Brav">@Brav</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/bsangel">@bsangel</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/AsthMattic117">@AsthMattic117</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Hazel_Weiss">@Hazel_Weiss</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/PropsArmory">@PropsArmory</a> <a href="http://t.co/Ns9O1O4ku6">pic.twitter.com/Ns9O1O4ku6</a></p>— Benedict Choy (@BenedictChoy) <a href="https://twitter.com/BenedictChoy/status/621381597296656384">July 15, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>[/tweet]

The displays of Halo cosplay and costume were unmatched. Between hyper-detailed ODST armor, brand new Athlon armor, Master Chef himself, and everything in between, the 405th unsurprisingly put on a quite a show. We’d like to extend a big thank you to all Halo cosplayers, armor builders, and gunsmiths – not only at SDCC, but worldwide. Your passion, talent, and attention to detail continues to impress us, suit after suit.

Members of the 405th at SDCC 2015

Last week, we also released A Hero Reborn, a brand new Halo 5 ViDoc which goes behind-the-scenes to tell some of the development tales from the last few years, highlight new story elements, and more. Also, you may have caught the new Halo: The Fall of Reach trailer, an animated series that will tell the oft-shrouded origin stories of the SPARTAN-II program and introduce you to Blue team. At the Halo 5: Guardians story panel, we also confirmed that Hunt The Truth Season 2 is indeed on the way and arriving this September. To get ready for the drop, you can now download Halo Channel on iOS and Android for Halo goodness on the go.

Lastly, to wrap up SDCC, the team at 343 faced off against a few of the gentlemen from the Workaholics crew as well as Carli Lloyd, who was fresh off of a World Cup win, which may or may have not been a major factor in the final result. I’ll let the video tell the rest of the story.

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Crafting a battleground: Raid on Apex 7

Last week, we revealed Raid on Apex 7, a brand new Warzone map, with the help of our friends over at Mega Bloks. To get some early details, a first look at concept art, plus a recreation of the map utilizing over 89,500 Mega Bloks, head here.

Raid on Apex 7 not only contains more words than any other official Halo multiplayer map (edging out Hang ‘em High and a few yet-to-come Warzone maps by just a single numerical value), but it’s also the largest multiplayer map to date. When I first heard that designers and artists were working on a canvas inspired by The Silent Cartographer, my interests were sufficiently piqued, and I hope yours were as well.

This week, we’re going to take a peek behind the curtain as we dive deeper into the map, and quite literally procure notes and sketches off of the desks of the Warzone design team. I grabbed Multiplayer Level Designer Jeremy Raymond, Environment Artist Chin Fong, and Multiplayer Design Director Kevin Franklin to tell us a bit more about the map - its origins, goals, how it has evolved, and more. Now, I’ll hand it over to three of the gentlemen who are crafting this battleground.

Jeremy Raymond, MP Level Designer:

I grew up playing Halo: CE and will always remember my first time playing the campaign levels Halo and The Silent Cartographer. When I joined the Warzone team, I knew I wanted to bring those iconic themes into our new multiplayer experience -- including such memorable moments as the beach landing battle, fighting into ocean facing bases, and defending off waves of Covenant on the Forerunner Spires. My focus was to pay fan service through the entirety of its development while creating a fun and balanced experience for Warzone. With the support of the entire team at 343, we were able to make this vision a reality. Let’s take a look at the paper prototypes:

After choosing the level’s theme, I started to sketch layout ideas. We call these “paper prototypes”. They help us consider how the level will feel, where bases are located, and how players will flow through the environment. Initially, we had much larger maps, as you can see here I was contemplating adding some classic levels into the level that we could block off and reuse as individual maps for Forge and Arena.

Shortly after the first prototype, we cut back on the overall size of the level. In this version, you can see I was thinking about including separate islands where bases would be located that players could traverse too. But it didn’t feel right yet.

This version is the one we chose to move forward with. While it was the smallest of the 3, it was clear, concise, and balanced. More often than not, simplicity wins in level design.

This was the finalized version I put together for our design documentation. It clearly messages the overall layout, theme, base locations, and encounters that I use for the first playable version of our blockout. In fact, I place these maps on the initial terrain in Maya, which makes the initial blockout process much faster as I can visually see where blockout geometry should be built.

After many weeks of playtesting and iteration of the blockout, we soft lock the layout and begin working with artists to make the map look great. Our teams work closely throughout the art process to consider how things will impact gameplay. Even at this stage, we may make changes to integrate cool ideas or visuals we had not previously considered during our blockout phases. Finishing the art, integrating the remaining gameplay, and polishing the level takes some time. But after several months of development, this final version of the level is what you’ll get to play online with thousands of other players.

Chin Fong, Environment Artist:

My main contribution on Ring (Bravo note: Raid on Apex 7’s codename) was creating the Forerunner tower and arch reminiscent of the old Installation 04 map. Though there were many technical bumps along the way, it was a pretty awesome experience overall working on this map - knowing that it's the spiritual successor to such an iconic Halo level and that Mega Bloks was going to recreate the map. It was tricky at first to try and keep all the old look of Installation 04, but in the end, we decided to set ourselves apart by updating the Forerunner structures completely, creating a pleasant tropical scene, and turning up the graphics on the organics.

Kevin Franklin, MP Design Director:

From very early on in development, Raid on Apex 7 was a map our entire team was incredibly excited about. From the beginning, we had a great set of development goals that are all featured in the map:

  • Epic Scale – Apex 7 is among the largest of all of our Warzone Maps
  • Island Paradise – We were heavily inspired by The Silent Cartographer, AI beach assault at the beginning of each game is a great example of this. The art team has done an amazing job of creating this beautiful battleground.
  • Opposing Bases – Apex 7 has a unique layout as the team home bases face away from each other.
  • BTB Style Vehicle Combat – We drew quite a bit of inspiration from vehicle combat and battles on BTB experiences like Valhalla and Paradiso.
  • Mystery – Fitting with a remote Installation on a Halo Ring, we ensured there were many hidden areas to engage bosses in, the home bases also feature passageways to the center. I expect it will take many playtests for players to find and hunt down all of the bosses in Raid Apex 7.
  • Massive Forerunner landmark – Our environment artist Chin Fong really knocked this out of the park with this one - it also serves as the central base and main contest point of the map.

Overall, I’m really happy with where Raid on Apex 7 ended up, and we can’t wait for the community to get their hands on it - just watch out for the Banshee Raiders.

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Stay tuned for more Halo 5: Guardians previews and behind-the-scenes peeks as we get closer to launch.

Halo 5: Guardians gamescom Invitational 2015

We’re gearing up for our return to one of the world’s largest gaming industry shows – gamescom in Cologne, Germany, and today, we’re excited to announce this year’s Halo 5: Guardians gamescom Invitational by ESL. The tournament will take place on Friday, August 7 in the ESL Arena on the gamescom show floor. The Invitational will provide us with a first look at high-stakes Arena gameplay, which focuses on pure, skill based 4v4 combat. Four top teams have been invited:

Epsilon Esports (EU)

  • Roster: BUK20, BUK57, Jimbo, Snipedrone

Supremacy (EU)

  • Roster: Ramirez, TuFoxy, Chalkie, Riotz

CAZ.Esports (EU)

  • Roster: Flamez, Vard, Snakey, Hollers

OpTic Gaming (NA)

  • Roster: Flamesword, Ace, Assault, Maniac

The teams will have an opportunity to get reacquainted with Arena during the week at gamescom, and on Friday, duke it out against one another in a four-team bracket. Be sure to tune into the action on the Halo Channel and Twitch.tv/Halo to see the first look at pre-launch Arena tournament goodness. We’ll have more to share about the teams, format, maps, and more as we get closer to the event.

That’ll do for this week. When we meet again, we’ll be back with a preview of the HCS Season 2 Finals and more. To get up to speed be sure to check out the latest HCS Update on YouTube.

Bravo

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