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Halo Wars 2 Revealed and Halo 5: Guardians HUD design Q&A

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We have returned from gamescom – some of us with terrible jetlag, others with a mild case of the post-gamescom flu, and all with stories to tell. Whether it was talking with Halo fans who spent entire days at the Arena or Warzone booths, reuniting with friends that we had met in year’s past, or commiserating with fellow fans about the German heat, we had a blast hanging out with all of you.

Our pilgrimage to Germany also gave us an opportunity to show off some new, never-before-seen goodies, including a new multiplayer trailer, some new Arena tournament gameplay, and more. One of those mores, of course, is Halo Wars 2.

Halo Wars 2

For many moons, the Halo Wars 2 team here at 343 had been working in secret, designing the all-new strategy game with developers Creative Assembly. If you happen to swing by their desks at the right time, you may even be able to catch an early look at new units and worlds yet to be explored and conquered. Over the past few months, it has been rather fun to keep an eye on threads like “What would you want to see in a Halo Wars sequel?” and “Why I am sure Halo Wars 2 is coming!” and sneaking the links over to the design team. You likely (read: definitely) were not aware that your feedback was being read by the folks designing the very title you were speculating about, but I am happy to say that this was indeed the case.

We know many of you are excited for the game to come to Xbox One and Windows 10, but to set expectations appropriately, we won’t be talking much about the title until next year. That time will come though, and we’re looking forward to sharing more with you when it does.

Halo World Championship

At the Xbox Briefing at the historic Gürzenich Köln, we also announced the Halo World Championship - the biggest investment in Xbox esports history, which will feature a prize pool of over 1 million dollars. Over the past few years, we’ve crowned champions, witnessed incredible comebacks, and learned a great deal about Halo esports, and we can’t wait for what’s ahead. We’ll be sharing more in the coming months, but the gamescom Invitational provided us with a quick look at pre-launch tournament play, and we hope you enjoyed the action. Speaking of, let’s recap.

gamescom Invitational

We invited four teams to the gamescom stage: Europe’s Epsilon Esports, CAZ.Esports, and Supremacy, and North America’s OpTic Gaming. Each team was able to practice for a few hours each day leading up to the tournament, learning map routes, jumps, setups, and getting acquainted with Spartan Abilities, weapons, and more, and on Friday, they duked it out for all the marbles. To catch the VoD, head over to the Halo Channel, or if you’ve only got 13 minutes and 43 seconds, check out this highlight montage by Reflex, which showcases some of the top plays from the event.

For us at 343, the tournament offered a variety of invaluable insights. The broadcast, production, and video teams are taking learnings from the show as we gear up for the presentation of Halo 5 esports at the Halo World Championship and beyond. For the multiplayer and sandbox teams, they’re currently evaluating things like Overshield timing and strength, weapon respawn time (both power weapon and non-default weapons), overall sandbox tuning, and more. Some things you saw at the Invitational have already been changed, such as the Shotgun ammo count/range and map lighting, and others are still being tuned. I also caught up with sandbox designer Chris King to discuss some of the other changes that have been made since the build you watched at gamescom:

  • Improved stick tuning (vastly improves ability to use the precision weapons)

  • BR: Reduced some of the randomness/spread/kick to make it more effective/consistent at range

  • Sniper: Reduced recoil and fixed some bugs that were introducing randomness/spread

  • Shotgun: Reduced effective range slightly

  • Misc. melee fixes

  • Fixed lots of bugs with physics impulses

We’ve kept a close eye on pro player feedback, and also your feedback from the forums. Overall, we’d like to thank you for watching the tournament and opining on what you saw, and we look forward to providing you more updates on all things Halo esports in the future. Stay tuned to @HCS and Halo.gg for the latest.

Speaking of, with the announcement of the Halo World Championship, we also launched the official HCS Twitter, which will provide updates on all things competitive multiplayer. To celebrate the launch of the account, we’re giving away some limited edition Chief and Locke pins – details below.

[tweet]<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TeamChief?src=hash">#TeamChief</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TeamLocke?src=hash">#TeamLocke</a>? We’re giving away both, so you don’t have to decide. Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/HCS">@HCS</a> & RT for a chance to win! <a href="http://t.co/saJydc95gR">pic.twitter.com/saJydc95gR</a></p>— Halo (@Halo) <a href="https://twitter.com/Halo/status/632303362797518848">August 14, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>[/tweet]

Point of View

Earlier this month, we talked HUD design, and fielded your questions for the artists themselves. Many of you took to the forums with your ponderings, and UI artists Eric Will and Jeff Christy answered your questions, and also provided us with some concept sketches. Let’s get into the Q&A.

How do you decide what color the HUDS will be for each character? Do other characters have a color that isn't blue or gold? Also, why did you decide to add chromatic aberration to the HUDs?
- TodayFob226083

Eric Will:

The color for the HUDs are representational of some visual aspect of the character. Sometimes inspired by the tint of their visor, and sometimes from the paint scheme of their armor. We try to capture some aspect of the design to help the player “feel” like they are in the corresponding suit. I think the addition of chromatic aberration helps to reinforce that the HUD is a synthetic injection on top of what you see in the world. It’s a digital construct and subject to light-bending and distortion the further in to the periphery you get on the visor. It helps support the fiction of the technology and it also helps the HUD to not get lost in the action visually.

Jeff Christy:

There's no concrete ruleset for choosing the color. We drew inspiration from the character's fiction and the armor design. We kept Blue Team's HUD colors in line with older Halo titles, and added more variety to Osiris Team to further separate the two teams. In addition to what Eric mentioned about Chromatic Aberration, we’re selective about where it gets applied in the HUD.  We’re leaving it off most text, reticles and anything we feel could negatively impact gameplay or legibility.

Will campaign armors used in multiplayer share the same HUD, for example will centurion armor in multiplayer have Fred's HUD? Love the new designs so far.
-M1TCH720

Eric:

Multiplayer in Halo 5 features a single, unique MP-exclusive HUD variant designed by Jeff. This HUD was crafted and tuned to cater to the fast and competitive nature of MP. It is visually lighter and less intrusive to allow for better peripheral vision and lets players focus on the action.

Which HUD is your personal favorite and why?
-snickerdoodle

Eric:

For me personally, Linda on Blue Team was the most challenging and rewarding to design. Her helmet represented a challenge because her binocular visor had to be stylistically ‘interpreted’.

Jeff:

On Blue Team I think I like Linda’s the most. It’s just so unique to the other ones.  On Osiris Team I think it’s Buck. I’m a huge ODST fan, and it was pretty awesome to have the opportunity to work on it.

Which character's HUD was the most difficult to conceptualize and/or create?
-snickerdoodle

Eric:

The helmets that featured strange or problematic visor apertures I think became the most challenging for us to create. When you can’t literally trace the shape of the glass outline like you can with Master Chief, you end up going through lots of iterations and just keep working on it until everyone agrees that it just feels right. To that end I think Linda with her binocular vision and perhaps Vale with her aggressive “V” shaped glass became the biggest challenges.

A concept sketch of Master Chief’s HUD (Eric Will)

3D Mesh extrapolated from the concept sketch (Eric Will)

Is the HUD design a direct correlation to the armor design, will it follow the helmet contours exactly?
-MAX2107  

Eric:

We do spend a lot of time taking many literal design ques from the armor and helmet and working it in to the HUD… even if it’s impossible for the HUD design to follow the contours of the glass exactly. We try our best to incorporate angles, colors, and even physical armor design in to the interiors of the helmets.

Jeff:

We don’t follow the helmets exactly. We start with things being accurate, and deviate from there until we get it to place that capture the spirit of the character without being too distracting.

Will there be a notable difference between the HUDs of Blue Team and the HUDs of Fireteam Osiris to signify the overall difference between the Spartan IIs and the Spartan IVs?
-omarlotrc

Eric:

A great question! This was something that we were very passionate about being Halo Lore junkies. We spent a great deal of time debating the technological differences between the generational gap in SII and SIV armor design. In fact we took it so seriously that we deliberately split the creation of the two teams between two different artists to ensure a natural break in styles. I designed Blue Team and Jeff designed Osiris Team. One of the analogies that we used was comparing Osiris Team to an iPhone and Blue Team to an old Motorola Star-Tac flip-phone. To that end, you will find that Blue Team is much more monochromatic and utilitarian, and Osiris Team is more multi-tonal and features a more stylized and graphic look. This philosophy also went in to the modeling and build for the helmet interiors. Blue team’s helmets feature a lot of exposed structure and wires, while the Osiris helmet interiors are more enclosed and smooth. These details are obscured by the fact that we’re running DOF on the helmet interiors, but the details are there. We obsessed over everything whether you can see it or not.

First, I love that each character has a unique HUD. Were there any other ideas or uniquely identifying features for each Spartan's HUD that ended up on the cutting room floor, so to speak? If so, what?
-Shadow Intent

Eric:

I think given more time we would’ve further differentiated the technological gap between the SII and SIV teams by adding more dynamic animation to the Osiris HUDs. We wanted the graphic wires and lines inside the Osiris helmets to morph and change depending on what the Spartan was engaged in… exploration, combat, etc… Also I think we would’ve added more dramatic damage states and near-death HUD experience for both teams of campaign characters.

Jeff:

So. Much. Stuff. I won’t spoil what could come in the future. Visor reflections are the first thing that come to mind though.

Will the reticle color match the rest of the HUD in the final game? In the picture we've seen of Linda's unique HUD, the reticle is blue while the rest of the HUD is orange.
-The Little Moa

Jeff:

Right now, the reticle color is the same for all characters and MP.

What is the reasoning for the different HUD designs (Canon, gameplay, etc)?
-Stubborn Barren

Eric:

Canon and storytelling. I’m probably biased by saying that the story in Halo 5, in my opinion, is the best to ever grace the series… but it is ambitious and very dynamic. Your Spartan comrades are living breathing people with a voice. To thunder around the galaxy with Buck at your side rattling off one-liners is, well, awesome! To be able to insert yourself in to his shoes while he rattles off one-liners is even… awesomer! (If that’s a word) Some of the characters that you’ll see in Halo 5 have been a long time coming. They’ve been part of the universe and fan favorites for years and we knew that it was time to give them a voice and a backstory. The unique HUDs helps facilitate that.

Jeff:

It’s to emphasize you’re an individual. You’re not Player 2 anymore. You’re Buck. That’s pretty awesome.

Can I watch SportsCenter inside the helmet?
-JA50N 0

Eric:

Hmmm. OK…

SportsCenter broadcast broken in to data packets and piped to UNSC-SATCOM, which is then uplinked to UNSC recipient satellite, which is then encrypted (Cole Protocol says better safe than sorry) and transferred to UNSC Superluminal Array which then converts packet in to ‘coded-slipstream-packet’ and then bounced to a UNSC ship large enough to have a superluminal phased array… such as the UNSC INFINITY (provided it is in orbit above recipient Spartans). Infinity then decodes packets and reformats the signal to UNSC-BATTLENET protocol which is then piped down to Spartans planet side. Mjolnir armor receives BATTLENET data and then displays feed using the HUD’s PIP (picture-in-picture) app in the upper-left hand corner of the display. Spartan watches SportsCenter!

So, technically… YES! Though they may be too distracted to care - some big stuff is afoot in the galaxy!

How long did it take you guys to make each individual HUD? Were there ones that were much easier to create compared to ones that might have been way more complicated?
-Approvedjoey

Eric:

I think the design and exploration of the HUDs literally started when we wrapped up Halo 4. There was so much more we wanted to do with immersing the player in to the fantasy of being a Spartan and wearing that armor. So in some ways I can say the HUDs have taken three years to make. But I realize that’s pretty vague. Some more concrete fun-facts: Jeff is going to sit here next to me and obsess over… and polish HUDs until we unplug his Wacom, turn off his computer and send him home. I think I high-poly speed-modeled all eight helmet interiors inside something like four weeks? I put my headphones on and didn’t come up for air until they were done. It was a blast!

Jeff:

It’s really hard to answer this. It’s varied quite a bit. Some HUDs got approval on the first round, some took significantly longer. Just concepting Locke’s and the MP variant took the longest. They have constantly been evolving and getting tweaked. I’d say the vast amount of HUD work happened this past year with groundwork being laid last year.

First concept pass on Locke’s HUD wires and visor vignette (Jeff Christy)

Second concept pass on Locke’s HUD wires and visor vignette (Jeff Christy)

Was it hard to get that sense of individuality across to the players when you were developing the HUD? What made you say, that's the one for each character?
-VNobleSquirrelV

Eric:

Ironically getting a sense of individuality and uniqueness was very easy as each character is so unique both in personality and also in visual armor design. The hard part was reviewing, critiquing and doing constant gut-checks to make sure that anyone who was seeing the HUD in game for the first time could instantly recognize whose shoes they were in. There was a lot of polish and revision to get this right.

Jeff:

Yes, for me it was difficult. You can mock up stuff, but it’s not until you get it into the actual game that you really know if it’s successful or not. It’s a bunch of little things that come together to form a greater whole. The wires, shield bar, color, helmet geometry, dialog, and the character’s hands – all sell that individuality.  Ultimately though, it’s up to the fans to determine if we’re successful in capturing that or not.

Final HUD wires for Locke (Jeff Christy)

Will visor color effect the color of the HUD?
- tricknick513

Eric:

Visor color was always a top consideration when evaluating the colors for the HUD graphics per character, though in some instances other attributes won out over visor color and the HUD wires instead carry a more pronounced aspect of the character, such as armor color, etc. So it’s not always a 1:1 correlation.

Are there any characters that will have additions to their HUD's that the other characters don't have, such as an enhanced motion tracker, warning signs, targeting systems, or anything else like that?
-OVERLORD9

Eric:

I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t say too much, but where appropriate we have added bits of unique flavor, character and behavior to the campaign HUDs. So yes, there are HUDs that have ‘things’ that others don’t.

Jeff:

Maybe. Wink.

A special thanks to Eric and Jeff for taking some time to answer your questions. Stay tuned for more community Q&A in the future.

Grifball at RTX: A Community Report

While we couldn’t be at RTX while we were in Germany, our good friends at GrifballHUB held down the fort. To catch up on all things Grifball at RTX, I bugged Goosechecka from GrifballHUB to provide us with a report of how things went in the deep south:

As RTX has grown in size, so has GrifballHub's presence. This year we had around 40 Grifballers fly in from across the country - and some from across the pond - to attend. Thanks to 343, we were able to offer up a $5,000 cash prize to the winners of the RTX 2015 Grifball Championship. The 16-team tournament took place over 3 days, and the finale of which was played on the main RTX stage. In addition to the tournament, two of our community members got engaged at the booth under the pretense of a Grifball grudge match!  Similar to last year, there was never an empty console station over the three day period, especially when we offered "Play a Pro" where attendee teams could win a poster for scoring on our pros and a t-shirt for beating them. For the record, no t-shirts were given and only 4 attendee teams earned a poster over the 5.5 hour event. The rest of RTX was great as well, or so I heard - didn't leave the booth much! According to a Guardian, this year saw 50 exhibitors, compared to last year’s 90. Regarding numbers, we're still pulling them together, but we do know 40,000 tickets were sold and over 1,000 people came through our booth as evidenced by our decimated swag items. 343 was missed, but between us and the 405th, Halo was well represented.

-Goosechecka

Halo 3 Hardcore

Just yesterday, Halo 3’s Team Hardcore game types were added to the Team Hardcore playlist. As stated on the forums, we know that some of you love your Halo 2 Classic Hardcore, and may not want to play Halo 3, and that some of you who are excited about playing Halo 3 may not be looking to play Halo 2. We’d love to be able to separate these games so that every player can get what they want, but at this time, these two experiences (H2C & H3 Hardcore) don’t warrant a large enough playerbase for their own respective playlists, and keeping these tournament-approved game types in the same playlist ensures a healthy population.

We know some of you have fond memories of last second clutch plays on Guardian Ball, or epic flag runs on The Pit CTF, and that you’ve been waiting to play these game types in matchmaking – we hope you enjoy. We’ll see you in the playlist.

Community Spotlight

To close this week, we’re highlighting a brand new H2A Forge map – Bad Blood – from Forger The Fated Fire. Here’s a description in his own words:

Bad Blood is a symmetrical two-base forge map designed for 5v5 CTF in Halo 2 Anniversary. The map is a super open, vertical, and punishing CTF design that curves from base to base around a massive chasm, encouraging strong team coordination and player-specific roles to hold certain key outposts and lines of sight across the map. Highly coordinated teams will discover and execute unconventional strategies to move the flag across the map -- such as throwing it across the chasm to an exposed teammate on the other side, launching it across the chasm on a ghost, and running the portal-lift route to launch the flag up to top mid. Bad Blood currently supports 2-Flag CTF and Team Slayer.

The map can be found by searching for the gamertag "Reborn Stellar" in MCC’s “Find Player” feature. If you’ve got a map, game type, or creation you’d like to share with the world, be sure to post it in the Community Creations section, or by shooting me a link on Twitter. Moving forward each week, we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite maps, game types, montages, and more - from the wacky to the hardcore. Whether it’s a creation of your own or one you stumbled upon, send it over.

That’ll do for this week. Until next time,

-Bravo

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