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Hello friends! PAX Prime is upon us, which means that we’ve got long days and long nights ahead, and hope to spend many of them with many of you. Due to the holiday weekend, we’ve got a quick update this week, but we’ll talk about a new Halo 5 Arena map, the latest MCC playlist update, and more.

Before we move on, just yesterday, we brought Halo 5: Guardians to the ID@Xbox event at the Xbox HQ in Redmond, and it was a pleasure having some of you join us for the pre-PAX festivities. If you joined, you were likely able to snag some game time, plus limited edition Chief & Locke posters and pins from Frankie and Josh Holmes as well. We hope you had a great time, and we thank you for spending your evening with us. Let’s do it again some time.

Speaking of, we want to hook some Halo fans up with some last minute, surprise PAX badges. Whether you’re local to Seattle, or are willing to hop on a plane in a moment’s notice, just reply to the below on Twitter. We'll be selecting and contacting winners this evening. 

[tweet]<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Seattle: Let us know what you're most excited for in Halo 5, plus a preferred day (Sat/Sun/Mon) for a chance to win a pair of PAX badges!</p>— Halo (@Halo) <a href="">August 28, 2015</a></blockquote>
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As a reminder, we’ll have 24-player Warzone goodness on the show floor in the Xbox booth all weekend long. We hope you swing by, say hello, and play some games. 

The Rig: a deep dive

In this week’s Halo Bulletin, Jay Fresh is showing off a bit more of the upcoming Arena map, The Rig, which you first saw at gamescom. The Rig, short for Mining Rig, is set on a planet called Meridian, which you’ll learn more about in the near future. It’s also one of our Pro Team’s favorite maps, and one that we hope will become one of your favorites as well in just a few months’ time. This week, I hung out with the team who made this battleground a reality, and they generously shared some fantastic insight and work-in-progress images from throughout the development process to shed some light on how the map came to be. Today, you’ll hear from Mike Byron, Multiplayer Producer, Christopher Hands, Senior Environment Artist, and Adrian Bedoya, Multiplayer Level Designer. Let’s get right into it.

Mike Byron, Multiplayer Producer

The Rig was an interesting map. It was the first map that the Design team felt captured the mixture between old Halo map layout, and our new movement set introduced in Halo 5. It quickly became a favorite around the office during playtests for different modes and weapons. In fact, the Sandbox team even used the map as their primary test bed for all their weapon and ability tuning for much of Halo 5’s development.

Since we started later in development on the map, we had to make sure we built the map smartly and efficiently to allow enough time to hit the quality bar needed for the project. Chris Hands worked with the campaign teams to use Meridian’s solid foundation, and benefit from all the lessons learned throughout their lookdev/pre-production time. This allowed us to do a quick massout (where the art team roughs in all of the major shapes, themes, and ideas for the map), and cut down on our art development and iteration cycle.

Chris and the Art team worked really hard with Adrian, throughout the process, to continually improve map layout and visual identification of key landmarks to help orient players. It was a map goal to stay as close to the block out as possible, due to the fact that it was an internally loved map played often, while still trying to push the theme of being on a giant moving facility and making all of Adrian’s block out designs make thematic sense. We also tried to hide some fun little surprises around the map to let people discover once the game is out.

Christopher Hands, Senior Environment Artist

For The Rig, our inspiration was industrial mining platforms combined with the crawler-transporter, so a combination of these two:

The original pitch for this map was a large mining platform that is also a large vehicle that is mining on a sand-covered, desolate planet.

Originally, I wanted the vehicle to be actively moving while the match is going, but we settled on having it stationary, so that we could have the drill actively mining instead. Since the vehicle no longer moves, we had to visually communicate that the players are on a giant vehicle so we decided to place other mining vehicles in the skybox.

From there we had our concept team started on the “vision piece” for The Rig:

The “vision piece” for The Rig

The vision piece for The Rig helped guide the environment, lighting and skybox teams. It also defined the buildings aesthetics which we kept throughout the level.

But we still didn’t have a clear idea of what the vehicle actually looked like, so we needed another painting to help describe the exterior and skybox:

Exterior and skybox concept art

The Drill Pit really makes The Rig stand out, so we wanted to make it a unique and interesting area to fight in. The original design blockout only had a pit, so when we decided to add a giant drill we also needed players to be able to jump or interact with it.

The Drill Pit

We settled on adding a platform on the top of the drill so that players can precariously jump from the catwalk onto the drill, and this is a concept of the final iteration of the drill:

Adrian Bedoya, Multiplayer Level Designer

Starting a new level from scratch is one of my favorite times during a project, a blank canvas where anything is possible. There are many ways to start a map, paper designs, picking a theme and building from there, or sometimes working it out in 3D. The Rig was one of those maps I decided to just go for in Maya (3D). Early on I usually don’t worry too much about the theme or setting of the map when I’m roughing in a layout, because my ultimate focus is fun and interesting gameplay spaces. The Rig in prototype form was codenamed Towers, because the main focus areas of the map were these towers in various areas of the map.

One of the things I do on nearly every map I make is have defined materials for the upper and lower floors, walls and any accent pieces. I also do a very quick lighting pass to help define the areas. This is all helpful for playtests to help players orient themselves within the map. 

Early on I wanted to create a map with a lot of interesting play around verticality and a map that took some time to learn all the best routes and flanking options. Once the block out is at a good place, we get into the engine, and we start play-testing as much as possible on it to get feedback. Maps always evolve and change over the course of a project and The Rig was no different. Although much of flow and layout of the final layout is very similar to the original block out, we tweaked and tuned many areas to improve on the design.

Tower One/Two

One of the biggest changes was to the main Tower area next to Red Spawn. In the original, it was more of an open platform that was very difficult to fight against because of the lack of ways to grenade bounce. Red Spawn had also connected to the lower section of the tower, but we closed of the lower path and made it connect to the upper platform. This prevented people in the lower cargo area from jumping up into that path.

Final Layout of Tower One and Two

Lower Dock

Next, we found that the lower dock area was too porous and offered players a bit too much escape, and we decided to close off this route. 

Block out and final layout of the Lower Dock

Nest and Engine Two

During that same time, we tuned and reworked the Nest area on the more open half of the map. As we played the map more and more, we found we needed a route from Engine Two into the other side of the map, thus we added a catwalk and opened up a route to Nest from Engine Two.

Original and final layout for the Nest

Blockout and Final layout for Engine Room Two


About one year ago, and possibly more, I recall playing on the block out of “Towers,” and it’s one of those multiplayer maps that’s purely fun to jump around on, and one that should allow for some great routes and variety – but we’ll let you be the final judges of that. It’s exciting (and slightly crazy) to think that we’ll be playing with you on this map in less than two months. I’ll see you in the Drill Pit.

Playlist Update

Just yesterday, the playlist team pushed out the latest playlist update, which adds Infection. Many of you have fond memories of fighting off infected hoards, and we hope this playlist provides you with some brand-new variety. Additionally, based on feedback last week, we’ll be keeping the HCS playlist around a bit longer, and retiring it a bit closer to the release of Halo 5.

Here’s a quick recap of the changes that went into yesterday’s update:

  • Infection
    • Playlist added for a limited time!

The playlist includes:

Halo 3: Braaaains, Creeping Death, Save One Bullet, Hide and Seek, Speed Demons
Halo 2: Anniversary: Infection, Cadre
Halo 4: Flood, Hivemind, Last Stand

  • Team Hardcore
    • The Construct TS map updated to the correct TS variant for Halo 3
  • Team Doubles
    • SMG starts removed from Halo 2 Classic
  • Big Team Battle
    • All AR-start Assault Halo 3 game types removed (until BR variants can be added)
    • Big Team (8v8) Dominion added
    • Weighting/frequency of Remnant reduced
  • Halo 4
    • Small team (5v5) Dominion added
    • Pitfall and Vertigo added for Legendary Slayer
    • Ragnarok CTF added
  • Halo 2: Anniversary
    • Weighting/frequency of Remnant reduced

As always, we’re keeping a close eye on playlist feedback, and moving forward, some top priorities for the playlist team include continuing to improve variety and voting option balance across all playlists, as well as new experiences that are ahead. We’ll be sure to provide more updates on what’s next for MCC, including the next CU in future updates.

Play of the Week

Selecting this week’s Play of the Week was no easy feat. There were several top contenders, but in the end, the creativity and flawless timing and execution of apriliars125pls’ Sandtrap Assault bomb run is one for the record books and highlight reels. We’re not quite sure how you pulled this off so perfectly, but we have watched over and over and over again, and it’s beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that we felt the need to visualize your thread title (“Mongoose Airlines wishes you a safe flight”), and our graphics designer Chase went ahead and created a commercial jet livery just for you. To view the clip, perfect dismount and all, click on the masterpiece below: 

Community Spotlight

For this week’s Community Spotlight segment, we sat down with the super-talented armor and props creator, Jim McCrea, from Stony Props and the legendary 405th. Jim just finished up a recent project, so we grabbed some time to hear about it and see more of it. Because we really like it.

Bravo: Hey Jim! We caught a look at the finished Locke helmet on Twitter, and it looks badass. Tell us about this project!

Jim: From time to time, there are certain characters or props that you just know will be your next build challenge. Agent Locke certainly gives off that vibe in spades. The Locke Helmet along with the new armor have been on the Stony Props radar since your first images were released for this new character. We knew then, that at some point we were going to have to take this character from just a promotional image and turn this into something that someone could actually walk around in. There's been talks within the members of Stony Props Studios for some time now on just how to bring this one to life, and to give it the full justice that it deserves. 

What’s the hardest thing about getting a helmet (or any armor, for that matter) just right?

There is a long list of challenges and It's crucial that the helmet needs to be as spot on as possible.  Every helmet or armor piece each have their own unique set of challenges that go along with it. The devil is always in the details. With the continuing improvements in game resolutions and the platforms that they run on, the level of detail that is now incorporated into the Halo characters may be the biggest & most difficult challenge for fans and studios to recreate.

Now that a fair bit of Halo 5 armor has been shown off, do you have your eyes on anything for your next projects?

After looking at some of what 343i has in store for Halo 5, there have been a couple of discussions on a few more characters that we'd like to possibly take on. I'd like to get a little more feedback first from the teams at 343i and the Halo community to see what they would like to see brought to life from guys at Stony Props Studios.       

We had a chance to see you at San Diego Comic-Con, where your crew assisted with some of the training armor for the Breakout Arena presented by BoomCo. Any other stops planned on the summer tour?

Stony Props Studios is currently scheduled to travel with the Boomco Arena to its next event in just a few days from now. The Arena is scheduled to make an appearance in the 2015 GameStop Expo in Las Vegas, which runs from 9/1 to 9/2. Our role is going to be to help out with & make sure that all the Halo Spartan training armor we developed is ready to run through another round of Breakout Arena carnage.     

Locke casting - Jim McCrea, Chief casting - Steven Lee

What advice can you give to those who would like to get into armor / weapon creation, costuming, etc, but don’t know where to start?

We all have to start somewhere. If you find yourself asking the question "how did they make that?" and if you think that you have the determination and patience to build these things, you're in luck. The site containing all the same great information that we got our start from is still up and running and its members are producing some of the greatest Halo armor and props that I've ever seen. Everything that you need to know to be able to build yourself a great Halo costume or prop can be found on the 

Thanks for joining us today! As always, we can’t wait to see your future projects!

Thanks Bravo. If anyone wants to see what our artist are coming out with next just hit us up on our Facebook page, Stony Props.

That’ll do for this week, cause we’re off to PAX. Have a fantastic weekend, and we’ll be back soon with plenty more to talk about.



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