By B is for Bravo -
Welcome to another weekly read, friends. As I sit at my typewriter and combine these eloquent words, each team at the studio is busy wrapping up their contributions to Memories of Reach. The release will include updates across the game, including the addition of a new game mode in the form of Infection (a bit more on that today), new controller options, UI updates (including post-game medals and more), new armor, skins, weapons, a new Arena battleground, matchmaking preference options, Forge updates, and much more, including some updates to REQ weapon balance, which we’ll also talk about in today’s blog. To correctly set expectations, Memories of Reach won’t be here just yet next week, but we’ll continue to keep you updated on specific timing as we get closer to release and all final work is completed, tested, and ready to go out the door.
To start, let’s talk a bit more about Infection!
The widely requested mayhem that is Infection is also receiving final tweaks and polish. We’re playtesting the game type across a variety of dev and community maps, and precision tuning is nearly complete. Let’s unveil a few specifics on the game mode:
- Total player count: 12
- Number of rounds: 4
- Round time limit: 3 minutes each
- New Custom Game option: “Last Squad Standing”
- Spartans have all Spartan abilities (naturally!)
- Infected have Thrust, Smart Scope, Stabilize
- New medals
Speaking of medals, here’s a look at what to expect:
Forge ??? (Continued)
Tom French and Mike Byron from the Forge team are back with another cryptic clue of what’s on the way. I’m guessing it comes as absolutely no surprise that they have once again, and without comment, sent over a cryptic screenshot for this blog.
Memories of Reach REQ Preview
This week, we’re pulling back the curtain on some of the goodness you’ll find in Memories of Reach. Stay tuned next week for the full reveal, including a few specific armors (and more!) you may be looking forward to. Memories of Reach will include a bunch of new stuff, and will also bring the Spartan's Armory REQs into the REQ pool.
I'll just leave this here:
REQ Weapon Balance Update
Memories of Reach will include a new weapon balance pass, which will bring a variety of your favorite weapons and rarest REQs closer in line with the appropriate effectiveness in both Warzone and Arena. To get the scoop, I chatted with our data and sandbox teams on what’s to come. Take it away, gents.
Michael Wetzel, Big Data Engineer
When the sandbox team came to us and asked us if we could somehow measure weapon effectiveness and balance, we were super excited about the idea. The concept of being able to distill weapons and player usage into metrics that we could compare was very compelling from an analysis standpoint, and could potentially provide huge value to our designers. The challenges however, were substantial – trying to come up with a single number or set of numbers that accurately describes a weapon is a very difficult task, as each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses, situational suitability and “places” in the sandbox. Normalizing this data is also challenging – for example, in Warzone we see a huge number of AR and Pistol kills, does this mean they’re the best weapons? Probably not.
Initially we looked at kills per weapon per death as a starting point, but this turned out to be non-ideal. For example, how do you measure weapons that are thrown away after being used? Next on the list was kills/weapon instance, but it turns out there are some potential issues with this metric also. How do you deal with spawned weapons on the map versus picking up weapons from dead players? Also, how do you deal with loadout weapons that are never actually used by the player?
The main metric we landed on was kills per weapon use. This allows us to easily compare weapons no matter where they came from based on whether they were used or not. It's not without complications though, because we have to define use as something that is fair to all weapons. For example, if we only considered use to be shooting the weapon, then weapons that have more deliberate shots (e.g. Railgun) would naturally have an advantage since the usage wouldn't be counted unless they get their shot off. That's why use has a time component – if you hold the weapon as your primary for more than 5 seconds, it counts as being used. In addition, damage dealt per use is also important, especially for weapons like the Plasma Pistol that are great at dealing out damage or nuking shields, but maybe not great at racking up kills.
Along with this, for each of these data points, we capture information about the game mode, the map, the killer’s and victim’s respective skill levels, distances, etc – this allows us to do cool drill-downs on the data to understand which weapons are more favored by higher skill players, which weapons are most effective at which ranges, and on which maps, and if they’re overpowered on a particular map.
We can of course find cases where these details are not 100% representative of effectiveness in particular instances, but after many iterations, we’re pretty happy with how it allows us to interpret the data, especially when we look at it over the entire dataset of the billions of kills that have happened in the game.
Daniel Wiksten, Senior Weapons Designer
One of the sandbox team’s core pillars has always been to “make every weapon relevant,” and we came really, really close. The weapon balance is Halo 5 is something we take great pride in. But due to the sheer number of weapon variants in Warzone some unintended balance issues have slipped through the cracks. Luckily, we have access to copious amounts of data from you players using the weapons. This allows us to supplement our “gut feeling” with some hard numbers.
Thanks to the fantastic work by our data team, the sandbox team is able to access a great breakdown of weapon effectiveness out in the wild. We look at things like average kills/damage per use, kills/damage per use compared to other weapons of the same cost, etc, and determine what types of balance updates need to be made.
Ideally things would look like the Energy Sword below:
As you can see above, each increased level of rarity and energy cost leads to an increase in average kills, with the Mythic Prophet’s Bane giving a massive boost in killing power. Hell yeah.
But we did catch a bunch of outliers, for example the Fuel Rod Cannon below:
Our rarest Fuel Rod Cannon, Pool of Radiance, is underperforming the normal Fuel Rod Cannon by a lot. Obviously not intended!
The Pool of Radiance projectiles leave a damage over time effect where they detonate. Turns out this damage over time was delayed and less damaging than intended. The projectiles will still kill on a direct hit, and it does cause damage over time, just way less than it should. So the imbalance for this particular variant was not instantly apparent.
In total, over a dozen weapon variants have been updated to have a more appropriate effectiveness. We’ll start by detailing the Plasma Caster and Hydra updates specifically, and then get into the full list
Plasma Caster update
The intended use case of the Plasma Caster has been “indirect fire”. Shoot around cover, predict enemy movement, etc. And it does fill that role to a degree.
However, the indirect fire from the sticky grenade was pretty much only effective if you get a direct stick. The use case of putting the sticky in a strategic position and letting the cluster grenades rain down on enemies was not working as intended.
The following balance changes will be in effect after Memories of Reach:
- Cluster grenades are more effective
- Charge shot has less arc
- Regular grenade will explode slightly faster after bouncing
Hydra Launcher update
Hydra is filling its role well, with the exception of engaging multiple targets at close range. The splash damage radius was very, very small. Also, the recoil when jumping was not helping players accurately place rockets where they intended.
The following balance changes will be in effect after Memories of Reach:
- Recoil has been reduced
- Rocket splash damage radius increased
- Typhon variant: Can now lock onto 3 enemies at once for extra coolness!
Weapon balance update summary – Memories of Reach
Plasma Caster: Default
- Reduced non-charged timer from 0.5 to 0.3 (less overshooting of enemies)
- Sticky grenade has less arc (to be able to place it on the map more reliably)
- Sticky grenade detonation is now more damaging vs. vehicles, but less damaging vs bipeds (will still kill bipeds in one shot when stuck)
- Increased sticky grenade submunition damage values from 43 to 75 (indirect fire from a sticky shot can now actually kill!)
- Sticky submunition grenade inner AOE increased from 0.65 to 1.0
Plasma Caster: White Scar
- Needles have improved aim toward nearby targets
Plasma Caster: Scourge of Fire
- Sticky shot now has 7 submunitions instead of 5
Hydra Launcher: Default
- Reduced recoil in hip
- Increased inner AOE radius from 0.4 to 0.8
- Increased impact damage to make it more effective against vehicles (still two rockets to kill Spartan)
Hydra Launcher: Typhon
- Enabled multi lock on for up to 3 targets
- Increased impact damage (still two rockets to kill Spartan)
Scattershot: Loathsome Thing
- Increased number of hardlight projectiles to be same as normal scattershot (5 -> 8)
Rocket Launcher: High Five
- Increased AOE radius on cluster rockets
Binary Rifle: Twin Jewels of Maethrillian
- Reduced recoil
- Placed twin projectiles a bit closer together for easier biped targeting
Covenant Carbine: Rain of Oblivion
- Reduced recoil
- Increased zoom magnification a bit (closer to default Carbine)
Incineration Cannon: River of Light
- Added slight homing to charge shot to hit multiple bipeds easier
Incineration Cannon: Heartseeker
- Added proximity detonation to charge shot (like the normal Inc. Cannon has) to make it more effective against airborne targets or targets behind cover
Fuel Rod Cannon: Pool of Radiance
- Fixed a damage bug (was not causing AOE damage on initial explosion)
- Made projectile thicker
Needler: Talon of the Lost
- Reduced supercombine count to be same as normal Needler
- Needles have longer lifetime to more easily supercombines against difficult to hit targets (8s instead of 4s)
Spartan Laser: Selene’s Lance
- Reduced recoil
- Made beam thicker
We’ve got to start by highlighting Spartan’s montage, which just dropped earlier today. Grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy a ton of amazing clips:
Brutalist – File Browser link
Beaver Creek – File Browser Link
Play of the Week
Super Fiesta. You’re down 43-46. You spawn with Nornfang. What do you do? This.
That’ll do for this week, friends. We’ll be back with plenty more from Memories of Reach next week, and we do hope you’ll join us. Oh, and as a note, we're extending the April Season by one day, meaning the May season will begin on Monday, 5/2. If you haven't yet qualified for a playlist, 1) you should play more and 2) you've got an extra day to do so.
Until next time,