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Prepare for (Big Team) Battle

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This week, the first of many free, regular Halo 5 updates will drop. The Battle of Shadow and Light update is nearly upon us, and today, we’ll talk about new goodness, some gameplay tweaks, and more, as well as recent playlist updates and some amazing anti-vehicle antics. Shall we?

Friday’s weekend playlist update brought with it a top community requested playlist: Doubles. The playlist poll proved Doubles was the clear favorite over the previous winner, Shotty Snipers, which - as it had been the new option the prior week - had been present in the polls once again. Unsurprisingly, Doubles came in at an overwhelming 64% of total votes, which means it was available this past weekend with increased XP rewards.

Some minor but important changes are also on the way for the SWAT playlist. To start, we’ll be bumping the SWAT respawn time from 1 second to 3 seconds, which should improve overall game flow while still maintaining the fast-paced action the playlist is known for. Additionally, we’ll be removing friendly fire, which will both upset trolls and prevent you from accidentally betraying your friend who jumped into your sights at the last moment.

Speaking of trolls, it’s worth mentioning that we’ve been keeping a very close eye on REQ point and XP boosting, and the exploits some players are using to idle in matches in an attempt to fill their very own Money Bin with a ton of REQ points and XP. Our data team at the studio has not only caught this behavior, but we’ve also started taking action against offending accounts, including bans and removal of all REQ points. Most of you need not worry about this, as you’re aware that REQ points and XP are only awarded for honor and bravery on the battlefield.

Teams across the studio have continued to dig through your feedback across a variety of forums, boards, and more on the greater ChatterNet, including items such as CSR, in-game and menu UI, and much more. We’ll continue talking about these and more over the next few weeks as we prepare future updates. On that topic, the first Halo 5: Guardians update, Battle of Shadow and Light, is set to drop within the next few days. Let’s talk about the content, tuning tweaks, and more that’s on the way.

Battle of Shadow and Light

The Battle of Shadow and Light update brings with it a variety of new goodness, including Big Team Battle, new REQ content, and a number of tuning and polish tweaks. First up, let’s dig deeper into the BTB maps we first introduced last week. To do so, we’ll hear from the community members who first started work on Deadlock, Recurve, and Guillotine, and the 343’ers who spent months bringing these maps to their final version.

Deadlock

Nokyard, Community Forger

The long flight from Toronto to Seattle gave me time for two things: the chance to catch up on Hunt the Truth for the first time, and also to think about which map I would construct while visiting 343 Industries. It boiled down to either Sidewinder, Standoff, or Waterworks. Standoff took precedence since I had already remade Sidewinder in Halo 4, and Waterworks in Halo 2: Anniversary. Standoff is considered a difficult map to recreate due to limited terrain pieces and serious performance issues which are hampered by the complexity of the bases. Underclass ICON managed a decent remake in Halo Reach, and Pa1nts gave it his best shot in H2A, but my intention was to further blur the line between a dev map and a Forge map, and push the limits of if this new Forge with an extremely ambitious build.

I was more than delighted when Standoff was revealed as one of our options, so I grabbed it up and requested another Xbox One with Halo 3 on a second monitor so the original Standoff map was in view at all times. My objective was to remain as faithful to the original as possible, while transposing the angled surfaces with these wonderful new chunky round blocks. The bases were intended to feature a more organic flow which is apparent the first time you experience the right side entrance which features smooth flowing lines and (hopefully) an electrified ambiance. Where this map really shines is the way it showcases the new terrain pieces and how they seamlessly meld with adjoining pieces. In fact, the entire map is floating high above the natural surface of Alpine in order to recreate the cliff on the open end of the map. I am just as excited as any other BTB fan to see how the map looks and plays since the 343i's Forge and multiplayer teams took over construction.

Jeremy Raymond, 343 Multiplayer Designer

Standoff is a favorite of mine, so I was happy to hear Nokyard was going to tackle building it. He spent a lot of time and care with the base build outs during his visit. He did such a fantastic job that I hardly had to touch the bases while finalizing the level. I spent most of the time building out the rest of the level, and the new terrain objects in Forge made that easy. For the most part, I stuck to the classic layout, but removed the highest areas above the bases to simplify a bit. I meticulously tweaked the terrain with a fine tooth comb to make driving smooth and enjoyable to play on. The rest of the development time was spent adding details and beautifying the level before adding one last finishing touch – the inclusion of some center satellite platforms as an homage to the classic theme. Lastly, I've been keeping the name Deadlock in my back pocket to use as a map name for some time now. Given that we’ve got a map inspired by Standoff coming to Halo 5, I figured it was the right time to pull the trigger.

Recurve

The Fated Fire, Community Forger

With Recurve, I took the original Longbow design back to the drawing board and vastly reimagined the map—literally recurving the bow-shaped design in the other direction. My aim was reimagination through implementation of arena-based design philosophies, ultimately resulting in a much smaller scaled, faster paced, and more CTF-focused level design than the original. I focused on designing heroism and big-play opportunities through movement, verticality, overlap, and the simultaneous empowerment of both the individual and the team—thus allowing players to make huge plays very quickly off spawn. I love creating huge skill gaps on maps by rewarding players who possess extensive gun game mastery, movement mechanic mastery, and map knowledge, and it was an awesome challenge to develop a Big Team Battle map like Recurve with that philosophy as a core design pillar.

I developed a modular design mass-out that allowed for rapid iteration and evolution by the 343 Multiplayer Team once I left. It has been a great pleasure collaborating with Multiplayer Level Designer Adrian Bedoya throughout the continued design and development process of the map over the past few months. The design process is flexible like a bow and, although the reimagination has significantly changed since I passed the design off, I have high hopes Recurve will evolve into a super memorable, competitive, and iconic Big Team Battle CTF experience. I hope this recurved bow shoots a fiery arrow through your heart when you get to play the map this week!

Adrian Bedoya, MP Level Designer

Collaborating on the BTB maps with the Forgers has been a great experience. It’s incredible to see the passion that they have for Forge, Halo, and map design. Like seasoned professionals, they brought in ideas on paper, or simple roughs in Sketchup. Once at the studio, they hit the ground running, and Kyle (The Fated Fire) was started work on a spiritual successor to the Halo 4 fan favorite Longbow

His work incorporated the base design of two opposing bases with a central structure from Longbow, while also taking some of his own personal design ideas. The layout he crafted was a good base to continue play-testing and iteration on the design. After the Forgers left, we worked tirelessly to bring the maps to completion. We treated the levels as we would any regular internally developed level. We tuned and iterated on weapon, objective, spawn and respawn placements.

We hope that the massive depth, scope and speed of what users are able to achieve within the new Forge tools inspires new and old Forgers to bring their creations to life.

Basin

Mike Byron, 343 Multiplayer Producer

Basin started out well over a year ago as a side project of mine to stress test large scale Forge map creation. Originally built in my spare moments between meetings, I quickly created a prototype I called Gulch. I loaded up all previous descendants of Blood Gulch on one screen and selectively chose from all the versions to create something that felt both familiar and new at the same time. After our first play test, it was apparent that A) Forge could handle making large scale maps filled with custom terrain and structures and B) everyone couldn’t stop having a great time and laughing during our play tests.

With a good foundation in place, and everyone wanting to see the map brought to completion, I handed it off to Jeremy who polished the experience and really took the map to the next level.

Jeremy Raymond, 343 Multiplayer Designer

Before working on BTB maps, I was finishing up on some Warzone levels and looking forward to a new challenge. When asked, I excitedly jumped at the chance and took to Forge to learn the tool to help support the Forgers’ visit. I hopped into the tool by taking over on Gulch for Mike. Firstly, I wanted to see how good a structure could look in Forge, so I spent my time creating a neutral base in the center of the map. I was psyched at what the tool could do and how the new structure looked, and even amazed our art team with how good things could look in Forge. It was a bit of deja vu, like reliving my modding days all over again where I got the chance to art out my own levels. It was a blast. Playtests went well and people loved the center structure. After sizing down a bit, fully rebuilding the terrain, and adding more infantry friendly paths, Basin was ready for the masses.

Guillotine

  The Psycho Duck, Community Forger

When we were given the chance to reimagine classic BTB maps, I knew I had to tackle Headlong. Bravo note: everyone thought he was crazy for trying to tackle Headlong. For one thing, the vertical nature of the map was sure to be a great fit for Halo 5's mechanics with the appropriate tweaks. Of equal importance, though, was the opportunity to really see how far this new Forge could be pushed. Headlong is one of the most complex and intricate maps in the series' history, and forgers have been trying to recreate it since Halo 3. This was the first time the map could truly be remade with a high level of detail and without suffering from any performance issues.

With Guillotine, I set out to create more of a true remake rather than a reimagining, though I absolutely took the opportunity to make a few adjustments; a 1:1 remake was not going to make sense for H5. I took an organic approach to map scaling, tuning each individual jump and line of sight to make the most sense for Halo 5's mechanics and sandbox. Thanks to multiselect and grouping features, I was able to continually readjust scaling of different areas over the course of the week until I got things just right. Studying how players like StrongSide moved around the map helped me make informed decisions about these scaling adjustments (and allowed me to add lots of new trick jumps). Another thing I wanted to improve was Headlong's vehicle circuit, which was originally somewhat convoluted. I opened up a new movement option for vehicles, allowing them to ramp up to the broken bridge landing, jump through the hanging basket, land behind Blue Building (Soda Room), and re-enter the circuit from there. This new route not only preserves the travel time balance which the original circuit created but also opens up some exciting new options as well.

It was great to work with the devs to make a few other tweaks to this classic design and to get some additional awesome visual assets in place, such as the 'Hog billboard, the cranes, and some other cool details. Hopefully, you enjoy playing Guillotine in Big Team Battle this week!

Mike Byron and Adrian Bedoya, 343 Multiplayer Team

Headlong was one of the very first maps we considered when we originally huddled around Quinn’s desk to see which maps would serve best as inspiration for Halo 5 BTB maps. Despite everyone loving the map, we quickly dismissed it as being too ambitious and complex to be done in the Forgers’ timeframe. However, the very first thing Dana (The Psycho Duck) asked when he arrived was if we had thought of making Headlong in Forge - he then informed us of his intent to recreate it. After we finished laughing out loud at him (and saying he was a crazy person), he assured us he could do it. Within a couple days Headlong was there and ready to be played in all its urban cityscape glory.

Dana did such a magnificent job faithfully recreating the level, that after he left, our work mainly concentrated on the gameplay design and overall aesthetics - perfectly placing the weapons and spawns, intro and outro cameras, as well as harvesting tons of new Forge assets. The map is populated with everything from street lamps, cranes, and soda machines to civilian vehicles and the Warthog billboard (we even demanded our concept lead, Darren Bacon, create a new billboard for us to use in the map). We love the Forge tools and the scale of creations possible with them is endlessly exciting. Mind your head as you roam through the streets of Guillotine.

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These Big Team Battle maps drop this week, and development on more is already underway. Next up, we’ll dig into some of the new REQs coming with the Battle of Shadow and Light update, and we’ll start with an introduction from designer Chris Blohm.

New REQs

Chris Blohm, Investment Lead

With only time for a breath after launching Halo 5, we are already at our first event and drop of new REQs. In Battle of Shadow and Light, there is a lot to be excited about.

First priority for us was to establish a cadence of new REQs. Second, we wanted to release a large set of content from across the types in the collection to make sure there was something for everyone. We made sure there was plenty of REQs of all rarities so we didn’t hide the new items only in Gold packs, and hopefully everyone has already seen something they want.

I was asked to pick some favorites and talk about them. I find this task more difficult than I should. There is a lot to love. Have you seen that new assassination? Outside of stabbing and kneeing a knife through a Spartan helmet, if I had to pick a new REQ, I really dig the Green Machine skins. They are bright and bold and if you are carrying them, they look great and let everyone know at a glance that you have the best skins in the game (so far).

I don't want to steal any thunder, but we are just getting started. I'm excited for Shadow and Light, but I also look forward to the next time I'm asked to talk to all of you.

REQs Revealed

Two weeks ago, we showed you a first look at the upcoming REQs, with only a few of the items filled in. Just last Thursday, we unveiled almost all of the new goodies, which include new LightRifles, weapon skins, vehicle variants, armors, helmets, emblems, and a new visor and assassination:

Two of the shiniest new REQs include the Shinobi and Tracer armor sets, with the Shinobi armor set coming in as an Ultra Rare REQ. Here’s some concept art (which you may remember seeing a sneak peek of) as well as background from artist Sam Brown:

The Shinobi armor is the spiritual successor to a certain ninja-themed armor that appeared in a previous Halo game. I wanted to find a balance of the armor having plating while still maintaining a futuristic look. Part of the challenge was designing a helmet with a good balance between having a face while still looking like a helmet. The final touch was an ornamental crest on the forehead to make it a bit unique.

Shinobi concept:

Shinobi final:

And, as an added bonus, here’s a look at an early mass out of the Tracer armor, plus a closer look at the final version:

Tracer concept:

Tracer final:

And, before we finish up the REQ goodness, here’s a closer look at a few more of our favorite REQs from the November drop:

Green Machine Battle Rifle Skin

Barbed Lance LightRifle

Dying Star LightRifle

Tundra Mantis (see more here)

Woodland Scorpion

Warzone Assault Tuning Changes

When we last spoke, we teased that the Warzone team was hard at work making some tuning tweaks to Warzone Assault based on player feedback, and these adjustments will be coming as part of the Battle of Shadow and Light update. Read on to get the scoop.

Lawrence Metten and Evan Sforza, Warzone Team

We’ve gotten a ton of fantastic feedback from the community around Warzone Assault, and, after crawling out from under the deluge of data we’ve collected, it became clear there were two issues we needed to address as soon as possible: players leveling too slowly and the heavy defender advantage.

Optimally, we’d prefer the victories of Warzone Assault games to be shared 50% attackers to 50% defenders, but right now, defenders are winning much more often. After donning our lab coats, heating our Erlenmeyers, and draining our retorts, we’ve distilled a few changes to address this.

Warzone Assault Updates:

  • Faster REQ leveling
  • Decreased base capture time from 20s to 16s
  • Reduced starting grenade count to 1

The most impactful change to Warzone Assault is an increased leveling speed. Currently, Warzone Assault can feel a little like Big Team Battle, where the majority of encounters are between loadout weapons and maybe a vehicle or two. By speeding up the rate at which players level, they’ll have access to more of the REQ cards they’ve earned, increasing the diversity of weaponry on the field, and allowing for more strategic options when both attacking or defending a base.

This leveling change was done by allowing players to symbiotically share in the experience of their kills. For every kill a player gets, they will award a small amount of experience to every one of their teammates. This will allow teams to level up a bit more uniformly than they do in regular Warzone. At the same time, this allows players who may not often reach the higher levels an opportunity to call in their most powerful REQs.

The next two changes are a bit smaller, but should go a long way in helping equalize the playing field between the attacking team and the defending team. The first of which is a four-second reduction in the time needed for the attackers to capture a base. Four seconds turns out to be a long time to keep all those crafty and oftentimes suicidal defenders from halting capture progress. What's more, given the capture time’s current value of twenty seconds, reducing it by four is actually a 20% reduction - a relatively sizeable decrease.

The second change we’ve made is a reduction to the starting grenade count of all players. Currently, all players start with two grenades. Given that attackers must be the ones to walk through the entrances to a base, it can mean they have to survive twenty-four grenades in order to establish a foothold in one of the capture zones. By spawning players with only one grenade, we reduce the effectiveness of defensively spamming entrances the moment any blips appear on radar.

Our internal playtests have gone exceedingly well, and we look forward to everyone getting hands on with the new changes when they go live this week. We’re confident Warzone Assault will be more balanced and closer to the frenetic and explosive experience Warzone is designed to be.

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We hope you’re excited for what’s on the way in the Battle of Shadow and Light update, which is currently set to release within the next few days. To get the scoop on exactly when the update will drop, stay tuned to @Halo on Twitter.

Waypoint Updates

Our friends on the Waypoint team have planned an update of their own this week, too. They’re sneaky and clever like that. For starters, we’ll see an improved post game carnage report (PGCR) for Arena and Warzone, including:

Improved Arena / Warzone PGCR

Weapons
You’ll see all of the weapons the player used in the round with kills, accuracy, and headshots.

Most Killed
You’ll see the player you killed the most, along with the amount of times you killed them.

Most Killed By
You’ll see the player who killed you the most, along with the amount of times they killed you.

Medals
You’ll see all of the medals the player has earned with an indication of how many times it was earned, ordered by times earned.

Updated stats trends are also on the way, including K/D and KDA, where you’ll see the last 10 matches trend with rolling average from the last 5 matches, and total kills and deaths, where you’ll see the trend for the last 10 matches.

Lastly, if you were at San Diego Comic-Con or Gamescom this Summer, you may have customized and 3D printed your very own Spartan with our friends at Sandboxr. Today, we're thrilled to announce that we've teamed with Sandboxr once again and beginning this Friday, you'll be able to 3D print your Halo 5: Guardians Spartan right here on Halo Waypoint.

Play of the Week

When searching for this week's play, we spotted some brave Spartans who inadvertently created the makings of two Warzone sister clips, both of which happened to include legendary examples of vehicle-to-vehicle boarding. We’re not sure how on earth this happened, but both players take brave routes, dip, dive, dodge, and dance around the battlefield, lay down a series of perfectly placed explosives, and live to tell the tale. This week’s plays come from Buckeyes 1810 and Harry Shrub.

You can watch Buckeyes 1810’s Boarding Bonanza here, and Harry’s clip here.

Community Spotlight: Halo Customs

Last week, we caught up with the guys over at HaloTracker, and this week, I took a moment to chat with The Psycho Duck (yes, a man of many talents) about what the crew at Halo Customs is building. Read on for the details!

Bravo: Hey, The Psyscho Duck! Tell us a bit about what you’re cooking up over at HaloCustoms.

Hey Bravo!  HaloCustoms has been around since late 2012 when we created the site with hopes of fostering a friendly, laid-back community centered around a system which allowed players to find like-minded individuals to game with. In the last three years, our vision hasn't changed much, but our lobby system has!

How does the system work? Can it really be this easy?

Using Xbox API, our brand new system allows players to create and join lobbies in real time. Hosts can easily send invites out from the lobby screen, and attendees can message the host with ease. Each lobby is also equipped with its own chat box to allow players to coordinate before partying up in-game. In addition to our more structured lobby system, we also support an LFG system which allows players to quickly find matches and additional players to hop into a game with right away.

Halo customs lobby finder

You mentioned that you’re using the Halo API – anything else you’ve got planned in pipeline?

In the future, we plan to utilize Halo 5's API to provide game history and other real time data within our lobby system.  The goal is to bridge the users' experience on the site with their experience in-game and to make that transition as seamless as possible.

Lastly, where can players stay up to date on the latest developments? Drop some links on us.

Our lobby system can be found at https://games.halocustoms.com/lobbies.  All of these features are tied into our forum (http://halocustoms.com/forum/) where we post news and host forge contests and other large events.  You can also find us on Twitter @Halo_Customs.

Thanks for joining us this week!

And that, my friends, will do for this update. We’ll see you in the Big Team Battle playlist this week, and perhaps even with some new armor, skins, and other wearables.

Until then,

Bravo

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