HCS Daytona by UMG
We're t-minus one week until competitive Halo invades the sunshine state [woohoo! - Grim, FL native] for HCS Daytona by UMG! Team, FFA and spectator passes are still available so head over to UMGgaming.com and register now! HCS Daytona kicks off Friday, May 12 and runs through Sunday, May 14. We hope to see you there!
Open Bracket Placement Cup
This weekend will be the second (and final!) online placement cup for open bracket seeding at Daytona. Here are some important details for Placement Cup #2:
- Date: May 6 – 7
- Watch: Sunday, May 7 @ 1PM PT on Beam.Pro/Halo & Twitch.tv/Halo @ 1PM PT. Casted by Walshy and Tsquared
- Format: Double elimination open tournament. Best of 5 until Best of 7 Grand Finals.
- Game Settings: Final HCS Summer 2017 settings (v3) – stay tuned for any final adjustments from v2 to v3.
- Stakes: Winner receives overall 8th seed at HCS Daytona and plays in Pro Groups on Friday, May 12
To register and learn more head over to MillennialEsports.gg!
On the topic of HCS, the final update to the HCS Playlist for the Summer Season dropped last Friday afternoon. You can check it out in-game now and read more about it right HERE.
As you may have already heard, Rock ‘n’ Rail is the new social rotational playlist in Halo 5! (Don’t worry about Extermination, it will be back in due time.) We’ve tried to replicate the flying, floating, and falling that you remember from the original as closely as possible. We asked Sara Stern, our MP Designer, to provide a little more information on the mode’s changes:
Sara: While this new iteration of Rock ‘n’ Rail is inspired by Halo 4’s beloved Rock ‘n’ Rail mode, it’s been specifically tailored to better fit the Halo 5 sandbox. Instead of basing gameplay around the use of jetpacks, we’ve altered the gravity, stabilizer time, and jump height settings to bring combat off the ground and into the air.
Halo 5’s Spartan Abilities allow for increased mobility when airborne, which made hitting shots with standard rockets and railguns a bit more difficult than desired. The SPNKr Prime and Whiplash can both snipe mid-air targets, and the Whiplash grants you a second round in case you miss your first shot. Equipping the SPNKr Prime grants you damage resistance, speed boost, and a further increase to your jump height.
Thanks Sara! I’m definitely a fan of the increased firepower in this version, and I hope all of you are too.
We're going to hold a 343 Playdate Monday, May 8 - at 4PM PT. You know the drill - if you match up with us you'll get the 343 Ice Unicorn Skin! We hope to see you online (and in our crosshairs!).
Great news! Mark your calendars Warzone fans, we've got this month's rotational updates locked and loaded:
- Warzone Turbo will be back in action on May 12!
- Warzone Warlords is back in service the weekend of May 26-29!
The May-June 2017 ranked season kicks off today and your reward for finishing placement matches is the sweet emblem you see above. This season was a wee bit delayed in part due to some tweaks and new features being added behind the scenes by the team. 343's Josh Menke shared details in this week's Matchmaking Update:
New Season Features
- Soft Forfeit
- It will be "safe" to leave if someone has already left the match (from either team)
- No need to stay on to prevent a ban or extra point loss
- No ban if someone has already left
- No extra CSR loss penalty if someone has already left
- You still lose the same amount of CSR as a normal loss
- Leavers always lose CSR, regardless of how their team does after, so it’s better to stay if you’re on the winning / advantaged team until the other team leaves.
- Reduced early-season wait times for higher-skilled players
- High-skilled players sometimes get MMRs that are higher than is needed
- These will now be truncated to a reasonable value at the beginning of the season
- They are still high enough to prevent very uneven matches, but low enough to allow more timely matchmaking
- Even Stricter CSR boundaries: Onyx population reduced again
- The previously fixed inflation bug had inflated this despite the changes
- We should see even stricter boundaries in the new season
previously added Features:
- Expanded Switching back to Balanced bug is fixed
- CSR inflation drastically reduced
- CSR smurfing incentives greatly reduced
- Better CSR gains for high-skilled players early in the season
- Reduced wait times for SWAT and FFA
With all of these updates the May-June season should be a great one! As always, stay tuned to the Matchmaking Feedback forum for Josh's weekly updates.
In case you missed it, Colony - the newest leader for Halo Wars 2 - released late last week and is now available on Xbox One and Windows 10! Colony introduces several new interesting units and abilities and while some players are still debating the pros and cons of each I think it's safe to say that one area we can all universally agree on is that the Lekgolo voice-over is AWESOME! If you love the Lekgolo's linguistics as much as I do you're in luck - the team passed over a selection of choice dialog snippets for your aural pleasure: (right-click 'save as' to grab these .WAV files for yourself!)
Halo Wars 2 Balance change preview
Right before I hit publish for today's update, I got a hot-off-the-presses mail from the Halo Wars 2 team with some details for a mid-season balance update they're looking to release in the near future. (I don't have a firm date yet but it's meant to be a mid-season update so it's not being held until the next DLC drop) These changes are the result of player feedback (thank you!) and combing through game data. Here's a preview of the upcoming Blance changes you can expect to see in Halo Wars 2 soon:
- Spirit Support - Now drops a veterancy level 2 Hunter (Previously veterancy level 3 Hunter)
- Flamewall ability cooldown time increased from 45 to 60 seconds
- Flamewall damage versus buildings reduced by 70%
Flamehog w/ Flame Mortar Upgrade
- Flame Mortar damage over time effect reduced damage by 35%
- Flame Mortar damage over time effect, reduced damage vs buildings by 40%
- Flame Mortar range decreased by 14%
- Flame Mortar fire rate reduced by 0.5 seconds, overall impact damage per second not affected, but will create fewer DOT scorch areas.
- Reduced damage versus buildings by 20%
- Reduced duration from 25 seconds to 20 seconds
- Hunter Captain - Move speed increased by 19%
- Sitterer - (bug fix) Now receives upgrade benefits from Global Vehicle Upgrades
- Vehicle Symbiotes - (bug fix) No longer shows buff effect through Fog of War
- Banished leader now start with 3 Grunt squads instead of 2
- Grunt squad resource gather speeds increased by 32%
Engineers - HP reduced by 20%
- Basic speed increased by 15%
- Fuel rod projectile velocity increased to help hit moving
- Move speed increased 11%
- Explosive rounds upgrade now also increases damage by 15%
- Line of sight reduced by 12.%
- Locust cost increased from 250/175 to 300/200
Wraith - Scorch projectile initial damage reduced by 50%
- Basic DPS increased by 15%
- Drone delay before healing reduced from 10 seconds to 7 seconds
- HP increased by 10%
- Cannon DPS increased by 10%
- (bug fix) Unit ability Cannister Shell now fires almost instantly
When these balance changes go live it'll happen magically behind the scenes with a very small download (this isn't a "patch"). You'll get a prompt that "Halo Wars 2 has been updated and needs to restart."
Lastly, Dan over at Creative Assembly also sent over a quick note in response to increased forum chatter from players who are accusing the Halo Wars 2 AI opponents of cheating. Now them's fightin' words! One of the core design goals for the game was to make sure the AI plays with a fair and human-like approach without any cheats, buffs or advantages. Here's the word straight from the AI designer:
Recently we have been seeing a few threads discussing the skirmish AI and its cheats. We wanted to assure players that the skirmish AI is designed to not have any form of cheating – it has to abide every regular rule that you have to deal with as a player.
This means that for example the resourcing, unit production, scouting all work as if the AI players were human. If you do find that something looks off (like the micro-management during Glassing that you mentioned here), please let us know, because those are bugs and are not intended!
So there you have it - the Skirmish AI isn't cheating! If you need some tips to improve your skillz head down below and see two Halo Wars 2 unit strategy guides we've highlighted this week.
Activity detected! We've got blips incoming! I'll be sad if I'm ever forced to get rid of this radar, won't someone please think of the poor blips!?
- Hall of Fame, baby! Last week we shared the news that Halo: Combat Evolved was a finalist for inclusion in the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Today the results are in and we're thrilled to say that Halo: CE has been added to the World Video Game Hall of Fame! Halo joins a prestigious and legendary list of titles that includes classics like Doom, The Legend of Zelda, Pac-Man, and Pong. As a lifelong Halo fan I'm hardly surprised - to me, there was never any doubt as Halo is a game that has touched the lives of millions, spawned an incredible global community, and helped move the genre and industry forward. The fact that I've spent over a decade of my life working with the franchise and spent years working alongside the Bungie team that created Halo: CE makes this acknowledgment even more personal and awesome. Congratulations Halo, and thank you to everyone across the community who has supported the franchise for the past 15+ years to earn this spot in the Hall of Fame.
- This month the beloved animated anthology Halo: Legends returns to Netflix! If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for? It's still one of my all-time favorite Halo franchise endeavors so do yourself a favor and check it out.
- 343's Kiki Wolfkill joined The Ringer podcast to discuss "How Writers Add Story to Multiplayer-First Video Games." Kiki, and Michael Chu of Overwatch, share their thoughts on "grappling with storytelling in games." You can read more at the the site or listen for yourself here.
343 Team Spotlight
Not everyone at 343 (or any game studio for that matter) is tasked with actually building games. Making games and running a studio is a full blown business so this week I'm shining the spotlight on a corner of the building that historically operates behind the scenes but is an instrumental part in just about every facet of the studio's operations. Please join me in welcoming Mark Yelverton!
Hey Mark! Welcome to the 343 Team Spotlight! To get things started can you tell us what your role is here at 343 and how long you’ve been with the team?
Mark: I joined 343 about a two and half years ago and work in the business side of the studio as the Franchise Business Manager for Halo Wars 2 and Halo Wars: Definitive Edition. My role is essentially to be the connective tissue between all the various functions involved in game development to make sure the title is an awesome experience for our fans.
What were you up to prior to joining 343? What’s your background?
Mark: I have two degrees, a BS in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin (HOOK EM!!) [Roll Tide ;) - Grim] and a MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas with a focus in Finance. Before joining 343, I worked for the Xbox Finance team in a Finance manager role responsible for projects spanning the entire Xbox business. Since these projects didn’t sit completely in one line of business (i.e. console), they quickly got bounced for me to dive into. Two of my favorite projects were around analyzing pricing for Xbox products and landing the NFL / Microsoft partnership as the finance lead valuing the deal.
Did you always want to work in the games industry? Why?
Mark: Growing up I played a ton of games. Mostly on the PC early on (Command and Conquer was my jam) and then switching to Xbox once "BillG" came on stage at CES in 2001 to announce it. I was so mad I let my Xbox LIVE subscription drop in college or else I would be right up there with Phil with 15 years on the service (I guess 11 is okay too). That said, I kind of sat in the middle of all the “cliques” in my youth. I loved playing and was good at sports - Football, Hockey, Soccer, anything competitive. I was smart and did well in school, especially problem solving and math-like subjects. I liked making videos (some creative and some with my friends doing stupid things). I didn’t really know what to identify as and where to focus, so I didn’t.
I made my way all the way to undergrad without clear focus and it was only when I started to dive deeper into the areas I liked did I discover gaming and analytics were a perfect intersection for me. Through my “re-focus” attempt in grad school, I was lucky to get an opportunity to come to Microsoft to show what I can do. I joined the Finance Rotation program which allowed me to have four different jobs over two years. Through those four experiences I knew I wanted to be in Xbox but needed to hone in on the type of analytical role. On my fourth and final rotation, I landed the perfect role working for my first “Full Time” manager, Tim Stuart, on the central finance team. Been diving deep into Xbox ever since!
What prompted you to join 343?
Mark: Who wouldn’t want to be a part of 343?!? I mean, Master Chief and running an Ethernet cable from my room down to the router to play Halo CE through a make-shift multiplayer service before LIVE came and contributed to many late-night 4v4 split-screen multiplayer matches in college! When I had the opportunity to take my analytical skills and be on a kick ass team, that was an easy decision. One of the best moments of my career was seeing my name in the Halo 5 credits (right next to Phil’s)…what a cool moment!
What does being a Franchise Business Manager entail? What’s a typical ‘day in the life’ for you here at 343?
Mark: It is really hard to answer that question as my day and focus is all over the place. I think the breadth is the thing I gravitate towards since I get to see so many things. One day it could be landing a contract with Creative Assembly to develop Halo Wars 2, the next day it could be spending hours down in the playtest lab giving feedback on Halo 5 before it was launched. My “seat” at the table is through the financials, so typically anything financial related is something I am responsible for analyzing, approving, driving, and/or influencing. A project I recently worked on was partnering with THQ Nordic to bring a PC boxed project to the European Economic area. I was responsible for setting contract terms, coordinating box art / assets, monitoring performance, and better understanding future opportunities. Essentially think of me a Dev project manager for the money the studio brings in.
When people think of a game studio they always think of designers, engineers, artists, producers, etc… But a game studio requires more than just the people that actually build the game content itself. What’s it like being a “businessy” type person in a studio that’s predominantly comprised of “development” personnel?
Mark: While I may hold a different function than the rest of the studio, at the heart we are all gamers and have tons of experience with all types of genres and platforms. So working with all the “development” personnel just means I bring a different perspective to trying to make kick-ass games. So much of our day is talking about games and what we like and don’t like. I am just now getting around to playing Witcher 3 and I find myself dissecting it and asking myself “why do you like this game?” as that helps me when doing my business-y things in my day-to-day.
What’s a common misconception out there that you think players have regarding the business of game development / running a game studio?
Mark: I think people think of the business people as trying to suck money out of players. That isn’t our job. Our job is to help create great experiences for gamers and then the financials will follow. If you make a game to just make money, I think you miss the mark from the onset. We at 343 want to bring great experiences to people’s lives.
How does the business team help inform and guide studio priorities in a world where we have “pie in the sky” creative ideas that aren’t always in alignment with fiscal reality?
Mark: I think everyone knows what it is like to have resource constraints. We do it in our day-to-day lives. I would love to have a pair of Bowers and Wilkins 800 D3 speakers in my house, but I know that isn’t in the realm of reasonableness (I like movies and music). We have to take the same mentality when creating games and our job is to help create the goal posts where the dev team can operate and how we can maximize positive gamer experiences within those constraints. If I from a business perspective can find ways to lower costs, then we are able to make the goal posts bigger, enabling more we can do as a studio.
What other groups do you partner with the most within 343? What about across Microsoft as a whole? (LCA, etc..)
Mark: Is everyone an okay answer? Just sitting in my part of the building are the people I interact with daily: Marketing, PR, HR, Finance, Legal, Biz Dev, Game Teams. We also team up with Console, Xbox LIVE, Accessories, Store, Azure…so many. [It's OK Mark, we work together but I won't take it personally you left out the Community Team :) - ske7ch]
What do you enjoy the most about your role here? What’s the biggest challenge you face as a Franchise Business Manager?
Mark: One of the greatest things about the role is something I alluded to before, working with so many teams. I get to see facets of the business I never would have seen in a more focused role. At the same time, all those people create the biggest challenge as my job is ensuring all parties are informed and bought off on actions of 343. Sometimes this is quick and other times can require a few cycles to get to a common ground.
What are some of the tools of the trade required in your role? I assume you aren’t using 3D Studio Max or Visual Studio?
Mark: I would say the tool of the trade is the ability to think analytically. I leverage Excel a lot but all the program does is create another way to “write code” in the language of formulas and functions. When evaluating various business opportunities for 343, I need to understand the various inputs and how they come together to tell the story. Excel will be the nails and hammer, but the real magic is when you are able to take complex and detailed information and boil it down to its key points.
What advice do you have for fans out there might want to follow in your footsteps some day? What skillsets are necessary to succeed? What kind of experience/education is required?
Mark: The easiest way to land a role like this is start early thinking what you enjoy and are good at. Once you figure that out, it is easier to figure out how to make a career out of it. I attribute my early professional success to my ability to have efficiencies in Excel and taking two steps when others take four to solve a problem. So, I would say Excel is a powerful tool someone in my role can leverage, but even more powerful is the thinking behind creating efficiencies and problem solving. Learn to “tell your story” because there are thousands of people gunning for the same position you are. How can you stand out?
What’s your favorite Halo game and/or mode? Why?
Mark: Ohhh that is hard, but recently I would say Super Fiesta. There were so many times I would come to work and ask the Business Manager for Halo 5 when Super Fiesta was going to be a permanent mode…finally!!! We sit in open space here at 343 and I frequently get three of my other co-workers to hop on for some rounds to break up the day at the office. Whenever someone gets “The Answer” while playing, we call it out and protect that person since we typically can do some major damage with those exploding bullets!
Any parting words or final thoughts you’d like to leave with our community?
Mark: Keep providing feedback. Good or bad, we are listening and taking the “data” in as we think about our next business-y opportunity! We love Halo just as much as you and can always learn from diverse perspectives!
Thanks for taking the time to be a part of the Spotlight, Mark! Readers - if you have any requests for a future spotlight victim, let me know!
The Community Spotlight is working overtime of late on account of so much awesome stuff coming out of the Halo community! This week we've got a litlte bit of everything - an accomplishment a decade in the making, incredible cosplay, disgustingly cool art, plenty of screenshots, and a brand new Forge map contest!
Halo Customs par for the course Battlegolf Contest!
Our friends over at Halocustoms.com are kicking off a Forge contest to build new and unqiue Battlegolf experiences to Halo 5! Here's the scoop: