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A Note from bs Angel

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Sometimes, I skip breakfast. Monday was not one of those days.

I spend most mornings (and sometimes entire days) very hungry. When I arrived at the studio Monday, I quickly realized this day would be different. Spread across kitchen tables, desks, and even the senior management board room, were colorful, leprechaun-adorned boxes of Lucky Charms. Luckily, this held me over until green bagels were delivered (note: bs angel definitely does not approve of green bagels), which held me over until green banana nut muffins arrived (she didn’t like those either), which held me over until green rice crispy treats appeared. By the end of the day, I ate a ton of St. Patrick’s Day-themed treats, all of which were delicious, and none of which were approved by bs angel due to their holiday hue. The important thing to note here is that holidays here at 343 are awesome, as long as you’re okay with food coloring.

We’ve got a few things to talk about this week, (one of those things features a special guest who is much taller than a leprechaun, but not much taller than an Unggoy), so let’s get into the details, starting with Matchmaking.

Matchmaking Playlist Update

This week, Extraction returned to Matchmaking alongside Proving Ground, a new Battle Rifle start playlist. We got some great feedback so far, and appreciate your input regarding map pool, game types, and more as we continue to add to the playlist. Next week, we’ll have news regarding Squad DLC and an update to the Flood playlist, but for now, we have a new Community Choice Poll.

Community Choice Poll: Big Team Battle

Here are the details:

Neutral Flag
Lots of players, but only one Flag. Bring it back to your base to score and be ready to run it again!

Legendary Slayer BR
Big Team Slayer with standard UNSC goodness: Battle Rifles, Assault Rifles, and Frag Grenades.

Team Snipers
Be stealthy, be sneaky, but don’t poke your head out too far. Because the other team will snipe it off.

Head here to vote on the Waypoint forums[voting closed!]. Voting will be open for approximately four days. Next week we’ll announce the Community Choice winner along with the Matchmaking Update!

Next up, we’ve got a pretty special segment from a guest writer you likely know and love. Please allow me to now hand it over to our very own bs angel.

A Note from bs angel

My first day at 343 Industries was September 13, 2010. I completed orientation (no, I will not say inappropriate jokes while at work; yes, I will make numerous innocent remarks about balls, every single one of which will be about the game type present in Halo multiplayer) and made my way to the EMP Museum. Typically an institution focusing on music, sci-fi, and pop culture, that night it transformed into the perfect venue for celebrating the launch of a new Halo game. That’s right, my first day was the day Halo: Reach launched.

I spent the evening manning kiosks and watching fans play the very game that would soon be spinning in their Xbox 360s. If there was one prevalent sentiment I felt that night, it was the feeling of knowing I found my home away from home – a job where I would be surrounded by people who not only love Halo as much as I do, but also understand the power of the franchise and the fans who celebrate it with us.

If I seem a little sentimental, it’s because I am. I’ve loved every second I’ve spent as Community Manager for 343, and it’s because of this love that I’ve accepted a new position within the studio. In a matter of days, my new title will be "Studio Operations PM." It’s not particularly flashy nor impressive (I requested Chief Cat Consultant but was denied), but the potential impact I will have on the studio, and thus the franchise, is enticing, exciting, and, when you look at our goals, essential.

I joined 343 because I love Halo, I stayed because I love 343, and it’s the passion for both that takes me into my new job, where I will focus on ensuring the studio is an environment in which our developers can do their very best work. The importance of that should not be underestimated, as we are working on some incredible projects slated to release this year, next, and beyond. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: good things are coming…and a lot of ‘em, at that.

I’m not bidding you adieu, because I’m still going to be here – five desks up and three rows over from my usual spot, in fact. So, as I don’t have any goodbyes to say, I’m instead going to share my most bestest and memorablest experiences I had while in the role of Community Manager. And yes, bestest and memorablest are totally words. ‘Cause I said so (clicks “Add to dictionary” and proceeds).

Norman Reedus – I love him for his brains 

bs angel and Norman Reedus

It’s Emerald City Comicon 2011, and I’m working the booth. We’re showing off Halo: Reach and get a request from a handler whose celebrity clients want to stop by and play the game. Apparently the two gentlemen are from The Boondock Saints, which I haven’t seen because clearly it’s a football movie and I’m not into football (I’ve heard of the Saints, you can’t fool me!). I spent 10 minutes or so showing a ruggedly handsome man the basics of the game, wondering the whole time if someone hid all of the world’s razors, if he was half Teen Wolf/half Chia pet, and other totally realistic scenarios that would explain the Brillo Pads of facial hair exploding out of his jowls.

Fast forward to last fall when I discover the good, clean fun that is The Walking Dead. I can’t shake the feeling that Daryl is oddly familiar when it struck me: it’s the dude from Comicon… the guy I taught how to play Halo! I’d like to think his aptitude for headshots came from those very special 10 minutes we shared. I mean, it can’t be a coincidence, right? RIGHT? (You’re welcome, Norman. Call me. Wink wink.)

VGAs – bs angel's new clothes 

bs angel 2010 VGAs

Three months after starting my job, I was sent to LA to cover the 2010 VGAs. I was going to be on the red carpet, interviewing the personalities walking the length of the vibrant colored path. Being the non-high maintenance person that I am, I spent hour after hour and evening after evening shopping for the perfect outfit, planning the perfect hairstyle, deciding on the perfect makeup, and selecting the perfect accessories.

It was only after our video was released and I read dozens of comments on YouTube asking if I was naked did I realize that while my shimmery, strapless gown was beautiful, it perhaps wasn’t the right choice for a situation when you’re being taped from the shoulders up.

Lesson learned, YouTube, lesson learned.

Xbox One Commercial – And start feeling…

I don’t have a bucket list. Well, I didn’t until I took part in the Xbox One Anthem. When I was approached by the Xbox team to take part in a super-secret video, I knew it would be an amazing experience. I was dolled up before the shoot (“Yes, you may do my makeup with all your fancy-schmancy MAC stuffz.”), had people adjusting my hair in between takes (“Excuse me, I have a single strand out of place!”), and was followed by a crew of approximately 10 people through the woods, while I attempted to feel natural, and also alive (pretty sure I failed on both accounts).

The video was shrouded in confidentiality, so I didn’t get to see it until it launched. When I saw it starred Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams (among others), I ran to my desk and immediately started a bucket list. First thing on it was “be featured in a video with Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams.” First thing to be crossed off was “be featured in a video with Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams.”

Oh, and did I mention I was in a video with Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams? ‘Cause I was. And let me tell you, did I ever feel ALIVE…

Cortana VO – I will not allow you to leave this sound booth

bs angel as Cortana

There’s a certain part of game development where campaign levels are fleshed out enough to begin dropping in voice overs during important parts of each mission. This is often before final VO is recorded with our professional voice actors. During that interim period, members of the studio sometimes read the lines so placeholders can be implemented in pivotal moments. During this part of Halo 4’s production, I put my name in the hat for Cortana and was selected by an audio engineer who was apparently unaware of my ability to perfectly replicate the intolerable screech of nails on a chalkboard with each and every spoken word.

The experience I had in the recording studio was one of the most memorable I had during Halo 4 production. While the recordings were provisional, I read them in the real sound lab, received direction from the audio team and creative director of the game, and truly felt, for a few brief hours, like the character I was portraying. I refused to play through those missions for as long as my VO was in the game (I didn’t need to hear myself to know how truly bad I am at voice acting) but I do remember walking out of the studio that day with a sense of despair that I couldn’t completely shake for several hours.

Spoiler: Cortana has a rough time in Halo 4. And on that day, so did I.

When You Wish Upon a Star…

bs angel Make a Wish

One of my core beliefs is using your voice to make a positive impact, especially if said voice is louder than average. Thankfully the studio mirrors those sentiments, which means I often have the honor of hosting Make-A-Wish visits. Meeting these kiddos has made more of an impact on me than I can express, and certainly not one that I can discuss without emotion.

One of those kiddos was Mathieu. After successfully battling cancer three times in his 16 years of existence, the fourth took its toll. We chatted regularly during this trying time, talking about both significant and insignificant topics. Something he said during one of those conversations stuck with me, so much that I knew we needed to make it a reality. After recognizing his time was fleeting, he offhandedly said, “I wish I could live forever in Halo.”

We had him take a series of headshots, and then modeled an in-game Marine after him. His character is in Halo: Anniversary, and arguably one of the most important in the game. He’s the person that lets the Master Chief out of his cryo-chamber, and he also teaches the player the controls for playing the game. We made that choice because Mathieu, to the very end, wanted to help others. And to this day he continues doing just that, inside the Halo universe.

Real-life Warthog – I call turret

bs angel on a warthog

Up until this point, you may think my job is completely glamorous and I’m the luckiest person on the planet. While the latter is true, the former is not. My day-to-day responsibilities are typically mundane, and sometimes consist of making sure parcels arrive safe and sound at the studio. In fact, one time I drove to a city almost 30 minutes away (SO FAR) to confirm the intact arrival of an incoming shipment.

When I arrived at the warehouse, I was told our package had, in fact, reached its desired destination, and I should verify it was in acceptable shape. This particular time, that meant I needed to sit in the driver’s seat. And the passenger seat. And hop on the turret for good measure. Sure, I was unable to see over it (I’m not that tall – DON’T JUDGE) but that didn’t matter. I had a job to do, and I was going to do it. ‘Cause I’m that dedicated. And I like joy rides. But more the dedicated thing. ‘Cause yeah.

You

bs angel thank you

While I consider myself incredibly blessed to have the aforementioned experiences, none of those things compare to the relationships I’ve had the pleasure of building with many of you. From receiving your emails to meeting you at events to participating in .gif wars on Twitter to engaging in formally arranged cat picture exchanges, getting to know those of you on the other side of the controller has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. Some of you I’ve been friends with since the days of Halo 2. Others I’ve met after the release of Halo 4. But regardless of whether you fall into one of those groups or somewhere in between, I’m thankful for our interactions. My own little world – and the Halo franchise – is a better place because of them <3.

And now, I leave the community in the hands of several capable individuals, some of which you know by name (Alfa! Charlie! Foxtrot?!), and others that quietly and effectively work behind-the-scenes (Uncle Dolan!). So, I’ll see you on the virtual battlefields, my friends. Until then…

#heartz #hugz #andallthatjazz

<3,

bs angel

Friday Live Stream – 3/21 1PM PST

If you got a kick out of the above stories, you’re not alone. In my experiences both as a community member and a member of the community team here at 343, I saw firsthand just how lucky the Halo community has been to have a community manager that cared so deeply for the franchise and its fans. Although she did (still does) everything in her power to make me lose every multiplayer match I play, and made (still makes) fun of me for playing Action Sack, there were a few times when we got along, although food bribes and delicious (non-green colored) snacks were generally involved. The community team will miss having her on board. But as she said earlier, I’ve confirmed that luckily for me, and unluckily for her, she’s still within waving distance, just a few desks over. This means that there will still be plenty of team killing, high-pitched squeals, and cat pictures around the studio, and we’re pretty sure this is okay. We’re not sure if desktop computers will still be bursting into flames, but we have a volunteer junior fireman on staff seated adjacent to bs angel’s new desk. You know, just in case.

This Friday, March 21st, bs angel, myself, and a few others will be hopping on a live stream at 1pm PST to chat about some of the above stories and more, because it’s been a while since we’ve hung out. We’ll be streaming at twitch.tv/xbox, chatting with you, and also showcasing a long overdue Halo match-up. Oh yes, read on.

Over the past few months, you may have read through the Twittersphere or interwebz that we’ve hired some talented Halo players to help us work on some of our projects. Internally, we call this group of eight players the Halo Pro team. For many moons, we dreamed of them representing the studio near and far, winning championships on our home turf, foreign lands, and eventually distant planets. This Friday, the dream will come true: we give you the first ever 343 Pro Team vs. Community Pro Team match-up!

Our pro team players have multiple tournament wins (including national championships), but we’re expecting that our professional community opponents will be quite the match. Between the Halo 4 Global Champion Ace, the Halo 4 Infinity Challenge winner StrongSide, and professional veterans Flamesword and Snakebite, the 343 pro team certainly has their work cut out for them, and we’re pretty excited to check out the action.

The friendly exhibition series will include a best of 5 series of Ricochet matches, and we’re expecting lots of interceptions, long-range tosses, and good times. Come hang out and join us this Friday! 

Until next week,

- Bravo

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