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If you play any Team Hardcore you should notice that we fixed Oddball – now the time limit is the very reasonable 250 instead of the ludicrously short 100.
We’ve been doing take home tests (wander home with a debug unit and play from home on a “real life” interwebs connection) for a few weeks now, testing what will eventually be our first autoupdate. That update addresses a number of nigh-on invisible issues with the game and a couple of more obvious ones. A simple example is that we’re fixing the commando shoulders bug. It’s too late to fix it for medal-gathering players, so the simplest thing to do is open it up for everyone.
One of the other fixes we’re looking at more carefully, is a gameplay tweak. Melee has certainly worked in Halo 3, but seen more than its fair share of criticism. We’re working to remedy some of its actual flaws, and perhaps just as importantly make aesthetic changes to some of its apparent flaws. As ever, we’re applying our not inconsiderable test resources to this matter – but more vitally, since much of the complaint comes from the community, competitive and otherwise, we’re working with that community to make sure that the revamped melee is a thing of beauty. We’ll tell you more about that process and more importantly, update you on when you can expect this change, in the next couple of weeks.
My Map Impressions
So the second DLC pack is at a stage of semi-completion, which means that everything is largely in place and all that remains is test, gameplay tuning and a bunch of graphic tweaking and enhancement. The real names have all been decided and we just finished the map descriptions. They’re still a little ways off – thanks to the rigors of the test process.
I’ll talk about the biggest one first. And it’s HUGE. For the purposes of this, we’ll codename it Cottonball. I guess a game of Big Team Snipers would be possible, but anything else would be comical without vehicles. This is very much a large scale objective game map – designed first and foremost with CTF and Assault in mind. The map is almost, but not-quite-perfectly symmetrical. Some natural geology prevents each base from being a simple mirror image of the other. I say natural, but the map is set on a Halo, so, natural’s not exactly correct.
The map leads to the kind of long, drawn out megabattles that hearken back to the days of the original Halo and the crucial to and fro of an epic LAN party. Its inclusion of a surprising vehicle or two may make it even more interesting than it already sounds.
I’ve played this a lot (although less, by necessity than the other two) and I have found a couple of very compelling and addictive rhythms. The map is large enough so that even when a team makes off with your flag, there’s still a lot of ground you can use to catch up. The other is that each side has some wonderful shortcuts – natural and mechanical – that may not make great flag escape routes, but might let a mobile pursuer cut off escapees.
And I know I am in the minority on this – but I sometimes have trouble knowing precisely where I am headed on a more confusing map – I would call out Epitaph as an example –often I will burst through a door thinking I am headed to say, the Active Camo power up, only to find I am not where I thought I was. For some reason, massive and labyrinthine as it is, this new map never confuses me. I always know which way is up – and that fact has saved my bacon and our flag, several times.
The next one, we’ve already codenamed Purple Reign, may be the last one to get a graphical addition – as one of our artists had an inspired and simple idea at the last second. Technically it’s content complete, but hey, it wouldn’t hurt to add something small and fascinating.
The map, as we’ve mentioned before, is perfectly symmetrical, slightly too big to be small and slightly too small to be medium. It has some excellent line of sight and well thought-out verticality problems and opportunities. Bridges make short work of long open sections and a central hub is sure to be fought over. Perhaps one of the most interesting features is the use of one-way glass. Iridescent material can disguise your location while you spy on approaching bad guys.
The map is too confined for genuine cat and mouse activity at those chokepoints and a warren of claustrophobic lower areas makes high ground and control essential. Luckily there are several ways to get up top, from careful jumps to spiraling ramps. Luke and I have played a huge number of one on one matches here – often in SWAT to keep the duration sensible, but it’s a map that really encourages showdowns and it’s a remarkably fun place to trade BR fire and hurl elegant, predictive Plasma nades for hundreds of yards.
Although it’s built for Slayer, the objective games work beautifully too. If frenetically – lots of dropped flags and frantic attempts to reset while ‘nades assplode all around you.
The third and final map, that we’ve nicknamed OK Corral, is a medium-to-large, asymmetrical map that I LOVE playing Slayer on. It’s just big enough to support vehicles, but in a Mongoose, it’s effectively a confined deathtrap. Vehicles are only to be used in emergencies. This map scales pretty well though – in a one-on-one match, there are obvious places to fight close to the center of the map – but the more players there are, the more they tend to sprawl into the outer reaches of the maps, complete with collapsed buildings, wreckage-strewn structures and lots of rebar.
Sniping spots are numerous, but that’s not really what the level is about. What it is about is mastering routes from one end to the other, and knowing high from low. There is nothing scarier than seeing a red dot appear on your radar and not knowing whether that person is above you, or around the next corner. Some interesting use of floor geometry means you might be able to spot someone on high, but not quite have the angle for a shot.
Baron of Jerks
Internet criminal, and web molester, Digital Pheer has refused to bow under the pressure of our displeasure and has made yet another NSFW “machinima” film starring his iterations of Master Chief and the Arbiter. I don’t watch “machinima” personally, since I think it’s blasphemous, but my advisers tell me this one is filled with bad language and horrific spelling. I advise you NOT to watch this video: http://youtube.com/watch?v=iyjLnvI4yE0 since watching it will merely encourage him to complain about DLC maps using primitive text-to-speech synthesizers and maudlin music. Remember, don’t watch this: http://youtube.com/watch?v=iyjLnvI4yE0 under any circumstances. And don’t worry, we’re going to track this guy down, then, when he pops up on the grid, we’ll squeeze him like a pregnant boil.
Now for antics. The movie is on hold, but the WETA folks were so industrious throughout, that they created a TON of amazing stuff, that they kindly sent us to play with in the studio, including weapons, armor and more. Keeping an eye out for frightened old ladies, or more importantly, Kirkland Kops, we had an impromptu photo shoot with some interesting results.
“Reserved means reserved for Bungie, Yuppie.”
Bungie’s Angels (G4yle, Davina and Shauna). With Chief “woot” approval.
Betcha can’t stick it! Joe Staten shows how large the life-sized Brute Spike Grenade is...
...but Frankie demonstrates just how small Joe Staten is in real life in this comparison.
Real life Grifball is every bit as deadly and stupid as you’d imagine. Frankie sweeps as Sketch goes in to score.
Frankie’s impenetrably nimrodian expression belies the Eureka moment he’s actually having…
…as he uses WETA’s rubber Warthog passenger to abuse the Carpool lane on the WA 520…
BR Smarts: “see, you put the bullets in this telescope thing and press the BXR to melee…”
Kirkland Cougar hunting. Point and clique. Their watering hole: Starbucks.
No, you can't has Recon.