The new Podcast is live! Starring our very own Christopher Barrett, it will give you an excellent insight into the art direction for the new map packs and a great look at the general process of building, polishing and testing them. It’s a good show and well worth the wait. The Marty podcast is also in the can (finally) and will be coming fairly soon.
This morning, at 7 a.m., Jonty Barnes and I did a live Q&A with Eurogamer – you can read it here:
Tyson Green, aka Ferrex, aka lead multiplayer designer, popped into the Optimatch forums with a detailed update on the new playlists waiting in the wings. Rather than mangle his erudite digest of what’s going on, here’s his post verbatim:
Sorry, it's been a very busy week, and we've been head down in hustle mode. There's a lot to get done before the studio breaks for Christmas. But I have a few free minutes (posting over dinner, heh), so here's a status update:
December 11 Update
The December 11 playlist update is well into testing. This playlist is going to include a playlist specifically for the new Heroic DLC maps (so that early adopters can get their fix in), as well as incorporating those maps into the general playlists. In addition, we're reasonably sure that variety updates to almost all of the playlists will be included. This includes some long requested BR Start variants, wider map selection in the Ranked playlists, and a couple of map variants that we're going to try in BTB to start with. We're a little hamstrung on this first update because the studio resources are giving priority to finishing and testing the Heroic DLC maps, but we do have more in mind for December. Hence...
December 18 Update
An extra week buys us some extra testing time. The December 18 update will include the Team Hardcore playlist. I will post some specifics about the composition of this playlist by the end of the week--we're still playtesting. What I can be pretty sure about is that we're trying to stay true to Halo 2's THC playlist, which means nothing crazy, but a solid variety. I fully expect this playlist will be a fixture of our playlists from here on out, so it will refine and improve over time too. In addition, the current plan includes an overhaul for Team Objective. This playlist will henceforth be focused on CTF (both One Flag and Multi Flag variants, as has been frequently requested) and Assault (One Bomb, Multi Bomb, and Neutral Bomb) variants. VIP is out, until we have some time to bang on it and get something we're happy with.
No more Territories?
Not in Team Objective. However, we are going to introduce a playlist called Team Control, which is based on zone control gametypes like Territories, Land Grab, and a little bit of Team King (but incorporating some suggestions to make it more about map control, and less about grenade spam.) We're going to see how people react to this new playlist, and play it by ear. We're hoping that the sum is greater than the parts here, and that some teams will find their niche in this playlist.
Any update on Ranked BTB?
And for at least of few of you, it should be good news. In investigating ways to improve upon Social BTB's match quality, we hit a snag--it turns out that a key matchmaking setting (that restricts matching between teams of roughly equal sizes) is not being used in social playlists. Having explored the problem, I do not believe we can give you guys the match quality we want to without it--so, we will be introducing a Ranked BTB playlist early in the New Year.
There is a lot of testing that will have to go into this playlist, and because Bungie has some other irons in the fire (and a damned inconvenient Christmas-New Year break in the way), I can't get that playlist ready and tested before sometime later in January. It is my priority for the new year, though, and if we get nothing else updated in the playlists, I'll try to make that my priority. In planning the addition of a Ranked BTB playlist, we'll be looking over a lot of the feedback you guys have given, and continue to give. So keep that discussion going, because it does help, and will have an impact. And even though it sucks to have to ask this, please be patient--it's coming, but it's not a trivial change.
Thanks for the info, Tyson.
Now one of the first questions posed after reading this will be: “Does this mean I can’t matchmake if I don’t have the new maps?” and the answer is, “Relax, you can matchmake fine, and you won’t know or really see any difference.”
Specifically, if you have Halo 3 on the 11th, but not the new maps – you will be able to see the new Playlist, but you won’t be able to enter it. A polite message will pop up and explain that you don’t have the content. As Tyson has mentioned, there will be a playlist devoted entirely to the new maps, and those maps will also be incorporated into “normal” playlists. In the “normal” Matchmaking Playlists that incorporate the new maps, a bit of code will check to see who in the lobby has the new maps – if it’s everyone, then there’s a greater chance it will pick a new map, and if even one person doesn’t have the map, it will pick one of the original shipping maps, so nobody misses a beat. In theory…
Now I’m excited right now. For two reasons. One of them is that Bungie's Studio Manager Harold Ryan and I are off to the filming of the Spike Video Game Awards tomorrow – I don’t know if we’ve won anything, but I do know that the Red Vs. Blue guys made an amazingly funny video for the show and I can’t wait to see it. Rumor has it that it might be the first chance anyone gets to see the new maps…
It’s airing on this Sunday December 9th, 9 p.m EST/PST on Spike TV. It’s well worth your attention.
The second thing I’m excited about is that as I write this, I am getting ready for a last minute bugbash for the Heroic Map Pack against the rest of the Bungie crew. Luke and I have had a miserable (for me anyway) record playing DLC this week, with him owning me constantly. Tonight is revenge.
I think you folks are really going to enjoy the new maps, price gripes aside, I am pretty sure that all three of these, for entirely different reasons, are among the best maps we’ve ever made. Tyson’s playlist updates above, add a layer of smoothness and ease of access that simply wasn’t possible before.
Obviously Standoff has the makings of a classic in the mould of Blood Gulch – although the fact that it’s more compact adds a level of freneticism that wasn’t guaranteed in either Blood Gulch or Coagulation. Although there’s vehicles galore in Standoff, they don’t have the freedom or relative safety found in bigger maps like Valhalla.
Rat’s Nest on the other hand can be a paradise for vehicles, although that idea is neatly bifurcated by the path cutting between the two straightaways of its looping track. Players on foot can have a remarkable degree of control of the map too. It’s really not precisely like any map we’ve ever made.
The same can be said of Foundry, but for entirely different reasons. The default layout for Foundry is a maze of walls and alleys, but never quite dead ends. We’ve played some King of the Hill matches in there with Hammers and we’ve played plenty of Team Slayer and in some ways it’s one of our best small team maps as it stands. The ideal purpose of Foundry is something quite different.
The new Forge palette available in Foundry (with some of those new items shared among Standoff and Rat’s Nest) will fundamentally alter the way you think about Forge. Although people have done amazing things with the existing tool – they have always been limited by the initial intentions of the map designer, and literally constrained by the architecture and landscape hard-wired into it.
Foundry is a blank slate. It can be emptied (or, if you buy the maps you can grab a pre-emptied version from Bungie Recommends next week) and build something from scratch. Walls, floors, doors, stairs, ramps, shields, roofs, rooms, tracks…you name it, you can do it. The only limit is your Forge budget and your imagination. We expect amazing things and very quickly.
There are a number of things that make this simpler for you, without ramming it down your throat. For one – if you examine the floor of Foundry, you’ll see that it has a not-so-subtle metal grid pattern that makes it easy to measure, count and orient objects quickly. No more wondering if something’s at a right angle or not.
We’ve also included some cool objects that make tall, immovable walls quickly – literally one of the building blocks of a believable level – so no more building walls out of concrete barriers and dead guys (although you can still do that, if you so desire…).
For a little bit more on Foundry, check out Sketch's feature on Foundry Soccer and in case you missed the Heroic Map Pack screenshot tornado, click over to the Screenshots Gallery.