I saw Candland mocking up a fancy new Loading screen for Reach earlier in the week. Things are chugging right along. Marcus is making some noise over at Noble Actual
, too. But we’re not here to talk about campaign. Today, we’re all about the multiplayer.
Let’s begin with the big old high level type stuff.
When you first fire up your copy of Halo 3: ODST and download the Reach Beta from the main menu this May, you’re gonna be greeted by a couple of options: Matchmaking and Theater. There won’t be any Custom Games and there won’t be any System Link support.
We know, we know. Don’t freak out. We’ve got a really good reason.
As much as the Public Beta has been touted as an event in and of itself, for us it’s definitely the real deal – a legitimate beta test. We’re working with software that’s in an unfinished state and to ensure that we’ll be getting the right data and the best feedback, we need to make sure that you and all your friends are deployed right where we need you. So, we’ll be rolling out different playlists in accordance with those needs and making the necessary adjustments on the fly.
Besides, when you broke into Customs the last time out, all you did was play Plasma Punchout with 300% speed and zero gravity. That’s not helping. That’s just bizarre.
And since we’re still all kinds of work in progress, it also means that in the most recent batch of screenshots, and in the Public Beta, you might come across a few rough edges here and there. For example, in current builds there’s a subtle application of Ambient Occlusion being layered into the scene that adds a nice touch of depth into each map’s nooks and crannies, but it’s not something that made the grade in time for the Beta or for our recent batch of screenshots.
Some astute forum goers noticed the difference in some of the builds we used for the Mutliplayer Madness trailer when compared to the recent batch of media assets we deployed. Good eyes. Rest assured that things are looking better and better with each new build, and most important, things are becoming more and more fun to play.
So what is
Matchmaking makes the grade, obviously. And sure, if you have some guests over at your place and you want to rock some split screen action, we’re more than happy to oblige. Four players per box over Xbox LIVE, just like in Halo 3, except for Generator Defense, which is confined to two players on one system for reasons we’ll discuss in detail below.
And, of course, once you’ve capped off your first few games, you should feel free to head into the Theater to save off your favorite Saved Films and Screenshots. We’ll have some space reserved for you in your Bungie.net profile so you can show them off. And, as we’ve already noted, you won’t even have to fire up your web browser to tag your content and search for the sweet Beta stuff other players submit. It’s now all implemented right into the game’s menus.
More on the Bungie.net front next week. For now, let’s dig into some of the new gametypes.
Before we get too detailed, we should talk some shop. One of the difficulties inherent with designing new game engines in previous Halo titles was that they required a lot of engineering support. If a multiplayer designer wanted to create a sweet new game mode called Headhunter, they couldn’t just start frantically flailing away at their keyboard and mouse hoping that their wildest imaginings would materialize without calling in some programming thunder.
Now, they can do exactly
Okay, so it takes a bit more skill and practice than I’ve made out, but ultimately the upgraded tools at our multiplayer team’s disposal mean that they can create and iterate on new gametypes on the fly without worrying about bringing in the experts to make the functional stuff happen in code. They now have access to their very own, designer-focused scripting language to make all that multiplayer magic a much faster reality.
So, something like Chess, which might have taken weeks to schedule and implement previously, can now be done on a single Saturday, with just one man driving the entire game engine from start to finish. Sweet, right? Check and mate.
But, of course, Chess won’t be playable in the Beta. That’d be absurd. Here’s some stuff that will make the grade:
This is your familiar Halo experience. The go to game types. Some of this stuff you should already be used to. If you like Assault Rifle and Magnum starts (and you will much more than you did the same in Halo 3, trust me), you should go with Slayer. Should be self-explanatory. Like the longer range game? Vote for Pro.
You’ll also see a healthy mix of objective stuff like 1 Flag, Crazy King, Oddball, and, back by popular demand, Halo 2 style Three Plots, where teams must capture and hold a series of three fixed territories that can be subsequently recaptured by the opposition. The more territories you hold down at any one given time, the more points you are awarded, per second.
You’ll also run into a little somethin’ somethin’ we like to call Covie Slayer. Elite on Elite evasion action. Do yourself a favor and cast your vote in favor of this at least once. Trust me.
Yeah, you know what’s up. No teams. Kill stuff.
Unless you’re the Juggernaut. Then you’ll have a Gravity Hammer and you’ll be on fire. Like on fire on fire. You’ll also be unkillable, really friggin’ fast, and unbound by the laws of gravity (Suck it, Newton!).
But you’re not powered up forever. Once the HUD indicator above your head changes from a skull to a bullseye, it’s your turn to become the hunted. And just like the original version of Juggs, if someone takes you down, they’ll get their own moment to rage out.
You get 10 points per kill as the Juggernaut and 5 points for killing a Juggernaut. Wash, rinse, repeat until someone scores a total of 150 points. No Armor Abilities. No Load Outs.
THIS ONE’S PRETTY EASY. SCORE 25 SKULLS TO WIN OR CASH IN 1O AT ONE TIME FOR THE SKULLAMANJARO, WHICH ENDS THE GAME BECAUSE YOU ARE SO AMAZINGLY AWESOME.
GETTING A SKULLAMANJARO AIN’T EASY, THOUGH. SKULLS DROP OUT OF DEAD OPPONENTS AND WHEN YOU PICK SOME UP, A NUMBER APPEARS ABOVE YOUR HEAD IN EVERYONE ELSE’S HUD TO LET THEM KNOW EXACTLY HOW MANY YOU HAVE IN TOW (EVEN IF YOU’RE USING ACTIVE CAMO).
THE MORE YOUR CARRY, THE LARGER A TARGET YOU’LL ULTIMATELY BECOME, AND YOU DON’T GET ANY POINTS UNLESS YOU DEPOSIT YOUR SKULLS INTO ONE OF THE TERRITORIES. TERRITORIES MOVE, SO ASIDE FROM SKULL INVENTORY MANAGEMENT, YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF WHERE THE SCORING ZONES ARE AS THE MATCH GOES ON.
WORKS FOR TEAMS OR FFA, BUT FOR BETA, YOU’LL BE GOING IT ALONE.
OH, AND CANDLAND WANTS YOU TO KNOW THAT HE DIDN’T INTENTIONALLY ENTER THE GAMETYPE IN ALL CAPS. HE BLAMES DEREK, WHO NOW HAS ACCESS TO A DESIGNER-FOCUSED SCRIPTING LANGUAGE FOR MAKING SWEET GAMETYPES.
Eye straining jokes aside, Headhunter is one of those games that’s just built for good times. It’s really easy to understand and always heaps of fun. Seeing some poor sap in a mad dash for the last minute cash in, only to stop him dead in his tracks and witness his entire supply of flaming skulls spill out from his dead body? So good
Stockpile is a little more complex. Two teams scrap over four neutral flags. Flags are scored by bringing them into your team’s designated territory and protecting them until the timer reaches zero. Flags are collected every sixty seconds.
If the flag is outside the zone, even if you have it in your hands, it won’t count. If you allow a player on the other team to infiltrate your territory and toss all your flags outside the clearly marked boundaries, those won’t count either.
There’s two ways to win.
- Score a total of 10 Flags.
- Score the most flags in the ten minutes allotted.
Sounds pretty simple, right? It’s actually really nuanced. There’s a lot of push/pull going on and a coordinated team can employ multiple strategies to keep things mixed up.
Speaking of nuance, flag juggling didn’t make the cut. Now, while you’re snagging a flag, your base player traits will actually stick, for lack of a better term, for a brief moment just after you let loose. So, drop it like it’s hot, but don’t expect to get a speed boost for your efforts.
And if you were worried about players flying with the flag via Jet Pack, I can assuage those fears. Won’t happen. If you have hold of the flag, using an Armor Ability will cause you to drop it instantly. Pick it back up, and the effects from your Armor Ability will vanish. Same goes for any multiplayer specific object you can hold in your hot little hands.
And then there’s Generator Defense. Three Spartans defend three generators from an all out assault launched by three Elites.
Why only three per team? We’re testing out some pretty specific stuff on the networking side of things. In fact, the entire concept of Generator Defense was created simply to support what’s actually called Network Test 1. It’s just that Network Test 1 doesn’t sound like something anybody would really get pumped up to play, dig?
But Generator Defense? That sounds awesome! And actually, it really is. As the Elites begin to damage each generator, you’ll be notified with audio and visual cues in your HUD. If you want to prevent them from exploding, you need to get up close and activate the temporary blast shield. Each time you engage the lock down, you’ll earn thirty seconds of breathing room.
At the start of each round, you not only get to pick from a broad selection of Load Outs, you also get to choose your general spawning location. Choose wisely. As an Elite, you’ll need to destroy all three generators to win the round.
If you like what you play, let us hear about it. Maybe Generator Defense is something we’ll ship in the retail game this fall. Who knows?
Invasion is definitely in, but you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to check it out. We thought mere words weren’t enough to do it justice. Tune into GTTV later tonight for the first ever detailed footage.
LINK TO GEOFF KEIGHLEY’S TWITTER
Joseph Staten. The man, the myth, the legend. Stepping into the booth to lay down the infamous Grunt voice one last time. Feeling the flow. Working it.
Stosh is gonna show off what he’s been working on next week. While you wait, check out this sweet video he found.
And, we’re done here. More next week. The most awesome kind of more. You want to stay tuned. Desperately.