Might be a brief update today, we’re still playing heaps of Halo: Reach around these here parts. In fact, right now, at this very minute, we’re throwing a bona fide Bungie Bug Fixin’ Bash, looking for big ticket, last minute items to tweak before we ship this already kick ass game off into an incubation phase that’ll ultimately birth a happy, healthy Release Candidate.
Does that mean we’re well past the point of no return, unable to consider the sweet features you’ve been adamantly insisting we adopt in order to make Halo: Reach the very best game in the history of games? Yes. Yes it does.
But don’t worry. Marcus summed up Reach’s status for the team on Tuesday and things are right on track:
“It plays better, looks better and runs better than any other Halo game Bungie has ever made.”
I do not disagree.
And while our campaign designers are putting the finishing touches on their encounters, ensuring that each difficulty is true to its namesake and the curve as you progress through the game feels nice and natural, one man’s journey into space was a little bit more rocky than most.
Shishka claims he snagged a bad build and that his monumental FIVE HOUR SPACE ENCOUNTER was owed to a dastardly combination of friendly Sabres flying off into uncharted space (providing no fire support whatsoever) and enemy Seraphs bolstered by their upgraded Legendary status and indefatigable plasma cannons. I’m not convinced.
After Sage heard about Shishka’s epic crash and burn, he asked me to run through the same mission on Legendary difficulty to see if Shishka’s performance was in fact going to be standard fare for space bound Spartans.
After my run, I hit Chad up over IM to get the scoop. Here’s the conversation, as it occurred in real time:
urk: a little birdie tells me you suck at space
urk: a bearded birdie
Chad: Yeah, because I tried to dogfight instead of hide like a blam!
urk: you're too much of a man
Chad: Expected: Fun
Chad: Results: Cowering behind the space station
urk: i played through: 3 deaths
urk: i am a leaf on the wind
Chad: Doesn't help that in the build I was playing in, I was the only thing in space shooting at Covenant
Chad: Seraphs were like "Oh wait, he's the threat. Home in and destroy."
urk: also, i submitted my map to atlas and didn't hear back
urk: when can i expect it to appear in matchmaking?
urk: next month would be cool
urk: you could do a write up for the update
urk: talk about matchmaking changes
urk: and about how terrible you are at space
urk: sage says it took you 5 hours
Chad: Yeah, it did
urk: you are nothing if not persistent
urk: did you have your gunnarz on?
Chad: I spent an entire day getting the drop on two Seraphs, then being blasted, because I didn't know "hide like a frightened kitten" was the strat
urk: turn and burn
Chad: Yeah, I'll write up something about Matchmaking for the update
urk: don't spend five hours on it
Chad: Yeah yeah
Myself? I tackled the mission in record time and told Sage it felt a little too
easy. The Space Banshees popped like so much Jiffy. Definitely not Legendary. He’s gonna talk with Tipul and make sure it’s cranked up a notch before we ship.
And while we’re on the Tipul tip, I should note that another little bearded birdie informs me that Legendary difficulty features more than a few Elites armed with Active Camo and Sniper Rifles. When I asked why, full of impotent rage and incredulity, I was told, simply, that Tipul “hates the player.”
Fine by me. I’m a Heroic man myself. If you elect to step it up to Legendary, well, you might want to strap in and hold on tight. As Shishka learned the hard way, you’ll be in for a bumpy ride.
urk: also, your new nickname is Shishkins
urk: It's an amalgamation of Shishka and Porkins
urk: wonder if i can have copdahl change your service tag to pork
Chad: I wonder how much blood you can lose from superficial wounds before you die
urk: probably plenty
Nope, it’s not a typo and we’re not talking ODST. Luke’s given us permission to lift the veil on yet another Armory option you’ll be able to invest in to make your Spartan look mean and green. Behind that veil: visor colors.
Of course, we’re not letting you see the whole picture. Instant intel is nice, but there’s something to be said for firsthand experience. Rest assured, this trifecta of tints doesn’t paint the whole picture.
And since it’s been a good, long while since we had our old friend Shishka lend some of his soothing words to our weekly update regarding Halo 3’s matchmaking status (and since he promised to deliver above), here’s what the man had to say for himself:
You may have noticed the “MLG FFA” shaped hole in Matchmaking.
MLG FFA’s removal is the first step in preparing Halo 3 for Reach’s release. Between now and the day Reach is in your trembling hands we’re going to actively downsize and concatenate Halo 3’s matchmaking lineup. What does this mean?
Playlists are going to be combined, modified, or removed, based on how we predict they will perform once Reach is released. Ultimately the number of playlists will be reduced from its current number.
- No new playlists will be added from this point onward.
- Playlists will progressively become DLC required, leaving Social Slayer and Lone Wolves as the only DLC-optional playlists once again.
Double EXP weekends will come to an end on 9/13. But not before we throw them a little going away party.
- 7 on 7th will live on, but beyond the release of Reach no further updates are planned for Halo 3 Matchmaking.
In summary: If you have a favorite playlist, you should start playing it now, because it might not be around forever.
Now that everyone’s digesting that bit of sobering news, I thought I’d try to slip past Sketch’s censor and talk a bit about Reach’s matchmaking plan. As I write this, test is banging their bug bats against Reach’s matchmaking system, which a prototype configuration representative of what Matchmaking will be like the day you take it home. And when test is done playing Matchmaking for the day, the rest of the team are taking devkits home and playing at night. As people are getting locked out of Reach and are unable to do anything but play, we’re getting more hands on deck and everyone is providing feedback on the multiplayer experience. It’s nice to see the guys that have been so focused on the campaign finally getting to see the other side of Reach, and really liking what they see.
The plan we’re going with for now includes six hoppers under a “competitive” category. This is the final name of the “standard” category you saw in the beta. These playlists include 8-man FFA, 4v4 Slayer, 4v4 Objective, 2v2v2v2v2 Multi-Team, 8v8 Big Team, and 6v6 Invasion. Then there’s Arena, which has 7-man FFA, 2v2, and 4v4. Arena is all Slayer, all the time, as we’ve explained previously. Incidentally, this isn’t the entire offering you’ll find in Matchmaking, but it should give you something to look forward to.
Right now, someone has closed their Bungie Weekly Update window, started a new post in the Reach forum, and are titling it “No SWAT playlist? Really, Bungie?” Simmer down. SWAT and Snipers are now roommates. Their address is Team Slayer, Voting Slot 3. We’re not opposed to gametype-specific playlists later down the road, but we want to avoid a situation where a player new to Halo (believe it or not, they exist) find their first experience in a niche hopper (even if it’s a popular one). That should give you a glimpse into how we’re looking at using voting, at least for launch, as well.
Speaking of voting, we took a look at how voting worked in the beta and made some changes. Specifically, a non-vote no longer counts as a vote toward the first option on the list. If Jimmy Matchmaking finds himself in a party that isn’t voting, and he votes for something all by his lonesome, he gets to play what he voted for. If nobody votes, the first option on the list is selected. Hopefully through the use of your “psych profile” (IE, your social preferences), you’ll find people that want to vote for the same things you do, though. Oh yeah, we made a slight change to that. Entering Matchmaking in an Xbox Live party or with your headset unplugged is the same as setting your Chattiness to “Quiet,” regardless what you actually set it to. This way, people searching for fellow chatty players are less likely to end up in mic-less games (remember, the psych profile is additional parameters that will preferentially match you to players within your matchmaking pool if compatible players can be found. If for some reason the game can’t find you a player of similar chattiness, it’ll match you with whoever it can find).
I think that’s enough to chew on from now. You’ll be hearing again from me soon, though.
In other IM news, Stosh pinged me earlier in the week to gloat over the tremendous stash of medals he’s been hoarding in his posh upstairs loft. Though we don’t want to tip our hand on a lot of the shinier aspects of Reach’s instant (and long term) gratification, I thought it would be sweet to give you a sneak peek into the Work In Progress spot in the Service Record Stosh is designing to house all of your career military honors.
Stosh tells me that makes for a whopping 120 unique medal slots, just enough to house the complete set for Halo: Reach. I’m too lazy to count, but since I trust Stosh implicitly, 120 it is.
While Stosh is holding it down upstairs, Lars is up for tackling some lower level action. He’s been hitting the forums again. I try to keep him away, but he just can’t resist. With the recent reveal of Firefight, he’s spent some time soaking up all the initial feedback and now it’s time to wring some of that delicious anticipation back out.
Lars contacted me earlier in the week, asking if we wanted him to address a few questions he saw popping up on a regular basis. We did. Open wide:
Ok Firefighters, so we pretty much dropped our pants at E3 to talk about the new Firefight in Reach and how crazy customizable it is (some might say "insane"). I wanted to clear up a couple minor details for people who were scratching their head over things.
Q: Hey, I really like fighting Covenant vehicles, but not all the time. Can I have an option for that?
A: Why yes. Since you asked so nicely, we do have an option for that. It's called Scenario Hazards. You can either have them Enabled or Disabled. This is what controls things like Wraiths, Ghosts, or even Insertion Pods from coming into play. If you disable it, then they will never show up for you. You can even say whether you want the Covenant to show up coming from Dropships or just have them spawn in the level. You configure this per Initial, Main, and Boss Wave, however.
SKETCH’S NOTE: Did you know that unlike ODST, you can actually BOARD those pesky Wraiths in Reach’s Firefight and rain down sweet plasma death on the Covenant for massive points!? It takes a delicate hand but if you just damage it enough to knock the driver out, it’ll definitely be worth the effort!
Q: It doesn't look like you have enough variety in your Wave makeup, are you sure that it will give me the randomness I so desire?
A: The Options for the Wave Progression is built off the same system we used in ODST. There's plenty of randomness there if you want it. A Firefight Round is made up of 5 Waves. There is an Initial, 3 Main, and 1 Boss. You have 3 Waves to randomly choose between for each Initial and Boss, and 5 for each Main wave. There's plenty of randomness if you want to dig in to the Options. Each Round is completely separate too, so if you want to have a totally unique Set (a Set is 3 Rounds), it's very easy to do. You have full control over every aspect of it.
Q: So, I don't really want Random Waves. I want it to be the same every time I play it so my friends and I can compare our scores in a very controlled way. Can we do that?
A: You can! Every single sub-section of the Wave makeup allows you to set it to either be Random (like I described above) or Ordered. If you choose Ordered it will only choose the first items in the list in that order so they always show up the same way every time you play it.
Q: Are there any more built-in gametypes besides the ones you showed at E3?
A: Yep, but we aren't quite ready to talk about them yet. Soon-ish. There will probably even be stuff in Matchmaking when the game launches that isn't on the disc. We've been playing with the game options internally and coming up with some pretty fun stuff.
Q: I want Buggers in my Firefight in Reach.
A: Sorry, Buggers are no longer in Firefight.
Yeah. Stick to your guns, Lars! Thanks for the clarification. Oh, and keep your pants on, please. This is a family show.
So there I was, playing through some Halo: Reach campaign, having a grand old time, marveling at how incredibly awesome the experience is – the setting, the sound, the encounters, the effects – and what should I spy out of the corner of my little eye? A proper sized trooper with a not-so-standard-issue Service Tag.
I should start by clarifying that we’ve gone ahead and assigned names to the Marines, Troopers, and ODST’s you fight alongside this time out. Some of them are aptly named after Bungie employees. As you assemble an impromptu fighting squad, you’ll be able to see the rank, name, and Service Tags of each friendly so you can keep track of ‘em and keep 'em alive.
So what’s the big deal about this small addition to the game? Why did I take a teensy bit of time out to make such a giant issue of it in the weekly update? Well, because Copdahl changed the Carney stand-in trooper's Service Tag to “TINY” and when I laid eyes on it, I laughed so hard it made me pee a little. Just a teeny weeny little bit.
Carney claims the tag was added as a respectful homage to one of his many grand, online pseudonyms, but we all know better than that. Carney’s a big damn deal and we have the shop to prove it.
The Wolf, Roger Wolfson, is out and about this week, but it seems even during his rest and relaxation he can’t get away from his work. He appears to be taking it all in stride, though.
"Here’s a shout-out to the guys of Boy Scout Troop 208 in Las Vegas – the other day I was visiting* Great Basin National Park and took a tour of the caves with them. When we emerged from the chilly depths into the warm daylight and I took off my jacket, I had a Halo shirt underneath which they immediately spotted, and hilarity ensued. We had neighboring campsites and spent the evening around the fire talking game design principles, over a bag of the biggest marshmallows this side of Mr. Stay Puft himself.
*Yeah, I know we have a game to ship, but for the server team, RTM isn’t a signal to relax, it’s the starting gun for yet another race
. So cut me some slack for taking a vacation while I could!"
Stosh didn’t step out this week. He’s got a Blame Stosh, prepped and ready to go.
And so we’re off and the update wasn’t so short after all. (I get by with a little help from my friends). Stop by yourself next week for some colorful Bungie Day love. We’ll keep our pants on. I promise.*
See you soon.
*Pants not guaranteed.