Chronique:BWU 07/05/2010

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Posted by urk at 5/7/2010 3:08 PM PDT

So, yeah. You done went and broke the Internet. Day one Beta numbers put our player population well above the million man (and woman) mark in the first twelve hours alone. As you likely noticed, our servers temporarily bent and then buckled under the weight of your collective enthusiasm. The skies over the studio were soon choked with thick black smoke owed to the furious fumes sent our way by some understandably impatient players. Even so, all things considered, the Beta got off to an incredibly explosive start.

I'm sure you felt quite differently if you stayed up all night staring at the Rookie in repose via ODST's main menu or called in sick in the morning to get a full day of playtime logged. Thing is, this is exactly the type of scenario that makes the Beta worthwhile for us. Every hiccup and hitch is one more thing we can anticipate and fix for launch in the fall. So, if it helps, your brief loss will one day soon become every player's monumental gain.

Things are back on track now, though. The Beta is going full steam ahead and you definitely seem to be enjoying the ride. We've already more than doubled our total Halo 3 Beta population and you've logged what could only be described as an incredibly absurd amount of playtime. Our stats guru, Michael Williams, calls 'em man-hours. Here's how day one broke down:

Total Players Day One: 1,170,112

Total Player Games: 14,205,611

Total Kills: 157,972,986

Total Seconds Spent Playing: 936,864,266

Nearly 30 years of time invested on the first stinkin' day! You guys give damn good Beta. Something tells me these numbers are only going to go up as the Beta hits its stride with the first full weekend of availability looming on the horizon.

A Communications Disruption Can Only Mean One Thing[modifier]


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One Man Wrecking Crew

If you've been itching to explore the Spartan vs. Elite Invasion experience, it's time to get your scratch on. Invasion went live today at 11:00am PST. If you're ill-prepared, you may want to spend a few moments inside our Halo: Reach Beta Guide or with Aisha Tyler to get acclimated to all the new hotness. Otherwise, jump on in and get ready for some ultra hot species on species multiplayer action. Three phases, tons of powerful weapons and abilities, the biggest map we've ever built in multiplayer, and of course, just about all the sweet Halo whips you know and love. Bam!

The rules are simple:

Elites, attack the objectives and unlock new areas of the map. Once you've disabled the security around the data core, extract it to the waiting Phantom at the cliff's edge to secure the victory.

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Core Temperature

Spartans, stop the Elites.

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Tank beats everything.

Make sure you're choosing new spawn locations each time you meet your maker by pressing up on the d-pad, and keep an eye on the increasingly powerful loadouts by pressing X during respawn.

In effort to keep matchmaking churn at maximum, you should expect to play one-sided games for now. You'll either be a Spartan or Elite, defense or offense, with no chance to switch it up until the next match begins. It's all on autopilot. Don't worry, though, you'll definitely get to experience play from both species' perspectives as long as you get in a respectable number of games.

Also of note are the fireteam configurations. While we mentioned earlier on that full squads of six would remain glued together, it's actually set to distribute squad's fireteams on both sides of the ball. As long as you go in with an even number, you can expect to play alongside at least one of your bros, but you might make note that it's entirely possible for a squad of four or six to end up squaring off against each other after their distinct fireteams are selected and split up across Boneyard.

The Fix is In[modifier]

Soon after launch, the always polite Netizens from around the globe made their way into our feedback forum to kindly remark on their initial experiences and realistic expectations. At first, it was quite difficult for us to fish out any criticisms amidst the Sea of Encouraging Compliments, but we rolled up our pant legs, waded deep into the heartwarming swell of kind words, and finally found some stuff that we we've already addressed or were already planning on addressing for the retail release.

We should start off by making it very clear that Halo: Reach is not Halo 3. There are some distinct and fundamental differences that you'll definitely need to account for, both straight out of the gate and over the long haul. These are differences you shouldn't expect to see changed. They are, as we say, by design.

That said, here's of quick rundown of some, but not all, of the things that we will likely change from the beta to the finished product. Of course, I've gotta roll out the always necessary caveat here. Stuff can and will change from now until ship.

The list below presents the current plan of attack, but it may not represent what you'll experience in the finished product. We reserve the right to make whatever changes we deem necessary. Because we are the boss of Reach. If anything dramatic goes down from now until then, we'll make sure to clue you in.

Death by Stereo[modifier]

Here at Bungie, we love us some Steitzer. The man's a living legend in his own right - a sonorous savant. But truth be told, even we're well past annoyed by the overwhelming rapid fire regurgitation of, "Flag taken...flag dropped" that can plague certain games where going clutch on the skilled juggling front is the order of the day. Same goes for all the other objectified oral mutterings. Once is enough for most cases, thank you very much.

It's already been fixed for fall.

Stole Ya Stockpile[modifier]

Same goes for some pretty shady teamwork on display in Stockpile. Cool flags, bro! Derek had made some changes before the Beta went live to address the problem presented below, but the build was already being put through the certification grinder and it wasn't possible to implement the tweaks in the short term.

It would be so sweet if everybody would just play nice, but for some players civility isn't much of a concern. Almost as soon as those same player's boots hit the mud they made it their obligation to snag flags that had already been snagged and either replace them so they'd get the sweet credit or to chuck them out of their own stockpile at the last minute in an effort to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and ruin the game for the other players involved.

Though I myself am saddened by the fact that those brand of "people" exist, it doesn't surprise me in the least that they make the most of what should be a cool feature that allows defenders to pick up and wield their already planted flags as powerful weapons of destruction. Oh, well.

It's been fixed for fall.

By Design, but Still Being Fixed[modifier]

Whoa, what's up with those reticles, Candland? Kinda hard to make out, aren't they?

Yup, if you were wondering if you need to calibrate your television set you can stop fiddling with the levers and knobs, it's not just you. But it's not Candland, either. When I asked him about the thin and transparent optics on display Candland threw design straight under the bus.

Turns out our UI team didn't have much to do with the current reticles in question. Instead, they're what Candland calls, "Designer Art." They're just placeholder.

Fixed for fall.

They're Everywhere![modifier]

They're on my six! Wait, they're above me! Holy hell...they're everywhere!

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Battle Bros

Yeah, so a lot of players have been remarking that it's been remarkably difficult to pinpoint exactly where they're taking fire from. Totally accurate and understandable - some last minute fiddling with alpha channels actually resulted in some fairly light damage indicators. If you've been feeling pinned down by enemy fire in the beta and couldn't eye dee where the incoming was actually coming from, now you know why.

Fixed for fall.

Ghost like Swayze[modifier]

There's a certain segment of players affected by some other graphical artifacts, too. Some frame blending bells and whistles that are being applied to help polish things up on the IQ side resulted in some undesirable artifacts in the Beta. Something the layman such as myself call "ghosting."

If you're in that population that can't get it out of your head, wrap your arms around our waist and hold on tight. Our graphics gurus confirm that it was a bug we identified before the Beta launched and that it's already been resolved in our main branch.

Fixed for fall.

Fists of Fury[modifier]

Thoroughly frustrated by the frightening changes that have been foisted upon the third leg of your beloved golden tripod? Rest easy. While the melee system has undergone a significant overhaul and we won't be going back to the Halo 3 model, we do have a few pertinent issues preventing the new stuff from working exactly as we intended.

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Unnatural Abilities

For now, you'll have to deal with two bugs that we've identified. The first is likely the most obvious.

Currently in the Beta, when you throw a melee you can almost immediately follow it up with second smack. The end result is that players who've gotten the drop on unsuspecting chumps are often penalized if they keep firing and take the fight up close. In the fall, the time delay between melee attacks will be slightly extended. Up close, melee will no longer be a trump card you can play no matter the situation. You will need to use it wisely.

The second issue stems from a larger than ideal melee contest window that allows two players to strike simultaneously - something our sandbox guys call "clang." The end result? The double melee.

Without getting all technical, let's just say the fix will result in fewer instances of both players landing killing blows at the "exact same time," which will reduce both the amount of simultaneous melee deaths you experience and the amount of times players can appear to mistime a melee and still be rewarded with a clean kill.

Fixed for fall.

Go Boom[modifier]

Also getting some love are Reach's tactical nukes, aka the Frag Grenades. We're hearing a lot of lip service about how the current iteration will kill a fully shielded Spartan in one toss and about the sheer amount of bang for your buck distributed throughout each map. While the former isn't accurate (you can absorb a direct hit if you have full shields and health), we are seeing a healthy share of grenade kills in the Beta.

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In the Blast Zone

I spoke to Hamrick this morning and he confirmed that the team is investigating a number of ways to make grenades a little less predominant - tweaks to everything from base damage and radius to the number of grenades at spawn, on the map, and discarded by dead players are all under consideration.

Fundamentally, Reach's grenades will still operate differently than their Halo 3 counterparts - that much won't change. You'll need to get acclimated. Beyond the core blast radius, damage now falls off gradually instead of abruptly as is the case in Halo 3, so you'll still need to be wary of incoming nades. But the tweaks being considered will ultimately mean that you'll have to rely on good placement above huckin' and chuckin' if you want to consistently snag skillful kills.

Fixed for fall.

Mad Cred[modifier]

So you've won a game of Slayer, but some stinkin' bunshole on the losing squad got way more Credits than you did even though you totally outskilled him. That's totally a bug, right? Nope, it's by design. Even though your latest chart-topping crossmap-laden performance netted you more street cred for skill than it did your opponent, they likely earned their huge steaming pile of payout via capping off one of their own personal Commendations.

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It's understandable that you'd have difficulty making the distinction, though. In the Beta, Commendations aren't exactly explicitly detailed. For now, any time you see the rectangular tile appear on the lower half of your screen, it means you've met the requirements for a Commendation and you can expect to cash in at the end of the match. The finished product will be much more transparent about the underlying what's and why's. We promise.

Fixed for fall.

By Design[modifier]

Of course, this is just a small sampling of the stuff we've already identified and plan on addressing in one way or another. If you have an issue you don't see on the list, there's no need to go full on forum rage (though we do have a thread for that). That said, you shouldn't expect your every whim to make the grade. We're trained professionals. We got this.

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The Alter of Awesome

Crime and Punishment[modifier]

Moving away from the current tally of planned fall fixes, let's take a moment to address some of the seedier elements of the Seventh Column that already exist in the present day. If you're a fine, upstanding member of the community, you probably don't need to worry about the next two subjects (though you'll likely be interested in both.)

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Learning to File Share[modifier]

Some of you earned yourself File Share bans in the Halo 3 era. That same some of you are now totally shocked and appalled that those very same bans carried right on over into Beta. (Probably not as shocked and appalled as little Timmy was when he gazed upon the disgusting bit of filth you uploaded, but I digress.)

Yep, File Share bans have carried over into the Beta, but we're not yet totally devoid of benevolence and forgiveness. If you've earned a File Share ban for your past behavior we've decided that we're going to put you on parole when the game ship this fall. Access will be restored, but we will be watching your every upload.

This is your second and last chance. Don't mess it up. You're on a very short leash and you have been warned.

For the second half of our parental guidance, we turn once again to Tyson Green. He's going to make most of you so very happy.

Wish I Could Quit You[modifier]

So, you may be wondering why we haven't fixed the quitter problem yet. Thing is, we probably have, but we just haven't turned it on yet. As we speak, the Banhammer is watching, amassing data about who's been quitting, the manner in which they have quit, and who suffered as a result of that quit. Numbers are feeding into complex heuristics and deep databases, and somewhere in the middle of it, our very own disembodied soul howls for revenge.

"Swing Banhammer, swing!" you cry out. Well, problem is, this is a Beta and we don't want the Banhammer swinging wildly until we know for sure that the numbers coming in are correct, and that the Beta itself is stable and not disconnecting people (creating the illusion of quitting.) Currently, we are only logging data for future action.

So what do we have in store for when it goes live next week? Let me pull back the curtain just a bit:

For starters, our Banhammer is getting more data than even Halo 3 produced, which is going to let us dial it in and more aggressively deal with habitual quitters. The real jerks are going to run into this, and then you're not going to see them online anymore. It'll be great.

Second, quitting a game will forfeit any credits you may have earned for that game. In fact, it may even cost you some credits. We're waiting to see how effective the Banhammer is before deciding exactly how much.

Lastly, and all new for Reach, we have a new type of ban called a Quitter Ban. This is a relatively soft ban, so we will be using it quite aggressively, activating after only a handful of quits and lasting a rather long time. What does it do? A player with a Quitter Ban will be temporarily unable to re-enter Matchmaking for 15-30 minutes following any further quits.

Oh, and we're playing around with some gametypes which end early (think "Sudden Death") when most of a team quits out, so that you don't need to play 8v1 Slayer to 100 (aka. "Hide and Seek".) You may see some of these in Matchmaking if we're unhappy with the other countermeasures.

As custodians of the online experience, we will be monitoring and adjusting out countermeasures as necessary to keep things ticking along nicely, without games being marred by habitual flakes who quit when they don't get the Sniper Rifle first. So in the meantime, enjoy the Beta! And quit quitting, because we are watching, and it is going into your personal Banhammer dossier.

(Special pre-emptive note: Online game designers are familiar with "virtual guilt", whereby a perfectly upstanding, innocent player will feel irrationally nervous and guilty upon hearing about a potential punishment. And now, you're familiar with the concept too. Well, relax. We are very deliberate about our enforcement policies, and if you're not a habitual quitter, we're not going to ban you for that one time that your internet cut out. And if it cuts out every game, well, you should probably use the downtime between games to call your ISP and get a technician out. It'll be for the greater good.)

Sweet Prizes for Snappin' Reach Pics[modifier]

Wanna win some awesomely artful objects of your own affection? has the hookup. Just snap your Beta screenshots and tag 'em with the phrase "HSS Beta" and you'll be entered to win.

For the complete contest rules and the list of prizes, hit the link below. - Halo: Reach Beta Contest

Blame Stosh[modifier]

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Jacked, Squatted
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It's a base...for swords!

That's it for this week. Hope you've enjoy the first few days of the Beta - there's much more on the way. Make sure you keep coming back to for tons of sweet information and up to date news. Until then, see you in matchmaking.