Chronique:Canon Fodder - Buzz Generating

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Welcome friends, and thanks for joining us for another edition of Canon Fodder. Last week, we highlighted some heavy-hitting fiction features that spanned both our Halo Wars 2 announce at E3 2016, as well as our upcoming free content release for Halo 5: Guardians. That content release of course, is the beefy and beautiful Warzone Firefight update, which releases on June 29, and will undoubtedly become a favorite of this particular feature’s regular readers. Earlier this week, our friends at Polygon gave the world their first glimpse of the all new Grunt Goblin and UNSC Wasp. We’ll be taking another look at them today here, but with – as one would expect – a fiction-focused lens, along with a few other cool aspects of the upcoming additions to the Halo universe sandbox. Let’s get started!

AV-49 Wasp[modifier]

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Small VTOL attack craft have been a staple of the UNSC’s military inventory for centuries due to their maneuverability and lack of developed infrastructure on many worlds. Using powerful ducted fan engines pioneered on the AV-30 for lift, the AV-49 Wasp is surprisingly nimble for its level of armor protection and armament, and can reach mission areas quickly with the use of air-cooled vectored-thrust fusion thrusters in forward flight.

Designed for expeditionary usage, Wasps can be easily prepped “from box to sky and back” with minimal tools, and their hardened storage containers have identical dimensions to NAVLOGCOM-standard flat containers, simplifying interstellar transport logistics. The AV-49 Wasp supplements existing stocks of AV-14 and AV-22 aircraft in Marine service. Close air support VTOL armed with heavy machine guns and twin rocket launchers.

Grunt Goblin[modifier]

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The Goblin is a Balaho-born battlesuit that embodies the pillars that Unggoy themselves universally agree their species is known for: ruggedness, agility, and lethality. Created in the likeness of the Forerunner’s pre-ascension form (as popularized by famous Unggoy theologian Ang’napnap The Enlightened), the Goblin combines exotic engineering acumen (so that it doesn’t explode upon activation), Covenant manufacturing technology (for push-button assembly), and Unggoy user interface design (so the operator can hit lots of buttons) into a bipedal mech that UNSC forces universally agree is deadlier than an entire combat lance of unsuited Grunts (but a little less than a file, if you want to get technical). All agree the Goblin can handle even the most dire combat experience, with the Grunt jockey inside cowering – er, protected by a dedicated energy shield and thick plates of armor.

The Goblin mech suit is armed with a Needle Cannon that can fire off swarms of heavy explosive crystalline shards and a back-mounted Shardstorm launcher that unleashes entire clouds of Needles that is an impressive sight – even if it doesn’t actually hit anyone – and is equipped with a Power Wrist and Furious Feet for close-quarters combat, though “Goblin jockeys” prefer to keep enemies far away, preferably on different battlefields, if possible.

Balaho Hero[modifier]

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In the spirit of the aforementioned methane-mech, I caught up with Nick Ardizzone from our Narrative department to pick his brain about his favorite party guests. Let’s see what he had to say!

GRIM: So who are you anyway? Why do we keep letting you in the building?! Tell us about your writing background and how you ended up here at 343 Industries.

NICK ARDIZZONE: I came over from Microsoft Studios’ Central Services, where I did writing and editing work on titles like Ryse: Son of Rome, Killer Instinct, and Forza: Horizon. The last pre-Halo title I wrote for was Sunset Overdrive, although there isn’t much overlap between Sunset’s manic energy and Halo’s deeply realized mythology. Following my stint on Sunset, the planets aligned and an opportunity arose to write some combat chatter for 343 Industries. They must have liked what I delivered because they brought me on for the last leg of Halo 5: Guardians’ production. The timing was perfect; the decision had just been made at the time to have the Covenant speak English (they spoke their native languages in Halo 4), which meant that there were now all these great enemy characters who needed full suites of dialogue. So I got to work and haven’t stopped since.

GRIM: Speaking of some of those characters, you seem to have a certain affinity for the Unggoy. What makes the methane-breathers so appealing to you?

NICK: It’s hard not to root for the little guys, the downtrodden cannon fodder [Hey wait a sec… - Grim]. Sure, they’ve participated in their share of war crimes, but you’ve got to think about where they came from - they’re staring down the UNSC’s toughest super soldiers while standing shoulder to shoulder with the Elites who enslaved them and the Jackals who tried to sterilize them, and what do they do?

GRIM: Say funny things and run?

NICK: Well som-

GRIM: They get shot?

NICK: They try their best, dammit! They’re some of the scrappiest little bastards in the universe – equal parts ambitious and terrified, desperate to prove themselves as worthy fighters and nearly as desperate to wander off and take a nap. What’s not to love?

GRIM: I mean, when you put it that way, I actually feel more of a kinship with them myself. Now, whether fans realize it or not, you are one of the key reasons why the Grunts have reclaimed their comedic crown. Do you have any particular methods or inspirations for creating lines for the various perspectives within their ranks?

NICK: That was an order from 343i’s top brass.

GRIM: Ah yes, the horn section.

NICK: Indeed. They wanted the Grunts in Guardians to recapture that essential Gruntiness from earlier Halo games, so I went full immersion and listened to the combat chatter from Halo 3 endlessly. Grunts have this really great mix of cowardice, braggadocio, and curiosity. They don’t have much of a filter, so they’re likely to voice whatever thoughts are running through their minds in the middle of combat (“They’re shooting our heads?! I keep all my brains in there!”). Of course, a lot of the credit has to go to the great voice performances given by Anthony Hansen and Donovan Patton, as well as the legendary Joe Staten as the relentlessly talkative Dimkee Hotay.

GRIM: OMG Hotay is my spirit animal, I’m pretty sure.

NICK: Right? And speaking of ol’ Dimkee, all his inane babbling was originally a single stream-of-consciousness monologue. I wrote that first draft in one go, like a bargain-basement Jack Kerouac obsessed with tiny aliens who love to yell and can’t remember if humans lay eggs.

GRIM: Oh yes, I remember those brain-storming sessions. It’s no accident that Mr. Hotay muses about alien aesthetics amidst his delightful diatribe. But speaking of beloved story-corners, you also had a hand in crafting many of the collectible intel pieces found scattered throughout Halo 5: Guardians. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of crafting these bite-sized narrative nuggets? Sorry, I’m hungry.

NICK: I took on about half of the intel in Guardians and 343’s Morgan Lockhart tackled the rest. Although I wrote entries for the human settlers in Meridian Station, I really like doing the intel for Grunts and Elites. That’s where you get to dig a little deeper into the characters and see how they behave when they’re not getting shot at. In battle, the Elites can come across as simple warriors obsessed with honor, but there’s much more to them than that; they‘re a species who finds themselves at the tail end of a civil war, with the Arbiter’s Swords of Sangheilios fighting the remnants of the ruined Covenant. And, yes, their society places great value on honor, but I wanted to explore situations where Elites found their loyalties tested, or where they were standing uneasily at the intersection of tradition and progress. They have to make their own choices and move forward as individuals, in the same way the Sangheili must move beyond tribalism and find new identities as familiar factions crumble. Some choose one path (the medic Cham ‘Lokeema), some another (how Dham ‘Mashatt dealt with Bibjam) …and some of them yearn desperately to write love poetry to Commander Palmer.

GRIM: I’m sure he’s not alone…

NICK: That’s what being an individual is all about!

GRIM: Do you have a particular favorite character or moment within the Halo universe from before your time here?

NICK: This shouldn’t be surprising: I have to go with the Unggoy Rebellion terminal from Halo 2 Anniversary. When that tear runs down that Grunt’s ugly little face…

GRIM: Indeed, I think we all sacrificed a little memorial methane that day.

NICK: Wait, what?

GRIM: Anyway, thanks so much for joining us today! Do you have any final words for Halo story fans?

NICK: We have a lot of really exciting stuff in the works (and I’m thinking of one chunk of especially really exciting stuff that I’m particularly especially excited about), but I shouldn’t really talk about any of it. Just keep reading Grim’s stuff here and bothering Bravo on Reddit and see if you can squeeze some juicy details out of them. And if we get to the end of the series and Master Chief finally takes his helmet off and he’s just a Grunt standing on another one’s shoulders, well, now you know who to blame.

GRIM: Hey, stranger things have happened. Thanks again, Nick.

Beam Weaver[modifier]

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Included in the Warzone Firefight release will be the addition of the classically-styled Halo 2 Beam Rifle. Let’s take a look at the in-game fiction strings for each variant, along with some developer-drawn design contextualization for their gameplay effects, provided by 343 Industries Senior Systems Designer, Daniel Wiksten.

T-50: The T-50 Beam Rifle is a Covenant long-range directed-energy weapon used by raiders, snipers, and scout-executors. Long-range semi-automatic energy rifle with variable-zoom optics.

Balanced like the regular beam rifle that players are used to. - DW

T-50α: Kig-Yar snipers assigned the Fleet of Particular Justice displayed uncharacteristic bravery in their valiant defense against the Flood onslaught on Installation 04. This Alpha variant of the T-50 is an improved Beam Rifle with faster rate of fire and increased hipfire accuracy.

Intent was to make a Beam Rifle that is a bit more forgiving to use, therefore this rifle allows players to not necessarily go for the headshot and instead do a quick double tap to the body without overheating. - DW

T-50δ: The Prophet of Truth employed an elite team armed with powerful master-crafted weapons to hunt down his political enemies during the Great Schism. The T-50 Beam Rifle’s Delta variant creates an unstable gravimetric vortex at point of impact.

One of my personal favorites and also a big favorite in playtests here at 343, this rifle fire a beam that causes a singularity effect at the point of impact. That causes damage and pulls targets towards it for a short duration and eventually collapses into an explosion that pushes object away. A hit anywhere on the body will kill a Spartan, but the fire rate is really slow, so make sure you hit your shot. There has been some spectacular looking shots where enemies have been stuck in the singularity mid-air and later thrown far away when it collapses. - DW

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs would be proud[modifier]

Last week, we gave you a sneaky little fiction taste of the upcoming Sangheili-set Warzone map, Attack on Sanctum. We continue playspace parade this week with three more new settings to get your game Halo 5 on, in Arena, Warzone Assault, and Forge mode, respectively.

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Many worlds were glassed by the Covenant, though some suffered worse than others. The world of Ruthersburg was a minor Outer Colony famed for nothing and barely charted before the Covenant fleets arrived to burn what few humans inhabited the surface. The alien armada had scarcely begun their bombardment when a section of the planet’s fragile mantle buckled, tearing the only inhabitable continent apart in a rippling series of pyroclastic explosions. The barren husk that remained would have remained a footnote in history were it not for slipspace routes discovered after the War, which placed Ruthersburg in a spur of the new Sol-Epsilon Eridani trade route. Megacorporations quickly sited resource extraction and refining operations on the planet’s ruined surface dedicated to feeding metals and rare earths to shipyards building the next generation of UNSC Navy vessels above Mars and Tribute.

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Jorta Station was an important cog in Liang-Dortmund's operations on Meridian, as the site was a central hub for the megacorporation's seismographic network and labs devoted to solving the hard problems of "deglassing" the planet.

Due to the sensitive nature of the task at hand, Jorta Station also served as the command center for Liang-Dortmund’s private security forces, housing a fleet of Warthog utility vehicles, Pelican dropships, Scorpion tanks, and Mantis walkers in case of intrusion by Kig-Yar raiders or rival corporations seeking to conduct kinetic espionage.

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In the centuries that followed humanity’s ascent into the heavens, and dispersal through the stars, life has been rife with conflict. Whether it be through the internal descent of insurrection, the bloody years of the Covenant War, or even the harsh realities of colonial homesteading, interstellar expansion has not come without cost.

Discovered by Dr. Whitt Raglee while on a private scientific expedition, this distant moon remains a nameless paradise – a symbol of both serene simplicity and boundless potential, upon which lives can be rebuilt, and hope restored.

Phew! So there you have it. A nice meaty meal to hold you over until Warzone Firefight releases on June 29. Also, thanks so much to everyone who participated in the Halo Wars 2 Multiplayer Beta. I had a particularly awesome time getting matched up with gamers like jpog789, FrenzE23, Corp LVL Ninja, and others who helped me put a hurtin’ on the competition over Xbox Live. Also, in case you missed it, our own Kevin Grace sat down with Gus and Jack from Rooster Teeth to chat Halo Wars 2 – particularly in regards to some story and character development details. If you haven’t seen it yet, give it a watch right here. Next week, expect something light as we head down to Austin, Texas for RTX to show off Halo Wars 2, Warzone Firefight, and – most importantly – hang out with the awesome community. If you are at the event, make sure you come by and say hello!

Until next time… Live well, play Halo, and never insult a Goblin jockey at the food nipple.


Featured universe article this week![modifier]

Once a vibrant and thriving human colony on the periphery, Meridian was brought to ruin by a ruthless Covenant attack near the end of the war.