In the immediate wake of this year's ultra exciting Electronics Entertainment Expo, we really don't have much in the way of new hawtness prepped and ready for instant deployment. The scant scribblings on today's freshly cleansed whiteboard is stuff you probably wouldn't get all worked up over. Stuff like intersecting rectangles with corresponding length and width measurements.
That doesn't mean I won't have cool stuff to talk about - I do eat lunch just about everyday with some mugs that have ginormous oversized melons (no, not those kind of melons) - but it does mean that most of our post-E3 action plan is still in the process of being formulated. We dropped a pretty sizable amount of information on the show floor, so we're taking a brief respite to catch our breath, regroup, and ready the next round of informational ammunition. We definitely plan on keep things interesting from now until September, so it's a good thing we now have a bunch of extra whiteboard real estate to fill up.
Oh, and before you head into the forums looking to start your awesome "Intersecting rectngles and corisponding length and width measurements what deos it meen?" speculation thread, it might be relevant to note that I have no clue what the rectangles represent and I'm pretty certain that they have nothing to do with the kick ass stuff currently being developed by the hard working folks on the floor. And by "pretty certain" I mean one hundred percent. The kind of stuff that would make you salivate is up on other whiteboards that I'm not allowed to touch and being displayed on just about every monitor in the building as the creation process we're not going to talk about today continues apace. I'd love to tell you all about all that. I'd also love to keep my job. I like most of you jerks, just not that much.
This Is It, Baby...Hold Me
Ever since we revealed that one Sgt. Avery Johnson was going to be available as a playable badass in Halo 3: ODST's Firefight mode, players have been demanding to know exactly which retailers will be participating in the pre-order bonus offer. We can now confirm that the following retailers are in on the offer (in no particular order):
If you're looking to plunk down your hard-earned monies early, these are the places where your loyal patronage will earn a token to unlock Sgt. Johnson. Initially I thought this was a great place to make a Johnson joke, but I decided it was too easy. You're welcome.
Explore the Space
Since we already put a pair of Firefight missions on public display during our E3 outing in La La Land, we figured we might as well give you a better glimpse of what you can expect when you drop into Firefight come September. So, we're going to explore the space right here on Bungie.net. The in game description is a bit light for Security Zone: "Fight in the wide-open ONI exterior." Here's a small pile of pictures and words to help you wrap your mind around this mission a bit more tightly, followed up by a brief Q&A with one of Halo 3: ODST's illustrious designers, a man with a normal-sized head, Lars Bakken.
Your base of operations for Security Zone puts you right smack in New Mombasa's Section 2 ONI Alpha Site. If you're familiar with the fiction, you might think that should make it one of the more well-defended sectors of the city. You should also be aware that things did not go so well for the city's defenses when the Covenant's impromptu invasion force touched down and started scouring the city streets, sending the citizens into full-on scatter mode. As a result, you and your squad are going to be on your own beneath the imposing obsidian ONI building.
From the initial load out space tucked inside the shadowed confines of a small lobby, you'll probably want to scurry your way up the set of stairs bracketed by palm trees straight away. Once outside under the sulfuric pall, you'll find that you and your squad already occupy the brightly lit high ground. Go you.
You'll also notice that several barriers have been dropped into place to help stave off enemy fire. Don't think you can get too comfortable hanging out behind these walls. When they absorb too much damage (which is actually their one and only function in Firefight), they asplode and afford the enemy with a pretty clear view of your position.
You'll also find numerous staircases that lead both up to small observation platforms and down the slope to the depressed open area below. Many players might find it valuable to head right up to the platforms at the outset to get a quick look at the Covenant Phantoms drifting in over the encircling wall and waterway. From this vantage, if you happen to be particularly unlucky to kick things off, you'll be able to see said Phantoms deploy a pair of Wraiths into the lower area.
The Wraiths will be content to stay in the lower section, shelling you and your squad relentlessly as the more agile forces make their way up the central staircases (or flank around and take the dirt and grass roads less traveled.) How you deal with them is up to you, but each earthen terrace boasts its own unique platforms, barriers, and various other elements that might provide you and your squad with a small spot of cover should you find yourself being shelled with endless volleys of plasma.
In the Shade
If you choose to weather the storm and stick to the high ground, you might find that it's a relative safe haven for as long as you are able to keep the ascending Covenant forces at bay with well placed headshots. Once the heavy hitters begin to deploy into the site, what was once a preferred perk can quickly become the perfect place to wind up caught in a well-executed enemy flank. As will all Firefight missions, if you allow your tactical awareness to wane, you might just end up running down the slope, headfirst into a very violent pack of Brutes.
Get in the Zone...Bakken Zone!
To provide a little bit more situational pregame advice to help you keep your wits about you, we recruited designer Lars Bakken, just back from E3 (and a fabulous vacation in Branson, Missouri) to provide you with some preliminary advice. He also weighed in and told me what to call the barriers I've already described above. I wanted to call them Blast Walls. I thought it sounded kinda futuristic. Lars thought it sounded kinda stupid. Barriers it is.
Q. Straight away on Security Zone, players have the high ground and plenty of cover. How did you ensure that Security Zone would still offer up the same level of challenge and intensity as other Firefight missions?
A. Well, every map in Firefight plays a little differently. Some are big, like Security Zone, while others are smaller like Crater (Night). The bigger ones are more of a slow burn. It does start a little less intense, but it quickly becomes pretty insane. We are always telling the AI to hunt you down and kill you. This helps out quite a bit, and makes it so you can't just cower in your spawn area and "wait it out".
One way we handle the bigger levels is by putting pressure on in different ways that help fill out the lulls in combat. People who were at E3 and played Security Zone will remember the Wraiths that occasionally get dropped off at the bottom of the map. That's a good example of upping the intensity without enemies always being in your face. So, not only do you have to pay attention to that squad of Grunts moving up to your position, but you also have to keep an ear open to possible incoming wraith shells.
Q. Security Zone is on a pretty significant slope divided by several outcroppings and stairwells that provide cover and multiple routes as players traverse the environment. How will that affect the way players engage the enemy and move about the mission space?
A. Cover is a very important part of the combat cycle in Halo. Security Zone is a great example of lots of good cover in a wide open space. It just makes the encounters that much more interesting, because players and the AI have numerous ways to attack each position. This allows players to flank the enemy in unique ways, but the downside is that the AI will do the exact same thing to you. It just makes the game more tactical because your options for how you engage are increased.
Q. The Wraiths in the lower basin can be really nasty. It's easy to get distracted while taking on ground forces and end up getting shelled with plasma when you take your eyes off the skies. Did you ever think about pulling them from the map altogether? What purpose do they serve in terms of the tactics players will have to rely on for Security Zone?
A. Well, like I mentioned above, it's a pretty unique (and yes, nasty) way to apply pressure in the bigger outdoor levels. I think from the moment we put them in, we knew they were there to stay. The best part about them is not just the extra pressure they add to the space, but also that it changes your tactics pretty significantly. As soon as Wraiths are dropped off you have to deal with them quickly or suffer the consequences. In order to do so, you have to truck down there and take them out. This means leaving your safe little high ground and wading through the other Covenant to take them out. The overcharged Plasma Pistol and another ODST with Rockets, Laser, or Grenades will be the best way to knock them out.
Q. Being that the Security Zone mission takes place during the daytime hours, players won't be getting as much use out of the VISR as they would on say, Crater (Night). You haven't pulled any sneaky tricks like sticking Active Camo Brutes into the mix equipped with Flame Grenades and Maulers, have you?
A. Hey, I see what you did there. Yeah, even though the VISR isn't as effective in daytime levels, it's still no slouch when the sun is out. There could possibly be enemies that have Active Camo, Flame Grenades, and Maulers that might just get the drop on you unless you're flicking on the VISR every once in a while. Plus it's a great target acquisition tool, so it's pretty useful even during the day for any of the other enemies.
Render-to-Video Beta Housekeeping
The Wolf's Contraption continues to devour minutes as the Render-to-Video beta puts it's futuristic technology through the paces. Things are going well. The local power grid seems to be holding up and radiation levels have stabilized, measuring about five millirem's per render on average.
Now would be a great time to save your clips.
If you have rendered videos that you just couldn't bear to live without, get some new priorities, man. But before you do, download you rendered videos to your desktop for safe keeping. Maybe slap 'em on some floppies. I was going to make a "That's what she said!" joke here, but I decided it was too easy. You're welcome.
E3 Swag Bags
You know our motto. We deliver. Folks who snagged Bungie E3 swag bags via our undisclosed, super scientific methods should be checking their mailboxes next week for a package from the studio. Once they've gnawed through the cardboard and tape like rabid mongrels, they'll each find an assortment of Halo 3: ODST t-shirts, some snappy pins for their jean jackets and/or fanny packs, and some other various Halo 3: ODST-themed items they can use to taunt their less fortunate friends.
If you didn't receive a private message from me asking for your mailing address, you didn't win. And yes, it's because we don't love you anymore. Either that or the E3 swag bags were in extremely limited supply. One of the two.
Stosh found a funny pic. If you like it, it was totally my idea. If not, go reread the title of this section, Choose Your Own Adventure style.
Don't Just Think You Are...Know You Are
Haloscreenshots Landscape Recon Challenge
No, not that kind of landscaping. No, not that kind of landscaping either - get your mind out of the gutter. The landscapes we're talking about are the sweeping vistas our artists painted into your copy of Halo 3. The looming mountain range, the gentle rays of a sun setting against the distant horizon, the verdant canopy of a lush rain forest...all that stuff. This weekend's Recon Challenge will require you to capture some stellar (or interstellar) views, upload them into your File Share, and slap a tag on them so we can sort though them all and pick out some winners.
Haloscreenshots.com is once again offering to turn the top screenshots into tangible works of art, covering the preparation, printing, and delivery of three framed prints for the best screenshot artists in the bunch. Along with offering up their services and products for the top three spots, Haloscreenshots.com will also be choosing the rest of the winners who'll be granted, you guessed it, Recon armor. Nice guys, eh?
If you want to get an early look at what HSS might be looking for, check out their Landscape Collection.
And if you're still unfamiliar with their site and services, you can sample the Haloscreenshots.com wares by checking out their "About the Products" page. To order up your own print or canvas, expertly framed or otherwise, all you have to do is navigate to any screenshot in the Bungie.net collection and click on the "Buy Print" option in the file details. They'll take care of the rest.
For contest details, you'll have to Stay Tuned. We'll post a news story sometime tomorrow with all the info you need to get started. Get your F5 fingers ready.
That's it and that's all for this week's update. If you've read this far, thanks for scrolling. If you haven't, well you obviously won't be reading this anyway, ya little jerk. If you find yourself in the former camp, we hope you and yours have a great weekend. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for playing.