Tuesday, December 21

Anya Stroud: The Cortana of Gears of War

anya stroud gears of war
The titular character of Gears of War, Anya.
So Gears of War 3 is about to hit the Xbox 360 and the other lesser platforms and I thought it would be rude to not do a focus piece on shall we say the titular character of the Gears series, Anya Stroud.

Who the hell is Anya? you may well ask? Anya is the Coms person for G.O.W. She's the lady who tells Marcus Fenix and Dom that there is a courtyard free some where for them to fire cannons in. Boom!

Lieutenant Anya Stroud was a Gears of War officer in the COG Army and the daughter of Major Helena Stroud. Our heroine Anya joined the COG army to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but unlike her mother, she did not serve as a frontline Gear soldier. Anya Stroud instead became a communications officer and served in her mother's unit during the Pendulum Wars. It was during that time met soldier Marcus Fenix and formed a love interest with him, and also became friends with Dominic Santiago.

anya stroud gears
Stroud is proud...
The release of the demo for Gears of War 3 showed two things: 1: it looks awesome and 2: Anya looks set to break free from her communications role and break out into a combat role.

So why is this Anya character important? Two words come to mind: Marcus Fenix. Despite his daddy issues, he's been through a shit storm. Why shouldn't he fall for one of the last remaining beauties? What's suggested in Gears 1, is intimated in in Gears 2. I'm fully expecting conception in the third adventure of Gears of War 3... unless of course Marcus makes a boob of himself!

anya rifle gears 3
Come hither....

My pick is somehow Marcus Fenix has to rescue her and in doing so declares his undying love. Something you'll never see the Master Chief do... and in that vein, Anya is just as popular a gaming heroine as the Chief's digital love, Cortana.
It's gettin' hot in here!
Gears of War has captured the hearts and minds of many people. Including those who like to dress up. Of course, people who like to dress up as characters from video games prefer to call it costume play:

anya stroud cosplay gears
Anya appears to be missing 28 GOG tags...
But it is not just the cosplay fans that want to keep abreast of all the Gears of War issues. Some artists just have too much spare time and are happy to come up with their own interpretations of the Anya character:

Come hither Part II...... (apparently this is not Anya)

Friday, December 17

Happy Halodays from Bungie

Bungie's artists have come up with this very nice season's greetings card. I suspect it doesn't say Merry Christmas because of political correctness...

I love how we have the Master Chief sitting in the chair with his helmet off!

Wednesday, December 15

Without New Zealand, there would be no Halo

New Zealand. Best country in the world and that's a fact. Without New Zealand's Chris Butcher on the programming job, Halo would not have made Halo as totally freaking awesome as it originally was and still is. And that's a fact too.

In an article about NZ economic growth and creativity, prominent media commentator Russel Brown had this to say:

"We've sent at least one star to the global industry in Halo lead developer Chris Butcher. Might we conceivably have an industry that could employ a prodigy like Butcher in his home country? Iceland managed it with Eve Online developer CCP, which has survived and prospered through that country's financial meltdown."

Why am I posting this? In an article about the New Zealand economy, it's nice to see Halo get a mention. 

Halo FTW!

Fans may like to recall the time I actually met Chris Butcher

Saturday, December 11

Halo Remake: worth taking a look?

This man has ALL the answers!
So the rumour mill has kicked into overdrive suggesting that the original Halo: Combat Evolved game is being quietly remade by Microsoft's 343 Industries. All the speculation appears to be based on a interview with Steve McGill a high level English Xbox Executive.

The original question was:

Eurogamer: Is a Halo remake something you personally would like to see? Do you think it's a good idea?

Steve McGill: I imagine it's a good idea. I think some people want to go back to older games and see them revisited and I think a lot of developers want to see that too.

But statement was taken out of context by Halo fans and journalists who ran with it - here's the question that was asked about Halo just prior to the one above:

Eurogamer:  "Why aren't you doing any HD remakes? The God of War collection Sony just released did really well - why not do a Halo remake?"

Steve McGill: I'm not sure what's in the pipeline. We're very focused on the games we've announced right now. There's lots of great stuff coming from Xbox Live Arcade, Fable III, Force Unleashed, Black Ops... 

It was a classic I've got nothing to say answer.

So what does this mean? It mean's we still have no news on the possibility of the remake. An executive from a UK arm of Xbox is not going to be quietly slipping into an interview that Microsoft is remaking Halo for the Xbox 360. In fact, he actually stated he did not know what's in the pipeline....

So one really just needs to pin down Frankie

Be the idea has legs (both before and after this current stories has done the rounds. A Halo: Combat Evolved remake could be a good Xbox 360 experience. The experience would need to be a proper remake though, not a fresh lick of paint. All the visual flair that Halo 3 and Reach had would need to be matched. All the awesome sand box elements such as spartan lasers and shields would need to have homes. 

The beauty of a Halo: Combat Evolved remake would be that all the internal learnings from the last 10 years of gaming would be able to be incorporated in too. Imagine all the Elites with new hyper Artificial Intelligence trying to flank you on the shores of The Silent Cartographer?

There's also the tantalizing prospect of the game incorporating the Xbox Kinect.

What do you think Halo fan? Should Microsoft take Halo down a remake route? What do you think should be in the game? Leave your thoughts in the comments! 

Thursday, December 9

To Boost or not to Boost: Beware Roosting Chickens in your home.

I like the image K?
So Bungie has laid out how they treat gamers who Play Halo: Reach (and Halo 3 presumably still) by boosting. Boosting is where you manipulate the game to your advantage to get better game statistics. Usually this is done by creating game play situations where logged in players sit around with their tits in the air doing nothing, waiting to be killed.

Bungie explains their boosting policy as such:

OKAY: Full Party Boosting

Playing with a full group where nobody is idle and everyone is running around getting kills, headshots, sticks, and sweet rejections. Nobody is AFK.

NOT OKAY - Idle Boosting

Getting into a full or partial party with guests or other Gold accounts who are not manned in order to kill AFKs. Also not acceptable is having EVERYONE AFK to attempt to get Credits for time played.

Got it? Good. As always, more nefarious behavior such as network manipulation is right out. The Banhammer catches that kind of behavior in its sleep - and it is always cranky first thing in the morning. Best to let sleeping dogs lie.
What this means is when the Bungie Banhammer comes down (and it will) you will wake up and suddenly you can't pwn noobs no more in the best game ever. Ever. 

But for us honest folks at home, WTF is boosting you might ask? You'll note Bungie used the acromym AFK. This is geek speak for Away From Keyboard. So the point Bungie is making that if you play games with players in the game who's specific purpose is to be the meat in your sandwhich, you run the risk of being banned.

Generally speaking Boosting is the practice of playing a competitive multiplayer xbox game against (or rather with) accomplices, in order to easily gain ranks or achievements which would require significant time or skill to achieve during regular play (it's like how everybody lined up in Halo 3 to get the Achievement with the Spartan laser etc.

Boosting is often considered a form of cheating, because the "boosters" can easily get rewards for kill streaks or achievements which are impossible for all but the most skilled players to earn against regular opponents. This is why we should all hate Call of Duty: Black Ops other than the fact it's not Halo. 

For those who don't boost, I salute you. I still feel bad about getting my first overkill in Halo 3 by dubious means. That guilt was totally erased though by a triumphant shotgun spree in the caves of Snowbound....

Saturday, December 4

Jimmy Jangles assesses the Noble Pack Maps

Seems familiar?
Jimmy Jangles assesses the Noble Pack Maps

So, what a surprise that Bungie (Microsoft) release the two best multi player Maps they've designed for Halo: Reach as downloadable content. I have no doubt Tempest and Breakpoint will prove to become some of the most popular Halo maps of all time. Still, I miss Turf.

Here's my assessment of the three maps after a few hours playing on them:

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, rounded with a little sleep

What a ripper! It feels like we're back on Halo. Kinda feels like the Silent Cartographer sections of the original Halo. It's kind of like a spiritual cousin of the map Relic as well but wayyyyy better.  There are many rocks, caves, crannies, trees and structures in which to duck and weave. This makes for excellent short range combat Slayer type games and also long distance Sniper / DMR antics.

Tempest is self has an almost circular feel (in an abstract kind of way as it's not like you can day trip like John Lennon around the thing) so this means a good Warthog driver and Gunner can get some good map control going. Another tip is that a good sniper can easily wreak havoc from the sides of the middle of the map on the mountain side. Not too much action appears to happen on the seaward side, so that could be a safe place to take pot shots with a DMR from too...

The name Tempest is probably a reference to the Shakespeare play and the map being an island and by implication, the shit storm of fun that this Halo map will provide players. Easily one of the best maps that Bungie have sprung on their fans for Halo: Reach, sure to rise to the top as an  all time favourite.

Beam me over, Chiefy?
Anchor 9

Deep Space 9. District 9? Is this map a  Halo movie? Either way, in space they can't hear you scream. And you'll be screaming blue murder (as a red team member) when you run amok in the giant play space of doom. In terms of innovation goes the game allows you to play a little bit directly outside in space and the rockets are hidden out their so expect lots of low gravity duels.

8 a-side multiplayer on Anchor 9 is a frenzied affair, with grenades from  above trip you up as you storm stairs, cannons bringing the rain from across the map and  did I mention rockets? With all the nooks and rooms, those babies can come from anyway.

The attention to detail in this map is fabulous. The warbird resting its hangar is cool to observe. I kinda wish the missile trolleys would blow up if they saw too much heat!

Overall, Anchor 9 is a solid map, superior in many ways to a lot of the Halo 3 series, though not coming close to The Tempest or Overlook or the revamped Pinnacle. You may have your own favorites!

Things go boom!

Let's be clear, this map is not Pointbreak. You can't swim all the way to New Zealand if you are about to get swamped by a tide of Blue Team. Taken from the Halo: Reach game itself and given a new coat of paint, this is the beginning and end of all big maps for Halo.

Breakpoint has gotta be one of the biggest Bungie maps have ever produced.What a huge playground it is. It has an epic Gears of War kind of flavour to it. It's what the Halo 3 map, Avalanche should have been with its open, wide and an expansive canvas and no bottle necks at the action points. Kind of like your mum when she was 18 before you gave her all those nasty stretch marks.  

The middle of a map has a steep hill that will become a focal point for keen climbers who are handy with a Sniper rifle. Though exposed, you are high up. Teaming up with a fellow player for the double team on the noobs below is a sweet tactic with long range weapons. Beware those who dare to storm the mount, it could easily become your very own Hamburger Hill.

Breakpoint is going to be one of the go to Halo maps for players looking to play big sweeping epic games, kinda like how everyone wants the actual games to play. With Banshees and Wraiths to contend with, no outside quarter is safe on this map. A true challenge for gamers, a true Halo classic. 


So in all two brilliant maps and one pretty solid effort. It's clear to see how Bungie have honed their skills in recent times to make sure that their final Halo offerings sets the standard for all other games to come. They haveput a real challenge up to 343 Industries. Here's the mark, now beat it, for this is Full Halo Glory.

What do you think about the maps? What's the best? What's the worst? Leave a comment!

Thursday, December 2

Jurassic Halo

Check out this awesome picture that LelouchZero11  has made in Halo Reach forge.

Steven Spielberg would be proud of that!

Bungie gives up some detail on Noble Maps

The Noble Map Pack plays nicely with the existing Halo: Reach matchmaking maps and playlists, but there are a few things you should be aware of if you're planning on, or already have purchased our new maps. Said topics of interest are discussed in thorough detail below.


For launch, there is a dedicated DLC Grab Bag playlist available for Gold Xbox LIVE subscribers that will contain nothing but DLC maps. If players wish to play DLC in matchmaking, this is the sure-fire way to do it.

Many other playlists will contain DLC maps as well, but since you are not gated from entry to these playlists by having DLC, you could match with people who don’t have the maps. If that happens, you will not get them as voting options for that session. 

Also notable is that if players enter the matchmaking lobby and select a playlist that uses DLC, but where DLC is NOT required (just optional), they will see a pulsing warning message on the left side of the screen letting them know that they are missing recommended downloadable content. This does not block them from entering matchmaking in that playlist, it just warns them that the playlist uses some maps that they do not have. This should have no negative effect on that user.

If a player does NOT have the DLC maps and selects a playlist where the DLC maps are optional (not required), it will result in a pulsing warning message appearing on the left side of the screen letting the player know that this playlist uses extra maps. This informs users that they can increase their map selection in the playlist by downloading the additional maps. This does not prevent the player from playing in this playlist.

Selecting a DLC required playlist will result in another warning message appearing in the same location as the one described above. This warning message will inform the user that they do not have the maps required to play in the selected playlist. The option to Start Matchmaking will be grayed out until they select a playlist that they have the required maps for.

If a player without the Noble Map Pack selects a playlist where the DLC maps are required, they will get the above warning message and the option to Start Matchmaking will be grayed out.

DLC Manifest

Players who do not have DLC will still see DLC maps in their map selection screen while they are connected to Xbox LIVE. The maps will have stars next to them which indicate that they are new. If a player without the DLC maps attempts to select one from the map selection screen (in the Custom Game lobby or the Forge lobby), an Xbox LIVE Marketplace window will appear with the Noble Map Pack offer. At this point, players can purchase the maps.

This player does not have the DLC maps, but they will still appear in their map selection screen while they are connected to LIVE. Selecting one of the DLC maps will bring up the offer for the Noble Map Pack.

DLC Films

Users are able to download films, film clips, and map variants for all the DLC maps, even if they don’t have the map pack. If they attempt to select a film file that is associated with a map they do not have, they will receive a pop-up informing them that they are missing some required content (required to use the file they are selecting). The pop-up will let them decide whether to go to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and view the Noble Map Pack offer, or ignore the warning and select a different file.

If a player selects a film of map variant that requires the Noble Map Pack and they do not have it, they will receive this pop-up informing them of the situation and give them a direct link to download the Noble Map Pack.

If the player dismisses this warning, they will return to the Theater Lobby where an error message will be displayed due to the film load error. The error message indicates that the film failed to load. In this case it was due to missing content (you need the map to watch the film).

This error message will appear for players that attempt to select a film from a DLC map that they do not have.

Attempting to select a DLC map variant for a map that you do not have has slightly different behavior. The map selection will simply not change from whatever was previously selected. There is no error message. The game reacts as though the player had canceled out from the action and not selected anything. 

Playing With Friends

If a player without the Noble Map Pack attempts to join a session where a DLC map is selected the session will be prevented from starting with an error message informing the party that someone failed to load content (in this case, the map). If the game is already in progress when the join is attempted the player without DLC who is attempting the join will immediately be removed from the session and returned to their own lobby.

Content Tied to DLC

If a player has the DLC maps and has created content for them (map variants, films, and film clips) then deletes the DLC, those content items will disappear from the game’s UI. This only impacts players while they are offline or failing to connect the Halo: Reach servers. The content is not actually gone, but it will not be displayed in the in-game UI. If they re-download the maps or get online and successfully communicate with the Halo: Reach servers, the content will reappear. No special action needs to be taken to communicate with the Halo: Reach servers aside from connecting to LIVE and launching Halo: Reach.

Tuesday, November 30

Noble Map Pack is now availabl

As per the Bungie site, the Noble Map Pack is now available:

If you've been itching to try out our three newest maps, the Marketplace switch has been flipped and the DLC Grab Bag Playlist is up and running. Of course, you should feel free to continue playing in your routine hoppers, too. Our matchmaking algorithms will automatically search for other players with DLC weighted to give you a nice blend of old and new.

Download the Noble Map Pack

Thanks for playing!

No Bungie, thank you for being fricking awesome.

Reach could have had space ship multiplayer

This brief article from The Escapist talks about the goal that Bungie had to get space ship battles as part pof the Halo Reach multiplayer experience but that it was ultimately dropped. Marcus Lehto lets us in on the plans:

Remember that sequence in Reach when you have a dogfight in space against the Covenant? It kind of plays like those parts of the old Nintendo 64 space combat sim StarFox 64 where Fox McCloud would whisk around a relatively small area trying to take down a specific enemy. 

The space fight mission in Halo: Reach is definitely a far cry from the more open space battles of, say, Tie Fighter, but it was a nice departure from the run and gun gameplay of the rest of the campaign. Bungie's Creative Director on Reach, Marcus Lehto, said that the space combat was a darling of the studio and almost made it into multiplayer before the team ultimately decided that it was probably better saved for a different game.

"We joked about it from time to time and even had a rough version of it working very early on in development," said Lehto. "But the mechanics of it were pretty silly and we very quickly realized that the resulting gameplay experience wouldn't hit the bar we were aiming for, nor justify the amount of work required.

"With so many features and so much content already committed, Reach was an incredibly ambitious project on an already aggressive schedule," Lehto said.

So maybe something will come of Bungie's Aerospace Teasing soon....

Tuesday, November 23

Anchor 9 Intro Video by By Designers

Check out this video of Anchor 9 hosted by the designers themselves.

Now back to work!

Monday, November 22

Halo 3 Series 3 Masterchief signed figure for Sale

So like Trade Me is a New Zealand based web site, similar in nature to Ebay (but executed wayyyyy better). Today, I magically came across this cool listing for a signed Master Chief figurine.

"Hey Jimmy Jangles", you may say, "who signed it?". Well dear reader, Mr Chief's voice actor himself, Steve Downes. And you may say, "Amen brother, Amen". If I was so inclined I might respond, "were it so easy to say that" but instead I'll put up the image of the listing and suggest NZ and Aussie readers go bid... (ROTW cannot bid but can watch on jealously).

Here's the description the seller gave: "mint condition packaging, is signed on front ' finish the fight, steve downes 117'. totally un-opened, got this signed at armageddon 2 years ago by the man him self. make me an offer i cant refuse and this much loved collectors item will be yours."

Full disclosure: I work at Trade Me. It's the best company in the world. And that's a fact. 

Friday, November 19

Let's Talk about Maps, Baby

So like another blatant steal from B Net
Last week, I sat down with one of the Noble Map Pack’s Environment Art Leads, Rob Adams, and talked a little shop about how he and his cohort, Sam Jones, guided the DLC team from the mass out phase to finished product over these last few months. My own illustrious art career spans many a whiteboard and includes countless crude approximations of unspeakable unmentionables, but Rod Adams and his team are certified arteests. After forcing him to evaluate my latest dry erase abomination, he agreed to answer my questions – as long as I promised to never try my hand at illustration ever again.

Q. So, let’s provide some context. Where do you and your team start in on the Noble Map Pack?

Sam Jones and I came on the project as co-Environment Art leads when the maps were right in the middle of mass out. Invasion, for example, was just a bowl of polygons being spun around. So, the first job we have coming onto the project was to satisfy a list of mass out’s requirements.

Editor’s Note: I’m certainly not qualified to provide supplemental information on this front, but as I understand it, “mass out” is the phase where all of the core geometry is in place and the bones of the map – the playable framework – is largely completed. – Urk

Q. Do you guys have any design input? Seems like coming on after mass out is largely completed would mean that you don’t have a lot of influence over the map’s ultimate shape or layout.

It’s a collaboration. As Chris Carney says, “a map will live or die in mass out.” If it’s not fun and if it doesn’t work out during mass out, it’s not going to be a shippable map. So, all of the big, key elements have to be figured out first. A lot of the big changes we did to the maps were done in collaboration with design.

For example, establishing key views is one of the top, early requirements. One thing that was really important for us to nail was player orientation. No matter where a player spawns, no matter where they are, we want the number of milliseconds that go by before a player knows where they’re going to be as small as possible. Instant orientation. The instant I spawn, I want to know exactly where I am on the map, and what direction I’m facing. If I have to take a half second to look around, that’s an extra three steps to get to the Needle Rifle – it’s all the difference in the world. 

Establishing those key views and making them very different was a huge part of mass out. Sam has this phrase he loves to apply. “The Cardinal Directions,” to help us keep the big directional elements simple. On Breakpoint, you see the massive Forerunner artifact glowing in the distance, the gorgeously-painted skybox by Mark Goldsworthy, the open cliff with the glacier coming down, and the glacial cave highlighting each cardinal direction. They all look very different from each other.

Anchor 9 and Tempest are the same way. All these things were created as key visual elements in mass out, and we wanted to be heavy-handed. Signage and colors are only Band-Aids. They help, but not as much as we like to think they do. Once we knew visibility wasn’t going to be an issue, we had multiple meetings with the engineers before we started investing a lot of time in architecting, the next phase. Once all the big questions were answered and all the big, broad strokes were taken care of, we started play-testing them every day and making small changes before heading into architecting. 

Q. So, is that how the relationship between art and design plays out over the course of the rest of the process?

We have a really close – I hate to say the word “synergy” – but we have a synergistic relationship between art and design. We can’t survive without each other. We lean heavily on them. They lean heavily on us. There’s a lot of borrowing from each other’s expertise. We’re always playing the game together and always talking about the maps. 

All of our map artists have a good grasp on design – they’re all gamers, which is great, and they take part in the play-tests. They all have something to say about it. But, we definitely have people with strong visions guiding each map. We have Derek, who owns the vision on design, working with Carney. We have me and Sam working on the creative art vision. So, there are very few people who have to understand each other and work together to filter all of the great ideas that bubble up. 

The great thing about it is that there are a lot of good ideas that come out of the process and out of play-testing. Our ability to filter them is super-fast and super-efficient, because we’re all in these play-tests together. 

On multiplayer maps, in this situation, our artists had a lot of input because of our close proximity to the design team, and because of the fact that we were play-testing every single day. We’re giving and getting good feedback constantly. We really understand why something doesn’t work, instead of having to react to change requests that come in second, or even third hand. There’s a short feedback loop with rapid iteration time. This leads to accelerated evolution of map design, and ultimately more polish. 

Q. Are there any big factors to keeping that relationship in good working order?

The biggest factor in getting design to work well with art is lots of play-testing with both disciplines involved. The more people there are play-testing a map, the more consensus you‘ll have, because really an argument is just a disagreement, and the way you get more agreement is to share the same experiences. So, the more people we bring into the play-tests, the more things we all observe together. There’s consensus, there’s buy-in. I know that -blam!-’s broken, because I just saw it with my own eyes.

Q. Synergistical! So, with that kind of solid and consistent collaboration, these maps have to be awesome, right? 

These maps are totally bad ass. They are the best multiplayer maps the studio has ever made! 

Nah, I don’t want to make any comparisons to the classic Halo maps, because I didn’t work on them and they are legendary, but I will say that some of our best guys put every ounce of energy they had in order to get the greatest amount of artistic and design polish into the Noble Map Pack. And a lot of our guys worked on the Halo classics, so we built on the successes there.

It’s an honor to be able to work on something that plays this good and to be able to help make it look good, too. It’s the ultimate privilege. We were able to do pretty much everything we wanted to do visually, within reason, and without breaking the design. 

For me, the definition of finishing isn’t just making something look pretty. It’s about not breaking the fun of the mass out version. It’s very easy to ruin a map by over-detailing it or over-contrasting it. And largely because we were careful about this, the finishing phase was a massive success.

Q. It happened fast, too. At one point I went down to Houston for a week and when I came back and fired up a build, it was like night and day. How did you pull off that kind of devilry?

We crammed as many artists as feasible into small spaces. I think we had seven or eight artists working on Anchor 9 at one time, which is insane. It’s pretty amazing, even when you see it every single day. We were already pushing the envelope with stacking artists on Halo: Reach. For example, we had three artists working Farragut Station, a single encounter space for ONI: Sword Base for about three weeks. There was a ton of work that happened in a short amount of time, but because we were near the end of production, we knew our tools and our systems well. For the Noble Map Pack, we took a lot of those same “parallelization of artists” lessons, applied it to a bigger team, and were able to stacked people into small spaces without stepping on each others' toes too much. 

But it did get to the point where it was almost like a stunt. “Let’s just see how many people we can get in here!” Like college kids trying to stuff as many people as possible into a Volkswagen.

We were able to hit a noticeably higher bar than ever, because of our focus, because of our dedication to play-testing, support from our concept department, engineering, and especially the test team. We were able to apply a lot of lessons in hindsight after coming fresh off of Reach. We knew what to do and what not to do. We had a lot going in our favor and we just capitalized on our advantages to make awesome maps.

Q. Are there any specific elements that you think players will really appreciate?

The flow of the maps – the traversal routes that players use to navigate the maps – is ultra-refined. Earlier we were trying to figure out how many play-tests we ended up having, but it was five months, every day, and we were able to make significant refinements to these maps every single day. That level of design refinement is rare for any studio, even for Bungie.

Orientation, routes, jump heights, logical paths from one destination to another, running with the flag, running without the flag, trying to jump with the flag, low gravity, zooming and shooting while running across different surface heights – there are so many very subtle things that got smoother and smoother and better and better throughout the process of iteration. That amount of polish is a key element to these maps’ success.

The other exciting thing that sets these maps apart is the immediate orientation, which means you’ll quickly know them like the back of your hand. It’s not just about trying to make them beautiful. I can give you a list of 25-30 significant visual elements that are deliberately worked into each map to make it immediately obvious to the player where they are. They are not accidents. It’s all hand-crafted. Color, lighting, surface details, silhouettes – a lot of the things that people will appreciate both consciously and sub-consciously.

Another thing that players will appreciate is the fiction that goes into these maps – backstory and justification. We spent weeks figuring out each map’s story and relevance to Halo: Reach. Why does Anchor 9 exist? Why is it out in space? What is its function? Why are the two halves so different from each other? 

We thought about all of these things and pushed ourselves to come up with good answers to all of these questions, so that we could do an hour-long presentation on just the backstory if we had to. And while the player is likely never going to hear any of that, while they’re running around, it all feels grounded and real.

The other important thing that players will appreciate is that these maps are just -blam!- fun. We made sure above all else, they’re fun!

Q. You imposed the fun?

Yup. We played and played and played and just kept deleting un-fun and adding more fun every single day.

The day you drop into Anchor 9, Tempest, and Breakpoint – which is, of course, the 30th of this very month – make sure you pay attention to the Cardinal Directions and thank Rob, Sam, and the rest of the DLC team for ensuring you don’t have to waste any time getting to the Needle Rifle, or drinking in the incredible visuals on display in these three new maps.

Editor’s Note: Just in case you didn’t notice, each of the images in-lined above are before and after looks of all three maps. Mouse over each to check out how the maps evolved. You might have also noticed that they're all watermarked for Internal Use Only. Whatever. I do what I want! - Urk