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.