Published on June 11th, 2010 | by Swaine Dillinger0
Halo Reach – World Exclusive
For starters, can you tell us how the response been so far for the Beta stage of the game?
The overall response to the Beta was fantastic, and the outpouring of support and participation exceeded our expectations. We had more than 2.7 million unique players helping us test and refine Reach and we’re incredibly thankful to everyone who contributed the more than 16 million hours of gameplay. Players were very eager to share their thoughts and very vocal in what they liked and didn’t like. We’ve received terabytes of data and game uploads and sifted through all of the high-level comments, and our team has processed and reacted to all of the consistent themes that arose during the Beta.
Is it an ongoing process of tweaking, and how much can we expect to change between now and the final release?
Absolutely. The team has been iterating and refining core elements of the game since the beginning of the Beta stage, and that process will continue right up until the point when the game is finally pried from their hands and sent off to manufacturing.
One thing to note is that the Beta itself was a snapshot of our work-in-progress code base. By the time it is launched to the public, the studio and the game was already about six weeks ahead of that content. As a result, the Beta included bugs and issues that were actually already fixed before May 3rd but weren’t able to get resolved in time for the public release. However, plenty of new tweaks and refinements have been happening solely as a result of data and feedback obtained through the Beta stage.
The list of tweaks is pretty intensive but a few of the bigger ticket changes players can expect to see this September include slightly modified grenade damage, the melee system working the way it was intended (a slightly longer delay between melees and a much less frequent occurrence of players deflecting each others’ attacks), slightly modified base run speed and jump height, a fixed bug that makes headshots register more consistently and accurately, minor tweaks to better balance the Spartans vs. Elites, tweaks to the durability of vehicles, changes to weapon and objective placement on maps… and the list goes on. So really, anything and everything is fair game, and the team will continue to tune the game up until the very end.
Will the standout options from the multiplayer make it into the single-player campaign? (Armor Abilities, etc.)
Armor Abilities and the full breadth of the sandbox will be present throughout the whole of the campaign. We’ll have more to show and say about the campaign soon.
What are you trying to achieve with the single-player campaign? Will it be significantly different to what has gone before it?
Reach really is Bungie’s most ambitious game ever, and the vision is to make it the definitive Halo experience, to build on a decade’s worth of experience creating this universe and raise the bar in every way and leave our fans something awesome we can all be proud of. This applies to every facet of the game – the core engine has been completely rebuilt to deliver the most visceral, impactful, beautiful and engaging Halo experience yet. You’ve seen some of this already come through in the multiplayer Beta but it will really shine in the campaign.
As far as being significantly different, the goal has always been to retain and build upon the essence of what makes a Halo game and what fans have come to know and love and expect but really push the experience further than we’ve ever been able to before. At its core it’s definitely a Halo game but you’re going to see and do things that just weren’t possible before. The underlying tone of the campaign is darker than previous Halos. It’s a more character-driven story featuring a brand new squad of Spartans, and it’s a true planetary-scale battle with encounters that double the number of enemies found in Halo 3.
The world itself is vast and beautiful with a level of detail far greater than what was achievable in the original saga. And of course there are plenty of new exciting additions to the gameplay sandbox in the form of new weapons, vehicles and Armor Abilities.
How important is it to Bungie to reclaim the top spot as the premier FPS developer?
Everyone here has always been our own biggest critics, and the motivation and drive has always come from within. It’s always about doing the best possible work and everyone collectively rising to the challenge to deliver a game we all want to play and something we can be proud of. Bungie is now pulling out all of the stops for Reach to make sure that it’s the definitive Halo game.
People have often struggled to describe the tangible difference between Halo’s combat and that of other games. How would you go about doing it?
There are a lot of factors working in tandem that really define the core Halo experience. The Halo combat really boils down to the interplay of everything in the sandbox and the choices a player has to make. The controls are precise and crisp, making players feel powerful and connected, the encounters are highly variable and can be approached in any number of different ways.
Choosing which weapon, ability or tactic to employ in any given situation is a huge part of what makes Halo different. Everyone starts on even footing, with access to the same abilities and can only carry two weapons, so the outcome of an encounter is a factor of who utilizes the best tools for a given situation with the most skill. Players also aren’t penalized for experimenting – fall back and let your health regenerate and then go at it again, or get quickly respawned and get right back into the action. Halo is a game that’s easy to pick up, incredibly fun to play but has plenty of depth and nuance that takes time to master.
What game types are big in the Bungie offices right now?
At the moment the current favorite in the office is something we can’t actually talk about yet. Overall though, our team is as diverse as our community when it comes to gameplay preferences. This is one of the reasons the Halo games have so much diversity and so many different options to create your own custom game experience. There’s literally something for everyone. We have plenty of ultra-competitive people on the team who compare their Arena ratings every morning and would be happy playing nothing but Team Slayer while others enjoy the mayhem of larger battles associated with Invasion or being the lone wolf in a game of Headhunter.
As the development cycle for Reach nears its end, are you guys sad to say goodbye to the franchise that has defined the company in the last decade?
It’s definitely bittersweet for the team as we near the end of Halo. On one hand it is sad to think about leaving something so big behind – much of the core team responsible for creating Halo is still here at Bungie and this universe has shaped and defined their lives for over 10 years. On the other hand it’s very rewarding and inspiring to look back on the past decade and see how far this universe has come, to see how large and passionate the community became and the legacy Bungie has left behind.
There’s something very exciting and invigorating about standing on the precipice of something brand new, taking a huge leap and starting all over again. We are very much focused on making Reach the definitive Halo game in the series; something we can all look back on years from now and be incredibly proud of; something that raises the bar for the types of experiences Halo has to offer. However after that, the team is very energized and committed to tackling a brand new challenge and bringing our next big universe to life.
And finally, what’s the most satisfying kill you can remember? Yesterday I span around and planted a plasma on the ground, way in the distance, simply because I had a feeling. A hunch. One second later, a jetpack guy fell out the sky right onto it. It was a thing of beauty…
For me personally it was probably one of my first games in the Beta. It was a Team Slayer game on Powerhouse and I chose the Armor Lock load-out. A member of the other team had the Hammer and was sprinting towards me while his friend was firing a DMR at me. I back-pedaled and fired off a few pistol rounds and jumped back over the ledge, luring him in. Right as he tried to smash me with his Hammer, I activated Armor Lock and deflected the blow. As I came out of Armor Lock his shields were dropped, allowing me to get an easy melee kill. I then proceeded to pick up his Hammer and use it on his teammate who dropped down a second too late to help his buddy. It was just really satisfying because it was the first time I used Armor Lock on someone outside the studio and it was a textbook maneuver.
The most entertaining kill I saw during the Beta though had to be during a game of Generator Defense on Overlook, when an unsuspecting Spartan had a weapons drop canister fall from the sky and land right on his head. Splat!