HALO BULLETIN 20/07/11
I Bet I Can’t Stick It!
The inescapable sizzling sound it makes that signals impending detonation. The trail of gas it leaves ever-so-lightly in its wake. The feeling of satisfaction one feels after delivering a heaping pile of, “All I can see is blue!!” These are all reasons why the Type-1 Antipersonnel Grenade has always been, and always will be, my most favorite weapon ever. If there are ever any on a map, rest assured I’ll make a beeline for them the second I spawn. Shortly after, I’ll plant one on someone’s visor. And maybe, if I’m lucky, that someone won’t be me.
The Plasma Grenade has been an endless source of entertainment—for me, my teammates, and anybody who prefers a pocketful of blueberries—since the days of Combat Evolved. The first time I stuck myself was on Midship, when a clingy orb bounced off one of the half-walls only to land front-and-center on my chestplate. Since then it’s been a common occurrence, with Plasma Grenades ricocheting off various overhangs, fortifications, and anything and everything solid enough to provide a rebound experience.
My most memorable self-stick happened on the Halo 3 map of Sandbox. Amidst frenetic fighting in front of one of the bases, I prepared to launch a glyph-covered grenade at an opponent at the precise moment a teammate threw down a bubble shield. The small explosive bounced off the inside of the translucent sphere, reattached itself to my battle-scarred Spartan, and then promptly exploded, taking not only my life but also those of three teammates that had sought refuge in the geodesic-like dome. Not a particularly fine moment, mind you, but definitely one of my more humorous Halo happenstances.
I’m not the only one who has trouble with these gummy globs, though. Check out this tale from the person who ran the demos at E3!
From Dennis, Who Has a Face with Tremendous Gravitational Pull
“During E3, as a matter of fact, during one of our last Anniversary Campaign demos, I was tired. It had been a long show. I had played through that demo perfectly several times. I charged up the hill, blasting grunts with the AR, and tossing grenades, willy hilly. I picked up two replacement Plasma Grenades from the ground. Now, a dirty demo secret. The game was set to god mode so that I didn’t accidentally kill myself and ruin the short, heavily scheduled demos.
However, mistakes were made. In an incredibly unlikely and rare fluke, I tossed a Plasma Grenade, but whirred the throw and it slid up and off a rock, and I charged face first into it. It stuck. I exploded. People laughed.
Well, they laughed the first time. Seconds later, when I did it again, there was a kind of embarrassed hush. Like my pants had fallen off.”
Been there, done that. Well, with the pants thing, anyway.
I Have Methane, You Want?
Assuming you like the little blue bundles of joy as much as I do, I’m going to guess you were excited to hear about the special Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary pre-order bonuses. Or, pro-order bonuses if you caught my typo in the press release. Whether you just need a recap or this is the first time you’re hearing about it, let’s chat a little about the Grunt Funeral skull. Sending out Halo’s most lowly and lovable enemy in style, this exclusive, game-modifying skull makes the Grunts’ already explosive methane tanks pop like a Plasma Grenade. Yes, that means you can strategically shoot them when they’re in the vicinity of an Elite. Yes, that means you can start a crazy awesome domino-like chain reaction when they present themselves in a somewhat orderly fashion. And yes, that means “Assault on the Control Room” has the potential to be especially entertaining. Seriously. Think about it for a second…
If your brain didn’t just explode into a million confetti-like pieces, check out this video showing the Grunt Funeral skull in action. Not only does it feature our favorite bipedal friends going out in a blue blaze of glory, but there’s also a tasty little treat in the form of something I hinted at in last week’s Bulletin. You’ll know it when you see it. Maybe.
While we’re on the subject, I thought you’d enjoy reading some behind-the-scenes information about this light-hearted game changer, so I cornered Chad—a designer working in our publishing group—and politely requested he type up everything he could think of relating to this skull. And by politely requested, I mean I chained him to his desk and threatened to sing the song about the last day of the work week over and over at the top of my lungs until he acquiesced.
Hey, don’t judge. I know you look forward to the weekend, too.
From Chad, Who Happens to Have Strong Arms
“The greatest challenge we had with skulls was how restricted our options were. A lot of skulls in Halos 3 through Reach functioned through changing character behaviors for AI, or replacing AI units with tougher versions. We were deathly afraid that any change to the game that involved mucking around with the AI might in some way affect the AI itself. Preserving Halo 1’s AI was critical, and we just didn’t feel it was worth the risk. As such, we had a few different ideas that, upon examination, had to be cut because they involved some kind of change to character behavior, or how the game would spawn AI into the game. In particular, we had one skull that would cause Grunts to immediately panic upon sighting a player. Funny on paper, but it broke the rule of leaving the AI code untouched. As such, we cut the skull, and found ourselves left with a hole in our lineup, and a desire to mess with the Grunts beyond just Birthday Party. Thus Grunt Funeral was born.
Grunt Funeral is based on the first version of Grunt Birthday, as it was seen in Halo 2. In Halo 2, you didn’t get the confetti or the applause of children people are now used to. Instead, taking a Grunt out with a headshot caused an explosion that’d actually hurt anything within the blast radius. With Grunt Birthday Party active in Halo 2, you could clear a squad of Grunts in a single shot.
Imitation is allegedly the sincerest form of flattery, but we didn’t want to just take the Halo 2 idea 1:1 and ship it. Aside from just being a fun way to take out Grunts, we thought it’d be fun if players found that they had to be wary of the effects of the skull for their own safety as well. So, instead of tying the affect to headshots, we tied it to when a Grunt died. The change was extremely significant. Now, packs of Grunts are like mobile cluster bombs. Taking out one can lead to an explosion that kills more Grunts nearby, who then explode. Further, meleeing a Grunt to death can be lethal. Remember the rooms in Assault on the Control Room where you turn a corner and are surrounded by napping Grunts? I like to think of those areas as minefields.
Testing Grunt Funeral has been pretty straight forward. The only significant bug we’ve ran into so far was in one iteration where, when the Grunt exploded, it also sent a lit plasma grenade straight up into the air. Several stories into the air, in fact. Players would take out a group of Grunts, but not notice the little blue love parcels being launched as they were focused on combat. We found players would clear a group of Grunts, and move in to deal with the next group, only to be rained on by explosive plasma. Hilarious to watch, but the additional treachery was not intentional.”
I read that last part and immediately started singing, “It’s raining plasma! Hallelujah, it’s raining plasma!” Those lyrics have potential, yes? I’ll work on rewriting the rest of that song when I’m done with this Bulletin. For now, though, I have one more pre-order-related tidbit to tell you about. I’ll even give you a hint: It starts with “Master Chief” and ends with “Avatar Armor.” That’s right, in honor of the 10th anniversary of John 117, you will finally be able to adorn your Xbox 360 Mini-Me with Master Chief’s signature MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor. You may be wondering, after getting all the specifics, just how much this set of pre-order bonuses is worth. I’d estimate their value at… ONE MILLION DOLLARS!! Oh wait, maybe it was one hundred billion. Either way, it’s a lot. But don’t quote me on that. What you can quote me on, however, is that this is a global pre-order program. So keep an eye on your favorite retailers as they’ll be rolling out everything shortly.
Now obviously I can’t talk about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary without mentioning our upcoming celebratory bash. Halo Fest is, by definition, an event commemorating ten incredible years of Halo. Happening alongside PAX Prime, passes sold out on May 31st. Fret not, though, because we just got word that we have 20 three-day badges to bestow upon people still hoping to join the fun. The giveaway will happen on our official Twitter account as a special Free Stuff Friday festivity, and it’s slated to start just as soon as I can get off my butt and get this whole thing going. I’m thinking we’ll do ten days of giveaways in honor of the 10th anniversary, but don’t hold me to that. Details are subject to change and all that jazz.
And now, what you undoubtedly haven’t been waiting for, it’s time for yet another round of questions from the community!
I saw the press release for Halo: Primordium yesterday. Any way I can get the cover art without the text?
No. Semi-related, answering these questions is getting easier and easier every week!
What’s up with the Halo: Reach Title Update? Has anything changed in the last week?
I actually sat in on a meeting about this very subject recently, and I’m pleased to report that everything is proceeding swimmingly. I’m still not allowed to divulge any details (since the information is being shared at Halo Fest), but I’ve been trying to sneak some subtle hints into the Bulletins. I must tell you, though, last week’s clue went completely undetected. I didn’t see a single peep about it on the forums or social networks. Son, I am disappoint. And that’s all I have to say about that.
So. Skulls. In Halo: Anniversary. Confirmed, yes?
I can neither confirm nor deny the rumor that there are skulls in Halo: Anniversary. I can say, however, that we would never bring back your favorites without adding a few to the mix. Wait, I didn’t accidentally just reveal something, did I? (Reads over first sentence.) Nope, looks like I’m good!
Dude, you spent this entire Bulletin talking about the Grunt Funeral skull, and then you say you can neither confirm nor deny the rumor that there are skulls in Anniversary. What are you, a freak?!
Actually, yes. And to prove that, I’ll leave you with this little limerick I wrote celebrating the whole Grunts exploding thing. Until next week, my friends…
There once was a Grunt from Nantucket
Who told Master Chief he could suck it.
He then tried to scurry
Away in a hurry
Only to hear Chief say, “I stuck it!”
PS: You didn’t think I would forget about highlighting your funny Friday Caption Fun responses, did you? ‘Cause I almost forgot about highlighting your funny Friday Caption Fun responses. Doh! Wipe my absentmindedness from your memory by partaking in the latest quip fest.