From inside the (still warm) studio halls of 343, it is quite easy to tell that the holidays are drawing near. Desks slowly become empty as team members head home to visit family and loved ones, flavored beverages shift from pumpkin spice to peppermint, and I ask “Who wants to go to the bakery?!” every day around noon. Something about the holidays gets me in the mood for treats.
Speaking of treats, before everyone heads home (whether near or far) next week, we decided it’d be nice to put together a very special final Bulletin for 2013. This past weekend, many of you asked Frankie your burning Halo-related (and non-Halo-related) questions, and Frankie took some time this week to answer many of them. Read on below for the goodness.
Ask Frankie: Frank O’ Connor Q&A
Who is your favorite character?
In the entire history of the franchise? It would be a tossup between Guilty Spark and Foe Hammer. The former because he’s an interesting, pivotal and possibly misunderstood – and in my opinion – sympathetic character. The latter because a lot of people think she’s a spaceship and not a callsign. And just as many who think she has an especially lyrical and overwrought surname.
What is your favorite weapon, generally speaking?
The one I’ve used most consistently across the series is the Plasma Pistol – as a secondary to strip shields or stop vehicles. As a utility weapon, either the H3 BR or the H4 DMR.
If you could change one thing about the Master Chief, what would it be?
- xLG Atomix
I would change his rank, or better still, people’s understanding of his rank. The Master Chief Petty Officer is a naval rank that is the highest attainable for enlisted men. It demands respect but demonstrates worth, ability and hard work. All things that you can assume are true of someone in that role. And the role demands such respect that you’ll even see senior commissioned officers defer to, or at least acknowledge that rank in decision making and general behavior.
What is your favorite game type in Halo 4?
- YouTube Unyshek
Pancakes or whiskey? Tough choice, I know.
A little whiskey in the syrup might actually taste decent. Then you can have EVERYTHING.
What is your favorite Halo book?
They are all my favorites. But I am going to see the Hobbit on Saturday with Joe Staten, so Contact Harvest today.
Why did the UNSC stick to projectiles as their main form of weaponry, or even now when ONI has developed lasers?
The truth is that creating a distinctive human flair, sound, silhouette and look for the universe is important to the nature and identity of the canon, and the canonical reason would be that projectiles are something you can build easily and cheaply in almost any human-friendly environment. And we don’t shy away from the fact that we have a massive military industrial complex at play. Halo actually takes place at the cusp of a more energy-efficient shift in our tech – and you have these contrasts – FTL travel and standard caseless ammo. Frankly speaking it is like that because it feels good.
What's your favorite thing?
- Jeff McRae
Right now my Xbox One. I went on vacation and got annoyed because I couldn’t command the TV to do my bidding with my voice.
If I wanted to join 343 Industries someday, what would you recommend I study?
Where’s your passion? If you’re literally a human blank slate that can do anything and has no feels, be an engineer (Computer Science) because you’ll get paid slightly more when you start and you’re harder to hire and in greater demand for more varied jobs. If you’re not a carte blanche, pick the thing you care most about, or the thing you’re best at.
Did Beamish survive the attack on Corbulo Academy using his mighty mop?
- DHG Siul S249
He survived a massive Slipspace jump outside of a cryotube, with nothing legal to eat. He’ll survive a glassing. In fact, being Scottish, he’s probably already been glassed.
What is your favorite moment in Halo, be it in novels, games or any kind of media?
You haven’t seen it yet. But I have.
Are you going to cameo in the Halo TV series like you did in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn? :D
My agent has a phone. Have your people call my people.
From your practical experience, what are real and meaningful steps an industry outsider can take to work his way into PR / Marketing for game development studios?
There are a ton of perfectly good college courses dealing with marketing, media and public relations – and knowing the subject matter helps.
Can I haz Mister Chief armor for my Spartan in Halo 4 or Halo Xbox One?
I don’t think you really want to be victimized in matchmaking like that.
What’s your favorite coffee and how do you flavor it? If you don't like coffee, maybe pop or beer?
- Nfected Spartan
That coffee that civets eat and then poop. Look it up. It’s a real thing.
Any chance of an in-game ranking system in Halo Xbox One?
- FroZeN 4S
There’s always a chance.
Have you made a potato cannon and witnessed the glorious, awesome power of the flying potato?
- TI Inspire
Yes. And a lot of bows and arrows when I was a kid. I shot Gregor Fergie in the eye. Just like his mum warned us I would.
What inspired you to work in the gaming industry, and what did you do to get involved in it?
Playing games inspired me.
What is your favorite game besides Halo?
When I’m feeling nostalgic? Looping on Coleco Vision.
What do you exactly do at 343 industries?
I do everything imprecisely. I work on story, franchise, canon, licensing, even marketing. A bit of everything.
If you were to play in a 4-player Free-For-All with Dersky, Neighbor, and Bravo, how many kills would you win by?
I think if it were FFA SWAT I would get some kills, period. I would get Steak Dinnered though, for sure.
Frankie, would you give me a high five?
- halo mahkyla
After creating your first Halo as a brand new studio and taking on one of the largest franchises, what would you say was the biggest success and failure with Halo 4?
Like any new studio, we had plenty of failures. Our biggest success will be accepting them and learning from them. I think that our growing understanding of the audience and ourselves and the new platform will stand us in good stead.
There has been a ton of feedback, both positive and negative, in regards to the direction that Halo 4's multiplayer took the franchise. What feedback have you taken to heart the most, and what changes have 343 made to their multiplayer philosophy and approach to reflect said feedback?
- a Polish Korean
I think that’s probably the most important question for our community, and I think we’ll start answering it honestly and directly in due time. So I won’t touch on philosophy here, other than to say you’ll see a lot of those learnings when we start showing things. There’s no semantic dance I can do here that will satisfy every segment of our audience – there are just too many pitfalls and inter-community disagreements on what makes Halo MP great. So we will be open and receptive and honest with ourselves.
Was the inclusion of cosmetic elements (armor variants, weapon skins, etc.) in Halo 4's DLC seen as a success? How do you think you can improve DLC more broadly?
Yes, but everything can be done better, more simply or reinvented in unexpected ways. I will leave it at that.
Has there been any discussion in regards to the merit of returning to a veto style voting system as opposed to sticking with the voting style from Reach / Halo 4?
I will say that dedicated servers and cloud technology will give us options that expand upon that premise and the former rigidity of matchmaking, period.
What are your favorite pizza toppings?
- halo mahkyla
Pepperoni, jalapenos and sometimes red onion. But I like all of them. Even Hawaiian.
Does the Master Chief wear boxers or briefs?
Is this a comic-con panel?
Are there any major Easter eggs left undiscovered in Halo 4?
- Snoop Rocket
Major? No. Minor, yes.
What qualities, in your opinion, make an ideal lover?
Gentleness. And rough, calloused hands, like a Glaswegian U-Boat cleaner.
Objective or slayer?
- Ozzy Onya A2Z
Me? Slayer. Especially once the rubber band physics from CE vanished. Rocketing my body into the base on Blood Gulch after exiting a moving Warthog with the flag….
From one baldy to another, what's your favorite part about being bald?
Consistency. And shaving it in the car with a Bic. And being mistaken for Mister Clean.
Will Halo: Spartan Assault take advantage of the Xbox One impulse triggers?
Not particularly, but the next Halo FPS will.
What are you planning to do with the Arbiter and that of the Sangheili, in both the story and gameplay?
- kaine nar rano
Can’t talk about it. But a lot.
Back before Halo was a big franchise and Halo: Combat Evolved was being developed, how much of the universe did you have planned?
Bits and pieces. The reality of developing a game is that you have to delete whole swathes of ideas – and those have a knock on effect. I know roughly what the universe looks like years from now, but not precisely how we’ll get there, because the game will define that, not a roadmap.
Did you expect Halo to become such a giant cultural phenomenon that I feel is approaching a level of Star Wars?
When I start getting that George Lucas type money, we’ll talk. But it is a weighty responsibility even now.
Did you initially plan to develop Halo 2 and the rest of the trilogy?
The game was developed like any new franchise, with the hope that it would be loved and the possibility there could be another. And the humility to know that most new franchises don’t make it.
How did you balance enemies and weapons for gameplay and story? For instance, Promethean Knights use highly advanced weaponry capable of disintegrating and piercing through armored marines. They can however die by salvos of M118 bullets. In gameplay, the Sangheili have a quicker and stronger melee than Knights sometimes. What do you comment on it?
One simple example is using hardlight as projectiles that can compare with human projectiles. But really the answer is a massive chart and years of conversations and comparisons. And some of the differences are designed to be aesthetic as well as balanced for gameplay.
The Master Chief, Commander Palmer, Fireteam Majestic, and Spartan-IVs in the Halo 4 Campaign all use full armor sets, yet we see Spartan-IVs in War Games usually wearing a mix-and-match combo. Do Spartans use different armor pieces in the canon? If so, how often do they do so?
They technically choose pieces that are suitable for both the mission at hand and their own personal fighting style.
How was Hesduros left out of the loop, to the point where it is still very religious and adopted its own traditions and technologies?
You will definitely find out more about intra-Covenant disputes and religious differences in the future.
Are there any driving ideas and inspirations behind the redesign of the Covenant look?
The changing nature of their relationship with the galaxy and the reclaiming of their own identity outside of the previous nature of the Covenant drive a lot of that, as well of course as game tech, fidelity and modernization.
Will we see more development and "humanization" of the Covenant in the future, similar to what they received in Halo 2/3?
Yes and more “alienization” too.
Will the nearly 500 year gap of the Halo timeline be further explored? There is a lot of content that can be back there, from initial interplanetary conflicts to early Human exploration and into the golden age of colonization, that can add significance to the story.
Will there be any clarification of the events of Halo 3, such as how many MAC platforms were still up, how much of the Home Fleet was intact, or how Arby N' Friends got back to Earth?
Those items may not be a focus for the next game. But they can be dealt with elsewhere.
What is the chance of seeing more books like Evolutions?
Humanity's post war status looks quite promising considering how close they were to being wiped out. What is Humanity's status during Halo 4? Colonies? Rebuilding efforts? Is the Infinity and Spartan-IV Program taking any attention away from other important issues?
They are taking the initiative. Trying to keep the Covenant off balance. The Spartan-IV program is essential to that mission.
I have wanted to ask this question for ages. Do you wear a kilt?
At weddings, sometimes.
Screenshot Spotlight: Holiday
Last week, we turned the spotlight on the color yellow. This week, we decided to get in the spirit! Take a gander at the following holiday-themed screenshots, and maybe even find inspiration to make your own.
Before we close, I’d like to thank each of you who supplied a question for the above Ask Frankie (especially those of you who asked particularly ridiculous questions)! Also, of course, a big thanks to Frankie himself for taking time and making the last 2013 Bulletin special and rather hilarious.
For those of you excited about Rocket Race on 12.23, be on the lookout for Monday’s Matchmaking Update blog, which will include the details of both the playlist and update.
Lastly, Halo: Spartan Assault comes to Xbox One on December 24th! For all the information on the game, head here, and be sure to swing back to Halo Waypoint or head to the Xbox Game Store on the 24th to play the new online Co-op mode, Operation Hydra, and more.
Happy Holidays from all of us at 343! Whether you’re traveling or staying home, we wish you a happy, healthy, Halo-filled holiday.