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$1.7 million up for grabs in Halo World Championship 2016

Halo has long been a major icon in competitive online gaming from its early days surrounding Halo 2 to Halo 5 today with massive audiences through MLG, ESL, and other eSports organizations. Microsoft is prepared to make the 2016 Halo World Championship the biggest ever in the history of the Halo franchise by partnering with those organizations.

Though 343i and Microsoft initially intended a $1 million prize pool, the micro-transaction initiative by 343i will be yielding a 70% increase in the stakes — $1.7 million.

The REQ system has been one of the more controversial aspects of Halo 5, but the developers at 343 assured fans that this system is being put in place with only the best intentions at heart. The devs have already promised free DLC maps for the life of the game because of these cosmetic content packs.

The tournament begins with the first Online Ladders December 6, 2015 and moves all the way through to the finals ending on March 20, 2016.

This will be one of the first major tastes of competitive Halo action since the release of Halo 5. The events are expected to rely heavily on streaming through twitch.tv. Gamers across the globe who want to see how they fair in the “ultimate test” can sign up at Halo.gg.

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Halo 5 forge still to come; releases in late December

Halo 5 is now available on Xbox One and with a flood of positive reviews showering 343 Industries and Microsoft with praise, there’s still some more to come — especially for fans of custom games.

Forge mode is due for a December “holiday break” release and is poised to offer the most in-depth and intuitive player creation tool ever included in a contemporary triple-A game.

While 343i is dedicated to pushing out more free, developer-quality maps for use in the online multiplayer, fans will be able to make maps in a fashion more closely aligned with the developers own process.

Josh Holmes took to Halo Waypoint to describe what they were going for and how they wanted to build on Halo 4’s forge.

“The creativity of the Forge community knows no bounds and our goal was to give them more power and control than ever before. We wanted to remove as many constraints as possible so they can create high quality maps that rival the ones that we are shipping with the game.” – JoshingtonState, Halo Waypoint

Improved controls, better magnet between objects, and multi-select capabilities are among some of the improvements to the system.

Since Forge was introduced in Halo 3 creators would be given a cap on how many assets could be used with dollar values assigned to each object. That changes in Halo 5. Players will now get a greater idea of how they’re using resources with a “multi-budget system.”

Multiple budgets based on real engine systems; max object counts, memory, etc. This means when placing something like a large terrain piece, its large texture will only eat into the memory budget once, and additional same/similar pieces will only use up the object count budget because their shared texture is already loaded.”

The amount of variety now is remarkable. Simple lighting changes can drastically alter the atmosphere of maps and combined with the new Forge canvases — similar to the Halo Reach forge world — reusing the same environment still offers a great amount of diversity.

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“The truth” gets closer with new Halo 5 launch trailer

343 Industries and Microsoft have been constructing a masterful ad campaign with “Hunt The Truth” — a collection of various hints and teasers regarding the Halo 5 story leading up to the full release of the game in late October.

Now, “the truth” feels as close as it could be with the latest Halo 5 Launch trailer showing off more of the conflict between Master Chief and the people that previously heralded him as the hero of mankind. The new co-protaganist Spartan Locke and his squad will have a massive role in subduing Chief and Blue Team.

Where most Halo trailer purely stick to the iconic theme music and style that Halo has built up over it’s 14 year long life, 343i changes things up with a song in this Halo 5 trailer. The second half of the video has Muse, Knights of Cydonia playing over an assortment of gameplay clips and other badass moments from the campaign.

Halo 5 releases in two weeks — October 27 — exclusively on Xbox One. Microsoft is also launching a limited edition Xbox One bundle shipping with a 1TB Spartan Locke stylized console, controller, and a Steel Book containing a digital download of Halo 5: Guardians along with some small in-game extras.

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Halo 5 co-op campaign to have “a new level of depth”

When Bungie released Halo back in 2001 one of the biggest features that made the game so shareable, fun to play, and a pop-culture hit was its incredible multiplayer. Now, 14 years later 343 Industries is looking to capture that same level of fun in a multiplayer but matching it to more contemporary gameplay with online co-op play.

343i’s latest blog by Josh Holmes — the head of the studio — explains that the past love that many gamers had for the co-op campaign was the inspiration to fully integrate that experience into Halo 5. No more seeing three or four Master Chiefs roaming around together for a completely unexplained reason. Now the introduction of fire teams gives Chief true reason to have the back-up he has when playing the multiplayer.

“…we have committed to co-operative campaign at a fundamental level. This creative pillar has influenced many decisions throughout the game’s technology and design. While you can still expect the same great single-player experience that Halo campaigns have been known for, engaging in co-operative play gives the campaign a new level of depth and richness.” – Josh Holmes

The biggest change in the multiplayer is the new “drop-in, drop-out” feature allowing new players to join another’s campaign without waiting to restart a level. The fireteam that both Master Chief and Spartan Locke fight besides are with you through the entire game and when real teammates aren’t there to help you the A.I. will pick up right where you left off. Chief and Locke are both capable of directing their A.I. squads wherever they see fit.

Master Chief and Spartan Locke can command their team to revive downed members during battle.
Master Chief and Spartan Locke can command their team to revive downed members during battle.

Another key aspect of the fireteams is their importance to the story. The accompaniment of additional spartans helps the personalities within the Halo universe expand significantly with some new and returning characters. (And even some vastly different characters since the last time we met them in a Halo game — like Sergeant Buck.)

Blue Team’s accompaniment of Master Chief will help players gain a greater perspective of the Spartan II’s past.

The formation of Fireteam Oriris, Spartan Locke’s team, includes Buck as well as two never before seen characters in the Halo games — Holly Tanaka and Olympia Vale.

“We’ve deliberately designed these two teams to provide visual contrast with one another. Blue Team have a heavier, more weathered feel. Their technology is proven, reliable, and practical in nature. Fireteam Osiris represent a new generation of Spartans. Their armor is sleek and modern, technologically advanced and displaying less wear.”

Check out Halo Waypoint for more details regarding the Halo 5 co-op campaign.

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Halo Channel comes to mobile devices; available now on iOS and Android

The app popularized on Xbox One and Windows 8 PCs is now available on mobile devices; The Halo Channel comes to iOS and Android.

The Halo Channel — part of Halo Waypoint — gives fans a variety of media to read, watch, and listen to. The most popular aspects of the channel offered include a detailed look at the making of Halo 5 and other general news pertaining to the Halo universe.

Season 2 of the Sprint is currently available giving fans a look at the work that went into getting the 343i presentation at E3 2015 ready. Get a “firsthand look at the drive, determination, and dedication required to bring their best at gaming’s biggest showcase.” Gamers can also check out videos on the implementation of HoloLens in Halo 5 as well.

Also included on this app is Halo Nightfall, the live-action series giving fans a greater breakdown of the upcoming co-protagonist of Halo 5 Guardians, Spartan Locke. All five episodes are available to be streamed through the app.

Those who download the app on either of the new two platforms will be given a promotional REQ (Requisition) pack containing a special emblem for use in Halo 5: Guardians when it releases on Xbox One October 27, 2015. For gamers that have already downloaded the app on their Xbox One or Windows 8 PC the same REQ pack will be given to you.

Download iOS version here

Download Android version here

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Microsoft and 343i use powerful analytical approach for debugging Halo 5

When the Halo 5 Multiplayer Beta released back in late December the majority of the game’s fans were simply ecstatic at the simple chance to play the upcoming Halo game, but for 343 Industries and Microsoft the significance of the beta was much greater than just giving fans a chance to test the game for them. Partnering with Microsoft’s Research division, 343 Industries took a new approach to prediciting, analyzing, and understanding the results that came pouring throughout the beta’s open access.

This approach, called “Trill” is used to quickly debug and continuing to improve the overall Halo 5 experience. Based on a temporal data and query processing system model, Trill helps Microsoft manage the player’s game information in a database. The power of this system is superior to all others at “2 to 4 order magnitudes faster than the competition” according to Rob DeLine, Senior Resercher for Microsoft.

“the Halo team uses Trill, a high-performance in-memory incremental analytics engine, and Tempe, a web service for exploratory data analysis, to monitor and quickly improve the Xbox gaming experience.” — Microsoft Research team

While Halo is the biggest name game to take advantage of Trill they are not the only ones. While nothing is certain, the fact that there is this much more effort going into ensuring the quality of the game remains high should be promising for Halo fans disappointed in the overwhelming number of problems with the Halo: Master Chief Collection release in November 2014.

Check the video below for an example of how the Trill helps the team recognize an in-game medals glitch quicker than normal.

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Xbox One E3 2015 games recap | Halo 5, Mass Effect Andromeda, Gears of War, and more

“Boom”

That’s all Larry Hryb had to say to those watching the press conference when Microsoft unveiled a complete surprise announcement that will likely bode extremely well for them in encouraging Xbox 360 gamers to jump to Xbox One. Backwards compatibility was announced earlier today at their E3 briefing, and the reception has been almost universally positive.

Though the ability to play Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One marked the biggest news of the day, there was so many incredible games and more from their showing to give gamers ample reason to be excited for this holiday season and beyond.

Here is a collection of all the games shown at Xbox One’s E3 2015 briefing:

Games

Phil Spencer has reiterated time and time again of the importance of video games as the primary focus of the console and Xbox’s E3 showed some great returning IPs and notable new ones as well.

Halo 5: Guardians

While we’ve already got to see a bit of the multiplayer gameplay in the past Microsoft showcased some small information about the story’s direction and what playing in the recently revealed squad system that Halo 5 will introduce.

ReCore

Not much is known so far about this new IP and Xbox exclusive, but it has peaked the interested of some Xbox One owners and with good reason. The CGI trailer was done very well and with developers from Metroid Prime and the creator of the Lost Planet and Dead Rising games, Keiji Inafune, the game looks promising. Players will take on the role of one of the last remaining humans and work to “forge friendships with courageous robot companions and lead them on an epic adventure through a mysterious, dynamic world.”

No release date announced.

Gears of War 4

Outside of Halo, Gears of War may be the most treasured exclusive franchise and a new sage begins on the Xbox One. A Gears of War 4 gameplay trailer shows some new faces — as well as some new enemies, but the iconic factors of the franchise are still prevalent with the Lancer Assault Rifle and its accompanying chainsaw as well as the same dark tone of the gameplay. While the game doesn’t release until the holiday season in 2016, fans can get their Gears of War fix with a beta of available now on Xbox One!

Mass Effect: Andromeda

As the original Mass Effect is now brought to the Xbox One with the backwards compatibility feature now available on the new generation console, gamers who’ve never played the Mass Effect can get a taste of the series and build some excitement for the next installment in the franchise game. The trailer displays some of the world environments that players can look forward when it releases in Q4 2016.

Forza Motorsport 6

While a bit of Forza Motorsport 6 was leaked by the Japanese Xbox.com page, the new night racing and weather effects change give players some new experiences on top of the staple racing game of the Xbox platform. New 24 player online racing and some improved collision effects are also to come when it releases September 15.

The Division

While Tom Clancy’s The Division won’t be an Xbox One exclusive, this third-person shooter will be coming to Xbox One first as a free beta. Sign up here.

Gigantic

This highly stylized arena combat game from Microsoft with “freedom of movement, play-style choice, and towering Guardians makes 5×5 competition more accessible and fun than ever.”

Fable Legends

Fable started as an incredible franchise on the original Xbox and with the first two games receiving great praise, the series has struggled to reach same level of prestige as the first two. Fable Legends looks to change that with an emphasis on co-op play with a group of four players working together to survive and flourish in Albion later this year.

Id@Xbox Games

Microsoft’s desire for a greater indie library on their new generation console is coming to fruition with a plethora of new games ranging a vast assortment of genres and styles will give the Xbox One library a wonderful boost in it’s overall quality.


 

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Halo 5 to include 15 free maps in DLC; no Gold required for online co-op play

In a major move to continue their work building a better relationship, developers of Halo 5, 343 Industries has elected to include 15 free multiplayer maps as DLC on top of the 20 maps included in the game’s launch. In addition, 343i will not require Xbox Live Gold for players to play online co-op. This is a major move for both 343 and Microsoft to help the Halo fanbase continue flourishing.

The information comes from the most recent Gameinformer digital release that included a detailed breakdown of some new information and things to expect from Microsoft’s E3 2015 press conference on June 16.

Also noted is the reveal of a new multiplayer mode at E3. This mode will include “all aspects of the Halo sandbox.” It has been in development for years prior to this reveal and it is likely to be a major keynote of Microsoft and 343 Industries multiplayer presentation.

Some notable changes to the classic Halo gameplay formula to come from 343i
Some notable changes to the classic Halo gameplay formula to come from 343i

Halo 5 promises to bring back a greater arena style feel with gamers getting a taste of some close-quarters combat in the game when the beta released back in late December to mid January. However, this news suggests that the grand fire-fights that many fans of the series love will still be just as present as ever.

Outside of the online player vs player multiplayer, the co-op experience looks rejuvenated as well with the ability to jump into a co-op campaign or drop-out without interrupting the game. This ties in to new information showing that both Master Chief and Spartan Locke will always be accompanied by a team of 3 A.I. partners.

Halo 5 is due to release October 27, 2015 on Xbox One and will retail at $59.99. More information will come at E3 2015 June 16-18.

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Halo 5-related secret message displays in Xbox UK ad

343i and Microsoft have unveiled a new, seemingly normal trailer for the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians release. With many bits and pieces of details being laid out to be uncovered by fans, 343i continues that trend in their latest trailer.

The new video displays a “hacked” screen with a UNSC and ONI logo overlay interrupting a regular Xbox One games commercial. Two versions of the commercial exist — one with Battlefield: Hardline and one with the UNSC “hack” interruption.

The hacked screen includes a binary code that, when translated, directs people to huntthesignal.com. When heading to the site on desktop platforms nothing is really shown, but on mobile platforms there is an eerie countdown ending on May 6.

All of this is a part of the Hunt For Truth ARG viral campaign from Microsoft that began near the end of March. Check out the Halo 5-focused secret message in the trailer below.

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New Spartans unveiled in Halo 5 cover art

The intriguing battle between the classic hero, and the mysterious new-comer has just gotten a bit more complex with Microsoft’s last art release showing a collection of new Spartans — including what is likely Blue Team, Master Chief’s former squad, in the bottom left corner for those familiar with the Halo lore.

It seems those sided with Spartan Locke are some exciting familiar faces from past Halo games as well. For the first time, major characters of the ODST game will be intertwined with the core story as Buck and Romeo join Locke. Macer, another main characer with ties to Locke is also featured in this blown-up piece of the major art release.

Spartan Locke will be getting help from some familiar faces in Halo 5.
Spartan Locke will be getting help from some familiar faces in Halo 5.

The narrative consisting of Master Chief and Spartan Locke’s turmoil amidst the covenant attacks on human ground is already generating extensive positive buzz around the franchise — which was certainly much needed after the negative publicity 343 Industries underwent during The Master Chief Collection’s release.

Microsoft’s involvement of the fans did an excellent job to promote the franchise with the #HuntTheTruth trend on twitter and other social media platforms. The fans were the ones who actually went out and pieced together clues left behind to reveal this new cover art, and in-turn the animated video that even furthers the excitement.

Halo 5 is due to release at the end of 2015 (October 27) exclusively on the
Xbox One.