Halo Waypoint shouldering ATLAS, redesign due this fall

343 Industries revamping sci-fi franchise's community network, emphasizing cross-platform parity, custom challenges; new Windows Phone 7 app; no premium tier for now; Halo: Anniversary goes gold.

It's hard to argue with Halo Waypoint. Launched in late 2009, Microsoft and 343 Industries' online hub offers Halo players a granular breakdown of their multiplayer exploits across the franchise. Beyond tracking data, it also operates as a community hub by linking up members with one another and hosting a variety of gameplay videos and tutorials.

With Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary slated to arrive for the Xbox 360 on November 15, 343 Industries is also planning a substantial revamp for Halo Waypoint this fall. As part of a New York Comic-Con panel tonight, the Halo factory offered a first look at those updates, which will include a new multiplayer map aid, called ATLAS, which runs on Windows Phone 7, as well as a redesigned look.

To begin, what is ATLAS? "Advanced Technical Assault System," Halo franchise development director Frank O'Connor told GameSpot. Yes, but where is the L? "It's a real term, so we pulled an acronym out of it. So the L is the L in Technical."

As for what it does, ATLAS is a Windows Phone 7 app that will be available this holiday that offers a top-down view of any official Halo: Anniversary or Halo: Reach map (but not custom maps). The map is updated in real time as players battle it out, which means combatants can keep tabs on their allies and where weapon drops are throughout the course of a match.

"We tried to imagine what a Spartan in the field might actually have if they had an assisted system from the future," explained CJ Saretto, lead producer for Halo Waypoint. They posited that future soldiers would have satellite imagery, as well as floor plans for facilities, all annotated with notable information, such as where weapon drops and vehicles could be found, what weapons players' allies are wielding, the match's score, and so on.

The maps themselves can either be viewed as satellite imagery or "what [you] might think of as map view from Google Maps."

Of course, all of this information is only useful if players are able to actually view it, which is not the easiest thing to do with a controller in hand and plasma discharging all about.

"There are a number of setups that we've imagined," Saretto said. "We've imagined the phone kind of sitting on the coffee table in front of you and you checking it out on occasion if you're wondering what's going on. We've also imagined a copilot style scenario where another person is watching what's occurring while you're playing and kind of giving you additional information."

"We also think about, if you're in a firefight, you've ducked behind a corner...you're kind of hidden; you take time to look at where your teammates are," Halo Waypoint executive producer Doug Hebenthal added. In other words, steal a glance while the Spartan's shield recharges. Saretto also noted that the app will follow players as they move through the level, so there isn't a process of orienting oneself in the app.

The ATLAS app appears as if it will give players a leg up over those who don't own a Windows Phone 7 device. However, O'Connor noted that the app actually has "built-in" balancing, in that every time players glance down, they are splitting their attention away from the game, a move that always comes with hazards.

When asked whether the team had ideas as to where to take this app in the future, O'Connor replied, "Yes." Fair enough.

"Now that we've got all of this very interesting data coming out of the game, there's a lot of very exciting stuff that we can think about doing with the data," Saretto added. "We just need to figure out, you know, when we're ready to bring those kinds of exciting experiences online."

ATLAS isn't the only change in store for Halo Waypoint. This fall, 343 Industries also plans to launch a new interface for Halo Waypoint, with a primary goal being that the service will be equivalent regardless of whether it's being accessed through the Xbox 360, PC, or phone.

"If we just go from a purely aesthetic point of view, one of the things we really wanted to do is make Waypoint look and feel the same across all of the devices and platforms that we support," Saretto explained. "If we've got stats in one place, we've got it everywhere. If we've got career in one place, we've got it everywhere. And we’ve taken the look and feel of Waypoint and made it very uniform and consistent across all of the devices that we support."

Taking the console version as an example, Saretto said that the team has massively overhauled the look, making it easier to search for and find content. He also said that the Halo career feature, which had previously been available only on the console, will now be accessible through the Web and mobile phones.

The Halo Waypoint update will also offer players a more granular look at stats, such as how they do with a particular weapon against a particular enemy on a particular map. "The new interface, particularly on the Web, gives you really flexible ways to dig in very deep and see very granular details," Hebenthal added. "But in a way that doesn't really scare away the more casual user who's just interested in seeing some of this stuff."

Custom challenges are another new feature that 343 Industries is excited about. The feature is a riff on the daily and weekly challenges that 343 issues. It allows friends to create their own challenges for one another, such as scoring 50 headshots in a multiplayer match within 24 hours. The custom challenge option will be available in Campaign, Matchmaking Firefight, Multiplayer, and Custom modes.

More than just bragging rights, completed custom challenges yield Halo: Reach credits, at a rate that fluctuates depending on the difficulty and circumstances of the task. Reach credits can then be spent on cosmetic upgrades, such as new Spartan armor.

Also: Halo: Anniversary has gone gold.

Halo Waypoint's overhaul comes as the service gains competition of a sort in Call of Duty: Elite, which Activision is launching alongside Modern Warfare 3 on November 8. One notable difference between the two services is that Elite will have a $50 premium component. For now, at least, 343 Industries doesn't plan to follow suit.

"As of right now, we're staying with the model that we currently have," Hebenthal said. "So we don't have any plans in the short term to operate premium versions of Waypoint. But, you know, you could see things change in the future as we think about new things that do have value and would stand on their own; think about it that way."

And as one last announcement, 343 Industries also confirmed today that work has concluded on Halo: Anniversary, and the game has gone gold in advance of its November 15 release date. For more on that game, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

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Discussion

70 comments
crazydavey
crazydavey

@alkalinehero099 when youve been playing games for as long as me, you soon realise that in terms of fps games, if youve played one youve played em all. sure games get updated graphics and gameplay with better weapons and perks for instance, but if u love ur games you still want more. sure modern warefare could have created more dlc but making a new game means making more money. what you going to do, stick playing modern warefare 2 for the rest of your life? anyway, modern warefare is a great game which is why i will continue playing and buying them, same goes for halo. i can see your point but if u want new gameplay, you have to buy new games. right im done now, hope ive answerd, good job i left the answer short. GOOD DAY! Crazy Dave out!!!

fightingfish18
fightingfish18

Hmm. I really miss playing Halo online. My Gold subscrip ran out and I haven't renewed it cause I've been busy with my PS3 :/

Bowser05
Bowser05

Halo has been doing a lot of what CoD Elite does for a long time and at no price. I sincerely hope 343 doesn't jump on this lame bandwagon and then sullies its good name.

Grimkillah
Grimkillah

Please please please 343i, don't add a premium function, no one will buy the CoD elite, we love waypoint because it is free and accessible for everyone.

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

Should be nice for all the competitive players. They won't be using this while all the casuals will have their eyes half glued to a phone UI thus significantly dropping their situational awareness lol. Just makes it that much easier to get kills.

FedCom
FedCom

Hmm...Atlas sure looks like an unusual way to sell phones. Reminds me of the Sega VMU's though a bit easier to read and more logical to actually own.

cptpeg
cptpeg

@ madasivad In the video she only mentions being able to see where your team mates are at all times, she doesn't mention enemies.So as it stands it sounds like you won't have to put away your tent and thermos flask just yet.

madasivad
madasivad

ATLUS sounds kind of BS to me. Some players have a top down view of the map all of the time? How the hell am I supposed to camp now??

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Seems to me like social community is the way Microsoft want to head now.. After the article last week about the lead designer for the next Xbox and now this, it seems pretty much set in stone. Looking forward to next new Halo game (i.e. not anniversary), should be good to see what 343 can do with it :)

y3ivan
y3ivan

can someone explain whats are the big changes for Halo:reach?

JoeJoeLaker
JoeJoeLaker

Why even come to this topic if all you have to say is "Boring" "Snore" "Yawn" etc. Nobody forced you to come here.

sleepnsurf
sleepnsurf

I have both consoles and truthfully, I like the 360 ones better. Less hack and slash Japanese style. Not a fan, Button mashing is for kids.

phoenixboyz
phoenixboyz

the Halo Waypoint is kind of like COD: Elite, it seems now more and more FPS games got their special dashboard to show your lifetime achievements and info

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

Your Halo stats on your phone?! Bro! YOU'RE GONNA GET ALL THE GIRLS!

slonekb05
slonekb05

If you seriously feel the need to check and show your halo stats to ppl on your phone.. just give up because your failing at life.

mrsniper83
mrsniper83

@AlkalineHero099 The same reason we have bought all of the halo games, because we want too...dont be a troll

mtait01
mtait01

3 months ago i switched to Playstation 3, but I have to say I do miss Halo. This is a really cool feature, waypoint was pretty cool and came with some free avatar items

Kratos_x
Kratos_x

must buy it ... :) xbox for HALO and GEARS OF WAR

stealthyninja81
stealthyninja81

it does suck that callofduty elite charges. but then again, its not required so you cant complain

FuryX-4
FuryX-4

@brothersinarmsb Don't be too defensive. Not a lot of Sony fanboys quite actually. Some are Nin, PC's, COD or even some Xbox users that doesn't like the series if you check out some other users profile. ON topic, I would love to get Reach soon, and maybe sometimes get this collection

h4wkw0lf613
h4wkw0lf613

I see comments saying it's boring. Well, if it's boring, WHY THE HELL ARE YOU EVEN HERE?

jchristenberry
jchristenberry

Havnt played halo in a long time... but was always pleased the way they treat the fans by providing things like 4 player split screen and free things like waypoint! Good Job guys!

uncleTACO8873
uncleTACO8873

Yay my windows phone is finally being acknowledged!

GamerNerdTalk
GamerNerdTalk

I'm a Sony fan but love Halo. Hell I will say this, I just love games. Don't care what console it is (besides wii) peopel enjoy there games and we are a community of gamers

mtait01
mtait01

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

erix43
erix43

And why does MW3 charge? Because they lack consideration for gamers. Their eyes are strictly on the money. Halo has been a good game since day one. Bungie has care about its consumers from day one. Now 343/same thing. Halo is a great franchise, PERIOD. Leave negative comments, don't care, the numbers and quality of this game speak enough. Get a life.

AlkalineHero099
AlkalineHero099

@crazydavey Why would you buy Modern Warfare 3 times? Why would anyone?

daub11
daub11

out of all the halo games reach was one of the toughest ones to play. just because it was much different from the others and it also had better gaming maps,but for the rest of the game some of the new bad guys were really hard to kill sometimes.

crazydavey
crazydavey

halo, skyrim and modern warfare all coming out later this year. forget going on holiday, im gonna be staying in with 100 flasks of tea, lots of packs of ginger nuts and a million adult sized pampers. sorted!

106473
106473

Where is the love for the PC where Halo:CE still remains king of the hill.

grim0187
grim0187

Lol at the jealousy from Sony fanboys.

NickyWithATicky
NickyWithATicky

Doesn't seem really useful but it's free so I don't mind.

Soothsayer42
Soothsayer42

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

shakensparco
shakensparco

So am I the only one that feels a little bit screwed over because I don't own a Windows smart phone?

Ovirew
Ovirew

Sounds like a neat idea, even if it might give Windows 7 phone owners a slight edge. Good to hear that Anniversary is complete and ready for launch.

Airborne2932
Airborne2932

Atlas doesn't really look like it will affect mp since windows phones are garbage and most intelligent folks went with ios or android.

controlfreak25
controlfreak25

Cool, im curious to see what else will be in waypoint.

gatsbythepig
gatsbythepig

I own the first 5 Halos and I loved the first one for gameplay, the second for introducing me to multiplayer and the third for giving me the best all around experience on Live. Then ODST came out, which was basically a drag. After which Halo Reach, which delineated to me the programmers no longer cared about the fans and all Bungie wanted was our money before they stopped fixing their biggest problem- AFKers. Instead of fixing the problem they went on a mass banning initiative. Hardly a good response to a problem Bungie started. . . The Halo franchised died 4 years ago.

LAnoirFAN
LAnoirFAN

i own a ps3 and a xbox, i guess it's time to give my ps3 a break!

Legend002
Legend002

There is a lot of jealousy in the comments...

ALLoY1717
ALLoY1717

Probably get some flame for this but... It's funny to think that after so many titles were dubbed Halo Killers the game that actually did it wasn't dubbed a Halo killer (CoD4). Defining killer here as knocking Halo 3 and future Halo titles off the top spot on Xbox Live and replacing Halo as the dominent force in FPS on consoles, in both sales and what you think of when you say console FPS. I think that is about as close to Halo killer as you could ever hope for. That said, after I've found it very hard to like any other CoD game as much as I liked 4 and Reach's online is far better than Halo 3 (which I wasn't a fan of). I'm really looking forward to CE's online with Reach's engine more than I am looking forward to MW3 mp.

NitehawkFury
NitehawkFury

Sure, sure, but how many credits until I get the "Windows Phone 7 Wrist Device" in the Armory? That's when you know that the Inception is real.