The Evolution of Halo 4's Multiplayer

343 clarifies some details and sheds more light on Halo 4's multiplayer features.

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In the most recent edition of the 343 Sparkast, members of the Halo 4 development team hopped on their respective mics to give a little more context to the multiplayer details found in a recent issue of Game Informer. You can listen to the full podcast by following this link, but we've distilled some of the details from the podcast, including some clarification on controversial topics like weapon spawning and Forerunner Vision.

Weapon Spawning

The 343 team said that it looked extensively at what previous Halo games did in terms of how weapons spawned in multiplayer matches, but the goal was to put it in the context of Infinity (one of Halo's multiplayer features) and make it simultaneously accessible for new players and engaging for series veterans. Interestingly, the team knew right away that it had to stick to the initial weapon spawns found in previous Halo multiplayer iterations so that the opening to a match could be controlled in some manner, particularly in team games. Without those initial weapon spawns, players had the tendency to rush the center of the map, which in turn would mess with the flow.

In Halo 4, weapon drops--or ordnance, as they're called--aren't random. There are timers for what shows up and when (though it sounds like that can be customized), but every player in a match will know when and where the drops are happening thanks to some information communicated through "subtle UI elements," according to 343's Frank O'Connor. This takes away the strategic knowledge advantage some players have over those who might not know maps or weapon locations quite as well. He also added that it's no different from chasing someone into a known weapon location and that it's even more predictable because the participants will know if the weapon is still there or not.

Additionally, there are specific drops for certain maps and match types that are based on what 343 expects people would want in those particular scenarios. One example mentioned was that you won't ever randomly get a sniper rifle on a small map.

Player Spawning and Maps

When players die in a multiplayer match in Halo 4, they can decide if they want to take a few moments to change their loadout or spawn right away. 343 designer David Ellis said this was designed around the Slayer match type because if you're playing an objective game, it doesn't make sense to kill another player and then just have him respawn back on top of the flag. Still, specific spawn timing has been designed to support any custom game--players can set the timer to zero or they can make it almost as long as they want.

During this discussion, Frank and David also clarified that five on five and four on four are not the respective upper and lower limits for Halo multiplayer matches, but the team wants to create experiences around player counts on certain maps. Ellis added, "Maps can support any type of objective game type but there's one specific objective that we've tried to tailor certain maps around."

Loadouts and Armor Abilities

First and foremost, players can access everything in system link, so there isn't any need to play through the campaign or grind multiplayer matches for the purpose of unlocking content for use in a tournament setting. Still, customization is a big part of Halo 4, and a byproduct of that is being able to select specific weapons (some will be available only in the ordnance drops) and armor abilities, and a lot of work has seemingly gone into balancing those two things. For weapons, it's making sure that no weapon reaches "god tier" and that each weapon has its own advantages and disadvantages, according to the scenario. For example, the designated marksman rifle (which has a set rate of fire) is better at range, but the battle rifle is better in close quarters. As for the armor abilities: armor lock is gone, and now every player has sprint by default along with an armor ability (all of which have been adjusted to fit with the way players were using them in Reach). Unfortunately, armor lock presented its own set of unique problems, and sprint ended up being the most popular, so 343 not only gave it to every player, but also increased the default movement speeds across the board.

Forerunner Vision

343 wanted to set the record straight on Forerunner Vision, which some labeled as a form of wall hacking that gives players an unfair advantage. The team immediately compared it to the visor mode in Halo ODST, but there's recognition from 343 that some instances of similar modes (like the Detective Vision found in the recent Batman games) are a bit too powerful. Therefore, there are trade-offs if players use Forerunner Vision, but essentially it's a motion tracker that lets players know if other players are close by. But if players use it, they lose some situation awareness due to the visual treatment, and other players can hear them using it--not to mention the fact that it takes an armor ability slot. Additionally, since it works as a radar sweep, the data isn't totally accurate, but rather a general indication of where players are.

Spartan Ops

According to Ellis, "If you were a fan of Firefight, then you will love Spartan Ops." This is the mode that is supposed to bridge the gap between the campaign and Halo 4's competitive multiplayer in that items unlocked in the campaign or the cooperative modes of Halo 4 can then be transferred into the competitive multiplayer modes. Spartan Ops also has its own story that functions as a part of Halo 4's story, which helps blur the line between typical single-player and multiplayer modes even further. Players can also bypass the story if they're more interested in multiplayer action, which is much more team-focused than in Firefight.

Spartan Ops encourages players to specialize and do more than just fire a weapon. Teams will have to solve problems and complete various objectives while the game rewards individual players for taking on certain roles and exploring the limits of the mode. And the objectives themselves will encourage that as they push players into various parts of the map. In essence, 343 is trying to leverage the way players tend to treat Halo multiplayer as a sandbox.

With that, the team mentioned the CG series that will be tied in to the Spartan Ops experience and how the missions players are participating in will relate to the stories presented in that series. Halo 4 is scheduled for release on November 6.

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