Your Questions for Frankie Answered!

Greetings once more, Reclaimers!

A little over a week ago, Snickerdoodle and I requested some help from you, the Waypoint Community, in finding a sort of cross-section of questions that people were looking to have answered, and you more than delivered. For that, we thank you, especially since it made the interview that much easier - though I was still nervous as i’ve ever been. We had more than enough questions to ask Frankie, but as we were only allotted 15 minutes for our interview (he’s a busy man, I hear he’s working on some small budget indie game right now) we did our best to distill the 15 page thread into the purest nectar of Halo goodness.

We think it went tremendously, and we hope you’ll agree. The interview itself is rather long, and since the forums have a 7500 character limit, you’ll find the content of the interview in this post and the following post. So without further ado, I present the Waypoint Community Interview of Frank O’Connor…

PART I

snickerdoodle: So, we got to play a little bit on Exile last night. What was the inspiration for the map? A lot of people have remarked that it reminds them of Rat’s Nest, did previous maps influence Exile?

You know, inspirations for maps come from a lot of places, but usually the first thing is the basic setup, like is it a big vehicle map? Is it a small rumble pit style map, that basic setup. The sort of geological setup [of Exile], is specifically it’s an alien world where there’s a crash landed UNSC Frigate. It always reminds me of the Odd One out episode of Halo Legends, because there’s actually a sort of similar crash, but that is not the inspiration for it. To me, it’s kind of a cross between Blood Gulch and Sidewinder. It’s interesting that you say Rat’s Nest because of the circle, but to me the circle is literally an oval, almost like a Nascar track in some ways, but it feels more like a crescent shape that defined Sidewinder to me, especially in the way that it sort of dead-ends at one side with the wreckage, but doesn’t quite dead-end with the caves at the other side. So to me, it’s a blend of those two things, and the interesting thing to me about that; it’s a big vehicle map, but we were playing five on five slayer on it and once you add sprint and the new sort of faster encounters, you are never devoid of combat, but even five on five in that, just with BRs you can be blasting the whole time.

SD: We had noticed that for sure. It looks like a big map, but it plays small.

And it is, it is a big map, and there’s easy access straight through the middle, with some shelter. And that’s one of the other interesting things, for a big wide open vehicle map, there are all these little places where you can hop into cover, sort of ditches and tunnels and so on, so it’s actually right now my favourite map, that will tend to morph and evolve over the years, but right now it’s my favourite map in the game, and part of that is because it’s not dependant on vehicles and you can actually have really good foot encounters.

SD: Is it strictly an objective map or is it also a slayer map?

It’s definitely designed for bigger team activity, and CTF is obviously what we’re showing here. Whenever we show something first, you can pretty imagine that that’s one of the prime purposes, but like I said, the way the encounters work, the way the loadouts work, and the way that everyone having sprint works now means that maps that used to be too large for that kind of thing are now completely feasible on foot. There’s another map we haven’t revealed yet that is in some ways bigger and more wide open than that that we all assumed, for various historical reasons, that there’s no way that would be suitable for smaller teams, but we were player with four people the other day on that huge map, and it just works.

Das Kalk: While we’re on the subject of CTF, you’ve revealed some pretty significant changes to the way that CTF works. What are some of the reasons behind these changes?

You know, that’s definitely a better question for a designer, because they’ll be able to go into more depth, but ultimately it’s speeding up the pace across the board in the encounters and the objectives and so on. There’s definitely some fairly controversial things in that mode, like fact that you can’t drop the flag, the fact that you have a pistol. The pistol is getting some tweaks to it right now, so the one that’s on the floor isn’t quite final. But yeah, it’s definitely controversial, we totally get that, the first thing that people get excited about, being polite about it, is change, and so whenever we do something radical or significant, we know that there’s going to be that kind of effect. But you guys played it, and I’m not going to put words in your mouth, so you guys should say how it felt to you, how big a difference that those two changes, the carrying a pistol and the inability to drop or juggle the flag, how did it affect the pace? I know how I feel about it, but I work on the game, my opinion is completely flawed, obviously, in some ways, but my serious opinion is that it improves it, it speeds it up, it changes it, definitely, and it takes a little while to get used to, but that’s what I enjoy. But you guys played it, nobody told you what to say, you should say what you think about it, whether it’s good or bad.

SD: Is that something that’s going to be customizable in custom games?

We have really significant custom options and we’ll talk about those more later.

PART II

DK: The other thing you have here this weekend at the Mad Catz booth is Spartan Ops. Can you tell us where the idea for Spartan Ops came from, and maybe how it affects how you as a studio think about the single player story, or how it interacts with the single player story?

Mad Catz has actually been a great partner for this because we really didn’t have a space for Spartan Ops to fit, and Mad Catz approached us. A lot of people didn’t get to play it at E3 for obvious reasons, and PAX is a consumer show, so we wanted to give people a chance to play it, so we partnered with Mad Catz, and it’s out there demoing both our new headphones, and the mode itself. It’s the same build from Comic-Con and E3, so the gameplay experience isn’t new for people who were there, but most of these people haven’t been there, so it’s a nice chance to sample it. Spartan Ops, at the very highest level, the ten thousand foot level, it’s a TV show you play. It’s up to four player co-op, it supports matchmaking if you’re on your own, but every week for a total of ten weeks, there’s going to be one episode of fiction followed by five missions of gameplay, all of which are interconnected. The fiction is actually meaningful, you’re going to see very high quality CG, you’re going to meet some new characters, you’re going to see returning characters from the campaign, and you’re ultimately going to learn a lot about the Halo universe and the Infinity through that process. And the story is meaningful, things happen that actually count, it’s not just “blow up the generator”.

SD: So does that mean that Spartan Ops is a bridge between Halo 4 and Halo 5 when it comes out? Is it filling in some of the gaps between the two?

Chronologically it takes place about six months after the events of Halo 4, so we chronologically do that, but it’s a little more complicated than that, but we can’t say anything without spoilers. It’s definitely going to continue some of the scenarios, events, and character arcs that started in the campaign, but it definitely splinters off from the Chief’s main story, so you won’t see the Chief a lot or referenced a lot in Spartan Ops, but he’s already had a huge effect on their lives by that point and it’s sort of inferred throughout.

DK: You were saying that Spartan Ops is episodic content, does this mean that much like a TV show, we’ll see the episodes released on the same day every week?

Yes, it’s going to air, technology allowing, at the same time on the same day on a per-week basis. Of course, it requires Xbox LIVE for a couple of reasons, one is that it’s streaming content, the other is it’s multiplayer, obviously for up to four players, so it does need an Xbox LIVE connection, but it’s free. So if you buy the game, either the regular edition or the limited edition, it’s absolutely free, and it’s a huge amount of content. It’s five missions per week, and the missions can take anywhere from 10 minutes if you’re pounding through it with 4 people and loads of vehicles, to like, I mean, I’ve got stuck for hours at a time on certain things trying to achieve it in certain ways. So it’s about a campaign’s worth of content, and it’s released episodically, which in some ways is a more natural cadence than the seven to twenty hour campaigns that people plough through. That’s a weird way to tell a story, whereas episodes, we can control the rhythm and the cadence that people experience the story in, so while in the campaign I can’t force you to end a campaign mission on a cliffhanger, because you’re just going to play immediately through it, we can control the pace, and so it’s going to be giving us some interesting dramatic opportunities, and we hope people appreciate that when it does start airing.

DK: Something else that we noticed in Spartan Ops is that your War Games character carries over, and you’ve talked a lot about that persistent back-and-forth. We’ve had some questions about whether or not things like armour or weapon skins carry over into campaign as well, could you shed some light on that?

Specifically, in campaign, you’re the Chief, or, you’re another Spartan. There’s no fiction behind the four player co-op. The only cool thing that happens is at the start of the game in the first mission, The Chief spawns in one cryotube, and the other three Spartans are in “lesser” cryotubes, so that’s where the arguments will come from. In Spartan Ops, your character is the same character you create for the Infinity. When you get into the menu, it’s going to say, basically, Campaign, and Infinity, and everything that you do inside Infinity is basically interconnected. So if you customize the way he looks, or she looks, because we support male and female models, if you customize your loadouts, on a kind of a mode-by-mode basis, all of that stuff and all of your career progress is completely interconnected between War Games and Spartan Ops. Ultimately, your War Games character is actually your Spartan Ops character, right, and you’re training in War Games’ simulated battle tactics effectively is the conceit, you know, it’s still, it’s Halo multiplayer.

PART III

SD: Speaking of Campaign, a lot of people are curious as to how the difficulty will scale on higher difficulties. Will it be a simple case of more damage, more enemies, smarter A.I., or a combination of any of those things?

So, to be fair to previous A.I., that’s a loose sort of statement about how the A.I. works. Our A.I. has definitely changed significantly, and the biggest single change, apart from the code and the sort of A.I. routines and the thought processes that the characters go through is the addition of the Prometheans. I definitely think of the Covenant as tactical, right, but the biggest strategy they’re ever going to employ is flanking, really. But the Prometheans, who of course fight alongside the Covenant are very much strategic and not tactical, so, you know, you’ll have a situation where you see a single [Promethean] Knight appear, and then from his carapace, he’ll spawn a Watcher, the Watcher will take off, shield the Knight, and spawn Crawlers, and so now you’ve completely changed the battlefield. They also learn from your repetition, they learn from your mistakes, they’ll try to sort of figure you out. I’m not trying to sell this as HAL from 2001, but they will adapt to changing circumstances on the field. Halo games have done that previously, it’s just much more obvious this time because you have two really distinct classes, types, and strategic approaches, and so it becomes really obvious when you’re hiding behind a pillar waiting for your shields to recharge, but the crawlers are ignoring that fact, and ten years of Halo history, crawling down over the top of the pillar to get you.

DK: You’ve been talking a lot about how the connectivity between Spartan Ops, War Games, and Campaign is intended to give people an avenue in to something they may not have been interested in before…

Yeah, when we launch a Halo game, traditionally, there’s people who do everything, and I’m a person who does everything, and probably you guys do everything, you play multiplayer, you play campaign, you play play with theatre, forge, all that stuff. But a lot of people just play singleplayer, a lot of people just play multiplayer, and we have pretty good research on how those venn diagrams intersect with each other, but we realized there was this opportunity to push those two disparate audiences closer together with a kind of bridging piece, and Spartan Ops certainly does that. That’s not it’s main intention, but it’s one of the upsides of it that we realized as we were prototyping and thinking about what Spartan Ops could do.

DK: And for someone who’s new to the Spartan Ops campaign, who’s maybe only ever played Multiplayer, is there going to be any kind of recap at the beginning of the episodes?

Yeah, we’re going to have lots of opportunity for recap, including through Halo Waypoint, this all streams ultimately from Halo Waypoint tech, it’ll stream straight on your Xbox. The other thing is, it’s like a TiVO, so there’s two things that can happen, one is the episodes can just stack up, right, if you haven’t played or watched they’re just there on your Xbox and you can just go through it like a box set. Secondly, if you’re alone, it will matchmake you with up to four total players, so you can play it either solo and experience it like that or if you want to play it the way that nature intended, you can go use matchmaking to go find people who are in the same state of the series as you are.

SD: Earlier you mentioned Theatre and Forge, is Spartan Ops something you can use Theatre in, and are we going to get any more information before launch about Theatre or Forge?

You will get more information before launch about Theatre and Forge, and that’s all i’m going to say about that at this point, but we are working with Community Cartographers to have some Forge content ready and File Shares for launch, so you’ll get, hopefully, some classic remakes and some interesting looks at how the new lighting engine, the way that the shadows and light are actually properly baked into the environment.

SD: So, not all grey?

Well, it’s still ultimately a building block set, but it definitely looks a lot more concrete and less repetitive than we’ve been criticized for in the past. But yeah, I think Forge is going to be interesting this time around.


And that’s it folks. I’d like to thank a few people, however. First, on behalf of snickerdoodle and myself, I’d like to offer an incredibly heartfelt thank you to Rob Semsey, bsangel, and especially to Frank O’Connor. Personally, I’d like to thank my partner in crime, snickerdoodle. All of PAX, but in particular, this experience, has been incredible. And lastly, thank you to all of you, without whom this would not have been possible. In addition, I’d also like to give a big Canadian high five to Minolta1034 and Greenskull of ReadyUpLive, for helping us record the audio of our interview so I could transpose it later. That last part was totally always in there and I definitely did not forget to thank them for helping. Nope. I didn’t. YOU HAVE NO EVIDENCE MINOLTA!

As a small note, if you have any supplemental questions for snickerdoodle or I, don’t hesitate to ask! we’ll do our best to answer as many as we can :slight_smile:

So, you have to be online to play Spartan Ops? I had been under the impression that you download them and could play them offline. If you have to be connected to whole time, I’ll be a bit annoyed.

Thank you for sharing! I’ve been waiting for this a while now :stuck_out_tongue:

Great job guys, thank you for your hard work. This is a great interview and I’m excited matchmaking will be implemented into Spartan Ops :smiley:

I have a inkling that legendary solo walkthroughs will be annoying as hell.

Thank’s for this .

My friend played Halo 4 at PAX and he loved it said it was great - minus the new CTF tweaks

Otherwise he had very little to say that wasn’t good

Again Thank’s for sharing all this with us

You have my eternal thanks!!

> SD: Speaking of Campaign, a lot of people are curious as to how the difficulty will scale on higher difficulties. Will it be a simple case of more damage, more enemies, smarter A.I., or a combination of any of those things?
>
> So, to be fair to previous A.I., that’s a loose sort of statement about how the A.I. works. Our A.I. has definitely changed significantly, and the biggest single change, apart from the code and the sort of A.I. routines and the thought processes that the characters go through is the addition of the Prometheans. I definitely think of the Covenant as tactical, right, but the biggest strategy they’re ever going to employ is flanking, really.
>
> But the Prometheans, who of course <mark>fight alongside</mark> the Covenant are very much strategic and not tactical, so, you know, you’ll have a situation where you see a single [Promethean] Knight appear, and then from his carapace, he’ll spawn a Watcher, the Watcher will take off, shield the Knight, and spawn Crawlers, and so now you’ve completely changed the battlefield.
>
> They also learn from your repetition, they learn from your mistakes, they’ll try to sort of figure you out. I’m not trying to sell this as HAL from 2001, but they will adapt to changing circumstances on the field. Halo games have done that previously, it’s just much more obvious this time because you have two really distinct classes, types, and strategic approaches, and so it becomes really obvious when you’re hiding behind a pillar waiting for your shields to recharge, but the crawlers are ignoring that fact, and ten years of Halo history, crawling down over the top of the pillar to get you.

Genuine flanking? In previous Halo games, they weren’t really flanking as much as they were onto your position. I used this many times to turn the tables on them, especially in Halo 2 and Reach. I never felt legitimately intimidated.

Fight alongside?! :o Strategic, I like the sound of that.

A dream come true! :’)

As for supplemental questions, which Covies are the Halo 4 Covies most similar to? CE, Halo 2, Halo 3/ODST, or Reach?

Thank you for sharing. :smiley:

Did you guys record the interview?

> As for supplemental questions, which Covies are the Halo 4 Covies most similar to? CE, Halo 2, Halo 3/ODST, or Reach?

In what way… design wise or combat-wise?

> so you won’t <mark>see the Chief a lot or referenced a lot in Spartan Ops</mark>, but he’s already had a huge effect on their lives by that point and it’s sort of inferred throughout.

So he WILL be seen in Spartan Ops a few times?

> > As for supplemental questions, which Covies are the Halo 4 Covies most similar to? CE, Halo 2, Halo 3/ODST, or Reach?
>
> In what way… design wise or combat-wise?

Combat.

> > so <mark>you won’t see the Chief a lot or referenced a lot in Spartan Ops</mark>, but he’s already had a huge effect on their lives by that point and it’s sort of inferred throughout.
>
> So he WILL be seen in Spartan Ops a few times?

Go ahead and read that again.

> > > As for supplemental questions, which Covies are the Halo 4 Covies most similar to? CE, Halo 2, Halo 3/ODST, or Reach?
> >
> > In what way… design wise or combat-wise?
>
> Combat.

I’m going to be honest with you, i’m not the best person to ask about how they work comparatively to previous iterations, i’m more of a design/art guy… Sorry!

> > > > As for supplemental questions, which Covies are the Halo 4 Covies most similar to? CE, Halo 2, Halo 3/ODST, or Reach?
> > >
> > > In what way… design wise or combat-wise?
> >
> > Combat.
>
> I’m going to be honest with you, i’m not the best person to ask about how they work comparatively to previous iterations, i’m more of a design/art guy… Sorry!

In that case, design.

I know Halo 4 is going for a horror look in Covies. But does it really work?

I’m not disappointed btw.

> > > so you won’t see the Chief <mark>a lot</mark> or referenced <mark>a lot</mark> in Spartan Ops, but he’s already had a huge effect on their lives by that point and it’s sort of inferred throughout.
> >
> > So he WILL be seen in Spartan Ops a few times?
>
> Go ahead and read that again.

I did, and I think the OP of this point meant these particular points in general.

‘you won’t see the Chief “A LOT” or referenced “A LOT”.’

Basic perception and process of elimination tells me that he won’t be there A LOT…but he will be there.

Thank you!

More Forge info before launch? HELL YEAH! But they did basically confirm it’s still greyish objects, only a bit different…

Saaaaaaaaaaaad face… ;___;

> > > > > As for supplemental questions, which Covies are the Halo 4 Covies most similar to? CE, Halo 2, Halo 3/ODST, or Reach?
> > > >
> > > > In what way… design wise or combat-wise?
> > >
> > > Combat.
> >
> > I’m going to be honest with you, i’m not the best person to ask about how they work comparatively to previous iterations, i’m more of a design/art guy… Sorry!
>
> In that case, design.
>
> I know Halo 4 is going for a horror look in Covies. But does it really work?
>
> I’m not disappointed btw.

I would probably describe them as a combination of Halo 3’s and Reach’s, but they really are distinct in Halo 4. I’m really liking the look of them.