The middle of February sees the Halo Wars team putting in some longer hours to finish off one of many very important milestones that we have in our immediate future. This milestone falls largely on the shoulders of the design team and will commit them to come to a consensus on many of the game’s core mechanics and units. The designers will certainly be free to continue making changes to the game after this milestone, but the radical churn of units, ideas, and code will lessen as the vision for the game and how it is played gets settled upon.
Attesting to this radical churn of units that end up getting taken out of the game, put back in some other role, and then removed altogether is our new Overview page here on the website. Long time visitors will remember that it once featured a couple of units, the UNSC Cougar and the Covenant Air Artillery, which are units that have been cut from the game in recent months in favor of new ideas.
As we get past this milestone the art team will be able to switch gears from focusing on creating placeholder art and animations to support the designers and their need to try all sorts of new ideas and mechanics to finalizing the look of the units. They certainly have a lot of work ahead of them, and they know it!
One of the many balancing acts that the design team has to play is with the length of a multiplayer game. Do you want games to last 15 minutes or 30 minutes or 60 minutes? We’ve been shooting for a fairly fast paced game that if well fought would last in the 15-30 minute range depending on how big the teams are. Naturally, while we’re playtesting here at the office games can be faster or slower than this timeframe as we test out new strategies with new units and continue to refine gameplay, but that’s about what we’re gunning for.
Game developers have to be conscious of this timeframe in just about every aspect of their work, adding in new units, buildings, technologies, or changing unit or building attributes can all greatly effect game length. I guess that involves just about everything a game designer does. So this is one more piece of feedback that we give during playtest sessions, other than: was the game fun, did the art look cool, were the units doing what they should? Game pacing. If games are ending in 4 minutes, that’s potentially not very much fun just as a 50 minute slog against an opponent can get frustrating as you try to figure out how to take him out. We certainly want players to be able to pull off a quick rush strategy or a slow burning economic boom, and there will be certain maps that cater to a longer or shorter game, it’s just about the pacing for those strategies. It’s all part of the fine tuning that goes on as we put this game together.
A subject that a number of fans have been asking about and commenting on is the existence, or the lack thereof, of space battles in our game. You know, the grand ship to ship combat in the vacuum of space, orbiting some distant colony. The fact is that these sorts of conflicts are not going to be part of Halo Wars. We’ve chosen to keep our boots on the ground, so to speak, with this game instead of venturing into ship to ship conflict out in space where the Covenant vessels are so vastly superior to those that the UNSC can put together. The battles in Halo Wars will rage on the surface of planets, where you can make use of Warthogs, Scorpions, and other iconic vehicles from the FPS games.
Crikey - OXM Australia
The Official Xbox Magazine (OXM) in the region of Australia is going to be treating the locals to some Halo Wars goodness. The April issue of the magazine features Halo Wars on the cover, an image created by a number of artists here at Ensemble Studios and one that I hope we can share with you after the magazine has had its run. As for what is in the magazine, I don’t have the particulars on what is covered in the article, so Halo Wars fans in the area will have to have a read.
That is all from here at Ensemble Studios for now, more from us in March!