Community Update: Cetacean Celebration

This is a reblog from Halo Waypoint:

By Ske7ch

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of the Halo Community Update. This week we’ve got another jam-packed serving of Halo goodness spanning Halo Wars 2, Halo 5 REQs and helmets, Warzone, a new team spotlight, community egg hunters and more. Let’s do this!


Wow, it’s hard to believe that ten full days of the Blitz Beta have come and gone so quick! Many, many players jumped at the chance to take Blitz for a test drive on Xbox One and Windows 10 and we’ve gathered a ton of great feedback, bug reports and game data to help the development team.

As the beta fades into the distance Dan Ayoub, 343’s Studio Head of Strategy Games Development, passed along the following note for our community:

On behalf of the entire Halo Wars 2 team I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated in the Blitz beta! Your feedback and the data we gathered during the beta is critical to helping us make Halo Wars 2 as awesome as possible when it launches on Feb. 21. I hope you’ll continue to share your thoughts and feedback for the rest of Halo Wars 2 when you experience the full game in just a few short weeks. See you online!” 

I don’t know about you but I love a good infographic. Thankfully the team has us covered with this sweet snapshot of some of the more memorable statistics from the Blitz Beta:


HFFL: Wow, more than 170 million units killed! That’s well more than what will happen in the campaign (if it were an actual real life thing). Great to see the UNSC has more wins, though just by 55K. Whew, the Banished are tough! Most used leader power is ODST Drop? Hmm, I cry foul there. I rarely used this. If anything, mine was glassing beam or eradication. I didn’t see uch from enemies using ODST drops either. Well duh…point B makes sense as most contested as it was in the middle of the map, LOL. Of those 3 rarest cards, I earned Douglas and Atriox Chosen. Only used Douglas twice and Atriox Chosen once. Really wanted to get the Honor Guard card!  As for top player…yep, RTS Yoda Vids got a win over me. He was easily carrying his team and he crushed my team singe handedly. He’s going to be one to watch for should there be an e-League and he turns pro.


A huge shout out goes to RTS YODA VIDS for earning the title of the player with the most wins of anyone in the entire Blitz Beta! That is a SERIOUSLY IMPRESSIVE amount of wins. I’d also like to give a shout out to our top standing players on our playlist leaderboards:

Windows 10

  •          1v1 Playlist : Nib7221 w/ 279 wins
  •          2v2 Playlist: SoH 44 Instinct w/ 226 wins
  •          3v3 Playlist: S1E3P1E5SX77 w/ 204 wins

Xbox One

  •          1v1 Playlist: xSSx Cryptic w/ 511 wins
  •          2v2 Playlist: COOL Skidda w/ 370 wins
  •          3v3 Playlist: RTS YODA VIDS w/ 598 wins

Here are the final Top 10 for each leaderboard PC and XBOX One:
Halo Wars 2 Blitz Beta Leaderboards – FINAL
Windows 10 PC: 1v1 Playlist

  1. Nib7221 – 279 wins
  2. Jeffery cD – 169 wins
  3. bironist – 151 wins
  4. sYKo xMandersx – 138 wins
  5. WalBaer77437445 – 122 wins
  6. MidgetLapDance – 114 wins
  7. Wolf 0f Pride – 109 wins
  8. TheHamiltonGuy – 87 wins
  9. JFlossTHuBHOSS – 77 wins
  10. Aykonz Sidekick – 74 wins

Windows 10 PC: 2v2 Playlist

  1. SoH 44 Instinct – 226 wins
  2. Enduring Gamer – 155 wins
  3. DarkMessiahDE – 137 wins
  4. No0bzz – 133 wins
  5. RandomlyFish – 128 wins
  6. KAT Gets Yarn – 127 wins
  7. IronMan698 – 126 wins
  8. W1NTER15COMING – 126 wins
  9. Ephelian quartz – 122 wins
  10. Seelenwurm – 118 wins

Windows 10 PC: 3v3 Playlist

  1. S1E3P1E5SX77 – 204 wins
  2. Tylerium – 201 wins
  3. Crackitos – 162 wins
  4. marcell1996117 – 121 wins
  5. TinkFU87 – 111 wins
  6. HSPU – 100 wins
  7. SPAWN BROOD – 100 wins
  8. KAT Gets Yarn – 99 wins
  9. DesertFireFox – 96 wins
  10. xI21CKYx – 93 wins

Xbox One: 1v1 Playlist

  1. xSSx Cryptic – 511 wins
  2. Chaotixshade – 298 wins
  3. Murph20isTruth – 296 wins
  4. sG Carnag3 – 272 wins
  5. KillMan751 – 255 wins
  6. Spartan Tenzo – 252 wins
  7. YoungBerk – 251 wins
  8. o AN1MAL II – 235 wins
  9. xX Aurelius Xx – 218 wins
  10. COOL Skidda – 196 wins

Xbox One: 2v2 Playlist

  1. COOL Skidda – 370 wins
  2. vx ReneGade – 347 wins
  3. K3& Tempest – 288 wins
  4. IdeaL Anguish – 236 wins
  5. Sagacious1 – 229 wins
  6. SoM3 R4Nd0M NuB – 226 wins
  7. I3 MaYo – 207 wins
  8. ImASneekySnake – 202 wins
  9. oG Legit v2 – 194 wins
  10. itsPIMPINtime – 189 wins

Xbox One: 3v3 Playlist

  1. RTS YODA VIDS – 598 wins
  2. RSB Numberz – 357 wins
  3. LG x Predator1 – 312 wins
  4. Ganqster Garry – 299 wins
  5. GGC DAYWALKER – 292 wins
  6. halosquared313 – 291 wins
  7. YoungBerk – 276 wins
  8. SoM3 R4Nd0M Nub – 268 wins
  9. Never The Peach – 260 wins
  10. Magistrate05 – 246 wins


With the beta behind us it’s time to focus our full energies ahead and towards the impending release of Halo Wars 2. In case you missed it, we announced a special live event on Feb. 16 to celebrate the launch of Halo Wars 2. Save the date and plan to join us on Twitch, Youtube or Beam and help us usher in the next chapter in the Halo saga. More to come!

HFFL: I for one am VERY excited for this! Gawd, I wish I could be there in person!!!


As we get closer to launch the Halo Wars 2 marketing machine is going to start picking up steam. Case in point – today’s kick off of an awesome original art series in partnership with three incredible world-class artists – Grzegorz “Gabz” Domaradzki, Craig Drake and Kevin Tong.

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Here’s a sneak peek of the Atriox and Cutter pieces created by Kevin Tong.

HFFL: There are 6 total pieces. I hope to get one of each, they are terrific!


Let’s change gears now and jump to some noteworthy news and updates for Halo 5: Guardians. First up we’ve got more incoming REQ changes to look forward to in Warzone but before we go over new changes, here’s a recap of REQ changes made last week:


Vehicles reduced energy cost:

  • Oni Gungoose to 3 from 4
  • Anti-Air Wraith stays the same REQ energy level but is more common in packs (modified to be Rare).
  • Banshee and Mantis to 5 from 6. (Note: should look at Mantis rarity, currently Ultra Rare)

Weapons reduced energy cost:

  • River of Light to 5 from 6.
  • Base Spartan Laser to 4 from 5.
  • All Turrets down by 1 EXCEPT Jorge’s Chaingun and except level 2 turrets (no turrets become level 1).

Last week the team put out a call for to share their answer to the question, “If you could change the energy level of any one REQ item, what would it be?” Many of you took to our forums to share your thoughts and we thank you for giving us feedback!

After pouring through feedback and reviewing game data, the team is preparing for another round of REQ changes. Before we go over the specifics, I asked the team to share some insights on the methodology used to arrive at these changes.

What prompted the team to look at adjusting the energy cost of REQ cards? 

We routinely look at REQ card usage to understand how cards are used, the effectiveness of REQs, and how the cards balance against each other. After the holidays, we wanted to do a full pass in REQ balance taking into account all the new REQ content released in the past few updates.

Can you walk us through the overall process – how does the team come to a decision on what changes to make in-game? 

We collect a LOT of data and have an excellent team of data scientists to help us analyze the data we collect. The main report we look at when analyzing REQ balance is our “Warzone Balance by Cost” chart which shows us kills per use and damage per use segmented by energy cost. We look at outliers in each energy band and decide to move them up or down. We also pay close attention to the weapons and vehicles available in the energy band before that level. In other words, “if we changed this REQ from 5 to 4, what’s available in 3 to counter/balance the REQ being pulled in a few minutes earlier?”

Data is just a part of it. We have experts from Sandbox, Progression and Multiplayer weighing in on a ton of different gameplay factors.

What role does fan feedback play when the team is doing this type of work? 

We check Waypoint, Reddit and YouTube and do pay attention to the feedback we get. We were on the fence about increasing Wasp energy cost. In general, we prefer to lower energy of weaker weapons/vehicles rather than increase the energy of effective REQs. Ske7ch’s posts about REQ energy and the HUGE outpouring of feedback around the Wasp helped us make the decision to increase the Wasp energy levels by 1. We even sorted the Reddit thread by “controversial” to make sure the upvote/downvote brigade didn’t drown out the voice of the people.

After decisions are made and a plan is agreed upon, how do you go about implementing the changes into Halo 5?

REQ energy balance is controlled entirely server-side. We are able to make the changes in our system and push them out without a patch to download. It’s about the same process as updating the message of the day.

Should players expect more REQ energy changes in the future?  

You bet! We have a cadence of “balance, analyze, re-balance”. Keep that feedback coming!

Some fans might be upset to find that “their” suggestion didn’t get included in this latest pass. What would you say to them? 

Don’t despair! Some REQs will stay the same energy level but may have better uses in the context of all the other changes. If not, let us know!


Now, on to the changes! Here’s what has changed with Halo 5 REQs.


Here a Wasp, there a Wasp, everywhere a Wasp Wasp…

  • Wasps 3/4/5 -> 4/5/6
    • On some maps, a combination of the base assault and first boss can get most of a team to level 3 once the first armoury is captured.  Moving the T1 wasp up a level avoids seeing half a team immediately spawn them.  The Hannibal wasp’s armament and dodging ability make it competitive with a sword banshee or scorpion, so it fits well at level 6
  • Base Phaeton 8 -> 7
    • Given its low health and the introduction of the Helios, the base phaeton fits better with the tier 3 banshees at level 7.
  • Gunfighter Magnum 3 -> 2
    • We saw that players were preferring BRs to the gunfighter magnum.
  • Tactical Magnum 4 -> 3
    • Level 4 has a silenced BR, so moving down to level 3 invites debate between the silenced pistol and non-silenced BR.
  • Morph Sight : AR 4 -> 1, BR 6 -> 3, DMR 8 -> 6, SMG 7 -> 4 (to the same as hybrid [carbine] sight)
    • Puts these sights in-line with the other sights of their REQ energy level
  • Base Plasma Pistol 3 -> 2
    • This will hopefully provide a better counter for players at REQ level 2 battling players at level 3 or above who are in vehicles

HFFL: Damnit! The Wasp is my FAVORITE WZ/FF ship and they made it tougher to get. Since the change, I’ve used it less because it takes me until the 3rd round to get a high enough REQ level to use it. I feel like I’m wasting a Wasp at that point. Especailly a regualr one as it has weak armor. Wish that REQ would have been left alone…

We’re also changing the Random Weapon and Random Vehicle cards on Friday.  Here’s what’s changing:

  •  Random Vehicle (Ultra-Rare) 6 -> 7
    • Moving up a notch allows greater differentiation from the Random Vehicle (Rare) at 5
  • Random Weapons & Random Vehicles (All)
    • Tweaked probabilities to avoid over- or under-powered REQs for their levels

The team mentioned that the Ultra-Rare random vehicle REQ is a great way for players who haven’t yet unlocked all of their certs to get their hands on the best vehicles in the game (including a particularly high weight for the Phaeton Helios).

Lastly, there will also be a number of changes coming to Armor Mods across the board. From the team:

We’re spreading out the Armor Mod options across multiple energy levels to give players more choices as they level up in each Warzone game. Our team expects to see some fun combinations and some serious strategies arise from these changes, so make us proud!

  • REQ Energy Level 3
    • Death From Above
    • Grenadier
    • Patrol Case
  • REQ Energy Level 4
    • Auto-Medic
    • Speed Booster
    • Frag Grenade Expert
    • Plasma Grenade Expert
    • Splinter Grenade Expert
  • REQ Energy Level 5
    • Reflex Enhancers
    • Upgraded Thrusters
    • Increased Strength
  • REQ Energy Level 6
    • Advanced Sensors
    • Wheelman
    • Upgraded Shields

Take these REQ changes for a test drive and continue sharing your thoughts and feedback with us!

HFFL: I can tell you first hand, the changes to Armor Mods are going to take a little getting used to. Ugh…Wheelman going from 5 to 6 SUCKS! That REQ is VERY helpful when you’re driving/piloting a vehicle/ship!


Speaking of helmets, many of you might have noticed the recent emergence of “Timmy,” a special helmet that guarantees a whale of a good time when adorned by your Spartan in Halo 5. Tom French has a thing for whales, apparently, in addition to a fondness for pigs.

While a lot of folks were surprised to find this helmet pack show up in-game on Tuesday, many more are wondering WHERE’S MINE!? The team is being deliberately coy (for now) around the exact requirements needed to earn this elusive cetacean headwear but suffice it to say that players who have enjoyed more than their fair share of custom games will eventually join Club Timmy. [For the record, 343 Industries does not condone the act of meleeing marine mammals – Grim]


Please don’t try joining/quitting customs ad nauseum in an attempt to improve your odds. It won’t work. The team is working on formalizing the requirements and process for the Timmy Helmet and I’ll follow-up with some firm details when I have ’em.

HFFL: Word on the street is that it takes 50 hours of custom games to get this helmet. Whether that is true or not, take this intel with a grain of sand until it’s been confirmed or busted. As soon as we get the offiical word on this, I’ll pass it along.


Last weekend was the inaugural running of the “Warlords” Warzone playlist in Halo 5. Going into Friday the team wasn’t really sure how this test would land – would players enjoy it? Would the population be large enough to support a positive matchmaking experience? Would the 343 Fireteam stand any chance when facing off against the most hardcore and grizzled Warzone squads in the community? We don’t have definitive answers to all of these questions yet but with the Warlords weekend now in our rearview mirror the 343 team is regrouping and going over player feedback and game metrics to evaluate the net results.

One question we can definitively answer is that no, the 343 Fireteam did NOT stand any chance when facing off against the community. In fact, our 12-man team was absolutely destroyed. I’m not talking about just a loss, I’m talking about the kind of beating that makes a career Halo developer want to uninstall the game and rethink their life choices. Personally, I had no false expectations that we’d do anything but lose but it was even more brutal than I imagined and honestly, not very fun as someone who isn’t particularly great at Warzone. I felt particularly bad for Uny who, as you well know, it’s incredibly competitive and damn good at Halo 5, yet even he couldn’t carry 11 of us to victory. Sorry we let you down, Uny!

While I didn’t enjoy the ass kicking, I did thoroughly enjoy WATCHING the highest level Warzone play. It’s almost an entirely different game and something I found totally fascinating. The level of coordination and calculated tactics and the “meta” employed by you seasoned teams was a site to behold.


Friday looked like it was an overall pretty good experience for everyone who came to play and the data shows that matchmaking was pretty good when there were many teams in the rotation. While the total number of players who participated in Warzone actually exceeded our expectations, it’s still a very, very tiny fraction of our overall Halo 5 player population (and a small sliver of the normal Warzone population). By Sunday the population had all but dried up and the matching experience deteriorated dramatically.

Warlords was an interesting experiment at least in the sense that it was a really cool exercise to build an event and promote and drive a focused group of players toward one playlist at one time. And it was fun (despite the ass-kicking) for 343 to be right there in the mix as well. Friday afternoon and into Saturday was pretty cool to see and we think there’s something to a potential Warlords offering being semi-frequent but spaced out enough to drive critical mass and allow teams to better plan and coordinate.

Right now the team is taking a look at player feedback and data but also wants to work on a few tweaks to try and improve the matchmaking experience. Additionally we’re looking into a bug that surfaced with join-in-progress that prevented anyone from re-joining at all if two players ended up dropping. Assuming the team can iron out these issues we’re looking at bringing Warlords back again for another scheduled test drive in a month or so. Stay tuned.

HFFL: HA! See…this is what people were trying to tell you 343. Teams of 12 WILL crush smaller teams. But they did NOT want to face off against OTHER teams of 12. Last weekend’s Warlords test PROVED that. Now please, for the sake of the community and our collective sanity, please do NOT make Warzone team counts more than 6. It’s MUCH more fair that way and keep spawn trapping/killing to a lower amount. Thank you.


This weekend’s Mythic Firefight takes you back to Prospect where you’ll do battle with the toughest enemies in search of glory, honor and that sweet bonus XP.


HFFL: YES! I love this map! Visually fantastic. Mythic is TOUGH, but I’m up for the challenge! Are you?


Here’s a quick rundown of various odds and ends from across the Halo community and the 343 studio

HFFL: Hmm, no update for HMCC? Can’t say I’m surprised by that. Unfortunately many fans have given up on HMCC and others have given up on waiting for an update to it. Shame really.



This week we point the team spotlight downstairs to the back corner of the 2nd floor and newly-hired multiplayer designer Sara Stern. If you enjoy any of Halo 5’s many flavors of matchmaking, you’ll definitely want to get to know Sara!

Hi Sara! First off, can you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you do here at 343?

Sara Stern: I am a multiplayer designer on our Halo 5 team.  I work with the broader Halo 5 team on the updates we’ll make to our maps, what we offer in both social and ranked playlists, and what Forge maps and modes we’ll feature. Our team will be working on keeping Halo 5 content fresh and exciting.

What’s your background? 

SS: Before I came to 343, I was a Game Designer at Camouflaj, another Seattle-area studio. I got my undergraduate degree in Philosophy and attended a yearlong game design program after I decided to get into the industry.

What made you decide to come work for 343? 

SS: I’ve played Halo since I begged my parents to let me have a copy of Halo 2. Halo is my FPS, and I jumped at the opportunity to work on a franchise I already loved. That said, the people at 343 are what convinced me to work here. I interviewed with a number of teams, and everyone was welcoming, proud of their work, and passionate about the Halo franchise.

Have you always aspired to work in the games industry?

SS: Yes and no. I had thought “if I could do anything, I’d work in games,” but for some reason put game designer in the same category as astronaut – a job you might daydream about having. I pursued a number of different careers before one of my friends finally asked me why I thought a job in game development was so unattainable. I couldn’t give him a good answer, and within three months I’d quit my corporate job and was learning how to make games in Unity.

What advice do you have for folks looking to someday follow in your footsteps and break into game development? 

SS: Create something! Making something serves two purposes – you’ll gain experience and start building a portfolio, but more importantly, you learn if you like the work enough to devote your energy to it.

Read some job descriptions and determine what kind of game development you want to be doing day to day. Once you’ve figured that out, work on a project specific to what you want to do. If you want to make levels, try creating a level in Forge. If you want to be a game writer, write a short, interactive story. If you want to program, code a small game.

 Make sure you connect with others who love and make games as well. Breaking into the industry is hard (and sometimes lonely) work, and you will learn a lot from the other game makers in your community.

What’s your initial impression of the 343 team? Any crazy stories or situations that you were shocked or surprised by? 

SS: I love the playtest culture here. In the playtest labs, the trash talk flies (always friendly, of course). Once the game ends, however, we’re immediately giving each other measured, thoughtful feedback about how a certain map or mode played and how we could make it better.

I’m still getting used to the giant Spartan statues around the office. Having a life-size Master Chief greet you every morning definitely reminds you why you come into work!

I believe one of your areas of responsibility will be helping to get great Forge maps into Halo 5 Matchmaking? Is there anything in particular you’re going to be focusing on initially?

SS: We’re always looking for new content for our most popular social modes.  Beyond that, we’re still gathering player feedback and data to determine what our playlist priorities are going to be going forward. For future playlist refreshes, we may reach out directly to ask for maps of a certain type, so keep your eye out.

HFFL: Now THAT is something I want to hear! I currently have a map in development. One I hope to put up for consideration for matchmaking.

Forgers have continued to make a lot of great stuff since the Monitor’s Bounty update – keep being creative and Forging stuff you want to play!

Managing the playlist experience in Halo 5 is obvioulsy a team effort. What does that working group look like?

SS: Ideas and suggestions are encouraged and welcomed from anyone across the 343 team! But in terms of driving the actual updates and playlist changes, it’s generally a partnership between the multiplayer team, producers, testers, release managers and the community team.

Can you describe the general process and methodology behind making changes to Halo 5’s playlists?

SS: There are a few different factors that go into making a playlist change. We look at a mixture of player feedback and playlist data before we make decisions. Any change we make is also heavily reviewed internally. When we consider adding new maps or modes, the team extensively playtests the new content as a group to ensure that it passes our own gut check and is something we’d be proud to release.

The process doesn’t end when we push something live, however. We closely review the numbers and the feedback after we make a change, and meet to discuss whether we met the goals we had when we set out to make changes in the first place. Based on how our initial playlist change went, we’ll make further adjustments and release updated versions once we feel we’ve gathered enough feedback and data.

That initial playlist change is the first step of an ongoing process of us adjusting to feedback to improve the Halo 5 experience, and we’ll likely iterate on particular changes a few times.

Any tips or advice for would-be Forgers who want to contribute something to Halo 5?

SS: If you can, get other Forgers and players to playtest your maps with you. Something that seems perfectly clear to you may not be easy for another player to understand. The feedback you get from a playtest will make your map or game mode better.

Some promising Forge maps I see have what an instructor of mine called “perfection requirements.” For example, a map might feature jumps or ledges a Spartan can barely reach if the player knows exactly when to press the button. Some Forged racetracks I’ve seen have such tight corners that you’d have to memorize the map to even complete the race, much less win. Making your levels a little more forgiving keeps your map from interrupting the flow of gameplay and contributes to the amount of fun people are having.

Do you have any favorite Forge creations you’ve seen out in the community?

SS: I love the lighthearted, funny Forge creations that stretch the boundaries of what Halo 5 is. If I had to call out some of them specifically, I love Sea Monsters by CaptainDireWolf and Sky High by kiwibardlol. I’m always scouting around for new Action Sack candidates and other fun things to try.

What’s your personal favorite gametype to play in Halo 5? 

SS: I like the teamwork required for Team Arena (I especially like Strongholds) and Warzone Firefight.

Any final thoughts / parting words for our community?

SS: Please give us feedback! We read through the Halo 5 forums on Waypoint and you can get in touch with a lot of the team on Twitter (mine is @se_stern). With more information from the community, we can make better decisions based on what you enjoy playing and want to see out of Halo 5 going forward. Certain things may not be feasible at this stage of Halo 5, but we’ll try to let you all know if that’s the case.

 I also hop into the Customs Browser often to check out what people are playing and creating, so I’ll see many of you there!

Thanks for taking time to joins us in the Spotlight, Sara! I’m sure I speak for many of you when I say I can’t wait to see what she and the team start cooking up for matchmaking.


This entry was posted in Halo Waypoint by Sal. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sal

I’ve got tons of experience with Halo gaming and collecting. I feel I have something to offer to the greater Halo fan community. Posts along the way will be about tips and tricks in the games as well as collecting and many more Halo related things. I’ll also repost interesting articles from the official site,, or from fellow Halo fan sites. As I continue this blog, I hope to help gamers who want advice on the games, as well as any collectors with regards to where to find collectibles as well as deals, coupons and so on. You can also follow me on Twitter at:!/HaloFanForLife or Facebook at: Welcome to my blog and I hope you’ll come back again and again. -Sal