I recently I had the incredible opportunity to visit the home office of 343 Industries in Kirkland, Washington. It was an invitation I absolutely could not resist, so I gleefully put myself on a plane and flew across the country for the chance to step foot on hallowed Halo ground.
Even without the sun shining, Kirkland was beautiful!
I had never attended any conventions or community events before, so this was my first chance to shake hands with, well, anyone. I didn’t know what to expect, but as I stood in front of that unmistakeable office, I knew one thing: this was about to happen. And I knew it was going to be awesome!
There it is. It’s right there. Oh my God.
The event for which I was invited focused on Halo 4′s Forge mode. I recently joked on Podtacular and the Waypoint Community Modcast about how Forge would probably be the first thing I did in Halo 4, and as it turns out that was absolutely true. I spent about 6 hours learning everything I could about the new Forge before even touching matchmaking, and as of writing this I am still campaign/spartan ops dark even after spending about 20 hours total with the game. Forge!
This was provided for…motivation.
There is a lot to be excited about in Forge. Shadows, Player Trait zones, Gravity Volumes, and a plethora of new objects (you can quote me now, people are going to love the Dominion palette). The test room we were set up in was frequented by 343 Industries employees and it was incredible to have a question and be able to turn around and ask it directly to the people who created the game. I learned a lot about Halo 4, but I learned even more about 343 Industries. Let me make this abundantly clear: Halo is in very good hands. I got to learn a lot about the philosophy behind 343 Industries’ decisions and I believe in the direction they are taking the Halo franchise, gameplay-wise (still campaign dark!). I can’t wait to see their plans unfold for the fans as we get ready for several great years of Halo 4!
This is what happens when a duck meets an angel.
There were too many incredible moments. As if meeting Jessica Shea, David Ellis, Rukizzel and the many, many other 343 Industries employees that dropped by (Frankie!) wasn’t enough, Red vs. Blue’s Burnie Burns showed up with pizza and proceeded to play Halo 4′s campaign (he came back the next day to continue, with donuts!). Penny-Arcade’s Mike Krahulik also showed up with his son and played Forge and War Games for hours, even joining us for dinner. Even Claude Errera dropped in! The incredible part about all of that was that everyone was incredibly friendly and open–no one acted like they were a big deal. In that room, we were all just gamers. It was awesome.
Among all of those moments, a huge highlight to me was getting the chance to sit down and chat with Jessica Shea one-on-one for a bit. This is someone who really cares about the Halo community, and not just in aggregate.
Goodbye, sweet Kirkland.
With all of that said, I can’t tell you that there won’t be complaints about Forge in Halo 4. Precision editing is mysteriously gone (we left feedback regarding that..), sprint can’t be disabled, Flood is nothing like the versatile Infection game type from Halo: Reach (we left feedback about that too..), Race is gone (yeah, well that didn’t stop us in Halo 3!), and there is no Halo Ball (yet, of course–343 Industries can easily add these game types in the months to come if they choose to). What you’re going to find when you load up Forge for the first time is a focused experience. In fact, everything about Halo 4 is focused and intentional. I see that, and after the time I spent hands-on at 343 Industries, I believe in it. Again, Halo is in very good hands.
I’d like to offer a HUGE ‘Thank You!’ to 343 Industries for the invitation and the incredible hospitality, and to Burnie Burns for the pizza and donuts. It was an incredible experience and one that I will always cherish!