Building the Ultimate Halo Game

CAMPAIGN

Story Proposals & Basic Outline
Missions
Stage Designs
Artificial Intelligence
Command/Orders System
Difficulty
Cooperative Mode
Spartan Ops
Campaign Scoring & Skulls
Challenge Mode
Enemies
Allies

Story Proposals & Basic Outline

Before tackling gameplay concerns for the single-player Campaign, one must first address what the setting, plot, tone, pacing, and so forth will be. I’ve had an idea of what I’d like to see for quite some time now which I mentioned earlier in the article, and that is a dual Campaign that puts you into the shoes of two different characters and takes place both before, during, and after the events of the main trilogy. Unlike the main trilogy, which had heavy emphasis on the Halos, the Forerunners, and the Flood, this entry would focus primarily on the UNSC-Covenant war. Essentially, it would be a side story of sorts to events that occurred in both the games and the novels. The time frame would be late in the war as the Mjolnir Mark V armor, which was the first to provide shielding for the Spartans, wasn’t formally introduced until 2551, the next to last year of the war.

In this game, I’d stick with what Halo players consider familiar territory: playing as either a Spartan-II or an Elite. The Spartan character would of course not be John. However, there are only a few known Spartan-IIs alive and active during the latter-most parts of the war and that would be available: Blue Team (composed of Fred, Linda, & Will), and Maria, who tested the Mark VI armor shortly before Halo 2 began. Maria would be an interesting character to expand upon, as we know little of her activities outside of testing the Mark VI armor. It is plausible that she participated in the defense of Earth despite her supposed “retirement,” as the UNSC would need all the help it could get. Another reason to have her as a PC is that playing as a member of Blue Team would mean having two Spartan-II AI buddies for most of the game, and I would prefer invincible or semi-invincible plot-critical characters to not be a major factor in this game. Since the the shielded Mjolnir Mark V armor wasn’t introduced until November 2551, having Maria would provide story justification for shielded Spartan-IIs in any levels that take place prior to that date: since she was the one who tested the Mark VI armor, I’d expand on that and have her also be the one who tested a prototype version of the Mark V some months before the other Spartans acquired said armor. Testing new Spartan gear would kinda be her thing. She’d be like Q from James Bond, except she’d also be a super-soldier in addition to a Gadgeteer Genius.

Rather than being the Arbiter, the Elite character will be a normal low-ranking, blue-armored Minor Elite. The Elite segments will take place during the Covenant civil war, with the first missions taking place at Delta Halo and/or High Charity, occurring parallel to the events of the latter third of Halo 2. His story could intersect with Maria’s, or it could stand on its own; I’m not set on either possibility at this point. He would be (or would become over the course of the story) a human sympathizer rather than an anti-human zealot (in fact, the way I’ve described him makes me think of N’tho ‘Sraom from Halo 3 co-op). To avoid confusion between Elite and Brute vehicular forces during the Covenant civil war era, the Brutes and their minions would have the standard purple-armored Ghosts, Banshees, Wraiths (including the AA version), and dropships, while the Elites would have vehicles with copper-colored armor like the Halo 3 AA Wraith or perhaps a color scheme similar to that of the Heretic’s Banshees in Halo 2.

Like in Halo 2 or Modern Warfare, the two character’s stories could overlap, with the player going back and forth between them. Alternately, the Elite character could have a fully separate Campaign with only some narrative overlap with the Spartan Campaign (think something like the Aliens vs. Predator PC game released in 1999). The Elite character’s missions could also be relegated to a series of bonus missions, perhaps something like Spartan Ops (more on said game mode later). I had considered the possibility of an ODST and Spartan-III character as well, but that would make the game more cluttered (and in the ODST’s and possibly also S-III’s case, the necessary gameplay differences between them and S-IIs and Elites could clash, e.g., stamina for ODSTs) but that doesn’t mean another game focusing on an ODST or Spartan-III character isn’t a possibility (and Reach showed that at least some S-IIIs had access to armor equipped with energy shields, though Noble Team may have been unique in that regard).

While I do have a general outline for things like most of the story, the locations and times of most of the missions, and so forth (I’ll go over those details in the next section), I haven’t got a script (I’m brainstorming one for the introductory cinema scenes, though). I’m not a particularly good writer of fiction, but I’m sure a good writing team could produce compelling dialogue, story, and plot development. Personally, I’d like for either Joe Staten (who recently rejoined Microsoft) or Levi “Leviathan” Hoffmeier to be head writer (I would have also nominated Eric Nylund, but he parted ways with Microsoft back in 2013).


Missions

I have several ideas for potential missions. The first mission would be a simple raid on an Insurrectionist base. Maria and a team of ODSTs would be tasked with eliminating a group of well-armed Insurrectionists who are stationed in a base situated near a mountain lake on one of the Outer Colonies, with the mission doubling as an impromptu field test for the Mk. V prototype. The action would start off slow, with the player picking off small, isolated groups of rebels with silenced weapons, perhaps in or near a small urban area, in order to find the location of the base. The player could also be tasked with taking out key rebel installations (communication arrays, supply storehouses, etc.). The stage’s climax would be a full-blown battle involving numerous rebel infantry as well as rebel-controlled Warthogs, a Scorpion or two, and maybe even a Pelican. The stage after the Insurrectionist’s defeat would be an investigation of a buried Forerunner facility the Innies discovered; the player would end up fighting Sentinels, with an Enforcer serving as the stage’s boss. Finally, there would be an engagement with Covenant forces that show up there for the Forerunner tech.

A later stage would be a “Siege of Sydney” stage where the player has to defend Sydney, Australia, the location of the UNSC High Command, from the Covenant invasion forces. The stages immediately following it would involve having to retreat to a base located in the Australian desert and then defend it against a Covenant regiment, including Wraiths and a Scarab. Finally, there would also be a stage where the player has to infiltrate a Covenant carrier and destroy it from the inside, much like the planned second mission of Halo 2 that was ultimately scrapped.

Some potential Elite missions could involve 1) evacuating the interior urban centers of High Charity in the face of Brute and Flood threats, 2) assisting the Arbiter and Rtas ‘Vadum in recovering Tartarus’ CCS cruiser situated above Delta Halo’s control room, 3) helping repel attempts by the Flood to capture Covenant vessels in orbit around Delta Halo, 4) assisting Elite and UNSC forces on Earth during the Brute occupation, and 5) staving off an attempted Brute invasion of Sangheilios or some other Elite-controlled world sometime during the months after the events at the Ark (the Brutes must still pose some kind of threat even after the collapse of the Covenant).

Another mission design issue is specific objectives the player must accomplish. The Halo series has been largely bereft of actual objectives. Usually, your only objective is simply to get from point A to point B. Sometimes, you’re required to kill a particular enemy or group of enemies or push some button in order to progress, but that’s about as far as it gets for the vast majority of the time. The only real objectives were when you had to escort Captain Keyes off the Truth & Reconciliation, when you had to destroy the reactors of the Pillar of Autumn and High Charity (the former a bit more complex and challenging than the latter), and when you had to cut the cable holding up the Threshold gas mine.

I think a future Halo game could benefit by giving the player more to accomplish besides simply blowing away a bunch of enemies and completing some simple token “objective” like pushing a button. Objectives don’t have to be overly complicated, and could include tasks similar to those in the other games, such as destroying a reactor or some other object of strategic value. Other objectives could include having to call in a squad of Longswords for a bombing run against enemy artillery in order to pass, or locating and stopping a convoy of enemy armor before it reaches its destination, giving you the chance to box them up inside a narrow pathway, or, failing that, having to fight them the hard way out in the open. The latter is example of a secondary objective; it is not necessary to accomplish in order to complete the mission, but it could make things more difficult down the road should the player fail it. Such secondary objectives could be relatively plentiful. Whatever the case may be, objectives should certainly be more varied and frequent than in the past.


Stage Designs

One of the things that blew me away about Halo was the huge, sweeping vistas and massive stages. Whether it’s the epic scale of Assault on the Control Room and Two Betrayals or the relative open-ended design of Halo or The Silent Cartographer, the addition of large environments and open fields of combat was something new and fresh for FPS level design, which had for the most part been stuck following the example of Doom. To this day, Halo 1 still has some of the best level designs in the series, and not even its several sequels and side-qeuls could match it. Halo 3, Reach, and ODST had some relatively large and open levels, but those stages still fell short of the likes of Assault on the Control Room. Meanwhile, Halo 2 and 4 have some of the most painfully linear and constrained stages in the series.

However, a couple recent games in the genre have left Halo in the dust when it comes to huge, epic stage designs. For example, Far Cry 3 has about 30 square kilometers of playable area (and some games offer, far, far more than that), though to be fair since FC3 is a sandbox/open-world FPS this area is in one single contiguous environment rather than spread across several distinct stages — and while an open-world Halo would be awesome, this game would not be one —, but it’s still far more area than what any single Halo game offers in its entirety. A better example for comparison is the original Crysis game and its “Warhead” expansion, as they have discrete levels, and I’ve had the opportunity to play both titles in their entirety. They have some of the best single-player map designs I’ve seen in recent memory. The huge, open levels make for an outstanding gaming experience and offer more playable area than any Halo game, some 2 to 4 km² per stage on average according to the developer (the first stage, which is the perhaps the shortest and smallest in the game, is comparable to the larger Halo levels in terms of area) as well as an incredible amount of freedom to tackle your objectives from many angles or to simply explore. By comparison, the biggest stages in the Halo series are probably in the neighborhood of 0.5 to 0.7 km² (this isn’t counting levels/segments such as Long Night of Solace’s space battles, which though very large are mostly empty voids designed for very fast flying vehicles) and are on average much more linear and constrained than most of Crysis’s levels.

Therefore, this game would have stages that are at least on average the size of levels like AotCR, and the larger levels would be at least as big as the largest levels in Crysis, if not bigger. The stages would also be on average much less linear that what is typical for Halo, offering more freedom to explore and to approach their objectives, though they’d still be linear in the sense of having a definite beginning and end point. Overall, the total playable space in the game’s Campaign would be several times that of any prior Halo game. While traditional corridor crawls will always have their place in the genre — as evidenced by Irrational Games’ dystopian epic BioShock, which took place entirely indoors, or the commonplace interior environments in Halo and most other shooters — and modest-sized outdoors environments can serve certain other series fairly well, any future developer claiming to have a shooter with massive stages will have to look to the example set by games like Crysis for how to develop single-player stages, as they have the biggest, most wide-open outdoors environments outside purely sandbox-style shooters (Killzone: Shadow Fall for the PS4 is in an example of an FPS ditching standard linear FPS missions for larger, more open, less linear levels).

ODST’s open-world “hub stage” Mombasa Streets offers a pretty good starting point for designing an urban environment, but it was largely symmetrical and relatively small in terms of playable area. Any city stages in this game would be structured similarly with many different streets, alleyways, and courtyards, but would be asymmetrical and with a definite beginning and end, with multiple secondary objectives along the way, and would be much, much bigger, with some more open-air areas (think city parks). As for stages with more natural environments, my rough sketch of the first level shown below should give you a good idea of what I’m trying to go for (and it would be one of the smaller levels). Levi Hoffmeier also made some level designs for his “Shield & Sword” project which I think would be ideal for future Halo games.

As for the types of environments, they should, like those in the main trilogy, be widely varied and include deserts, snowy/arctic terrain, forests, swamps, mountains, cities, spaceships, and so forth. Pretty much what everyone has come to expect from Halo. For example, the first level (shown in rough sketch form below) would as mentioned earlier take place in a heavily wooded area near a mountain lake. The environment would resemble locales in the Sierra Nevada, such as Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe, with a dash of the Blue Ridge Mountains thrown in, though being on an alien planet some of the plant life wouldn’t quite resemble Earth’s, perhaps glowing with an eerie blue phosphorescence. Meanwhile, the second level would take place in a network of caverns that meshes natural rock formations with Forerunner structures.

A preliminary sketch of the first level. Terrain (elevation and cliffs, hills, etc.) not shown.


Artificial Intelligence

The AI in the Halo series has always been rather inconsistent. While enemy AI was pretty good in the first two games and your foes were generally competent fighters (more so in Halo 1 in the Elite’s case, since they were faster and more agile, whereas in Halo 2 they relied less on speed and agility and more on inflicting obscene amounts of damage), they did do stupid stuff on occasion. For example, they’d frequently jump off ledges to avoid grenades or vehicles (often resulting in their deaths), they sometimes wouldn’t react to obvious threats, and they seemed like they didn’t notice your presence past a certain range and wouldn’t react even if you were picking them or their allies off with a sniper rifle.

In Halo 3, though, the enemy AI was average at best and idiotic at worst, relying almost entirely upon their ability to inflict insanely high amounts of damage. Brutes had almost no evasive skills whatsoever and would often not bother taking cover or dodging even when being repeatedly fired upon, though they were decent shots and would fire at you relentlessly if they saw you. Hammer-wielding Chieftains wouldn’t attack you if you were standing on a crate or platform only a couple of feet above their head, opting rather to stare at you while you shot them to death. Enemies wouldn’t advance on your position in many areas, and some enemies often wouldn’t even bother diving out of the way of grenades or vehicles that they saw coming. All of this is in addition to making the same kind of mistakes that the AI in the first two games did. The only time Halo 3’s enemy AI truly shines is when they’re piloting vehicles, which actually can be problematic considering how overpowered enemy vehicles are in Halo 3. Enemy AI in ODST is noticeably improved from Halo 3, but is no better than in Halo 1 or 2.

The enemy AI in Reach is also a marked improvement over Halo 3′s, and is perhaps the best in the series (though it’s generally the same type of behavior we saw in Halo 1 & 2, just improved). For example, enemies are not shy about taking cover and have good evasive abilities. They become even more evasive and prone to using cover when you’re sniping (their AI actually changes the moment you pull out a sniper rifle). You throw down a drop shield when an Elite is nearby, and he will run at you and kick you in the face. You run for cover, the enemy will either try to flank you or simply just throw grenades to kill you or flush you out.

Friendly AI in any of the games has never been anything to write home about. While they can be useful at times (more so in Halo 1 than in the other games), they also do some incredibly stupid things. Whether it’s killing you, themselves, and/or the other Marines with grenades or a rocket launcher, or being horrible drivers, they are frequently a hazard to themselves and everyone around them.

I believe that the quality of the AI is, along with stage design, the most important Campaign-specific design element, and a future Halo game would have to do much better than what has been offered by the series so far. Enemy AI should act like how you’d expect a well-disciplined, battle-hardened enemy to behave. They should be competent, aggressive fighters who use good tactics and work together well as a team, react realistically to the actions of the player, and are able to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of the player and his allies. They shouldn’t ever sit still in combat unless it gives them some tactical advantage. They should be able to fight in formation — for example, Jackals in a “V” like in the E3 ’03 “Earth City” demo — and use covering fire to assist their teammates. If you’re holed up in a bunker or other fortification, they should try their damnedest to flush you out. They shouldn’t always sit outside and wait for you to make a move or run in one at a time just to get blown away by the player. They should use cover logically, whether it’s to take cover when being fired upon or when they feel you have an advantage. They could even be made to use blindfire from around corners to keep you pinned down and cover their allies’ advance. They shouldn’t just sit out in the open and let you shoot them. They should be able to use the terrain and other aspects of the environment to their advantage.

They should exhibit more advanced and realistic senses (though they shouldn’t exhibit near-clairvoyant senses like they have in ODST and Reach). For example, their performance could be adversely affected by darkness, or they could hear you if you make too much non-weapon-related noise such as breaking glass, knocking stuff over, etc., or see the light cast by your flashlight and reacting appropriately to the stimulus by going into an “alert mode” and sending someone to investigate or whatnot. If they are aware of your presence, they should be able to react to you regardless of how far away they are. Likewise, they should be able to notice their allies getting sniped and react appropriately (running for cover being the most obvious reaction) even if they don’t know where you are. If you attempt to run away from them, they should pursue you relentlessly if they are capable of doing so (they have been known to do this in Halo 1, if only on occasion). If you have them outnumbered and outgunned, they should retreat if it’s their best option, covering their escape as best they can, until they are able to turn the situation against you either by getting to help or running to some location that gives them an advantage.

However, Flood AI would be different than Covenant or Insurrectionist AI. They would attack the opponent en masse, using overwhelming numbers rather than advanced tactics. They would be more akin to their Halo 1 versions, who were most prone at “flooding” the players defenses with their numbers, making a bee-line straight towards the player as a group; in Halo 2, they fought in fewer numbers and relied more on increased firepower, while in Halo 3, they were more conservative combatants that sometimes retreated and, like the Covenant, would often not bother rushing the player, at least not in large numbers.

Allies should have AI that’s as good as that of the enemy. They shouldn’t be too effective, or else the player would come to rely on them rather than on their own skills, but they shouldn’t be hazards or liabilities, nor should they be useless outside of some minor support role (their effectiveness could be reduced by having them fight in fewer numbers or use less advanced tactics than the enemy). They should be able to fight reasonably close to how well the enemies do. They should be able to drive vehicles as effectively as the enemy. At the very least they shouldn’t be prone to driving off cliffs, getting stuck on simple obstacles, or going well under the vehicle’s top speed when it’s not necessary. They shouldn’t be prone to killing you, themselves, or the other good guys because they’re too stupid to use a rocket launcher, grenade, or vehicle with any degree of competence. They shouldn’t be hesitant to get into a vehicle but they should also always board in a logical fashion (e.g., the guy with the rockets jumping in a Hog’s passenger seat and the guy with the AR manning the turret, rather than vice versa, the latter of which is not uncommon and is invariably annoying).

In short, the artificial intelligence should be, well, intelligent. I’ve seen pretty good AI from current and last-gen games. Reach, the F.E.A.R. and Gears of War series, and Killzone 2 have fairly smart enemies, and even Halo 1 & 2’s enemy AI was good aside from the obvious flaws and stands up well even against most newer shooters despite them being last-gen titles. Certainly, a future Halo game (or any other future FPS, for that matter) benefiting from the power of a next-gen console should be able to exhibit advanced AI capable of fighting effectively and intelligently (even more so than the best current-gen AI), and any incidences of stupidity should be exceedingly rare. There’s really no excuse for the AI to not be as good as whatever the current technology allows. At the very least, it should be demonstrably as good as if not better than that of the aforementioned games.


Command/Orders System

Related to the issue of AI, I would likely add the feature introduced in Halo 5 where you can give certain orders to your AI-controlled teammates. While the friendly AI would as mentioned be reasonably competent, I wouldn’t mind being able to have some control over what your AI teammates do instead of waiting on their AI routine to do something you might want them to do.

Unlike in Halo 5 there won’t be a squad of semi-immortal Spartans following you throughout the game, but there could still be a “fireteam” setup like in Halo: Reach where several friendly AI units in the immediate vicinity get automatically “recruited” into a squad that follow you around. These squad mates could then be given orders through a simple push of up on the D-pad. Like in Halo 5, these orders would be contextual in nature. If the player points to a particular spot and presses the “order” button, their squad would advance on that location. If you point at a vehicle, they will board that vehicle (and do so in a sensible fashion, with guys with heavy weapons jumping in the passenger seat whenever possible). If you point at a weapon lying on the ground, they will pick it up. Simple as that.


Difficulty

Simply making sure the enemies and objectives are appropriately challenging for a given difficulty level is not the only consideration that needs to made when balancing the several difficulty levels. The basic approach should also focus on what exactly makes the game difficult. Two different games can be just as difficult, but because of different approaches towards the difficulty balancing, one of them could be legitimately challenging while the other just plain cheap and therefore not as fun. There’s a fine line between the two, and it’s important to not be on the wrong side of that line.

In Halo 1, the enemies were both smart and agile. While they did gain a large damage bonus on higher difficulties, they still did somewhat less damage than what the player could dish out; they were great shots, however. While they had some limitations — the AI sometimes has bad situational awareness, plus unlike later games they don’t have any long-range weapons — they were incredibly effective combatants. They could be hard to manage if you weren’t prepared. Another thing enhancing the game’s difficulty was the total lack of regenerating health. Overall, Halo 1 was a very good challenge on Legendary, and is to this day the most fun to play on said difficulty.

Halo 2 experienced a massive sequel difficulty spike. The enemies were still reasonably smart, but certain enemies (mainly Elites) lost much of their speed and agility. However, what they lost in mobility they gained in firepower; they had the ability to inflict far more damage than they did before, with the enemy’s damage output increasing over 60 percent from Halo 1 to Halo 2. In other words, an enemy’s per-shot damage output was 10% less than the player’s in Halo 1 Legendary, but in Halo 2 Legendary their per-shot damage output was 50% more than the player’s. The obvious result of this is that the enemies could kill you considerably quicker than in Halo 1. The fact that the player’s weapons took longer to kill enemies than in Halo 1 further complicated things. Also, on Legendary, the newly-introduced sniper Jackals very rarely missed and did enough damage to kill with one shot even if the player had full shields and health. Overall, Halo 2 is by far the most difficult game in the series, and for all the wrong reasons. Its Legendary mode is an exercise in frustration. The only things that really served to mitigate the game’s difficulty is that the “noob combo” was ridiculously effective against Elites (it made Cairo Station go from nigh impossible without it to actually fairly easy with it), dual Needlers wrecked Brutes, and some encounters could be skipped (either because of shortcuts or by usage of the Arbiter’s camouflage ability).

Halo 3 and Reach are, in my experience, both more on par with Halo 1 in terms of difficulty if we assess difficulty by number and frequency of deaths. However, they are difficult for different reasons than the original game, mainly because of the massive damage output of the enemies relative to Halo 1. For Halo 3, the game starts with what is undoubtedly the hardest opening level in the series. Sierra 117 is narrow, linear, and packed to the gills with enemies, including multiple Jackal snipers — which, while toned down from Halo 2, will still kill you in one shot if they hit you — and a bunch of Brutes, who except for the one Chieftain are all Captains who are almost all armed with Brute shots. By far the biggest causes of deaths in the game when I play on Legendary are enemy vehicles, infantry armed with heavy weapons like Brute shots and fuel rod guns, and sniper Jackals. The main reason the game is as difficult as it is is the massive damage output of the enemies; they inflict the same amount of damage as they did in Halo 2. The fact that they often attack in very large groups by Halo standards doesn’t help. You can fight a dozen or more Brutes at a time, whereas Elites typically only showed up three or four at a time at most, and even when they don’t come in packs Brutes can still have a lot of Grunts and Jackals backing them up. Another issue is that due to the vehicle damage system, being in a vehicle isn’t exactly safer than hoofing it. An enemy vehicle can kill you just as quickly as if you were on foot, except that when you’re in a vehicle you’re a bigger target. A single Grunt isn’t much of a threat, but in Halo 3 if he gets in a Ghost he becomes a freakin’ Demonic Spider. A good chunk of my deaths were during vehicular combat sequences. However, there are some big difficulty-mitigating factors in play, namely AI that isn’t all that great by Halo standards, the Brutes’ powered armor doesn’t regenerate once destroyed, and the enemies were less resilient in general than in other games in the series. That the difficulty comes almost purely from overpowered enemies is to me more than a bit of a flaw.

Reach combines the best AI in the series with the same massive damage output present in Halo 2 & 3, not to mention that there are a lot of other difficulty-enhancing factors present on Legendary mode, including a high frequency of enemies with weapons/attacks that kill in one or two hits, the enemy rank distribution being even more heavily biased towards higher ranks than in prior games (Elite, Grunt, and Jackal Minors are rare enough on Heroic, but are almost nonexistent on Legendary), all Grunt ranks above Minor being capable of using charged shots (especially problematic given the aforementioned rarity of Grunt Minors above Normal difficulty), the projectile speed of non-hitscan weapons being given a 50% boost, and a total lack of multi-sided battles. However, this was offset by the facts that the beam rifle was replaced by the focus rifle (making enemy snipers easier to deal with), the noob combo is almost as effective against Elites as it was in Halo 2, and the weapons are all around much more reliable and consistent.

Personally, I think that the trend towards making enemies as overwhelmingly powerful as possible is a bad one. It considerably reduces the amount of viable tactics available to the player, essentially shoehorning them into a very specific play style — usually one that discourages aggressive movement and that’s heavily cover-based —, one that if deviated from will result in repeated death. Most of the challenge of facing an individual enemy should come from things like quality AI rather than brute force (no pun intended). As the saying goes, fight smarter, not harder. That should apply not just to the player but to the NPCs as well. If the enemies are sufficiently intelligent then they wouldn’t need to inflict absurd amounts of damage; in fact, if they were really smart and inflicted as much damage as they did in Halo 2 or 3, it would result in the game being rather cheap on higher difficulties (refer again to Reach). There are plenty of other factors that go into a game’s challenge, including but not limited to:

• Overall resilience of the enemy (i.e., shield and health levels).
• The performance of the enemy AI.
• The presence, number, and general effectiveness of friendly AI.
• Overall effectiveness/performance of the player’s weapons (damage, accuracy, etc.).
• Whether or not the player has regenerating health.
• Level design, which affects the flow of combat.
• Encounter design, i.e., number, placement, and rank distribution of the enemies, and presence/absence of multi-sided battles.
• Availability of ammo, weapons, and other supplies (example: The lack of the pistol on The Truth & Reconciliation makes the level more challenging).
• The weapons and other gear the enemies are equipped with.
• The presence, nature, and frequency of “Demonic Spiders” and “Goddamned Bats.”
• Gameplay elements that could qualify as “Fake Difficulty.”

Quality enemy AI, coupled with good encounter & objective design and proper utilization of the other aforementioned difficulty-altering factors (except of course Fake Difficulty, which should always be avoided) would result in a challenge that legitimately tests the player’s skills rather than just their patience. Despite the enemies inflicting less damage in Halo 1, the game is to me still as challenging as Halo 3, Reach, and Halo 4 (if we go by total number of deaths) but it was balanced in a way that made its challenge fun instead of frustrating. Therefore, if I was making a Halo game I would reduce the base damage output of the enemies back to Halo 1 levels (i.e., typically about half the player’s base damage output) and would focus on those other, better ways to enhance the difficulty.

Of course, even with good AI and so forth, there still exists the need to give the enemy health and damage bonuses or penalties and certain changes in behavior so as to make them individually stronger or weaker depending on difficulty level. After all, it can be argued that the game wouldn’t be much harder on higher difficulties unless the bad guys were made physically tougher, regardless of how smart they are. In each Halo game, enemies and allies received health & damage modifiers, and NPC shields recharged at varying rates, and this would be the case in this game. Here are the modifiers by difficulty (these modifiers apply only to AI characters, not to the player, whose stats are always at default levels):

Easy

• Enemy infantry inflict 30% normal damage & have 60% normal hit points
• Allied infantry inflict 50% normal damage and have 80% normal hit points
• Enemy vehicles have 80% normal hit points
• NPC shields recharge at half normal rate

Normal

• Infantry units inflict 50% base damage
• Hit points for all AI units (infantry and vehicles) is at baseline levels
• Shields recharge at normal rate

Heroic

• Infantry units inflict 70% of base damage
• All AI units (infantry & vehicles) have 20% greater than normal hit points
• NPC shields recharge 25% faster than normal rate

Legendary

• Infantry units inflict full damage
• All AI units have 40% greater than normal hit points
• NPC shields recharge at 50% faster than normal rate

Co-op would likely have higher modifiers to make up for the greater player count. For each additional player, an additional +10% could be added to the enemy’s damage output and hit points. So, 4-player co-op on Legendary would have enemies that inflict 1.3 times the base damage and have 70% more hit points than their base value. For example, and Elite Minor would have 170 HP each of shields & health instead of 140, and his plasma rifle’s damage (excluding modifiers) would be 15.6 HP per shot instead of 12.

In addition to the above modifiers — which aside from the suggested co-op-specific bonuses are virtually identical to the ones in Halo 1 —, there are a couple of aspects of enemy behavior that change depending on difficulty. Enemies (including vehicles) have better reaction times and fire in more accurate and sustained bursts on higher difficulties than they do on lower difficulties. Their AI remains otherwise unchanged, however.

Finally, the higher the difficulty, the more common higher-ranked enemies become. For example, Elite Majors would replace Elite Minors on a more frequent basis (say, a Minor-to-Major ratio of around 4:1 on Normal, 2:1 on Heroic, and 1:1 on Legendary). This is a feature from the Halo trilogy that often did more to boost difficulty than did any health or damage boost the enemy received. Most notably, the gravity lift bay on the Truth & Reconciliation would on Legendary difficulty have Elite Zealots replacing the Stealth Elites encountered on Heroic and lower difficulties. Related to this would be having “special” encounters unique to Legendary; Reach did this by doing such things as adding Stealth Elites armed with focus rifles on Legendary.


Cooperative Mode

This game would, like every game in the series since Halo 3, support 2- to 4-player co-op both online and off. Unlike Halo 3, which provides four different player characters (Master Chief, the Arbiter, and the two co-op exclusive Elites), this game would probably just use PCs identical or nearly identical to player one. After all four Elite Minors all fighting together isn’t a big stretch, and even four Spartan-IIs could work, as we could have Maria teaming up with Blue Team or some other S-IIs. It’s not like the exploits of the PCs controlled by the second, third, or fourth players have ever been considered canon (multiple Chiefs in Halo 1, 2, & 4, two Arbiters in Halo 2, or the Arbiter hanging with the Chief all throughout Halo 3 instead of being away for half the game, plus the unique Elites in Halo 3 co-op when there are three or four players, who aren’t seen outside of gameplay and have zero story impact). Alternately, the second, third, and fourth players would be represented by their multiplayer model, similar to Halo: Reach.


Spartan Ops

Spartan Ops was an interesting concept, providing a sort of mini Campaign delivered in an episodic manner. While it was intended to replace Firefight, it didn’t quite fill the same niche, so Firefight would return in this game (FF is detailed in the page on multiplayer). However, it did provide a fun co-op experience, with a larger number of smaller missions (they can take about 5-15 minutes each to finish on Legendary with 4 players) instead of the standard eight or nine longer missions for the Campaign. So, I would consider keeping this as a game mode as well.

The game mode could be used for the Elite character’s Campaign (which means it would have to be renamed). This would allow the main Campaign to focus solely on Maria’s story arc. “Elite Ops” would follow the same basic structure as Spartan Ops, starting with 5 or 10 weekly “episodes” composed of five missions each. The missions would also be generally smaller than a Campaign level to facilitate shorter 15-minute missions. However, there would be some changes from how the mode worked in Halo 4.

To keep the mode from being a chore for solo play, the base hit points and damage output of the enemies would be the same as in Campaign (in Halo 4 the enemies received a massive increase to their damage output as compared to Campaign). To keep it from being too easy when more than one player is present, the same co-op modifiers used in the Campaign that are mentioned in the section on difficulty.

Also, to increase variety all the environments would be unique to the mode. Spartan Ops revisited multiple areas from Campaign and multiplayer, much like how all the on-disc MP and Firefight maps in Reach were also parts of Campaign missions (well, technically they were purpose-built for Reach’s MP and FF modes and then placed in Campaign). Furthermore, the number of unique levels would be larger to reduce the number of times a given level is revisited; some of the Spartan Ops stages in Halo 4 could be revisited upwards of four times, even if it didn’t always make good narrative sense.

Other changes would be options to turn on game scoring and skulls, which would further enhance the replay value. Speaking of those things…


Campaign Scoring & Skulls

These features would return pretty much unchanged. Enemy units would still be worth about the same amount of points as in Reach (see Appendix II), and multipliers from skulls, medals, and the difficulty level would be the same as well. In addition to the standard assortment of skulls (both the traditional ones introduced in Halo 2 & 3 as well as the newer ones introduced in Halo Anniversary), there could very well be others. For example, there could be a skull that makes all the enemies really tiny like that one glitch in Halo 4 (the “Lilliput Skull”) or a skull that makes the Grunts, Brutes and Elites speak in their native language (the “Xenoglossia Skull”). There could also be custom skulls for Campaign similar to those in Reach’s Firefight mode.

To encourage players to explore, skulls would be items they must find in Campaign before they can be used, just like in Halo 3 and HCEA.


Challenge Mode

Something I recently thought of was the fact that you cannot get a Game Over in Campaign in any of the Halo games. Indeed, most modern action games lack a traditional Game Over in their single player, instead using a system of checkpoints and unlimited lives. I was thinking that there could be a new “Challenge mode” in Campaign where, just like in Firefight, the player starts a level with a limited amount of lives. Scoring would always be on in Challenge Mode, and the player could earn extra lives upon attaining a certain number of points (say, first 1up at 5000, and one more for every 10,000 after that, possibly varying by level due to enemy types, etc.). Traditional checkpoints would be disabled, as instead of being sent back to where you last were and undoing all progress you made since the last checkpoint, you’d simply respawn at or near the last checkpoint with everything remaining as-is (e.g., all enemies you kill remaining dead, any weapons you dropped when you died staying where they were unless they get blown up and scattered everywhere). This would also entail disabling the ability to revert to last save. Basically, it takes Firefight’s limited lives and rules of respawning and applies them to Campaign. Naturally, you would be able to track your high scores on your Service Record, and there would be an achievement of some kind attached to the mode.


Enemies

Entry Key

Health: The base amount of health the enemy has, in hit points.
Shields: The base amount of energy shielding, if any, the enemy has, in hit points. (Note: To keep them from being total cannon fodder, allied human units would have a protective layer functionally the same to shielding, but takes damage like health. This layer will be referred to as “Armor” rather than “Shields.”)
Helmet: Some enemies have helmets that protect against headshots. This is the base HP worth of helmet protection, if any, the enemy has.
Weapons: The weapon(s) the enemy is usually equipped with. Most enemies are equipped with only one weapon, though some may carry a weapon in reserve. Unless otherwise noted, enemies inflict the same base damage on Legendary difficulty as the player does (e.g., 14 HP for the plasma rifle), with appropriate damage reduction for lower difficulties. For further information, including base damage modifiers, for a given weapon, refer to the Weapons section later in this article.
Other Attacks: Any secondary attack forms usable by the enemy, such as grenades or melee attacks. The base damage they inflict is given in parentheses.
Special Abilities: Any special defenses, techniques, or attributes the enemy may possess, such as flight or resistance/immunity to certain attack forms, which are not typically possessed by other enemies.

Human Insurrectionists

The “Innies” would serve as the primary antagonists for the first couple of levels. In order to avoid confusion, they would wear uniforms distinct from UNSC personnel. Likewise, their vehicles would have different coloration and markings from their UNSC counterparts.

Rebel Infantry

Health: 50
Helmet: 0 or 10
Weapons: Pistol
         SMG
         Assault Rifle
         DMR
         BR
         Sniper Rifle
         Heavy Machine Gun
Other Attacks: Frag Grenades
               Melee (10 damage)

Notes: Most of the rebels, particularly those encountered at the beginning of the first stage, would be equipped with weaker weapons like pistols and SMGs. Towards the mid to latter parts of the stage, ARs and BRs would be their weapons of choice. There would be some marksmen armed with DMRs or the occasional sniper rifle scattered about, employed much like Jackal marksmen. Most of them are also equipped with helmets to protect against headshots.

Rebel Officer

Health: 65
Helmet: 15
Weapons: Assault Rifle 
         DMR
         BR
         Shotgun
         Rocket Launcher
         Heavy Machine Gun
         Sentinel Beam
Other Attacks: same as Infantry

Notes: Rebel officers would utilize powerful weapons like the shotgun or rockets in addition to the more effective standard weapons like the AR. You may have also noticed an odd weapon in the above stats for an Insurrectionist to have. That ties in with my ideas for how the Insurrectionist segment plays out.

Rebel Commander

Health: ?
Weapons: ?
Other Attacks: ?

Notes: I’m still not sure what to do about the commander of the Insurrectionist forces. Should he be fought? If so, then how? Does he have some sort of powered armor? Does he use a vehicle? Or could he be a weakling like Keyes in Halo 1? Would he be a non-combatant that you have to capture? My preferred idea is that he should end up aboard a Pelican towards the end of the mission. The dropship could then be fought as a boss battle, and defeating it could result in the commander’s capture or death.


Covenant

As in the other games, several of the client races of the Covenant are divided into a color-coded ranking system (refer to Appendix III), though each member of the respective races have always had common attributes that they all possess despite rank, which will be outlined in the first entry for each species (which will always be the lowest rank of that species).

Grunt Minor

Health: 45
Weapons: Plasma Pistol
         Needler
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Suicide Attack

Notes: Grunts would remain the basic foot soldier, with certain differences existing among the various ranks but otherwise having the same basic function in gameplay. Their gas tanks would be capable of exploding in a similar fashion to how they do in Reach, though I’d go one step further than that game. If a Grunt is killed with a fire-based weapon or its gas tank is punctured by incendiary ammo, it would explode like a grenade, damaging anything around it (damage and blast radius like a plasma ‘nade, but with the damage modifiers of a frag ‘nade).

Your basic Grunt would be much like they’ve been in the past: individually weak, but dangerous in large numbers, with very hierarchy-dependent behavior. When their leaders are dead and their numbers are low, their morale breaks down and they are likely to break ranks and panic or at the very least become less effectual. On some occasions, they may prime a pair of plasma grenades and rush the player to attempt a suicide attack, a last-ditch tactic introduced in Halo 3 that I found surprising, amusing, and often quite dangerous.

Grunt Major

Health: 60
Weapons: Plasma Pistol
         Needler
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Suicide Attack

Notes: As before, these guys are the same as the Minor Grunts in terms of behavior, but are somewhat more resilient and fire in longer, more accurate bursts.

Grunt Heavy

Health: 70
Weapons: Plasma Pistol
         Fuel Rod Gun
         Plasma Cannon
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
Special Abilities: Can operate most light vehicles

Notes: These Grunts would still fill a heavy-weapon/vehicle specialist role, wielding fuel rod guns, manning turrets, or driving Ghosts. If they are somehow removed from a turret or vehicle and forced to fight on foot with a plasma pistol, they would fight about as effectively as Grunt Major.

Spec Ops Grunt

Health: 70
Weapons: Plasma Pistol
         Needler
         Fuel Rod Gun
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades

Notes: Found only in Special Operations units, these Grunts would still be as tough and disciplined as before. They’re smarter than lesser Grunts, they’re better shots, they throw grenades more frequently, and they never panic, even if their Elite commanders are killed.

Grunt Ultra

Health: 85
Helmet: 10
Weapons: Plasma Pistol
         Plasma Rifle
         Needler
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades

Notes: The toughest Grunts of all, these guys are not only more resilient, but are smarter and more aggressive as well. They’re better tacticians, they never break rank or panic, and they can command lesser Grunts if an Elite or Brute is not present. They also have a better understanding of weapons than their lesser brethren. They’re not only more accurate and fire in sustained bursts (they’d be almost as effective as Elite Minors in terms of using their weapons), they can use the plasma pistol’s charged shot and they can also use plasma rifles. Also, like Spec Ops Grunts, they throw grenades quite frequently. They’re also equipped with a helmet to protect against headshots.

Jackal Minor

Health: 50
Shields: 150
Weapons: Plasma Pistol

Notes: Regular Jackals would be at least as formidable as they were in Halo 1. They would use their shields very effectively, rarely giving the player an open shot in a standoff. They would be very quick — even running full-tilt like in Halo 2 to cover larger distances — and have excellent evasive skills. They would be less prone to turning their back on the player when aware of them. They would also be very accurate with their plasma pistols, firing the weapon very rapidly when using its normal firing mode. Finally, they would once again be left-handed like in the first trilogy.

Jackal Major

Health: 70
Shields: 250
Weapons: Plasma Pistol
         Needler
         Plasma Rifle

Notes: Majors are like Minors, but with better accuracy, more health & shields, and perhaps better AI. They also sometimes carry Needlers or plasma rifles.

Jackal Marksman

Health: 70
Weapons: Needle Rifle
         Focus Rifle
         Plasma Pistol (backup weapon)

Notes: Jackal marksmen would be a bit different from how they were in past Halo games. Since they’re better balanced for difficulty — thanks mainly to being armed with focus rifles instead of the beam rifles they had in Halo 2 & 3 — their optical headgear would no longer glow bright purple to give away their position. Also, their behavior would change in certain ways. Rather than staying still, they’d attempt to flee to a new vantage point if possible when fired upon by the player, even jumping off of high perches like tree branches if they can. Also, as they lack shields but possess weapons with long range, they would try to put as much distance between themselves and the player as would be practically possible. Snipers would still switch to their plasma pistols for close-range defense when necessary, firing just as effectively as their shielded counterparts. Once at a safe distance, they’d re-draw their focus rifles. The ones using needle rifles would probably stick with their rifles, however, as said weapon is more effective up close than a sniper weapon. Finally, marksmen would be just as fast and agile as regular Jackals.

Jackal Skirmisher

Health: 80
Shields: 150
Weapons: Plasma Pistol
         Needle Rifle

Skirmishers are the deadliest Jackals. They can run much faster and jump much higher than lesser Jackals or even the player, and they have dual shield gauntlets that, while smaller than the standard shields Jackals use, can be used just as effectively, blocking headshots while they strafe the player.

Drone Infantry

Health: 40
Weapons: Plasma Pistol
         Needler
Other Attacks: Melee (10 damage)
Special Abilities: Flight
                   Can walk on walls & ceilings

Notes: Drones are not dependent on any hierarchy, they don’t break ranks, and they don’t show fear. While individually weak (the basic Drone infantry have the lowest base HP of any Covenant unit), they would, as before, typically fight in swarms of at least a half-dozen, usually more. Their flight patterns would be somewhat less predictable, and they would make good use of their ability to fly, getting above and/or behind their targets and surrounding them if possible. Unlike in in previous games where they typically sat still after landing on a wall, they would be able to crawl across walls and ceilings just as easily as they can the floor. They would use this ability just as much to their advantage as they would their ability to fly. While capable of melee attacks, as in previous games they would only perform them when boarding a vehicle.

Drone Leader

Health: 60
Weapons: Plasma Rifle
Other Attacks: Melee (10 damage)
Special Abilities: Flight
                   Can walk on walls & ceilings

Notes: Leaders are similar to the basic Drone infantry in terms of behavior, though they are more resilient, somewhat more agile and accurate, and they wield plasma rifles.

Engineer

Health: 200
Weapons: None
Special Abilities: Provides shields for allies

Notes: As in ODST and Reach, Engineers are non-combatants that have a passive role by providing shields to all enemies within a certain radius (say, 30 meters). Similar to in Halo Reach, they would provide shields by emitting a pulse of energy at regular intervals, the duration of which would vary by difficulty (say, 10 seconds on Legendary, 12 on Heroic, 15 on Normal, and 20 on Easy). The shield effect would not regenerate on its own and would start fade after a certain amount of time (say, 8 seconds), but each pulse emitted by the Engineer would fully refresh it. They would provide a base amount of 100 HP worth of shields, which would take damage just like an Elite’s energy shield. For enemies that already have personal energy shielding (e.g., Elites and Brute Chieftains), this shielding functions as a second layer of shields, requiring the player to first deplete the shielding provided by the Engineer or wait for it to fade before they can damage the enemy’s personal shields. If more than one Engineer is present, they can provide shields to each other provided they are close enough.

Hunter

Health: 350
Weapons: Hunter Assault Cannon (120 damage*)
Other Attacks: Melee (100 damage)
Special Abilities: Not susceptible to headshots
                   Assassination immunity
                   Shield is immune to small arms fire
                   Armor is immune to Needler supercombines
                   Resistant to sticky grenades

Notes: Instead of the beam cannons they had in Halo 2 & 3, the Hunters’ assault cannons would, like the ones they used in Halo 1, Reach, and Halo 4, function just like the fuel rod gun, with the same blast radius and base damage but with a slower firing rate (about one round every three or four). Hunters would also be relatively common, with at least as many if not more pairs as there were in the first game. A Hunter’s melee would have a more reasonably-sized hitbox more in line with the actual model, thus avoiding the “hitbox dissonance” of some previous games. Hunters might also have their midsections once again exposed as a vulnerable spot, or their midsection armor could be destroyed like their upper back armor, thus exposing the weak spot. Behaviorally, Hunters would be similar to how they were in Reach, using their shields to cover their “faces” and to attempt to block any heavy weapons. A Hunter’s shield would remain invulnerable to all small arms fire (i.e., anything that’s not an explosive), and would, like in Halo 1, cause shots from those weapons to deflect off of them at an angle. Hunters would also be resistant to being stuck with plasma grenades, which instead of being an instant kill would only inflict their base amount of damage. Like in Halo 5, Hunters would be able to bat away grenades thrown directly at them from the front.

Elite Minor

Health: 100
Shields: 100
Weapons: Plasma Rifle
         Needler
         Needle Rifle
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (50 damage)

Notes: Elites would be pretty much the same as they’ve always been. They are fast (their running speed would once again be faster than a Spartan’s), agile, and smart, which when combined with their regenerating shields makes them formidable foes.

Minors are the weakest and least disciplined of the Sangheili ranks. They’re more prone to making mistakes in combat (e.g., blindly rushing the player, not taking cover when their shields are down), and aren’t as accurate as higher ranks. Nevertheless they can be significant threats on higher difficulties if the player doesn’t take them seriously.

Elite Major

Health: 100
Shields: 150
Weapons: Plasma Rifle
         Needler
         Needle Rifle
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (50 damage)

Notes: Elite Majors have somewhat better AI than Minors, including having better reaction times, better accuracy, firing in longer bursts, being more cautious and disciplined, etc.

Stealth Elite

Health: 100
Shields: 50
Weapons: Plasma Rifle 
         Energy Sword 
         Focus Rifle
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (50 damage)
Special Abilities: Active Camouflage

Notes: While Stealth Elites have weak shields (to balance the fact that they have active camo), their shields would, like in Halo 2, regenerate faster than the shields of other Elite ranks. Also, I would consider adding a couple of Stealth Elite snipers into the game just to make some interesting and intense encounters (this was done in Reach). Behaviorally, Stealth Elites are the same as Elite Majors.

Elite Ranger

Health: 100
Shields: 100
Weapons: Plasma Rifle
         Needle Rifle
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (50 damage)
Special Abilities: Flight

Notes: Rangers would be more maneuverable than they were in Halo 2, and would utilize their jetpacks more effectively to attack from just about any angle.

Honor Guard Elite

Health: 100
Shields: 250
Weapons: Plasma Rifle
         Energy Sword
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (50 damage)

Notes: I’m still thinking of ideas on how to fit Honor Guards into the game, but most likely they’d be tasked with guarding Covenant VIPs (high-ranking commanders or political figures) or religious sites (including Forerunner ruins). In terms of behavior, they are smarter and are better shots than Elite Majors.

Spec Ops Elite

Health: 100
Shields: 200
Weapons: Plasma Rifle
         Needle Rifle
         Concussion Rifle
         Focus Rifle
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (50 damage)

Notes: Working solely within Special Operations units, these Elites and their Grunt assistants would work as highly effective fireteams. Their AI would be better than lesser-ranking Elites and they would work together far better as a team than other Covenant infantry groups.

Elite Ultra

Health: 100
Shields: 300
Weapons: Plasma Rifle
         Needle Rifle
         Concussion Rifle
         Energy Sword (primary or backup weapon)
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades (120 damage*)
               Melee (50 damage)

Notes: Ultras would be found in the same roles they were in Halo 2, for instance, commanding larger groups of enemies or captaining a Scarab. While there might be only a few scattered across any given stage, they would prove to be very formidable opponents, second only to their Zealot commanders among the Sangheili ranks.

Elite Zealot

Health: 100
Shields: 400
Weapons: Plasma Rifle
         Concussion Rifle
         Energy Sword (primary or backup weapon)
         Fuel Rod Gun
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (50 damage)

Notes: Smarter, faster, and deadlier than any other Elite, a Zealot would be one of the toughest opponents the player could face. Sticking them with grenades or blasting them with a plasma pistol charged shot would prove difficult given their evasive abilities. They would switch back and forth between their firearms and their swords as appropriate for the combat situation.

Elite Field Marshal

Health: 100
Shields: 500
Weapons: Plasma Rifle
         Fuel Rod Gun
         Energy Sword
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (50 damage)
Special Abilities: Resistant to sticky grenades
                   Resistant to charged shots

Field Marshals are essentially Zealots that possess extra-strong shields. Behaviorally, the two would be identical, but they would have a couple of other tricks up their sleeves. They would be resistant to being stuck with plasma grenades, which instead of being a guaranteed instant kill would only inflict double their base damage. They would also be resistant to charged shots from the plasma pistol, which would inflict half the normal amount of damage to their shields. They would be exceptionally rare enemies, with perhaps only two or three in the whole game.

Brute Minor

Health: 150
Helmet: 30
Weapons: Spiker
         Mauler
         Needle Rifle
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (60 damage)

Notes: Brutes would be similar gameplay-wise as they were in Reach, though they’d also have aspects of their Halo 2 incarnations. They are slower and less agile than Elites and none of the common ranks possess shields, and while individually they are not quite as deadly as an Elite of equivalent rank, they compensate by attacking in larger groups. While they aren’t as fast as Elites, they won’t simply plod around like they did in Halo 3 and would have decent evasive abilities (as good if not better than in Halo 2 or ODST) and have a slightly higher running speed than in the past, and though they lack shields, they do have helmets to protect against headshots. They are also physically stronger than Elites. Finally, when a Brute goes berserk, they would be quicker and more unpredictable like in Halo 2 rather than engage in the slow, predictable charges of Halo 3, though they would have additional behaviors when berserking (jumping, for one) besides just running around.

Brute Captain

Health: 250
Helmet: 60
Weapons: Spiker
         Needle Rifle
         Brute Shot
         Mauler        
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (60 damage)

Notes: Captains would normally be tasked with commanding any group of Brutes above a certain size, perhaps around eight to a dozen, though they could be found at random in smaller groups or alone commanding lesser Covenant species. In addition to being physically tougher, Captains are more skilled in combat than Brute Minors.

Brute Stalker

Health: 150
Helmet: 30
Weapons: Spiker
         Plasma Rifle
         Mauler
Other Attacks: Incendiary Grenades
               Melee (60 damage)
Special Abilities: Active Camouflage

Notes: Behaviorally, Stalkers are the same as a Captain, though they are only as resilient as a Brute Minor.

Jump Pack Brute

Health: 150
Helmet: 30
Weapons: Needle Rifle
         Spiker
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (60 damage)
Special Abilities: Jump pack-assisted jumping

Notes: As they are able to leap well over 30 meters into the air, these Brutes would use this ability to not only attack the player from above or get behind them; they would also jump to high places and other out-of-reach locations in order to attack the player.

Brute Captain Major

Health: 350
Helmet: 75
Weapons: Spiker
         Needle Rifle
         Brute Shot
         Mauler
         Fuel Rod Gun
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Incendiary Grenades
               Melee (60 damage)

Notes: Captain Majors are the Brute equivalents of Elite Ultras and are found in similar roles and numbers. They would be somewhat better combatants than regular Captains in addition to being physically tougher. They would have a 50/50 chance of being armed with either plasma grenades or incendiary grenades.

Brute Chieftain

Health: 400
Shields: 200
Helmet: 100
Weapons: Gravity Hammer
         Plasma Cannon
         Fuel Rod Gun
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (70 damage)
Special Abilities: Resistant to grenade sticks

Notes: Hammer-wielding Chieftains would fight at least as effectively as they did in Halo: Reach if not more so, and they would not make the same mistakes in combat that they did in Halo 3. Like in Reach, Chieftains possess energy shields, which function identically to an Elite’s for gameplay purposes. Chieftains would also be resistant to being stuck with plasma grenades, which instead of being an guaranteed instant kill would only inflict double their base damage.


Flood

Given the kind of story I’m going for, I’m not sure how or even if I’d be able to fit the Flood into the game. Perhaps they would be part of the Elite character’s campaign. As for their role in gameplay, the Flood would retain many of the same immunities and weaknesses they had before. They would all remain immune to assassinations. The Infection Forms lodged in the chest of the Combat Forms would still function as a head for gameplay purposes. If their Infection Form “nerve centers” are destroyed by a headshot-capable weapon, another Infection Form can revive them assuming they aren’t destroyed or dismembered. All Combat Forms could still be dismembered or even gibbed entirely by explosive weapons, though shooting off both arms will no longer cause them to self-destruct (so you can go old-school by having them follow you around like in Halo 1). All Combat Forms could also be temporarily knocked down by non-fatal damage, just like in Halo 1. For balancing reasons, when using weapons, all Combat Form variants suffer a 20% reduction in base damage in order to compensate for their greater numbers.

Infection Form

Health: 0.1
Weapons: none
Other Attacks: Infection Attack (see below)

Infection forms will, like before, attack in swarms, hurling themselves bodily at the player. They will explode either when killed or when coming in contact with shields, which would inflict a base value of 7 HP of damage within a small blast radius (≤1 m). They can latch on to unshielded targets, inflicting a base value of  5 HP of damage per second per infection form. Their attacks cause no damage to mechanical targets (vehicles, Sentinels, etc.).

Combat Form (Human)

Health: 100
Weapons: Pistol
         DMR
         BR
         Assault Rifle
         SMG
         Shotgun
         Plasma Pistol
         Plasma Rifle
         Needler
         Carbine
         Spiker
         Mauler
         Concussion Rifle
         Brute Shot
         Fuel Rod Gun
         Rocket Launcher
Other Attacks: Melee (20 damage)

Combat Form (Elite)

Health: 120
Shields: 50% of host's (when active; see below)
Weapons: same as Human Combat Form
Other Attacks: Melee (25 damage)

Notes: Like in Halo 2 & 3, Elite Combat Forms would sometimes possess an energy shield. The frequency with which they would possess shielding would depend on the difficulty level. It would be 10% on Easy, 20% on Normal, 40% on Heroic, and 70% on Legendary. The shield is treated as identical to that of an Elite for gameplay purposes, but would only be half as strong as what the host’s originally was (e.g., if the host was an Elite Major, the Combat Form would have a base value of 75 HP of shielding).

Combat Form (Brute)

Health: 150
Weapons: same as Human Combat Form
Other Attacks: Melee (30 damage)

Carrier Form

Health: 50
Weapons: none
Other Attacks: Self-destruct (70 damage; 6 m blast radius)
Special Abilities: Not susceptible to headshots

Notes: A carrier form’s explosion has the same damage modifiers as a frag grenade. They release 4 to 8 infection forms when they die.

Juggernaut

Health: 750
Weapons: none
Other Attacks: Melee (60 damage)
Special Abilities: Not susceptible to headshots

Notes: The Flood Juggernaut, which was cut from Halo 2, would likely come back as a mini-boss character. There might be only a couple in the game, and they’d be quite tough, sort of like the Flood’s answer to the Hunter. Their arms could be shot off, though they’d regenerate after a while.


Forerunner Constructs

All Forerunner Constructs are immune to assassinations, and, being headless machines, are not susceptible to headshot damage. Flight is their only means of locomotion.

Sentinel

Health: 80
Shields: 60 (when active; see below)
Weapons: Sentinel Beam (40 damage/sec)
Other Attacks: Explosion (80 damage; 3 m blast radius)

Notes: A Sentinel’s death explosion, which occurs when its remains hit the ground, has the same damage modifiers as a frag grenade. A Sentinel’s shielding takes damage just like that of an Elite. However, not all Sentinels have shields; the probability that they will have shields may vary by difficulty level. For balancing reasons, their Sentinel beams have a lower base damage than when used by the player.

Constructor

Health: 5
Weapons: Utility Beam (10 damage per second)
Special Abilities: Non-combatant

Notes: While they are very weak non-combatants, a Constructor’s beam can hurt the player if he walks into it. Also, destroying a Constructor will trigger the deployment of Sentinels.

Enforcer

Health: 800
Shields: 100 per section
Weapons: Auto-cannon (8 damage)
         Mortar (40 damage)
Other Attacks: Can pick up and damage vehicles

Notes: Enforcers would be much like they were in Halo 2. Their tripartite shields function like those of a Jackal for gameplay purposes. Their auto-cannons would have the same damage modifiers as a Needler round, while their mortar cannons would have the same blast radius and damage modifiers as a Concussion Rifle. Unlike the Sentinel Beam, these weapons cannot be retrieved from a destroyed Enforcer. They can lift vehicles off the ground, crushing them in their large grabber arms.


Allies

Marine Infantry/Army Trooper

Health: 60
Armor: 40
Weapons: All player-usable weapons (except detached turrets)
Other Attacks: Frag Grenades
               Melee (20 damage)

ODST

Health: 75
Armor: 50
Weapons: All player-usable weapons (except detached turrets)
Other Attacks: same as Marine Infantry

Notes: The “Helljumpers” would be more resilient than regular Marines or Army troopers and their AI would be better, making better use of cover, firing their weapons more accurately and in longer, more sustained bursts, etc. They would be far better combatants that work together more effectively as a group. Furthermore, they always use silencers when equipped with pistols. However, they would of course not be as common as regular Marines.

Marine/Army Sergeant

Health: 85
Armor: 60
Weapons: All player-usable weapons (except detached turrets)
Other Attacks: same as Marine Infantry

Notes: Sergeants would have AI on par with that of an ODST, but they’d be more resilient and more likely to carry power weapons like sniper rifles.

Covenant Elite

Health: as per rank
Shields: as per rank
Weapons: as per rank
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades
               Melee (50 damage)

Covenant Grunt

Health: as per rank
Weapons: as per rank
Other Attacks: Plasma Grenades

Notes: During the Elite segment, there would be Grunts fighting on the side of both Elites and Brutes. To reduce confusion, only Spec Op and Ultra Grunts will fight on the Elite side, while Minor, Major, and Heavy Grunts will fight with the Brutes. Alternately, allied Grunts could have their own permutation(s) unique to them, similar to how the Heretic Grunts in Halo 2 were uniquely designed.

Covenant Hunter

Health: 350
Weapons: Hunter Assault Cannon (75 damage*)
Other Attacks: Melee (45 damage)
Special Abilities: Not susceptible to headshots
                   Assassination immunity
                   Shield is immune to small arms fire
                   Resistant to plasma sticks

Notes: While Hunters would still be fought as enemies during the Elite segment, I’d like to have some as allies like in Halo 2. While I might not have allied and enemy Hunters fighting at the same time, to reduce confusion on who’s an enemy and who’s an ally, friendly Hunters could be distinguished from enemy Hunters by a simple pallet swap; their armor would be a bronze color rather than the regular blue.

<<< Back to Part 2: Basic Gameplay

Forward to Part 4: Weapons >>>

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2 responses to “Building the Ultimate Halo Game

  1. Ok, I was just reading this article, and while I haven’t reviewed all the minutae and every single statistic yet, I have some comments…

    For one, I 100% agree with the idea of making a new game which focuses on the human/covenant war across different planets and colonies, rather than on the rings and the flood. You could really position this at any point in the timeline so as to provide the best battle scenarios.

    I really would like to see the Elites return as the primary enemy. I definitely agree that the Brutes would need some reworking to really contribute to the game, but I can’t even really think of how you would do that…and I wouldn’t miss them if they weren’t there.

    The number one thing I’d like to see in a new Halo campaign would be a serious, more realistic (Blomkampish) tone, and an enhanced focus on combat mechanics and AI. I would try to make the campaign combat match the intensity of a multiplayer match as much as possible. IMO an Elite should have equal health/shields and deal equal damage to the spartan player, and those values should not change across different difficulty levels. Ideally, the difference in the difficulty levels would entirely lie with how smart and aggressive the enemies were.

    Definitely agree about the AR – compress the old AR and old BR into one select fire weapon. With a good spread-bloom system, accuracy would be reduced during sustained auto fire enough to balance it out, while short bursts and rapid semi-auto would grant enough accuracy to go for head damage at mid range.

    I actually think there could be potential to use the fire mode selection as a wider overall game feature. The AR would be the primary reason to implement it, but it could be used in other weapons as well. For example, imagine switching modes on the Plasma Pistol – one mode being the dual function one we’re used to, one charge mode that automatically charges and holds an overcharge bolt until you pull the trigger, and “semi” mode that only fires the mini shots, but does so as soon as you pull the trigger rather than when you release it. You could also use such a command to adjust the rate of fire of the PR (ie 300/450/600 rpm) to manage damage vs overheating rate, or to toggle between magnification levels on the Sniper Rifle (5x/10x) or even the BR and Carbine (2x plus a 5x option).

    On the SMG – I think the way to differenciate it is ammo capacity and accuracy of sustained fire…it could even be changed to a very compact LMG (think mk46 mod 0). Firing a lighter round (even up to 5.56) it could deliver full auto with a tighter spread/less recoil than the AR for up to 70-100 rounds straight, at the cost of lighter per hit damage and no ability to go for pinpoint headshots.

    Of course I also agree with you on most other aspects we’ve dicussed in the past – i.e. semi-auto BR, health packs, fall damage, etc.

    As far as implementing different classes of characters, I can think of a lot of different ways to implement them. For example, when playing the ODST or any other human character, you might experience much more severe recoil effects on weapons like the SMG, AR, and BR…or even more realistic tactical shooter-ish characteristics like (basic/limited) posture/movement based accuracy and aiming only with whatever sighting was available on the weapon (irons, or scope).

    By comparison, playing the spartan you would have the superhuman strenth and coordination to fire the heavy recoil weapons to the performance we’re used to in Halo regardless of movement or posture. Due to the enhancements of the HUD, the spartan might be able to fire towards a projected reticule without actually using the sights of the weapon (due to cpu-managed eye/hand coordination). One thing I did in my last mod was make the 2x magnification universal to all weapons – this could be explained as a magnification feature of the spartan helmet/hud and not the optics of the weapons.

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