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Archive for April, 2009


Tim Deen discusses Halo Wars combat system


Another developers blog appeared on the Halo Wars website today. Tim Deen a Halo Wars designer and Ensemble veteran discusses the damage system in Halo Wars and how things like accuracy and range affect the damage units dish out.

I will be continuing to mirror blog posts from Robot, Bonfire and others so that fans of Ensemble Studios can continue to find blog posts of their well respected developer in one place.

Blog post from follows courtesy of Community Manager, Aloysius:

Under The Hood of the Halo Wars Combat System

Published Monday, April 27, 2009 2:37 PM by Aloysius 


The simulation system of any RTS can at times be hard for the players to unravel exactly what is going on so today we are taking a quick look at the core systems comprising the Halo wars combat system. 


In Halo Wars every combat unit has an armor type and at least one weapon (often more), while each weapon has its individual damage, damage type and accuracy stats.  Every attack in halo wars has a specific weapon associated with it even special attacks such as grenades or canister shot have separate specific weapons just for that special to use.



The first item we will look at it is the accuracy system in halo wars and how individual projectiles are directed when fired at the enemy.  Every weapon has individual accuracy ratings that determine how accurate the attacks it makes are; the first rating is a straight chance to have the projectile be fired true while the second rating is used to determine how far off the aim is if the attack is not perfectly accurate.   After the projectile is fired all that is left to find out is what unit is actually hit as a weapon can “roll” a miss and the enemy can move into the projectiles path.



After a projectile actually hits a target comes stage two of combat where the armor type of the unit being hit and the damage type being applied are used to look up a damage modification.  The final damage is calculated by multiplying the base damage by this damage modifier. 


A simple example of this is a marine firing on a scorpion with his rifle which for this example we will say does 10 base damage, now then the scorpion is armor type “Heavy armor” and the rifle does damage type “small arms fire” so we cross reference small arms fire and heavy armor on the table and get 0.4 modifier.  The final damage will 4 damage done to the scorpion tank, calculated by taking the base damage (10) and multiplying Is by the modifier (0.4).


Wrap up

Overall the damage system is relatively straight forward with the main complexity coming from the number of armor and damage types but where feasible like type weapons share like type damage types.  The machine gun on a scorpion does the same damage type as on the warthog for example.  Also most game units have a fairly straight forward armor type except for a few special cases I will not be covering (but they are not important for this article).



Some base Armor types in Halo wars

·         Light infantry:                    Marines, Grunts, Jackals, brutes, Elites

·         Heavy Infantry:                 Flamethrowers, Hunters, Cyclops

·         Medium Armor:                     Warthogs, Ghosts, Choppers, Wolverines, Cobras

·         Heavy armor:                     Scorpions, Wraith, Elephants, Scarabs

·         Aircraft:                                Hornets,  Banshees, Vultures, Vampires

·         Building:                               Bases, Buildings, Turrets


Some example damage types

    • Plasma pistols and rifles
    • Plasma cannons on ghost, banshee and wraith
    • Heavy machine guns on warthog, scorpion and hornet
  • Heavy MG and plasma

    • Wolverine anti air missiles
    • Turret anti-air missiles
    • Vulture anti-air missiles
    • Vampire heavy needles
    • Turret anti-air needles
  • Anti air missiles/ needles

    • Marine grenade/ RPG special attacks
    • Grunt plasma grenade special attack
    • Warthog grenadier
    • Wolverine grenade mortar
  • Grenades

    • Rebel snipers
    • Jackal snipers
  • Sniper attacks

    • Flamethrower
    • Flame mortars
    • Covenant anti-infantry plasma mortar turret
  • Flames

Damage type/ armor type lookup table (real numbers from the Halo Wars database)


Light infantry

Heavy infantry

Medium Armor

Heavy Armor



Heavy MG and plasma







Anti air missiles/ needles














Sniper attacks















Five long years. Chris Rippy ex producer at Ensemble Studios discusses the last few months working on Halo Wars


Chris Rippy discusses in the latest developers blog on the website what the last few months at Ensemble Studios felt like as the Halo Wars game started to go through its final stages of quality testing. The post provides a valued look into the life of the studio during this time and what the developers felt knowing this would be the last game.

The blog post as obtained from follows:

“Five Long Years”

Published Wednesday, April 22, 2009 2:27 PM by Aloysius 
The last few weeks of working on Halo Wars were quite a blur. Actually, the last several months of working on Halo Wars were quite a blur. I think if you were to ask most folks working at Ensemble Studios to describe an event in their lives from the last year, they’d have a hard time remembering what season the event took place in. For us, it was all Halo Wars, all the time. Blurry days.

Today, I’ll do my best to remember the final steps of getting Halo Wars out the door.

The final months of a project are all about taking the previous years of work, mashing it all together into something cohesive, testing the game, and fixing bugs. It’s also a time of very difficult decisions. In the name of getting the game out the door, we’re forced to eliminate several features, many of which already had months of work put into them. This can be costly (literally), but it helps provide focus to the most important aspects of the game, and gives us a better chance at hitting our target release date.

Now would probably be a good time to detail out all the features we cut, but maybe that’s best left to everyone’s guesses. Or maybe those features will show up again somewhere else…

Back to it. As we approach the last 6 weeks or so of the project, we begin thinking about something called “Release Candidates”. These are complete builds of the game that we believe are good enough to make it to the retail shelf. On December 1, 2008, we created “RC1”(Release Candidate 1). Cool, we’re done! Not so much. “RC1” never makes it all the way through the testing process, and in fact, our designers run a contest for everyone of our games trying to guess the actual number of Release Candidates we will create. Guesses for Halo Wars ranged from “RC2” (yeah!) to “RC426” (no!). For a build to be considered “the” build, several parties must sign off on it from Ensemble Studios, Microsoft Game Studios Test, the Localization team, and a Production team at Microsoft. In the end, RC11 was “blessed” by this crew. Halo Wars build number 1169.

We’re almost home at this point, but we still have a crucial step in front of us, called Certification. For Halo Wars to be “certified” a team at Microsoft takes the game and runs it through a battery of very specific tests to make sure it lives up to the quality and experience expectations of the Xbox360. Tests range from making sure Achievements work, to seeing how the game responds to people yanking out their memory cards while the game is running (never a good thing to try 🙂 ).

Going through Certification is a very strange experience. It can be a multi-week process, and you can go days without hearing from the Certification team on how things are going. Ensemble had just gone through months of crunch, and we suddenly found ourselves in a waiting game with very little to do but hope the game makes it through successfully. Work hours returned to normal and people passed the day working on the demo or playing board games. Weird.

Finally, on January 8th, 2009, Halo Wars passed Certification and was declared “gold”. From there, the game was sent off to manufacturing plants all over the world, packaged up, and put on a shelf at a store near you. Good times.

Chris Rippy

Developers Playtesting the DLC  (click to enlarge)


Halo Wars DLC confirmed titled “Strategic options”


Microsoft has published its news release about the upcoming Halo Wars DLC “Strategic options” . The DLC has been worked on in part by Ensemble Studios and part by Robot Entertainment. Ensemble’s ex Lead Designer Graeme Devine has previously stated that the DLC was nearly finished at the time of shipping.

“The main thing is that DLC was built into the game design from the very beginning so we’ve actually been working on DLC all along, It was never the plan to finish the game THEN start work on the DLC”- Graeme Devine

Robot has been working diligently since the release of the game to make balance patches, bug fixes and complete the testing of the upcoming DLC. Both a title update (a forced download) and the DLC will be made available soon.

No details on the pricing of the DLC of yet, nor an official date has been set but expect to find out very soon. The official press release from Microsoft follows:


Strategic Options Add-on for Halo Wars

Published April 21, 2009

Halo Wars™, the best selling real-time strategy game on any current generation console, mixes up the battlefield like never before with the Strategic Options Game Add-on Pack, available in the coming weeks exclusively on Xbox 360®.


Build the stronger army in Tug of War.

Strategic Options ushers in the next wave of battle for Halo Wars with three new game modes which dramatically change the multiplayer experience and challenge you to rethink your battle tactics.


Defeat waves of enemies in Reinforcement.

  • Keepaway Mode: This is the Halo Wars adaptation of “Capture the Flag.” Teams battle it out to capture a free-roaming Forerunner Sentinel to score points before the other team. Capture three sentinels to claim victory.
  • Tug of War Mode: This mode is all about having a stronger army than your opponent. Defeating enemies is essential, but success is determined by a combination of the army, buildings, and resources left standing in the end.
  • Reinforcement Mode: All active battle units are provided in successive waves. Adapt to their tactics and use the ever-changing set of units to outwit and outlast the enemy.


Capture the Forerunner in Keepaway.

Strategic Options also adds four new Achievements worth a total of 100 points:

  • One and Done: Score the winning point in a game of Keepaway against Legendary A.I.’s
  • Pull Hard, Pull Deep: Win and never trail in a Tug of War game
  • Freak on a Streak: Gain at least 15 population from a single wave in a Reinforcement game
  • Living Loving Bug: Obtain a Scarab during a Reinforcement game

Haven’t tried Halo Wars yet? A free demo is also available on Marketplace. The full-featured demo includes two levels of the Campaign mode, plus a one-on-one Skirmish battle between the USNC and Covenant.

Halo Wars
Set in the iconic Halo universe, Halo Wars predates the original first-person shooter Halo. Experience the early battles between the UNSC and Covenant, the far-reaching conflict that has been diligently followed by the masses in the blockbuster Halo series.


Rumor: New Halo Wars multiplayer modes coming


I noticed this article appeared on the web today:

It mentions Halo Wars as follows:

Coming this week: new goodies for Valve’s zombie thriller “Left 4 Dead.” And a little further down the road is a pack of new multiplayer modes for Microsoft’s “Halo Wars” strategy spinoff.

No other news sites seem to have reported this so am not sure how accurate it is – but it could well be true.

I shall try and get confirmation on this as soon as I can however Ensemble tradition has not been to comment on rumour or speculation and I imagine Robot will be the same to. members can discuss this here:

Stay tuned!


More Halo Wars balance patch information – Boosting vampires, nerfing Hawks


Aloysius has revealed more information of balance adjustments in the upcoming Halo Wars title update. In simple terms the Covenant Vampires are getting a boost and Anders (who dominates the Top 100) is having the Hawks nerfed by making them more expensive. More details courtesy of Aloysius below:

We’re letting the cat out of the bag on a few more balance changes coming in the Title Update. The patch brings some balance changes mixed with bug fixes to Halo Wars.

The Covenant Vampire is getting a boost in the patch, with its attack damage being buffed by 15% with every upgrade. It’s health bonus and the special attack still remain a part of the upgrades.

The UNSC Leader Professor Anders is getting a slight whack with the nerf bat as well. Her Unique Unit upgrade, the Hawk, is being made more expensive, going from 900 to 1350 supplies. In addition, her Cryo Bomb upgrades are also going up by 50% at every level.

These changes should level the playing field in the UNSC/Covenant Air war. Stay tuned for more changes coming with the Title Update, as well as a date for when it’ll hit Xboxes near you!.


Halo Wars selling like hot cakes – beats Sony’s Killzone 2


March has been a fantastic month for Halo Wars and its developers. Halo Wars has shipped 690k in March which are fantastic figures as measured by the NPD. Halo Wars has also outsold PS3 console exclusive Killzone 2 despite Killzone being released a whole week earlier. You can see the whole March NPD results below and a link to the source:

RESIDENT EVIL 5* (360) 938K
HALO WARS* (360) 639K
MLB ’09: THE SHOW (PS3) 305K



Tim Deen talks about Halo Wars unit counters in detail


The official Halo Wars website has the second developers blog online and this time comes from Tim Deen who is the Lead Technical Designer on Halo Wars. Halo Wars players might recognise the resemblance between Tim Deen and Fort Deen, which is a 3v3 map on Halo Wars- a possible connections methinks!

The summary on the Halo Wars website reads as follows and you can click the link below to read the full blog entry.

“…a detailed look at the Halo Wars RPS reveals that it is a layered system of 3 RPS systems with a specific order of priority in application. Also each RPS system provides a different flavor to the game and serves to provide a specific combat flow purpose. Additionally the RPS relationships are split into the two separate buckets of “soft kill” and “hard kill”, “soft kill” relationships are where the units have a medium advantage in combat and “hard kill” is where units have a very strong advantage in combat. “

> Read the full blog.


“FuzzyCube” – Another ex Ensemble development house – Releases a game!


Yup! That’s right folks yet another development house has risen from the ashes of Ensemble Studios. This is the second development house which is confirmed to be working on iPhone games (the first being NewToy). The company has just released thier first game titled “iQuaterback” and is available to download via the App Store right now! If you have an ipod it may well be worth checking out!

It would seem alot of Ex Ensemble employees enjoy iPhone development – lets hope Apple culture inside Ensemble didnt affect their Microsoft shut down!

The FuzzyCube website can be found here: and they are starting to create forums here:

It looks like the developer is already showing Ensemble like success as already 1 million footballs have been thrown. More details on this title as more statistics arrive.

Good luck FuzzyCube!


Robot listens to fans with Halo Wars patch

A Halo Wars update is coming over Xbox Live courtesy of Robot Entertainment. A recent update on the Halo Wars website confirms that the first balance patch is on the way. Keeping with Ensemble style the patch is based around feedback from fans. Whilst there has been no Ask Sandy for this game, Ex Ensemble Studios members from both Robot and Bonfire have been active on the Halo Wars message board collecting feedback and helping members.



Just to point out though, this patch is NOT DLC

That’s right. You wont find any maps of new gameplay in the update it is just a balance patch for now. You can read the full statement from Robot’s Community Manager “Aloysius” below:

“We’re going to be releasing some information on the upcoming Halo Wars Title Update, or patch, here on over the next few weeks. This Title Update fixes some matchmaking bugs, balances a few things inside and outside of gameplay, and adds a small feature that fans have been asking for. The Patch was developed around fan feedback, so hopefully players will be happy.

The first piece of news is that the Prophet of Regret’s speed on land has been reduced to match the other leaders. This helps balance the Prophet Rush that was stymieing a lot of players. The second piece of news is that the Flaming Warthog and the Honor Guard Wraith will now be available in Multiplayer battles against other players.

We’ll give you guys more bits of the update here on so keep checking back. “


Problems with the ESO population count


Age of Empires 3 players may be aware that the counter on the ESO population is currently not reporting accurate figures. Aloysius, community manager at Robot Entertainment has confirmed that it is being looked into.

In the meanwhile you can find the true number of people playing using the link below which will also be available on the menu to the left.