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Posts tagged ‘Halo Wars’

20
Nov

End of the road for Halo Wars as Microsoft shuts down community website

Earlier this week Cocopjojo of the Halo Wars community moderation team at 343 Industries announced that they plan to close the Halo Wars community website in its entirety as of December 15th 2010. No doubt this decision is part of Microsoft “exciting plans” for the community. Read moreRead more

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8
Sep

Creative director Marcus Lehto of Bungie Studios thoughts on Halo Wars

Picked up on a Computerandvideogames.com interview with Bungie’s creative director Marcus Lehto today which looks back at Bungie during the Halo years and the future of the studio going forward. The interview does touch on Halo Wars and the studios thoughts about Ensemble working on the title. -

Looking back, were you happy with Microsoft’s decision to make Halo Wars? What did you think of the game, and its reception? What’s your stance on Halo spin-offs in general?

For Halo Wars I can say that we weren’t involved with it at all, but at the time we figured – and it’s still true – that if anyone would want to take a stab at a Halo RTS, Ensemble had the pedigree and talent to do it.

Ultimately, all of us were happy with how it turned out; they would have been hard pressed to do a better job at an RTS on console. Certainly elements like the cinematics – how they enriched different parts of the universe – as fans it was really cool to see that.

Would you have liked Microsoft to come to you? We’re surprised you weren’t involved with Halo Wars at all…

Well, we didn’t have any room in our schedule anyway. We had a pretty rigorous schedule to get Halo 3 out of the door, so I think Bungie has a pedigree for making those types of games, but not to the extent Ensemble did. It made a lot more sense. We were focused on getting bullets on pixels, giving people a tight, fun, action packed world, It was the right fit.

It is clear that Bungie were very pleased to have Ensemble work on Halo Wars and felt safe the studio would do a good job with the Halo IP. Halo Wars turned out to be a great game and as Marcus says they would have indeed been hard pressed to do a better job for an RTS based console.

The full interview can be found below which also contains some interesting questions and answers about Bungie’s past, present and future plans.

http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=261874

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4
Sep

Age of Empires community fragmentation begins as new forums launch

 

As announced previously Microsoft is continuing with its new community venture for Age of Empires Online and has announced the launch of a new community website at www.ageofempiresonline.com. As a result of this launch this will see the immediate fragmentation of the Age of Empires online fan base where by there will be two official forums for the Age of Empires series, one for legacy games such as Age 3 and Age of Mythology and another for Age of Empires Online. Why Microsoft has chosen this path is bizarre as having two forums for one franchise can only offer fragmentation. It would be like Halo Reach detaching from Bungie.net and setting up shop somewhere else (Edit: Halo Reach actually does have multiple community websites). Or Lionhead breaking away its Fable 3 forum from its website. It doesn’t happen with other IP but its ok to do so with Age of Empires.

In the past Microsoft has typically treated Ensemble developed games poorly in terms of community investment. Since the closure of Ensemble Studios, Age Community has suffered a number of bugs with modern browsers resulting in the website looking terrible in , including  in Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer 7 and 8. Images are cut off and out of alignment and despite launching a new game in the Age series Microsoft has still not invested money into making the website look suitable, and even usable in the cases of cut off web buttons. The website looks rough and patched together and does no justice to the Age franchise. Then we also have Halo Wars which was promised “exciting things to come” when Microsoft’s 343 Industries took over. The result was community madness with almost no moderation and no ”exciting things” has ever been forthcoming.

It is a no brainer that by splitting up the community for the same franchise is bad for the community. Age Community has been incredibly successful, particularly at Ensemble Studios and boasts almost 90,000 users at the time of writing. Now all these 90,000 users will be forced to setup another account on a totally different website should they want to discuss and hear news about Age of Empires Online in an official environment. Moreover, those who check forums often will now have to flick between the two as some may not realise Age Community is not the official site for Age of Empires Online. Especially seeing as Age Community purports to be the official community website for Age of Empires as a whole based on its domain name and branding.

The whole process seems messy, unthought out and has negative impact on Age Community. Despite having a dedicated community team at Microsoft they have completely missed the massive oversight of the community fragmentation having two forums will bring and have been unsympathetic to the Age Community by not investing in that website going forward and over the past year knowing that another Age game was around the corner.

Microsoft are hiding behind legal and technical issues which had apparently required them to develop a new community. However both these explanations are questionable seeing as the new website runs on the same software as Age Community. Having looked at the website closely it offers no benefit whatsoever other than to fragment and duplicate community content. The gamertag integration could easily have been implemented into Age Community as evidenced by Ensemble’s work with HaloWars.com which shares the same community software again. The supposed “legal issues” are also dubious and Microsoft have not been forthcoming about what these issues were. Robot Entertainment has worked on Age Community and Halo Wars after Ensemble’s closure so there has been no problem before using a third party developer to look after community websites. I have not been able to determine what the legal issues could possibly be and can only assume it comes down to poor decision making and lack of attention to the fan base of Age Community that has resulted in this ill advised decision.

Age of Empires looks like a great game but the community management is way off course for Age of Empires best interests in my opinion as you may have gathered from the tone of this blog post. I am very disappointed.

Robot Entertainment has stated that they will continue support of Age Community for as long as Microsoft allows and will continue to look after the community going forward. Microsoft has not given clear indication of plans for Age Community and no-one from either company has updated the Age Community homepage beyond just an announcement so far. For reference I include comments from both Robot Entertainment and Microsoft below:

“Microsoft does have a community team in place to support Age of Empires Online, but that doesn’t change the fact that Robot Entertainment is very interested in and dedicated to all players who are a part of our community and who play the games we develop. Dunkman/Aloysius and I will continue to support and maintain AgeCommunity.com and the players there until such time that Microsoft decides to change direction with the site.”

- Justin Korthof.  Community Manager at Robot Entertainment


The decision to make new forums for AOEO wasn’t simply, “we want to fragment the community”. This was never the intent but there are legal issues that arose (which I am not at liberty to talk about) that made it necessary for MGS to create new message boards for AOEO. I have every intention on keeping AgeCom updated with AOEO content. AgeCom wont be recognized as an official outlet – as AOEO.com will be – but will be up-to-date with content. I can’t tell you exactly right now how AgeCom is going to be utilized in the future, but AgeCom will not be forgotten about and abandoned to the wasteland.

 Robot Entertainment’s community team isn’t being utilized for AOEO – but they do still run AgeCom. While they’re not “officially” the community team we (Cosy and myself) ARE in constant and close contact (if it assuages your fears any – I’ve been friends with the Robot team since before I took this position) and have no intention on changing that. Our (the MGS team) main concern as a community team is the community.

- BatsyBatsy.  Community Manager at Microsoft Game Studios

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14
Mar

Paul Bettner of NewToy says Ensemble demise due to company culture

News is spreading around that Paul Bettner an ex Ensemble programmer has had a bit of a “rant” at the GDC explaining that Ensemble Studios should not of blamed Microsoft for the studios closure and should instead look at failings with the company culture at Ensemble Studios. In what has proven to be such a shock read from an ex-Ensemble employee which certainly damages the excellent working environment Ensemble was credited for he says:

“The reality is that every single game we shipped took twice as long as we said it was going to take, and cost twice as much to make.

“Microsoft is a public company, they answer to their shareholders, and we were simply too expensive.”

Ouch.

But wait, theres more:

“Ensemble had a company culture where everyone was a workaholic, developers worked late and slept at the office, and were addicted to the rush of success of the Age of Empires series.

I watched this happen and I did almost nothing to stop it. As an employee, and later as a manager, I didn’t take a stand. I just kept hoping for that next high”

“This is a horrible vicious cycle. We burn out all our best people. We destroy these precious artists, we wreck their families and we sacrifice their youth. So they leave, and they take all their experience with them.”

Some pretty shocking comments there which resulted in huge applause from the GDC audience, perhaps with other developers agreeing that there is way too much pressure in the industry with these “crunching” hours.

This is the first time we have had an Ensemble Studios employee almost attack the way the company was managed but we must remember on the other end of the scale that alot of people stuck with Ensemble once the studio was told it would be closed down and ironically Dave and Paul Bettner were one of the first employees to leave and start NewToy before Halo Wars was completed.

These are one mans comments and do not reflect the thoughts of the whole studio. 45 employees followed Tony Goodman to start up Robot Entertainment so there must of been confidence in the highest management. Perhaps lessons have been learnt about crunching hours and the new Ensemble startups are paying closer attention to how staff are looked after and how studios are run to ensure talent does not leave whilst at the same time balancing budget and hitting milestones. Now with studios like Robot and Bonfire being fully independent there may be less pressure to meet publisher demands, hopefully.

Source: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/crunch-culture-killed-ensemble-studios

Sidenote:

It should also be noted that Robot Entertainment sponsor the International Game Developers Association and therefore stands by the values and principles behind the IGDA “Quality of Life” white paper. If there were any issues at Ensemble these should now have been addressed with the management at Robot Entertainment. Robot Chief Operating Officer, Patrick Hudson comments on the IGDA website:

Robot Entertainment is proud to support the IGDA in its ongoing mission to make the game development community a better environment for all of us.

This comment is not related or a response to the Paul Bettner discussion and has been present on the IGDA website for quite some time prior.

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12
Mar

Robot Entertainment confirm working on two projects

One of the recent blogs on the Robot Entertainment website by community manager Duncan Stanley talks about Robot Entertainment one year on from its conception. You may remember it was this time last year Robot Entertainment said “Hello world“. Although there has been no announcements exactly what projects Robot has been working on, we have known that there is at least one project based on new IP going by the initial company press release:

Robot Entertainment is working with Microsoft Game Studios to develop additional content for Halo Wars and support online gaming and community for both Age of Empires and Halo Wars. Additionally, Robot is developing its own original IP.

While there has been much speculation on various forums that Robot may have been working on more than one project it is only now we have a qoute from Robot confirming the existence of two projects.

After a year, I can say that it definitely is a great place to work.  We’ve worked hard on our two unannounced projects, had some really awesome parties, and only a couple of late nights.  Those late nights were offset by the completely out-of-character-for-Dallas snow days.  We’ve got another awesome year set in front of us and we can’t wait to show everyone what we’ve been working on.

We know one project is based on new IP, but what about the second? Could this be based of already existing IP such as Age of Empires or Age of Mythology or is it also another game based on new IP again?

With Robot Entertainment no longer supporting the operations of Halo Wars and 343 Industries confirming that no new installments of Halo Wars are currently planned for the near future, it would seem if any existing IP were to be worked on the Age series would make the most sense. With Microsoft as the publisher for at least one of Robot’s projects this could be a perfect fit.

But when will we know for sure? Hopefully not too long. The recent job openings for additional community managers and web development staff indicate a plan to launch a brand new community website for at least one project.

For now, its food for thought but you may want to check out the full blog from Duncan which talks about the first day at Robot Entertainment.

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9
Mar

Halo Wars community unhappy with Waypoint migration

Since Halo Waypoint’s take over of the Halo Wars community from March 1st there has been a large dissatisfaction with the new moderation team.

The overall feel of the community can be summed up from this screenshot taken on the 9th March 2010.

(click to enlarge)

Notice how after 2.5 days the post still has not been removed by Halo Waypoint. There are many other similar threads.

So far the migration to Waypoint has only demonstrated a lack of commitment from Microsoft about the Halo Wars Community. If Waypoint is not equipped to deal with the Halo Wars Community then arrangements should of been made for Robot Entertainment to continue the support under the community leadership of Duncan “Aloysius” Stanley who has been moderating the forum for over a year at Robot and longer in his role as “Lethe” at Ensemble Studios.

Hopefully Waypoint will react to the posts and start properly moderating soon.

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28
Feb

343 Industries takes over Halo Wars Community support

 

As of March 1st 2010 343 Industries’ Halo Waypoint team will take over support of both Halo Wars and the Halo Wars Community at HaloWars.com. Community Manager Jon Goff from 343 has made his introductions in the general discussion.

Hey everyone,
 
As most of you know, Halo Wars and HaloWars.com are transitioning more closely into the Halo Waypoint family.
 
As of this weekend, Halo Waypoint will oversee both Halo Wars’ matchmaking and stat tracking servers, as well as HaloWars.com as we continue to bring the Halo universe together as never before.
 
Before I continue, the Waypoint team would like to thank the amazing group at Robot Entertainment, who have spent the past year working closely with the Halo Wars community, helping to build a vibrant, dedicated fan base, and we look forward to supporting the Halo Wars community as the Halo universe continues to expand and evolve.

Jon then continues to expand on some of the most frequently asked community questions – whether or not there will be a Halo Wars sequel of even any additional DLC. The response is as expected – no.

Will there be a Halo Wars 2?

There is currently no information to share about the possibly of future Halo Wars games. We understand the desire from the Halo Wars community for another installment of Halo Wars, but for now the focus in regard to Halo game titles is squarely on supporting Bungie as they prepare to launch Halo: Reach this Fall.

Will there be more Halo Wars DLC?

Likewise, there is currently no new information on additional Halo Wars DLC. 

The transition from Robot Entertainment to Halo Waypoint indicates Microsoft’s reduced commitment to the title for the near future as Halo Wars loses its developer. It is currently unclear whether some small bugs outstanding from the last title update will be resolved. Two of these include the issue that units can use the Y-Ability across the entire map and secondly there are missing cut scenes in the Halo Wars game menu. Robot Entertainment has advised that these issues are now the responsibility of Halo Waypoint.

Whats next for Robot Entertainment?

Losing Robot Entertainment in the Halo Wars community is a sad thing. No one is better placed to support the game and its community than the games developer and Robot had the majority of people from Ensemble Studios working on the titles support. However, this is not the end of Robot’s community presence on other games. Robot will continue to provide support for both Age of Empires and the Age of Empires Community. Also expect Robot to be hard at work on a brand new community for thier upcoming video game project. Robot are expanding thier community team to no doubt make the future community as, or even more vibrant and exciting than ever before. Stay tuned.

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28
Feb

(Quick update) 343 Industries takes over Halo Wars community

 

*very* quick posting from me to let fans know that 343 Industries are now on site at HaloWars.com. New moderator Glyph has made his first introduction posting here:

http://www.halowars.com/forums/thread/823883.aspx

I’ll post more information soon with details. Meanwhile take a look and join in the discussion.

 

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5
Feb

Robot Entertainment to hand over HaloWars.com to Waypoint

Hot of the press from HaloWars.com. Today an announcement was made by Robot Entertainment Community Manager, Duncan “Aloysius” Stanley talking about the end of Robot’s primary involvement with the Halo Wars Community. The announcement reads as follows:

On February 28th, 2010, Halo Waypoint will be begin to officially support both Halo Wars and HaloWars.com. Waypoint staff will transition in over the next month to support operations of HaloWars.com and the Halo Wars matchmaking and stats servers. Over the past year, Robot was very proud to roll out 4 Title Updates for Halo Wars, provide technical support on the forums and provide a place for volumes of fan fiction. Robot was proud to be a part of this community for the past year, and we hope we served you well.

Along with supporting operations, Halo Waypoint has exciting plans for Halo Wars. Look for announcements in the near future.

So long and thanks for all the fish!

This was quite an unexpected announcement as in most cases the developer is responsible for the games communities. For example, Rare looks after Banjo and Lionhead looks after the Fable communities. However, it seems Microsoft is not so keen to continue having Robot watch over the Halo Wars community. Presumably, now a year on from Ensemble’s closure the agreement struck between Robot and Microsoft to look after the Halo Wars community has expired and possibly as a result of cost cutting Microsoft are bringing the management of the website in house.

Come February 28th a new moderation team will be drafted in from Microsoft’s, 343 Industries – the “Waypoint” team. Its been a bumpy road for Halo Wars fans having to go through another major change in the way the game is supported. First the closure of the original developer Ensemble, then the removal of the second developers community presence. Microsoft do not seem to be treating the strategy version of the Halo IP very well!

Although the announcement states “exciting plans for Halo Wars” are in the works, one must wonder how “exciting” these plans can be without a developer attached to the game anymore.

Hopefully there will be more details to follow about this announcement in due course.

What about Age Community?

Some good news is that the Age of Empires community will still be looked after by Robot Entertainment as before.

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29
Jan

Halo Wars now available on Games on Demand

Halo Wars is now available on the Xbox Marketplace under Games on Demand. Gamers who have yet to try Halo Wars can download the game today from the Xbox Live. The games box art also shows a new header with the game now bearing a “Platinum hits” graphic. Good news all round! Here are the details you need to get more information:

Content: Halo Wars
Price: Check pricing for your region
Availability: Asia, Canada and US
Dash Text: (Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB) This game supports English. Download the manual for this game by locating the game on http://marketplace.xbox.com and selecting “See Game Manual”. Halo Wars is a strategy game based on the legendary Halo® universe. Command entire armies of Spartans, Warthogs and more into combat as you join the crew of the “Spirit of Fire” to battle the alien Covenant. Designed from the ground up for the Xbox 360, Halo Wars let you effortlessly command powerful armies in epic battles. There are no refunds for this item. For more information, see www.xbox.com/live/accounts.

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