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Archive for June, 2009


Bungie CEO: “Ensemble didn’t build a game with a community that carried it”


Some interesting remarks from Harold Ryan the CEO of Bungie who in an interview with Brier Dudley at the Seattle times said:

Q: It’s interesting how you’re mentioning Bungie like that. Are you now trying to raise the profile of the studio? Is this a step toward additional games beyond Halo and saying hey, we’re not just ‘Halo, we’re Bungie’?

A: Yeah, definitely. When you go back to the divestiture from Microsoft, that was when we started paying more attention to the Bungie brand. It means something – there’s now an existing game, Halo Wars, that wasn’t built by Bungie. There’s a big difference in the success – in sales, in the review numbers of the title. The Ensemble guys (who made Halo Wars) are great guys, they did a great job with what they did, but I don’t think they made a Bungie game. They didn’t build a game with a community that carried it.

It seems somewhat a harsh comment seeing as the Halo Wars community website has been online long before the titles launch and was lead by a fantastic community team at Ensemble Studios. One might like to point out that the community was damaged due to the Microsoft decision to close the studio. Obviously, any community will suffer when a company is closed. Today the community is lead by a sole community manager, Duncan “Aloysius” Stanley and Robot Entertainment has recently held a developers play night with the fans and a feedback thread asking for fan feedback on Title Update 3 fixes.

 Seattle Times article:


Updated: Age Community and Halo Wars community sites are offline



No need to panic! Well.. unless you expected to play Age of Empires or engage in community discussion on AgeComm or Halo that is. Yes indeed this is the news that something has brought the community sites offline. Never fear though Robot is on the case!

 Stand by for updates.

Update 1: is back online!  AgeComm, ESO still down.

Update 2: Community manager confirms problems which should be resolved very soon:

Aloysius:We are having some issues with the website, and hope to have them resolved very soon.

Update 3: And we’re back! Happy gaming / talking!


Official Robot Entertainment blogs go live!

New Robot Website

The Robots at the spacepod like office in Plano have launched their official company blogs with Dave Pottinger and David Kubalak. Dave Pottinger shares with us his dream of having the Robot Entertainment logo in Lego form much like the Google logo shown below:


It is infact a deadly serious project and Mr Pottinger has been spending his free time experimenting with Lego base boards to get them a suitable size for the Lego Robot logo – here he is, in action!

Lego Dave

One might wonder if Mr Pottinger spent too much of his childhood playing with Lego! It does seem like a fun project though and if Google can do it why not Robot? You can stand by for updates on this by following this website or by subscribing to the Robot Blog RSS feed.

In other non Lego news..

David Kubalak lifts the curtain on the faces behind Robot’s art team:


Please note: The above picture may not accurately represent entire appearance!

You can click the image to enlarge and from left to right you will find:

Bryan Hehmann – Environment Artist, Nathan Stefan – Concept Artist, Gene Kohler (bottom) – Character Artist, Dion Hopkins – Visual Effects Artist, David Kubalak- Art Director, Charles Tinney (bottom) – Animator, Rob Walden – Hard Surface Modeler, Juan Martinez Technical Artist and Animator, Brad Crow (bottom) – Art Director, Paul Slusser – Environment Artist, Duane Santos – Hard Surface Modeler, Won Choi (bottom) – Concept Artist, Chris Moffitt – Character Artist, and Bart Tiongson – Concept Artist.

All of those people are Ex-Ensemblites! Its interesting to read about the individual roles each artists has. David Kubalak is the Art Director and has his own blog where you can find some of his artwork at:

Clearer Robot Art picture discovered!

You may remember a previous post where I mentioned Age Community were studying Robot Entertainment pictures closely for any hints on a new Age of Empires game. David Kubalak’s blog contains an image extract from a news article which shows a picture of Gene Kohler working on some textures. Check out the image below and be sure to enlarge!

Gene working on textures

Discussion on this can be found on the Age Community forums.

Further reading..

I encourage all fans to check out the Robot website to read the full blog posts from the two Robot Daves! Looking forward to seeing more posts from them soon!

Lets see how this Lego logo develops!!


Tim “Timotron” Deen reveals (nearly) final patch list for Halo Wars


Tim Deen has updated his feedback thread on with the soon to be final patch notes. The title update is now in its final changes of testing and unless there are any sudden imbalances to be found you can take the notes below as pretty much being the final patch notes. Discussion on these should be directed to this thread where Robot will be looking over for feedback. The patch notes follows:

*** Note: Updated with final patch notes for the balance changes that I am sending in for final function/ bug testing ***

Balance changes:: 

1.  Gauss warthog gauss cannon damage bonus against units with heavy armor (Scorpions, Wraiths, Scarabs, Locusts) reduced so that tanks will stay as a viable option to counter warthogs.  

Final:: Gauss damage with a 0.6 modifier (down from 0.8), which is a 50.0% damage boost instead of a 100% damage boost against tanks over earlier warthogs.


2.  Warthog build time slightly increased to restrict how fast players can mass and replace warthogs during the game.

Final:: Warthogs will take 3 additional seconds to the build (25 seconds).


3.  Anders bonus to tech build rate reduced to further balance the leader. 

Final:: Anders research bonus changed to be 75% of the base time to research techs instead of the previous 50%.  (the cost reduction remains at 50%)  


4.  Base turrets attack and health boosted slightly to increase turret viability in early and late game.

Final:: We finalized on a 5% boost to base turret health and damage after extensive testing we feel that a small buff was warranted but that overall the turrets can function just fine in the early game but the player has to choose to use them and sacrifice some supplies.


5.  Elephant health increased to improve survivability and viability as a unit.

Final:: Elephants gain a 20% boost to health, which when combined with the infantry grenade buff works out rather well.


6.  Grenade/ Plasma grenade / RPG damage against medium armor (warthogs, ghosts, choppers, wolverines and cobras) increased to both better balance marines/ grunts against warthogs and to improve marines overall against players who try to turtle with wolverines and cobras.

Final:: Grenades gains 25% additonal damage against medium armor ground vehicles.


7.  Recycle basic cost return fixed to be 50% for constructed buildings.  (While a technically a bug, this directly impacts many slightly exploitive strategies)


*** Other items we have investigated internally ***

8. Investigated changes to the Arbiter rage power for heal and strength, but with internal data and looking closely at what we had time to do for the upcoming title update, we have decided the data did not warrent a change to the Arbiter at this time.

9. Investigated mainline infantry base damage against air but looking at the numbers and the data from games played, we feel that the infantry are within bounds for their role at this time.

10. Investigating reports of shield generator exploit that causes shields covenant base shields to re-raise during combat, we have a repro (thanks to those that sent in the repro steps) and we are looking at a fix now to hopefully include in the title update.  

11. As I have noted before the reinforcement exploit with cutter MAC blast is fixed in this title update.

*** One additonal change which impacts balance ***

12. *new*  Locked down bases when unlocked will now release units inside very quickly, which means that when under attack a player can now build a fighting force while locked down and then release them all at once instead of having them destroyed peacemeal.  Fighting off a rush or hiding what you a building against scouts is now a viable choice for both the UNSC and the Covenant.


note: there are other bug fixes in the title update as well but those will be covered when we wrap up the title update and write the final patch notes. 


Halo Wars artists blog – how to make Halo look like Halo… without Bungie!


Paul Slusser talks today about how the artists at Ensemble tackled the prospect of creating art for an existing IP. The blog notes that it was not a simple copy and paste from Bungies art files and that Ensemble had to put alot of work in from scratch designing art models for units and buildings. A good read, you can find an extract and link to the blog below:

First thing we always do is start gathering as much reference material as we can find; downloading screenshots from the internet, getting marketing material from Microsoft, and the most obvious one, asking Bungie for all their art files. That last one seems like a no brainer right? After all we are both part of Microsoft and they own everything, right? Nope. As it turns out it’s really hard to get in contact with someone at another studio to provide assistance, when that company was behind schedule on their latest installment of Halo AND we had no idea about the negotiations they were having with Microsoft about becoming an independent studio again. It didn’t take long to realize that our concept department would be on their own in figuring out this art style.

The UNSC and Forerunner had to maintain the same geometry angles throughout their structures and vehicles while the Covenant had to maintain the same curvy organic look in theirs. The UNSC vehicles and Spartan armor all had a similar green metallic look that we tried to emulate with our materials. Using a similar Army green with a broad, gold, specular highlight worked really well for our camera distance and sun angle.


Continuing with the Halo Wars map blogs – “Docks” is added today


Today’s map blog update with the developers is the 2v2 map “Docks”. This time skirmish map designer Justin Rouse and Community Manager Duncan “Aloysius” Stanley take us through thier tips and experiences. The excerpt and link to the blog can be found below:

Because of the choke point and decent travel time from one side to the other early in the game, it’s pretty safe too boom up. This is why I really like using Cutter and elephant/marine rushing on this map. If I can setup my Elephant near the enemy bases and get it pumping I can slow down their boom sometimes, even keeping them off the open base location near their start area while my partner boom/techs freely.

Docks 2v2 (


Anthony Long – Composes excellent Halo Wars five long years music video


Anthony Long, a fan of the Halo Wars Soundtrack originally composed by Stephen Rippy has uploaded a YouTube video of his own version of the Spirit of Fire music piece. I think you will agree that this is an excellent version and I am sure Stephen Rippy would be proud of a fans hard work on this. You can see the video below and a link to the original YouTube page. You can also find a direct download of the MP3.  I encourage you to leave comments on the YouTube webpage and rate the video if you like it.


“That’s a really cool interpretation of “Spirit of Fire” – I like it quite a bit and am really pleased that the theme meant enough to inspire some creativity.”  – Stephen Rippy

MP3 Download:

5 Long Years


Remember: Never share your ESO account details with anyone


The ESO team at Robot Entertainment ban hundreds of players at a time for account stealing and people logging into shared accounts. Make sure you NEVER log into any account other than your own or you will be banned and you will lose your rank.

The number of threads on the Age Community website about account stealing has increased recently and I encourage readers to be vigilant about thier ESO account usage.

Dont get caught out, play by the rules and enjoy the ESO expierence.



Halo Wars fatality system – new blog


Once upon a time there was an idea at Ensemble to include a fatality kills system into Halo Wars (think Mortal Combat, Street Fighter). Charles Tinney an animator on Halo Wars talks about what these might of looked like and includes some animation drawings and video. Surprisingly the videos are in Quicktime format, despite the Halo Wars website being a Microsoft owned site!

Heres an extract and a link below:

There are two animations I want to focus on in this production diary. I want to highlight these because I took time to thumbnail and choreograph them; which is typically something I don’t have time to do at a video game studio. So, I really tried to get it right. Both of these are exploratory animations developed to have a loose visual guideline for what the fatality system would look like. Fatalities in Halo Wars happen when one awesome melee powerhouse, such as the Arbiter, kills one of the other infantry units.

Jun interviews Peter Molyneux and Phil Spencer – says Ensemble and other studios “wernt the core focus of MGS”


The good folks at have a new interview between newly created “Creative Director Europe” Peter Molyneux and Phil Spencer. Indeed if you didnt know, studio head at Lionhead Peter Moloyneux has recently been promoted to look after all of the Microsoft studios in Europe along with Lionhead.

One question in the interview was as follows and refers to the reasons behind removing some studios (Ensemble, Flight Sim and cuts at Rare) to focus on Live, Natal and other “core focuses”.

Q: The past six to 12 months saw studios close and staff laid off across Microsoft. Is Peter’s new position an effort to refocus Microsoft Game Studios after such a significant shake-up internally?

Phil Spencer: That’s exactly right. I moved into the role of head of worldwide studios when I came back from London and one of the first things I did was try to think of all the strategic initiatives that all the different studios thought they were on and I drew this chart and had ten or eleven different things on there. And I recognised from that, as an organisation we need to focus. We have great talent in the organisation but we need to make sure that talent is really focused on fewer things that we can do extremely well.

The downsizing that we went through was more about removing things that weren’t a core focus of the organisation and creating scale and space for us as leaders to think deeply in the areas that are going to be critical in terms of our long-term success. Live is a crucial area for us, for example. And since that time we’ve hired a significant number of people back into the organisation and I expect we will refill all of those positions and even more. The acquisition of Big Park was perfect, we’ve been working with them for over a year on Joy Ride and what we found was a studio of people that were really committed to online, free-to-play, micro-transactions and building new IP. It made sense for us to work together more closely and that’s why we went through the acquisition. It’s about getting focus behind the initiatives that really matter.

So there you have it.. it basically confirms from other MGS leaders what Shane Kim was talking about a few weeks ago when he said that the talent at Ensemble didnt fit into the areas they wanted to explore.

You can read the full interview here:

And more on the original Shame Kim interview about the ES closure over here: