From the post:
Keyes. Cole. Stanforth. Whitcomb. Harper. Hood.
These are names that elicit memories of heroes who helped turn the tide against the seemingly irresistible might of the Covenant war machine. Incredible feats against impossible odds. Now, thanks to our partners at Spartan Games (not fitting at all, is it?), the next commander to pull off a legendary victory against a formidable fleet might just be YOU. As announced this week, 343 Industries and Spartan Games have teamed up to produce an exciting new miniatures game set within the Halo universe. While specifics regarding game mechanics and other details will be coming soon, we wanted to shed some more light on how this new entry will fit into the overall Halo narrative.
Is it canon?
The short answer is: YES! The scenarios and vessels are fully vetted by 343 Industries and the Halo Franchise team. In fact, the approvals process for this game is more rigorous than most, as Spartan Games is both visualizing previously unrealized designs and revealing details about Halo space combat known by only a handful of writers. The descriptive text and technical details will also be canon, and we are excited to have this opportunity to reveal them in proper context!
The long answer is a bit more nuanced. Think about the War Games modes within various Halo games. The armor you are wearing, the weapons you are using, even most of the environments you find yourself in – all of these are canonical entities grounded directly into the lore, even if the exact actions or outcomes of your particular simulation aren’t. It’s like in Halo 4, where your Spartan-IV used the War Games as training in order to tackle the canonical missions that took place within the Halo: Spartan Ops storyline. While Spartans hone their skills in the War Games (among many other training regimes), they aren’t the only members of the UNSC that need to stay at the top of their game. If Halo multiplayer is for Spartans, this new miniatures games is for the captains, commanders, and admirals keeping humanity one step ahead of their enemies. Think of this new adventure as a training simulator for the men and women trying to command their fleets to victory in whatever situation might be thrown their way. Outnumbered against a Covenant armada? Facing off against a formidable fleet fielded by insurrectionist forces? Commanding a Sangheili task force during the Great Schism? The scenarios are yours to design, and yours to play out. As the game grows, so do the possibilities. Ever wondered if the war might have turned out differently if the UNSC Infinity had been present at the fall of Reach? Just how many UNSC frigates does it take to knock out a supercarrier? You might just get your chance to find out.
What’s up with those new ship designs?
You may have noticed a couple new beautiful ship designs that you haven’t seen before. Spartan Games has partnered hand in hand with 343 Industries to realize ship designs that have been perhaps referenced in previous fiction, but never visualized officially, until now. Clocking in at around three kilometers (9,843 feet), the Covenant ORS heavy cruiser and the UNSC Epoch-class carrier (2563 m) are both formidable in their own ways.
Covenant ORS Heavy Cruiser
The ORS Heavy cruiser isn’t exactly the type of thing that any UNSC captain wants to see appear on their viewscreen. Boasting a variety of stealth-related advancements as well as both plasma lance and cleansing beam capabilities, the ORS Heavy cruiser takes the already-impressive destructive capabilities of the CRS (Light cruiser), CCS (Battle cruiser), and RCS (Armored cruiser) class warships and ups the ante considerably.
UNSC Epoch-class Carrier
The Epoch-class is the heaviest of the UNSC carriers, trumping both the mid-range Orion-class carrier and the post-War Poseidon-class light carrier (seen in Halo 4) in tonnage. Capable of withstanding considerable punishment, the Epoch often finds itself serving as the lynchpin of any fleet action.
How do the new designs get created?
“Though these ships have not been officially seen in canon, none of these vessels are created in a vacuum. And while we gave Spartan Games considerable freedom in creating the 3D models, the Franchise team paid very close attention to the design iteration process to ensure that the vessels fit their faction, role, and established canonical details. Lucky, we don’t have to start from a blank slate. In addition to existing designs we have an extensive archive of concept art going all the way back to the preproduction phase of Halo: Combat Evolved that we made use of. We also have some specific details laid out in the Halo design documentation that provided hard bounds on the shape of the vessels. As many of those involved on the 343 Industries side are also miniature gamers (including Spartan Games’ Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars lines) we also wanted to address aspects of the design - keeping in mind the scale - that would impact their presentation in the rules so that the “feel” of Halo naval combat was maintained.
Paris-class frigate: From the 343 Industries’ perspective this was a simple design to approve, as it was based on the highpoly model from Halo: Reach. There were almost no changes needed beyond tiny details that had to be altered for the scale and casting in plastic.
Marathon-class cruiser: This required more work than might have been expected, though we obviously had a head-start in that we could make use of the amazingly detailed model created by Blur for the remastered Halo 2: Anniversary cinematics! The first choice by Spartan Games was to use the more recognizable Halcyon-class cruisers, but unfortunately that did not work for fictional reasons (as described in Halo: The Fall of Reach). However, that doesn’t mean we won’t see the Pillar of Autumn or other Halcyon vessels in the future!
Epoch-class carrier: For the Epoch-class carrier we referenced concept art from both Halo Wars, Halo 2, and Halo 4, as well as taking a close look at the Blur concepts. This vessel went through the most changes from initial blockout model to final version, and we’re very happy with the final look of the vessel, which hints at elements of UNSC designs stretching from pre-Covenant War to the volatile antebellum period. Spartan Games does most of their “concepting” in 3D, which was helpful in that we got a better idea of the silhouettes being presented, as well as the estimated level of detail when it would be realized in plastic. There were a lot of eyeballs on this design in particular, and we’re grateful to Spartan Games for sticking with us through all the notes!
SDV corvette: Lithe and graceful, the SDV is one of our favorite designs, and the level of detail that Spartan Games captured in the final miniature was surprising. One item of note is that the initial 3D sculpts from Spartan Games were actually extremely close to the Halo: Reach ship, though it was created without reference to the original model!
CCS cruiser: One of the most iconic ship designs in Halo, we were very specific about features that had to appear – even in miniature. They nailed this classic design, and we can’t wait to see massive fleets of these ships bearing down on the hapless UNSC fleets in custom fleet livery.
ORS heavy cruiser: Quite frankly, Spartan Games “got” the design language of the Covenant, and the ORS only went through a few rounds of iteration – the basic shape of the vessel was established right off the bat in 3D blockout. The final design melds the aesthetics of the SDV, CCS, and CSO, and is the perfect bridge between predatory and utilitarian Covenant design. The ORS, more than any other, convinced us that we were working with a partner who was committed to the Halo universe and could be trusted to work in a sensitive area of the setting. We can’t wait to work with Spartan Games on the and the absolutely massive (even at this game’s scale) Long Night of Solace!”
- 343 Industries Franchise Team
How does Spartan Games feel about working in the Halo universe?
“The ORS-class Heavy Cruiser was intended to be the big brother to the CCS-class Battlecruiser, whilst simultaneously paying homage to the massive yet elegant CAS-class Assault Carrier. It was a chance to bring the aesthetics of the various vessels together and create a harmony between their slick, amphibian-like forms. The bulbous, front heavy Assault Carrier is sleek but strong and imposing - especially when viewed from above. It almost has broad shoulders and a thick neck, like some sort of monstrous space-faring titan!
“The Heavy Cruiser shares this strong, front-heavy figure but maintains the core architecture of the Battlecruiser. Details such as the iconic front fins and teardrop hull forms draw parallels to the CCS-class helping it to feel like it is a tougher, heavily reinforced variant. The Heavy Cruiser maintains the organic sweeping lines of the Covenant aesthetic. The front cowl on top of its bow tapers backward, weaving into the neck of the vessel like that of a muscle interlacing with another.
"The bold, sweeping arc on the front of the main chassis was a nod toward the exquisite looking SDV-class Corvette. This small warship is light and airy with some graceful hull forms creating voids through the ships entire lower section. A comparatively small Heavy Corvette can rest comfortably within the protective shadow of a Heavy Cruiser. Overall, the Heavy Cruiser provides a dominant and striking visual link between the intermediate sizes of the Covenant cruisers and the gigantic carrier classes.”
- Chris P – Lead Designer Covenant, Spartan Games
“The Epoch Heavy Carrier was designed to be a fusion of various UNSC ship aesthetics to document a transition from older ships in the navy to the newer post human-Covenant warships. Structurally it shares a number of unique features with the Phoenix-class carrier from Halo Wars such as its wide 'awning' panels and open ventral bay areas. However, unlike the Spirit of Fire which was a retrofitted colony ship, the Epoch is a purpose-build military craft and as such it has the slab-sided, industrial feel of the UNSC military. Its length and paneling detail hint at structural and technological features that would later be employed and improved in the construction of the Infinity while the telescoping front and layered armour panels paints this as a contemporary to the Marathon and Halcyon Classes.”
- Chris D – Lead Designer UNSC, Spartan Games
“From the moment we started the Halo tabletop projects it was key to us that we kept a mind-set of … ‘If you can do it in Halo - or would like to do it in Halo - you can do it in Halo fleet battles’ and this was the guiding principle, mantra if you will, as the tabletop game development kicked off. The partnership with Microsoft to develop the games and models has been a hugely fun process and it was very satisfying to realize our first two new ship designs with their full assistance.
“As the Spartan model makers progressed Microsoft’s input was invaluable, and when you are suddenly given the opportunity to create new ship designs you literally feel exhilarated and nervous simultaneously. Thankfully the team at Microsoft worked with us all the way, answered our myriad of questions and kept us on the right track. We still feel nervous – but now the exhilaration outweighs it.”
- Neil Fawcett – Creative Director, Spartan Games
“When we approaching the rules-design for the Halo fleet battles tabletop Game we focused on ensuring we embraced the stunning and engrossing imagery present in the Halo Universe. We needed a game engine that would allow you to steer your wings of interceptors into vicious dogfights against enemy bombers… smash enemy space craft apart with stunning volleys of fire from your Primary and Secondary weapon systems… and of course send boarding forces across the expanse of space to fight the enemy in close quarters.
"As ourselves being huge fans of the Halo games, we are delighted to be able to work in partnership with Microsoft to bring Halo to the genre of tabletop gaming, allowing us to engage with Halo fans (wargamers and video gamers alike) across the Halo Universe!”
- Derek Sinclair – Head of Game Design, Spartan Games
Needless to say, we’re not just excited for fans all over the world to get their hands on this new aspect of the Halo universe later this year, many of us at the studio are excited to get our hands on them ourselves! We may or may not have a large table in the office just begging to become a battleground when the fleets are ready to be amassed. Just saying. At any rate, we hope you are as excited to play as we are.