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I’m running out of glue!

I’m sorry to say that I’ve been at the glue and cardboard again. Not content with attempting to create Snowbound with my new found toy, I’ve set about making the original Halo’s Hang ’em High map.

I hoovered the living room especially for this photo.

It has turned out huge and so far it has eaten up a lotof cardboard, three Pritsticks and one roll of sticky tape, plus I’m not done yet.

Whilst the main layout is already there, the North Base needs its tower, all the gantries need installing and countless “tomb stones” need adding to the floor to instill that true Hang ’em High feeling.

The one consideration I did make when spec’ing the layout is to make sure it comes apart easily. Ali’s already getting fed up of it taking over the kitchen but as long as it can fit through the loft hatch then it’ll be grand.

You can find more model fueled images here.

Hump-date

Emails have been sent back and forth, hurried IM conversations have taken place and it now seems as though our Halo 3 match-up against Bungie has a rough date of 5th March. Well, to be honest, this is their “print” deadline of the showdown, the actual game will probably be played a couple of days prior to that.

What ever the date, we’re roughly five weeks away from it and the team can be found in training most lunchtimes. Things are progressing nicely and we feel that there’s a good work ethic growing between the four of us.

The only downside to our training is that we are all such widely different ranks within the multiplayer that we have to play on the casual social circuit. Here you get a right mixed bag of skills and so whilst we may not be truly testing our mettle we are getting some great feel-good victories as we crush the noobs under foot.

Can you hear us humping on your stereo?

Today has been a shocker. A catalogue of problems, bad news and crashes have hampered any enjoyment of this, my last Friday as a 26-year-old.

Despite everything, one piece of exciting news overshadows, and indeed eclipses, everything else that has gone before it; my friend, and fellow Haloer, Hey Ernie has entered us into Bungie’s Hump Day Challenge series.

Mummy, mummy, what is that man doing to the other man?

For those outside the Halo loop (did you see what I did there?), the Hump Day Challenge is where Bungie, the creators of Halo, takes on various clans, organisations and players at their own game. As you would expect, Bungie tend to come out on top.

Still, this is a challenge – nay, a thrill – that I hope comes to fruition.

In the meantime, we’re going to be trying to piece together a team that we think could stand a chance against the might of Lukems and co. Expect to see a lot of “Last seen playing Halo 3” in my Live status bar from now on.

The Morning After the Night Before

Halopalooza was once again a success. Despite the night drawing to a close “early” at half-three, we still managed a good eight-and-a-half hours, or forty plus games, of plasma rifle toting fun.

For me there were two highlights and both included team objectives. First up was Pogo’s Duck Hunt.

Set in Foundry, the attackers had to bound from one side of the warehouse to the other via man-cannons, pick up a flag and then return. Easy enough, but set back are the defenders in their hide, all armed with one-hit-kill sniper rifles just waiting for the “ducks” to take to the air.

It was such a simple idea executed so well that it was an absolute riot. Given the numbers playing, whole battalions of Spartans would take to the air in a bid to reach the flag only to be sniped down at the apex of their jump. Pretty much everything you did as the attacking side was suicidal but when the flag hit home it just made it all the more satisfying, as most war of attrition games are.

Tally bally ho!

The other standout moment was three-quarters of the way through the evening when somehow the teams achieved an almost Zen-like balance in their abilities. Teams are more often than not plucked from a hat and tend to be weighted one way or the other but somehow the stars aligned and a series of supremely balanced games took place, full of cut and thrust, defence and counter.

Never before have I played such a great batch of team games and it all culminated in the best Assault that I have ever been a part of where every round was on a knife edge and most were decided deep into sudden death over time.

As per usual, what makes these evenings are the people who are there. I think most of you out there will agree when I say that playing with random, whiny, American teenagers who bitch that they didn’t get to the sniper rifle first can be a soul destroying. However, put yourself in a lobby with sixteen like minded, amiable players and you cannot beat Halo for an experience.

For the basis of Pogo’s Duck Hunt, check out the map and game type on his file share. Whilst for a full run down of everything, check out my history on Bungie.net and browse everything from 1/4.

To the face!

Tonight marks a wonderous occassion, the third official Halopalooza. After work I will be hurrying down to Cheltenham to join Mapoo, Pogo et al in a grueling series of Haloian events that mark why I was put on this earth.

My personal hope for tonight is that we’ll see some new and interesting Forge creations rolled out for trial, that and we get some cracking movies to laugh at in the coming months.

I would speak more on it now but I need to return to my zen like preperations as I have but a couple of hours in order to reach “The Zone”.

Reporting for duty

See you on the battlefield.

Snowbound

Another afternoon armed with Pritstick and I now have some rather swanky results to show for it.

 We mourn the cereal boxes that gave their lives so it may live.

All it needs now is some snow and the board markings and we’ll be in business. Thank you to Kindling and Crips Pink who helped make this all come together.

Papercraft

It’s getting quiet in the office now. We’re down to the last few remaining souls who are either saving up their spare holiday for something interesting next year or have done something interesting this year and are now stuck inside until Christmas Eve.

Me, I’m saving a few days in case our house move finally comes off in the spring but I am going stir crazy. It’s too quiet and in the end I just decided to take the afternoon off but stay in the office to make use of the facilities.

Pirate Steve and I have been getting quite obsessive over our new found love of Halo Clix and Hero Clix and it’s got that point where scenery is being made. This is where the facilities came in handy as our fancy printers, lovely 3D modelling studios and talented artists (also holidaying) helped me knock together our own version of a Snowbound bunker.

This is only the  rendered example but I only have to find enough cardboard to make this structure a reality.

It’s only going to get worse from here, too, given that I’ve found a program that will turn any wire model into papercraft, the sky is now the limit. I may have to make sure we have an extra toner cartridge.

Tomaytoes Tomartoes

Tomaytoes Tomartoes

Click to enlarge

Even the font of all knowledge that is Wikipedia can’t decide on the actual plural, they leave it up to your discretion. The collective term for Mongii is also somewhat illusive, although some seem to have settled upon “a band”. The more you know.

Last night was the first chance I had to truly get to grips with the new Halo Heroic Map Pack and so far, at least, they appear to be worth the 800 points dropped on them.

Starting with the weakest, Foundry seems like a poor relation to The Pit. A warehouse stacked high with boxes, this is the main domain of forgers due to the blank cube layout you get when everything is cleared out but in it’s current form it’s nothing special.

I’ve played Slayer and VIP here and both were interesting without being remarkable. There are a couple of bunker areas where you can hold out and protect your VIP and there is enough of a maze like structure to allow a Rainbox Six style sticking-together-and-clearing-spaces-methodically tactic to be very effective.

Rat’s Nest is an interesting one with an outer ringway for vehicles and an inner set of rooms and spaces for infantry to move around. The ringway is a nice idea and on more than one occassion I’ve seen a procession of Mongii stream past me, passengers offloading their rifles at the others. There is also enough cover for the use of hit and run tactics from those on foot towards those with wheels to even things up.

From my experience the inner areas are used sparingly as, again with Slayer and VIP, most of the action took place on the fringes. From my take, though, they have good potential as you can see plenty of to and fro being given there with numerous ways through the structure and pitched battles taking place on the stairwells.

Pick of the bunch is Standoff, a gloriously beautiful map shadowed by large satelite dishes, ala Jodrell Bank. Touted as a mini Blood Gulch, you have two bases at opposite ends of a plateau, built into the landscape, with a series of missle silos and rock formations between the two. The size and layout is such that it allows vehicles to snake around whilst also not being too big to stop those on foot walking from one base to the other… assuming you can avoid the turrets.

Not only is this my favourite but I also got to play more varieties of games on it, including Neutral Assault and CTF, and given the openness of it all these are tricky game types when dropped in with a random team.

Power weapons are used sparingly and even if you are offed by the rocket launch it’s never too long a walk back to your base but you learn to use the cover provided quickly as the bases all look down into the central killing ground.

Whilst they’re all good, one thing that dampened my experience was that a great deal of my friends have already moved on from Halo. Part of what made Halo great for me was having a laugh with those I know on the battlefield, pratting around with Gravity Hammers and Warthogs. Hopefully at some point over the Christmas period I’ll be able to round up those scallywags and we’ll be able to give these maps a true road test.

 

Appeasement

To calm me down somewhat, it appears as though the new Halo maps have now gone live. Hopefully these will fare better through the tubes of the interweb than my last download.

Old things are new again

Six gigabytes of download later and I now have the original Halo and Crimson Skies sitting on my 360’s harddrive, joyfully accessible.

I don’t know if it’s because I played through the original Halo on a 14″ portable telly or whether my first copy of Crimson Skies had extra blur built in but these newly downloaded Xbox Originals are so crisp and clear that I could swear that they are more than just the emulation they say to be.

Obviously, though, the difference is caused by something far simpler than that as rather than sending the signal through an iffy SCART connection, ala five years ago, they are now treated to full high-definition output. Despite having comparably lower resolution textures to all of today’s current games they stand up remarkably well, considering, and the new clarity definitely gives them a new lease of life.

The quality of both games doesn’t need reiterating here, what I’m really enjoying about the experience, though, is seeing how far Halo has come since the early days. Everything looks very familiar but so much has been cleaned up and refined both in art and design since the early days that it’s as if you were talking to an international megastar about your days at school together before the image consultants and PR people got involved.