Interview with Josh Holmes on Halo 5: Guardians

By: Rhys Weir | June 18th, 2015

Halo 5: Guardians had a big presence at E3 2015 like kicking off the Xbox briefing and having the new game mode – Warzone – playable on the show floor. Josh Holmes, Studio Head for Halo 5: Guardians at 343 Industries took some time out of his busy schedule at E3 this year and answered some questions asked by you, the community.

Josh Holmes 343 Industries

In total, we had a 28 minute interview with Josh Holmes. To make things simple, I’ll be splitting up the article into different sections like Warzone, Arena, etc so you can easily jump to the information you’re more interested in but I highly advise reading it all as it reveals some huge news for the game for both the casual and competitive gamers out there. While we have split the article into different sections, the information in these sections will be in no particular order.


Requisition Packs:

Halo 5 Guardians Warzone Screenshot 21

Requisition Packs are a new experience being introduced in Halo 5: Guardians which will allow players to earn (or purchase) cards which offer bonuses in the new Warzone mode like vehicles, weapons, power weapons, etc. These cards also offer cosmetic items such as weapon skins, armor pieces, armor skins, assassination animations and more. These cosmetic items will be usable in both Warzone and Arena modes.

There are two types of Requisition cards – persistent and single-use. Persistent cards are cards that can be continuously used and single-use cards are cards that are one and done. Persistent cards include items like weapons while single use cards include power weapons and vehicles.

Now that we’ve introduced the basic concept of Requisition cards, lets talk about what Josh Holmes mentioned to us about them. For starters, you can not straight up buy a weapon skin from the Xbox Games Store, you will have to purchase a Requisition (REQ) pack which will have a chance at containing weapon skins amongst others cosmetic options mentioned above.

When moving into the Arena modes of Halo 5: Guardians, the only thing from REQ packs that will carry over are your weapon skins, armor skins, armor pieces and assassination animations. Players will have an option to choose what weapon skins, armor skins, armor pieces and assassination animations they will use in a Spartan Customization menu in the final game. It is worth noting that your weapon skins will only be available for spawn weapons. So lets say it’s Team Slayer and the spawning weapons are an Assault Rifle and Pistol, the weapons skins you have chose for these weapons in the customization menu will be available every time you respawn. These weapon skins will also carry over into Arena custom games too so if the gametype is BR starts (for example), your BR will have your chosen weapon skin.

Other single-use cards include vehicle variants, some examples being the Rocket Warthog and the Chain Warthog. These vehicles look slightly different in terms of color.

REQ packs are earned through a variety of ways. The easiest is purchasing them from the Xbox Games Store. We have no information on the price of these yet but we can assure you it is not your only option. Players will also receive a new REQ pack when they level up their Spartan Rank – the progression system used in Halo 5: Guardians and when they complete commendations. After a successful Arena or Warzone match, players will be awarded with REQ points which can be used to unlock more REQ packs in Halo 5: Guardians.

In regards to assassination animations, players will have this option for Arena gameplay too and keep in mind that certain assassination animations can last longer and as a result, you will take yourself out of the game for longer. This is a new risk factor that players will have if they choose to use these animations in Arena.

A huge thing that 343 Industries are doing with REQ packs in Halo 5: Guardians is the tie-ins for the Halo Championship Series. Every time somebody purchases a new REQ pack from the Xbox Games Store, a select cut of that will be used for the Halo Championship Series. At the time of the interview, Holmes said that the exact percentages have yet to be finalized but they are continuously discussing it every day. Holmes also said that they have talked about potential skins related to HCS teams such as a skin for OpTic Gaming, Evil Geniuses, etc but nothing is finalized yet and once it has, we will know about it. An idea he mentioned was offering a special skin to the teams who won a championship.

There are also no plans at this time to allow players to trade weapon skins. If you want to unlock new weapon skins, you will need to earn more REQ packs. If you happen to find some single-use REQ cards that you are not interested in using, players can discard these and receive additional REQ points to unlock more REQ packs.

We also asked about REQ packs and redeemable 5×5 codes (similar to the code you get when you purchase a 3-month of Xbox LIVE) and they confirmed that while their systems supported this, there are no plans at this time to make use of it.


Halo Championship Series:

Halo Championship Series Logo

The Halo Championship Series is 343 Industries official competitive league for the Halo franchise. After the end of Season 2 with Halo 2 Anniversary, the game will be moving over to Halo 5: Guardians and the HCS team has some big plans, which Holmes promises will be revealed around the Gamescom time frame.

Straight away, we asked about how the HCS team will respond to feedback that both players and pros offer in regards to settings, maps, etc. 343 Industries intention with the Halo Championship Series is to keep it extremely similar to the vanilla game so that players can easily understand the competitive side of the game if they aren’t so familiar with it. We specifically asked about removing certain Spartan Abilities from the HCS settings like Sprint and he said they will be keeping an open mind about it and working with the players and pros to determine what they want and what the best course of action is.

Like I mentioned earlier, their intention is to keep the game extremely similar to the vanilla game and at launch, this will be the case.

LAN support is another big question we had answered by Josh Holmes and he confirmed that the game will not have an offline LAN option that everyone can access freely. When it comes to tournaments, the HCS team will work with tournament organizers to setup that kind of stuff but players will not be able to have their own local dedicated server that they can use for offline LAN. This is more of an Xbox One restriction and a downside of having dedicated servers being used for every experience in Halo 5: Guardians.

Moving on, we also talked to Holmes very briefly about spectator mode and how it has evolved since the games public beta last year. Alongside general bug fixes and refinements, 343 Industries have also added an oracle mode that is seen in games like Call of Duty and CounterStrike which allows spectators to see player outlines through walls to get a general idea of where the other team is and what they are doing. Holmes said that the team is continuing to look into spectator mode features as they approach the launch.

Finally, Holmes commented saying that he tries to be readily available to the competitive community whether that be on the Beyond forums or Twitter because he understands the frustrations the community has had over the past few years and he hopes to continue this moving forward. He also says that the team learned a lot from Halo 4 and is improving on that with the re-introduction of visible ranks and a bigger focus on fair starts and competitive gameplay.


Matchmaking:

Halo 5 Guardians Fathom Map Screenshot 14

We talked to Holmes extensively about matchmaking and what sort of experience will be offered in Halo 5: Guardians. We asked one of the hard hitting questions first and that was the possibility of no-sprint playlists in Halo 5: Guardians, at launch. Holmes said that while not all of the launch playlists have been finalized, they have talked about it at the office and they are open to doing it provided the community wants it, also. We can also confirm that these three playlists will be available at launch in October:

  • Team Slayer
  • Breakout
  • Capture the Flag OR a Team Objective mode with Capture the Flag included – likely the latter.

 

Once the finalized playlist lineup is confirmed, we will let you know what options are available. Moving on, we also asked about how the voting process will work in Halo 5: Guardians and it is still very much a work in progress. The team is discussing the negatives and positives of a veto system seen in Halo 3, a pick what you want to play system seen in Reach/Halo 4 and a ‘here’s a map/gametype – you’re playing it’ system seen in Halo 2 and the Halo 5: Guardians beta. Holmes said there was a strong push for the third option mentioned. He also mentioned a “quit penalty” being used to try and encourage people to not quit when a map/gametype is chosen which isn’t their favorite but he didn’t go into specifics.

While Warzone is a new big team experience in Halo 5: Guardians, it isn’t replacing the traditional 8v8 Big Team Battle gameplay that Halo has always offered. While 343 Industries recently confirmed that Big Team Battle won’t be a playlist at launch, it will be available in the weeks after the game launches, not months. Holmes assured us that this was to focus on a bug free Warzone experience and they only had the manpower to focus on one of these experiences and not both at the same time. Big Team Battle in Halo 5: Guardians will have its own unique maps and will not be modified variants of existing Arena maps. If you were curious, there are also no plans for a Race playlist in Halo 5: Guardians. Yeah, that was a little out of the blue but hey, more answers is always great.

One final thing I want to touch on is join-in-progress – this was introduced with Halo 4 but had a ton of backlash. In Halo 5: Guardians, join-in-progress will be enabled for Warzone. However, it will be disabled across the board for Arena gametypes.

If you’re wondering about the option to have join-in-progress in custom games, a feature that was missing from Halo: The Master Chief Collection, keep reading.


Custom Games, Theater, Forge and Gametypes:

Halo 5 Guardians Fathom Map Screenshot 15

Custom games have always played a big part in Halo, especially when the custom game options allowed Halo 3 to be so much more than Bungie ever intended. Halo 5: Guardians will include custom games and we talked to Holmes about what’s new and changes to certain game modes like Capture the Flag as well as Theater modes presence.

In Capture the Flag, players will now be able to use the following Spartan Abilities while holding the flag – Clamber, Ground Pound and Thrust. Holmes said that when a player attempts a Ground Pound with the flag, they will perform a unique spearing animation that will be pretty rewarding if the player manages to land a kill with it.

With the introduction of Warzone, a 24-player count and all that good stuff, custom games certainly had the potential to be a lot more variety filled. However, Holmes confirmed that Warzone would not be playable in custom games meaning the only way to play Warzone is through matchmaking.. It was already announced that players would not have the option to Forge the Warzone gametype. We also asked about what the player count will be for custom games and it has yet to be finalized. 343 Industries is still determining what the final player count will be and hopes to share the information ahead of time.

Join-in-progress for custom games has been an option since Halo 2 released back in 2004 and with the recent launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, players couldn’t join on-going custom games. Josh Holmes promised us that when Halo 5: Guardians launches in October, players will be able to join their friends on-going custom games.

As for Theater, this mode is currently only available for Multiplayer. Holmes didn’t flat out say that it wouldn’t be available for Campaign similar to Halo 4 but they simply didn’t want to confirm or deny anything at this time because they don’t know if it will be there at launch or not. As always, stay tuned to Beyond Entertainment and we’ll let you know when we know.

A full list of features that Theater mode is going to be announced some time before launch. Holmes didn’t offer any specifics about what Theater would offer this time around.


Post-Beta Changes:

Halo 5 Guardians Warzone Screenshot 1

We’ve already learned a ton of changes that 343 Industries have made to the game since the beta such as increased movement speed and maps being modified, but Holmes talked a little bit more about the beta and what changed to make the game play better. He talked about how the bullet magnetism has been tweaked to make the game more ‘competitive’ but didn’t offer any specifics on what changed.

He also touched on aim assist saying that it was entirely weapon dependent but tweaks have also been made to individual weapons. One of the biggest changes for a lot of fans following the beta was the Pistol. Holmes recently talked on our forums how the Pistol is the best iteration since the Halo: CE pistol back in 2001. Since the beta, the gun has been both nerfed and buffed to make it a much more viable weapon and he promises that the gun is in a much better place now than it was in the beta. Saucey, who played the game at E3 this past week, said the Pistol had a slower rate of fire but it absolutely packed a punch when your shots connected.

Although it was mentioned a while ago, Holmes clarified that a number of changes were made to weapon animations that made the game overall feel a lot better. An example given was the gun kick which made some weapons like the Pistol a tough task in the beta because you were constantly fighting with the gun kick and trying to aim it at the player. This has been toned down hugely to the point that it is non-existent.


Miscellaneous:

Halo 5 Guardians Warzone Screenshot 6

While a lot of this was easy to categorize, some of it simply wasn’t worth giving its own section. To start off, we can confirm that when Halo 5: Guardians launches later this year, there will be a total of six maps that were created from the ground up for Warzone. Additionally, between October 2015 and June 2016, there will be six more maps also created for Warzone that will be released for free. For more information on this, be sure to check out our standalone article here.

In Halo 5: Guardians, there won’t be an option for custom controller layouts but Holmes said that with the announcement of the Elite Xbox One controller, players would be able to use that controller to do the same thing. Custom controller layouts continues to be one of the most debated and discussed topics at 343 Industries – Holmes says it is always on the table for future titles. There will be however, a lot of pre-set layouts like previous Halo titles.

After the Gameinformer blow out last week, 343 Industries confirmed that alongside the twenty maps that will be launching with Halo 5: Guardians, 15 or more maps will be releasing as free DLC between October 2015 and June 2016. Although there was no doubt in almost everyone’s mind, Holmes confirmed that Arena maps will be included in that free DLC. While we are on the topic of maps, Holmes offered a no comment on how many maps Arena and Big Team Battle will have in the final game but considering we now know there will be six Warzone maps, we can only assume fourteen of the twenty launch maps will be dedicated to Arena and Big Team Battle.

The weapon systems for Halo 5: Guardians were also re-worked entirely to allow 343 Industries to modify the weapons in the game without needing to release title updates seen with past titles. This also allows them to have individual weapon changes in gametypes like Warzone. If you have feedback on any weapon in Halo 5: Guardians after launch, Holmes promises that they will listen and make fast and suitable tweaks when appropriate.

Powerups will return in Halo 5: Guardians like the Speed Boost, Camo and Overshield. While we weren’t offered full information on all the ones returning, we were offered a little clarification on how they work. Players will need to walk up to the powerup, hold a button down to pick it up and the player will perform a short animation which will slam the powerup into their chest. This animation is consistent across all powerups but the item slammed into your chest will be unique for the powerup.

Vehicles will not make any use of the SmartLink system such as the chain gun on a Warthog or the plasma cannons on a Ghost.

Dedicated servers will be included for co-operative campaign in Halo 5: Guardians, finally confirming that all modes in the game will run on dedicated servers with no peer-to-peer fallback system like Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

On the topic of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, we asked if there were plans to continue support the game after the release of Halo 5: Guardians. Holmes made it clear that two different teams were working on these titles and that the MCC team would continue to listen to feedback and release updates when appropriate.


And that concludes our recap of the interview we had with Josh Holmes at E3 2015. I’d like to thank Josh Holmes and Rob Semsey for taking the time out of their busy schedules to answer both ours and the communities questions about Halo 5: Guardians.

If you’d like to discuss the interview with Josh Holmes, be sure to jump onto our forums and let us know how you feel. Josh Holmes is a frequent poster so you never know when he might drop in.

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