Halo 4 Spartan Ops interview with Frank O’Connor

Around a week or so ago Das Kalk announced that he and Snickerdoodle would be interviewing Frankie at PAX, and asked for questions from the community. I asked what day of the week will Spartan Ops episodes be released. They weren’t that specific, but they sure asked my question!

Full interview can be read here.

I have taken out the parts concerning Spartan Ops and posted them below. Emphasis mine. Again thanks to Das Kalk and Snickerdoodle.

DK: The other thing you have here this weekend at the Mad Catz booth is Spartan Ops. Can you tell us where the idea for Spartan Ops came from, and maybe how it affects how you as a studio think about the single player story, or how it interacts with the single player story?

Mad Catz has actually been a great partner for this because we really didn’t have a space for Spartan Ops to fit, and Mad Catz approached us. A lot of people didn’t get to play it at E3 for obvious reasons, and PAX is a consumer show, so we wanted to give people a chance to play it, so we partnered with Mad Catz, and it’s out there demoing both our new headphones, and the mode itself. It’s the same build from Comic-Con and E3, so the gameplay experience isn’t new for people who were there, but most of these people haven’t been there, so it’s a nice chance to sample it. Spartan Ops, at the very highest level, the ten thousand foot level, it’s a TV show you play. It’s up to four player co-op, it supports matchmaking if you’re on your own, but every week for a total of ten weeks, there’s going to be one episode of fiction followed by five missions of gameplay, all of which are interconnected. The fiction is actually meaningful, you’re going to see very high quality CG, you’re going to meet some new characters, you’re going to see returning characters from the campaign, and you’re ultimately going to learn a lot about the Halo universe and the Infinity through that process. And the story is meaningful, things happen that actually count, it’s not just “blow up the generator”.

SD: So does that mean that Spartan Ops is a bridge between Halo 4 and Halo 5 when it comes out? Is it filling in some of the gaps between the two?

Chronologically it takes place about six months after the events of Halo 4, so we chronologically do that, but it’s a little more complicated than that, but we can’t say anything without spoilers. It’s definitely going to continue some of the scenarios, events, and character arcs that started in the campaign, but it definitely splinters off from the Chief’s main story, so you won’t see the Chief a lot or referenced a lot in Spartan Ops, but he’s already had a huge effect on their lives by that point and it’s sort of inferred throughout.

DK: You were saying that Spartan Ops is episodic content, does this mean that much like a TV show, we’ll see the episodes released on the same day every week?

Yes, it’s going to air, technology allowing, at the same time on the same day on a per-week basis. Of course, it requires Xbox LIVE for a couple of reasons, one is that it’s streaming content, the other is it’s multiplayer, obviously for up to four players, so it does need an Xbox LIVE connection, but it’s free. So if you buy the game, either the regular edition or the limited edition, it’s absolutely free, and it’s a huge amount of content. It’s five missions per week, and the missions can take anywhere from 10 minutes if you’re pounding through it with 4 people and loads of vehicles, to like, I mean, I’ve got stuck for hours at a time on certain things trying to achieve it in certain ways. So it’s about a campaign’s worth of content, and it’s released episodically, which in some ways is a more natural cadence than the seven to twenty hour campaigns that people plough through. That’s a weird way to tell a story, whereas episodes, we can control the rhythm and the cadence that people experience the story in, so while in the campaign I can’t force you to end a campaign mission on a cliffhanger, because you’re just going to play immediately through it, we can control the pace, and so it’s going to be giving us some interesting dramatic opportunities, and we hope people appreciate that when it does start airing.

DK: Something else that we noticed in Spartan Ops is that your War Games character carries over, and you’ve talked a lot about that persistent back-and-forth. We’ve had some questions about whether or not things like armour or weapon skins carry over into campaign as well, could you shed some light on that?

Specifically, in campaign, you’re the Chief, or, you’re another Spartan. There’s no fiction behind the four player co-op. The only cool thing that happens is at the start of the game in the first mission, The Chief spawns in one cryotube, and the other three Spartans are in “lesser” cryotubes, so that’s where the arguments will come from. In Spartan Ops, your character is the same character you create for the Infinity. When you get into the menu, it’s going to say, basically, Campaign, and Infinity, and everything that you do inside Infinity is basically interconnected. So if you customize the way he looks, or she looks, because we support male and female models, if you customize your loadouts, on a kind of a mode-by-mode basis, all of that stuff and all of your career progress is completely interconnected between War Games and Spartan Ops. Ultimately, your War Games character is actually your Spartan Ops character, right, and you’re training in War Games’ simulated battle tactics effectively is the conceit, you know, it’s still, it’s Halo multiplayer.

DK: You’ve been talking a lot about how the connectivity between Spartan Ops, War Games, and Campaign is intended to give people an avenue in to something they may not have been interested in before…

Yeah, when we launch a Halo game, traditionally, there’s people who do everything, and I’m a person who does everything, and probably you guys do everything, you play multiplayer, you play campaign, you play play with theatre, forge, all that stuff. But a lot of people just play singleplayer, a lot of people just play multiplayer, and we have pretty good research on how those venn diagrams intersect with each other, but we realized there was this opportunity to push those two disparate audiences closer together with a kind of bridging piece, and Spartan Ops certainly does that. That’s not it’s main intention, but it’s one of the upsides of it that we realized as we were prototyping and thinking about what Spartan Ops could do.

DK: And for someone who’s new to the Spartan Ops campaign, who’s maybe only ever played Multiplayer, is there going to be any kind of recap at the beginning of the episodes?

Yeah, we’re going to have lots of opportunity for recap, including through Halo Waypoint, this all streams ultimately from Halo Waypoint tech, it’ll stream straight on your Xbox. The other thing is, it’s like a TiVO, so there’s two things that can happen, one is the episodes can just stack up, right, if you haven’t played or watched they’re just there on your Xbox and you can just go through it like a box set. Secondly, if you’re alone, it will matchmake you with up to four total players, so you can play it either solo and experience it like that or if you want to play it the way that nature intended, you can go use matchmaking to go find people who are in the same state of the series as you are.

Playable TV!!!!! So excited. Hopefully the Hearthfire DLC for Skyrim will tied me over for a couple weeks!

Keep on truckin


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