Can 343 Industries Continue Success of Halo Franchise with “Halo 4”?

Written by: Brendan Nienhaus

After years in development, “Halo 4” is set to be released in November. But can 343 Industries continue previous developer Bungie’s success with the popular Halo Franchise?

The Halo Franchise has been a gaming fixture for over ten years since the release of “Halo: Combat Evolved” in November 2001, recording sales in the billions in the many gaming iterations and spin-offs that include books, an animated feature and even action figures. But the driving force behind all of this success has been the development team at Bungie, the creators of the Halo Franchise. Now, over ten years later, a new developer takes over the reigns of publisher Microsoft‘s billion dollar gaming franchise: 343 Industries.

343 Industries was created by Microsoft to take over the Halo franchise shortly after Bungie and parent-company Microsoft split after the release of “Halo 3” in 2007, Bungie going on to form Bungie LLC. Microsoft, however, did manage to maintain the intellectual rights to the highly profitable Halo franchise as well as a minority stake in Bungie, so the studio continued to collaborate with Microsoft on two more titles in the Halo Universe, “Halo 3: ODST“(2009) and “Halo: Reach“(2010), before finally handing over the Halo Franchise to 343 Industries for “Halo 4”.

343 Industries wasn’t left without a few of the original members of the Halo development team as some members of Bungie elected to join the new gaming studio to remain with the Halo Franchise, including 343 Industries’ Frank O’Connor, the franchise development director for “Halo.” O’Connor had this to say in a recent interview about 343 Industries work on the new Halo title:

” There’s a few ex-Bungie people at 343, but the vast majority of people are new, but they’re all old to Halo. Every single person came to the interview because they had some passion for Halo. Normally you can’t chose your family, but in this case, we could. And they also bring in different cultural experiences, different technological experiences, different design ethics and visions. So we have this incredible melting pot of passionate Halo fans with incredible new ideas and brilliant new approaches.”

So it appears that 343 Industries is confident that they’ve brought together a team capable of handling the pressure of creating the next installment of the Halo franchise, but what about the game itself?

Microsoft and 343 Industries have promised some exciting new elements to the gameplay of Halo in its newest title as well as brand new enemies to keep players interested in the franchise. One of these new gameplay elements is the Spartan Ops mode. Spartan Ops is a co-op narrative series that serves as a secondary campaign to Halo 4’s single player campaign, offered in weekly episodes, much like a television show.

“It is like a TV show you can play,” O’Connor said. “I’m really hoping for water cooler moments where people gather to talk about — not what they watched on TV — but what they did in the game, like plummeting to their doom. This seems like it could be an exciting addition to the Halo franchise, but the real news is about the new enemies in the franchise, called the Prometheans.”

The Prometheans are AIs of ‘Forerunner’ construction, the same beings who built the Halos present in the first games. Some of the  types that have been announced are the Promethean Crawlers, Promethean Watchers and the Promethean Knights. The Crawlers appear to be the most basic of enemies, mechanical quadrupeds capable of attacking from a distance or up close, and in numbers. The Watchers are flying machines that detach from Knights and heal and augment allies, as well as deflect ordinance(i.e. grenades) using a gravity beam. Finally the Knights are heavily armed bipeds that seem to fill a similar role as the Covenant Elites, attacking from range and with melee weapons. These enemies promise to offer interesting combat situations for the gamer to engage in and hopefully offer new, exciting gameplay components.

So has 343 Industries created a Halo game that lives up to the expectations set by their predecessors at Bungie? We will just have to wait until the release of “Halo 4,” November 6, to find out.

Microsoft Releases Program with SEO Capabilities

 

Microsoft Expression Studio

Microsoft Expression Studio 4, a program which includes tools for web developers and designers to create web user interfaces, will now include Search Engine Optimization capabilities.  Expression Web is now addressing how its users get greater visibility on search engines such as Google and Bing.  The Web team responsible for the design of the SEO program has created an application which will assist web developers by making suggestions for changes that may enhance search engine optimization results.   

Expression Web will also feature a compatibility tester for web browsers called SuperPreview along with a prototyping ability called SketchFlow.  Three versions of Expression Studio 4 are available: Ultimate, Encoder Pro, and Design.  Expression Studio 4 Ultimate is targeted to professional web designers and firms

Although its assistance with SEO capabilities will be helpful to many web developers, the program will not support the VP8 video codec that is currently promoted by GoogleMicrosoft has stated their reason for not supporting this codec is due to lower quality, whereas their goal is to deliver high quality video at a lower bit rate.  Google is promoting the VP8 codec as key factor in open media format.  Microsoft’s refusal to support the VP8 codec with this program could make some difficulties for web developers who are supporters of Google’s move for a single web video format.

The Apple of Technology’s Eye

Which will YOU choose?

Apple vs Microsoft - At home or on the go.

It is hard to believe that the most important and popular technology is no longer something that is plugged into (and even mounted on) the wall or sitting on your desk. The oldest generation, the great-grandparents and grandparents, still remember when the television was first invented. My parents generation can remember when that television turned from black and white to color. The twenty-some generation will say they can remember when flat screen was the only screen to have, more thin the better, maybe even 3D or LED, with blu-ray of course. Not only that, but which technology company is putting out the latest handheld device and which is creating the best and fastest software. And that is exactly what it has came down to between Apple and Microsoft.

For about two decades, Microsoft has been the number one name in the technology market. With popular items such as the Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite, Microsoft has managed to dominate the relationship people have with their computers. This was reflected in their stock market capitalization. Although recently Wall Street has released it’s new top spot holder, Apple. Wednesday, May 26th will be a day that Apple is sure to never forget. At the close of the stock trading session, Apple’s capitalization was at a very impressive $222 billion! While Microsoft hung back in Apple’s shadow at an unusual number two, closing at $219 billion. There is no guarantee that Apple will remain on top, but the facts show that their products are what’s in and what’s hot.

Apple has managed to rise to tech stardom with just one letter, I. The iPod, iPad, iTouch and iPhones are the reasons Apple has become the world’s most valuable technology company. They are also the prime example of the shift from desktop computing to mobile computing. If you work on the go, you most likely have Apple to thank for that possibility. They also have capitalized on the music industry, not just with the gadgets, but the popular software iTunes.

Still, Microsoft remains a compelling, confident, profitable company in the tech world. Their windows software runs on 9 out of every 10 computers and more than 500 million people use the Microsoft Office suite software daily.

No one can predict the future, but Apple seems to be leading the way.

Love your Phone Apps? Well Say Hello to the new Love of your Life, Web Apps!

 
Presenting Microsoft Office 2010 & Web Apps

Keynote Speaker Stephen Elop: President, Microsoft Business Division on Web Apps

Microsoft recently launched it’s Microsoft Office 2010 beta programs and hit record high numbers. More than 8.6 million users have downloaded and tried Office 2010 and it’s related products. All the while Microsoft is busy finding solutions for any known problems with the products to make it‘s official debut worry free. 

The last release of a new set of Microsoft products (that includes Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote) was in 2007, and also a huge success. So what makes this new release so much better? Web Apps. Making the communication across the PC, phone and browser that much easier! Collaborations that you think “would be cool if that could ever be possible” just became possible. So what exactly are Web Apps? They are the cloud-based components of Office that features cloud versions of some of their most common programs including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Take Outlook 2010 for example. You can now manage your calendar better than ever, communicate faster with advanced e-mail management AND add a bit of social networking with their all new Social Connector. 

Pairing Microsoft Office Web Apps to these popular Microsoft programs couldn’t have been a better match. Whether you are on an iTouch, iPad or just wearing your eye glasses, Web Apps preserve the look of a document regardless of what device you are using to view it. Not to mention the ability to communicate that document with other users.

Example of using Excel's Web App

Editing a cell in the Excel Web App

“Through Office Web Apps, the Outlook Social Connector, Office Mobile, SharePoint Intranet Sites and SharePoint Communities, we help people connect and collaborate with each other regardless of location,” stated Tracy Overby, senior marketing manager for Microsoft’s Office Product Management Group, in an e-mail to CRN. 

Pricing for the package is still yet to be determined, rumors have started at $199 and grown to $499. To view more or download the beta version for yourself, you can find it on Microsoft’s website or the2010event.com.