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.

Making Money the League of Legends Way

Dreamhack Festival 2011

The central floor at Dreamhack 2011

Written by: Nick Mingay

SACRAMENTO – E-sports has become a sensation and streaming online games such as League of Legends is a viable source of revenue for professional gamers.

The gaming community has exploded in the past decade with the introduction of MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) and RTS (Real Time Strategy) games. It is not only playing the games that has infiltrated pop culture, but the streaming of live gameplay has become all the more prevalent. Players of games such as League of Legends, Starcraft II and Counter Strike sit in from of their computers or have parties not to play the game, but to watch it being streamed by professional players.

League of Legends seems to be the most commonly streamed game. It is not the most popular game in  big tournaments put on by Major League Gaming or the massively successful Dreamhack, but the fans of LOL, as it is known, is growing by the day.  Many of the professional League of Legends players stream for a majority of the day seven days a week. They play advertisements during downtime and make money depending on how many viewers they have at the time.

Streamers can get a free program to broadcast their games, Xsplit seems to be the most popular. From there, they need only to sign up with a streaming website, or are the two most commonly used. is by far the most popular streaming website for professional players. The site hosts the players streams and provides a platform for them to make money off the stream by playing the advertisements set up by Own3d.

Streamers are paid for how many viewers they have at the given time of advertisements. For every advertisement played per 1000 viewers, the streamer gets three dollars. This may not seem like a lot, but the most popular players have an average of 10,000 viewers watching while they are online. That means $30 for each ad played.

The ads are often played in sets of three, so for every three adds the streamer can make $90. They can play the ads as much as they like, but most play a set of three once every half hour or so.  Not a bad payout for playing a game you love.

The hardest part about streaming to make money is to capture your audience. Many of the professional players are known from international tournaments. Anyone just coming into a stream will have to grab the attention of viewers through wit, banter, well played games and a great music selection while they stream. The biggest key to keeping and growing an audience is keeping them entertained during downtime. This can be done with Youtube videos, discussion of the last game or game mechanics overall and have music running in the background.

Online streaming does not seem to be a consistent way to make money in the future because of the dynamic nature of competitive gaming, but for the professional League of Legends players it seems to be a great way to enjoy what you do for a living.


“Hyrule Historia” Reveals Zelda Timeline


An image of Skyword Sword art from "Hyrule Historia"

A new Zelda art book is putting an end to timeline debate.

Written by Vanessa Formato

The Legend of Zelda” video game franchise has always had its share of secrets. Nintendo has long kept information regarding the series’ timeline under wraps, but it looks as if all of that is about to change with the upcoming art book, “Hyrule Historia.”

The announcement of “Hyrule Historia” came with news that delighted Zelda fans, many of whom have spent considerable amounts of time speculating about the games’ chronology on online forums and fan-sites. A Nintendo World Report article touted a “second chapter [that] is a compendium of Hyrule’s history across the series.” The piece was accompanied by several scans, including one of the table of contents, which listed sections for what appeared to be periods of time in Zelda history. The Internet went wild.

Even just over one year ago, a project like this one seemed inconceivable to fans of the well-loved and critically-acclaimed adventure games. In a July 2010 interview with Nintendo Magazine, Zelda Director Eiji Aonuma confirmed for the first time in the series’ history that developers had their own definitive timeline.

“Yes, there is a master timeline, but it is a confidential document,” Aonuma said. “The only people that have access to that document are myself, [Head of Nintendo] Mr. [Shigeru] Miyamoto and the director of the title. We can’t share it with anyone else!”

Not long after enthusiasts began analyzing the table of contents, a video of the book hit the web that showed a page with a chronology chart. A fan translated the chart and put it online. Aonuma is the editor for “Hyrule Historia,” so it is relatively safe to assume that this is the formerly “confidential” official timeline.

The official timeline begins with “Skyward Sword,” the most recent Zelda release and splits multiple ways following “Ocarina of Time.” The concept of a two separate timelines following “Ocarina of Time” has long been discussed by Zelda theorists, but Nintendo also introduced a third possible reality. If Link were to die in the course of “Ocarina of Time,” the story would diverge into the earlier two-dimensional games, while the “Child” and “Adult” timelines include more recent three-dimensional adventures “The Wind Waker” and “Twilight Princess,” respectively.

So far, “Hyrule Historia” has only hit stores in Japan with no word yet whether there are official plans to release the comprehensive book in other countries. American fans are clamoring to be able to purchase this important collector’s piece, but they have had to settle for scans and translations provided by fellow Zelda enthusiasts.

Nintendo released “Hyrule Historia” as part of “The Legend of Zelda’s” 25th anniversary celebration in December 2011.

The Remarkable Benefits of Computer Gaming

Computer games do not deserve a wholly negative reputation

Slacker-inducing, obesity-generating, mind-numbing….we have heard it all before and pretty much accept this as fact. Like all things taken to the extreme, the effects of too much too often are likely damaging. But there is another side to computer gaming: a surprising “upside.” While concerns about violent games persist, researchers have discovered that gaming can boost cognitive function and foster positive behavior. It can also ease depression. It can teach, enlighten, and heal injuries. It can build team player and decision-making skills. Computer gaming is not all bad.

Most video games involve a number of mental tasks, and playing can boost any one of them. The fast pace can increase visual acuity, spatial perception, hand-eye coordination, and sharp observation skills. Complex strategy-based games can improve working memory and reasoning. One particular study involved a woman who suffered from depression and post traumatic stress. Unable to sleep at night, she started playing the popular PopCap game “Bedazzled,” and found that the distraction was pleasurable and soothing. Researchers have determined that the focused distraction of games can place people and children with physical or mental pain in a different mental zone, relieving them of their discomfort as they undergo treatment.

Hand-eye coordination and team player skills are a couple of the positive benefits of video games

The interactivity of computer gaming also provides a stimulating platform for learning. Integrating “play” into learning how to keyboard, for example, makes the tedium of learning to type more rewarding and interesting. Incorporating geography and real history into gaming strategies can be a creative approach to teaching.  Senior citizens who express interest in learning about computers easily adapt to the maneuverability of the mouse while playing computer Solitaire.

When we read books or work crossword puzzles or Sudoku games, we are rarely frowned upon as mindless time-wasters. Why are many video games viewed so harshly? Violent games are concerning, but evidence isn’t clear that they promote aggression. Aggression could stem from seeing violence on TV or in the home. And violent games can provide an avenue of venting in a fantasy world in lieu of acting out in reality.

Ultimately, computer gaming feeds a lot of human needs, and many of them are positive. Strike a balance, enhance the mind, and enjoy yourself.

Nintendo Continues to Evolve with Gamers

Duck Hunt Dog

The Annoying Dog from Duck Hunt


Nintendo, the revolutionary organization whose first console system hit the shelves in 1985, has evolved tremendously over the years.  The company’s first game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System brought loveable characters such as Mario, Link, and that annoying dog from Duck Hunt into our homes for the first time.  While the system’s graphics and controls may seem primative by today’s standards, 25 years ago they transformed the gaming world. 

The Nintendo Entertainment System was replaced in 1991 by the Super Nintendo (SNES).  Its release excited the gaming community because of its promise of superior graphics and a more complex gaming experience.  These capabilities were brought about by the transition to 16-bit technology.  The video game world moved from what was effectively a pixelated 2D universe into one which, while still mainly 2-Dimensional, featured smooth lines and a more cartoon-like image.  In 1996, Nintendo released the N64 which promised a new level of realism with its 3-Dimensional imagery and superior graphics.  Many Nintendo loyalists who remember the release of this particular system will fondly recall the 3D graphics featured in the game, Goldeneye. 

In 2001, Nintendo introduced the GameCube.  While its release was perhaps not quite as successful as that of previous Nintendo consoles, the systems use of discs rather than game cartridges brought the GameCube one step closer to the Nintendo of today that we all know and love – the Wii.

The Nintendo Wii is the latest generation in gaming systems from this innovative organization.  This console features video games that get players moving and transport them into the game with the use of gyroscopic controllers.  These allow Wii players to combine interactive video games and sharp graphics with something we can all feel good about – exercise (or at least a little movement)!