'Halo 3: Recon' The Box Art

Heard about "Halo 3: Recon"? That's the Bungie-made spin-off for "Halo" that Microsoft announced at the Tokyo Game Show this morning.

The "standalone expansion" will feature "hours" of new campaign action, some new multiplayer maps and Forge items, an emphasis on "stealth" and "cunning" in the gameplay and a new protagonist for gamers to control: an Orbital Drop SchockTrooper.

It's coming in Fall 2009. Full fact-sheet here. And while you may have seen the trailer on other blogs... did you see the box-art?


"The thing about Lego [is that] it's a tool for being creative. So it's great when you have creative ideas and can take it to different places. I think [the public relations department] will not stop me from categorically saying: We're not making 'Lego Halo.' ... 'Halo' is not a game that is age-rated for young players, and it's not appropriate for us to sort of recruit people into that experience."

TT Games studio head and lead "LEGO Batman" designer Jonathan Smith on the feasibility of making a "LEGO Halo" based on EGM's April Fool's joke, during a telephone interview with MTV Multiplayer this morning.

It's been a rough week for the folks at Ensemble Studios. Following layoff rumors, Microsoft announced that after "Halo Wars" ships on the Xbox 360, the house that "Age of Empires" built will be no more.

But in the meantime, "Halo Wars" still needs to be finished. It's not supposed to arrive until early 2009, and the game's lead writer, Graeme Devine, has pledged his support to continue working on the game.

"We will finish 'Halo Wars' and it continues to be a kick ass game," said Devine to MTV Multiplayer in an e-mail last night. "The reaction at PAX was something else to see, it was the first time I'd seen a fan response to the game, so that absolutely rocked."

Despite Microsoft's intentions to take Ensemble Studios off the map once "Halo Wars" ships, does a promise to "kick ass" make you feel better?

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It's been more than a month since Microsoft slipped to us that Bungie's secret project is a new "Halo." Bungie hyped an E3 reveal, but Microsoft canceled those plans.

Microsoft promised news later this year, but that hasn't materialized yet. During the 1UP Yours panel at PAX, an audience member asked Bungie writer Luke Smith about the still-unannounced game.

"Unfortunately, that's not a question for me," he told an audience member. "You'll have to ask Microsoft."

So, while we had Microsoft's Xbox director of product management on the phone on Wednesday, we asked: When are we going to hear about Bungie's next "Halo" project, Aaron Greenberg?

"Hopefully soon," he told us. "We haven't said anything exactly yet, but I know the 'Halo' nation and Xbox fans out there are waiting and there's been a lot of rumors. We hope to be able to have some more information to share sooner than later."

As soon as we have more news to share, we'll pass it on.

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Microsoft's booth was next to Ubisoft's at PAX. You couldn't help but notice.

So when I had "Halo Wars" lead designer Graeme Devine in front of me, I felt compelled to ask him what he thought of his voice-commanded opposition, "EndWar," across the aisle.

"It's right over there," he said, pointing and laughing. "I really want to go play it. I'm anxious to see it. I've got to admit it's a pretty unique idea and we didn't think of that."

"Halo Wars" is Ensemble Studios' first console strategy game. Devine and his team never considered voice commands for "Halo Wars," but he's okay with that.

"The controller is the one thing that comes with every single unit and people have used that for many, many years," said Devine. "I think it's great that [Ubisoft is] trying a new, different approach and it's always awesome to see that. But I really think the controller is where people will end up."

Sounds like the two can co-exist, according to Devine. What do you think?

You can't read the news lately without seeing Gearbox Software in the headlines.

From rumors of "Halo 4" to the departure of the studio's director of platform technology, Corrinne Yu, to Microsoft's new team tasked with working the "Halo" brand, broken by Kotaku this morning.

MTV Multiplayer reached out to Gearbox president Randy Pitchford for his thoughts on Yu's leaving, what that means for his company and how that relates to their ever-mysterious "big-ticket" (those are his words) new project.

Pitchford started teasing this "big-ticket" project back in February, saying that it's "big" and he couldn't "oversell this one." Immediate speculation pointed to "Halo 4," given Bungie's newfound independence. Yu's move to Microsoft only fueled the rumors.

"We are really excited about Corrinne joining Microsoft!" said Pitchford in an e-mail earlier today. "I expect her to bring a lot of passion and inventiveness on that side. I think there is a lot of value for everyone for this transition."

"Meanwhile," he continued, "Gearbox is really excited about the changes we've made to our Platform department in-line with finishing "Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway" in order for our platform engineers to support the multi-platform launches of "Aliens: Colonial Marines," "Borderlands" and an un-announced big-ticket game."

Pitchford dropped a number of hints about this "big-ticket" game to me. In the same e-mail, he described the very same project as:

* "an unannounced but unbelievable project in development"
* "the big unannounced shooter"

So, we now know Gearbox's hidden project is a shooter -- shock! -- but Pitchford also implies it's a multi-platform project. That doesn't sound like "Halo 4" to us. While that doesn't mean Gearbox won't work on the next "Halo," this particular project doesn't appear to be it.

What do you think?

Is your Xbox Live account safe?

I've filed a story over at MTVNews.com investigating security concerns raised with Xbox Live following my discovery that "Halo 3" multiplayer producer Joe Tung had his account compromise by a hacker.

Tung isn't the first person to lose control of his account.

Hackers have been taking advantage of a popularized technique called social engineering, where an individual (in this case, Microsoft customer service reps) is coerced into releasing otherwise private information. Social engineering isn't a new concept, but it's been a regular problem for Microsoft.

I contacted an avid "Halo" player and expert on the subject of social engineering to explain why this is such a dangerous technique and what steps you can take to prevent your account from being compromised.

And what did Bungie have to say about what happened to Tung? From my story:

Bungie would only tell MTV News that an outside party accessed Tung's account. "We can confirm that Joe's account was compromised," Bungie Studios writer Luke Smith said. "Representatives from Microsoft aided Joe in swiftly resolving the issue."

As for the implications of the compromise: "No comment," Smith said.

Read the rest of my story, which includes tips on protecting XBL accounts, over at MVNews.com: Reports Of Hacked Xbox Live Accounts Stir Concerns Over Gamers' Security

Should game developers and designers have their names on the boxes of the games they make?

We posed this question recently to EA CEO John Riccitiello, who explained why Steven Spielberg's name should be on a game box and why Will Wright's shouldn't.

We've read discussions from gamers arguing for and against the idea. Those against say there's too many people to name, that manuals and the end credits are enough and that's it not fair to single certain people out. Those for having names on boxes, including one David Jaffe, say that games should give credit like movies do because the creative and technical folks behind the project really make the game, and the name recognition allows game makers to have the credibility and leverage while making their way through this booming industry.

You can expand the "Boom Blox" images above to test our first example.

Now let's see what what the boxes of "Super Mario Galaxy," "God of War," "Halo 3" and "Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution" would look like if their creators were given credit... Read More...

As I reported last week, Microsoft has confirmed that Bungie is working on a "Halo" game for the Xbox 360 manufacturer. This revelation came as a surprise to me, tucked in the middle of the E3 interview I conducted with Microsoft's vice president of interactive entertainment business Don Mattrick. Was his revelation intentional or not? You tell me.

Master ChiefHere's something to add to all the E3 drama this week about Bungie Studios' canceled/postponed/hyped debut of a new game...

In an interview shot for MTV News on Tuesday, Microsoft's head of Xbox business Don Mattrick, confirmed to me that Bungie is indeed working on a new "Halo" game of some sort for Microsoft.

I had been asking Mattrick about the lack of "Halo" news at E3. He said that Microsoft's Monday press conference was already loaded with content and so any announcements for that series weren't needed to get gamers excited.

I pushed him on the lack of presence for the series and asked him if we should be worried about the no-show of Ensemble Studio's real-time-strategy game "Halo Wars." Not only did Mattrick say not to worry and that announcements would be coming, he also said that Microsoft is working with Bungie on a "Halo" game.

I asked for clarification, wondering if Mattrick meant Bungie's project was "Halo Wars" or the long-announced Peter Jackson "Halo" project. Neither, Mattrick said. The Bungie game is something else.

And then, not surprisingly, the topic was changed.

In the coming days, we'll have more from the interview -- covering Microsoft's courtship of Square-Enix and the importance of exclusive content and games in the future -- here at the MTV Multiplayer blog.

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