Halo 4 developers explain pulling off distinctive design

Halo 4's developers at 343 Industries had a tall task in building the first main game in the series not made by Bungie, and at a panel held during New York Comic Con this weekend, design leads on the title explained how they made Halo 4 a unique experience that still felt familiar.

Audio director Sotaro Tojima wanted to make the series' new enemies, the Prometheans, sound like "something really vicious and unique." In order to pull it off, he blended human voices with the guttural, spine-tingling growls of the Tasmanian devil. Tojima also presented a live demo of Halo 4's distinctive weapon sounds — firing the Scattershot, Needler and pistol — before discussing the game's score, which was written by Neil Davidge of Massive Attack. Marty O'Donnell put together stirring, iconic orchestrations for Bungie's Halo games, but Tojima said that 343 decided to work with Davidge because his work melds "digital and organic" music to create compositions that are still "great at establishing dramatic melody."

Nicolas Bouvier, 343's lead concept artist, spoke of the art team's work envisioning science-fiction structures and worlds to fit with the massive, established Halo canon. Halo 4's art direction didn't really come together until the team was designing the Haven map, said Bouvier. At some point, everything clicked, with the design of the map's massive monolith (seen above) unifying the themes Bouvier wanted to express in Halo 4's Forerunner habitats — diagonals and symmetry.

Bouvier next showed off Meltdown, a symmetrical map set in a deep, icy gulch. He pointed out that the map's non-natural elements, as parts of a Forerunner installation, should appear as if they grew into the environment itself. Finally, he highlighted Ragnarok, Halo 4's updated version of the Halo 3 map known as Valhalla. Forerunner architecture, said Bouvier, should be "visually rhythmical"; Ragnarok's Forerunner bases exhibit strong diagonal lines and vertical symmetry.

Check out Halo 4's audiovisual design for yourself when the game launches on Nov. 6 — Election Day — exclusively on Xbox 360.

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