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Halo Wars E3 2007 Demo

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At the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2007, Ensemble Studios showcased a demo of Halo Wars. The demo was later released on the official halowars.com website (which itself launched at the same time as the demo's release[1]) as a free download, alongside a number of screenshots, renders and concept art.[2][3]

This demo should not be confused with the announcement trailer released for the game the previous year and the E3 2008 demo, which showcased a build much closer to the final game and the Five Long Years cinematic trailer.

Overview[edit]

E3 showcase[edit]

The demo was showcased at E3 in 2007. The build was put together in the weeks leading up to the event, and taken to Santa Monica by Producer Chris Rippy and Lead Designer Graeme Devine, wherein the demo was shown to around three hundred journalists over the course of three days, who were able to play the demo. The demo was positively recieved, with the console-centric controls picked up by the players without much issue. To showcase the demo, a number of spare devkits were taken to the event in case of issues, though they were ultimately not needed.[1]

Demo contents[edit]

The ten-minute pre-recorded demo showcases Ensemble Studios' lead game designer Graeme Devine playing through a short segment of an alpha build of Halo Wars, showing off a number of features for the first time.

The demo opens with Devine giving a brief rundown of the game's story and setting, before jumping into the action. The actual game footage opens with a panning shot of a Pelican dropship and two Sparrowhawk gunships (notably, the first time these aircraft were ever revealed) heading toward a UNSC base on an unknown Forerunner installation. The track De Facto the Matter from the Halo Wars: Original Soundtrack plays in the background. The Pelican drops off its troops, and Serina informs the player that Covenant forces are situated to the north of the base and about to attack. However, Devine (now controlling the game) proceeds to showcase some of the structures and buildings that make up the base facility.

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Transcript[edit]

Ensemble Studios logo is shown, followed by the Halo Wars title art. Concept arts are shown.

  • Graeme Devine: "Hello! My name is Graeme Devine, lead designer on Halo Wars. I am very excited to give you this early glimpse to the game. Halo Wars is set in the year 2531, right as the UNSC has retaken the planet called Harvest. We follow the adventures of the UNSC support vessel, called Spirit of Fire. One crew member, the ship's AI Serina, will be helping me out today. Let's get to the demo."

Opens to a cinematic: two Pelicans flying over a natural terrain.

  • Devine: "This is Halo Wars. Built from the ground up for the Xbox 360."

One of the Pelicans fly away while the second flies over a lake.

  • Serina: "If you're through taking the scenic route, we need your help. Yeah, get a move on, boys!"

Two smaller UNSC aircrafts join the Pelican.

  • Devine: "These are UNSC Hawks. They are one of the new vehicles we are adding into the game."

The aircrafts fly over a wall and arrive at a UNSC base inside a canyon. Marines exit from the Pelican, which then flies away. Gameplay begins.

  • Serina: "The Covenant are on the move, north of the base. Why don't we get a little of fire practice in?"

View shifts upwards to Warthogs under repairs near the base entrance.

  • Devine: "Before we go get some fire practice in, let's take a look around the base. This is a UNSC base, built by humans. Humans work here. Humans live here. We really wanted to get that feel across. So here's some guys working on Warthogs. Lots of extra wheels."

View shifts left to the Airpad.

  • Devine: "This is a UNSC Airpad. Some Hawks hanging out at the runway. This is an example of buildings UNSC can make in the game. In fact, all of these are buildings you can make in the game."

View shifts left to two missile silos.

  • Devine: "Some missile silos. Two guys standing uncomfortably close to the edge."

View shifts downwards to a barracks.

  • Devine: "So back here is a really good example of the human flare added into the game. UNSC infantry doing push-ups."

View shifts downwards to a supply depot. Upwards, there is a command center. To its right, there are two vehicle depots.

  • Devine: "Here we have supply depots, bringing down supplies from Spirit of Fire, which is orbiting overhead. A command center, and vehicle depots, where we keep all of our Warthogs and Scorpions."

View shifts upwards and the reticule hovers over one squad of Marines.

  • Devine: "Selecting is an important part of a real-time strategy game, and there are lots of really good ways to select units in Halo Wars. One of the easiest ways is to point at the squad and press A, and then you can press X to move that squad around."

The squad of Marines moves around the base.

  • Devine: "Another way is to double press on the A button, which selects all squads of the same type on the screen at once."

The two squads move around the base.

  • Devine: "The third way is to hold and hold down the A button, which brings up a paint brush, allowing me to paint the squads I wish to use."

The two squads of Marine move around the base. View shifts upwards, past the base entrance, to two lances of Covenant, each composed of six Unggoy and one Sangheili.

  • Devine: "So let's take these squads up and engage the Covenant."

The Marines approach the Covenant and the two sides fire weapons at each other.

  • Serina: "Why don't we get some Warthogs up here?"

Despite taking down a few Unggoy, the Marines are wiped out.

  • Devine: "Those Needlers are chewing up our infantry. We brought the wrong squad to the battle."

View jumps back to the command center.

  • Devine: "So let's jump back to our base. Using the D-Pad, I can jump around the map very quickly. I can jump back to my base, back to my battles, and back to my armies."

The reticule moves to one of the vehicle depots and selects the building, bringing up the circle menu.

  • Devine: "Selecting the vehicle depot... brings up what we consider one of the most important menus in the game — the circle menu. It takes up the whole screen. We use it for everything from building infantry to building vehicles, building buildings, and calling in leader powers. I got around it using the analogue joystick, and I can select any one of these vehicles here."

The Warthog option is selected.

  • Devine: "Pressing A, I can make a Warthog."

A Warthog exits the depot immediately.

  • Devine: "The Warthog is perhaps one of the most iconic vehicles in the Halo games. Everyone knows what the Warthog sounds like, looks like, feels like, drives like. So getting that right in Halo Wars is really important."

The Warthog is commanded to move around the base.

  • Devine: "We built a lot physics into the engine; it fishtails around, it moves, and drives, just like the Warthog from the Halo games, and you will see this with other vehicles we have too."

The second vehicle depot is highlighted.

  • Devine: "So I'm gonna build another Warthog here."

A second Warthog exits from the second depot immediately.

  • Devine: "Now let's go up, and re-engage those Covenant."

The Warthogs approach the Covenant infantry and both sides open fire.

  • Devine: "I'm doing much better this time."

The Warthog moves up, running over some Unggoy before firing at another lance ahead.

  • Devine: "Another good way to take out the Covenant is always to run over them."

The second Warthog moves up.

  • Devine: "I'm getting some real-time damage there on my Warthog."

Together, the two Warthog eliminate the final group of Covenant infantry.

  • Devine: "This is a really good time to look at the graphics we have in the game. The beautiful shadows and lights."

The view holds over the Warthogs and a tunnel entrance.

  • Devine: "So, territory control is also really important in real-time strategy games."

The views continues down the path in front of Warthogs. There is a chasm on the path.

  • Serina: "Whoa boys, picking up some really big stuff in front of you! Reinforcements are on the way!"
  • Devine: "That canyon might stop a lot of vehicles, but let's see what Warthogs can do that."

The Warthog are commanded to drive across the chasm.

  • Devine: "Warthogs can gain strategic control of areas in the map, where other vehicles can't get to."
  • Serina: "Reinforcements incoming."

Further down the path, there is a giant battle between Covenant infantry and UNSC Marines in front of a Forerunner structure.

  • Devine: "So here we have a much larger conflict between the Covenant and the UNSC. We have a lot of Covenant infantry, so we are gonna have to bring in our Warthogs and start there to work on that."

Banshees circle over the battle as the Warthogs are commanded to drive into battle.

  • Devine: "The real problem here, though, isn't the infantry. It's the Banshees flying overhead. They're just chewing me up. I've got nothing shooting at them. My Warthogs are concentrating on the infantry, and my own infantry can shoot at the Banshees, but they're not very effective. I'm gonna have to get some help."
  • Serina: "Wolverines at your disposal!"

Wolverines drive up behind the Warthogs and begin shooting down Banshees.

  • Devine: "Wolverines are the UNSC anti-air vehicle. They are really powerful anti-air units. They'll be able to take care of those Banshees, no problem at all, but we are gonna have to keep them protected on the ground."

The Warthogs are commanded to move forward, followed by the Wolverines.

  • Serina: "Boots on the ground!"
  • Devine: "I'm gonna bring in some more infantry to back me up."

More Marines join in the battle.

  • Devine: "But it looks like the Covenant are bringing in some Ghosts. Those plasma cannons are gonna start to chew up my vehicles."

The Ghosts attack the Warthogs. The Marines are commanded to attack the Ghosts.

  • Serina: "Got some Scorpions inbound! Get them on those Ghosts."
  • Devine: "So I'm gonna bring in some heavy armor here, and let's see if we can turn the tide of this battle around."

Three Scorpions approach from the back and are commanded to attack the Ghosts.

  • Devine: "I don't think those Ghosts are going to be a problem anymore."

The battle tips into the UNSC's favor. A cinematic plays: a large hatch in the distance opens, and a Scarab climbs out.

  • Serina: "What the heck is that?!"
  • Devine: "But the Covenant always has one more little trick."

Gameplay resumes. The Scarab enters the battlefield.

  • Serina: "Well, this is new... and scary."
  • Devine: "I'm going to select everything I have, and get them to fire at that Scarab."

Despite under attack by Marines, Warthogs, Wolverines, and Scorpions, the Scarab opens fire, quickly destroying the UNSC units.

  • Devine: "The Scarab has an anti-everything gun. I'm losing."

The UNSC forces are nearly wiped out.

  • Serina: "The MAC is online and primed. Payback time!
  • Devine: "I have the Spirit of Fire overhead and orbiting, and it has a MAC. Let's aim it, and see what it does."

Entering the Leader powers menu, the MAC option is highlighted, and the MAC reticule appears. It moves to the Scarab.

  • Serina: "Firing!"

Six MAC shots rain down on the Scarab, which explodes.

  • Serina: "Enemy destroyed."
  • Devine: "I think that's a pretty good point to end this demo. Thanks for watching, guys."
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Changes from the final release of Halo Wars[edit]

The Type-47A Scarab in the demo.
"Last year, it was a lot of the PC RTS still in transition to the console. We've built it from the ground up to be a console RTS, and figuring out how to have the same fun in an RTS game has taken a lot of iteration, and we're actually really happy with the result now. [The 2008 build is] more ability focused than it was last year -- you'd see a lot more special abilities, and the overall gameplay is slanted very much to combat while still retaining a lot of the core RTS balance between combat and economy. It's what Ensemble's known for so we brought that over, but it's done completely differently."
— Dave Pottinger, looking back on the E3 2007 demo build.[4]

The E3 2007 stage demo showcases a radically different game than what eventually released in 2009 - later remarked upon by Pottinger as " a lot of the PC RTS still in transition to the console".[4] When put together, the demo represented one of the first times the art team was able to put all of their work together for a presentation, and helped future development by identifying weaker areas in the visual design.[5] The game has a noticeably muddier visual tone, and showcases a number of units and buildings that never made the final release. One of the most radical of these is the inclusion of the Type-47A Scarab; the Scarab design featured prominently in Halo 2. By the final release, this Scarab was cut entirely and replaced with the Type-47B model that made its debut in Halo 3. Other units seen in the demo and related promotional imagery that would later be cut from the final release include the Elite Rangers and Brute Tank.

Some images and media released alongside the demo depict the setting of the demo as taking place on a Halo ring - a vast departure from the shield world setting of the final game.

Base building[edit]

"The next (and last) big problem on base building and building size turned out to be the need for the units to exit their buildings. We really wanted to showcase that. It had been received very well in our E3 2007 demo. We had gutted that base scheme during the various un-fun iterations of the “place anywhere” systems, so most of the E3 2007 stuff was gone. But, we were determined to keep the units exiting their buildings. But those tanks are so f’ing big. Each building site had to be big enough to accommodate the Vehicle Depot, which was killing our attempts to reduce the base size."
— Dave Pottinger on the E3 2007 bases.[6]

Of the changes from this build to the final build, the most notable is that of the UNSC base construction system. In this build of Halo Wars, base building was intended to be much more free-form than the system seen in the final game, with bases and buildings seemingly able to be placed anywhere the player liked - much akin to more traditional real-time strategy games. The base designs seen in the build shown at E3 2007 demonstrate a total aesthetic change from the final game; the Airpad building contains a runway and hangar with Sparrowhawks docked on the runway, the Barracks building has Marines doing drill exercises outside it and the other buildings - the command centre, Vehicle Depot and Field Armory all demonstrate notable aesthetic changes. In addition, the base has some additional building types; the missile silo and the landing pad.

It is unknown precisely how base site selection was intended to work in this build of the game. In the demo, the base is nestled into a custom-built section of the map, complete with specially-designed perimeter walls, towers and turrets (all of which were cut from final release). Ultimately, this system was deemed as too complex, with the development team ultimately working on five redesigns of the building system over the following year to reach the system found in the E3 2008 demo and the final game. One thing that was particularly well-recieved from the E3 2007 demo was the appearance of units physically leaving the base, and this was ultimately kept for final release.[6]

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