Custom challenges is another new feature that 343 Industries is excited about. The feature is a riff on the daily and weekly challenges that 343 issues. It allows friends to create their own challenges for one another, such as scoring 50 headshots in a multiplayer match within 24 hours. The custom challenge option will be available in Campaign, Matchmaking Firefight, Multiplayer, and Custom modes.
More than just bragging rights, completed custom challenges yield Halo: Reach credits, at a rate that fluctates depending on the difficulty and circumstances of the task. Reach credits can then be spent on cosmetic upgrades, such as new Spartan armor.
To begin, what is ATLAS? "Advanced Technical Assault System," Halo franchise development director Frank O'Connor told GameSpot. Yes, but where is the L? "It's a real term, so we pulled an acronym out of it. So the L is the L in Technical."
As for what it does, ATLAS is a Windows Phone 7 app that will be available this holiday that offers a top-down view of any official Halo: Anniversary or Halo: Reach map (but not custom maps). The map is updated in real-time as players battle it out, which means combatants can keep tabs on their allies and where weapon drops are throughout the course of a match.
"We tried to imagine what a Spartan in the field might actually have if they had an assisted system from the future," explained CJ Saretto, lead producer for Halo Waypoint. They posited that future soldiers would have satellite imagery as well as floor plans for facilities, all annotated with notable information such as where weapon drops and vehicles could be found, what weapons players' allies are wielding, the match's score, and so on.
The maps themselves can either be viewed as satellite imagery or "what might think of as map view from Google Maps."
Of course, all of this information is only useful if players are able to actually view it--not the easiest thing to do with a controller in hand and plasma discharging all about.
"There?s a number of set-ups that we?ve imagined," Saretto said. "We?ve imagined the phone kind of sitting on the coffee table in front of you and you checking it out on occasion if you?re wondering what?s going on. We?ve also imagined a co-pilot style scenario where another person is watching what?s occurring while you?re playing and kind of giving you additional information."
"We also think about, if you?re in a firefight, you've ducked behind a corner, you?re kind of hidden, you take time to look at where your team mates are," Halo Waypoint executive producer Doug Hebenthal added. In other words, steal a glance while the Spartan's shield recharges. Saretto also noted that the app will follow a player as they move through the level, so there isn't a process of orienting oneself in the app.
The ATLAS app appears as if it will give players a leg-up over those who don't own a Windows Phone 7 device. However, O'Connor noted that the app actually has "built-in" balancing, in that every time a player glances down, they are splitting their attention away from the game, a move that always comes with hazards.
When asked whether the team had ideas as to where to take this app in the future, O'Connor replied, "Yes." Fair enough.
"Now that we?ve got all of this very interesting data coming out of the game, there?s a lot of very exciting stuff that we can think about doing with the data," Saretto added. "We just need to figure out, you know, when we?re ready to bring those kind of exciting experiences online."
Some fresh Hang Em High videos coming Monday too. This is in addition to the CEA Anniversary Achievements being released and the horrible CEA Kinect features reveal - Analyse and Library (details in the CE Section).