Microsoft first announced the addition of an ATLAS to Halo Waypoint back in October. But the ATLAS didn’t show up with the Halo WayPoint Mango update that coincided with Halo Anniversary’s release. Thankfully we’ve learned today that the ATLAS is not very far off – it’s coming this Saturday, December 10.
Halo ATLAS uses maps (sponsored by Brady Games) to provide valuable multiplayer data to Halo Reach and Anniversary players. When we say Halo Anniversary players, we really mean Reach players because the non-campaign Anniversary multiplayer simply piggybacks off of Reach.
The connectivity with Reach is possible because during multiplayer games, Reach constantly sends out packets of data called heartbeats that contain gameplay status. Halo ATLAS provides a bunch of that information in near-real-time to smartphone users.
Some of Halo ATLAS’s features:
- Weapon and vehicle spawn locations for Matchmaking and Firefight games.
- Health pack locations.
- Near-real-time locations for weapons and vehicles during Custom Multiplayer games.
- Your location and that of your team members displayed on the map.
- Visual indicators when your teammates are engaged in combat and when they are killed, and even when they positioning themselves to strike
- ‘Follow me’ mode to track your movement.
- Dynamic player list, including current score for the teams and each player and equipped weapon for you and your teammates.
Access to all of this information during multiplayer games could potentially change the balance of matches, something 343 has already considered. As such, the near-real-time information won’t appear during ranked matches. You’ll still be able to view maps with weapon and vehicle spawns, but won’t see player locations or where weapons and vehicles get moved. It sounds like that bumps ATLAS down from indispensable to just a fun gadget, but it should still helpful in custom games.
While having an advantage over other players wouldn’t be an issue during cooperative Firefight games, ATLAS won’t support near-real-time updates in Firefight maps just yet. Improved Firefight support should come with a future update.
Coming soon to a smartphone near you
One surprising part of today’s announcement is that Halo WayPoint and ATLAS will be coming to iOS and Android platforms, not just Windows Phone. Allow me to editorialize for a bit. While multiplatform availability is a good thing for gamers in general, publishing WayPoint and ATLAS on competing platforms definitely sends mixed signals about Microsoft’s confidence in their own mobile platform. After all, every time a Windows Phone-exclusive feature moves off to other pastures, that’s one less reason for people to switch over to Windows Phone. On the plus side, ATLAS will be free on Microsoft’s platform but cost $4.99 on iOS and Android. That’s kind of an advantage for Windows Phone.
The future of ATLAS
ATLAS will receive several new features down the line in addition to the aforementioned improved Firefight support. Some possibilities include support for user-customized FORGE maps, more data for objective-based maps (flag, oddball, and hill location, etc.), and a spectator mode for viewing tournament games. The more of these ideas end up in the product, the more useful it will be to Halo Reach players.
The Halo ATLAS update to Halo WayPoint is scheduled for this Saturday in English-speaking countries. ATLAS will be released in other languages shortly thereafter.
Thanks to Mouthsmasher for the tip!