In anticipation of Halo 5: Guardians, ASTRO Gaming recently visited 343 Industries to talk with employees about what fans could expect from the new Halo 5: Guardians, the future of Halo eSports, and, the people behind the game.
Andy “Bravo” Dudynsky is the Community Manager for 343 Industries, and has had a long and successful history as a professional Halo coach and announcer for Major League Gaming. We sat down with Andy for 20 minutes to get to know more about the person behind Bravo, and see what his vision is for the future of Halo eSports.
Who are you?
My name is Andy Dudynsky. I’m known as Bravo in the gaming world, and I work in Community and eSports here at 343 Industries. I kind of grew up playing competitive Halo since Halo: Combat Evolved. During Halo 2, I started competing and eventually coaching pro teams. For about 5 years, I did that non-stop while also attending college. Through this, I started to work my way, almost accidentally, into the gaming industry.
How did Bravo come about?
The story of my gamertag isn’t a terribly interesting one. I used to play America’s Army on the PC, under JTBravo113. America’s Army was a great game, by the way. One of the first PC shooters that really grabbed me, outside of Counter-Strike. But I was playing America’s Army under JTBravo113, which was a pretty awful and average gamertag, so I had to simplify to Bravo. And it stuck to the point where now all of my friends and co-workers refer to me exclusively as Bravo.
How did you end up at 343?
My journey into the games industry and to 343 was quite exciting. After doing a lot of competing and coaching professional teams, as well as commentating (shoutcasting) a bit, I started to transition into creating YouTube content. Then, in 2012, I followed Halo 4 around the country as the 343 team celebrated and promoted the launch of that title. So I found myself at events like PAX East, Comic-Con, and E3, just like years prior. But this time, very organically, and almost accidentally, I was meeting members of the 343 team and helping them with different things at shows such as RTX and E3. So from there, I just so happened to get to know a lot the 343 team quite well. I knew a lot about Halo 4 pre-launch, and that kind of worked out. I ended up at the right place at the right time, because they were opening up some positions to work on Halo multiplayer and community stuff.
So they offered me a job here, which is still regarded by most as a questionable decision. Being a part of the Halo community for over a decade, it just made sense. I packed my bags, moved across the country, and I’ve been working on Halo ever since.
How has your past influenced what you’re doing now for Halo: 5 Guardians?
I think in a lot of ways, all the work that I’ve done over the last decade has shaped all of my contributions to Halo, Halo eSports and Halo multiplayer. I grew up playing Halo nonstop, and if there’s one thing I’ve consistently done, if there’s one thread throughout my life, it is Halo and Halo multiplayer. Taking those learnings, what I know about the community, the different fan bases and the different playstyles and applying that to not only current titles but also Halo 5 has obviously been an awesome opportunity. There’s been a lot of learning along the way, and I’m lucky that I’ve been able to take feedback from the community and give these ideas and thoughts directly to developers and designers as they create these experiences.
How do you engage the community?
Every day here at the studio consists of constant scanning to see what the community is talking about. We’re blessed in that every day there’s new Halo news, whether it’s something created by fans, or a new episode of The Sprint, Hunt the Truth, etc. Each day, there are new things being talked about, new plays someone pulled off last night, new armor that a costume designer created, and more. That’s really exciting.
Year after year, you see things that are iteratively designed or completely overhauled – and a lot of that is shaped by what the community says and what fans would like to see, even when they don’t realize it. Having designers that are so hungry for that feedback is such a rewarding experience for someone who gets to work in Community like myself, or the team that’s designing the eSports experience. Having the Forge team come to me and say “Hey, what do Forgers want? Give us a bulleted list of the changes they want to see” and then actually see those changes implemented over the course of development is really, really exciting. Halo 5’s Forge is a great example, really. That team looked through countless pieces of feedback – hundreds and hundreds – when building this brand new Forge. The same applies to the Halo 5 Arena Multiplayer Beta. Throughout the beta, we took feedback from every corner of the internet, and put together summaries for the dev team. Josh, Quinn, Kevin, and the rest of the team poured over that feedback, and immediately started putting in DCRs (design change requests) to get features tweaked and tuned based on community feedback, and over the past few months, those changes have been brought into the final game. Being able to work with devs and designers to help community input shape experiences is undoubtedly the best part of my job – and it’s all possible because our team is so insistent on delivering a game that Halo fans love.
What is it about Halo that has you hanging on for so long?
I think what has me so attached, so invested, in Halo for such a long time is really just the people, first and foremost. The lifelong friendships I’ve made playing this game, people I’ve met all around the world who absolutely love Halo.
I’ve met some of my best friends from all around the world playing this game. To continually get to enjoy and celebrate those friendships through Halo gameplay I think is a thrill for not just me, but a lot of people. And there’s nothing like Halo gameplay and multiplayer. There’s a lot of first person shooters out in the market, but there’s something about the flow of Halo multiplayer that just has me coming back, and I think a lot of people as well. I’m excited to see both old and new faces enjoying Halo 5.
What are the goals for the eSports side of Halo?
I think at the highest level, the goal is to simply be the best Halo eSports title the series has seen. In a lot of ways, we’re designing features from the ground up that the game has never seen. One of the goals of Halo 5 is to take the core gameplay and standardize it so that everyone is playing the same game. Everyone, whether they’re playing at home or watching a tournament on a big stage, can really enjoy and relate to that gameplay and be really familiar with it.
It’s been really neat to see how the title has evolved for both myself and a lot of members of Pro Team who have a lot of years of experience competing, coaching and playing throughout the years. To now see so many eSports features integrated directly into the game is of course really exciting as a fan. For the first time, we’re seeing what the design team can do when we’re spending time and resources on features that are built to not only create a great eSports environment but also create a fantastic multiplayer mode all-up.
I’ve also been really lucky to attend so many tournaments over the past decade, probably somewhere between 50 and 75 Halo tournaments, and I’ve learned a great deal from these experiences. I’ve been able to talk to pro players and amateur players alike. What do they love about these tournaments? What has them coming back to these events, and what brings them back to Halo year after year, game after game? And I think with the last year of Halo Championships Series, we learned a ton about professional organizations, about what a professional eSports organization needs to be able to invest in a league. We’ve also learned a great deal about what fans want and need. Having all those learnings now, and being able to apply 10+ years of tournament experience to the Halo World Championship is, of course, really exciting. And now that we have Halo 5: Guardians, the first Halo title that has eSports features invested straight into the game, with Xbox’s largest investment in eSports in the Halo World Championship; I think we have a real platform for success and I hope fans enjoy it as much as we do.
How important is communication in a game?
Having coached professional teams for so many years, I can safely say that communication is everything in competitive Halo. It’s simple. How are the players communicating with one another other? What are they telling each other to do? Are they instructing? Are they leading? Are they listening? How is their tone, as a team? All of that. And I think if you watch a professional Halo team play for the first time, it’ll sound like absolute chaos. You have these players screaming into their microphones, and shouting out what sounds like military orders. But to the trained ear, it’s all quite coordinated and quite organized. What you’ll see is that the top teams that have the best communication styles and the best team chemistry are the ones that really excel. Rarely will you find a team winning a tournament or even placing highly if they don’t have that communication and that chemistry to get them through.
I had the opportunity to coach professional teams before ASTRO and pro headsets came into the scene. So, back then, we were in these hotel ballrooms, playing Halo 2 and absolutely screaming our lungs out. I think one of the principle reasons that coaches existed back then was simply so that the player on the far left could be aware of what the player on the far right was doing – and saying. You quite seriously can’t hear a thing when you have 256 teams all yelling in one single ballroom. It was absolute chaos. I think when ASTRO came into the scene, we really started to see communication and strategy change quite a bit. I mean, teams really went from yelling and trying to coordinate to much more methodical and thought-out plays and decisions. ASTRO headsets changed the game. Now, it’s just you and your teammates in a “private” environment, and you can kind of coordinate attacks and plays, listening to each other.
Fast forward a bit more, and now you have each team in their sound-proof booth, and it feels like we’re finally starting to see what can happen when a team can have flawless, uninterrupted communication throughout a match.
Any final thoughts for the fans and the community waiting for this game for 2+ years?
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the entire Halo community and competitive Halo fans who have been with us on this journey. Each and every event and tournament, we’re so grateful for everyone who tunes in and joins us for the broadcast. We love celebrating the top players in the world, and seeing what they can do. We couldn’t be more excited for the Halo World Championship, and what’s to follow afterwards. And we hope you’ll join us.
Halo 5: Guardians arrives October 27, 2015!