The History of Halo Grifball

In celebration of the launch of Halo 4’s Grifball playlist, Bs Angel asked Bernie Burns, creator of Griball and Red vs. Blue, to give us a little background on how Grifball came to be, in this week’s The Halo Bulletin.


As posted by Bs Angel in this week’s Bulletin:

Hi, Burnie! Let’s start with the basics: Who the heck is Grif?

Burnie: Grif is the Red Team’s lovable slacker in our Halo-based series Red vs. Blue. He is voiced by Geoff Ramsey, Rooster Teeth’s lovable slacker. Grif serves two purposes in the show: He provides a comedic balance to Sarge and he also helps us figure out which of our audience members can’t tell the difference between the colors orange and yellow. For the record, he is orange. [bs angel note: Don’t look at the picture above. Cough.]

And how did the ball variant of Grif come to be?

Burnie: Microsoft asked us to make a promotional video for the Halo 3 Heroic Map Pack which featured the map Foundry. We got the codes about a week early and knocked out a really fun video called “D.I.Y.” which focused on the Forge elements of this particular add-on. After we turned in the video, we had a few days until release. We used that extra time to make some crazy creations in Forge and even a couple of game types. One of those was a clear standout: Grifball.

Clear standout, indeed. What was the creation process like for this particular game type?

Burnie: I have always liked alternative sports games – titles like Arch Rivals, NFL Blitz and Pigskin 621 AD. So, I wanted to make some kind of Halo-based sport. We made a “paintball” variant first, but it wasn’t terribly different than playing SWAT with pistols. Plus, it’s a very poorly kept secret that most of us at RvB are pretty mediocre Halo players and can’t shoot worth a damn. So, I started looking at the Assault game mode and thinking about how we could use the bomb as a ball. We made an initial variant that was a one-sided goal with people taking turns on offense; then we added the second goal and it really felt like a sports game. There was an older Halo 2 episode of RvB where Sarge talked about a game named Grifball. Gavin Free (Slow Mo Guys, Achievement Hunter) was helping me with the testing and he suggested forcing the ball carrier to turn orange in the true spirit of Grifball. I wanted the players to be physical, so I took away the guns and gave them hammers and swords.

How much iteration did Grifball go through before landing on the final variant?

Burnie: I would say it went through four or five versions before we took it public. For about two days, Gav and I were the best Grifball players in the entire world. After that, the community grabbed it and ran with it. It’s impossible to say how many versions have existed since we turned it loose. The biggest revisions came from expert map makers like Nokyard, who refined the wall blocking Foundry’s maintenance bays. He made it a real barrier. Our first wall was a seriously miserable construction. Then the crew at GrifballHub started tweaking the gameplay to keep it competitive and make it more accessible to new players.

One of the neat things about Grifball is that it continues to evolve. What is your favorite thing about the Halo 4 version?

Burnie: Just the fact that Grifball appears in the official playlist is an amazing experience for me. We are very proud to have contributed something to the Halo franchise that actually contributes to the gameplay experience. I don’t think that most of the people who play Grifball even know the connection with Red vs Blue. Plus, I get to add a Game Design section to my resume. Which I totally did.

As you should have! So, as someone that has numerous Grifball games under their belt, what is the funniest thing that’s happened when playing this game type?

Burnie: It’s always hilarious to get the opposing team to take each other out. Friendly Fire is traditionally left on in Grifball; it adds to the mayhem of the initial rushes. A great runner can get two of his opponents to take each other out when they come to hammer him and it clears the path to the goal.

I may or may not fall for that every time. Besides the above, what other strategies do you recommend for Halo 4 Grifball?

Burnie: If you’re a new player, camp the opposing team’s spawn point. It’s a legitimate strategy – and a great way to get a Killionaire. If you find a good team in Matchmaking, be sure to party up with them. You will dominate. The best part about Grifball is the rhythm you can get in with a hammer. It’s not unusual to find yourself hammering away in massive streaks.

Thanks for the advice. Before you ride into the sunset, I have one more question: If Grif were here, what do you think he’d say?

Burnie: He would call in sick. Even Grifball is too much work for him.

I can totally relate. Thanks for chatting, Burnie, and for creating one of the most bestest game types in the history of ever!


Go to The Halo Bulletin: 1.30.13 >>

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