Bungie Weekly Update: 03/11/2011
Posted by urk at 3/11/2011 1:17 PM PST
Last time we chatted up Max Hoberman for the weekly update his fledgling studio, Certain Affinity, had just embarked upon a bold, new adventure. The world was Max’s succulent oyster, and he planned on sucking the shell dry. But after hitching his hopes and dreams to risky ventures with upstart developers like Valve and Treyarch, Max and his team have been forced to come crawling back, begging for another tug on the warm and welcoming teat of the Halo mother. The best part about it? His comfort nursing will feed your craving for nutrient rich new multiplayer maps.

Due to a clerical oversight in Certain Affinity’s work order Max finds himself obligated to answer seven questions about the Defiant Map Pack for us, right here on Bungie.net. (He’s also obligated to DJ in our Gentleman’s Club from 6-10pm on Fridays, but we’re not having him answer any questions on that front. What happens in Doyle’s man cave stays in Doyle’s man cave.)

So without further ado, here’s Max, ready to wax Defiantly.

Q. Aside from the comically large sacks stuffed with cold, hard cash, what makes Halo a good fit for Certain Affinity?

A. I like how you've phrased this question! Halo is a good fit for Certain Affinity because it's in our DNA - we have a ton of history with the game, and especially with multiplayer. We also have a lot of experience with other shooters, and I like to think that while we understand what makes Halo wonderful we also bring a little bit of fresh perspective.

Q. Speaking of making Halo wonderful, last time we spoke with you your team had just retrofitted a pair of classic Halo multiplayer maps - Hang 'Em High and Derelict - for Halo 2, a title you donated blood, sweat, and more than a few of your own personal tears to. Defiant features three brand new spaces for a game you didn't directly work on. How does that change your team's approach, and how do you make sure that you're making the right calls for fans?

A. It was definitely a new experience not being close to the decision making on Reach. We worked in stealth mode, without contact with Bungie, since you had your hands full finishing the game. However we had a way to vet our assumptions - the team at 343. These guys were involved with Halo: Reach from day one, so having their support was huge. Their community and test teams in particular were fantastic resources, as they basically wrapped up Reach and then moved immediately to testing our maps and giving us tons of feedback. Some of this feedback was shaped by the community's reactions to the game when it launched, so hopefully fans will find our maps enjoyable.

Q. Follow up: We still have your blood, sweat, and tears along with a box of your personal effects here at the studio. Do you want us to return them, or is it okay for us to continue running our "scientific" experiments?

A. Considering that I sent those to you as a present I'm a bit offended that you'd offer to give them back.

Q. To be honest, I only made the offer out of courtesy. I knew you’d decline. Besides, we’ve already harvested your DNA and began full production of the Hoberman Clone Army. I’ve already said too much. Let’s get back to the maps.

You broke away from the standard competitive multiplayer map formula and went with one Firefight mission and two competitive spaces this time around. Why did you switch it up, and what challenges did this approach present to the team (bearing in mind that I already know that you know our AI pathfinding is an absolute joy to work with)?

A. A lot of the Firefight spaces that shipped with Reach came directly from the campaign. We thought that it would be interesting to mix it up a bit and design a brand new space specifically for PvE from the ground up. This proved to be a bit of a challenge because we were working on our maps while the game was still in development, which meant things were breaking and changing all the time. But we pushed through and ended up with a very fun Firefight map with a heavy vehicle emphasis and a heck of a lot of strategic options. I just played a generator defense game on Unearthed today and it was a blast.

Q. “A blast!” Sweet pun. Tell me something I couldn't possibly know about these maps from checking out the trailers and press materials. The Seventh Column demands revelations, direct from the source.

A. Well, let's see. In early versions of Unearthed we had a gigantic earth mover truck. Unfortunately this didn't make the cut due to budgetary restrictions. Oh, and we also had an achievement known as "Victory Crouch" - I'll leave the requirements to your imagination. Alas, this didn't make it into the final version either.

Q. Now tell our fans about all the hidden eggs you've tucked away in Defiant's nooks and crannies. Detailed instructions only. How many eggs are there, and where exactly can we find them?

A. Well if I told you they wouldn't be secrets now, would they?

Q. I’ll consider that question rhetorical.

When you last walked the hallowed halls inside Bungie, we were forced to grow, grind, and brew our own coffee. Today, we boast not one, but three indentured robots that serve up a full range of delicious caffeinated beverages to help quench our thirst for World Domination. Clearly, we have come a long way and been met with much success since you left us to dine with only our thoughts and a three pack of crayons to keep us company in that dimly lit corner booth at Applebee's so many moons ago. What's changed at Certain Affinity since we last touched base?

A. Really, you have coffeebots? I'm still on the fence about supplying an endless stream of sugary caffeinated beverages to our team, but I did cave and spring for an industrial strength coffee machine. But it's not fully robotic ... yet. Let's see, what else? Since we last spoke Certain Affinity has been growing by leaps and bounds. We're 50 full timers now, and we just settled into a new office space - a long term home instead of shacking up with a different stranger each night. We've also worked on a few games since the Blastacular map pack ... Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty, Halo Waypoint, and of course our own little multiplayer Arcade game, Age of Booty.

Q. Impressive! Got anything else hidden up your sleeve that you want reveal before you fulfill your contractual obligation and leave us once again with a giant, Max-shaped hole in our hearts?

A. Well yes, I do indeed have a few more things up my sleeve, we're busy little bees. But all I can say right now is keep an eye out for more news at www.certainaffinity.com. Thanks again for the call, don't be a stranger!

And just like that, Max once again leaves us wanting for more.

Under the Matchmaking Hood

Since Max has you covered on the Q&A front, we’ve conscripted Jeremiah to fill you in on the implementation side of things. What good are maps if you have no one to play them with? While I ponder the ice cold feeling of frigid loneliness that now pierces the heart of me, here are all the details on how we’re making the new map pack play nice with our existing matchmaking line up.

The Defiant Map Pack playlist will go live as soon as possible on the 15th. This playlist will feature Highlands and Condemned (including the Uplink map variant of Condemned), as well as Tempest and Breakpoint. The team configurations will be identical to the Noble Map Pack, two teams of 5-6 players each.

  • Highlands will feature gametypes including Slayer, Capture the Flag, Stockpile, Territories and Headhunter.
  • Condemned will feature gametypes including Slayer, Capture the Flag, Assault, Oddball, Stockpile, Territories, King of the Hill and Headhunter.

In addition to the Defiant Map Pack playlist, we will also be integrating the Defiant maps into our other playlists as detailed below. Just like the Noble Map Pack, everyone in the game must have the Defiant Map Pack for the maps to be available in the voting phase.

  • Highlands will be featured in Team Snipers, Multi Team and Big Team Battle.
  • Condemned will be featured in The Arena, Rumble Pit, Living Dead, Team Slayer, Team SWAT, Team Objective and Multi Team.
  • Unearthed will be featured in all of our Firefight playlists including Firefight Limited, Firefight Arcade and Score Attack.

Thanks, Jeremiah!

For those desperately seeking information about the up and coming Classic playlist, I can tell you that it is real, it is spectacular, and you’re going to hear all about it in the wake of Defiant next week. Maybe. Earlier today, we threw down on four kick ass community recreations. So good. I'd say more, but I'd be worried that I'd jeopardize the entire operation.

Here’s one of the top contenders we’re testing in the labs right now:

Player Speed 120%
Jump Height 125%
Player Gravity 200%
Damage Modifier 110%
Melee Modifier 50%
Damage Resistance 90%
Shield Recharge Rate 110%
Health Recharge Rate 110%

As always, until these go live they are subject to change. I’m pressing hard for 300% Speed and unlimited Armor Lock, but Jeremiah hasn’t been returning my emails or my phone calls. I wonder if he's okay.

Stay Tuned.

The Bungie Beta Tester Program is in Pre-Alpha!

As part of some grand social experiment, and apparently as part of a personal vendetta against our most cherished fans, our User Research team, led by John Hopson, pulled the old bait and switch this week. I am so, so sorry.

If you were part of the one hundred thousand players invited to take part in our inaugural survey, chances are you were led far astray from the Isle of Contentment and had your hopes and dreams dashed mercilessly against the rocks, swept in by the fan enthusiasm we appear doomed to always underestimate.

Yes, you crushed the servers. No, you did not lose your place in the queue. Though you might not have felt like a VIP as you read our apology, tear trickling down cheek, rest assured that in our hearts you are still quite a big deal. Once we sort out our deep-rooted personal issues, we’ll resend a (hopefully) working link to your attention so you can participate fully. We don’t have an ETA for you today, but rest assured we’ll eventually get some very important questions your way. It might be a little while. Maybe even weeks. Please bear with us.

For now, let’s take a gander at some of the great responses our survey did solicit from eager fans, copied verbatim from the source:

Dear Bungie,

At some point, perhaps during a profound lapse in judgment, you sent me an e-mail and asked me to become a Bungie Beta Tester. Today, I present your first challenge. To keep a survey you want completed open for longer than one day.

Link To Nowhere (Really Hope You Didn't Try To Click That One)

Bungie Beta Testers help make Bungie games great, especially when Bungie sometimes screws them up most of the time. It might be as simple as answering a few questions or you might be asked to take part in an in-person research study. No matter how you as us help out, rest assured that we’ll find a way to say “what were you thinking.” Now, let me do my worst.



Your sarcasm is noted, Kultar. You don’t have to worry about us screwing up your Beta access ever again.



-blam!-, I missed my opportunity to sign up! Thanks to the movie, Red Riding Hood (advanced screening.) Terrible movie, by the way... It's Twilight without a Vampire and Paramore. When will I have another shot at signing up for the delicious bungie tenderness?

So, lemme get this straight. You got access to an advanced film screening and didn’t extend us an offer to tag along, yet here you are asking for us to get you into our private screening?

My back itches.

Awh. I woke up, got the email, urinated and went downstairs to log on. In that time, you closed the survey.

I will never pee again.

Don’t say that. I’m sure you’ll find the strength. You just need some time to heal. And maybe some Flomax.

On the off chance that this in and of itself is a test... I'm going to submit a bug report for you here.

Bug 1
Bug Type: Web
Description: The beta tester sign up survey is down. Is this intentional? Or part of some test?
Importance: Medium
Reproducible: Always
Steps to Reproduce:
  1. Receive email in inbox from Bungie with subject line "RE: Beta Tester Signup!"
  2. Note that the email reads "Click the sign up link below, fill out all the questions, and become an official member of the Bungie Beta Tester program."
  3. Follow the sign up link provided in email that points to https://survey.bungie.net/survey/TakeSurvey.aspx?EID=981B46mB038BMM69m5B776BM060B74J
  4. Note that the page reads the following way: "Survey Is Not Live ... Well, you certainly did your worst! We had to kill the survey for the time being. Don't worry, we'll be back and you'll get another chance. If you feel like ranting email: playtest@bungie.com"

Bug 2
Bug Type: Email Grammar
Description: The use of "Signup" vs "Sign up" | "Signup" with no space is most commonly used as an adjective when describing a type of form or sheet - e.g. "Master Chief, here is the signup sheet for the carpool. Don't be late or we'll miss cake." On the other hand "Sign Up" with a space is used as a verb - e.g. "Damn it, Master Chief! I thought I told you to sign up! Are you not going to Bob's party?! You DO realize that you will be missing cake if you don't go?? Right?!" | There should be consistency between the subject line of the email and whats written in the body of the email since in this particular case you are talking about a location to goto (link to follow) if you said at some point in the body "Go there and Sign Up now!" Then it would be correct to use "Sign Up" with a space.
Importance: low
Reproducible: Always
Steps to Reproduce:
  1. Receive email in inbox from Bungie with subject line "RE: Beta Tester Signup!"
  2. Note that the email reads "Click the sign up link below, fill out all the questions, and become an official member of the Bungie Beta Tester program."
  3. Also note that the email has a link that reads: "Sign Up Link"

Quite right. Interesting. That was quicker than the others.

Dear Bungie,

Today has been an embarrassment, not for me, but for yourselves. While I was sleeping the innocent sleep of those who know they are amazing, I received an email from Bungie asking me to complete a survey. After arriving at work (where I am somewhat of a rockstar), I checked my email and performed a manly fist pump at my desk in anticipation of completing this survey. My fist pump was premature indeed. My hopes were dashed; my exuberance at doing something for Bungie was diminished. You do not understand the things I would do for you, Bungie. I would eat the moon, I would slap Arnold Schwarzenegger, I would even be willing to go so far as not working out at the gym for up to 1 day (I am built like a Greed Goddess).

Every day is an embarrassment for me. I fist pump regardless.

Wham! BLAM no thank you mam. Some of us have lives and because mine consists of playing reach all of the time I can’t hover over my emails waiting for the chance to be among those with no social life and respond first to a survey. Way to squash the dreams of a grown man with one click of a link. Hummm, I wonder what Sigmund Freud would have to say about my dreams about bungie?

I’d guess that he’d say something terrible about you and your mother’s recreational activities, but we’re way too classy to debase ourselves with that kind of slander, provoked or otherwise. Still, it’s always wise to follow your dreams, even if they are populated by thoughts as mundane as completing internet surveys.

The one time I have a head cold and decide to do body shots of Nyquil and go to bed early you send out the beta invite!


The “one time?” The stench of menthol and anise is burning my nostrils from all the way over here.

I would sign up but my mom took away my xbox for like 4 weeks now.

Don’t worry. We’ll talk to your mom and get this all sorted out. One way or another.

I shaved my legs, arms, and torso for this? 2 days and still no progress... WHAT AM I GONNA DO WITH ALL THIS HAIR?

You’re in luck!

Bang, Zoom!

Switching gears to some people who still remain our friends, Moonshot Games sent word that they’re preparing to launch their inaugural title, Fallen Frontier, a 2D action side-scroller destined to for Xbox LIVE Arcade. On Monday they dropped by with builds so everyone at Bungie could give it a go, but Parsons forgot to share the experience with the team, thereby hamstringing my ability to rock your world with first hand, hype-filled impressions.

Here’s Parson’s personal in-depth review instead:

“I think it’s pretty cool!”

Worst marketing ever. Fortunately, Moonshot themselves are doing a better job of hyping up the experience. Click the link to check out the official trailer.

Welcome to the Fallen Frontier

Bungie All Stars – Week 9

I’m still reeling from last week’s sickly display of transmogrified and multi-legged meatstuffs. Tyson was unaware that I’d shared his cluck-centric lunchtime tales until a coworker sent him the link and it turns out that he was just about as mortified as I was. He found the drummy with roach legs particularly offensive.

I’m feeling nauseous just thinking about it.

This week we’re taking to the skies to avoid any remote possibility of grotesqueness altogether with screenshots of the UNSC Falcon. You’re welcome.

Let's get to it.

We had tons of takes featuring Falcons flying dangerously close to Covenant Cruisers.

Via the power of Forge, we saw Cone Kong, King Kong, and a brand new breed of mechanized monstrosity.

We saw some wet and wild.

Some shots from far away, some showing Falcons going the wrong way, and one that was just plain doing it wrong.

There were many actual falcons (and one other breed of winged beast).

Lots of dishing it out. Only a little bit of taking it.

Plenty of pretty birds.

Some artistic takes, and some older offerings.

Fire and Flames.

And some rings, some cones, and some shimmering shafts of light.

For unknown reasons, Sage once again made an appearance.

Along with an easily identifiable imposter.

And some beautiful Falcon artwork to top it all off.

No dice. (We can tell by the pixels.)

Once again, you soared higher than we could have ever expected. Stars are being deployed for your effort. Great work.
Blame Stosh

Stosh cares way more about you than this guy ever will.

In fact, he loves you so much, he’s thinking about putting player stats on the mobile version of Bungie.net soon. No promises. See you on Monday.
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A Garden of Earthly Delights!

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