Bungie Weekly Update 5/25/07
Posted by Frankie at 5/25/2007 4:55 PM PDT

Now that the Beta is in full swing, we’re really starting to see how folks are playing the game normally and abnormally. We’re watching patterns, weapon usage, spawn points and player behaviors. We’re also playing a bunch ourselves, and encountering the same problems – and moments of glorious majesty – as you guys are.

Although we’re carefully monitoring player feedback, a lot of the data gathering is fully-automated and for obvious reasons, is way more precise than anecdotal claims. I should know, because if they believed even half of my claims about how and when I die, there’d be no weapons or vehicles in the game at all. The image below (actually taken during the Alpha) is an excellent example. It’s a “heat map” of where folks kill and die on Valhalla and is naturally precise. The redder the mark, the “hotter” and deadlier the location.

So what do we do with this kind of data? Well, we use it. It’s one of our simpler tools. Simply seeing a choke point on a map doesn’t tell you if it’s good or bad. There are supposed to be hot zones. If that map showed up with all cool blue colors, it would be a pretty boring map. The trick is using other data in conjunction with this stuff to try and create a true picture of where there are problems on a map. Solutions can range from incredibly simple (give the defense team a Rocket Launcher) to difficult (rearrange geometry). In the beta stage, we’re certainly past the latter – but the former is something that will get a lot of attention.

Of course, you guys are only playing on three maps, so we’re obviously culling data from other sources, including external test sessions, ongoing MP playtests right here at Bungie Studios and the never-ending efforts of our test team.

One of our non-beta MP maps has undergone a somewhat radical gameplay change, in part to make it more interesting as a gameplay space, but in part to make it more navigable, so that players know instinctively which way is north, as it were. In short, doors on one side have been replaced with Shield Doors, which does three things – it helps you know exactly where you are when you spawn, it adds another level of asymmetric gameplay, improving the map for objective gametypes and it creates some harrowing close encounters at the doors themselves. Anyone who’s played a lot of Snowbound in the Beta knows exactly what this means.

Anyhoo, you guys have a LOT of questions about the Beta, so we’re answering the ones we can right now, culled from our very own forums:

Stan Marsh: What's missing from the public beta that was/is available in the internal beta?
A: In short, lots of stuff. To be specific, you’re missing obvious things, like levels, weapons, vehicles and so on, but you’re also missing a vast swathe of functionality – some hinted at (character customization) and some explained plainly (Saved Film functionality). I would describe what you’re playing in the Beta as a small percentage of what you’ll have access to in the final game – and while we’ll obviously have lots of new maps and extra game modes, there are a few things we’re still saving as surprises.

HTial12: How does RP work?
A: RP, or Rating Points are a simple, linear measure of your experience. They do not relate directly to your skill level and instead are earned for playing and completing games, and depending on a reasonable performance - winning a team game, for example, or finishing in the top half of a FFA game. In theory, you can progress all the way through those ranks while playing at a mediocre level, although we imagine that with experience, you’ll gain some skill.

Your skill level is independent of the RP and as before in Halo 2, it is based on your success in a playlist. It is designed purely as a matchmaking tool, to match players with other combatants of equal ability. However, if you’re in a new Matchmaking playlist where everyone’s skill level is “1” you will probably take note of the Captains and Colonels (RP) in the lobby, since experience is usually an indicator of some ability.

Scottymate: How does the game calculate the MVP at the end of the game? And why does it seem to get it wrong sometimes?
A: Well, for one thing, the game is in Beta and MVP is not functioning the way it will in the final game, but MVP will be decided on a formula that changes on a per game type basis. So in a game of CTF, successful flag caps can be more important than kills. We’ll also be implementing measures to prevent incidences of betrayals and other unsportsmanlike conduct.

Dude622: Why isn’t the Mongoose jackable in the beta?
A: It is technically, but the preference in the Beta build, for better or worse, is to hitch a ride on the back. This is exactly the kind of tuning we’ll be doing throughout the Beta and beyond.

ZD: Sometimes it seems like the Spartan laser can make a "partial hit" – i.e., not a "one-hit-kill." Is this possible or am I smokin’?
A: The Spartan Laser can cause some splash damage and overpenetration – you could simply be seeing either of those. A direct hit however, is a kill. Also remember that the laser actually fires multiple beams, and if it’s swiped at the last second, can cause a “fan” effect.

Vlekk: Have you been changing the way weapons behave [specifically the Brute Shot]?
A: Yes. Continually. It’s possible and in fact likely that you will see major and minor differences on a wide range of items you became familiar with during the Beta. Although weapon and vehicle balancing is not the primary purpose of the Beta, it’s something that’s an ongoing task – practically until the game is shipped.

McFly82: Why is there no Halo in the skies of Snowbound and Valhalla?
A: Who says they are anywhere near a Halo? The Galaxy is a big place, and there are only six Halos left.

TripleTerror: Is there any possibility that beta testers will get a special gamerpic or a background on our name bar in the game, like bungie.net was in Halo 2. A few people including myself would really like to see this.
A: Anything is possible. There will certainly be benefits to players who sign up for a Bnet account and link their Gamertag.

Iluvatar4824: Why on Earth can’t you run over people in the Mongoose??? It’s a freaking ATV...if you run someone over in an ATV you’re going to do damage or kill someone, so why can't you run people over in the mongoose in the beta? Are you going to be able to run over people in the real game?
A: You need to drive faster, or straighter, or both. I splatter people with the Mongoose all the time. As will half the people in the discuss this forum link.

Daggart: Why can't I point the nose down with the Banshee?
A: It’s a tuning thing that we’re still experimenting with. On Valhalla for example, the Banshee when it did point straight down, was a horrible killing machine. Anyone remember the Banshee on Ascension?

NJ Pelli88: Are you guys still altering weapons, especially weapons available in the public beta to meet our cries?
A: To meet your cries? Not exactly. For example, there are people who claim the Spartan Laser is impossible to use, or that the Carbine is underpowered and so on. You can’t respond to anecdotal evidence because of subjectivity – but we are seeing patterns and themes and responding to those. There will be changes to weapons that coincide with common cries, but again, we’ll be using a giant dose of instinct and math to help in this process.

Diseased Mind: Why do you not allow any customization of controls beyond the preset 'templates' that you come up with?
A: One basic reason is that we have to test each combination. As you’ve seen with button glitches in Halo 2, it’s not simple – especially with a competitive game. We need an even playing field. That said, there are more controller options in the final game than found in the Beta version.

xI MadRoX Ix Why can't we use N64 as a service tag in Halo 3?
A: Because it’s somebody else’s trademark and a common combination – imagine being in a game where half the players used the same Service Tag? It would defeat the purpose of having it.

Burn01: Is double team going to be on the beta?
A: Wait, I’m not sure what you’re saying. You’re trying to claim that Double Team might go into the Beta next week? Wow. That would be awesome.

Elessar: How's campaign coming along?
A: Campaign’s coming along a treat.

JoeSki73: Why does the mongoose sound like a 50cc 4-stroke engine? (weak and "slow" sounding.) Is this the final version? I wouldn't mind hearing a strong "fast sounding" motor. A 2-stroke might be nice?
A: Because it sounds sweet. 2-stroke sounded too clean and domestic. We wanted a sound with a little visceral oomph. And if you listen carefully, you’ll hear that it’s actually a combination of two different engine types.

A Pleasant Dude Who’s Name We Lost: Just started playing the beta on my system (loving it so far, thanks guys for the amazing preview), this bug is nothing major but I run my system through a VGA cable and all menus appear to have a line at the top of the screen that generally shows random colours (possibly corrupt graphics?). As said nothing major just want to report anything that may help.
A: It’s a bug! VGA resolutions are notoriously difficult to plan for, since every kind of display has a different overscan and safe area. VGA bugs are well-known and being dealt with all the time. On Halo, we had to worry about two different display types. On Halo 3, 15 trillion. We’re on it. Some displays will never successfully take a signal without some manual adjustment either.

AZR0b0t0: Can we expect a Jar Jar to go along with Jub Jub?
A: What’s a Jar Jar, anyway? Certainly not something weesa know anything about.

Dude Whose Name I Forgot to Write Down: I've had a game with three Spartan Lasers at the same time, so how many can you get at once?
A: The weapon spawn mechanic has changed considerably from Halo: Combat Evolved to Halo 2 and now in Halo 3. Your report of three Spartan Lasers on a single map at once is evidence of this.

|| Grimlock ||: Can we see Mister Chief riding the Mongoose in the lift in Valhalla?
A: The world may never be ready for that image.

Ajustice: How far off is the beta from the current build you guys are kicking around the office? What has changed between these builds?
A: There are different multiplayer builds appearing on our dev kits every day. Sometimes the weapon/equipment/vehicle placements change, sometimes the fundamental construction of a map changes, sometimes there’s some new, mind-numbing effect that scorches your eyes out of your skull. It changes daily.

Blafart: Will saved films from the Beta be viewable in the retail version?
A: Nope, they will not. When the beta ends you will not be able to view Saved Films from the beta on you Xbox 360 or view those files when the retail game ships.

MUQB99: What is being done to deter dropping?
A: In addition to a penalty to a player’s RP, there’s all sorts of ways we’re tracking the reliability of players’ host. The system will separate the wheat from the chaff and those caught manipulating hosts (and we will catch you) will have glorious punitive measures taken against them – the kind of punitive measures that we laugh about over mead and meat.

Duardo: Where’s the Sword, Magnum, M6G Pistol and the Tank/Wraith?
There are no hidden weapons or vehicles in the Halo 3 Public Beta. If the community hasn’t found them by now, they aren’t in the Public Beta.

And finally, I don’t really know what this is, but I know a Bnet reader named JRB 007 made it ages ago. But it’s definitely Mister Chief-esque…

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