Bungie Weekly Update: 01/16/09
Posted by urk at 1/16/2009 2:54 PM PST
Oh hey, you're here again.  Is it Friday already?

This Side Up


The community team is in the throes of a minor reshuffling this week.  Over the weekend, a handful of desks were uprooted, a conference room was quickly and expertly converted into a cozy work space, and come Monday morning, plenty of jokes were being made about the wonderful smells we were all discovering.  Turns out when you slap four dudes in a room together, they really let go of their inhibitions.  Good times.

Nothing to See Here...Yet

As the often asked about, seldom expounded upon Render-to-Video service the Wolf and his pack of lean, mean, feature developing machines becomes less and less concept an underlying code and more and more,“Hey wow, this Beta is pretty sweet,” more muscle is being applied to make sure the end result lives up to the lack of hype we’ve been heaping on Render-to-Video's shoulders.

On that note, we know you want hard and fast technical details on this feature.  You want to have a chat about pixel count, video codecs, and file formats.  Unfortunately, we’re simply not ready to pour the concrete into the mold and let those kind of factoids cement themselves into your collective set of expectations.  If we promise you one resolution and deliver another, you'll never let us live it down.  We can't have that hanging on our collective conscience.  The burden would be too much to bear.  Even for us.

Bringing fully realized rendered video to Bungie.net is a complex and complicated tangle of tasks.  All we can say is that it’s still in internal Beta, it works, and as soon as we have something substantial to relay to you regarding the finalized feature set and technical specifications, this is the space we will use to clue you in.  Maybe not necessarily in the Weekly Update, mind you, but you can be sure we’ll make certain you stay informed.

Mythic Map Pack, Somewhat Demystified


Our forums, discussion threads, and private message boxes are still awash with questions concerning the Mythic Map Pack.  More specifically, how and when you can get your grubby little mitts on it.  We know - things can be confusing and strange in the modern technological era.  Information moves fast.  Silicon, String Theory, and all the other science-y type stuff fires along the Information Superhighway at breakneck speed.  For those who've missed their exit, here’s a little self-styled, self-administered question and answer that should bring you up to the minute information on everything that’s publicly known about the method by which you might pick up the Mythic Map Pack.

Q.  How do I get the Mythic Map Pack?

A.  The only sure fire way to find yourself amongst the early rounds of Mythic Map Pack players is to purchase your very own copy of the Limited Edition flavor of Halo Wars, developed by Ensemble Studios.  It’ll be available in the U.S. on March 3rd, and a few days earlier in Europe and Japan.  You want a Golden Ticket?  This is it. If not, skip down to the next question.

Q. Can’t I just pick it up on Marketplace as DLC in exchange for my hard-earned monies?

A.  Sure.  You'll just to have to wait a little while.  We don’t have any date or pricing information for you yet, but we can say that the Mythic Map Pack, which includes Assembly, Orbital, and Sandbox, will ultimately make its way to the Xbox Live Marketplace as a standalone purchase.  As soon as we have more details, we'll spill the beans.  No need to continue the digital interrogation.

Q. When are you going to show us Sandbox?  You expect us to buy the Mythic Map Pack without getting a good look at the goods first?

A. Hello, my fine friend, and may I bid you welcome to Bungie.net.  You'll find that we're always as forthright and forthcoming as we can be.  Stick around and make yourself right at home - we'll give you everything you need in order to make a sound purchasing decision before you're forced to open up your e-wallet.  Certainly before March 3rd.  In fact, just this week the Community Team threw down in some somewhat noncompetitive matches against of our internal friends in Creative Services and Test to generate some sweet screenshots you'll be treated to soon, one way or another.

Q. Aw, come on.  Can we at least get Luke to give us an interpretive illustration?

A. Bam.  What is it?  We really can't say.  Not because we're on gag order, but because there simply are no words.


“Unnamed Horizons, Pen on Paper. L.M.Smith 2009”
Created on Printer Paper, Pilot G2 (07) and Photoshop CS2.

Halo 3: ODST

Wash, Rinse, Repeat


It’s not breaking news that Bungie are big believers in testing and iteration.  Build, tweak, test, and evaluate.  As Halo 3: ODST inexorably marches toward the Fall 2009 retail battlefield, our decorated studio generals are preparing to lead an army of testers into the fray, shock and awe style.

But we haven’t been resting while we wait on the barracks to be readied for the newest crop of battle-hardened reinforcements.   Long before Halo 3: ODST was in its current “representative” state, the then disparate parts and pieces of it were being put through the proverbial paces.  The test process plays out in full effect at each and every step along the way.

Represent

Let's chat a bit about what it means for a build to be "representative."  There seems to be a small bit of confusion about just what the moniker entails.  Some e-folk latched onto the phrase "content is locked in," and others just ended up plain confused by our insular industry terminology. 

Really, in the most basic sense, "representative" simply means that all the major pieces of Halo 3: ODST are in place.  You can load the build, start up a fresh campaign, and work your way through from beginning to end.  And though we have ascribed the phrase "locked in" to the build on a couple of occasions, that doesn't mean it's finished.  To simplify, the ingredients have been mixed into a delicious batter and the cake is being baked, but the frosting is still in the can.

Unprepared to Drop

Chances are if you’re checking out today’s Weekly Update, and more so if you’ve read this deep into it, you won’t have too many problems with the control scheme of Halo 3: ODST.  You're hardcore.  Are there a few notable and interesting differences?  Yup.  Are we going to make interesting note of them here?  Nope.  But let's just say that we’re not reinventing the way your thumbs have been trained to stroke the dual analog thumbsticks.  Halo 3: ODST is, after all, still Halo at heart.

But this writer's first foray into the Halo 3: ODST fray alongside a few studio squad mates definitely required some alterations to my traditional tactical approach (how do I run and gun?).  At one point I found myself inquiring aloud if the Brute Shot had been powered up.  It seemed to be doing a whole more damage than I was accustomed to.

Shishka, the studio's resident nurturer, lovingly provided me with a succinct explanation of the logical missteps I had relied upon to come to my hasty and ill-conceived conclusion.

“That’s because you’re not a Spartan, dumbass.”

I could almost feel his gentle hand reaching out to slap me on the back of the head.  But it was just my imagination.  Good thing Shishka was content taking out any of the physical manifestations of his disdain for all human life on the Covenant instead of my noggin.

Looking Back on a Milestone

Since everyone at the studio gave the representative build of Halo 3: ODST a shot, we figured we'd solicit a few short write-ups for you.  Check out their impressions below, but keep in mind that everything describe herein is subject to change.  Cake and frosting and all that.

Lars Bakken, Designer

"With much trepidation, we watched as the studio (strangely quiet for a Wednesday) embarked on their first playthrough of Halo 3: ODST. Personally, I was nervous, as this was the first time most of Bungie would be playing through the game, and I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. Playing as the ODST. The new Health model. The Hub and Spoke level design. All new things for the player to experience.

Bungie is probably our own harshest critic, so we knew we would get a lot of good feedback, but it could also be hard to take in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good thing having 130 people playing your stuff, but it’s rough too from an emotional standpoint. It’s hard to explain, but in a lot of ways, watching people play your work is very difficult. You’re full of strange emotions. You’re happy, because you’ve got a working build of your stuff. Whoo! You’re excited, because you want to see people’s reactions, but you’re nervous, because people’s reactions aren’t always what you expect.

In all, it’s a great experience, because you actually get to see unfiltered emotional responses to things you have been putting your heart and soul into. It ended up being a great day, and we got an amazing amount of feedback to pour over, but it’s also exhausting. The playtest let us know that there’s still a LOT of work to do, but we seem to be on the right track."

Shishka, Multiplayer Community Designer


"Sitting down and playing a game you’re excited to play from beginning to end is always fun. Being told by your boss that you’re to drop everything you might’ve planned to accomplish that day because you are required to play a game you’re excited to play from beginning to end is a little surreal. You’d think I’d be used to it by now – I run multiplayer playtests on a regular basis – But something about being told “stop working on this awesome video game stuff so you can tell us what you think about our awesome video game stuff” is surprisingly difficult to wrap my mind around.

I’ve been told that if I say anything too revealing that I’ll end up strung up and cleaned alongside the next deer Harold hunts down. So, I’ll avoid any plot points, but I must say this: The opening sequence of ODST is the most spectacular cinematic event in any Halo game to date. The gameplay itself feels “similar but different” from what you’ve grown accustomed to, and nothing makes this more clear than the moment you take control of the Rookie and take your first steps into what is left of New Mombasa."

Spray and Pray

One other thing that is "similar but different" in Halo 3: ODST is the M7 Submachine Gun.  You first held this bullet hose in your hot little hand back in the glory days of Halo 2, where you quickly learned that a single SMG on its own probably wasn’t the best implement of war you could bring with you onto the online battlefield.  It was always much more effective when wielded in matching pairs or complemented with plasma in the other hand.  In the Halo 3 multiplayer space, The SMG occupies a similar position in the overall sandbox - though many of its shortcomings as a starting weapon were addressed by way of the Return of the Assault Rifle (BR aficionados, start your foruming).

But even the least astute observers among us should have noted that the SMG showcased both in the Official Halo 3: ODST trailer, and in the recent crop of delicious concept art, has been augmented with a sweet, sultry silencer.  It’s also been retooled in a few other significant ways.  It’s still a bullet hose, no doubt about it, but let’s just say the nozzle's been turned just a touch to narrow the stream.


The New Hawtness

That little piece of kit latched on top of the receiver assembly isn't for show, it's a Reflex Sight to facilitate increased accuracy. And just below the barrel you may notice there's a housing for the smart-linked scope that allows an ODST to get an even better look at his targets while squeezing the trigger. That doesn't mean the custom SMG operates as a Battle Rifle clone - it's still most effective in CQB scenarios, doing its dirty work up close and personal, but it is much more effective at midrange than ever before. Buggers beware.

Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy...


...and neither is sifting through and sorting out bugs to bring you a bulletproof build of Halo 3: ODST.  Don't worry, with each new iteration, we're one step closer to a zero bug release.  But one bug we experienced in playtest this week is just too damn funny to keep within the confines of the studio.

It seems that every so often, Brute Chieftains – the biggest, baddest Brutes of the bunch - will inexplicably* load out sans their trusty weapon.  No Brute Hammer.  No Fuel Rod Cannon.  Nothing.  So what does the master of the pack do when he finds himself without any gear with which to deal out deadly damage and pain?

He struts.

It’s really quite comical to see a Brute Chieftain calmly descending upon your position, arms down at his side, his stride full of pride and urban swagger.  Until he gets within arms reach, that is.  Then, like any good pimp, he makes it his business to showcase just how strong his pimphand is.

And strong it is.  Many an ODST have quickly changed their tune from one of jovial laughter and sonorous disbelief to the blood-curdling shrieks and screams of a soldier on his last legs once a weaponless Chieftain decides it’s time to illustrate the full power of his fully operational backhand ability.

Were these Brute Panders to make final ship – which they won’t – we figure they'd need a few distinct achievements to supplement their inclusion.  Maybe something like...

Takin’ Back the Streets
Kill Five Brute Pimps in a row without dying.

Housekeeping
Kill a Brute Pimp while he's still ridin' dirty in his Phantom dropship.

Better Have My Money
Take seven pimpslaps to the face in a seven minute span.

*By "inexplicably" we mean that we're well aware of the why and the how, it's already fixed, and sadly, the Brute Pimp Chieftain will soon be nothing more than a fond memory.

Leave Your Money on the Dresser

We're done here.  But don't worry your itchy little head over it.  We'll be back next week with a whole host of new words.  Oh, and one last thing before we shove off for weekend shores.  Some of you have been playing in the Submit News feed - using it as your own little sounding board of sorts.  That's cool.  It's very easy to ban folk.  But sometimes people submit something that's not quite news, but still needs to be seen.  The tru7th is out there and it must be heard.  Enter the Anonymous User.

DO BUNGIE DO THEIR JOB RIGHT.......THE ANSWER IS
Posted by Anonymous User (Deleted) at 1/14/2009 5:05 AM PST
tHEY DO A PERFECT JOB WELL THEY GIVE U CHALLENGES AND MAKE U WORK WELL IT WUD BE BORIN IF RECON WAS EASY TO EARN MAKIN IT HARD TO GET IS COOL...THNX.....ps: pls download my pics from mi fileshare

We couldn't have said it any better ourselves.  Have a great weekend.  Stay out of trouble.  And Stay Tuned.
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