Bungie Weekly Update: 03/27/09
Posted by urk at 3/27/2009 3:30 PM PDT
Seems like we're getting into a pattern with the updates.  An ebb and flow of information, if you will.  While last week's update was another giant tower of text reaching upward toward the heavens, this time out, we're once again back down to Earth, falling into a more manageable space.  Too close to the sun, and all that.

Mythic Map Pack
DLC Made Officially Official

While we tried to hint as best we could, plenty of folks carried on as the sly and subtle nods went right over their heads at Translight speeds, ultimately turning up in our forums and Private Message inboxes to demand that we put an end to the misery and offer up concrete details of where and when they could get their hands on the Mythic Map Pack.  Talk of the UNSC Gettysburg's return to Earth and a postscript delivered last week sans context (save a previously made promise) were not direct enough to clue everyone in to the ultimate release date of Assembly, Orbital, and Sandbox, collectively known as The Mythic Map Pack.

For those of you who missed the official word sent out on Monday, the Mythic Map Pack will be released to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace on April 9th, 2009 as DLC for 800 Microsoft Points.

Since that puts us less than two weeks away from the launch of the Mythic Map Pack, we're going to continue our look into some of the custom Sandbox content we have planned for eventual inclusion into Halo 3's Matchmaking. For reference, the Map Variants we've been putting on display in these early sneak previews were created by some people who work closely with the studio. We consider these custom creations the opening salvo of Sandbox's assault upon Matchmaking. We expect you to fire off the next volley.

Vessel



Floating On Thin Air

Up for examination this week is Vessel.  Is it a ship?  Some kind of container made to hold various liquid stuffs?  Scroll down to get the scoop from the map's creator himself, Tomo.

Q. What was the core concept behind “Vessel?”

A. Fun! Well, hopefully.

I’ve always been a fan of play on the Big Team maps like Avalanche and Valhalla, but at the end of the day found myself returning to the smaller 2v2 and 4v4 Slayer maps that made Halo a standard for competitive First Person Shooters. This is what fueled the design of this map, an area that would bring out the competitive nature in Halo players.

Q. What about the name? Reminiscent of a boat? Does it contain water and/or other liquids?

A. The original name (or debug name as we call it, because it sounds cooler) was Artifact, a relic created by the predecessors of Sandbox, but after other testers on my team played on the map the feedback I got was, “The bases look like the back of a pirate ship!” So became the boat-themed name.  And if you jump off the map, you fall to into an abyss…of sand that is.

Also, at one point I had gone through so many "versions" and "revisions" of Artifact that I believe the name was “Artifact v3.6.1,” but that sounded too tacky, not Bungie-esque.

Q. Why did you choose the Sky Bubble as the place you wanted to build?

A. Falling to your death! This was one of the main design decisions I had in mind when I first brainstormed ideas for this map. With the map in the sky it adds another dimension to gameplay, requiring players to not only worry about their enemies but also the map environment. This also resulted in many hilarious kills and suicides from people falling off.

Q. Is this primarily a Doubles map, or do you think it works for gameplay with additional players?

A. Team Doubles will definitely be a sweet spot for this map, but the map is quite versatile and is setup for all game modes. We’ve had a lot of epic battles on this map playing 3v3 and 4v4 Slayer, as well as some more humorous moments playing games such as Juggernaut and Infection.

My favorite moments on this map are playing 4v4 Neutral Bomb, with Battle Rifle start of course (Yes, I <3 BRs). Because of the way both bases have a visual on where the bomb spawns getting to the bomb and securing it is hard enough, let alone having to get it across to the enemy base. This is a map that requires teamwork over just plain skill, and Neutral Bomb makes that even more apparent.

Q. One of the central features is the wall that segments the level into two distinct spaces. Why did you decide to split the playspace?

A. The Wall was the center piece to this map during its construction and the rest of the map just fell into place around it. It serves multiple design purposes as well. It does a good job of cutting off the line of sight between the two bases, and also adds vertical variation causing the players to perceive the map as larger than it truly is.

On the other hand, my favorite area is where the Rocket Launcher and Pallets are located. Destroying the death-trap-pallets as an enemy walks over them is a fun sight to see. Also if the enemies are trying to camp your base from the top of the wall you can always take the vent chute (ahhh nostalgia, reminds me of the vent in Headlong by the Beam Rifle).

Q. Did you ever think about slapping any flying vehicles on the map to patrol the skies and rain insta-death down on unsuspecting, newly spawned players?

A. Actually, the thought of vehicles on this map never crossed my mind until now. And don’t get me wrong, I love flying the Banshee, as many of my fellow playtesters probably have found out by now. With Vessel I wanted to return players to the core gameplay of Halo; grenades, melees, and the well placed headshot.

Q. What sets Sandbox apart from Foundry?

A. Options, options, options! Since the addition of Foundry, The Forge has evolved a lot, but Sandbox is truly revolutionary. Sandbox allows users so much flexibility that almost anything can be made. I also think it is great because it brings out the creativity in players and it allows Halo players young and old to use because it’s very user friendly.

I’m excited to see what the community will come up with on this map. I’ve seen some amazing maps created in Foundry and it can only get better in Sandbox!



That's the idea.  Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Tomo.

GDC
Aftermath

As we mentioned last week, some of our peeps headed off to the Game Developers Conference, "the largest annual gathering of professional video game developers, focusing on learning, inspiration, and networking."  And while they weren't there to drop knowledge on up and coming Bungie projects (whatever those may be), they were armed with a wealth of interesting information covering a wide variety of topics.  For the full breakdown of what was covered, check out the run down from last week's update.

Here's the quick and dirty scoop from the conference floor:

"The small group of us at GDC '09 have fanned out into all sorts of sessions at the conference. Once we're all back at the office, we'll spend time writing up notes on each presentation we saw and send it out to the rest of the folks at work. A good portion of the team's trip to GDC (as always) involves networking and sizing up potential recruits for Bungie. After Allen Murray's much-discussed session, he was ensconced in aspiring producers (and current producers) wanting to trade cards and set up meetings later this week. There's the requisite amount of after-hours networking, often crudely juggled against getting up to make it to the day's first sessions."

Speaking of Allen Murray's "much-discussed session", the Post Carnage of his presentation, "Building Your Airplane While Flying: Production at Bungie," hit the Internet like a tidal wave.  Talk of levels being culled during Halo 3's development and more content for Halo 3 being delivered over the next two years came crashing down upon us from every gaming web site, battering our inland studio with requests for clarification and demands for more details.

Ask and you shall receive.

More Halo 3?

At GDC, Murray was quoted as saying “we’ll probably be working on Halo 3 for another two years.” It’s interesting how people come to define what “working” means. According to the web, that definitely means we’re making more maps, another campaign expansion, and maybe even an expansion to our as-yet-unreleased expansion, Halo 3: ODST.  Were it so easy.  “Working on Halo 3” could also be defined as ongoing management of the Matchmaking Playlists, swinging the Banhammer as hard and as often as needed, investigating potential exploits, and generally ensuring that the game experience remains positive and entertaining for everyone.

While we've indicated in the past that we don't have plans to deliver more content for Halo 3 beyond the retail launch of Halo 3: ODST, going as far as to call the return to New Mombasa the "exclamation point" on the Halo 3 experience, that's not a definite "never." That said, don't get too excited at the prospect as there are no current plans to make additional content post-ODST.

If things change, we'll let you know.

Technically speaking though, there is a lot of new Halo 3 content on the horizon – content made by you, via the power of Forge and Sandbox.

Even before it’s official release, we’re already seeing some great things coming from the community. It’s always been our hope that as time goes on, the online experience would start to become more and more defined by the player community.  Mythic should go a long way towards making that hope more of a reality.

We'll remain committed to supporting Halo 3 for as long as you grace its Matchmaking Playlists.  If that means Shishka gets locked in a closet inside the studio with only his devkit the sole source of warmth and vitamin D, so be it.  We'll make sure to slip some food under the door every once in a while to keep him nourished.  The man works hard for the money.  He subsists so that you may Halo.

Forest for the Trees

The news that there was once a campaign level in the works for Halo 3 boasting the art style that ultimately served as the palette for the mutliplayer map, Guardian, shouldn't be too much of a shocker for anyone who's had some hands on time with The Art of Halo 3.  But even for those who haven't seen the concept art pieces, it should be understood that it's simply not unusual, and in fact par for the course, for plenty of ideas to be refined or removed during a title's development cycle.  It's quite literally, part of the process. 

If you happen to own the shiny Limited Collector's Edition of Halo 2, you actually have some direct evidence at your disposal packed into the supplemental DVD, "The Making of Halo 2."

The truth is that nobody likes to have their ideas and work hit the cutting room floor, least of all the folks who work hard on the concepts that ultimately don't make it into the shipped title.  But it's all not doom and gloom.  The development process might demand some sacrifices, but it's also flexible enough to allow great ideas to bubble up and come to the surface that didn't exist in the early planning stages.

For those less interested in what didn't make it in, and would rather get an inside look into how the production process itself has played out and progressed inside Bungie, the presentation that ended up being so quotable is available below.  You should definitely check it out.

We'll also drop in David Hunt's presentation at no extra charge, though it's well worth the price of admission all by its lonesome.  Both of these will soon find a permanent home on our official Publications page.

Allen Murray - 'Building Your Airplane While Flying: Production at Bungie.'

David Hunt - 'Modular Procedural Rigging.'

Mark Your Calendars

The 7th Annual Emerald City ComiCon (ECCC) kicks off next weekend, running April 4th and 5th right here in Seattle, Washington.  If you're going to be in town, you should head down to the Washington State Convention & Trade Center and check it out.  We're going to.  In fact, seven of Bungie's own illustrious artists will be there in "Artist Alley," whipping up awesome custom art pieces and signing their stuff.  Here's the list of artists that'll be on hand:


Frank Cappezuto
Lorraine McLees
Robt McLees
Milton Cadogan
Shiek Wang
Tom Doyle
Ken Taya

The seven in attendance see the event as a "great creative outlet" and tell us that they're "willing to sign anything except man ass."

More details covering the time and place can be found at the official ECCC website.

The Hunters Become the Hunted

The File Share contest we ran last weekend came to a close Monday with the tag "Hunters" topping out at over 7,000 submissions.  The poor Lekgolo assemblages, like their larger Scarab forms before them, never stood a chance against your unstoppable assault.  You came, you saw, you took some screenshots.

We're going to keep the winners' identities under wraps, but since there were way more great screens then we had codes, we dug this trio up to give you a sample of what's out there.  If you want to find your own favorites, give the Hunters Tag a quick skim.  There's a ton of awesome stuff in the collection now, thanks to your new additions.


Hunkered Down


Bubbled Up


Blast Zone

Next up: Chieftains.  Fire up Halo 3's Campaign and smash some Brute Packs.  Make your way to the Chieftain, humiliate him, and put the screenshot evidence into your File Share (not your Screenshot Gallery), tagged with "Chieftain."  We'll check back come Monday and send word to the winners.

Rest and Relaxation

That wraps things up for this week's, uh, wrap up.  As always, we'll be back with more next week.  Stay out of trouble.
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