One Final Effort
Posted by urk at 4/16/2010 1:51 PM PDT
Late last week our multiplayer lead, Chris Carney, quietly stepped into the community pod to deliver a pair of thick, three-ring binders. He didn’t have too much to say about it. He just handed them over and stepped away. Inside we found the blueprints for what eventually became Halo 2’s multiplayer.

Each map’s architectural DNA is represented here, from the lofty views overhead the dim and cavernous Waterworks right down to minuscule details for the lighting fixtures on Lockout – every big and little thing that made it in, every big and little thing that fell away to the cutting room floor.

There are email exchanges tucked into the front and back flaps that chart the team’s incremental successes and honest, hand-written notes in the margins, lamenting the daunting challenges that lied ahead of them – the task of marrying an extraordinarily ambitious project with a sometimes cold and hard reality. Halo 2's Project Lead, Jason Jones, once described making a Halo game as witnessing “a cathedral self-assembling out of a hurricane.” But the Halo 2 team ultimately weathered the storm. Halo 2 spent the entirety of its lifespan atop the Xbox LIVE charts.

On Wednesday night, five years and five months after Bungie shipped Halo 2, we watched as the cathedral doors closed for the last time. We took note every crack in the masonry, marked all of the treasures now resting in their reliquaries. And sure, we tasted more than our fair share of salty community crotch.
Dust and Echoes
Earlier this week, we asked the team to take some time out to send along their thoughts on Halo 2’s development process. You’ll find a selection of their unfiltered memories below – some good and some bad. Attached, you’ll also find a discussion thread. We’d love it if you’d leave some of your own favorite Halo 2 memories for posterity, whether it was waiting in line for launch, firing up Halo 2 for the first time, or Battle Rifling a hole into our faces during a Humpday Challenge.

In no particular order:

Michael Wu
Halo 2’s MP map pack maps were designed by teams composed of at least an artist, designer, and engineer, unlike the original shipping maps. In fact, most of the team members hadn’t worked on multiplayer before. This resulted in a lot of cross-discipline collaboration and new experiences that would influence us from Halo 3 to Reach.

For example, Halo 2 had very little engineering performance oversight until the end, but the map packs had it from the beginning (if your map’s engineer wasn’t too busy designing killer flanking routes). In spirit, we continued the collaboration with our regular performance reviews for campaign and MP maps on Halo 3, ODST, and now Reach.

We also leveraged the artist experience to create spaces that exploit techniques previously favored by only the campaign or MP artists. For example, multiplayer artists can now author content that can accommodate AI pathfinding and campaign artists think about gameplay combat in a whole new light, able to move from narrative missions to competitive maps seamlessly.

Unfortunately, this experimentation also meant a lot of the maps didn’t survive all the way to the end. They were set aside, so the team members could be freed up to join the remaining map teams. If players ever thought the new maps kicked so much ass, now they know why. Resource bonfire! It was good times for us.

Since Halo 2, ending a project at Bungie meant enjoying the reward of working on upcoming map packs – a chance to flex our full creative powers unfettered by a changing codebase or conflicting deadlines (e.g. E3 versus release). It’s been a great experience to extend the life of games like Halo 2 with maps that still get played so many years later.

By the way, that screenshot below is one of the worst ones in history. Are you blind? Can’t you see all the environment art bugs we shipped in that shot? Jeebus, you’re killing me Urk.

Michael Williams
The creation of the Banhammer: To my knowledge Bungie was the first to coin the term “Banhammer,” which can now be found all across the internet. Shortly into Halo 2’s lifetime we realized we could use our stats to automatically catch cheaters much faster than through user reports. At first it was just a tool that built a spreadsheet of cheating gamertags, which we could then submit to Xbox live. Eventually, it became a fully automated process, getting more effective with each new anti-cheating measure we added. With one of our big Banhammer updates, we actually had a betting pool to guess the number of cheaters banned – I got a tasty lunch out of it.

Zach Russell
3 Months To Launch
Brian to Zach: “Hey Zach, what features are we going to have on for launch?”
Zach to Brian: “I don’t know, we had to stop working on to finish the game.”

1 Month to Launch
Brian to Zach: “Dude, we really need to get the word out about features. What are we going to have?”
Zach to Brian: “Ask me on November 7th because we are working furiously on all the features now that the game has gone to manufacturing.”

Dave Dunn
I'm not sure if my memory is accurate: alpha gas giant was Halo 2 right? Well here's a funny tale regarding that mission. As we were making that mission we came up with the back story that the forerunners were studying the flood in that facility. We even thought it might be cool if players thought that maybe this spot was ground zero so to speak. So we built these containment units or pods that you'd see in movies about aliens and put dead flood lifeforms in them.

And some point during the waning moments of work on that mission a few of us came up with what we thought was a cool idea. It was Vic DeLeon, Chris Barrett, and I if I recall properly. Anyway our idea was this:

We should have a little fish tank like thing that had little flood tadpoles in it swimming around. We affectionately called them the "flood sea monkeys." Now why we never asked ourselves how these sea monkeys survived all this time in an abandoned facility and never evolved past the tadpole stage I'll blame on the lack of brain power during the crazy halo 2 crunch. So we always viewed this as a special little touch that we would get to if we could. As it turned out Vic, who is an avid fish tank guy, really got into the idea and in the last day of work leading up to content complete he tried to make it happen.

I remember Harold clearly told us we were going to be locked out of the source depot at 6 am. Well Vic is trying to get these things to animate in a cool way keeps making tweak after tweak to them as we're hurtling toward 6 am. At this point everyone's slap happy because we've been crunching so hard and for so long. Somehow at the last minute that we're checking in we notice that Vic's last tweak to the sea monkeys totally breaks their animations and now they were floating around in their tank it a hilariously ridiculous way, but it's 6 am and Vic is freaking out. We run over to beg Harold to let us check in a fix but Harold's holding firm about no more check-ins. It's not helping that I'm chanting "Vic broke the sea monkeys, Vic broke the sea monkeys" while C Paul Johnson and I are laughing uncontrollably.

Meanwhile everyone else in the test/audio room is wondering what the hell are the sea monkeys? Harold eventually let us check-in a fix, but once we got some rest after the project was finished and looked a little more critically at the sea monkeys we realized the idea was never as cool as it in our minds at the time. There's a lesson to be learned in this story about the line where crunch starts to really affect your judgment. Ah the memories of Halo 2...farewell old friend. :)

Vic DeLeon
I will attest to the veracity of Dave's account. All true. I have a pic of the Flood Sea Monkeys if anyone wants it.

Harold Ryan
Pretty accurate, among all things people asked for after I locked the depot, the Flood Sea Monkeys were certainly unique.


C Paul
The way I remember it, the broken sea monkeys were no longer confined to the fish tank (they were floating all over the room) and Dave was wearing his traditional blue denim overalls with a Mohawk.

Jaime Griesemer
When we said Halo 2 was “on fire going 120 miles per hour through a hospital zone chased by helicopters and ninjas” we didn’t realize we were describing the literal process by which the Gold Master would be delivered to the factory for replication. And the ninjas were all Microsoft program managers.

Pete Parsons
Farewell Halo 2. You were like a cake filled with pies.

I said that about halo 3, but damn halo 2 last night was fun.
Shiek Wang
It was such a dark time, I think I blocked everything out of my mind of Halo 2!

A lot of the things were already documented in that video where we busted ass for the e3 trailer, and realized we had really nothing to show. The New Mombasa e3 trailer was such a hack that we felt horrible after we came back from the show. It just showed us that we had nothing, and the amount of work that we had to make ahead of us was astounding. Everything from boarding, double wielding, jackals offense formation, insertion pods. Most of those were all done for the trailer, none of them were really implemented in the engine. With clever hackery it was IN the engine, just not Implemented.

The high from the trailer died down real quick and led to the monumental task that we had ahead of us, a story that we didn’t understand, and gameplay features that we weren’t 100% sure of.

Halo 2’s crunch was bad. It tore up a lot of people, their family and relationships. When the game was shipped, there wasn’t any celebration or hurrahs of team elation. I believe people just slowly left and crawled back to their original homes where they haven’t been in months. I remember Jason called the team together only maybe 2 months or so after the game had shipped to give a team speech about how great it was that we finished the game. I remember thinking at the time, ‘damn we were so ready to be done with this that we didn’t even recognize the fact that we finished it till now?’

There were some happy times to this though of course, like everything we try to see the brighter side of it. I think the last night before the ZBR deadline, everyone who could decided to do an all nighter and stick it out to the morning. It was about 6 or so when people decided they needed a break and we’d walk downstairs to the back part of the parking lot to look out at the good ol’ Bear Creek and see the sunrise. It was really tranquil, people tossed around a nerf ball for a bit, hacky sacked a little. That helped fuel the fire to jump back in and get a little more bugs done before the end. It helped that we were supplied with sugary and fatty goodness for that early morning breakfast.

One last one, I think there was one time during the weekend when we were all working there that we noticed out the window that a hot air balloon was getting close to the building. Then it started to descend near the parking lot. All of us who were still there ran downstairs to see what’s up. Sure enough, a hot air balloon used our back parking lot as a landing location. Apparently when they get blown out of trajectory (there was a hot air balloon launch site near our old building in Redmond), they would use our parking lot as a emergency landing. That was a great distraction for a couple of hours.

Tyson Green
I remember:

Being so intently at work in the last few weeks of crunch that a colleague was able to sneak up, place a Pringles potato chip on top of my hat, and walk away without me noticing. Some hours later, he returned, noticed it was still there, and took a photo still without me noticing. I didn't believe him till he showed me the photo.

Actually hitting ZBR with zero bugs on my missions, for which my reward was getting to mostly rescript another mission while Paul redid the actual encounter setups.

The geometry for a trench run at the end of forerunnership (sorry, can't remember the shipping name) that involved massive, horizontal grav-lift transporters that you could drive a Warthog into and through. We had to cut it because there was just no time to set up all of the encounters.

Arguing implacably against doing any human city environments (that I didn't feel like we could do justice to), and then immediately volunteering to do those missions once we committed to them because I wanted to make sure we did them right. (I think we mostly did, much to the credit of the artists who built them.)

The original plan for the Scarab sequence on deltacontrol ("The Great Journey" if I recall correctly) where the player would ride on the Scarab Johnson commandeered while it fought two other Scarabs. I ended up cutting the other two due to perf, and moving the player into a Banshee because almost everyone got motion sick riding on the Scarab. I think it ended up being more fun to fly escort anyway.

Setting up the E3 2003 demo, which involved (among other things) madly deleting objects behind the person running the demo to keep perf up, writing a failsafe mechanism that would recover the demo in the event of a death or overturned Warthog, and one of my favorite hacks of all time in implementing the Ghost boarding sequence at the end. That hack (done entirely in script) was the first time we had boarding work in any capacity in engine.

Hiding the Scarab Gun on newmombasa and thinking "heh, it'll be forever before they find this!" and then having players get up there within a week by pushing Banshee through the BSP transition from the bridge. Damn. Never underestimate the player.

Brian Jarrard
I have so many fond memories of Halo 2 it’s hard to pick just one or two and not quickly wind up with a huge wall of text. I joined Bungie in the middle of Halo 2, it was my first hoorah and as the community guy and the game’s release marked a pivotal moment for Bungie. We went from having a few hardcore folks scattered around playing Halo:CE LANs in their garage to a true worldwide totally connected community via Xbox LIVE. It was my real first taste of how awesome and passionate Bungie fans really were and throughout Halo 2’s development and release I had the privilege of meeting tons of really great people. Probably my biggest stand-out memory was E3 2003 when we had the now infamous (and still awesome) Earth City demo, a majestic theater and we threw an awesome FanFest after-hours where we got a chance to cut loose with our fans. I still have haunting memories of just how stressful that all was, being my first big show at my relatively new place of employment. But it was awesome and incredibly rewarding – we had Sgt. Johnson and Cortana there mingling, Jason Jones made an unexpected appearance, Jaime Griesemer went off script and was doing crazy demos in the theater. It was just an awesome first hand glimpse of Bungie’s fan commitment and in turn, the fan’s support of Bungie.

I also have fond memories of taking an early Halo 2 build to Louis Wu’s (founder and webmaster of house in the backwoods of Connecticut for a LAN party and to film segments for the bonus discs. We also spent many nights playing Halo 2 online, conducting the inaugural Humpday challenges and building up heated rivalries (and losing many, many games). Our EGM rivalry stands out in particular, man I still have painful flashbacks of getting destroyed on Ivory Tower. I also remember the late nights at the studio with Ninja on Fire trying to tame the massive beast that was our matchmaking playlist tool. It’s crazy thinking back on how cumbersome and painful it used to be to update a playlist… speaking of, there was also that feeling of anxiety, excitement and dread as we rolled out the concept of matchmaking for the first time ever, doing away with the tried and true ‘server browser’ that everyone was used to and expecting. I remember everyone being confident that it was the right call but also fully prepared for the inevitable backlash. It obviously caught on.

I remember the early team meetings, shortly after I was hired, where Jason and crew broke the news that the game was being radically altered, missions were being scrapped, new plans were being formed. To say the atmosphere was tense would be an understatement. I remember the long hours struggling to create screenshots with Lorraine and her team. We didn’t have saved films back then so getting multiple people in a game doing cool stuff all at the same time, in the right position/composition, was pretty much impossible. So, every screenshot involved painstakingly compositing together a variety of screens, each shot with a different “actor” but with a fixed camera position. Remember that one Burial Mounds shot with the ghosted remnants of a Rocket Launcher visible in the sky? Yeah, that’s why.
I thought I used to be pretty decent at Halo 2… but boy, the game may have aged well, but I sure haven’t. Wednesday night was a painful reminder of how soft and slow I’ve become. Still, it was a blast revisiting beloved battlegrounds, forming a clan, experiencing the “virtual couch”, dual wielding and of cross-mapping foes with the hand-of-god Battle Rifle. (ok, maybe I was the one getting cross-mapped). Thanks to our fans, thanks to the team – thanks for the memories. See you in Reach.

Tom Gioconda (Achronos)
The big secret sauce to Halo 2 stats: The stats as seen on were entirely created in the time between RTM and ship (about 3 or 4 weeks IIRC). As Zach pointed out the other day, 3 or 4 days before launch we still weren’t getting game uploads onto properly. We were that close to not having stats for Halo 2 on day 1. Comparing that to the state of how work on Reach features is going is night and day. But the maturity of our systems for Reach wouldn’t exist without the trial by fire that was Halo 2. It didn’t help that at the same time this was going on, itself was still suffering from being rebuilt on months before (in April 2004, the “new hotness” replaced the old Perl based site we used)… Stats are useless without a platform that is capable of handling the load of people coming to see their stats. I think I substantially rewrote much the caching system like three times between April 2004 and the launch of Halo 2, just to deal with the ever increasing traffic Halo 2’s impending launch was bringing.

That reporter (I think from IGN) coming in was amusing – “You want to show me the… website? Riiiiiiight…” became “Damn this is impressive, why don’t all games have this” pretty quickly. Easier said than done, of course, but now, anytime anybody talks about game related stats display, they always refer to them as “ like displays of stats”. Even Microsoft decided that we were a good way to make ASP.NET seem cool and used us as an example of how to leverage their (at the time) relatively new development tech in a case study. And trust me, making ASP.NET Webforms seem cool was not very easy.

And then there was Roger’s performance emails. “The Wolf” as now knows him would send out an update to the server engineers letting us know that we’re bottlenecking on something or other… then a few hours/days later, send another email announcing he had managed to magically increase performance by 25% or something insane like that on the Halo 2 stats backend. The amazing part was this went on for some time after Halo 2 launched.

And finally, the launch party. We had a launch party for Halo 2 at the EMP, after the public launch party Bungie had a private launch party for family at the EMP. Standing around, chatting with drinks… and then we get a phone call about something being up with the servers. I think one phone call came for the Halo 2 stats as the East Coast got copies, and then there was an issue with the database being weird. Nothing too bad in the end, but we didn’t know at then. I think at this point Zach or Pete (the studio manager at the time) noticed that the server engineers and lead bnet test guy were all conspicuously ducking out to answer harried phone calls for about an hour, and started asking us if everything was okay, repeatedly. I think some people aged a bit faster that day. Maybe Roger remembers what those phone calls were about – I distinctly remember getting two about bnet during the party, but I don’t remember how the Halo 2 system itself faired.


Roger Wolfson
It was a constant battle to make those perf fixes before we fell behind so far that the overhead of the server figuring out what to catch up on next would take longer than it would for new work to come in, at which point we’d never be able to catch up…. Until maybe today.

Jacob Miner
Like many other current Halo fans, I bought an Xbox just to play Halo 2 and, to date, I have logged more hours on Halo 2 than on any other game. Halo 3 came along and Halo 2 was set aside for a few years. Last night I was uber excited when I put in the Halo 2 disc; it was one hell of a trip down memory lane for me. Sure, the graphics are last-gen, and the button scheme was different ( I kept reloading when I wanted to grenade, or changing grenades when I wanted to pick up a dual wield), but it is still such a polished, beautiful game: the experience is bliss.

It has been a long time since I dual-wielded with a Needler, or that rapid-firing magnum, but I sought them out after almost every death. It seemed like reloading while dual-wielding was a death trap: it felt like it took forever to accomplish, but, that is why I remember all of the circle-strafe and melee duals. The only regret I have is that I didn’t get to play on Burial Mounds again; this map, with the ribs in particular, was one of my favorite maps. I cannot even guess how many games of team CTF or slayer I played here.

Then again, I remember all of the crazy online exploits that people pulled in the earlier stages of this game: standybying was the worst. Here I am protecting my flag in Zanzibar when the connection freezes for a bit, we all reconnect and the flag is captured. WTF!?! Seriously? That got old, but the odd thing is that I now work on the server-side backend; that’s right, I am wielding the Banhammer and killing your silly online exploits. My leftover wrath from Halo 2 will be your doom, cheaters!

To one of the best Live games ever, I bid you adieu. We will miss you!


Mat Noguchi
For a brief period of time we were trying to get saved films working in Halo 2. One particular design choice we made (and later reverted) was to have combat dialog be completely deterministic; that would mean that when you restored from a checkpoint, you would probably hear the same combat dialog. We tried to combat this by cycling the random seed depending on whether you were facing north or south and looking up or down. We ultimately made combat dialog non-deterministic (i.e., if you hear a marine shout “fire in the hole!”, you won’t hear it again for a while even if you revert to a checkpoint) but we left the random seed cycling in. Which is why I occasionally say on HBO to explain different AI behavior when going back to a checkpoint: “It depends on where you look.”

We also had an intermittent and horrible audio corruption bug where the audio would seem to repeat the last audio frame over and over indefinitely. Towards the end of development we managed to reproduce this bug after a checkpoint in the tutorial level. We managed to get the programmer working on the Xbox audio chip to come by and help us debug it, and it turned out that the way we were copying memory was preventing the Xbox from paging in the audio driver to the audio chip. In other words, we took a giant dump on the memory bus preventing the audio chip from running properly. Luckily, he managed to figure out how to detect this and reset the audio chip when it happened.

Steve Scott
Everything in Halo 2 came in hot - especially the cinematics, which historically are done towards the end. We scrambled to get everything put together and hit our desired quality bar. We saw the sun come up through the office window more often than we would like. The big effect sequences were especially challenging: I only had a day or two to make the effects for the slipspace event over New Mombasa. That was rough. I think it came together well, but years later I was happy to revisit the same event in the opening sequence of Halo 3: ODST and spend significantly more time polishing the effects.

Dave Dunn: Part Two!
Now that you got me thinking about it and you mentioned pantsing people I couldn’t resist regaling you with this tale.

Back in our old offices we somehow inherited this xbox marketing kiosk that they were putting in retails stores at that time. In the kiosk we jammed a dev kit and we were able sync builds of our game to it. The kiosk was sort of centrally located in our open space and people would often challenge each other to 1 vs. 1 battles.

I remember we were testing Ascension on it and Joe Staten and John Butkus developed a little rivalry. Joe loved getting the sniper rifle and perching up in the crow’s nest. Anyway, this one particular evening Joe had gone home to eat dinner with the family and when he came back he had changed into sweat pants, presumably to be more comfortable for the late night working. Well these two started playing and a few of us gathered around to watch. This happened to occur during what I will call my “pantsing phase” when I was trying to pants as many employees in front of others as possible. Why? I guess I was trying to liven up the team during the notorious crunch we were in.

Anyway there Joe and John were, locked in an epic battle of cat and mouse. Joe as usual had the sniper rifle, and all of a sudden I couldn’t resist the opportunity presented me. I grabbed Joe’s sweatpants around the hips - and ended up grabbing the underwear as well – and shouted “Hey, check me out!” as I yanked his pants and underwear to his ankles. The “Hey, check me out!” is key as to attract as much attention as possible. I distinctly remember Nathan Walpole turning red in the face with his typical jolly belly-laugh which turned dangerous because he had bronchitis at the time and already had cracked ribs at the time. Now I don’t exactly remember it this way, but Joe likes to tell that right when this happened he had Butkus lined up for a head-shot and not even flinching he took the shot before pulling up his pants. :)

Joseph Staten
I heartily approve this Halo2 remembrance! And now… I shall pull up my pants.

Joshua Rogers
My most memorable moment from testing Halo 2:
Trying to reproduce a crash, Graham and I had to play on Legendary with inverted Southpaw controls. After a day of getting Master Chief killed over and over and getting my fingers tied in knots over the controls, we were told the crash was due to some bad hardware on the box it happened on. *sigh*

Luke Timmins
Fondest memories during development: Zanzibar Single-Flag CTF.

Zanzibar was our E3 map, so we ended up playing the hell out of it. The Gauss Hog and the Switch. The rush on D to pick up rockets and snipe. The wheel. Last stand on the beach. Sharks in the water. Amazing.

Josh Hamrick
Halo 2 made me want to be a better person.

Andrew Davis

Jason Sussman
One of my favorite memories of Halo 2:

I was such an avid fan that I loaded two TV's and two Xboxes into the back of my Xterra and parked it outside the Gamestop in Lewisville, Texas. The kind folks at Gamestop let me run the extension cable into their store (thanks again Steve). I had Halo: CE running for all of us in line to play while we waited. Fun times ensued and I actually won a prize for being first in line. I promptly went home and began playing until the wee hours of the morning.

There was also that one time … when I wasn’t wearing pants.

Paul Lewellen
Returning to Halo 2 for the first time in years was strange at first, but before long I was trick-jumping, sweep-sniping, and 4-shotting like a semi-professional again. There are some things that just stick with you, I guess.

Knowing how to read incoming messages is not one of those things. Sincere apologies to everyone who spent last night repeating, "Dude, press the left bumper to talk…" while I ranted about how confusing the Halo 2 UI was. It won't happen again, I promise.

Lars Bakken
Ok, so I wasn't working at Bungie for Halo 2, so I don't have any nightmare crunch stories. So, what was I doing that day?

Months in advance, I took the launch day off work, because I wanted to be completely immersed in the Halo 2 campaign and not have to go to work. There was gentle ribbing at the office that day, but I didn't care because I was looking forward to saving Earth!

I went to the local EB Games around 11pm, and stood in line with all the other dudes (and maybe a lady or two). At Midnight I rushed home partially tearing the plastic off as I ran through red lights in anticipation of playing the sequel to what was my all time favorite game. I stayed up until 3am (first run on Heroic of course), and then I spawned with a Sword and shouted, "WTF!" I couldn't figure out if I was hallucinating from being up so late, or if Bungie has just completely changed everything I knew about Halo. Of course, it was the latter. I slept in a bit the next day, until maybe 8am and then started logging some MP time. Ahhh, those were good old days.

Marty O’Donnell
Goodbye Steve Vai, goodbye Incubus, goodbye Breaking Benjamin, goodbye Hoobastank, goodbye Nile Rodgers and Nataraj, goodbye mystery guitar player… oh wait, you can still play the soundtrack.

Jim McQuillan

Robt McLees
At the end of one of our team meetings where all the principals were expounding on how we would soon be reveling in the awesome glory of our works, I had to remind everyone that the other possible outcome was drowning in our own blood. That is the reality of success or failure.


Talking guns with Michelle Rodriguez was pretty cool.

Lorraine McLees
The Mongoose! I wish I had pictures. Early in Halo 2 development it used to be one you sat back in like how you sit in the Chopper; it had a big gun in front that looked like the chin guns on an Apache helicopter. Dunno… I think if it stayed in, nobody would have wanted to get into the Warthog!

Doing screenshots in Halo 2 without saved films was so crazy time consuming. It was an exercise in patience and coordination between players. We always designated the one who needed to die (and it couldn’t be the camera man), tell everybody who needed to run from where with what weapon, firing at a specific spot while strafing or jumping. One person jumping, one strafing, or driving, and so on. And then someone had to then hit the pause button at exactly the right moment and send that screenshot command – It had to be right on the money because every time you took the shot, we all would go out of sync and everyone would get kicked out of the game and start all over again. So the few screenshots we were able to put together took several days. Each. But with many subs wanting exclusives, we finally had to break down and save the camera in one spot and play and shoot and play and shoot until we got the right combination of action on different quadrants of the shot and composite it together pixel by pixel. Sure, you’d call it bull-shot, but nothing was ever added on or adjusted. Everything happened as it was shown… just not all at the same time. We actually had to hire someone to hit that pause button while I was maneuvering for the shot I needed. Such humble beginnings for Shishka, the tilde key presser. We paid him in free coffee and lunch tickets until the contract was pushed through, and he didn’t sleep for 36 hours the moment he got in the door. I guess that was par for the course for everyone’s sleep habits at that time. I do remember passing out under my desk waiting for 3D Studio Max to save out the ginormous render of the box art, or creating an animation of the Halo ring rotating and spinning for the vidoc UI. I was younger back then. Ha!

Lee Wilson

You want to click this image.

Adrian Perez
Halo 2 is tough to remember because of all that could have been. This is an internal screenshot we have from our old stencil engine; we were trying to combine lightmaps for ambient lighting with stencil for directional sources. The idea here was blood gulch at night, so you could see the stencil lights from the grenades/weapon fire super clearly.

Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003, 4:59:06 AM

This was taken in January ’03 with the graphics engine we went to E3 2003 with. The ‘pstencil’ engine as we called it just barely poked along at 30fps after herculean effort. After that E3 we decided that the geometry/lighting fidelity compromises we would have to make to do stencil were too great, and we went back to the more traditional lightmaps + shadow maps we used in halo 1.
It isn’t called ‘who needs sleep’ for nothing.

Ah, Memories! Terrible, soul consuming memories!

Chris Butcher
Terrible, terrible, draining, painful memories.

I thought I didn't have anything to add, it was just such a painful yet exhilarating experience that no words could do it justice. But then, I remembered this poem that a fan wrote about our matchmaking experience the first week after we launched. I can't find the original reference, so I can't credit the author. It captures the way that people thought about the concept of matchmaking at first; and now, they've mostly come around and seen that it has a few benefits... but this made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

If Bungie owned a restaurant:

I’d pre-pay $50.00 to get in, then:

Maitre 'd: Welcome to Cafe de Halo2 Monsieur. Would you like to sit at the steak/chicken/lamb table with 4 people or the pork/turkey/duck table with 6 people.

Me: Actually, I'm meeting some friends who are already here, can I join them?

Maitre ‘d: No.

Me: No?

Maitre ‘d: No.

Me: Why not?

Maitre ‘d: This is a new type of restaurant sir. Sit down, you will enjoy it.

Me: Ok, I’ll take the steak/chicken/lamb table

Maitre ‘d: Fine. I will find you a table in 15 minutes.

Me: 15 minutes, but there’s plenty of open seats?

Matre ‘d: Yes, but we are going to find the best seat for you. It takes time.

Me: Well, is there a wait at the pork/turkey/duck section.

Maitre ‘d: I don’t know, you’ll have to choose that to find out.

Me: OK, I’ll try that.

Maitre ‘d: Alright, yes there is a wait.

Me: Fine, I’ll try that.

15 minutes pass, I get seated with 7 strangers.

Me: I’ll take the duck.

Waiter: I’m sorry sir, we don’t do it that way here. We bring you what we decide to bring you.

Me: What? But I don’t want pork, can I request to not get pork.

Waiter: No. And quit whining. If you don’t like pork, go home and cook with your friends. You should be grateful we opened this restaurant.

Me: Sorry. Bring me what you want.

[One excellent piece turkey arrives, and I eat it]

Me: Waiter, are there side dishes or anything?

Waiter: No sir, you must leave now. Your 6 minutes is up. Come back later with these friends you met here?

Me: Met, who had time to meet anyone? You made me leave in 6 minutes?

Waiter: I’m sorry sir, you must go. You should chase the 7 people from your table and ask if they’ll be your friends. And, sir, if you want to eat what you want when you want it, I suggest you cook at home with your friends. You ingrate.

The Final Analysis
But, of course, it wasn't all bad! Now that Halo 2’s Xbox LIVE run is over, out stats guru, Michael Williams is ready to deploy the final Halo 2 stats blob to Check out one last Post Game Carnage Report:

  • Unique Players (not including guests): 6,603,900
  • Kills: 36,784,837,266 (Or something like 5.5 times the current population of the earth)
  • Assists: 10,422,552,715
  • Current total games: 803,136,816
  • Current player games: 5,417,490,994
  • Seconds in Matchmatchmade games: 1,798,459,752,186
  • Minutes in Matchmatchmade games: 29,974,329,203
  • Hours in Matchmatchmade games: 499,572,153
  • Days in Matchmatchmade games: 20,815,506
  • Years in Matchmatchmade games: 56,991 (So since around 54,981 BC, about the time Europe was thought to have started being inhabited by Neanderthals)

  • Seconds playing campaign on live: 850,462,468,852
  • Minutes playing campaign on live: 14,174,374,480
  • Hours playing campaign on live: 236,239,574
  • Days playing campaign on live: 9,843,315
  • Years playing campaign on live: 26,950 (Or about 1.7 billion dollars at a minimum wage of 7.25)

  • Total Clans: 8,653,124
  • Clans with 8+ members: 68,868
  • Clans with 16+ members: 16,752

  • Times the Halo 2 Banhammer has swung: 548,479 (Slightly more than the population of Wyoming) (includes multiple bans on the same players)

And here's what they look like today:

Halo 2 on Xbox LIVE

Players Online: 50

Someone emailed me to ask how we felt about the few players still hanging on to Halo 2 today - those who will remain active until they are forcibly removed. Easy question. They're awesome.

Goodnight, sweet prince. And thanks for playing, Seventh Column.

<3, Bungie.
Top 10: Online Multiplayer Console Games 

Posted by urk at 11/3/2010 9:21 AM PDT

ScrewAttack shows us some love.

If you're not familiar with what ScrewAttack does, it's about time you got acclimated. And what better way to introduce yourself than with a video where they sing our praises? Bam!

Cover your ears if you aren't into naughty language. Thanks to HBO for pointing us in the right direction.

Tags: Halo 2 (Xbox)


Backwards From Dawn, Part 1 

Posted by urk at 4/20/2010 9:17 AM PDT

I Hardly Knew Thee...

Forward Unto Dawn is taking a look back at Halo 2 with a fresh perspective. Get your own eyes on at the jump below. Thanks to HBO for the heads up (and the bandwidth).

I Hardly Knew Thee...

Tags: Halo 2 (Xbox)



Posted by urk at 4/15/2010 10:10 AM PDT

Halo 2 is still going strong!

Looks like the Xbox LIVE team has yet to flip the switch. Halo 2 is still online and operational. If you're looking to get some last minute games in, now's the time - there's no telling when it's going down!

Tags: Halo 2 (Xbox)


Walshy's 2nd - Halo 2 Montage 

Posted by urk at 4/15/2010 9:19 AM PDT

Goodbye to you.


"This is the amazing Walshy's second montage on youtube. No description needed, but I'll give one anyway. Walshy is an amazing Halo 2 player, and is on one of the best teams, Final Boss, with players like him, Ogre 1, Ogre 2, and Strongside. This montage is a very honest montage with great editing and gameplay. Many snipes, sticks, multikills, and no scopes etc. I hope you enjoy it and leave a comment for me to read!?"

YouTube - Walshy - 2nd Halo 2 Montage

Tags: Halo 2 (Xbox)



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