Bungie Weekly Update: 06/08/07
Posted by Frankie at 6/8/2007 5:40 PM PDT

Winding Down

A sad and gentle reminder that the Halo 3 Public Beta is coming to an end this weekend. In theory, it will come to a close at Midnight, PST on Sunday the 10th of June, a few days after it was originally scheduled to bite the bullet. Followers of the Beta Saga will no doubt remember that the extension was Bungie’s way of saying sorry for the initial 10-14 hour delay for Crackdown users.

The Beta has been a great success for us in terms of the sheer amount of data it allowed us to gather, for matchmaking, networking, general bug-bashing and of course some gameplay elements. As the Beta heads to the great software graveyard in the sky, it’s vital to remember that things you got used to during these short few weeks, are almost certain to change. Some of those changes will be subtle, nuanced, perhaps even invisible. Others will be less subtle – with shifts in game types, weapon functionality, spawn points and map details. Don’t get attached to anything.  But bluntly, most changes are going to be improvements, judging from the feedback we’ve seen.

That is, after all, the nature of a Beta. Find problems, eliminate them, test systems, make improvements. And that’s what we’ve done. The final shipping multiplayer game will be better for it. And you, dear player, will have contributed to that betterment.

Hopefully you’ve also had fun. We never want to ship anything that isn’t enjoyable. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed a small sample of what’s going to be a much bigger game.

Internetz: Serious Business


Look! It's the enfixenated Collector's Edition temporary placeholder retail boxart thingy.

One of the tougher parts of this job is staying on top of the interwebs. Things change so quickly that actually keeping track of problems becomes a full-time job. This morning, for example, somebody (Claude from HBO) pings me and says, “Can you comment on Halo 3 being on two discs?”

“Eh!?” says I. “The game’s not done yet Claude, it could ship on one disc, it could ship on five flippin’ discs.”

“Yeah, but Amazon shows the collector’s edition has three discs, and two of them are game discs,” says Claude.

Sure enough, I go to Amazon and there it is, in full color. So, first off, let me clear it up for you:

The Collector’s Edition picture erroneously shows that it ships with a Bonus Content disc and a Game Two disc. Incorrect. It’s a mistake at MS’ end and we’re updating retailers with the correct image. The “Game Disc 2” shown in the art actually refers to an interactive Bonus Content disc. It’s an Xbox “executable” (think of it like a menu-driven disc, similar to the Official Xbox Magazine cover disc) and internally, has always been referred to as “Game Disc 2” because it has to go through the same certification process as Halo 3 itself. That was somehow communicated to MS retail marketing verbatim. Hence the error. No big deal.

The Legendary Edition comes with two extra discs. The “executable” interactive disc listed above, and a Bonus Content DVD – the one pictured incorrectly with the Collector’s Edition. Confused? No wonder.

The upside of that is the “Game Disc 2” itself. Because it’s an Xbox 360 disc and not a DVD, almost all of the content it contains is in hi-def (if your TV supports it). And some of the content is pretty spectacular. Now to clarify: Both premium editions, Collector’s and Legendary, come with the interactive disc. Only Legendary comes with the DVD.

The Collector’s edition includes a bound “art book” called the Bestiarum – a guide to the species and civilizations of the Halo Universe. Legendary Edition purchasers get an expanded multimedia version of the same material, with far more art and illustration, most of which has never been seen before and won’t appear anywhere else. And that’s built into the DVD Bonus Disc along with other materials.

Legendary also features an exclusive printed collection of storyboards from the game cinematics, by Bungie’s own Lee Wilson.

So here’s the real breakdown for each edition and remember, ALL of these items are subject to change or replacement.

Regular Vanilla Edition:

Includes Halo 3 for Xbox 360 and a manual. And obviously hours, days, weeks and months of hi-intensity Halo joy.

Halo 3 Collector’s Edition:

  • Collectible Metal Case
  • Halo 3 for Xbox 360
  • Bestiarum: A hard cover, bound collection of information and art covering the species, cultures and civilizations of Halo 3.
  • On the Interactive Xbox 360 Bonus disc (included in both Collector’s and Legendary editions):
    • Hi-Def Halo: Bungie’s graphics and audio engineers have created a simple to use, Halo-themed calibration tool to make the most of your Home Theater experience.
    • Art Attack: Exclusive Halo 3 Gamer Pics and Dashboard theme, a vast gallery of concept and production art (complete with musical accompaniment) and a fully playable version of a classic Halo-themed mini-game.
    • Featurettes: A series of short films covering a range of subjects, from making your Network play nice with Multiplayer, to the challenges of building the biggest Halo ever.

 
Halo 3 Legendary Edition:

Inside the Halo 3: Legendary Edition

  • Fully sculpted Spartan helmet: The most collectible piece of Halo merchandise ever conceived. An accurate model of the Spartan Mjolnir Mark VI helmet.
  • Halo 3 for Xbox 360
  • Storyboard Collection: Exclusive selection of storyboard art from Halo 3's cinematics.
  • Legendary Disc: Found only in the Halo 3: Legendary Edition, this Disc is a DVD disc that will play in your 360 or on any DVD player and features a wealth of rich, unique and exclusive content. Contents include:
    • Halo Cinematics Reloaded – completely remastered, hi-res versions of the Halo and Halo 2 cinematics with 5.1 audio and complete with optional “Director’s Commentary” track featuring Marty O’Donnell, Joseph Staten and Jason Jones.
    • Bestiarum – an expanded digital guide to the creatures, cultures and worlds of Halo 3, with art and assets exclusive to this interactive edition.
    • The Cortana Chronicles – Jen Taylor, the voice of Cortana, takes us on a tour of the worldwide  Halo fan community ,where she meets Halo fanatics from near and far, obscure and famous alike.
    • Plus: All-new, exclusive Machinima episodes from Red Vs. Blue and This Spartan Life and a novel “mockumentary” voiced by Sgt. Johnson himself, David Scully.

 

  • On the Interactive Xbox 360 Bonus disc (included in both Collector’s and Legendary editions):
    • Hi-Def Halo: Bungie’s graphics and audio engineers have created a simple to use, Halo-themed calibration tool to make the most of your Home Theater experience.
    • Art Attack: Exclusive Halo 3 Gamer Pics and Dashboard theme, a vast gallery of concept and production art (complete with musical accompaniment) and a fully playable version of a classic Halo-themed mini-game.
    • Featurettes: A series of short films covering a range of subjects, from making your Network play nice with Multiplayer, to the challenges of building the biggest Halo ever.

So there you have it. If the contents of the editions change (which is always a remote possibility when you’re making something this complex) we will keep you apprised. But as of this afternoon, that’s what’s planned to be in the boxes.

Armor Awe

Recently, Gamepro and a couple of newspapers ran features on some of the new Multiplayer stuff coming your way. One of the things that was almost universally lauded by folks who read the various articles, was the introduction of custom Spartan armor. Gamepro’s piece does a nice job illustrating those armor permutations – and it is simply a selection of what will appear in the shipping game. The most commonly asked question we get after the initial gasps of delight is, “Will there still be Elite armor?” Well, it would be kind of weird for us to add so much customization for appearance and forget about one of the major MP characters, wouldn’t it? We’ll have more news about the existence or otherwise of an Elite model fairly soon.

The armor permutations themselves are stunning. Everyone already has a favorite type, but the really interesting fact is that you can mix and match the various pieces from the various sets (and the Gamepro article doesn’t contain all of them…) with colors, emblems and highlights to create surprisingly unique and virtually limitless iterations.

Letting folks customize their appearance took a lot of work, both from artists and engineers – with help from the UI design team. The process of permutation selection (as it stands right now) can be done from anywhere outside of an actual game – the lobby, the main menu and so on. For the first few weeks, you’ll probably experiment with combinations until you settle on a look and armor permutation that you’re comfortable with.

All of the permutations included have a backstory and a function, and more importantly, a role in the Spartan program. Folks have already made obvious comparisons with the Spartan III armor featured in Eric Nylund’s excellent Ghosts of Onyx. We’re not confirming whether or not that’s on the money right now, but suffice it to say that the Spartan program and the Mjolnir armor project produced some very interesting combat materials. But you’ll see them yourself, soon enough.

The game is, after all, nearing some form of completion. Anyone with basic math skills can probably deduce that if we’re going to be on shelves in September, and that it takes at least a few weeks to manufacture and ship disks, will be fairly well aware that we can only possibly have a month or two of core work to do on the game itself. And that’s really starting to show now.

Multiplayer is in a very rich state of completion – the MP guys would probably have a conniption if they read that, since they’re still working brutally late hours, but the fact is that all the MP maps are pretty much complete in terms of art and geometry, and the process taking place right now is one of tuning and polish. That will continue until the last possible second – with the art, engineering and design teams lavishing more love on the shipping selection of maps than ever before.

The original Halo MP maps were inspired and excellent, but had nothing like the amount of effort or technology lavished upon them as this batch. I heard Mr. Steve Cotton asking about the possibility of the addition of an effect on “Jub Jub” which is funny, because I can’t imagine a more complete looking map.

I also saw a new effect that right now is in a loading screen between levels, but may end up in some other place. And it’s AWESOME. Not the world’s most technically challenging thing, but just a cool, moody graphical interlude that really sets the tone and mystery inherent in Halo 3. Props I think, to Adrian Perez, but I am sure I will be corrected if I’m wrong. Again, just a cool, thematic almost screen-savery effect, but a lovely one that fits in beautifully with our UI scheme.

Campaign, being bigger in scale than Multiplayer, still has farther to go, but great lawks a lordy if it isn’t just looking and feeling great right now. I’ve played through the game from start to finish several times now, so I’ve kicked it up a notch or two. Stopped playing on medium for fun and moved to heroic. I still don’t have the stomach to call Legendary “fun” exactly, but it’s a lot more involving and less punishingly repetitive than Halo 2. You feel like the brutal, hardcore challenges can be overcome, and the “learning” curve is much more logical this time.

Sure, there’ll be sniper alleys, and horrifying grenade assaults in Legendary, but I think you’ll find it much more fair, if not exactly any easier. The flipside of that trek through the horrors of Legendary, is trying speed runs and “high impact” activities. I’ve certainly had fun with that, but the problem with speed runs is that there’s so much to miss. One level can be driven for almost its entire duration, but do that and you’ll miss masses of fun. Luckily, the game has plenty of built-in incentives to stop and smell the roses – not limited to Marines who need your help. I still feel guilty leaving them behind, especially now that they have the wherewithal to take care of errant, panicky grunts.

And then there are achievements. As we’ve said before, the Halo 3 achievements have a distinct philosophy behind them. Decent players should be able to get most of them simply by trying. We don’t want to build in any ten trillion kill grindfests (although there will obviously be achievements related to totals) and we want to make sure that our toughest ones aren’t ludicrously impossible. And more importantly than attainability – even the tough ones have to be enjoyable to go after. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Achievements and other, yet-to-be-revealed activities, options and features are going to make Campaign in Halo 3 have much more replay value than ever before. This is vital for folks who don’t have Live (yep, there’s a few out there) and a great boon to folks who just don’t like multiplayer.

The combination of story, environment and gameplay stuff, should be a nice package for lone wolves. And as usual, there will be plenty of hidden gameplay surprises over and above all the documented features. I’m reaching a point now where quite aside from being an employee, part of me wants to quit having it all spoiled for me, and go into hibernation ‘til September 25th so I can experience it all “normally,” and have the story unfold properly. That’s a luxury liner that has already sailed, however.

Car Culture

Our friends over at Turn 10 studios just launched Forza 2, and with it, their car livery editor. I had not been paying that much attention to the livery editor and simply racing, but I was super impressed at all the cool Photoshops folks had imported into the Forza 2 engine and slapped onto their cars. First thing I thought was, “I should get a couple of Chief concepts, import ‘em into Forza and make a sweet ass ride.” It was about this time that I discovered how the Forza 2 editor actually worked.

Yikes.                                                

So all the amazing art I had seen, from a perfect primary-colored Katamari roadster, to an intricate, yet bizarrely inappropriate PGR3 livery, had been created painstakingly, one shape at a time, one color at a time, one layer at a time. The actual process of creating sometimes photo-realistic renderings to slap on Forza vehicles is one of the most meticulous things I have ever seen. And that meant that every livery I had ever laid eyes on was now 700 times more fantastic than I thought. So props to all of those.  This is how they’re actually made: Makadalivery

But hyper-props to m0dus.


Omg Sweet


Hot from the topz

Kickz up durt

To our enormous pleasure and satisfaction, m0dus (a gamer who’d been making some sweet designs already) created a stunning Master Chief car – initially on a Mazda, but eventually on this Shelby Cobra. It is a thing of powerful beauty and right now, it’s the official Bungie Forza 2 ride. It’s mad sweet and we love it.

But hey, there’s bound to be more Halo themed Forza cars out there, and we’d love to see ‘em. If you have one you think we’d like to look at, and you want to share it with Bnet readers, we’ve set up a thread on our forums for you to post your pictures of Halo-themed cars you’ve created in Forza 2. You can access images taken from Forza 2 online by linking your Gamertag to your forzamotorsport.net account (just like linking your Bungie.net account to your Gamertag). Once you’ve done that, screenshots you take in-game will be available for you to download, re-host and then post on our forums here. A more detailed guide to this process is here. Makadascreenshotz

We’ll be monitoring that thread for the best entries and the three best will receive one of the seven supremely hard-to-acquire cars from Forza 2 courtesy of Che Chou and the folks at Turn 10. We’ll notify the three winners via the forums, a news post and private messages on Bnet – at that point we’ll need your Gamertag so that we can gift you one of these super rad cars. Oh, and the only other catch – the three winners have to give a version of their design to Luke and me, so that when we ride around in Forza 2 – we can represent hard style.

Luke asked what Mister Chief would look like on the back of a Shelby Cobra. Thank the maker, m0dus answered the call:


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