Frankie is super busy this week getting ready to show the game to a host of press doods who won’t be able to talk about jack or squat from Halo 3 until later this year (if they value their souls), so instead of a shimmering Atlas holding a golden pen this week, you get a tall(er) Ewok who needs a shave.
Your tears, let me lick them.
In between running around like angry headless chickens, Brian Jarrard and Frankie have been meeting with various members of the team prepping them for the worldwide media hungrily descending on a small front conference room here at Bungie. Among numerous foreign outlets, U.S. enthusiast publication Electronic Gaming Monthly (who announced all this on their podcast this week) will be here checking out some of the Halo 3 campaign and assorted other features, fun and details around Halo 3.
You may remember EGM's last interaction with Bungie, their sinful depiction of the last Humpday against Bungie will not be forgotten. Tons and tons of salt is on-hand, its destination will be their wounds in the wake of our confrontation with them.
In between watching Hao Chen and Christopher Barrett’s presentation on the Halo 3’s global HDR lighting model and graphics demonstration, a demo Frankie described to me as “covered in candy-coated awesome,” Marty O’Donnell and Jay Weinland’s audio presentation and Chris Opdahl and Niles Sankey’s mission-related discussions, the usual pre-press preparations have been well underway.
Lorraine McLees has been working on culling screenshots from a series of multiplayer and campaign scenarios that we’ve played – my contribution to these sessions usually amounts to little more than running around, driving stuff, killing dudes and getting killed (usually by things that aren’t my fault, which I instantly blame on bugs that don’t actually exist [Frank always blames his deaths on lag/host advantage – even in system link]).
EFFECT VS. AFFECT
It’s a swirling maelstrom of busy at Bungie. The first disciplines are beginning to experience lockout, and that’s not a multiplayer map, or the unfortunate process of leaving your keys somewhere they shouldn’t be – instead, it means you’re no longer touching game code on a daily basis. Some folks have started to disappear to exotic locations, namely, “places their families are.” Rumors of families finally being reunited are abuzz at the studio, including some new additions to the baby division of Team Bungie (congrats Allen Murray!). Art passes are heading toward conclusion and effects passes are completely changing the way parts of the game look.
The Needler, one of my favorite weapons in the Halo 3 Public Beta, and still to this very moment one of my favorite weapons in Halo 3, got a new effect this week. Every needle that ejects from the rifle now has a contrail, lines tracing the trajectory from gun, to Brute, grunt or whatever. Apparently, the engine was already budgeting these contrails even though they were hidden, so the effects guys turned them on this week. The result? Complete and utter needle glory. Purple streaks of death tracking into packs of grunts, super combining into massive explosions? WIN.
Speaking of massive explosions, Story Bible-ologist Rob McClees sits directly behind me, and in the middle of turning around to say something derogatory to Frankie, my eyes were magnetized to his screen and some epic explosion that had just happened on it. After the explosion, and the three of us closed our wide-open mouths, Rob ran downstairs to talk to Effects wiz Steve Scott about what he had just seen.
When Rob came up the stairs, he was walking slowly, like someone who had just seen a ghost, but instead of a ghost he’d just supped sucked on an emergency oxygen supply mask full of gassy awesome. “That explosion we just saw is roughly half a million times more cool downstairs on Steve’s machine, there’s all kinds of amazing that isn’t even implemented yet.”
I propped the same build to my box and cheated my way to the part in question with the quickness. Then, because its debug code and we have tons cheatz at our disposal, I detached the camera from first-person and watched the spectacle unfold from a third-person perspective, with a free roaming camera (guided by my analog sticks). Here’s what I saw: The heat of a thousand suns being reflected in real-time off the Master Chief’s visor and the world being consumed by a huge white blast, blotting out everything on the horizon with white heat. And this is, as Rob pointed out, is going to be roughly half a million times cooler than it is right now.
Things like the HUD are constantly being revisited, retouched and tweaked in Halo 3. A super awesome new effect crept into the HUD this week and I first stumbled across it in campaign. Historically, in Halo there have been damage indicators that pointed you in the direction you were receiving fire. The collection of space wizards working on the HUD are tinkering with a different way of notifying players they are taking damage. This new effect makes taking damage a completely immersive inside-the-helmet type experience. But I've only seen a rough pass. It'll probably change.
LET THEM EAT STEAK
Earlier this week, Frankie, Joe Staten, Joe Tung and I settled the Steaktacular in a Humpday, rather than bore you with the details in the Weekly Update, you can go read, be enraptured and get excited over some of what went down here.
Now, Joseph Staten, being the literary scholar that he is, pointed out that he felt the Steaktacular lacked a conclusion, a denouement, so to speak. It peaked early and then eased readers into the sunset with a lot of questions like “Where is the steak?” “Will there be appetizers?” “Will it be awesome?” Rather than answering those questions, Staten and I decided to write a conclusion with War.
Back to Jub-Jub we went. In a bizarre seesaw battle that was the way it was for a number of reasons I can’t talk about – the ones I can talk about include the following: Me playing the worst five minutes in the history of Halo. Staten whoring a power-up like I’m prone to do.
The game, a one on one slayer match to 25 lasted roughly twenty-five minutes, but like an NCAA basketball game in mid-March, it came down to the last 15 seconds. We debated taking some media from the final encounter and putting it up on the Interwebz, but conventional logic struck that down for the following reasons:
- Players were using different permutations than we’ve shown
- Players were using different emblems and backgrounds than we’ve shown
- No one has actually seen Jub-Jub
- Weapons we haven’t talked about were seen in the background
So instead, words will paint the picture. Imagine a room, tinted barely letter with a lift blowing into it from below. A Spartan boosts up into the lift and launches a plasma grenade at the opponent, that grenade appears to stick Joe Staten’s foot, but apparently it missed. Staten’s frag grenade explodes behind my Spartan evaporating my shields with a yellow burst.
A round ejects from my Brute Shot, hitting Staten squarely in the chest, the second round soars over his head missing barely. The third round hits him in the head – his shields burst, yet his assault rifle continues to spray rounds desperately.
In this room on Jub-Jub there is an incredibly slight adjustment to the room’s height, enough of an adjustment where players must step down – their animation changing while they drop down. As Staten steps down, spraying his assault rifle desperately, another round spits out of my Brute Shot.
The round is traveling directly for Joseph’s head, it is a win. 25-24, Luke, anomaly and crisis averted, happiness attained.
The Brute round goes OVER Staten’s head, I fire again, dying as the round leaves the Brute Shot, it hits Staten he dies. 25-24, Staten wins. WAIT.
Oh blessed saved films, let us watch you. Immediately after the round, Staten admits that the game is a tie, Multiplayer designer Lars Bakken says to watch the replay and diagnose what happens. At the critical “final” Brute blast, Staten’s character slightly changed elevation, triggering a slightly different animation, these changes had his head bob down – almost like he was ducking – and the Brute round fired over his head. It would’ve been a kill, if not for this bug, I protest.
Lars looks at it this morning, Joe Tung comes up and calls it “the greatest saved film of all time,” and then Paul Clift, technical animation supervisor and another space genius came up to look at it.
“Hmm, yep, I don’t think that should be happening.” Paul down at my machine and clicks on a Mister Chief icon, he types some stuff on the keyboard plugged into my 360 and Staten’s character model is in the center of the screen, a river of text over the model explaining what is going on. He emails that document to himself and bam, the bug is on the way to be squashed.
“You still lost, Luke. Bug or not.” Lars Bakken, henceforth known as the great betrayer.
Today marks the conclusion of the long-running Halo-themed pimping of your ride in Forza 2. By the time you get to this line, the official thread will be locked, pictures will be harvested and awe will no doubt strike the faces of those who gaze at what the community created. Next week, we’ll announce three winners and coordinate the claiming of prizes as well as our receipt of the cars, because Frank and I couldn’t ever make anything that rad using a livery editor. We need cheats.