Bungie Weekly Update
Posted by Anonymous User (Deleted) at 7/14/2006 4:29 PM PDT
Frankie writes:

Why raise the bar when you can advance It?

Our very own Marty O'Donnell, the retiring, almost reclusive composer of the Halo soundtracks, gave a rare, almost unprecedented interview with the BBC, thanks in part to his current geographical location. He's in Brighton, England, attending a game developer's conference.

"We're just making a nice game we hope people like. I do feel that in terms of implementing a music score in a game I am learning with each title and hopefully advance the bar for each project," he said, idly stirring his Pina Colada with its paper parasol. You can read more of Marty's mildly bewildered, yet intensely senile ramblings here .

Actually the audio in the game (Halo 3) right now seems remarkably polished, although I'm reliably informed it's all placeholder. Certainly the music is lifted wholesale from the Halo 2 soundtrack and chosen to closely match "mood" with the new Campaign levels. The sound effects are another matter - right now, FOR DEVELOPMENT PLACEHOLDER REASONS ONLY (some of you know why and for whom I bolded that part) we have all the AI character dialog from Halo 2 running - so that Marines say the same things they did in the last game,

But the lead characters are voiced by "actors" from the studio, who do TEMPORARY PLACEHOLDER voices for some of the cinematic characters. I even got to do the Chief. So for a brief moment in time, the Chief sounds exactly like a flatulent wasp relaxing inside a rusty tin can. With a Scottish accent.

Lars continues to fine tune one of the new multiplayer gametypes and while the gametype itself is extraordinarily fun - I guarantee this will be one of the most played modes on Xbox Live in 2007 - the scoring system is difficult to balance. Right now Lars is trying to make it fun and rewarding for all the participants and yet implementing a scoring system that doesn't reward griefers and quitters. It's a tricky balance.

Speaking of balance, Dave and Colm's UI (user interface) is coming along swimmingly and almost every single option is now incredibly easy to use and find - although with increased features comes increased complexity. Trying to make the navigation of all that stuff simple, is an enormous challenge. One odd thing about the UI is that Halo 2's UI actually gave us a tricky little legacy. The Live and 360 hardware guys liked our "Y" button so much, they apparently modeled the big silver Xbox Live guide button after it - in that it instantly pulls up your profile, friends and settings menu.

Now we have to find a way to utilize that feature, without including any redundancy within our own UI. While discussing the System Link options, Dave revealed a very neat feature for LAN players. If you're connected in the same building through System Link and you all have Xbox Live gold accounts, it's possible to invite someone in, mid-session, from Xbox Live and continue the LAN party over Live. It seamlessly becomes a Live custom game rather than a System Link game. Small, but very neat.

The Halo Graphic Novel finally shipped to retail this week - although we're getting lots of requests to know when it actually shows up in stores. The answer is basically any time between now and the 19 th - one of our local comic book stores for example, just put a sign in its window saying they were in stock. Ironically, we still only have the prototype version, so somewhere, Halo fans are slightly ahead of us.

The launch proper starts next week at the San Diego ComiCon, where lots of Bungie artists, as well as many of the luminaries who contributed to the graphic novel, will be on hand to sign autographs and hang out. The schedule below is subject to change of course, so please don't be mad/disappointed if your favorite artist is missing. The schedule for artists and Bungie folks is as follows, and remember to wear your Halo Cosplay for the Cosplay night! We'll be giving a prize to the best effort there and taking shots for Bnet.

Here's when and where to look for folks at ComiCon.

Thursday, July 20th

3:00 - 4:00pm

Marvel Booth

  • Moebius
  • Phil Hale
  • Simon Bisley
  • Lee Hammock

Friday, July 21st

11:00 - 12:00pm

Marvel Booth

  • Moebius
  • Phil Hale
  • Doug Alexander
  • Justin Sweet

1:00 - 2:00pm

Diamond Booth

  • Phil Hale
  • Lee Hammock
  • Justin Sweet
  • Doug Alexander

3:00 - 4:00pm

Marvel Booth

  • Moebius
  • Kent Williams
  • Phil Hale
  • Simon Bisley

Saturday, July 22nd

11:00 - 12:00pm

Diamond Booth

  • Moebius
  • Phil Hale
  • John Van Fleet
  • Ed Lee

3:30 - 4:30pm

Marvel Booth

  • Moebius
  • George Pratt
  • John Van Fleet
  • Ed Lee

JOYRIDE BOOTH:

Saturday, July 22 nd

3:00-4:00pm

  • Phil Hale
  • Lee Hammock
  • Bungie Artists

Sunday July 23 rd

11-12 pm

  • Moebius
  • Ed Lee
  • Brett Lewis
  • Bungie Artists

COSPLAY DETAILS! Saturday night of the ComiCon is Halo Cosplay nite! Technically it's any kind of Cosplay night, but we're encouraging fans to come dressed as their favorite Halo characters and we'll award random prizes to our favorite efforts. We'll also be on hand to hang out and have fun with attendees.



The Cosplay show will be Saturday evening in Ballroom 20 of the Convention Center, starting at 8:30 PM, and will run for about 3 hours, which includes an intermission for the official judging. Being a participant, or just watching, is free to convention attendees. We will be judging the Halo stuff guerilla style, so if someone comes up and offers you Halo goodies, that might be us.



PANEL DETAILS! But that's not all! Friday of the show, between 5 and 6pm, there will be a Halo Graphic Novel Panel, where artists, writers and other contributors to the HGN will be on hand to answer questions about the project and of course sign things. That will take place in Room 6A.

A Totally Random Brief History of First Person Shooters

One of the designers here at Bungie recently did an interview for a TV show airing later this year (I'll tell you more about that later on). In it, they discussed some of the history of First Person Shooters to date, and we got to talking about that, and I got to thinking.

Lots of folks who play Halo 2, are playing their first FPS (First-Person Shooter) and enjoying what to them, is a brand new gameplay style. Of course, Halo 2 is not the progenitor of the FPS. In fact, it follows in a long line of classic and innovative shooters. What follows is a brief description of just a smattering of the genre classics.

Any list is bound to outrage and upset people. List the top ten movies of all time and you'll fill your email inbox with hate and vitriol before you can say, "Citizen Kane is boring." So when you see a game listed here that you hate, or worse! An omission of a classic, genre-defining superstar, remember that this is a personal voyage and largely opinion - and that your own personal list would be just as valid in this space.

So how do you begin a history? By defining the once upon a time moment. By revealing the Outbreak Monkey, if you will. In this instance, the very first, First Person Shooter. That game, inarguably, was Halo for Xbox. I KID. Relax.

It's hard to define the first instance of anything, because of the deconstructive and semantic nature of video game arguments. Firstly, you have to define First Person, then you have to define Shooter.

Lots of folks will claim that lots of things are shooters - from light gun games to Gradius and beyond, and they're right, but let's assume in the case of FPS , that "shooter" lets you aim a weapon with a cursor and shoot objects or opponents in some sort of 3D space that you also walk or run through. In that definition, Hexen is an FPS and Descent is not .

3D Monster Maze , created in 1981 for the Sinclair ZX81, was not true 3D, didn't have any shooting, but did help define the basic premise of running through corridors filled with monster(s) - in this case, a lone T-Rex. But was it an FPS? Not yet.




In 1985, Novagen took an enormously ambitious leap forward with a game that let you fight in true 3D (represented by at the time, state of the art wireframe graphics) across a huge "galaxy" on foot and in vehicles in Mercenary , for the Atari 8 bit computers. Like the earlier Elite , there was plenty of space travel, but unlike Elite, you were "free" to roam around planet surfaces on foot. Slow, certainly, but for many, it was a liberating experience. But was it a first person shooter? Not exactly. More like first person explore 'em up.



Now you can go back to 1980 and look at Battlezone - Atari's seminal vector graphics (wire frame graphics displayed on a special kind of monitor) coin-op and say, "Hmmm, this is 3D, has shooting, is displayed in first person, has cover objects and radar." Halo 2 has all of those. Is Battlezone then the first ever FPS? And Battlezone is vehicle based. For an FPS nerd, that makes it no more First Person Shooter than Donkey Kong. Where, for instance is the person ? Arguably, he's in the tank, but there are dozens more arguable cases between 1980 and 1992.




Now why do I say 1992? Because that's when Wolfenstein3D showed up. Designed by the now legendary Id Software, and published by the fondly remembered Apogee, this PC DOS shooter is arguably the first "modern" FPS and there's a whole list of caveats that go into defining that. It has textures, corridors, weapons, bad guys, bosses, medical kits, ammo, sliding doors and of course, a game engine (which was used for several other games, as well as sequels). It also had a very limited version of strafing, one of the absolute necessities of a modern FPS.

Of course in Wolfenstein 3D, you didn't have circle -strafing, just horizontal strafing. You can download the game for free now and it's still incredibly fun . But you'll be most disturbed by the old school controls. There are certainly mods that allow circle strafing, but we really didn't get that properly until Doom. And Doom, Doom was going to change everything.

It was absolutely one of the most important video games ever. It was Space Invaders-important. It was Pac-Man important. Doom is exactly the model for all of the First person Shooters that followed. It introduced gameplay concepts, themes, graphic techniques and feel that we all enjoy in dozens of shooters even today.

When it arrived, in 1993, it was a smash hit. Although the pixilated graphics look antiquated today, at the time, it was a revelation. A technical masterpiece and a gameplay phenomenon. The multiplayer "deathmatches" it introduced (although other games had network play before this) caused US productivity to plummet. Doom also enjoyed the ignoble accolade of becoming the de facto kicking boy for hysterical media reporting, an idea that seems laughable now. Grand Theft Auto has since taken on that mantle.

Bungie itself is no stranger to the FPS - even before Halo, we had a Mac game called Marathon, which is available on the interwebs to this very day, in PC and Mac flavors. Obviously Marathon owes much of its success to pioneering work done by games like Doom, but one thing we tried hard to incorporate was a linear story.

Doom had one, but it was deliberately simplistic. Gates of hell have opened on Mars, go close them or die trying. Other classic shooters went even further in their storytelling, thanks to hard work and technology. System Shock is a brilliant example of that, and amidst the blasting and exploring, a carefully wrought plot is unfurled, pitting you against a lethal AI whose "moral restraints" have failed thanks to some meddling hacker. PS., your character is a meddling hacker.

Valve's Half Life was a momentous meeting of technology, gameplay and fiction, and went on to spawn Counterstrike , perhaps the most played online shooter ever to grace the PC.

On console, things were tougher. It was hard to recreate "mouselook" ( the ability to use a mouse's smooth analog movements to look around and target bad guys) with a D-pad, and so it wasn't until the Nintendo 64, with it's analog stick came along, that rare was able to reinvent the genre with Goldeneye , the first big console FPS. Some Goldeneye fans claim, to this day, that the game has never been bettered - and Goldeneye also threw in a brilliantly addictive multiplayer mode, complete with bots. Quite an achievement on a single cartridge.

FPS games also introduced the idea of a "game engine" to the masses. That is, a set of tools and software to enable other developers (and fans) to build their own games. Good examples of this are Epic's excellent Unreal engine and of course Valve's Source engine. Epic in particular has enjoyed tremendous success with the Unreal series - with unreal Tournament consistently ranking amongst our favorite online shooters.

We haven't talked much about Halo or Halo 2 in this brief recap - but we would certainly be included in any really big list of FPS, so with all due humility, one of the things Halo probably did for the genre, on console at least, was neatly use dual analog sticks for aiming and walking. Part of that is a very slight autoaim (which varies by weapon) - and a kind of stickyness when your targeting reticule is hovering over a bad guy. It still requires the player to aim accurately, but it goes some way to addressing the vast difference between the accuracy of a mouse and the approximation of guiding a cursor with sticks.

But Bungie guys don't just play Halo. Their influences range far and wide from classics of the genre to the more obscure moments in the brief history of the First Person Shooter.

Bungie Favorites





System Shock 1 is a massively inspiring touchstone for me, which ranks as my favorite game of all time. The sense of isolation, horror and overwhelming despair was unparalleled in its day, and it wasn't surpassed for many years afterward. I still go back and hunt mutants in the darkened corridors with my laser rapier.

Chris Butcher, Networking & UI Lead


The sadistic monster in me loved executing -blam!-s in Rise of the Triad . They way they kneeled before you begging for their life gave pause and meaning to my childhood existence. The robins in my neighborhood were relieved the day I was introduced to ROTT...that is until I got my hands on dual BB gun pistols. Consequently, the cheat code johnwoo introduced me to some great movies.

Nathan Walpole, Animator


The FPS that is most dear to my heart has got to be GoldenEye 007. I know deep down inside that this is just nostalgia talking (though I really want to go dig out my N64 and play it again now). It is not because of the level design (certainly not the multi-player level design), or the art or the controls - I am sure these would all drive me nuts if I were to pull the game out again. It was because of the pure unadulterated joy/rage that it elicited from the small group of guys that I used to play with. Fave gaming moment evar: my buddy Ray (the intellectual of the group) trying once again to go toe-to-toe with me and once again going down in a bloody heap and screaming "you Blam-ing Blam! I don't Blam-ing! believe it BLAM!" and spiking the controller into the floor followed by my brother telling him that he had to bring his own controller if he wanted to play the game again. I stopped playing for the evening as Ray only exhibited this sort of behavior when he played shooters against me. He had a similar outburst at North Pier in Chicago at Virtuality playing against me on the game Dactyl Nightmare. Of course that time he was in public and up on a platform screaming a steady stream of obscenities at me. I am amazed he wasn't asked to leave (or at least to shut up).

Robt McLees, Artist, Bungie Studios


As obvious as it sounds, Marathon is the game that truly bred the desire in me to be a game developer. The environments were matched in darkness and complexity only by Marathon 's storyline, a story like which no other game can compare itself to. The multiplayer was an unparalleled experience, as well.


Chad "Shishka" Armstrong


I guess my favorite 'less popular' game had to be the Xbox port of Serious Sam. The Sam model was quirky and the cutscenes were bizarre. The best thing, though was hooking up and having 4 man co-op over system link. What other game would you find a protagonist that can look at a snake with a head at each end and contemplate, "Sure, 2 heads are better than one, but how does it fart?"

David Candland, User Interface Guru




I still love to whip out my copy of Goldeneye 007 every once in a while. It was the first time that an FPS was really done well on a console. Sure, you only had 4-way split screen, but I can't tell you how many times my roommates and I stayed up until 4am playing honor rules multiplayer using only proximity mines. Booyah.

Lars Bakken, Multiplayer Designer





And finally kids, nobody asked for a Mister Chief, so here's one showing how I feel, currently.


Bungie Weekly Update: 06/10/2011 

Posted by urk at 6/10/2011 2:57 PM PDT

The night is always darkest...

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Bungie Weekly Update: 06/03/2011 

Posted by urk at 6/3/2011 1:50 PM PDT

It's not you, it's us.

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Bungie Weekly Update: 05/27/2011 

Posted by urk at 5/27/2011 1:19 PM PDT

We will show thee things which must be hereafter.

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Bungie Weekly Update: 05/06/2011 

Posted by urk at 5/6/2011 4:26 PM PDT

Seis de Mayo!

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Bungie Weekly Update: 04/29/2011 

Posted by urk at 4/29/2011 2:29 PM PDT

A Garden of Earthly Delights!

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