I've been working pretty freaking hard this week on two projects. One is reading a manuscript of a new Halo novel, and working in tandem with a very talented writer to make sure his vision of our universe is in sync with ours. It's very pleasant to work with talented people and engage in compelling discussions about fiction. Robt McLees has been heading up the "fact-jerk!" portion of that, but as big sci-fi geeks, we both get a kick out of reading the preview text.
You guys (or at least the ones who're fans of the prior Halo novels) are going to absolutely bananas for the new book. I'd love to hint at what it contains, but I will not be known as the King of Spoilers. But you will definitely pee a little when you see the cover - Lorraine (and Robt, kind of) is working on the cover design right now.
Other fiction-related projects are speeding along - nothing new to report on the Marvel stuff, other than the original announcement - that a series of comics codenamed "Halo: Ongoing" are in the works. That stuff is going to rock.
Joe Staten says we're going to have some movie news next week, at long last, but when I asked him about it for the update,
Joseph turned in his chair and said, "I look upon the fields. Dry and cracked. And hear the cries for rain. Soon. The rain shall come." Then he swiveled, and spoke no more.
Our friends over at HBO noticed (after some hefty spywork) the WETA has started to include the Halo project in the bios of some of its designers. If you're interested, you can go look at the guys' portfolios and galleries over at the WETA website, and while none of their Halo work is actually up there (if you think it is, that's probably the Evangelion concept stuff) and shows the kind of talent we've been graced with the opportunity to work with.
Actually, Rob, Joe and I have all been doing some research on a Halo 3 related project that may or may not see the light of day, but it too has fictional aspects and tremendous promise. More on that... next year...
In Multiplayer news, Lars, one of the Multiplayer designers, got his ass handed to him by Bungie staff. He played in the Humpday challenge with his former employers, Backbone Entertainment, and did not help them to win.
He did however introduce a couple of new maps into the rotation for test, while polish is applied to the graphics of the already playable maps. Now most of them are starting to look roughly the way they will when the game ships in 2007. One of them however, was a lighting fan's dream come true. The use of HDR lighting is incredible, with a vibrant, radiant sunset on a map location that will look familiar, but not identical to an old favorite.
Of all the multiplayer maps I've seen so far, this is the one where I sort of gasp and say, "Wow, now that is next-gen Halo." The lighting is especially impressive when you step from a dimly lit interior space onto a red-gold burnished parapet and the contrast changes instantly and dramatically. One of the challenges is balancing the shift in light for multiplayer so that you're not "blinded" when you step out into the sun and the auto exposure kicks in. It has to be smooth enough to seem "realistic" and quick enough so that it doesn't ever impact gameplay. And that level is still barely polished or decorated. Many of the textures are placeholder.
In the multiplayer playtests now, there's a race to grab one of the few HD sets, just so that you can gape and marvel at the detail, but the fact is that even on our crappy 4:3 sets (we are testing to ensure the game looks amazing for everyone, not just Richy Rich), the lighting model is so robust that certain moments look more like video than gameplay - although Halo's graphics are stylized rather than photo realistic.
There's also some very nicely finished trees in one of my favorite mid-sized levels, complete with the now obligatory tree animation. It's one of those levels where you look around and say, "Hey, this would be a nice spot to picnic," but then somebody blasts you from a Banshee. It's also one of the favorite levels for one of our new gametypes, thanks to its obvious defensible positions and creepy, narrow hallways.
In single player news...
Max Dyckhoff says, "I am working on the AI for something quite large." Actually, he told me what it was and I realized we simply can't mention that yet. I would do a smiley or a wink here, but I am liable to be stabbed or headbutted at PAX.
Speaking of PAX...it's coming up very soon. For those of you who don't know, PAX is the Penny Arcade Expo, which in turn, is a CONSUMER video games show where there will be new games to gaze upon, play, tournaments to enter, costumes to laugh at, game-related bands and music to listen to and more importantly, human beings who share your hobby. We went last year and it was fun, fun, fun.
This year PAX is even bigger , and has spread to include the lofty Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, WA (near Seattle) and although pre-registration has closed, the organizers point out that there will be plenty of tickets on sale at the event for walk-in customers. The "day-of" passes come in all sorts of value sizes, from $45 for a 3 day pass, to $17 for Friday only . And of course the event runs from Friday through Sunday.
And finally, KP says the kids are all asking if this Mister Chief would ever be revealed in its entirety, and the answer is yes. We've got a wee version of it at the very bottom and you can see the entire thing (as well as proper art, in the gallery section of the Halo Graphic Novel):
Old sneak preview version.
The whole thing: