Greetings, everyone! Shogo Ishii here to give you an update on Halo 2 for Windows Vista. Matt was having fun showing Halo 2 at the World Cyber Games Grand Final, so I’m going to fill you in on our recent work. This is a busy time for us at Hired Gun as we work to get as much done as possible before the end of the year.
Just a brief background about myself, I’m a contract program manager for the Hired Gun team working with Bungie on Halo 2 for Windows Vista. I’m very fortunate to be assigned to this project as I’m a big Halo fan and an avid Halo 2 player on Xbox live.
We recently gave a visitor from the press a chance to check out Halo 2 for Windows Vista first-hand. PC Gamer Magazine asked Microsoft about the latest crop of Windows games, and they were curious about Halo 2. We opened up the pot lid to show them what we had cooking, including the very latest code – which so far hasn’t left Hired Gun’s offices – and an exclusive look at the abilities of the custom map editor. It was on late notice, so there was a bit of adrenaline as we fixed last-minute bugs and begged, borrowed, and stole enough AV equipment to give the best impression, but we pulled it off with time to spare and were pretty happy with the demo.
Our map editor tester Chris walked through the process of creating a map for the game, starting from raw geometry and textures produced in 3D Max and Photoshop, doing a bit of editing in Guerilla, then composing the scene and placing objects with Sapien. The new Sapien previews custom work at the same rendering quality as the actual engine, so it looks super-fly without jumping back and forth between the editor and the game. Chris showed a few other things that I won’t go into… but hopefully PC Gamer will give you the scoop.
For nostalgia’s sake, we did a side-by-side fly-through of Zanzibar on Vista versus the Xbox, echoing that original Halo 2 Zanzibar demo so long ago. Without trying to brag, I really think the screenshots we’ve posted do no justice for this game until you see it in person. Anyway, after the demo our visitor had some time to spare, so we jumped into the team’s local Dedicated Server for some Slayer and CTF. Good times.
Two weeks ago marked the end of our “Sprint 7” development milestone and as is tradition we invited over the folks from Bungie and bigwigs from Microsoft to see our work. Beyond what we’d shown PC Gamer, this Sprint marked the first time we’ve been able to connect to a Dedicated Server using Live Anywhere, complete with friend requests, game invites, the whole shebang. Pretty sweet! For months we’ve been playing pickup games against each other on the local LAN, but finally we can challenge the guys over at Bungie and the other Microsoft Game Studios buildings. Soon we’ll see whether we’re big fish in a small pond, or just abnormally huge freaking fish.
On a related note, our game browser is starting to take shape, including some helpful features for finding the kind of games you want to play. We’re still trying to fine-tune the browser so we can fit more into it, but I’m sure you’ll like the finished product.
During Sprint 7, Hired Gun spent quite a bit of time working on audio in preparation for a review with the infamous Marty. It’s tough meeting the standards of a guy who hears boxer shorts when the rest of us hear a tuxedo, but fortunately both Bungie and Hired Gun have audiophiles willing to pitch in with mini-reviews before the big event. The Xbox console does a lot of its sound in custom hardware, so there’s some work to do getting the DSP effects and spatialization right, but we hope to have a product for the big man soon.
As we’ve already explained, Halo 2 for Windows Vista will support the use of the Xbox 360 controller, but the mouse and keyboard might be surprisingly popular. Key mappings are fully customizable as of this Sprint, and rumor has it that people at the World Cyber Games were so impressed with the Microsoft Intellimouse after playing Halo that they actually stole them from the booth. Not that I endorse theft…
I wish I could give you more details on the networking and graphic improvements the devs made just this month, but that would only ruin the surprise. Hey, did your parents let you open presents three days before Christmas? I think not. What I can promise is that we’ll be updating the Halo 2 for Windows Vista FAQ in short order. Until then, keep those Halo skills sharp!