Was good to get back after the break. I was only gone a week but it seemed a lot longer. A bunch of the guys actually worked through the holiday break, on and off, so remarkably, there was new stuff to see when I downloaded a new build. Notably some new decoration in a multiplayer level that I simply hadn’t seen before, which made a previously confusing and complex level, suddenly easy to navigate. Don’t read too much into that. For some reason I have HUGE difficulty still playing Burial Mounds. I can just never get my bearings in that level. I also get lost in San Francisco’s Sunset district. I blame magnetic forces.
There were also some new objects for me to play with, but I can’t mention those yet. Soon my pretties, soon. I did get to play with some new camera tools. We’re definitely going to expand upon what kind of camera options we had in Halo 2. At the very, very bare minimum, you can expect a vastly improved version of the “follow cam” we had in the last game, but fingers crossed, we have far more ambitious schemes up our sleeves.
What’s the purpose of improved camera stuff in MP? Just ask any of the community members who make videos – whether those be machinima, tricking vids or simply replays of matches and tournaments. Certainly the tournament scene will want more, more, more.
Lars demoed some of the proposed features for me, and it basically gives the player (cameraman?) a lot more control than you’d expect. That said, it’s all dev work and if it causes problems, breaks stuff or proves untenable, it won’t make the cut. I have a good feeling about it, however.
Final control schemes are still being played with. The mysterious ‘X-Button” might ironically end up being a mysterious other button. But no matter. We’re going to give players plenty of user-customizable options to make them happy. And the um, “feature” in Halo 2’s Southpaw controls where the triggers were reversed, will be amended and we’ll give you a couple more options too.
Personally one of my favorite control features right now (probably only truly vital in a dev environment) is the ability to change my control scheme at will, from anywhere in the game – Lobby, gameplay, pause menu – wherever. Saves that frantic four seconds at the start of a match when you realize some left handed, communist octopus was using the controller before you.
Audio recording is moving ahead at full speed. Mostly dialog at this point. We’ve had some brilliant actors reading parts for Halo 3, including one who did the greatest Walken impersonation I have ever heard, bar none. Meanwhile, our own Joe Staten is breaking up his grunt into manageable sessions – since it absolutely wrecks his voice after a day of taping.
One sharp-eared listener playing our Alpha actually noticed that the Mongoose currently has both single-stroke and two-stroke engine sounds when shifting. That’s because of THE FUTURE!!! But Jay, one of our audio geniuses, has a cat litter box full of, well, cat litter in his office, so he’s either doing ad hoc foley recording, or he ate those week-old egg kebabs I left on the radiator.
There won’t be any significant updates to Halo 2 matchmaking for a little while, since Ninja is hard at work testing and implementing matchmaking types in Halo 3 – specifically Team Slayer, Rumble Pit and Skirmish modes. He’s also putting a new game mode in there, so we can play around with it in the Alpha and see if it fits.
I got a lot of questions about the Beta this week – especially regarding the Crackdown part. Basically, if you buy a specially marked copy of Crackdown for Xbox 360, in the US (details for other regions will be decided by those territories) then you will receive some kind of code allowing you to play in the Halo 3 Beta. There were other modes of entry (again, depending on your region) and perhaps the most confusing one was the “Play three hours of Halo 2” one. This is how it works:
* US players (and other territories too – see your local Xbox.com website for more info) would have to play a total of three hours of games on Xbox Live between 12:01 AM (EST) on February 1, 2007 through 11:59 PM (EST) on February 3rd, 2007.
* According to the press release, if you play three hours of games during this period, you then go register via http://www.halo3.com for a chance to become a beta participant.
* Specifically, you have to play those games and then be among the first 13,333 players to register at the site, so a spot is NOT guaranteed.
* The box you’re looking for (in the US at least) will look something like the one you see below, but is subject to change.
I’ve also been asked about Bungie’s own “Friends and Family” program – where we’ll be giving out beta spots, gratis, to folks we deem worthy. I’ve been getting a lot of PMs from folks who claim to be worthy, and I’m sure they are. We’ll give you more details about that soon, but we will have a limited number of spots, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t make it. The Crackdown method is as close as you’re going to get to a guaranteed spot for the moment.
Now, I have also had a lot of mail saying, ‘Why Crackdown?” and the answer is simple – because MS deemed that Crackdown was a suitable game to distribute this thing on. There are probably a ton of reasons why, mostly biz and marketing, but the good news for consumers is that Crackdown is actually super sweet. Now this is my personal opinion of course, but I have a build on my desk and it’s a blast. You can make up your own mind on Jan 18th when the Crackdown demo goes live on Marketplace. Then you can either agree or call me a liar.
Crackdown itself hits the streets on February 20th. So you have plenty of time to try all the other avenues first. I believe you will know long before the game ships if your other efforts were successful or not. It is complicated, and worldwide regions make it more complicated – we here at Bungie simply don’t know all the answers, but we can promise to share what we do know, as soon as we know it.
And we’ll make it worth your while.
Marty is pondering more music. He already has a ton of ideas. He won’t tell me what they are, but he talks of tone and DARKNESS! He did share even more madness from the voice actor auditions. Let’s just say that if we hire even half of these guys then the combat dialog and cinematic acting in Halo 3 will be the best yet. He auditioned my favorite voice actor of ALL TIME. I hope he makes the cut. He’s a vocal genius. And of course, a lot of your old faves are returning too.
Oh and we’re hiring. Normally you guys can skip these mentions, since we’re usually looking for experienced engineers, or Disney-quality animators, but this time you may in fact be qualified. We’re ramping up test and need folks interested in becoming Halo 3 testers. It’s a contracting position, but that’s full-time hours for qualified adults only please. Check the details here.
Oh and who's this guy?