It’s Friday the 13th and that means somewhere on cable tonight Jason Vorhees will go on several Running Riots. Here at Bungie on the 13th, it’s not scary in the dude-in-a-hockey mask bursting into your bedroom wielding certain death while you’re with a ladyfriend sort-of-way, things at Bungie on the 13th are pretty exciting in the “OMGZ, this roller coaster is getting faster and there’s a ginormous light in front of us and it’s melting our faces like we’re in Raiders of the Lost Ark” way.
By now you’ve probably seen the Halo 3 Trailer that debuted at E3 (if you haven’t seen the complete version yet, head here), and noticed that nestled like a pup in the pouch of a marsupial were buckets of treats, things ne’er seen before, ne’er confirmed and ne’er spoke of outside of the brick, mortar and man musk holding Bungie’s fortress of solitude together. Now, does that mean all of the sudden we’re going to start chatting up everything you saw in the feature and recount shot-for-shot exactly what you just saw?
Negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.
But what you did see in that trailer was gameplay lovingly mixed with some of our cinematics. Speaking of Cinematics, those dudes (CJ, Lee, Nathan, Kurt, Josh and D.A.M.N. FX-loaner Bartek) have temporarily moved upstairs to a super dark, super quiet area of the studio to gently layer more coats of paint on the game’s cinematic sequences. Pretty much hourly, I get up from my desk, walk over to their room and press my face against the glass like a sixth grader on a school bus heading to a Museum of Awesome and spy on what they are working on. Without fail, I see something (generally from later in the game than we will EVER talk about) they are working on and my jeans tighten.
Gameplay footage in the trailer was captured using our Saved Films functionality, which has been unveiled for multiplayer (and demonstrated to press before, as well) but players will also be able to take Saved Films of their Campaign experience in Halo 3. Just like in the multiplayer demonstration shown to the press, Saved Films in Campaign will allow you to unhinge the camera from the player and move freely around the environment both while paused and while gameplay unfolds in front of you.
When I’m playing Sierra 117 (the level the press saw), Frankie correctly points out (on the return of the Bungie Podcast) that Brutes “just suicide when they see me coming.” I am six foot ten inches of Win creeping through a jungle filled with gently winding streams gently hugging moss-covered rocks and while canopying trees guard the jungle floor. That floor is lit by “God rays” pouring from the heavens and they softly reflect off of Brute armor and armaments.
When I’m watching my Saved Films (and I’m a vile narcissist so I watch them over and over and show them to everyone who walks by like a kid showing off a new G.I. Joe to his grandparents), I’ll often detach the camera and create dramatic angles, watching the Chief (me) is stalking through foliage and then seamlessly pull the camera back to reveal a garrison of Covenant troops deployed into a vast canyon. Then carefully, and often times in dramatically sweet slo-motion, I watch myself unleash wave upon wave of death against those who would oppress Earth and her denizens. I am humanity’s savior and I’m playing the game on Heroic or Legendary, every time (just like you should).
Uh, whoa. Totally got carried away there.
Reports surfaced in the press this week that Halo 3’s Saved Films will allow for “infinite” saves and tons dudes and dudettes on the Interwebz have been all, “Zomg, I has to get an Xbawkz Elite to save infinite filez and memoriez for my Halo scrapbook.” Rather than let this sort of rampant speculation persist, here’s some clarification on storage capabilities Saved Films will employ.
Players will be able to save up to 100 total films (that includes whatever combination of Campaign and Multiplayer that your heart desires). When you get within 5 films of this limit, we’ll have a message-in game that lets you know how close to the edge you’re skirting. Once you’ve reached your limit, you’ll have to delete some files to make room for the new hotness.
Similarly, players will have 50 screenshot limit, where again, once you’re within five screenshots of capacity, you’ll get a message warning you of impending space restrictions.
Sketch and Frankie both chimed in with incidentally conflicting reports of what happened this week down at E3. I hate it when Mom and Dad fight.
Sketch says: “So Frankie and I have been down here in sunny Santa Monica all week spreading Bungie Love and promoting Halo 3 to throngs of journalists. We flew into town earlier in the week and spent our first few days doing rehearsals and coordinating some setup and logistics for our keynote trailer (which arrived mere minutes before the final dress rehearsal). Hopefully by now everyone has seen the trailer in its true and proper form via HD download on Marketplace or the web.
We started doing demos Tuesday night, immediately following the keynote, from about 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Then we resumed on Wednesday for five more hours, nearly 12 hours on Thursday and then finally wrapping after five more hours today. All in, I think we did about 50 or so presentations. Our demo consisted of a brief play through of “Sierra 117,” the first mission in the Halo 3 campaign and then a deeper look at our saved film functionality using a multiplayer game we played in the office last Friday as the backdrop. Frank and I took turns doing campaign and films – eventually forming a bitter rivalry to see who could give the BEST campaign demo, and more importantly, shoot down the elusive Phantom at the pump station and not get pwned by any number of sneaky Jackal snipers and aggressive jerk Brutes. We were playing on Heroic, which naturally makes for a more intense and epic demo, however, it’s not a walk in the park, even after our 10th time playing it. Thing is, the battles unfold a little differently every time. One demo you’re able to kick ass and blow through like a proper Bungie expert [Luke Smith], next time you get slapped in the fingercuffs by 3 Brutes and a Jackal sniper you never noticed before. As it turns out, Paul Bertone, mission designer for “Sierra 117”, told me that there’s actually a random element to the placement of enemies. Right when Frank and I would find a rhythm and begin anticipating the Jackal snipers, that sniper wouldn’t be on the ledge in the following game, it would be in a tree to the left or behind a rock to the right. And it’s even worse when you’re jumping into your first Heroic match of the day at 9 a.m.
Our back and forth competition and attempts to out-demo each other kept things fun, even after our 50th play-through. I still say my demos destroyed Frankie’s, regardless of whether I brought the Phantom down every time or if I died. I bring showmanship to my demos, Frank plays like a girlie man and uses a Carbine from maximum range. It’s true. Towards the end we started ending our demo in new, hilarious ways, like Frank jumping off the gigantic thundering waterfall yelling “I REGRET NOTHING!!!”
We didn’t have any Marty music in our build, which sucks, but we did have massive amounts of sound design. Crunching gravel, splashing water, rustling leaves… you could really take it all in without the distraction of the music. Combat dialog was turned up a bit high in this build, too – tons of chatter was taking place from allies and Covenant – a bit more than will end up in the final game. The Grunts proved to be a huge hit. I’ll see if we can share some of the better outtakes on our next podcast.
The other half of our presentation was a closer look at Saved Films. Last Friday a few of us back in the studio sat down to play a few games of team slayer on “Sandtrap” (formerly known as “Shrine”). Just like the beta, the film saved our exact game to the hard drive and we found the one with the most awesome moments and brought it out here to E3. Unlike the beta, however, these films had full functionality. So rather than just watch it back from my perspective, we had full free roaming camera control in addition to fast forwarding, slow-mo, pausing and rewinding. As expected, people were really impressed by the coolness and potential of this feature. I can’t help but get giddy at the thought of not only seeing what comes out of the machinima community but also having hard evidence to share with everyone the next time Luke and I totally own Frank and Joe [Staten]. Or perhaps the next Bungie vs. EGM/1up match. And then wrap it up in a nice bow with a glorious screenshot.
We spent pretty much our entire time here inside a room at the Viceroy Hotel. Everyone asked how E3 was going but honestly we had no idea – for all we knew, there was no world outside that room. It’s a shame to not have had the chance to take a breather and stroll through the show floor and see some other games. Today was the only chance I had to see anything else – Frank covered for me during one session so I could sneak upstairs to catch a glimpse of the Halo Wars demo. The guys at Ensemble have been really busy since the prototype I recall seeing nearly a year ago. The game is looking great and the attention to detail and authenticity to the Halo Universe really stood out. Hopefully I can wrangle some hands-on time with the game once we come up for air.”
Now Frank and I just had an IM conversation and I stuffing into the Weekly Update, completely unedited seems like a decent idea. Before you ask, yes, this is actually how he and interact:
(3:07:17 PM) lukems: Dude, why have you not been on MSN this week? It's so ronery. Can't you type and entertain press at the same time?
(3:07:25 PM) Frankie: no
(3:07:44 PM) Frankie: We only had two half hour breaks the entire time
(3:07:47 PM) Frankie: not kidding
(3:07:52 PM) lukems: Did you get snacks?
(3:07:52 PM) Frankie: redonkulous.
(3:07:58 PM) Frankie: I had a half a sammich
(3:08:04 PM) Frankie: I think it was liverwurst
(3:08:07 PM) lukems: Fail
(3:08:10 PM) Frankie: some kind of meat poison
(3:08:44 PM) lukems: So more and more throughout the week I started reading press reactions to the Campaign demo. More than a handful said things like "the demo wasn't able to be finished because they kept dying." WTF
(3:09:05 PM) Frankie: Haha
(3:09:07 PM) Frankie: Brian.
(3:09:23 PM) Frankie: I was en fuego, as they say in the Caspian, and other regions
(3:09:44 PM) Frankie: ventually I got so good, that I was able to take out the Phantom by thinking bad thoughts about it
(3:09:50 PM) lukems: Really? He said you died without drama or flair and just sort of limped over to vicious jackals with Carbines.
(3:09:52 PM) Frankie: like Stephen King's Carrie
(3:09:59 PM) Frankie: I never died
(3:10:04 PM) Frankie: because I used leet wepinz
(3:10:43 PM) lukems: You two are like Gimli and Legolas going back and forth in the Two Towers with the Phantom. Descibe Sketch's greatest moment of hard-style failure:
(3:10:48 PM) Frankie: Actually I died a couple of times, but Sketch died more times than [spoiler]dude out of the Prestige[/spoiler]
(3:10:56 PM) Frankie: Same as mine
(3:11:05 PM) Frankie: Sniper on other side of river at pump station
(3:11:14 PM) Frankie: if you forgot or missed him, he would end you
(3:11:34 PM) Frankie: eventually at the end of the demos we would deliberately hurl ourselves off the waterfall
(3:11:51 PM) Frankie: like chick from Last of teh [sic] Mohicans
(3:12:03 PM) Frankie: We jumped in the river for great audio justice
(3:12:15 PM) Frankie: I sent a couple of grunt floating over the dam
(3:12:18 PM) Frankie: and a crate
(3:12:29 PM) Frankie: Japanese mens want 3rd person
(3:12:33 PM) Frankie: and also womens
(3:13:24 PM) lukems: How did the journalists handle the awesome hitting them in the face like Ivan Drago's fist?
(3:13:49 PM) Frankie: they fight all their life
(3:13:52 PM) Frankie: they neffer lose
(3:13:56 PM) Frankie: soon they fight Halo 3
(3:14:01 PM) Frankie: then the word will see their defeat
(3:14:06 PM) Frankie: folks seemed to like it
(3:14:12 PM) Frankie: and saved films
(3:14:14 PM) Frankie: and graphics
(3:14:34 PM) lukems: What about the vast majority of poor, unfortunate souls who didn't get to see the behind closed doors demo? Is there something left in the basement for them?
(3:15:35 PM) Frankie: We're gonna wrap em up in a cocoon of horrors
(3:16:37 PM) lukems: So I assume you didn't get to see anything else at the show?
(3:16:53 PM) Frankie: Nothing
(3:16:56 PM) Frankie: Oh wait
(3:17:03 PM) Frankie: I saw Halo Wars (SWETT)
(3:17:10 PM) lukems: Yeah, that's what Sketch said
(3:17:10 PM) Frankie: and Fable 2 (interestingz)
(3:18:00 PM) Frankie: there's a crazy fighting bad guys makes music thing that Marty will be intrigued and perhaps aroused by
(3:18:47 PM) Frankie: I saw a lot of Halo 3
(3:18:50 PM) Frankie: Sierra 117
(3:18:57 PM) Frankie: Insertion point Alpha
(3:19:07 PM) Frankie: I am REAL good at that level now
(3:19:11 PM) Frankie: Groundhog Day style
(3:19:15 PM) Frankie: it never got dull though
(3:19:19 PM) Frankie: always scaary
(3:19:04 PM) lukems: What was the most memorable reaction from the press?
(3:19:26 PM) Frankie: Most memorable?
(3:19:43 PM) Frankie: An audible GASP! from about 30 people at the end of pump station - caused by building tension
(3:19:45 PM) lukems: Yeah, was there bladder and or bowel control loss?
(3:19:51 PM) Frankie: well
(3:19:56 PM) Frankie: no
(3:20:09 PM) Frankie: Saved Films are a hit
(3:20:20 PM) Frankie: Brian did do an AMAZING bubble shield duel with a Brute
(3:20:31 PM) Frankie: He dropped one, the Brute dropped one
(3:20:38 PM) Frankie: antics and grenade bouncing ensued
(3:20:39 PM) Frankie: was cool
(3:21:02 PM) lukems: Then he made the Brute's clothes fall off and killed him, rite? Or was this one of the times Brian died?
(3:21:25 PM) Frankie: It's called armor
(3:21:28 PM) Frankie: prevert
(3:21:34 PM) Frankie: [sic]
(3:21:50 PM) Frankie: Anyway yeah - stripping their armor and then seeing them turn BERSERKER is hot
(3:21:57 PM) lukems: OH MAN OH MAN
(3:22:19 PM) lukems: Last question for now: Did you see who we got for next week's podcast? Complete victory.
(3:22:43 PM) Frankie: Beardy? Yes. Especially since me and Sketch now know his level better than anyone else in Christendom.
(3:22:58 PM) lukems: So much facial hair in one room!
(3:23:00 PM) Frankie: we can be all, "Why is that Jackal such a little -blam!-?"
(3:23:08 PM) Frankie: and he can be all, "LOLZ NUB"
(3:23:27 PM) lukems: Funny, that jackal never gives me any problems on Heroic or Legendary.
(3:23:52 PM) Frankie: he moves around nub
(3:24:14 PM) lukems: Yeah, on top of the building, middle ridge or first ridge across the water. I know.
(3:24:29 PM) lukems: Sounds like you just need more Situational Awareness.
(3:25:11 PM) Frankie: and drama
With Frankie at E3 and Joseph Staten at a top secret vacation, the series of desks at the writer’s pod is down to just Robt McLees and I. Staten is off in some exotic location with his family working on “Contact Harvest,” his book about Sgt. Avery Johnson and the beginnings of humanity’s war with the Covenant. No, we’re not going to do a dramatic reading of Joseph’s book here in the Weekly Update, or even paste a snippet from the book (though the dramatic reading idea could seem plausible in other formats), but we did get the cover art this morning.
Folks are still wondering what’s up with the super secksi Halo 3 Xbox 360, so here’s the “just the facts, ma’am” breakdown. It includes all of the cabling that comes with current Xbox 360 SKUs and the hard drive and wireless controller custom created to match the console’s unique aesthetic, now here’s the rest: