Just a few short days ago, Bungie announced that four-player co-op over Xbox Live would be a feature shipping in Halo 3. Additionally, you’ll be able to play 2-player split screen and connect with another 2-players over live in any live-enabled configuration. So it could be, me and my brother-in-law , playing at my house, joining a room with Frank and Lars, but Frank and Lars are both on their own boxes. The same rules apply to system link play.
To quickly recap, you’ll be playing as two unique Elites as Players 3 and 4 and for reasons we’re not entirely talking about yet on the Internetz (but the latest issue of EGM can lend you a few hints), all four players have identical abilities and similar weapon load-outs at the start of missions. We want all of the players to feel equally powerful to one another during Halo 3’s Campaign and it’s vital that no one feels like they are getting mounted by playing as an Elite.
The artists are getting restless. After delivering a glove slap to their collective cheeks on a recent episode of the world-beating Bungie Podcast, a herd of them sauntered up to my desk, snapping their fingers like they were the Jets – I think I even heard humming, but I can’t say for sure. Michael Wu, one of the Grizzled Ancient Environment Artists sat down on my desk, talking about how Velociraptors hunt in packs and usually pick on the weak, isolated, youngsters when they are getting ready to feed. Apparently, he’s been watching a lot of Jurassic Park lately.
I’m all alone. Frank is still out of the office, Joe Staten is working on his book in a dark, silent room in a far corner of the office and Rob McLees is out of the office today, so I’m the only writer sitting in our tower of pretension. I know what these jerks are up here for; they want to play a Humpday right now, me against the four of them.
Bungie.net regulars have sent tons of missives to me lately asking the equivalent of “WHAR IS TEH HUMPDAY?!!” “STOP EATING SNAX AND PLAY HALOZ WITH US,” because the Humpday has been on a bit of a hiatus. This is due to myriad exuses including, but not limited to: Brian and Frank’s rigorous world tour; it’s really hard to go back to Halo 2 when I have supped from the sweet, sweet cup of Halo 3 (and do every day for an embarrassing amount of hours) and because dudes are still finishing the game. Don’t worry, once we send this game off to be pressed into a hojillion copies, I’m sure guys like Luke Timmins and Joe Tung are going to want to play in the Humpdays, and we’ll begin the process of handing out bathroom tissue for you to dry your eyes on.
But before the game goes out the door and into the world, these artists want to get a game on. The artists, Ske7ch has pointed out, have asked for their own “special” play sessions so they can play with their fufu rules. “Let’s play with Plasma pistols only!” “Let’s play Juggernaut with Sentinel Beams only and call it Ghostbusters.” There will be no Gozar the Gozarian or StayPufft Marshmallow Man when we play the artists in a Humpday coming very soon.
What You Left Behind
At last week’s Comic-Con, a Halo fan brought something to Joseph Staten. When Joseph tried to return it the fan said “No.” Upon arriving back in the great Northwest, Joseph had an idea on how to upgrade said item and return it to the fan, but there’s a problem: Joseph doesn’t have this dude’s address.
So: What I need from you, dear mysterious reader is for you to send me a message on Bungie.net with your real name, address, tell me what the item you gave Joseph was and what it was made of, so that we can bestow a treat upon you.
WE INTERRUPT THIS BORING, EMO LUKE THING TO BRING YOU OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED FRANKIE
Hay guys wut’s goin on?
I just got back from Amsterdam. Ishn’t that weerd? Eet ish time to get HYPED! The spellchecker continues to battle my attempts at phonetic spelling, which although initially based on Austin Powers: Goldmember, isn’t really THAT far from a real Dutch accent, although they swing wildly from mostly English sounding to mostly German sounding. All of which is wrapped in the embarrassing fact that everyone there speaks at least two languages fluently.
At the Amsterdam event, we basically assembled a bunch of European press and showed them some Campaign (Jungle and Tsavo Highway levels) and let them play some multiplayer and Campaign stuff. The big announcement we had (obviously) was the four player co-op mode, which we’d been sitting on for a while, making sure it actually worked well.
Well, it works great, so announce it we did. We even let the European press play co-op (although the location – a moving boat, forced that experience to be System Link only). Xbox Live play is practically identical when your connection is solid, right down to the instantaneous Lobby joining process. And speaking of that, let’s clarify what actually happens in co-op, so that nobody is left in any doubt:
Number of players: You can play one, two, three or four player co-op, online or on System Link.
You can play two player split-screen co-op for a single Xbox 360 – and yes, you can play online or System Link co-op against another split-screen setup for a total of four players, two Xbox systems. You can also combine a split-screen with two single players over Live or System Link.
To start a game, you can invite players to your Campaign lobby as the host – or, if they see you sitting in a lobby and there’s a slot available, they can “Join Session in Progress” and they should instantly appear in your Campaign lobby.
You can only begin a game from a level start or an “Insertion Point” which is like a sub-chapter in the game, and always a nice logical place to start. The number of insertion points per level varies, but is usually around least three or so.
Once you’re in a game, you should (unless one of you hits a snag, like a lost connection) stay together until you volunteer to leave the party.
Edit: Because of things like team scoring and so on, the game is now set up so that if a player leaves the party, he drags the other fellows back to the lobby, where they can restart from an insertion point.
Co-op will be easier, even with the measures we’ve inserted to keep it challenging, so we automatically suggest upping the level you play at to either Heroic, or preferably Legendary. There are other measures you can take to increase the challenge, and we will discuss those later. An example of it being easier is that you can send out a bullet sponge to draw sniper fire while one of you runs out to grab a much-needed weapon. So you can see that co-op also dramatically changes the types of strategy you’ll employ too.
The two new Elites, joining the Arbiter and Master Chief, both have real bios and appropriate fiction, but they will not be appearing in the cinematics and so on. They are designed to be believable and useful allies, without affecting the fictional arc in a negative way – and they do not appear in the game as AI controlled opponents during one or two player games.
Scoring in co-op games will be revealed in all its glory soon, but simply put, each player will have his or her own score, which is at its simplest, you get points for killing something, and you get more points for doing it with style (say a headshot, for example). There will be measures in place to ensure that both individuals and the party as a whole, feel a sense of satisfaction while playing and scoring in co-op. But again, more on that later.
But that’s an aside. The new EGM is now arriving on store shelves, and we heartily recommend that you purchase and digest this fine tome immediately. There is a ridiculous amount of information and art from Halo 3 in there, and it’s a must-have for fans. It also has the most complete description of Forge available – but you can read all about that in Forge. However, I came back to discover the most outrageous-looking movie of Forge ever created and couldn’t not share this tidbit with you.
Petar, one of our engineers, found a saved film from one of our testers playing on Sandtrap. He basically placed a RIDICULOUS number of exploding fusion cores on and inside the Elephant vehicle. They had their respawn times set to as close to “instant” as Forge allows, so that every time one exploded, it respawned. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what kind of chain reaction this would cause once a single core was detonated.
What we didn’t expect was the effect it had on the Elephant physics. Now the huge metal beastie is indestructible, but it has weight and mass in the game universe, so explode it enough and you can move it. Explode it with a never-ending cascade of fusion cores and you have the most dangerous Halo item ever. A vehicle big enough to park a Scorpion a Hog and two Mongooses inside, flipping around at incredible speeds and tumbling all over the map, releasing exploding cores and the occasional vehicle like some kind of satanic piñata.
And all the while, players have the ability to play a normal game variant in this environment. It’s sheer insanity, and just a taste of what players and player-designers will be able to achieve with Forge. We literally cannot even fathom what folks will come up with using time and imagination, as well as Forge’s multiplayer nature. Actually, I need to invent a fake word that combines normal game players with level designers.
I christen that word: Desciplayers. No, wait, Playsigners. No that’s not right. Forgers. Bam. You’re Forgers. Go forge something.
Of course, this kind of madness – while it seems to work fine right now – might add some unforeseen shenanigans – so if what I just described ends up being impossible in the shipping game, then it was my fault for drawing attention to it.
Got a lot of questions about the AV calibration tool, and so I decided that it’s not terribly secret, so I should give you some info. Of course this isn’t on the same schedule as the game, so it could change slightly, but at the time of writing, this is all correct.
First off, what is it? Well, simply put, it’s a 360 app that helps you tune your TV to best display Halo 3. Now, we’re using industry standards to make sure that this actually helps with any and all TVs. These standards are as close to objective and “correct” as is possible to achieve, but again, the nature of this kind of calibration is by its nature, subjective. However, we’ve had them independently tested and verified by industry experts, so the settings, if correctly adjusted, should make Halo 3 and everything else you watch on an HD set, look better.
The process is seated firmly in the Halo universe – basically, Sgt. Johnson appears and guides you through a number of tests and retests. He will, for example, ask you to adjust the contrast on your set until a Grunt barely becomes visible from a white background, or to change your color settings until an image of Cortana becomes crystal clear. It’s all very simple – the only real challenge for the viewer will be making sure that words like “Sharpness” actually map to an equivalent in the myriad TV interfaces out there.
He’ll ask you if things are correct for say, the brightness settings, and then move you on to the next item. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, and the end result will be confidence that your set is calibrated to industry specifications and if you prefer your settings brighter or darker, or warmer or m0ore dynamic – you at least have a great baseline to work from.
A simple audio test follows, which basically lets you make sure your 5.1 speakers are at least wired correctly. This is an upgraded version of the olde surround sound test. No more wondering whether your right rear is actually wired left rear. A Grunt makes it all perfectly clear…
One other item to note – more advanced visual settings can be reached by using a blue filter that we’ll make available at the Bungie store. This is basically just a dumb piece of transparent blue plastic, but it will help tremendously when making very fine scale adjustments. We’ll try to make sure it’s priced fairly. More information on that later.
I will close with a photo of the crazy Dutch guy who, dressed as Master Chief, yelled at us in a thick accent to “get hyped!!!” and so we did.