After two solid weeks with no concrete information, I figure it’s about time we softened up our stance and supplied you with what you really want – explicit details.
Yesterday, as the lunch group I glommed onto marched toward uncharted areas of downtown Bellevue, Tyson Green, our beloved and habitually be-hatted lead designer, confessed to have been mulling a particularly morbid curiosity. He was puzzled. And as is the case with all incomprehensible things that slosh around in our liquid-filled lobes of gray matter, sooner or later we may feel need to let them spill over. That way other, less familiar people can examine them from new angles, and – if you’re lucky enough to keep good company – help you reach a state of comfortable understanding whereby you can squash the hideous thing beneath your boot, and finally put it behind you.
Tyson’s query was mathematical.
When you order a bucket of hot wings, what exactly happens to the rest of the chicken?
The most immediate solution we arrived at was chicken nuggets. After all, few among us know what exactly constitutes “mechanically separated chicken pieces,” but as is the case with most questions posed during our lunchtime excursions, the simplest and most immediate answers don’t fly for very long.
I had a much more complex answer: Chickenpede. One part chicken, and one part centipede, this succulent new animal eliminates the need to callously discard one bird for every pair of wings destined to be slathered with glistening wing sauce. And hopefully the pronoun helps you conjure up detailed imagery of the genetically modified beast that serves as the perfect solution to Tyson’s curious mental puzzler, the monstrosity grotesquely working its way through the complex logical labyrinth of your mind like a plump contortionist coated in a layer of congealed fat and feathers. Of course, this may lead you down into the depths of imagination best left unplumbed.
Is the Chickenpede an upright beast, its multitude of wings arrayed along a vertical length of proud, feathered torso that lurches skyward, the teetering thing threatening to topple over with every beleaguered step? Or does it slither about on its belly, the multitude of ambulating appendages not only unfit for sustained flight, but now only useful to slowly propel it through blades of grass, like a ship at sea powered by fatigued oarsmen, compelled by the crack of the whip upon their backs, and the briny spit of the sea?
I know. These may not be the explicit details you’ve been asking for. You may even be thinking to yourself that this is more than a bit off topic, even bordering on animal cruelty. And you’d be totally right if Chickenpede were in fact flesh, feather, and blood. But Chickenpede isn’t real. He is a figment of my imagination.
Let’s talk about something a little more tangible.
I spent the majority of my weekend patrolling the Halo: Reach forums with its official soundtrack – Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance
– on repeat, and I couldn’t help but notice that there’s still an awful lot of confusion surrounding both the Defiant Map Pack and our current role in this great big Halo universe going forward. Looks like all the time we dedicated to pulverizing other, more pressing rumors these last two weeks has led to a lack of focus on present day affairs.
Some of the questions are answered easily. We did not have a hand in making the Defiant Map Pack. Again, we can’t take any credit. Just like the official press release states, Certain Affinity
created them in partnership with 343 Industries, the team Microsoft has assembled to steward all things Halo-related.
Our role isn’t all that complicated, either. We’ll be taking care of the maps as if we carried them to term and birthed them into the world kicking and screaming ourselves. After they launch, we’ll drop them off into our Matchmaking playground and keep all of your stats and playlist information right here in our Bungie.net daycare, because we take care of our kids. Call it Support and Sustain, if you want to get technical.
For details covering all the speculative visual gems you’ve apparently unearthed (see what I did there) from the latest batch of press screenshots, you’ll have to go to the source. Agents from 343i are already answering these questions for you. And I quote:
There is no new armor coming with the Defiant Map Pack. On March 15th, you can look forward to three new maps: Condemned (supports 6 - 12 players), Highlands (supports 8 - 16 players), and Unearthed (supports up to 4 players in Firefight mode).
When I wrote about being on the “other side of the fence,” it wasn’t just another one of my terrible analogies. At times, we really don’t have the details that you’re looking for. In the case of the Defiant Map Pack, I am literally learning as I go, just like you are, palpating my own personal excitement over the prospect of checking them out in person.
So, as we get updates from 343 Industries, we’ll make sure to pass any new info right along. As for our long-term future, you’ll have to wait just a little while longer for answers. Stay tuned.
Not much news on the matchmaking front that you aren’t already aware of. Jeremiah is planning to deploy the revamped version of The Arena early next week so we can stay ahead of the new season. Unless something goes horribly wrong, expect to see it available late in the day next Monday.
Sometime “shortly” thereafter, Team Doubles will also go live inside of the standard Competitive playlist.
For more detailed information, check out last week’s update
or drop into the Optimatch forums
to keep abreast of all the tweaks and upgrades Ninja and his crew have planned for the future. You’ll need a Bungie.net account with a linked gamertag to gain access.
While we’re on the subject of future matchmaking stuff, I have a heartfelt apology to make. A few weeks back we linked to a Skee Ball map and game variant that we found fairly impressive
. Turns out, we should spent a little more time aiming our club before we teed off. The author we gave full credit to borrowed the modified Stockpile game type – the most impressive component – from another industrious player’s File Share.
Before you freak out, it should be noted that the player we highlighted did not send any of said files to our attention in an attempt to gain favor and recognition. There was no ill intent. Instead, we found the rendered video on our own and went looking for more. Any confusion over who gets credit was totally and completely our fault. Well, Stosh’s fault anyway.
To make up for our glaring mistake, the original author gets a Star and our undying admiration. Not only for creating a kick ass map and game type
, but for truly impressing us with creativity, ingenuity, and, of course, patience and understanding.
As a potential added bonus, I also played the original Skee Ball variant as part of a top secret internal playtest not too long ago. I can’t say why or whether you’ll end up seeing it in any official capacity, but if you do, you can bet we’ll make sure props go out to the original author.
We’re sending a sizable contingent of Bungie veterans to GDC next week. If you’re planning on attending, here’s a list of talks our team will be giving, cribbed directly from the official GDC 2011 website
. If you happen to be in attendance, stop by and say hello. Make sure you stay at arm’s length if you come across Marty. Once he starts signing, there’s no stopping his whirlwind Sharpie assault.
Chris Tchou – Halo: Reach – Effects Tech
Day / Time / Location: Friday 10:05-10:30 Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Track / Format: Programming, Visual Arts / Lecture
The goal of effects in HALO: REACH was to provide a more atmospheric, dense and visceral experience. We found a number of graphical techniques to be particularly useful and effective. A greater density of small transient particles was handled by a custom colliding particle system run entirely on the GPU. This system handled 24,000 colliding particles in the shipping game in less than 0.3 ms per frame. A greater presence of atmospheric and smoke effects was enabled through a low-res transparent rendering system that could effectively sort with high-res transparents through dynamic layer grouping. Finally, the depth buffer proved to be an effective way to cheaply create the illusion of world interaction on a number of effects, most prominently used in character shields, boundary markers and electrical effects. Lots of video and details provided!
Tam Armstrong & Joe Spataro – The Animation of Halo: Reach – Raising the Bar
Day / Time / Location: Wednesday 10:30-11:30 Room 3007, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Track / Format: Visual Arts, Production / Lecture
The animation quality bar for HALO: REACH was much higher than HALO 3 and needed to maintain the feel of a HALO game. We discuss the challenges we overcame and the concessions we made to ship on time and on budget with better quality.
Xi Wang – Automated Level of Detail Generation for HALO: REACH
Day / Time / Location: Friday 9:30- 9:55 Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Track / Format: Programming, Visual Arts / Lecture
This presentation introduces the LoD system created for HALO: REACH. The basic idea is to use a low-res vertex-shaded model to render far away objects. It starts with a voxel-based geometry decimation which can robustly simplify the geometry of game objects. We also designed a BRDF-fitting module, which can fit the many complicated material models used in our game to a simplified general material model. Both geometry and material simplification are farm-based. It is a fully automated LoD pipeline for content production, which massively reduced the workload of the content team, and boosted runtime performance significantly.
David Aldridge – I Shot You First: Networking the Gameplay of HALO: REACH
Day / Time / Location: Thursday 3:00- 5:00 Room 304, South Hall
Track / Format: Programming / Lecture
Gameplay networking is easy once you have a socket open! Find out all the things that are wrong with that statement in this gripping tale of the perilous minefield that lies between sockets and game code. This talk describes in detail the patterns and processes that have allowed Bungie to repeatedly set new standards for gameplay networking quality. Come see how we develop competitive game mechanics that are fun over the internet, learn what kinds of network introspection tools you need to build into your next online game, and marvel at the low-tech way we measure lag. This is a 2-hour lecture.
Patrick O’Kelley – Producer Boot Camp (Panelist)
Day / Time / Location: Tuesday 10:00- 6:15 Room 3020, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Track / Format: Production / Tutorial
With each new generation of gaming hardware - capabilities are increased, customer expectations are raised, games become more complex and team sizes grow larger. Now more than ever, in the controlled chaos that is game development, the role of the producer is critical to the success of shipping a blockbuster title. Successful producers are much more than just schedule jockeys; they are team managers, communication facilitators, conflict mediators, risk mitigators, work enablers and predictors of the future.
Marty O’Donnell – From MYTH to HALO: Marty O'Donnell's Adventures with Adaptive Audio, Creative Collaboration and Geese!
Day / Time / Location: Thursday 10:30-11:30 Room 3010, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Track / Format: Audio, Game Design / Keynote
What is my definition of Adaptive Audio and how has it evolved over the past 15 years? What is my approach to composing music for games? What is my approach to implementing music in games? What are my thoughts about the purpose of collaborating with other creative people when writing music or directing audio for a game? What are my thoughts about the future of the music business in relation to game publishing? What are geese doing in the title of this talk? I'll attempt to answer all these questions but no one should expect complete clarity.
If this week’s All Stars has taught me anything, it’s that you are collectively the most self-centered and egotistical community that has ever graced the Internet with their ultra-radiant presence. I received more submissions for week 7 than I did for any previous week, and every stinking last screenshot was an incredibly indulgent self-portrait. Hopefully, you’ve been able to tear yourself away from your own divine reflection so you can check out all the offerings I’ve selected for this week. There’s some great stuff due south.
And on that note, before I begin I should address a common complaint I’ve been reading surrounding our weekly competitions. Yes, I review every submission. No, everyone can’t be a winner. Yes, I know some really great stuff ultimately gets overlooked. This week I had about 800 total submissions, of which 150 made it past the bar for my first round of screening. After a rigorous peer review (in which Hal told me which ones he liked), I ended up whittling the selection down to a good number of favorites. As you are about to find out, we wanted to show off as many submissions as possible. Get ready to scroll.
Emile's helmet was one of the standouts this week, the skull etched into the visor providing a striking element of personal flair.
There were even more cool guys (and gals) not looking at explosions.
From all of the selections above, I’ve selected seven winners and bestowed seven Stars upon them. They deserve it. If you participated and didn’t win squat, hopefully you had fun and at least you now have a nice trophy shot for your Bungie.net File Share.
You’re lookin’ good, Seventh Column. You’re lookin’ real good.
Since we’ve already discussed some foul play, Stosh though you might want to check out some more fine feathered carnage.
See you next week. Try not to think about the Chickenpede. (Although come to think of it, maybe I’ll make it the subject of next week’s All Star competition.)