Weekly Update, February 10th, 2006
Yesterday's announcement that we were porting Halo 2 to Windows Vista went exactly as we'd imagined. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth and the reaction was exactly like we'd broken a promise to make Halo 2 for Windows XP. Of course, remember that the day before the announcement, there was no PC version at all, and we had not announced any version whatsoever. So mathematically at least, the Vista version was a 100% improvement.
Some folks of course were happy, but happy people on the internet are WEIRD EXCEPTIONS. The internet is fueled solely by rage.
But we're not idiots and we're not jerks. We realize that the underlying sentiment here, is that there are a lot of XP (and Mac) users out there, who feel like something has been wafted under their nose and then snatched away. Well, that's simply not our intention. We want as many people to enjoy as good a version of our game as possible, but the fact remains that when Microsoft publishes Halo 2 for PC – it will have released its new, bigger, better operating system and our game will take full advantage of that fact, and Microsoft will take full advantage of our game.
This will be less of an issue a couple of years from now, when Vista adoption is the norm rather than the new, frightening thing. Not to keep selling you on the idea that Vista is cool – that's your decision to make later, but I have to tell you, I've played with the beta, and I currently use a Windows Media Center with my 360 – the idea of combining the strengths of those two OSs is a dream come true for my home theater setup.
But the single biggest question we got, maybe not surprisingly, is, "What is Windows Vista?"
It's Microsoft's next-gen OS for PC. It's supposed to be out this year and aside from a massive back end overhaul (completely built from scratch, is what I heard) and support for better server, 64-bit integration (and loads of other important, but snooze-worthy stuff) the obvious stuff will be a new look, better performance and lots of media features. This is planned to be the PC OS for the foreseeable future and will probably end up being as widely adopted as XP is now.
We get a fair amount of mail complaining that some media features – like streaming HD – are not available on XP – that will be a thing of the past in Vista. MS' own site says this about media and the Xbox 360:
"Enjoy all your favorite digital entertainment—including live and recorded TV, movies, music, and pictures—in one place with the easy-to-use Windows Media Center menu system and remote control. Windows Media Center in Windows Vista includes enhancements for expanded support of digital and high-definition cable TV, an improved menu system, and the ability to create a consumer-electronics-quality living-room experience, as well as new options for multi-room access to your entertainment through Media Center Extenders, including Xbox 360."
You can read more about Vista's performance for gaming and media here: Windows Vista Stuff
Anyhoo, the drama was also accompanied by tons of perfectly reasonable questions – most of which we can't really answer in detail largely because development is in progress so things are going to change. Like any game, we have a minimum feature set in mind, and if we can exceed that then great, but we don't want to promise anything, so we're saying little.
The two biggest fundamental differences between Halo 2 on Xbox and the forthcoming Vista version, will be map customization and matchmaking. Both of those are at such an early stage that we genuinely don't have much to say. We (and "we" includes the MS development team, featuring stars from Forza, NFL Fever and even Doom!) have loads of ideas and plans, and we'll see how those work out.
Mapmaking is something that we'd like to have fun with, and the trick is finding a balance between the super-easy Far Cry or Radiant (for Quake 3 or Doom 3) and the incredibly powerful (but occasionally tough) Unreal editor. We'll just have to see.
Lots of questions about things like adding vehicles and levels – the latter we'll leave up to you, but the former, we spent months and months testing all our vehicles and weapons for a balance that we felt worked best. That meant that if a weapon or vehicle didn't work, it was excised for a reason, so don't expect us to simply dump stuff like the Mongoose back in there. That's not in the plan.
When things change, we'll update you though.
On the novel front, we had our last story meeting with Eric Nylund, who will almost certainly be delivering a thrilling new Halo novel in the near to mid future. His story outline is fantastic, thrilling stuff and he's already well into the process of writing it. We are in the lucky position of seeing it grow and evolve into what I predict will be another NY Times bestseller.
The funny thing is, 10 to 15 thousand words into the novel, and the hardest few words are the title. Eric is still mulling a few alternatives. We tried to help and Eric said all my suggestions were "interesting." I am glad he appreciated these gems and look forward to seeing which one he for sure picks:
- Attack of Awesome
- Superalien Space Horrorfiends
- Oh Teh Noes!!117
- Galaxy Rawk
- Project Awesome
- March of the Intellibots
I have to say that Shishka's " Master Chief and the Dark Secret of Space " fills me with shivery excitement too.
AND I just saw another novel outline, from a yet-to-be-revealed author (think Joyce, Tolkien, Homer ), so awesome and secret that I had to wear a diaper to read it. A man-diaper.
Since the last matchmaking update was so big, folks occasionally get concerned that we won't be updating it again. Well, we will, just not right away. Rumors that Ninja on Fire was coming back to be the elite Matchmaking DJ that he is, are based on pure speculation. Ninja is right now sipping Mai Tais on a tropical beach. Can we persuade him to come back and get some fresh new stuff up there? We'll see! But whatever happens, it won't be too long before you see some matchmaking switcheroos.
Anyhoo, that's all for this week. Sorry about the drama, and we'll see you all next week. With any luck we'll have one of our coolest Humpday challenges ever.
And here's Da Chief Code. WARNING! Classical Male Nudity Ahead. Do not scroll down if you are offended by Leonardo Da Vinci's representation of Man. Or my artistic abuse of that.