Bungie Weekly Update: 05/15/09
Posted by urk at 5/15/2009 3:32 PM PDT
Why hello there.  Glad you decided to drop in again.  We do enjoy the company and we've got some words ready, just for you.

Majorly Nelson'd Out

No offense to our fine friend, but we think we're going to stand down with the whole Major Nelson thing going forward.  Yeah, it's cool to talk about the continued successes of our titles - we're super proud that our legs go all the way up and that you're still getting a good look, but honestly, even we're starting to get a little ashamed over the immodesty we're putting on display update after update in this now five week fixture.

So, from here on out if you're looking for news on how Halo 3 (or Halo 2) is doing on the Xbox LIVE weekly activity list, you know where to find it.  If you don't, and you're interested, we assume you can just Google it on your own or find it in our forums.  You do know how to use Google, right?

Render-to-Video Beta

The news this week is that the Render-to-Video service we talked about last year is finally ready.  Er, actually it's not quite ready, it's in public beta, but you get the idea.  People can use it.

Players who paid for Bungie Pro prior to our announcement are already giving it a good test spin.  Seems like they're enjoying themselves too -  our online guys tell us that day one we witnessed thousands of rendered clip views.

Speaking of rendered clips, If you're in the beta and want to check out the full collection, you can check them out via the links below.

The Complete Collection (as of last night)

Today's Rendered Videos


For right now, if you're not a beta participant, this may as well be a pointed stick poking you right in your sensitive little eyeball.  You can't even see these clips at all.  You'll just have to trust us, they're sweet.  But don't worry too much, it shouldn't be too long until everyone who wants in can partake.  While everything surrounding Render-to-Video is subject to change, our online team is still targeting a public deployment date sometime in July of this year.

And though the early days of the beta have kicked off in smooth style, it just wouldn't be right if there wasn't some good old fashioned mass confusion, an ever-growing pile of complaints and venomous charges of Corporate Greed, and more than a few touches of straight up insanity over what ostensibly is a free beta.  Seems we have some light cleaning up to do.

The Wolf on the Prowl

Roger already dropped knowledge in the Render-to-Video beta announcement news article, but he didn't just hit it and quit it.  He's not like all the other guys.  Nope, The Wolf stuck around afterward and engaged in some late night, after interview talk, answering some of your pertinent questions, comments, and technical concerns.

Here's the quick list of questions Roger collected and cleared up, post announce, just in case you missed it:

Q. Can I upgrade from free-DLC-Pro to Beta status?

A. Sorry, no. There are too many people in that situation for us to be able to do that and still keep the beta small.

Q. When will videos appear on the file search?

A. If you filter by "in the last day," you can use it now. Other time periods are on a nightly refresh.

Q. Will files already converted into video format be downloadable by other users without charge (provided they have a Bungie Pro Subscription)?

A. Yes, at least for now all Beta users can see all other users' videos. We're watching what this does to bandwidth, and we might have to adjust it.

Q. Does this only work on PCs?

A. The videos are WMV, and Macs can play that format with the right software.

Q. Can I render six 10-second films for one "minute" of render time?

A. No, renders are used per minute or fractional minute. A 61-second clip is "2 minutes." You will see the "cost" before you confirm the render.

Q. If I delete the base film from my fileshare, will the video get deleted?

A. No. Current plan is to keep videos around for a long time regardless. They can still be accessed by search or via the game they relate to. Still, save off your file when you can, since we can't keep all the videos around *forever*.

If you can't seem to locate your videos, check your profile.  You should see a "Rendered Videos" tab, like so:



Q. How do I report a broken video, such as the end getting chopped off?

A. Reply in this thread.

Q. If I like to make machinima with lots of multi-angle shots, shouldn't I just get a capture card?

A. Probably, yes. Render-to-video is geared toward players who want to highlight gameplay footage that is special to them. Buying a capture card that can encode 720p (or even digital 360p) is expensive and troublesome for the infrequent capture user, and this service is an inexpensive alternative. When final pricing is announced this summer, you can decide if you really plan to produce more footage than this service will give you for the same price.

Q. Why is there audio before the action starts moving?

A. That's intentional, to make sure the game engine has had a chance to fully load everything. The simulation starts paused, then we start recording, then we yell, "Action!" Similarly, we have the on-screen Spartans and Elites hold their pose for an extra second at the end before we stop recording.

Q. Why is it that for a few films, the thumbnail is black, the film is unseekable, the length reports as 0, and the end is chopped off?

A. It was a bug which I think should be fixed as of now (May 13th, 4:33 PM) for all films rendered in the future. I'll keep an eye on it to make sure the problem is gone.

Q. Where's the reticule?

A. How about that? The game itself doesn't display a reticule for *clips* until you leave and reenter 1st-person camera. We're showing it the same way the game does. We'll dig around and see if we can prepare a fix for the version of the game engine that runs on the Hydra.

Q. Can I render other people's videos and vice versa?

A. Yes, any film that's shared on bungie.net is fair game for anyone who has beta access.



Render-to-Video in Instant Replay

While Roger's done some great housekeeping, bringing everyone up to speed on what's going down, we also wanted to regroup and expound on some of the misconceptions floating about and offer up a few terribly inadequate analogies that might help everyone better understand the how and the why of the Render-to-Video beta.  Much of this is recap of recap, but since there are still quite a few people asking the same questions again and again, we felt it was best to drive these points home.  In fact, we're strongly considering running these in each and every update from now until the end of time.

Q. OMG! This sounds awesome! Where do I sign up?

A. As Roger mentioned in the beta announcement  (and again in his answers above), eligible participants for the Render-to-Video beta have already been selected. If you're not a beta tester, there's nothing you can do to add yourself to the beta population.  Remember, the point of a beta is to work out the kinks in a smaller scale environment. You'll have to wait patiently for the official release.

Q. Bummer, I didn’t get in. What happens after the beta phase is over and I can sign up for the real deal?

A. Details aren’t solidified yet, but it looks like we’ll be able to offer Render-to-Video service to Bungie Pro subscribers when the beta phase comes to a close. We’re targeting sometime in July, but don’t get hyped just yet. We’ll have more information for you as the beta phase progresses and we get a better idea of the service’s resource requirements.

So, don’t buy Bungie Pro if all you want is access to the beta.  Unless you're itching to expand your File Share from six slots to twenty-four, you should wait out the official Render-to-Video offering.  If you just want to test out Bungie Pro on its own, picking up the Mythic Map Pack and playing in Halo 3's Matchmaking will get you a free trial that runs until July.  How's that for good timing?  For more details, check out the Mythic Map Pack Roundup.

Q. Wait a second!  You're going to be charging for Render-to-Video? It should be free!

A. While we love to offer up our fans as much free content as possible through Bungie.net, Render-to-Video is a complex and resource hungry beast. Current forecasts estimate the storage capacity alone required for a single day’s worth or rendered films at about 500 Gigabytes of data (over 175 Terabytes of data, annually). Add in storage for redundancy and you have yourself a whole mess of Megabytes. Even then, storage considerations don’t factor in bandwidth consumption, development costs, or daily operational expenditures.  We hear the Hydra Contraption runs on Energon, and Energon ain't cheap.

And even those factors can't account for one of the most important technological hurdles: scale.  While the Hydra Contraption chews up and spits out rendered video at an impressive clip (as many of the beta participants have already noted), it does have its limitations. 

For a super simplified, technically incorrect, and completely hypothetical scenario to demonstrate this point, image that each individual video request takes one minute to render.  If the contraption has one request, the submitting player's wait time is, you guessed it, one minute.  Now imagine one-thousand requests hitting simultaneously.  The wait for the poor sap who submitted last is now tallied at nearly seventeen hours.  Now imagine ten-thousand simultaneous submissions.  Bet your imagination is starting to get dizzy right about now, eh?

In the short term, we're providing free rendering minutes to those with access to the beta so they can, at the very least, see what kind of quality Render-to-Video has to offer.  Not a single person with access to the beta has forked over so much as a penny for the additional service they've been using, and the reception so far has been really positive.  As mentioned, the plan is to continue the practice of delivering some amount of free minutes for players who subscribe to Bungie Pro and have access to the Render-to-Video service once it's been officially released.

Beyond that, the plan is to add some mechanic to pick up more "minutes" for players who decide their free allotment doesn't cut it, post-beta.  What will that mechanic be and how much will it cost?  That's all dependent on data we collect from the beta.  Stay tuned.  Before the official offering comes online, you'll have all the details you need in order to make your decision.

For those that just want to share and show off a small handful of their "30 Seconds of Fun" moments from Halo 3 in a more accessible manner, chances are a Bungie Pro subscription will cover all the costs and you won't have to lay out any additional funds.

Stuff like this:

CTF the B.U.N.G.L.E. Pro Way™
Get Microsoft Silverlight
Equipment. Changes. Everything.

Q. Bungie Pro only? That sucks! What if I want to just pay you to let me participate?

A. We’re offering limited access for those who’ve already subscribed to Bungie Pro as a method to control the scale and scope of the Render-to-Video Beta.

When we started to think about how we would select Beta participants, Bungie Pro was a no brainer. These are the folks who have already extended their File Shares to make room for more of their custom content. It stands to reason that they’re still playing the game and have content they’d like to share using Render-to-Video’s more direct fashion.  Plus, the population was a near perfect fit in terms of overall numbers.  Win/Win.

And as Roger stated, the Beta population is already set in stone.  The immovable, impenetrable kind of stone. You can’t gain access by picking up Bungie Pro today.  When we have more details on Render to Video for all, we'll provide them to you.

And again, just to hammer it home, all of these details are subject to change at a moment's notice.  If the Hydra Contraption goes supernova, takes on a monstrous corporeal form, and begins to lay waste to the studio and the surrounding environment, all bets are off.



Blame Stosh

Looks like Stosh's screenshot selection from last week was pretty well received.  You laughed, you cried, and at least one of you got the Godzilla reference in the subtitle.  We try so hard, people.

We hope today's entry will garner a similar reception.  But if you find yourself disgusted by the crummy image on display below, you know who to blame.  If not, here's a hint: Stosh.



Banadu, revealed!

Brawlin' for Recon


Just like the last go round, if you're reading this section of the update and you're not rocking your shiny new suit of Recon armor, it probably means you didn't win.  And by probably, we mean definitely.  Or maybe it just means you need to check your PM's more often.  Winners have already been notified.

If you didn't win, better luck next time.  If you did, go forth and represent.  But don't spend all of your time lording your new duds over everyone like some kind of maniacal jerk.  You can still be added to the list.  Play nice.

If you're wondering how we made the final calls, here's the criteria we looked for:

Your screenshot was taken in the Mythic Brawl Playlist
Said screenshot was snapped on Saturday, May 9th (PST)
You uploaded no more than six total screenshots into your File Share
Your screenshot was tagged with the term "Brawl"
You're not a cheater or a booster

Other than that, the field was pretty wide open.  We picked out some stuff that made us chuckle, some stuff that just looked awesome, and some other stills we felt captured the overall essence of the Mythic Brawl experience.  And again, since we were inundated with thousands of submissions, we really couldn't award Recon to a significant percentage of those who participated.  To those that did and didn't win, thanks for playing.  We hope you had fun throwing down in Mythic Brawl.

Though we threw in what we thought would be a significant wrinkle in our anticipating participant's plans, asking for screenshots from the Mythic Brawl Playlist that were also submitted same day (last Saturday), we still saw over eight thousand submissions.  That's pretty impressive work, people.  We truly wish we had some more sets of Recon to give out.

Oh, Wait...

...we do.  Once again, you'll need to keep your eyes peeled and watch for a submitted news story sometime over the course of weekend.  If you're interested in putting your gamertag in the proverbial hat, you'll find all the instruction you need right here on our front page.  Stay tuned for more details. 

Will you need to fire up some campaign?  Throw down in multiplayer?  Send a fancy cake to the studio (man, do we love us some cake)?  Only time will tell.  And the news story.  The news story will tell too.  It's actually kind of a combination of sorts when you stop and think about it.

For a little bit of heads up: make sure you have a team of four ready to play.

The Age of Appling



Hey man, sorry it took us so long to get back to you.  Urk was busy finishing up his baking soda and vinegar volcano for this year's science fair.  We're not sure if he has what it takes to win it all, but he's put a ton of effort into it and he's super proud.  Beaming, actually.  We've already booked a private party for him at the Chuck E. Cheese's, so whether he wins or loses, we'll still be getting down to some rockin' tunes provided by the animatronic Chuck E. Cheese Band, gorging ourselves senseless on some delicious pizza pies, and rolling around like lunatics in the ball pit.  No, not that kind of ball pit.  What in the world is wrong with you?

And yeah, Urk did write this in the third person.  Kinda bizarre, don't you think?  Don't judge him...me...whatever.

Oh, and if you're thinking about applying for a position at the studio, you'll need to be at least eighteen years of age.

Audi 5000

That wraps it up for this week.  Mostly recap we know, but hey, if you've scrolled this far, thanks for sticking around and getting your read on.  And if you've been playing some Halo 3 online these past few weeks (or ever), thanks for keeping us at the top of the charts.  More to come soon™.

Stay tuned.
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