“Where are all those people going?”
You know it’s crunch time when Bob ponders the existence of a steady stream of standard fare traffic muscling its way out of downtown Kirkland at 5:45pm. They’re going home, Bob. Like normal people. Bob’s not normal people, though. He went right back to work.
He posed his curious question on Tuesday evening as a small group of us walked back from a multiplayer playtest over at “Site B,” the supplementary office space we’ve been getting more and more use out of as the studio proper continues to bulge more than my jockeys did when I got a sneak preview of a little swelling orchestral that Marty’s been working on. The notice on the soundproof Ivory Tower door says “Email or Die!” Guess the skull is taped up there for emphasis. Marty’s closing out the musical show and can’t be disturbed, but I’m not so easily dismayed. I snuck in via the back door and let me tell you, my dear and patient friends, it was well worth the risk. Eighteen months into my Bungie stint, it’s nice to know that I can still geek out over the goods this team ships.
And now that I think about it, I seem to recall Marty saying he was done using his now famous chorus of manly monks. Not that I’m complaining. From the instant the score I nefariously absconded with began pouring through my headphones, the hairs on the back of my next stood straight up. The full majesty of Marty’s music struck a powerful, resonant chord that reminded me just how ingrained his Halo themes have become. For my money, it’s just not Halo until Marty weighs in.
And according to Marty’s sweet tweets, the score is coming along nicely. Almost finished, in fact. I can’t wait for you to hear it. I’d love to give you a taste, I really would, but you’re gonna have to wait just a little while longer. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
While we’re on the subject of emotional outbursts, we should probably talk a little bit about Committee. Last week, Brian dove deep into exactly what ZBR entailed. This week, I’m gonna show you the darker side of a “Zero Bug Release.” Not everything you dream can become a reality and Committee is the cold, hard place where hopes and dreams fade in the face of a stone wall tribunal of industry veterans.
Okay, so it’s not that bad, but Committee is the final line of defense that ensures everyone on the team is working towards closing this game out and not floating and sputtering with work items that won’t get the job done. Halo: Reach is a huge endeavor and any sidetracking at this point – with mere days left until the ZBR milestone hits– could put important elements of the project at risk. It’s Committee’s role to squash that dangerous deviation and keep everyone on the team laser focused on all the right stuff, so they’re meeting twice a day now. For two hours at a time. And they’re cranky.
Of course, that means many a pet project and plenty of proposed sweet features won’t make the grade. They don’t call it triage for nothing. While that might seem like a bad thing for you when it comes to features, it’s actually exactly the opposite. It’s in perfect alignment with Jones’ philosophy: “We don’t polish diamonds, we cut them.” Freed from creeping features, our artists, designers, and engineers are forced to focus on all the most important facets of the game, ensuring that what ships is of the quality that you’ve come to expect and that the team demands of themselves.
It is an arduous and painful process at times. But in the end, it means the game you get is as awesome as it could possibly be. And that’s a great thing.
Brian thought it would be good if I sat in on this morning’s bloodbath and came away with some interesting anecdotes for today’s update. We’ve heard the process can be downright brutal. Well, I came, I saw, and I bathed in a charnel pit of bloody bug triage. Here’s a little taste of some post Committee carnage:
Triage takes place in conference room Halo. It’s nine in the morning and the light are down low. When I pull up a stool, Harold, Tung, and Jamie already have RAID pulled up on the big screen (RAID is the software suite we use to file and track bugs). Turns out all the tales of violent aggression might have been exaggerations – at least for this session. What I see is actually thoughtful analysis and methodical consideration.
“I think this is important.”
The really cool thing about our bug tracking system is that testers can instantly flag bugs and append real game data to bolster their claims of totally broken stuff. Embedded images and videos are placed directly into the bug itself so the folks who have to fix them don’t need to scrub for the right build and play-through to the right point in the game, hoping that they can recreate the often obscure conditions. Think Saved Films, but instead of tea bagging, the software’s being used to rub out some bugs.
And it helps. Committee moves through the bugs at a breakneck pace, determining if the bug should be fixed, who should fix it, and whether or not they need more information as quickly as they possibly can. But some bugs require Committee to spend a few moments with the video before they make the call.
We watch as Emile clambers over a rock and performs a vignette that’s been flagged “suggestive.”
Then we see Emile run through the same animation twice. He’s on repeat and the vignette is clearly busted. Now Committee wants it resolved, but only if it can be done without a code revision.
“No code fix. Only content. Per Committee.”
Code fixes can have dramatic and damaging impact on the game. They “trickle down,” impacting other key areas, creating even bigger problems. At this stage of the project, big problems are very, very bad. Code revisions are too risky.
Next up, small problems. The porcupine isn’t animating. It just floats over the ground, looking totally broken, clunky, and artificial. It doesn’t know it, but it’s about to go extinct.
“Watch this video just so Harold can rage. Yeah, we spent time on that.”
Harold laughs. Won’t fix. So long, porcupine – we hardly knew thee.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Wait! Ambient life is really important!” but the cold, hard truth of the matter is that adding the correct animations for this little guy might impact other, way more important aspects of the game. It’s gotta go.
Harold and Tung continue to be lightning quick on the draw. Few bugs measure up to their ultra high bar. Punt. Won’t fix. By design. One after another, small issues are scattered to the wind like ashes, sacrifices that must be made for the good of the game.
Marcus walks in and pulls up a chair. He apologizes for running late.
“Marcus, we cut the porcupine, but we saved the squirrel.”
No worries, triage is just getting started.
TITLE: Bumping into Kat repeatedly can cause her combat dialog to be suggestive
DESCRIPTION: During m10, if the user repeatedly bumps into Kat you can get her combat dialog to string together to form suggestive phrases.
For example; "*grunts* you're in my personal...*grunts* tight squeeze.”
Easiest spot to repro this is when she is [redacted] as she does not move.
enter gameplay on m10
proceed to kat
repeatedly bump into her
REPRO RATE: 3/3
Just thought I’d throw that gem out there. Seems self-explanatory. You’re welcome. Here’s another:
TITLE: CREDITS: Starting then ending the credits through campaign advances commendations.
DESCRIPTION: If you watch or skip the credits, commendations increment.
In the campaign lobby select Credits
- Launch credits
Press A then Y to skip credits
Awesome. I think I need to add a step, though.
Step 6. Profit
And maybe an image.
I wasn’t the only one getting some hands on time with the process this week, either. During a recent play session of something extra sweet, Brian had himself what one might call an epiphany. It’s easy to lose track of all the new hotness when you’re laser focused on the here and now, and it had been a while since Brian had dug into this particular portion of the game. I made some notes to memorialize the fresh experience.
“This is humbling.”
“Damn, these guys are aggressive!”
“Holy crap! Dude, the Brutes are awesome looking now!”
“Are you guys hearing your [redacted] okay?”
And upon looking over at my monitor during to postgame to check out what a Service Record packed with shiny new medals looks like…
“It’s not zooming in on your crotch anymore. That’s good.”
Later, Brian showed me the latest batch of images that he hauled away from his run. The man does good work and the game is looking phenomenal. Hunters are ridiculously menacing and absurdly hugenormous, Jackals look downright fragile while in the throes of a vicious Spartan assassination, and the Grunts…well, you just gotta see ‘em to believe em. The new varieties are killer.
Brian especially likes the new Brutes. They do look menacing, but I love me those Grunts. I’ve dubbed my favorite the “Starscream,” the name owed to the two large armor spires emanating from the little rapscallion’s shoulders, but as good as they look, the real fireworks are found by popping a round clean through one of their methane tanks and watching stinky green gas propel them to infinity and beyond.
Smell ya later!
Other things Brian enjoys:
Scooping me on the Spartan Armory reveal.
That’s the only item on my list for now. It’s more than enough. I’m sure I’ll come across some more stuff as this PR boat sets sights on September 14th and Brian dims the lights on my updates, only resurfacing occasionally to torpedo my plans in favor of his own dastardly dreams of e-popularity.
But even though Brian fired some big guns last week, we’re not completely out of precious cargo to ship straight from the studio and directly into your face. And while the Armory itself is reserved for UNSC personnel (Spartans only), we definitely didn’t forget about the Elites.
The bad news for those who’ve come to prefer the Sangheili as their in game avatar of choice is that you’ll have significantly less customizations options with Elites then you will with their Spartan counterparts. The good news? What you will have to choose from is some of the most bad ass looking gear you’ll come across in the game.
Here’s what Luke had to say about the differences in treatment between the Spartans and Elites in Reach:
“Instead of piece-by-piece customization like the Spartans, Elite customization is a full model swap with models selected from the various Elite classes appearing throughout the Campaign. There are all kinds of reasons for this, not the least of which is our continued emphasis on the Spartan as your identity in Reach.”
“Elites will be automatically unlocked as players reach new Ranks. They aren’t something you’ll need to spend your hard-earned Credits on – we’ve got plenty of stuff for that.
Players will be able to select which Elite they’ll appear as in Elite-eligible game modes (like Invasion!). When you see an Elite Ultra running around on the battlefield you’ll know that player reached Warrant Officer. That selected Elite will inherit the color scheme the player set up in the Armory.”
Personally, I like some of the higher tier stuff, but you’ll have to wait a little while longer before you get up through the higher ranks. We’ve also got a couple of other customization options that we’re keeping under wraps for a little while longer, so don’t go thinking this is the full slate. There’s more. You should get used to an over abundance of awesome.
So, we changed the Recon helmet permutation on offer for early adopters. Marcus wasn’t impressed with the original selection, so we switched it up. The way in which you get it remains the same, though. In North America, pick up your copy on launch day and it’s yours. Everybody else around the world (around the world), you can snag this Recon variant by reserving your copy today.
Here’s the new and improved look:
Another good thing to come out of recent playtesting is the advent of something Shishka calls, “Safe Havens.” I just call them good old fashioned fun. Those who were paying attention when we revealed some of our shiny new medals a few weeks back have already figured out that Infection is indeed making a comeback. With the addition of Safe Havens, it’s coming back with an adrenaline fueled twist and a side of deliciously decomposing flesh.
“’Safe Havens’ is a new mode for Infection that takes your classic Zombie-killin’ experience and gives it a King of the Hill-esque twist. In Havens, survivors are fragile and prone to being eaten. Survivors do little damage and can be killed in one hit. Unless, that is, they are standing in the Safe Haven. Once inside the Haven, Survivors turn immortal, and can kill zombies with one shot.
The catch? Once a Survivor steps into a Haven, a fifteen second timer is triggered and cannot be stopped. When the timer is up, the Haven moves to a random location, leaving everyone inside it mortal and vulnerable. As survivors, your goal is to move from Haven to Haven while avoiding the ever-increasing Zombie Horde, and scoring as many kills as you can along the way. It’s worth pointing out that the zombies aren’t your Romero-style knuckle draggers, either. Reach zombies are undead acrobats and all that tumbling has worked up a hunger for brains. Expect to be sprinting a lot.”
Tumbling, eh? I think we’ll just leave it at that. And I’m walking away.
Speaking of being away. The usual rush of news coming out of the Comm Chatter is gonna be down to a slow trickle next week, but you won’t be left completely in the lurch. Brian and I will make it up to you on Twitter and in other, undisclosed ways. We promise.
I’m not going to promise any E3 “Livin’ the Dream” style documentaries the likes that Lukems and Brian attempted to deliver in the ’09 (Brian says he still has the lost footage), but I can definitely promise that we’ll deliver a whole lot of something you won’t want to miss.
Oh, I see how it is. Somehow Stosh squeezes in some time to pick out a Blame Stosh for Sketch last week, but when it comes time for my triumphant return it’s, “can’t find anything.” Well, I might not have a Blame Stosh selection this week, but I did find a video of a guy getting hit in the nuts. If it’s not up to snuff, I think we all know who’s to blame.
(Oh, and the vehicle "powered by a violent thunderstorm" is now hurling surges of spirit energy reminiscent of hadoukens straight out of Street Fighter.)
(Oh: Part 2 - Brian wanted you to know that Luke just showed him something that gave him a heart attack.)
See you next week.