It’s Tuesday morning, bright and early. My security badge doesn’t register and the studio door won’t budge when I yank the handle. I turn back to swipe it again and catch Harold in conference room “Halo” out of the corner of my eye. The lights are out, he has one foot propped on a chair, and he’s looking right at me. I try to remain absolutely still.
“Haven’t seen you in Committee in a while…”
He smiles. It’s a joke, of course. I have no business in there and I’m glad of it. The twenty forty hours after this brief encounter will be filled with tough calls. Not everything makes the grade. Not every bug can be fixed.
To wit: the squirrel, dear friends, is deceased. Passed on. He is no more. He has, in the immortal words of some guy whose name I can’t remember, shuffled off this mortal coil.
But that’s all in the past now. If you follow us on Twitter
or on Noble Actual
, you already know we hit Zero Bug Release as of midnight last Wednesday. Bugs were squashed. Clocks were smashed. Sleeps, finally, were had.
Marcus, no! Not inside the studio!
Yeah, that's better!
So what’s next?
Executive Producer, Joe Tung:
“ZBR is just one of the milestones we use to stabilize the game for ship. Post-ZBR we will do a series of Release Candidates leading up to RTX (aka release to certification), all the while fixing the most egregious bugs and adding that final layer of polish that can only happen when large areas of the game are stable. Upon passing the certification process, the game is effectively out of our hands and on its way to being manufactured and distributed all over the world to get into retail in time for our 9/14 launch. As of right now, the Environment Art, 3D Art and Animation departments are effectively done with the game. Engineering will continue to smash bugs that bounced past ZBR, while FX, Cinematics, Audio and Mission Design take advantage of a slightly extended timeline to sweeten their areas.”
I also asked some other Bungie peeps to weigh in on ZBR. As expected, I got a handful of much less serious responses.
Kneeman is not amused.
We were a hair’s breadth away from cutting [redacted] (not sure if we’re talking about that yet)…
Editor’s Note: Nope, we’re definitely not!
now it's tomorrow
why am I still fixing bugs?
I'll try for one more
UI Screen file totals:
- Halo 1: 79
- Halo 2: Unknown
- Halo 3: 103
- Halo 3: ODST: 104
(Caveat: this includes templates, some unused/cut screens, etc. etc. etc. Not a good representation of final in-game menu count, but what went into them.)
Jon “I Love Dr. Becker’s” Weisnewski
Closing comments from bug 56396:
“Shoot me in the face.”
From one of the environment art groups entitled “Team Cotton-balls.”
Bug 55893 was one of the craziest and most hilarious bugs I saw pass my way during the last 2 weeks.
UI: START MENU: ARMORY: MODEL: The feet don't rotate with the Elite when examining him.
1. Launch the main menu.
2. Go into the Armory->Player.
3. Change the Preferred Species to Elite.
4. Zoom the camera out and rotate the Elite around.
The Elite's feet/legs don't rotate with the pelvis.
The entire Elite rotates.
This bug came to UI engineering because it involved the Armory. In this case I’m not sure what the problem ended up being, because it didn’t repro in later builds and we simply resolved as “No repro.”
Still, it provided some great laughs!
Here’s a few of my favorite bugs (All of which have been fixed):
42748: The “Mongooses Only” vehicle set turned every vehicle object into a mongoose. The security cameras in Sword Base are technically vehicles so they can be made to move. Thus: “Mongooses Only” on Sword Base caused Gooses to hang out of the walls and ceilings of the map.
40750: A new tester submitted a bug that the Falcon could not be flown on a particular map, but instead would drag along the ground. Upon review of the bug it was determined that the Falcon itself was fine, but the tester was holding down the wrong button thus keeping the Falcon grounded. The map itself is, of course, quite alright.
14579: The female MP Spartan model would, when her shields were popped, suddenly become the male Spartan model. IT’S A TRAP.
Post ZBR, more and more monitors are now filled with all of Reach’s glamorous game modes as a good portion of the studio gets to bask in a brief, but well deserved break from the madness. Plenty are using the slower pace to evaluate all the work that’s been done as of late. In many cases, that means playing the game from start to finish. Jealous? You should be. Reach is looking and playing like a dream, hard work is paying off, and with risk of coming off as arrogant, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it - this game will sell hundreds
of copies, easy.
And though there’s a bit more time for fun and games now, playtest time and space is still at a premium, with the Mutliplayer and Firefight teams both slugging it out in a world where conference rooms remain almost impossible to secure. Still, we endure. For you. We do it all for you.
Lars’ partner in crime and new addition to the Bungie team, James, wants us all to play some super top secret Firefight stuff. Carney’s looking for some folks to test out some even more super top secret multiplayer action. And Derek, well, Derek wants us all to play Race. In fact, I just heard him shouting from his desk. “Yes! Boosted by the mine!”
Earlier in the week, he called me a “Race Hater.” I’ve only played his baby once or twice since I learned of its existence. And since Race didn’t get any love at E3, I figured we’d put it through its paces in today’s update.
So, uh. Hey, Derek. Tell us about Race.
Ever since Silent Cartographer, one of my favorite things to do in any Halo game is to tool around in the ‘Hog, just tearing up the map and making a mess of the place. It’s incredibly satisfying, and a nice break from serious running and gunning. Racing for me is like a vacation from the Arena. It’s still competitive, but it uses a totally different skillset. Awesome vehicle driving is one of the things that sets Halo apart from other shooters, and it only makes sense to me to have a gametype or two that highlights that aspect of Reach.
Bringing back Race “for real” is also about supporting the absolutely insane creative energy that people have for making racetracks. If you’ve spent any time on checking out the courses people have put in their file shares on Bungie.net
, I think you’ll agree that they are among the best examples of Forge pushed to its limits.
I mean, seriously?
Race in the original Halo was pretty bare bones. On a scale of that to Forza, where does Reach’s Race simulation fall?
Racing in Reach will be a bit more comprehensive than the original Halo gametype…the icon is the same, but that’s about it. The basic Race is done checkpoint-style, with numbered gates set around the course to direct the flow of the race. We show the next gate number and distance in the HUD, as well as your current lap time. Race courses can be any number of checkpoints, and in custom games, you can set the race length to whatever number of Laps you want (up to 100!). We do some cool stuff like resetting you at the last checkpoint you hit if you fall out of the map, already in your vehicle, ready to roll. All in all, it’s a blast to play. The racing we did the night before ZBR was filled with as much screaming and profanity as you’d get from a Team Headhunter game, so I think we’ve got something here.
Oh yeah, there’s also an option to turn on Land Mines. As cool as it is, I don’t think Forza has mines. Advantage: Halo
Why did you call me a “Race Hater?” You never even invite me to your Race playtests!
I call ‘em like I see ‘em. All the trash talk, all the “oh, our big E3 reveal should be Race”…You’re a hater, but you’re always welcome in our playtests, because we know you can’t help it.
Could you imagine how awesome that would have been? Marcus takes the stage, the lights go dim, and bam…Race at E3!
And since Derek mentioned Forge, I should note that Cotton stopped me in the hall to ask me whether I’ve made a sweet new map variant yet. I haven’t, but I’m thinking Sword Base could use a heaping helping of Brute Spikers. Of course, that’s all I can say about that.
I wanted to give you all some updated shots of the vastly improved Sword Base, too, but Brian says we need to hold back for now. Dark, bro. Pretty sure he’s collecting assets for his next update. I has a sad.
One of the biggest changes from build to build lately has been found in the cinematic moments between missions. Spartans have never looked better. Hell, Halo has never looked better. From camera direction to facial animation to character performances and environments, this beauty really is a sight to behold.
According to Lee Wilson, our Lead Cinematic Designer, the process of bringing our characters to life for Halo: Reach was made possible by some significant leaps in both technology and technique. To make sure Noble Team’s journey was as engaging as possible, allowing players to become immersed in our Spartan’s story, the Cinematics team focused early on making sure they nailed what Lee calls the “subtle, human details” like body language and facial expressions.
For facial animation, hired actors and the Bungie players performed on camera to ensure the close ups were believable and lifelike. For full body, motion capture was used to pace and time scenes early on in the production cycle, giving the team more complete performances to work from earlier than ever before. According to Wilson, the extra time and upgraded technology was “priceless.”
“The cinematics are always driven by the game’s script. They’re only as elaborate as they need to be, giving us the opportunity to tell a story outside of the gameplay inside the natural lulls that serve as a sort of reward for completion or a setup for the next part of the game. Getting the player invested into our characters was a big focus for Reach. Having motion capture up and running so early on – as far back as pre-visualization – allowed us to see exactly how our scenes were going to play out and get exactly what we wanted from the start.”
You already got a small taste of what you can expect from Reach’s cinematics during the E3 Sabre launch sequence, but wait until you see what’s going on under
the helmet. Lee’s not lying. The new tools and techniques definitely paid dividends and the cinematics look astounding
Well, lookee here. Seems the vehicle powered by a violent thunderstorm isn’t the only thing in Halo: Reach that’s discharging vibrant blue bolts of energy. I just had a look at something else Steve Scott has wrapped in a warm embrace of electricity. Something you won’t expect.
Thor would be pleased.
And while we’re on the subject of getting glimpses, Ken Taya wants to know when we’re gonna reveal one of the multiplayer maps he’s been working on to our lovely at home audience. I keep telling him that Reflection just might be at the top of my Best Looking Halo Maps of All Time list, but he’s not happy with personal praise alone. He wants you to see it in its entire gob smacking glory. The warm wood floors, polished to a high gloss finish. The metal, the marble, and the mountains just outside the massive glass windows. The vibrant, turning hologram of planet Reach suspended above the central hall. The revelation that though this space has a spectacular new aesthetic – it’s all ensconced around a space you’re already intimately familiar with.
Did I tell you that when Marcus noted Reach’s multiplayer maps were taken straight from the campaign that we weren’t telling you the full story?
Ken tells me Reflection has the biggest cube map in the game. I have no idea what that means, but I’m not lying when I tell you that this sucker looks spectacular.
I suspect this is about the moment you’ve realized that I’m not going to be revealing too much in the way of new information today. That you’re once again being teased mercilessly. Yeah, sorry about that. No big reveals today. It can’t be helped. Don’t worry, though. We’ll be making some noise sooner than you might think.
And with that, we’re done here. Before we kick off for the weekend, I want to remind you that Bungie Day is fast approaching. Wouldn’t be right if you weren’t here to celebrate with us. Mark your calendars, please. We'll make it worth your while.
Stosh is back. With a vengeance!
See you soon. Stay tuned.
Oh, and the "Flak Cannon" from the Firefight options listed in last week’s update is indeed the Fuel Rod Gun of international fame. Internal names die hard around this joint.