Howdy everyone. It’s Matt Priestley again with some Halo 2 Vista crumbs to scatter for the pigeons.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the newest Halo 2 for Windows Vista screens we have up in the Vista section. I can blather for pages about lighting and texturing (paid by the word) but the screenies do the game more justice. We still have some bugs, but you can see H2V is becoming more beautiful with each passing month.
The screenshot process we use to take these pictures is super high-tech. We “borrow” the highest resolution monitor in the building when its owner is at lunch, then play Slayer for half an hour while a hireling furiously pounds the screen capture hotkeys. It takes about two days to sort through the trash and pick the best images. We get a lot of ass shots.
There’s been a swirl of PR around H2V these past few weeks. The biggest splash for us recently was our exhibition at X’06 in Spain, where for the first time we showed off Ivory Tower in multiplayer play. We have a few US marketing events this week that I can’t tell you much about, but that hopefully will earn us some Halo 2 Vista articles in the gaming press. And, I just heard today that we’re getting a booth at the World Cyber Games grand final in Italy later this month. So yeah, lots of stuff. As Sketch put it, if you “happen to be in Italy” on the 18
, drop by and check out the game.
Halo 2 Vista shows really well now, thanks to some visual enhancements. The game runs at 60fps in most cases, and the world is lit dynamically as you can see for yourself in the screenies. The art for the Master Chief, the Arbiter, and the multiplayer “skybox” scenery have gone through a touch-up to make them shine at our preferred resolution of 1920x1200. Honestly, the game looks so hot these days that I want to call it Halo 2.5.
We’ve made several changes in the game’s control scheme this month in response to player feedback received on the show floor at Leipzig. The 360 controller received tweaks to the deadzone of its two analog sticks, but we overhauled the mouse and keyboard controls. We’d been told by fans that the mouse felt sluggish when compared with the controls of other popular PC games, so we did some side-by-side comparisons and realized we weren’t properly accounting for mouse acceleration. That’s been fixed, and the default sensitivity settings now match the out-of-box settings for Halo 1 PC. Our keyboard layout pre-sets are being evaluated too, although many players will still customize their keys.
Our test lead uses the mouse and keyboard exclusively in our afternoon games. I still use the 360 controller, and I admit there’ve been a couple times when his ability to pivot and precision-target my noggin cost me a match. He’s getting better, too. I feel like a T. Rex who used to laugh at the rodent creatures, but now gets creeped out by their beady little eyes. It’s looking more and more as though those posts in The Maw were right when they said that an experienced mouse-and-keyboard gamer will give a controller gamer a run for his money.
This month we finally saw the back of Windows XP. Up till recently some of the H2V devs were hanging on to XP for their coding machines, but that was getting thorny considering that the game’s networking, video, and window-management code only work properly on Windows Vista. Fortunately for us, Vista RC-1 corrected the stability and hardware issues that troubled Beta 2. Everybody took the plunge. We still have an XP machine someplace to compare older games, but it doesn’t get much use. Goodbye, old friend.
Let’s see. Oh yes, we’ve made good progress in our multiplayer mode this month. As you know, the game supports dedicated server play and user-created maps. This month, the devs showed us an end-to-end demo for us of those features, with a custom map running on a dedicated server PC, administered remotely from a laptop. That might not sound like much to you jaded PC gamers, but it was cool to see these features up and running for Halo 2. The dedicated server runs as a Windows service, so basic things like starting and stopping the binary are available through the Windows GUI. Real control of the game environment is exposed through the command line. The server offers a simple interface that pretty much anyone could learn in a few minutes, with support for starting, stopping, and delaying games. Users who want to customize their matches further can specify a Halo 2 playlist file chock full of details like maps, game types, weapons, vehicles, victory conditions, and so on.
We also introduced an entirely new feature to Halo 2 Vista this month. Players can send text chat to each other from the pre-game lobby or even during the game. H2V supports in-game voice, of course, but we figured text chat is an honored tradition on the PC and belonged in our game. Apart from broadcast chat, you can chat with your party in text or send a private whispers to a specific player. We even auto-complete their names for you in the UI.
I wish I could tell you more about online play, or about the map editor and custom maps in this article, but we have to hold back some things to make a splash later. Blame the cruel world we live in. Last time I wrote an article, I foolishly promised to answer your forum questions. Well, we actually do have a Q&A draft article on the griddle, but it’ll probably be next week before we get it published. Till then…