Bungie Weekly Update: 9/26/08
Posted by lukems at 9/26/2008 5:19 PM PDT
Sketch writes:
OK folks - Luke Smith is busy on assignment (eatin' pizza and playin' XBL) so I'm taking the helm for this week's update, a wall of words rather than Smith's Sonnet of Bitter. So, lay off him this week, direct your hate towards me... it will only make me stronger. Feel free to still hate on Shishka though.

It's been a pretty slow news week thus far for Halo fans, but thankfully we've got some exciting information to share regarding upcoming improvements to Bungie.net!  In addition, we visit with some members of the team to reflect back on the first year of Halo 3 and walk down memory lane sharing some of our most memorable moments. Get comfortable and hold on, we're about to drop...


Anniversary Screenshots!

Today's weekly update title image was created by "Halcyon" and was the winning submission in Hawty McBloggy's recent screenshot contest. Hundreds of you submitted awesome screenshots, taken in Halo 3, that depict memorable scenes from Halo 1 and Halo 2. Take your own trip down memory lane and check out some of the standout entries here.  Great stuff. Speaking of screenshots....


Bungie.net Gets Mo' Betta
The new fileshare. Click for larger view.
The recently released title update and promise of new multiplayer maps (among other things) isn't all that Halo 3 fans have to look forward to as the game enters its year zwei.  The Bungie.net team has been hard at work on a major, drastic overhaul and upgrade to the file sharing components of the site.  Every single aspect of the file share has seen a lot of love with the goal being to make it easier and more efficient to find and share all the great content being created by Halo 3 players. And based on our data, more of you are creating and uploading content than ever before, so these changes are coming at a great time.

The first thing you'll notice is an entirely new layout to your fileshare. Your content items will be arranged a little differently, hopefully making them easier to view and navigate. Relevant information is front and center along with easy means of rating the content, downloading to Halo 3 or adding it to a "file set" (more on that in a minute).  The blue background and the word "PRO" in this example indicates that this player is a Bungie PRO subscriber. That percentage in the upper right corner will display the rating for a content item, which is now based on a 1 through 10 weighted average (with 10 being something awesome and 1 being something Stosh would make). 

Single content item view. Click for larger image. The picture to the left shows an example of a single content item view. In this case, it's a custom map variant called "stoshage."  On this single page is everything you could possibly need to know about this particular file.

The top portion of the page is the standard stuff you'd expect - file actions and the file details. Immediately below that is the current user rating of the file.  The "report" button is a way for the community to notify the Bungie.net staff of any inappropriate content items that might have made their way into a file share.

Over on the right you'll see a drop down lits for "file sets." A file set is basically a grouping of related files into a common "bucket." For example, if you created a new gametype called Stoshball and it required a custom map and game variant and included illustrative screenshots and a film clip to demonstrate the way it plays, you can lump that all together into a "Stoshball" file set to keep it all neat and tidy and connected.  In this example, the file set "Stoshage" includes screenshots, alternate gametypes for this map and some films.

The middle of this page shows off a really cool new component to file sharing on Bungie.net - tagging. Tagging allows people to use common descriptors to categorize content which can then be used to sort and search for any custom files on the site. In this example, a few tags are already attached to this custom map:  "arena," "awesome," "so good," etc... The number to the right of each tag is the number of times someone has assigned a specific tag to this file. So if I came across this map and agreed it fits within "Arena", I would click the + sign and reinforce that. Alternately, I could also add a new tag, for example, "garbage." But that wouldn't be nice.  Tags will ultimately empower the community to help manage their own files - the better you tag your files, the more discoverable they will become.

The final components of this page is the mini preview of some of the related screenshots for this map variant, part of the "stoshage" file set, and comments that people have posted about this file.  You can see another example of what a single content item view looks like in this example depicting a screenshot from the stoshage file set.
A tag search result. Click for larger view.
In addition to fancy new layouts, there will also be a robust new search mechanic behind all of the files uploaded to Bungie.net. The image to the right is an example of the search results page using Tags as the search parameter. Specifically, we searched "Community Files", "by All Time", for anything tagged with the word "Elite."  Initially the results are returned based on the amount of times the particular tag was applied to the content item. Items that have had the "Elite" tag added 100 times would show up before an item that only had the tag added 10 times.  You can further sort your search results via some drop down menus with options such as "Most Relevant,", "Highest Rated," etc.. You can further sort by specific content item - just screenshots, just games, just related to a specific map and more.

The tabs across the top bar offer additional ways to search for content. "All Tags" will give you an index of every tag that has been assigned to a piece of content and from there you can sort by alphabetical, most popular and most recent. "Hot Files" will quickly take to you a listing of the most shared and most played files on Bungie.net (refreshed nightly). "Favorite Authors" provides a listing of any content authors who have had content appear in Bungie favorites.


This is just a small taste of what's to come for file sharing and we will have more on this in the near future. Right now the Bungie.net crew is crunching away on this and we could hopefully have this released to the public within the next few weeks. We'll definitely keep you posted.


Membership Has Its Benefits

The Bungie.net team has also been busy putting the finishing touches on the all-new "Bungie Card."  No, sadly this is not the realization of our dream to have our own co-branded credit card with reward points you can use to purchase ammunition for the super expensive hit-scan Battle Rifle while playing on LIVE. It's still pretty damn cool though.

The Bungie Card (this is just version 1) is a little slice of your Halo 3 player profile that you can take with you wherever you go on the interwebs. Add it to your blog, add it to your forum signature or just print it out and stick it on your locker. Whatever you fancy, it's a window into your Halo 3 soul - a customizable widget that you can use to show off your accomplishments in Halo 3.  These little babies will update every 30 minutes or so (likely more frequent) but we'll need to see what happens when hundreds of thousands of these are alive at once.

The vanilla Bungie card. 

The image to the left is an example of the straight-up Bungie version of the Bungie card that you can use to show your support for your favorite developer's website and community.  If you've never played a game of Halo 3, this is what you'll get. The image in the background corresponds to your profile page banner and the lower left image is your Bungie.net forum avatar. You can also use this card but elect to have your Halo 3 screenshot replace the background image.




Bungie Card, with Halo 3 goodness.
The image to the right is an example of the second flavor of Bungie Card. This one has your Halo 3 player profile information integrated into it. You'll see your gamertag, Halo 3 in-game emblem and service tag along with your global rank, highest skill, total games played and total EXP. The image in the background is taken from the trophy screenshot in your gallery. (or your most recent if you don't have a trophy shot established).





And the last flavor of the Bungie Card isn't so much a card as it is a horizontal banner. This one is more robust, bursting at the seams with all the Halo 3 player data you can't live without (aside from stuff you really want like KpD). 

The super stat banner.

The Bungie Cards should be rolling out at the same time as the massive file share update which looks to be just around the corner barring any last minute test issues.  We will of course keep you posted once we have a final release date.


Title Update, Update

The Halo 3 update was released on Tuesday and many of you have already been making it rain gamerscore in your quest for the new achievements.  We are aware that some people have experienced some issues or have had questions regarding the update. Most of the common questions have been addressed in this handy FAQ:

Recently we know that some people have reported that they did not receive the Annual achievement when they should have. Our test team informed me that this isn't awarded immediately so do not quit or disconnect until you see the pop-up.  Another potential problem is that you're not downloading a file necessary to activate the achievement. This is all transparent as a player but the best way to test this is to go into Matchmaking on LIVE. If you can see the playlists, you are good to go. Do that first and then do your co-op run and you can eliminate any possible complications.

Speaking of the Annual achievement, Max stumbled across this awesome panoramic screenshot created by Logan Rini that depicts a foursome of Ghosts making their way through the level "Halo."  Have you earned your Annual achievement yet? (if not, what are you waiting for?)

Click for larger version.
Casual Crab, DevinOlsen, goatrope and HawaiianPig, long time members of the HBO community and smaller gaming community, Gnet, take on the Vidmaster's Challenge in a sloppy, but highly applicable, flying V formation.


Rock Ban 2

As we enter this first post-update double XP weekend with our sights set on earning new achievements, I want to remind everyone that Banhammer 2.0 is now a fully operational mobile platform of Tear Bringing. As of this writing, we've just autobanned over 6,600 people from playing our game for a variety of reasons. Specifically, we are watching very closely for people who are guilty of boosting or otherwise manipulating the gain (or loss) of EXP while playing Halo 3 in matchmade games. Players who are caught will find themselves on the receiving end of a two week EXP ban for the first offense.  You'll receive a prime spot on our the autoban watchlist and any further infractions will result in stiffer penalties. And don't think you can just quickly get to General before the punishment is dished out, we'll know, and we'll make it hurt even more. Just play nice, mmkay.

You can refresh yourself with all of the Banhammer policies by visting this page.


Thanks for the Memories

And finally, we couldn't put out this weeks update without a trip down memory lane, looking back at the first year of Halo 3 (or in some cases, beyond the first year) in honor of this special anniversary.  I noticed many fans on our forums sharing their stories of where they were on 9/25 or exchanging tales of battles fought in the past year and I thought it would be cool to ask members of the Bungie team to do the same. Here's a collection of reflections from the some of the folks in the building...  <cue sentimental sappy music>


I got DListed on the Halo 3: Launch in LA with Zac Efron. (see: DListed.com)

It was amazing how the fans elevated us to feeling like stars and they were incredible, and really brought home how games have finally really hit that blockbuster level as a medium.
Personally, never has fame thrown me from being a nobody to the elation with the fans and LA press, to being back to a nobody in the space of a day. It was awesome, and I didn’t even hit rehab.


     -Jon7y



It’s the night of July 15 at 6:50pm, and about a dozen of us have quietly gathered around one of the webdev machines as the clock ticks down. Marty has a phone in his hands waiting for a last minute reprieve from the governor, but we all know in our hearts it won’t come.

   -Michael



It was two weeks before Halo3 should be released to the public, and we were testing on Production. It’s a Saturday, and only the test team and the backend server team were here. We were testing matchmaking in the lab, and all of a sudden all 10 of our boxes locked up.

As we sat in the lab trying to figure out what had happened, various testers came scrambling in from their stations to let us know that their console had also locked up. We can to the realization that EVERY console in the studio had hung at the same moment.

A small mob formed near Roger's desk, where he let us know that he had changed a small setting in the server configuration to see if the game could handle it, and that had brought down all of Halo. It was an easy fix on his side.

I aged two years that day.


   - Jamie


One of the most memorable times for me was actually on the anniversary of Halo 3! I was going for the Vidmaster Annual achievement and one of the guys in my party got his Ghost stuck in a crevasse. I tried to get him out, and my ghost got stuck. Our other buddy tried to help me… and well… you know. Our last remaining teammate pulled of a run or mythic proportions and fought his way to the next loading point by himself, saving our asses and teleporting us, ghosts and all, to the next checkpoint. Needless to say, I saved that film.

   -Nick



Sentimental memory – Midnight launch at EB Games in Redmond Town Center was probably as close to a celebrity as I’ll ever feel. Seeing all the fans lined up waiting for midnight and asking for autographs was very humbling. Hopefully the months and months of the long days and Bungie sponsored meals made the game worth it for the majority of them. Even the ones that are still complaining on b.net about X, Y, and/or Z J

   -Dom



…thoroughly destroying the production countdown clock as it hit the 00:00:00 mark on the night we finally called Halo3 a finished game. I still have a piece of it next to my monitor. I promise will sell it on eBay the minute I get tired of looking at it.

   -Vic



Holding two unnamed individuals heads over a bucket in a limo begging for folks to roll down the windows.

   -Jason



Mostly I just remember the crowd of people swirling around Bill [Gates] oohing and ahhing – until the actor in the plastic Master Chief suit showed up and the whole crowd ran over to him, leaving Bill all by himself looking nonplussed. It was simultaneously beautiful and terrifying.

   -Steve



There was a lot of debate about medals in the game, and one of the most highly debated medal was the 10 shotgun kill medal that we originally dubbed ‘Cheneymania’ in honor of our Vice President and his hunting accident. Some of us thought it was funny, others in the studio did not and ultimately we decided to rename the medal. Well… we did remove the audio dialogue in time for the public Beta of Halo 3, but not the text string. A simple oversight, but it quickly snowballed into a major issue. Joe Tung, Harold Ryan and I were in LA for the launch of the Beta when we were contacted by our publisher – they were going to delay the launch unless we could remove the string. So while sitting poolside at our hotel we attended some lengthy conference calls with the heroic test team back at Bungie HQ and we were able to update the Beta and get it through a certification pass in under 12 hours, readying it for the launch.

   -Allen (breaking the rules; but he just don’t care)



The moment that the impact of my involvement with Halo 3 made a mark on my life came about at the wedding of one of my younger brothers, shortly after Halo 3 launched. Before the reception, while relaxing from the ceremony and preparing for the partying to come, one of the groomsmen approached me and asked me if it was true that I had worked on Halo 3. I answered, Uh y eah I did. He then produced a copy of Halo 3 and asked if I could sign the copy, which was for his girlfriend’s little brother. Somewhat taken aback, I signed the game and had a laugh. Later, at the reception, my father came up to the head table and asked me to follow him. We headed over to a table where several of my dad’s nurses were sitting, each with a plastic bag. The bags were filled with several copies of Halo 3 and each nurse had a waiting pen, eager for me to sign their copies for their respective children.

And that wasn’t quite the end. Two younger doctors who had just started at my dad’s practice asked my dad about the Halo 3 article in Time magazine and my small picture in the company photo within. My dad said, Yup that’s my….son ? He didn’t quite know how to react to his son’s appearance in Time or the younger doctor’s request for my Xbox Live Gamertag so they could play Halo 3 with me.


   -Raj



Late evening during crunch, slightly tipsy from the free beer, trying to give Harold a logical argument why we needed to improve cinematic texture loading.

   -Matt



Watching soldiers play multiplayer in Iraq with Curtis, Jamie, Jaime and Paul. To this day I think Jaime G. is still more popular than Pamela Anderson.

   -Jim



My favorite Halo 3 memory was at PAX 2008 where people wanted me to autograph copies of a game I didn’t even work on.

That or being a level 1 and having full Recon and a flaming head the first time I ever played Halo 3.

   -Pat



Well, there was the 1am phone call on the night that it snowed 4” at my house that the Thai restaurant that is attached to our building was burning down. That was fun, though I don’t know if it was all that fond…

I think the funniest thing that happened was the rockband competition with marty and crew in sock stuffed spandex. There is a memory I may never be able to eradicate even with therapy.


   -Steve



I was at the Tokyo Game Show in the week leading up to the launch of Halo 3. The press and fans alike were super excited about our game and the Halo area of the MS booth was very popular throughout the show. My best memory of that week had to be playing with 3 MS Japan employees who were quite good at Halo in a 4 v 4 Capture the Flag Match against 4 editors from Famitsu (a Japanese gaming magazine). Not being a particularly skilled Halo player (I can hear the rest of Bungie chuckling at this understatement) I was quite nervous that I was about to have my ass handed to me. However I was saved by the fact that we played on High Ground which was a map I was familiar with and two flag captures by me and some key defensive kills later and we won the day! The payoff was that the Famitsu guys had thrown down the gauntlet and guaranteed that they would shave their heads if they lost…heheh.

   -Jay



The launch party night at Bungie. Bill Gates shows up and the first person I introduce him to is Michael Wu. First thing Michael says is “Bill, the reason you’re here is because I had a dream about you the other night and you were at OUR party! Isn’t that great!” Bill laughed.

It’s actually true. Michael had the dream, shared it with us and we realized it would be a good thing to invite the big guy. I think he had a good time.


   -Marty


At the Halo 3 launch party, Marty O’Donnell signed my right moob. At PAX, Paul Russell signed my left moob.

  -Bob


It just so happened that Halo 3’s launch party laid on the eve of my 26th birthday, so on September 24th 2007 when everyone was filing into Bungie’s studios for the launch of the greatest entertainment event of all time, they were also filing into the greatest birthday party of all time. At the midnight madness event at Best Buy in Bellevue, some kind co-worker of mine encouraged a few hundred fans who were lining up in the cold to sing me happy birthday. AND I got a birthday kiss from Jen Taylor; Cortana herself.

And here we are, one year later. My 27th birthday party, on Wednesday night, had distinctly fewer attendees than last year, and this time Bill Gates wasn’t invited; it was just a dozen of my closest friends, an Italian restaurant and some beer. Of course, Bungie still tried to upstage me, what with restarting the teaser countdown less than an hour before we left for the restaurant, and then I realized that without Halo and Bungie I would have been sitting at my 27th birthday with a very different set of people. My life is inexorably linked to Bungie and Halo, and I’m ok with that.

I wonder what the next year will be like.


   -Max


When I go into matchmaking to play Halo, that’s my primary goal – to have fun playing Halo. Unfortunately, part of being a Bungie employee that interfaces with the public opens me up to all kinds of grief, profanity, requests for recon or endless invitations to chat or answer questions. However, on rare occasion I will match into a team of really cool people that are there to have a good time. They joke (good naturedly) about the Bungie flames, call out tactical info, and help elevate the experience into a very social atmosphere. One such time, we played a very close game while making each other laugh the whole time. When it was all over and we emerged victorious, we grouped up and started a custom FFA game where we spent the whole time posing for group shots. Afterwards a few of us continued to play together for the rest of the night.

   -Dave



Totally offering Recon to this chick for a (LOVING TENDER EMBRACE) at PAX. 

  -Skip



Realizing, as we reviewed design changes for TU1 in December, that the most broken thing in the shipping game was how inscrutable melee contests were. After four months in the wild, there were no major exploits, glitches, or game breaking bugs.

Also, blackly cursing Dan’s name while trying to do mission nine on solo Legendary before realizing that I could, in fact, methodically kill every combat form between me and the ziggurat instead of trying to run past. After I realized that, I sheepishly continued the level and had a singularly epic and satisfying trench run to wrap up the Legendary run-through.


   -Tyson



Me and two of my friends didn’t even notice Bill Gates was standing right behind us, because we were having too much fun playing Halo at the launch party in the Durandal room.

   -John



To really bang on the Forge, we were running “monkey” tests overnight with host migrations every 10 seconds. One morning we come in and the entire courtyard area of Last Resort was filled with packing crates. We watched the film, and every time there was a host migration, the 2 crates under the wheel respawned. To fix this, Petar decided to just delete all the map-variant objects on host migration and let the map respawn them. During the code review I distinctly remember telling him that I was a little uncomfortable with that fix. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” he said. That night we ran the monkey test again and everything seemed to be OK. But the next day I was investigating a different host-migration related bug and noticed the sky was awfully blue. “Hey Petar,” I said, “Did you delete the clouds?” Sure enough, the entire skybox was gone.

   -Jon


I have bittersweet memories of testing 4 player co-op in a tags build, with determinisms enabled, on Legendary with several skulls on. In many cases the game was running in seconds per frame as opposed to frames per second. After working on art assets for months I was looking forward to the opportunity to just sit back and play the game. It was then that I realized that testing is grueling mind-numbing under-appreciated work. Admittedly, it was also a lot of fun to play through the campaign and see everything that you and your fellow artists contributed to the game. In particular, I found it highly amusing how abundant the Covenant shield barriers were throughout the game, considering that it was an unscheduled item added to my schedule after content complete.

   -Matt


The same fan that made the wooden carbine had a cake delivered today.

It was tasty.

Can we put a P.S. in the update that says “Thanks for the cake, Adam!”


   - Joseph



Best memory: Sitting in a lobby with a foulmouthed little twerp while signing into my laptop to voice ban him.

Probably not suitable for a “feel good” story. And yes, I did send the proper form to Banhammer afterwards.


   -Drew



I was one of the fortunate ones to get hired on right as halo 3 was really sprinting towards final (started end of june 07) and having been a bungie fan going back to Oni it was really cool to just see how everything worked and (as cheesy as this sounds), I got to really see the how and why bungie cranks out such insanely cool games first hand. . .also I think my head exploded silently and invisibly when Paul V (my boss) said something along the lines of “ok, so part of your job for the next few months is just to play Halo 3”. That was pretty freakin coolJ

   -Seth



September 12th, 2008: Game #826: The time I first won a Swords match.

-Christian




And what a year it's been... For me personally, I can't even begin pick one memory or summarize what has been a crazy, whirlwind exciting year.  I can probably safely say though that reading the reaction to today's weekly update will not be a highlight of year two. Call it a hunch.

Thanks folks, tune in next week for another guest mystery update writer as Luke and I will both be on a plane headed to somewhere far away.

UPDATE: Ok, I admit I'm pretty shocked by the overall reactions to the update. Really, thank you to everyone who continues to support Bungie, who positively contributes to our community and who simply get it.  Now excuse me, I seem to have something in my eye... I'm watering up a bit...




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