Bungie Weekly Update: 03.12.10
Posted by urk at 3/12/2010 5:17 PM PST

“Oh, Lord!”


Those were just a few of the impromptu, exclamatory phrases I heard while I was tooling around in the freshly updated Delta branch flavor of Powerhouse yesterday morning. Good times. It turns out just about everything in the multiplayer trailer was a little thing the team likes to call “placeholder.”

Marcus’ post trailer anxieties (“Thanks for understanding where we are at with the project - it’s scary for us to put the game out there before it’s done.”) makes all the more sense to me now. Lighting, special effects, shaders…just about anything and everything that comes together to make the game look pretty has been given more love in recent weeks. It’s remarkable how much work this team can shove into such a short span of time. Almost absurd. And Reach is looking great as a result.

Am I saying it’ll look like a completely different game than what you saw in the trailer when you load it up in May? Nah. The same flesh and bones are still present and accounted for, but there’s definitely been a significant upgrade in visuals in the shift from Alpha/Beta to Delta. It’s like someone walloped Reach in the face with a comically large, Three Stooges era powder puff, seared in some impeccably arched eyebrows with a cosmetic Spartan Laser, and slathered on a thick layer of glistening, ruby red lipstick. Yup, Reach is gettin' all gussied up.

I’m sure you’d love to see it for yourself.

“Dark, bro.”

Sorry, dudes. The three quotes at the outset? They all had to do with the wet stuff.
Making a Splash
I definitely don’t get as moist looking at our water tech as our old pal Frankie did. I’m more of a gameplay sort of guy. When I go wading into the engine, I wanna know about stuff like field of view, rate of fire, and how the current health and shield systems function. But I can’t deny that the H2O rolling out of Powerhouse is pretty slick and impressive. It certainly warrants a trickle of lip service.

From the dam spillway beneath Powerhouse’s catwalks, crystal clear water now pours through metal grating, splashing down into the concrete channel below. From there it playfully rolls through the narrow outlet, a vibrant rush of shimmering aquamarine that, to my amazement, appears to pick up tints and tones from the surrounding concrete before making a swift, foamy run down the sun soaked chute into the large, central pool below.

Goldsworthy tells me that my mind may be playing tricks on me. Though the water is in a near final state, the effects I’m imagining are really a technical mixture of bump mapping, tessellation, and other technical tricks that are apparently well outside the realm of my understanding. Explains the confused look on my face as he sloshed the details my way.

All I know is that it looks incredible. The reflection and shimmering atop the water is naturally more visible and pronounced where the sunlight skins the surface and the refraction adds a near photo-realistic and completely hypnotic effect to the water whether I’m peering out across it or leering down through it. The waves rhythmically lap, swell, and undulate. Hell, I think I even saw a rainbow forming in some mist. No joke.

Splashing around in the pools of water forms small eddies. Tossing a grenade into them produces a satisfying sploosh followed closely by a sizeable plume that sends concentric, white capped waves rippling away from the point of impact. Set a hill in it and the colorized bottom edge seen in the trailer actually rests atop the rolling waves and repositions accordingly so it’s not submerged and hidden, but still completely visible. It’s a difficult effect to describe, but trust me, it looks impressive.

Most impressive.
Go Boom
And since we’re talking about lobbing grenades, I should note that the team has added a pretty slick new mechanism to the fragmentation fold. Now when you lob a pineapple towards some unsuspecting schmuck camping around the corner, you’ll notice the Bouchon assembly has a small, orange tracer attached to it. Not only can you pick up incoming frags much easier with a quick glance, if you look carefully, you’ll also notice that the tracer is actually emitting light that has an effect upon the surrounding environment. So, even if you happen to have your audio system muted, you’ll still be able to pick up on grenades that prime near your position.

Pretty nifty, eh? There’s more. Should you happen to have your surround sound kicking at full capacity, you’ll be privy to the second layer of changes made to the fragmentation grenade. Just before the nade gets ready to blow, you’ll hear a brief metallic clink that lets you know you need to get clear. Of course, if it’s a loud clink, you’re probably about to take the full brunt of the blast, but hey, at least you’ll know what killed you when you take the finishing shot from some fool’s Magnum. No more, “What!? He only shot me once!” It’ll be nice and clear what did the majority of the dirty deed.

Both of these new modifications are subtle, but they should go a long way toward keeping you alive in the heat of battle. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open.

Oh, and yeah, you read right at the top, we opened up our Delta branch this week (Delta is another name for the public Beta). Alpha is still in testing and we’re getting some great feedback and data on the experience. Pretty soon, we’ll start lifting the veil so you can get a better look and some more detailed information.

Brian is actually fleshing out those very details as I type.
Details, Details
A strange thing happened in the Alpha last week. We were testing some of what will ultimately become part of the Arena experience and, for one reason or another, a small snippet of what seemed to be mundane, behind-the-scenes information ended up being displayed in the HUD for all to see. Should have been fairly innocuous for all intents and purposes, but the more our playtesters were exposed to it, the more they began to understand its initially vague intricacies and soon enough even our own guys were coming into work in the morning telling energetic stories centered on this curious little numerical oddity.

Sound a little too mysterious? Sorry. It wouldn’t make much sense to dig in right now without the proper context in place. And since the final call hasn’t been made as to the utility and ubiquity of this particular snippet of information, we’re not going to cement it into your lexicon just yet. Until we start squawking, you’ll just have to take your best guess.

My best guess? It’ll end up in the public Beta in one form or fashion and you won’t have to wonder about it at all. Of course, you should keep in mind that my guesses are about as good as yours. If design wants this particular nugget to get panned, it’s gone.
Squawking at GDC
Brian was down at GDC with Staten, Griesemer, and Sharp talking about technical stuff that’s way over my head and well above my pay grade. We’ve had some requests for publications, most centered on Griesemer’s Sniper Rifle cadence analysis, but I’ve got no official word just yet. Odds are we’ll have something to show off. If and when our boys decide to pass me their goods, I’ll make sure to pass them to you under the table.

Just don’t tell anyone where you got ‘em.
What’s That Smell?
It’s the Bungie Podcast! Yeah, so we missed February altogether, but we’re on track to pump out two glorious and gab filled entries for the month of March. Part one, a nice little discussion with our Audio Lead, Jay Weinland, went live earlier in the week. You can grab it on our official Bungie Podcast page if you’ve yet to listen.

For those looking for clues about Halo: Reach’s ultimate release date hidden in Brian’s comments concerning the month of November, it might be noted that we don’t have a release date set in stone just yet. Reach still falls 2010. That’s all we know for now. When we set a date, we won’t stuff it inside a joke about our inability to properly schedule and execute on our Podcasts. We’ll come right out and say it so you can set your calendars and schedule your vacation days.

And if you’re looking for even more podcast, you’re in luck. Next week, we’re gonna stick Sage in the hot seat and fire twenty questions his way aimed at the more technical stuff packed into the new engine. FOV, health model…hell, maybe we’ll even ask him if fall damage is in or out. Should be interesting.

We’ll also be dragging Carney in to get a good old fashioned multiplayer overview, which is always awesome. We’ll let you know when it goes live. You know where to find us.
Balls of Fury
Looks like the cinematics squad been up to something over in Spandex Palace. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what in the world this still shot has to do with Reach, but it is curiously humorous and somewhat embarrassing, so I thought you all might want to see it.

Nice balls, CJ.
Blame Stosh
Someone called me out for saying that Stosh had found a picture last week when what we really put on display was an embedded video. Yeah, well…sue me. I guess you never ever made a mistake! To make up for it, check out what just might be the best Blame Stosh evar!

Click the images below for a the wet and wild slip 'n' slide show. Click the captions for the animated GIFs. The latter won't play too well in certain browsers, but the vids should work just fine. Enjoy.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully, we can shed some more light soon. Stay tuned.
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A Garden of Earthly Delights!

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