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All Updates, Some of the Time

Frankie's Bungie Updates - March 5, 2004

Originally hosted at HBO

Busy, busy week at Bungie! Tons of stuff going on! Number of deadlines all converging! No sleep for many! I managed to stick my head in the middle and glean some goodies though. Check it out:

  • Michael and the other environment artists have been tooling around with some very human geometry. A gorgeous bridge, worthy of a glossy spread in any architecture magazine, has been profoundly torn up by Covenant attack. The futuristic surface of the bridge is composed of bonded interlocking panels of a space-age material, and the damage is being carefully honed so that it reflects the rending blasts of Covenant energy weapons and the warping of the structural panels and concrete elements.

    The bridge can be driven on too, so the gaping holes have to be both obstacles and gameplay elements, so some of the bent panels can be used as ramps. That means there is a profound danger that you could eat it and plummet into the sparkling waters below either through the gap itself, or as the result of a poorly aimed jump.

    And on the subject of water (a personal favorite of mine) the placeholder water I thought looked pretty freaking good, is being replaced with what the graphics guys say is a much more convincing wave-based shader system. It's so far below that most of it will go unseen - but the designers know that players will go take a closer look when they get a breather, possibly with a sniper scope, so they're making sure everything looks good from any distance.

    Why bother with realistic placeholder water at all? The designers could make their job a bit easier by simply inserting a big blue sheet of nothing. It's so that when designing levels, and tuning graphics, everything has the correct context for color and geography.

  • Over at the Cananimators' lair, things are progressing shockingly well. Looks finished to me boys! Ship it! But no, tons of work still to do, although you wouldn't know it to look at the brilliant new dual-wielding animations. Nathan has been tuning the idle animations and aiming stuff - and he's made a few subtle, but vital changes.

    Two identical guns now look wholly natural, instead of just kind of stuck out in front of you. They reload convincingly, Chief will make slight turns and angle changes as he's blasting, and it's kind of hard to describe how much more realistic the difference in animation between hands makes it look. Just more organic, I suppose. The same thinking is being applied when you hold two different weapons, but that always looked more natural anyway.

    An even more subtle thing is the way Chief raises or lowers his arms when you look up or down, respectively. This lets you see more of the screen so that your arms aren't blocking what you're trying to swing and aim at. It's a teeny, teeny change, but it's going to make looking up and down much more natural - rather than simply improving how it looks.

    He's also been working on a Covenant weapon that has been shown before - but never discussed. The first person animation looks great, and the weapon has a zoom mode too. Nathan wants to see a really cool alien interface for the zoomed view, but that's something that's still being discussed.

  • Rob (who does the designs for almost all the Halo weapons and vehicles) has been working all this week on the same weapon Nathan is animating. He's changing little details on the way the gun looks, and also building in the geometry for the collision detection - so that the gun can bump into walls, or if it's in the way when the Elite holding it gets shot, the gun itself is struck, not simply the creature wielding it.

    You know, getting to design weapons and vehicles all day - that's a pretty freaking cool job.

  • The sound guys have been working on alien Covenant noises. And alien voices as a matter of fact. Expect to hear a lot more artistic nuance in the voices of all sorts of alien scumbags, including a very cool surround based effect for a particularly epic encounter.

    Mat Noguchi has been working on "an intractable problem, the equivalent of proving or disproving the existence of God." He wouldn't elaborate, claiming that the very revelation of the problem would destroy any possible solution. Which is pretty esoteric, to say the least. Maybe he's been trying to give kitty treats to Schrödinger's Cat.

    Mat is also pondering some kind of amusing "promotion" for the escalation of grenade explosions. That may or may not happen, but you might want to try playing around with ridiculous numbers of grenades when the game ships, just in case something cool is attached to a cataclysmic escalation of explosions! You know, apart from the epic amount of destruction.

  • Marketing guys have been going bananas with packaging issues all week - one of the items being designed right now is the box. I've seen a mock-up with one of the proposed illustrations and it's very cool and when you see it on the box, it looks even cooler.

  • Chris Butcher chatted about the Live stuff that we're planning and it's all pretty cool. Some of it is secret, but some of it simply takes full advantage of Live's already stellar features. The way your Halo games will find the best and closest servers (for Quickmatch) is going to have some excellent options attached to it, especially for groups of friends who want to play together.

    The Xbox Live datacenter is actually located here in Redmond, so all of the matches are filtered through here - even for European, Australasian and Asian gamers. But naturally that's not ideal for connection speed - so once you've found, filtered and started a match, the connection is much more direct. In fact, Live will check for the closest geographic location, and often try to match up service providers - so if two guys are using a Comcast cable modem in the same part of town, there's a higher likelihood they'll find each other in a quickmatch. That's stellar news for ping times and of course, the dreaded lag. That matchmaking isn't totally unique to Halo 2 of course, but the game is going to do some cool and radical things to take advantage of it.

  • Faxing is stupid. As a technology, it's right up there with square wheels and turd-filled pizza crust. So not only can you never be sure that what you just faxed ever went through, the recipient actually has to go look for it. Imagine if to check email you had to drive to a bad part of town and stick your hand down a dark hole? That's what faxing is like. Kinda. Anyway, while I was faxing something this week, I wandered around the corner from the fax machine and discovered heaven. For me anyway. The Microsoft Game Studios TV Lab. Drool.

    It's literally set up like a museum. There are rows and rows of TVs for testing and reference, with little cards that explain the technology and the purpose. They range from an RF-only--capable black and white set, to a giant Sony Plasma display. There are also TVs from other countries - a Japanese NTSC HD set - a UK PAL set with digital capabilities. They just go on and on and on. I tried to sneak out of there, but the receptionist knows that I don't have a 42 inch rectangular physique.

One last thing: I wonder what Mister Chief will look like after Halo 2 ships?


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