Frankie's Bungie Updates - March 12, 2004
Originally hosted at Halo Babies
Short and sweet this week, just the way you like it.
- Nightmare Armor Guys!
Two of the guys from Nightmare Armor, Justin and Sid popped in to show us their latest build of the Master Chief Halo armor. They nearly caused a mass conniption. First we gave them a hermetically sealed tour of the office ? where they get to see our microwave oven, Laffy Taffy stash and no Halo 2 whatsoever - and then Sid (who's pretty intimidating in the flesh) suited up and went on patrol.
With his giant Frankenstein shoes and vast hulking mass, Sid really looked the part. The suit was almost perfect, and we couldn't have been more pleased with how it looked in real life. The overall effect was awesome. Bungie old-timers giggled like sissies as he stomped around the office, posing for photos like some lethal Mickey Mouse. Sid was a great sport too, stopping to corpse-hump a fallen BentLlama.
We then took him into the Microsoft Game Studios Cafeteria, where he nearly caused a riot. People actually cheered when a seven foot Master Chief ringer unexpectedly popped in for a Pesto Wrap and a smoothie. Sid, sweating it up a storm inside the (un-air conditioned) helmet, continued to be patient as Justin begrudgingly adjusted a dangling crotch strap. The gun he's carrying is a one-off 3D model of the battle rifle we conveniently had laying around.
Seeing the detail and lovingly crafted accuracy up close, was kind of mind-blowing, right down to the brilliant blue LEDs glowing in the leg parts. Makes us wonder how they got that through airport security.
We've been preparing for two separate visits from two big gaming magazines. Each will run a story some time in the near future on different aspects of the game. We've got a lot of work to do preparing assets and taking screenshots (yes, it's laborious and sloooow) and as the game progresses, the people who can help us are getting busier and busier. The upside of that is that Brian, Zoe and I are able to get our hands on versions of the game with everything turned on.
Currently we tend to play single and multiplayer builds with bits missing ? like textures that are turned off while an artist tweaks them, or levels with Joe Staten yelling insane inanities in place of real speech. But pretty soon, we're going to have very polished versions of the little bits we'll be taking screenshots of. Multiplayer we're used to, but I can't wait to get my hands on plot-ruining sections of the Campaign mode.
We also have to round up some very busy, very stressed animators, programmers and designers, so that they're available to chat and well-prepared when these crack (smoking?) journalists show up and ask them supertough questions, like, "What's your favorite color Marty?" and, "Will Master Chief fall in love this time?" Luckily they've been "media-trained" so they don't accidentally give away playable builds and hard drives full of source code. Because that's what they'd do you know.
Joe Staten has been polishing and editing cinematics. The new game engine looks glorious when it's applied to the cinemas, and one, the intro to a mid-game level, looks astonishing. Although some pieces of the cinemas are missing, like certain animations, they're very polished looking and now they have the actual actor dialog instead of Joe and Co talking.
The cinemas are tricky for animators, because they contain a ton of animation that isn't in the game, so that has to be custom-created. In the game ? the characters have a (huge) set of animations that they cycle through as the AI demands, but in cinematics, two characters, say, shaking hands, has to be hand animated. It's time consuming, but rewarding.
A lot of that work is done, and Joe is busy editing the cinemas for style and impact. One scene was cut yesterday ? a cool, but ultimately redundant interaction between two Elites. Must be pretty heart-rending to chop out a week of work, no matter how much smoother it makes the scene play out. But Joe's job is to keep the story bouncing along, and that's exactly what he's doing. Readers complain a lot about the lack of specific information we give here ? but I can tell you for certain that Halo 2 is exactly 183% more dramatic than the original.
- Idiot! (Me)
Zach set me up with a web server, now I can see my horrific mistakes on the new version of Bungie.net (still coming soon etc) before I post them.
- Genius! (Everyone Else)
Aaron and Luis have been automating the stress testing. That means they have about 35 debug Xbox systems running overnight, with Master Chiefs running around pretty much randomly, tossing grenades and jumping around blasting aimlessly. In theory, if he gets near a vehicle, he could jump in and drive it around too, but since the system is automated, nobody's actually around to witness the insane nocturnal antics of 35 Master Chiefs.
The purpose of all this is some very useful data gathering. The guys can come in first thing in the morning, see if anything crashed, look at a newly compiled database and see exactly what caused the crash ? or at least what master Chief was doing when the crash happened. In the long run it means that testers are getting more stable builds of the game and reducing test time is a big deal. A similar reduction in lightmap rendering time is also saving time ? time that will be filled up making the game better and better.
Just watched a cool aerial dogfight ? Banshees, turrets and a bigger Covenant ship. Big buildings, cool textures and some genuine surprises. Upside is that months of playing PC Halo mean I should be better at flying Banshees next time around.
All New Mjolnir "Fabulous" Series Armor:
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