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Jason says Hi to MartyTranscript of Bungie Q&A from E3 2003 Fanfest

One of the highlights of the Bungie Fanfest held at E3 2003 was a Q&A session with a panel of Bungie employees. To start with, the panel contained Michael Evans, Marty O'Donnell, Joe Staten, and Jaime Griesemer, and was moderated by Brian Jarrard. Various Bungie employees joined in along the way. There are a small number of missed comments; either the speaker was too quiet, or there were multiple people talking. (It's possible that the speakers involved will remember what they said; if this is the case, we'll update the page as data comes in.) Meanwhile, enjoy! Remember: it was a very lighthearted give-and-take; if an answer seems as though it might have been said in jest, it probably was.

Brian: So this one comes from phoenix155 via Bungie.net, he wants to know, in Halo 2, the demo we saw, is the reflection on the master chief's visor - is that a realtime image, is that faked, how does that work?

Marty: Evans?

Michael: As I'm sure people will notice, when it gets out on the web and people examine it frame by frame, that's not a real image.

Brian: It still looks really cool, though.

Marty: Didn't Jaime try to put a realtime image in at the last minute here on Saturday? [pause] YES.

Jaime [grinning]: Not really.

Brian: Does anyone from the crowd have a question? Okay, right here. Hey, what's your name?

Crowd Member: My name's Bruce Shenkel, North Carolina.

Brian: Hey, Bruce. Welcome. What's your question?

Bruce: Okay, you may not be able to answer this, and I'm a little bit technical, the Xbox may not have enough memory, but will you be able, and please do, to support 720p in Halo 2 for HDTV, because some of us guys have HD.

Marty: That's too technical.

Brian: Okay, that's no comment!

Marty: No comment. I'm good at the 'no comment's.

Brian: Okay, let's try another question. Okay, we've got one over here. What's your name, and what's your question?

Crowd Member: My name's Scott Hill, and my question is, in Halo 1, especially in multiplayer, how is the respawn configured? Because it seems like it's a little unfair...

Michael Evans: I don't know, anyone on the stage who has any familiarity with -

Joe: Uh, Michael certainly wouldn't have been in charge of multiplayer engineering...

Michael: So, you're asking about where the respawn points are?

Hill: What determines where the respawn occurs at particular times? I mean, I know there are certain respawn spots, but...

Michael: Yeah, there are a bunch of rules, that vary from gametype to gametype, for example, it attempts to respawn you near your allies, away from your enemies... in Assault CTF it tries to respawn you far away from the flag you're trying to score at... I think there are some others... it won't respawn you on top of vehicles, and so on... definitely the most noticeably lame thing is the initial spawn in Race with limited vehicles... it's pretty much just stupid.

Joe: Yeah, that's...

Marty: That would be my fault. [Laughter all around]

Joe: But who plays Race, so...?

Brian: We've got a question over here.

Crowd Member: I know you guys don't like music in multiplayer and all, but is there any way you could incorporate tracks off the hard drive or the internet in multiplayer... let's say you get in the warthog, the music starts to play off the hard drive, or something...

Marty: I think that's still to be determined. I kind of like the idea of having some sort of user-defined tracks for multiplayer, but that's still to be determined.

Brian: We had a question from online submission here... are you guys enjoying the media attention, rumors, and speculation that you're getting over Halo 2 or is that just a pain in the ass?

Marty: We love it. We absolutely love all of the attention.

Michael: And by 'we', Marty means he loves it. He absolutely loves all of it.

Jaime: Every rumor is true. Every single rumor.

Brian: You heard it here first!

Jaime: And I mean EVERYTHING.

Crowd Member: Is there going to be a replay feature in Halo 2?

Michael: We all love replay.

Brian: Instant replay, he says.

Marty: You mean like films?

Michael: You mean like you stop (?) somebody and you'd see like 10 seconds of that battle again? We've talked about that - like saved films from Marathon. Everybody recognizes that would be really cool, but I don't want to say anything definite. That would kick ass, though. We like things that kick ass.

Brian: So this question is from Anonymous... it's kind of interesting. People have pushed the Halo engine pretty far from normal gameplay. Things like the Warthog Jump, which Randall Glass is sort of the pioneer of, also the situation of knocking the banshee off the platform directly after the section in which you get the scorpion. [Raises eyebrows] Okay. The question is, did you guys realize these things were possible before the release?

Marty: Yeah, I did a LOT of that stuff before... I mean I went WAY higher than Randy did... [points at Randall Glass in the audience]

Brian: What do you guys think in general about the creative ways that people have taken what you've given them and done those wacky things with?

Joe: I think it's great. I think if we could change anything for Halo 2, it would be to get rid of the reticle in the middle of the screen, to make movies. But...

Michael: If we could do ANYTHING... that's what we'd do. [snorts]

Jaime: It's number 1 on the list.

Joe: It's just the thing. But things like free camera, all that sorta stuff... it's really crazy to see Red vs Blue stuff and realize that it seems like they were pulling off dolly shots on the barrel of the scorpion tank, or something crazy like that, that's really cool to see people do that, but I want to make it easier if we can.

Jaime: I would like to give credit to our testing group... we shipped a game that was so bug-free that people can experiment in ways like this and not break it.

Crowd Member: Are there any plans for Halo 2 for Mac and PC after the Xbox version is done?

Michael: There are no plans announced at this time.

Marty: Good answer.

Brian: But! Halo 1 for the PC is alive and kicking, and the Mac version is also scheduled for a near-simultaneous release.

Crowd Member: Do you guys have any plans for the Halo 2 multiplayer for allowing the players to choose more than two teams at a time... maybe three or four teams, something like that?

Jaime: That was really cool in Marathon... but I don't think we're going to talk about multiplayer tonight.

Crowd Member: In story mode, are you going to be able to have more than two players?

Jaime: Again... do you guys have questions about the development process... questions we can answer?

Brian: He said he does.

Joe: Do you guys have questions about anything that's NOT cool? We're only authorized to answer not-cool questions.

Marty: Personal questions are fine.

Brian: Personal question... that'd be good. Deathmatch, slayer, you four people, who wins?

Marty: Up here on stage?

Brian: Yeah.

Marty: Oh, that's tough.

[Jaime points at Joe]

Michael: Joe - Joe might win.

Joe: I don't know...

Michael: Are there sniper rifles involved?

Joe: Are there sniper rifles on this? If so yes. If not...

Marty: I think close second - to whoever. Either one.

Joe: Any questions about, like, Should Hamilton cut his hair, that sort of stuff?

Michael: Can we get a show of hands on the hair-cutting thing?

Marty: Because we could do it tonight; we thought it'd be a good thing to do tonight, right here on the stage, Hamilton gets his hair cut. Hamilton! Ah, he's not here.

Crowd Member: I've got a question: are the Hunters going to be that easy to kill in Halo 2?

Marty: WHAT? Easy?!

Crowd Member: C'mon, one shot...

Michael: Nobody has told Marty about the way to kill Hunters... and we don't want anybody to start now.

Marty: ...it was SOOO hard...

Joe: They are, they're like tanks, Marty. You shoot them in the HEAD, the head.

Michael: You kinda take that shield out first, Marty.

Jaime: If there was one thing from Halo 1 that I could change... it would be making Hunters harder. They were just too easy once you figured it out.

Brian: That's actually a really good question... all three of you guys. If you could change one thing about Halo 1, what would it be?

[Marty points to Jaime]

Jaime: uhh... the Hunters? [hands mike to Joe]

Joe: You know, the camera control was pretty rudimentary in Halo 1. We only had one way to move the camera around, and that was pretty painful... [aside from Jaime] Yes, the CINEMATIC camera. I'd work on that a little bit.

Marty: I would have had a couple more days for the final mix, so that we could hear ALL the dialogue in ALL the scenes.

Joe: And I would like a big birthday cake with a pony on top.

Michael: There's a bunch of little multiplayer things that we thought of after the fact, like better spawning holes (?) for vehicles, an option for slayer to have kills count against you, when you die, there's tons of little stuff like that that I would love to have done better.

Crowd Member: What kind of tools do you guys use to develop a product?

Michael: On the programming side, everything's done in Visual Studio, pretty much. Sometimes we swear about it, sometimes we cheer about how great it is. Depends on the day. We use .Net now, we used to use .six (?). And then on the other tools side we use both Max and Maya, and there are a bunch of custom tools that our Tool guy, Mat Noguchi, maintains.

Brian: Do you guys want to talk at all about some of the challenges you faced creating this impressive demo, maybe compared to the first E3 showing of Halo? Maybe what's changed, what kind of hurdles you've had to overcome? Was that not a cool question?

Joe: Yeah, we could talk about the differences between this demo and the Halo 2 announcement trailer. Well, the one big difference is that this one's actually in real time, so everything needed to work, and not break. And to a large extent, that's true. There are certain things that will break, but from the cinematic point of view, and I'll try to be quick about this, that meant that the scripting I did really had to tie in with the scripting Tyson did. I don't know where Tyson is right now but Tyson is the level designer for that part of the game, and it was the first union of our two different worlds, and sometimes it got pretty ugly, but it was really nice to do this early in the project, to get that working, because that was the big challenge, the link between the cinematic scripting and the level scripting.

Jaime: I think one of the big differences between the announcement trailer and this demo is that this demo actually has a lot of gameplay stuff in it; if you look really closely you can see things like the grunts being stunned by grenades, the melee attack combo, also boarding the ghost, which is I think the high point of the whole thing.

Michael: Sort of along the lines of it being real, we made a choice almost a month ago to try and not cheat. Obviously, there's going to be some amount of cheating in anything, but there are many times where we had, well we could do this one way which would be easy, or we could do this another way which is gonna be actually useful after E3. We really tried to do that. That was especially terrifying in conjunction with framerate... it's pretty good now, and I think everybody up here on stage knows what it looked like three weeks ago. It's like a million times better. That was really rewarding to do in a non-fake way, because it puts us in this position where after E3 we can start making levels, and everything works really well, I can't tell you how exciting that is. It's so much fun to run around and play that thing [points at theater], I want to make five million more levels that are that cool.

Marty: Five million... all right. When we first talked about doing this E3 demo, the initial plan was, hey, let's do it the way we did Gamestock a couple of years ago, where Joe ran around in the game, doing real stuff, and I was in the back -

Michael: - with a harpsichord -

Marty: - yeah, I was in the back with a CD player playing music one track at a time, and Joe and I sort of choreographed how it was going to work, so we were thinking that music and sound were sort of maybe not coming from the game engine, even here. So that was something that was really satisfying, this was the first time that we've had a live demo, where all the sounds, all the music, all the dialogue is happening right out of the game, and it's still just a demo. So that's cool.

Brian: Maybe another question from the crowd?

Crowd Member: Hi guys.

Marty: Hi, Miguel.

Miguel: It seemed pretty apparent from way back in Halo 1, when you guys were done, it was publicly known that you guys felt that you hadn't pushed the Xbox to its limit yet, there was still plenty of untapped power there, etc, etc. Now, with Halo 2 this far along, and I guess maybe you can figure out where you're going to be when Halo 2 is done, do you think that you have maxed out what you can get from the Xbox, or is there still more?

Marty: You realize that Halo 2 is FOR Xbox 2, right? [Looks around] Have we not said this already?

Miguel: That's a free software upgrade, right?

Michael: Right. Okay, I'll take a shot at that. I think that there's never enough time in the world to max any piece of hardware out. There are so many opportunities that we just didn't have the time to take, and one of them that comes vividly to my mind is a day on Halo 1 where Jason and I were talking about particles. Jason was like, "we should scrap the particle system, and rewrite it, because it totally sucks, and was designed around a PC architecture." I was like, "we have, like, four weeks, Jason. There's no way we're scrapping the particle system and rewriting it." And there was no choice we made in Halo 2... any time anybody wanted to redo something to make it better, to make it better fit the architecture, that's what we've done. It's been a lot of work on behalf of a lot of people... but I think it's really great. I'm sure we could stretch things further.

Jaime: I don't think there's anybody using it better than we do.

Brian: I'll second that. We've got a question right here.

Crowd Member: What programs do you use for character animations?

Michael: The character animations - what package were they done in? In Halo 1, all the animation was done in Max, and now it's a mixture of Max and Maya. Both tools are used.

Crowd Member: Since you're going to have jumping on warthogs, and ghosts and so on, doesn't that sort of make it useless in multiplayer environments and stuff like that?

Jaime: The question was about how easy it is to board ghosts... It's not easy. We made it a little bit easier in the demo, so we wouldn't be able to mess it up, but it's going to take some work. You're going to have to surprise them.

Joe: It should be fairly challenging, unless the person who's driving is Marty... then, actually, it should be fairly straightforward.

Michael: There's actually a name-check there, as well.

Joe: Yes. Yes, exactly.

Brian: Okay, right here. What's your name?

Crowd Member: My name's Eric. Just for those who want to break into the game industry, what do you feel about the reputation of the art institutes?

Joe: Hey, maybe we should have an artist up here.

[They all look around for a Bungie artist]

Brian: We'll shelve that question, and if somebody shows up we'll get a response for you.

Jaime: I think I can kinda speak to it generally -

Brian: There we go, Chris Carney's going to field that question.

[Carney sees Michael Wu closer to the stage, points to him, steps back]

Michael: Actually, most of the artists at Bungie have either a classical art background, where they went to a 4-year university and they studied history, literature, writing AND art, and also applied design. About half of our artist are actually industrial designers and architects. We've even studied Engineering AND architecture. With that kind of broad understanding of the way real things work, we bring that into the game world, and make structures and machines and other objects that really appear to be real even though they're alien in nature, or just pulled out of our heads... it's because we have that breadth of experience from college that we've brought to the table. So, if you need to learn a new technical tool, those institutions are great, you can learn Maya very quickly and relatively inexpensively, but it's no replacement for a four-year education at an accredited university.

Joe: Michael Wu is one of our environment artists... I don't know, Nathan, do you want to say a little bit about that?

[Nathan Walpole shakes his head no]

Joe: Nathan's from Canada, he's a little bit shy. Nathan's one of our animators.

[Nathan waves]

Jaime: In general, the best thing you can do is have a really good portfolio, that is actually relevant to game stuff. So don't submit a ten million poly model, because it's not going to get in the game.

Crowd Member: Halo 1 and Halo 2 were both visually stunning, and they seemed to take a lot of influence from Hollywood. Are there any movies that influenced some of the moves in Halo 2?

Joe: Um... I watch a lot of porn, so I'm going to try to work that into Halo 2. Marty, you watch porn too, I know...

Marty: I've noticed a lot of movie influences, mostly from Joe's camera selections... a lot of Arnold Schwartzenegger movies, Aliens, I mean, he's just constantly ripping off - basically, he takes a video tape, looks at it, storyboards based on those scenes.

Joe: We get... uh, John Tesh. Marty I think primps at the altar of Mr. Tesh.

Marty: John Tesh is good. What?

Crowd Member: I just have a question about the RAM limitations of the Xbox. I've been talking to a lot of developers around E3 the last couple of days, and I'd say "well, how come you can't do this, can't do that?" and they'd say it's RAM limitations. I'm asking you guys, say you had 128 mb in the box, instead of 64, what would you do that you can't do now, and the second question, since I only have one chance at this, you keep saying, it'll be done when it's done, that's like the company line, but I'm sure if you guys had your choice, you'd work on it for three years, until it was this perfect monster of a game. Where do you find the line between, okay when do we ship it, and when do we stop putting in more and more stuff, even though we could, where's the line?

Joe: We actually finished it last week, we just have it in a box, we're just waiting...

Michael: Some box details, or something... Well, with 128 megs of RAM we could actually make Jason wear a different hat, so... that's what we'd do. No, that's a good question, you'd always like to have more RAM, you'd always like to have more processor speed. I think the Xbox has a lot more RAM than any other platform out there, and it has a hard drive, which makes it WAY better able to use the RAM than other platforms... I think we've done a really good job, trying to squeeze every little tiny bit... we use the hard drive a lot more than we ever did in Halo 1 to try to act as additional RAM, and we've done a pretty good job with that.

Joe: Sorry, I didn't mean to talk about porn, and then move on... to just answer your film question really quickly, I think if you watch the Halo 2 announcement trailer, you'll see a lot of old, tried-and-true techniques, a lot of racking the focus, nothing real fancy and modern, I suppose, or at least Matrix-like... I think what we're trying to do in Halo 2 is to tell stories cinematically in ways that everybody understands and can appreciate, not people who are really into sci-fi or really into Hong Kong cinema, just very solid, traditional, reliable techniques. We'll get those worked out in the engine first.

Brian: I think we've got time for two or three more. Got one right here.

Crowd Member: Would you guys like to talk about how transitioning from Chicago to Redmond affected you and your families, and how they're dealing with that... and also, I noticed there were female voices in the music of the Halo 2 trailer. Maybe you could touch on that a little bit, tell us about the decision to change that dynamic

Marty: You know, I'm really not even sure where monks came from in the first place, so when it came time for Halo 2, it's like one better, so I thought, let's have women in the choir. My wife is singing on the Halo 2 trailer, and she's actually conducting all the voices on the trailer we have going on here. It's in the family, she's a musician, she's a choir director, so that's how that happened. In terms of transitioning from Chicago, I lived most of my whole life in Chicago, my kids were raised in Chicago, it's a great place to live, but surprisingly, I'm really enjoying Seattle. There's no winter. There's no summer... but there's no winter, which is really really great. So the family's liking it too. I don't know how everybody else is doing. I think everybody's doing pretty good. How are you? [Hands the mike to Joe]

Joe: Great, Marty. Thanks for asking!

Marty: Okay, I just had a question for the crowd. Do you mind if step in?

Brian: No, go ahead.

Marty: So if they could ask Jason Jones a question, if he were to come up, would that be a cool thing? Would you like it if Jason Jones came up? So Jason's sitting right there in the hat. C'mon Jason, come on up!

Jaime: Oh, you are twice fired.

Marty: I'm twice fired... Jason Jones, everybody!

[crowd cheers, Jason pours water on Marty's head]

Brian: So the first question was, who's Jason Jones?

[Marty hands Jason the mike - Jason pushes it back]

Jason: I'd like you to introduce me, Marty.

Marty: This is Jason Jones, he's the founder - co-founder of Bungie Studios... Bungie Software, back in nineteen eighty... one.

[Jason looks askance at the crowd]

Marty: Eighty two? I mean Ninety.

Michael: A long, long time ago... in a galaxy far far away.

Marty: This is Jason Jones, he's the leader and brains behind everything we do. Here we go.

Jason: I was just here to make fun of these guys... so if you've got a question, I'll give it my best shot.

Marty: This is Jason's favorite thing to do, by the way. He loves being up here.

Jason: My absolute favorite activity.

Brian: One second, I owe this guy a question, then I'm coming over there.

Crowd Member: This may not be for Jason specifically, but In Halo 2, unlike Halo 1, are y'all making it so there can be add-ons before Halo 3?

Jason: Yes, absolutely. We were THAT close to doing it with Halo 1 (pinches fingers), and we're absolutely going to make it happen with Halo 2. That was too easy.

Brian: Here we go, tough question right here.

Miguel: You are known, I mean you are KNOWN for being such a private reclusive individual, you just don't want anyone to get in your face about anything, you just want to code.

Jason: That's just not true, Miguel.

Miguel: You want to code, man, alright? It's either coding or hiking. Or something like that.

Jaime: Jason hasn't written code in a year.

[crowd is unbelieving]

Michael: No, no, no, no... there was uh, one piece of code Saturday.

Jason: Absolutely. Two pieces of code! There was a piece of ascii art checked in on Saturday that was mine, too.

Miguel: Well, so my question is, how is it now that we're seeing you up on the big screen for this Discovery Channel thing? How did they get you to come out of your little hut there and actually sit down and talk about this stuff (which we all love to hear, by the way)?

Jason: They told me they'd leave me alone for another two years.

Miguel: That was too easy. All right.

Brian: I think we have time for one or two more. We've got one right here.

Crowd Member: Where, for the whole marathon series, and for that a while ago, what kind of gave you your idea for starting the whole series of games, the whole Marathon series?

Brian: And why the apostrophes?

Jason: That's an impossible question to ask, really, I think that Marathon was sort of the project of three or four college students for two or three years talking about all kinds of different sci-fi, working on as many new ideas as they could to try to do something cool, that's a dumb way to say it, but you don't know where those ideas come from when they finally jump in and become real. It's even more than two or three years probably... it's probably every book I've read since I could read. So I can't really answer it very well... sorry. Sorry about that. In that interview I did last year, I talked about some of the books that maybe influenced me most, like Starhammer. That's probably the best I can do. I'm always thinking about new ideas.

Brian: Okay, here we go, I think this will be our last question.

Psyrixx: Yeah, this is for all you guys. Um... boxers or briefs?

Brian: Maybe we won't end on that.

Jason: Is there a third option?

[Joe pretends to pull Jason's shorts off]

Michael: There's a ton of Bungie people around... people should feel free to ambush people as they see them and ask questions... there's just tons of people here that sweat blood over the trailer that aren't right up here on stage, I'm sure would love to talk about it, so take that opportunity.

Brian: Any closing comments, guys?

Jason: Thanks a lot for coming out!