we got answers, yah

Behind the scenes at Gamestock

On March 13, 2001, Halo was demoed in a playable form for the first time, at Microsoft's Gamestock event. The reports from those who played the game were positively giddy... but the released media (9 screenshots and two short movies) left many fans wondering what the fuss was about. We decided to go to the source - Matt Soell, Bungie's Community Guy and general mouthpiece, and see if we could figure out what was going on. Matt was not only gracious enough to answer our questions... but he agreed to a second round, should it be necessary. If, after reading the Q&A below, you still have unresolved questions about the Gamestock material, send them in - Bungie really wants its fans to be happy.

UPDATE, 16 March 2001, 16:00 UTC: We've closed the submission window. We've received over 60 questions, covering a wide variety of topics. They've been collated, cleaned up a bit, and passed on to Matt... he'll answer the ones he can. (The final number sent to him was much smaller than that total - there were many duplicates, and several questions that were actually answered in round one.) Thanks for your input!

Without further ado, then... Heeeere's Matt!

UPDATE 2, 23 March 2001, 23:00 UTC: The second round of questions (and answers) has been posted.

HBO: Whose idea was it to release the first (short) movie? And why without any sound?

MS: We didn't put those movies together, obviously. ;-)

MS PR is responsible, and I think they were just trying to get something together quickly; they had to promote a bunch of games, not just ours. As for the lack of audio, Marty only had a week or so to put his new stuff together and was still tweaking it at the 11th hour. So I doubt anyone else had access to it when they were cutting that movie.

HBO: What happened to the undulating landscapes? (Most ground seems pretty flat, except the stuff around the shoreline in the second movie.) The E3 terrain seemed far more varied. The cliff face, in particular, bothered a lot of people - green paint on a quake-style hill. (Okay, Quake didn't have any hills... but if it did, this is what they'd look like. :) )

MS: A: All the Gamestock screenshots, movies, etc. are from ONE mission, and that mission is not representative of the full game in the same way that the Sahara Desert is not representative of the entire planet Earth. There are other missions and environments and landscapes you haven't seen yet. Take heart.

B: There's a LOT of detail that doesn't show in those films. You'll see this for yourselves soon. Don't worry about green paint just yet.

HBO: The ign review talked about lots of plant life near the shoreline... but the movie showed none of this. What's up with that? (There seems to be very little plant life at all, in fact - a green carpet painted over rock in most places, a couple of trees outside the main structure in the first movie.)

MS: They saw a little more of the shoreline than was in the movies. They got to play the build and see a little more of that island.

HBO: What were the specs of the machine which rendered all this stuff? (That is, how close to the final Xbox specs was it, and what screen was it output to?

MS: According to Ed Fries, those boxes were running at 50% of final Xbox horsepower. Everything was shown at 640x480.

HBO: John Howard made some pretty frightening comments to the effect that there might not be a multiplayer aspect to Halo (unless Gamespot completely misquoted him) - How possible is this, and what happened?

MS: I think John was attempting to follow the long Bungie tradition of not promising a whole lot when things aren't 100% definite.

There are some important Xbox networking questions that don't have definite answers yet. Until we get those answers, we don't want to make promises about networking.

We're still working on multiplayer (and I would amend John's comments so they read "there are two people working FULL-TIME on multiplayer"). We're just waiting for some answers before we shoot our mouths off.

HBO: Perspective: The movies show (and the reviews backed up) a first-person on-the-ground mode, and a third-person in-vehicles mode... but then the second movie showed third-person on the ground. Is this player-controllable? And if so, at all times? (That is, are there times when the perspective is forced upon you?)

MS: In the current build it's user-controllable, but I don't know if that will remain. We'll probably force perspective during cutscenes, but outside of that I really don't know if the game will allow you to toggle between first and third whenever you like.

HBO: In 3rd person mode, there seems to be more than one camera type - is this a dev thing, or will this be available to the player?

MS: Just a dev thing.

HBO: The shadows in these movies and screens, when compared to the shadows in the E3 trailer, seem lacking. You'd said in December that this was being fixed. Is it just not there yet?

MS: Shadows aren't 100% yet. One of the changes we made when we came to MS was we stopped scheduling things based on what we want to show off at a trade show. We're no longer in a position where our livelihood depends on us making a big splash at E3 or whatever, so we schedule things according to when they make sense. The bottom line is that things will keep getting added and tweaked and refined all the way up to the end of production.

HBO: Someone complained that the reflection off the visor of the marine was the same inside and out - is this person on crack, or is there something to it?

MS: It's been like that for a while, and it wouldn't surprise me if we didn't fix it in time for Gamestock. It will not be like that in the final game.

HBO: There was mention made of Marty's new musical efforts in last Friday's update... but the soundtrack of the second movie was the standard Halo track. (Not that it's bad, or anything...) Any chance we'll get to hear the new one soon?

MS: In fact, yes. :-) And the new stuff is mixed in with the old stuff. Think of it as an addition or extension rather than a totally new piece.

HBO: What's the wire diagram (hologram thingy) of the shaft doing hanging in the middle of the room? :)

MS: Apart from looking sexy, it contains clues as to the intended function of the structure you are exploring. Those clues are more apparent when the hologram is viewed in the context of the story.

HBO: Jason was quoted as saying that the PC version might contain different multiplayer elements than the Xbox version. Does this mean, for example, that the 'possibly no multiplayer' comments from John were about Xbox internet multiplayer?

MS: I think it's too early to speculate about how they'll differ because we're still focused on getting the Xbox version out the door. I think Jason was just acknowledging the possibility.

Thanks, Matt!