we got answers, yah

Behind the scenes at Gamestock, Redux

On March 15, 2001, we posted a Question and Answer session with Matt Soell, getting the skinny on some of the issues raised by the new material released at Gamestock 2001 a couple of days earlier. The response was positive... and Matt agreed to a second round of questions. We opened the floor, so to speak, and accepted submissions for a day or so. When we thought we had enough to choke Matt for a while, we sorted, organized, compiled, collated, culled... and sent what we thought were the most pertinent questions along. Matt chewed on these for several days... and today, we bring you another set of answers to questions that the communty wanted addressed. Enjoy!

Gameplay questions

HBO: What is the significance of the various elements visible in the HUD?

MS: Watching the gameplay footage we released this week should make it fairly clear what all of those represent. It's not fully-functional yet, of course.

HBO: Is the grenade-launcher on the AR gone for good?

MS: Yes, largely because we're striving for a state of balance among the weapons. There WILL be grenades, but you won't fire them out of that gun.

HBO: Can you still drive and shoot simultaneously (as in the Gamestar video)?

MS: Ever tried shooting and driving simultaneously? It's harder than it looks. More importantly, the presence of a Marine to man the chain gun makes it logical for you to leave the shooting to him - especially if you're barreling the jeep through a treacherous stretch.

HBO: Is marine action still planned, or is the water for show only?

MS: It depends on whether we can make it fun. It's still under active discussion, but we can't make any definite promises.

HBO: Human driver with AI gunner has been shown - is the converse possible (human gunner with AI driver)? How about human and human?

MS: The human driver/AI gunner combo seems to work best in terms of having fun while you're playing, but it's not out of the question.

HBO: Jason Jones mentioned (to GSUK) that there would be automatic weapons on many vehicles - will you be able to turn this off?

MS: Maybe, if there's a situation where it's important to do so. The question is how likely that sort of situation will be in the game.

Xbox questions

HBO: If features are added after release, will the Xbox version accept 'patches'?

MS: I don't think we'll add any features to the Xbox release after it ships.

HBO: Will the Xbox version support mouse and keyboard? (Note: question is not whether the xbox will ship with these items, simply whether the Xbox version of Halo will have support for them.)

MS: The team is focused on making the gamepad work. Right now there are no mice or keyboards for the Xbox, and it's difficult to code support for hardware that only exists so far as a theoretic possibility.

HBO: The Gamestock games were running at 640x480. Was this a limitation of the software, or the hardware?

MS: It's a limitation of TV hardware; TVs can only display at roughly that resolution - a little less, I think.

Artwork questions

HBO: The Covenant elite have changed from purple to green. Why?

MS: According to Jaime, they're actually more blue.

HBO: Are the vehicles, as we know them now, going to remain constant... or will some of the previously seen ones be removed?

MS: We will put in as many vehicles that look and work the way we want them to. Everything in Halo will have a reason to exist; we're not going to throw a zillion vehicles into the game just for the thrill of putting "A ZILLION VEHICLES!!!" in the box and ad copy. You won't operate an atomic-powered canoe or hang glider unless it is cool, fun and logical to do so in the context of the game.

HBO: Any chance that the artwork for the grunts will be reworked?

MS: Unlikely. It might be tweaked but not completely redone.

HBO: Surfaces have become much cleaner than they've been in the past. Will this change, or will (for example) the jeep always look like it just came out of the car wash?

MS: The current lack of decals and detail objects is confusing you. Wait till we put them back in the game and see how clean things look then.

Technical questions

HBO: What was the average framerate of the game as played by non-bungie folk at Gamestock?

MS: For Gamestock we put in an artificial framerate cap at 30 FPS because we didn't want to demo with an FPS rate that varied widely from moment to moment. That artificial limit is actually well within the limits of the hardware, as you might imagine.

HBO: Animation seemed choppy in the footage we saw - was that an artifact of the filming, or an engine issue?

MS: I assume you're talking about the brief, poorly-compressed footage of an old build, not the new stuff we showed at Gamestock and released on the net earlier this week. Avoid that. Look at the other movie.

HBO: Both in the E3 trailer and in the current crop of screenshots, there is evidence of location-specific damage. Is this just wishful thinking, or is it really there?

MS: The capability is there - we can tell what part of a body got hit and display an appropriate animation, we can create area-specific vulnerabilities - but we're not sure if location-specific damage will make it in.

Media questions

HBO:Are there plans for releasing more media in the near future?

MS: Yes.

HBO:When will bungie.com be updated?

MS: For us it will be in about 36 hours, but since we will be traveling through time to accomplish this it will appear to you that we updated bungie.com earlier this week.

HBO:What are the chances that the weekly Halo update could contain a new screenshot each week?

MS: That's an interesting question. I started doing the weekly Halo updates when we had very little to say or show off. That period is over now, and I'll be doing different things in terms of getting info to the fan sites - including screenshots - so I'm not sure how much value there is in doing a weekly Halo update for much longer. Comments?

Silly Bonus question

HBO:How many pizzas do you estimate were ordered by the Halo team during the crunch before Gamestock?

MS: You have to remember that we're in Redmond now and pizza means something entirely different out here. I think the balance has shifted to Chinese food.

Thanks again, Matt!