They're Random, Baby!

Transcription of Pages 22-24 of the May 2000 issue of PC Accelerator.
Used with permission.

Tired of Playing with Yourself?


The Skinny

Some of you might be wondering who the hell these Bungie guys are to make a move into the action racket. I mean, Myth wasn't an action game! But you'd be ignorant of Bungie's place in action gaming history. While Id was busy creating deathmatch on the PC scene, Bungie was dominating the Mac market for action games with the Marathon trilogy. Launched in 1994, Marathon and its sequels were the Quakes of the Mac world. Of course, Bungie has had some time off the action scene and is now in the PC business, so we forgive your total ignorance.

We've thrown a movie of Halo onto this month's PCXL disc to give you a taste of what we've seen up close. We've had the game demo'd to us and the engine is nothing short of stunning. Halo is still early in development, and because of that, Bungie is keeping somewhat tightlipped about aspects of the full multiplayer. We were able to use our PCXL P.I. operatives to flush out some verifiable information from a Bungie employee, although the poor bastard didn't make it out of the interrogation room alive.

The Community

Just about every Bungie game has had a rabid following in the Mac world, so they know the game-starved Mac-heads are on board. Bungie's challenge is creating a situation that the PC folk will find just as rewarding.

Bungie has let us know a few things about Halo and how it will bring PC gamers on board, but again, it's still early in development, so they're not giving us much. We do know customization is going to be a large part of the game. The engine has been constructed with player refinements in mind and map editors will ship with the game. Developers want to make Halo simple to manipulate, with the hope that Halo fans will create more mods and maps than even the Myth II community. In fact, Bungie expects Halo to be more customizable than Myth II - a bold statement indeed.

The Look

Halo is the best looking game we've ever seen - period. Other developers should be marking themselves against the level of detail, textures, and simple beauty of this engine. From our very first viewing, most of us were shocked at what we were seeing - it looks like a damn interactive Toy Story wihtout the cutesy kid stuff. Jaw-dropping.

Although the team is still undecided on voice over net, their goal is to make the character animation so detailed, palyers will be able to express identifiable personality traits. Don't salute your squad leader, because the enemy might just see it - maybe you want to trick your enemy into an attempt on someone who isn't the leader. The goal: Visual clues that will communicate just as effectively as chat, without the hassle of typing in lame messages. (Although the game will still support chat.)

The Game

Unlike Tribes 2 or TF2, Halo's single-player won't be a bot simulation of the multiplayer game. Instead, Halo will follow the classic model of gaming, i.e. both a stand-alone single-player with a story and multiplayer action.

Single-player will follow the story of a human ship that, upon being discovered by an alien attack fleet, leads the force away from Earth. Knowing they cannot outrun the "Covenant" forever, they land on an alien ring system. This ring system is uninhabited, leaving a mystery as to who created it. The ship's crew decides to make a last stand... and that is where the game begins.

Multiplayer will be team-based with 10-20 players per team. Teams can group as aliens or humans, with each team receiving the specific weapons, vehicles, and equipment from the chosen race. Since there will be no character classes, what you do on the battlefield will determine your character - sometimes that means simply grabbing the weapon off a dead alien and kicking some ass. And, all weapons and vehicles in the game will be yours for the taking.

While kicking ass is something we do at PCXL 24/7, the rest of you don't have to worry about not being super killers. Bungie is going out of their way to recognize players for more than fragging. If you are a good driver for instance, it would be displayed at the end of the game report. Honors will be rewarded to players for different types of behavior, such as completing tasks that help the team, assisting other players, skillful handling of a vehicle, and of course, good old-fashioned kills.

Being the sleuths that we are, we were able to weasel out one multiplayer team game from the developers, though we had to break into the room where Bungie's Jason Jones sleeps to get the info. In this specific multiplayer map type, a game would be divided into more than one round of play.

Prior to the match, attackers decide on weapons and equipment, as well as their insertion method. Some might want to bust in by jeep, others by air on scout craft, and a few brave souls dropping in from the sky above. Just like in real ilife, people are generally going to pick their insertion methods to align with the goals they have decided to attempt.

For instance, if a player were attacking a very large fortress, the first round would be the approach, with defenders on the outer wall or inner courtyard, defending the castle from both ground and air attacks. Attackers might attempt to blow down the front gate, destroy anti-aircraft guns, and find a side door. All goals would have to be completed for the round to be a success for the attackers.

As a player, you'll probably attempt only one goal, but if your team is getting wiped out, you might need to grab equipment from a dead friend and take on a new challenge.

Each successive round takes the attacking team deeper into the defenders' area. This is just one type of multiplayer game Bungie has in the works for Halo. They are quite serious about not letting the competition know what they've got up their sleeves, so get ready to be blown away, as you can expect even more goodies when Halo hits your greedy little hands.

The Final Word

Halo is set for a late 2000/early 2001 release. From a sheer beauty standpoint we know it will be successful. From a teamplay perspective, we are excited. Bungie's inside guy came very close to telling us what they've got hidden - a trade secret they believe is so valuable that they just can't let it out until the competition is past the point of no return.

Frankly, we have been extremely curious for months, because what we've seen and heard about Halo already has us drooling in anticipation. What could they possibly be holding back that will change multiplayer gaming even more? Will our lives ever be the same after Halo's release? Only time (and a future report in PCXL, of course) will tell.

Piece of Mind

(The Halo article was a part of a larger look at multiplayer gaming, involving Tribes 2, Team Fortress 2, Swat 3, C&C Renegade, and Halo. There was a running interview throughout the whole thing, with answers coming from members of all teams. We've included only the answers from Jaime Griesemer, Level Designer for Halo and sole Bungie answerer.)

Q: What is your prediction for multiplayer in 2005?
A: You mean besides the incredible popularity of Halo III: Bob's Revenge? Let's just say I expect developers to create a new kind of "immersively intimate interactivity" with some hightly detailed character modeling and a lot of complicated and extremely personalized peripherals.

Q: Do you think voice over net will help multiplayer gaming?
A: Voice communication is not a new idea to games (Bungie's Marathon was the first to do it way back in '94) and it is an absolute blast when you are playing with friends, but there are some major drawbacks. Who wants to be confronted with the fact that the hulking marine covering your ass in a firefight is actually a 12-year-old that insists on calling everyone "dude"? Anonymity and role-playing are such powerful aspects of online gaming that I am not really sure that live voice is the right approach to communication in Halo.