They're Random, Baby!

Matt's Halo Updates

(Last update: October 5, 2001)

 10.05.01  | 09.28.01  | 09.21.01  | 09.14.01  | 09.07.01  | 08.31.01  | 08.24.01  | 08.17.01  | 08.11.01  | 08.03.01  | 07.27.01  | 07.20.01  | 07.13.01  | 07.06.01  | 06.29.01  | 06.22.01  | 06.15.01  | 06.09.01  | 06.01.01  | 05.25.01  | 05.11.01  | 05.04.01  | 04.26.01  | 04.20.01  | 04.13.01  | 04.06.01  | 03.30.01  | 03.23.01  | 03.16.01  | 03.09.01  | 03.02.01  | 02.24.01  | 02.16.01  | 02.09.01  | 02.02.01  | 01.26.01  | 01.20.01  | 12.15.00  | 12.08.00  | 12.01.00  | 11.18.00  | 11.10.00  | 11.03.00  | 10.27.00  | 10.20.00  | 10.13.00  | 10.06.00 

Friday, October 5, 2001 (HP)

It's Halo Update Birthday Party time here at Bungie HQ. Bungie-blue balloons stamped with Halo logos carpet the ceiling. Strategically-placed strobes and disco balls spackle the room with light. In the portion of the office formerly known as "the Oni room," a band is playing. Liquor and laughter flow in equal measure. And here I sit at my desk, trying to think up what may very well be the last Halo Update.

Suddenly the music stops, as though someone has pulled the plug on the band - and indeed, someone has. A chillingly familiar voice, hoarse from years of whiskey, shouts "Play it, damn you! PLAY IT" Someone says, "Okay, okay, we'll play it." Power is restored, the band begins to play, and the gravelly voice begins to sing:

"Roll out the barrel...We'll have a barrel of fun..."

Marty walks briskly into the room shared by the Sin-O-MatiXXX and Online Teams, heading straight for the soundproof safety of his studio. "You might want to write that from home," he shouts to me. "The Webmaster's back." The studio door closes. Three deadbolts slam home.

I ponder this new development. We had often joked that the Webmaster could smell an open bottle or spiked punch bowl anywhere in whichever hemisphere he happened to occupy at the time, but this is one of those jokes that is only funny because it's true. Whenever the Bungie Webmaster departs on one of his extended "HTML research missions," inevitably stories and lawsuits make their way back to us through third parties. Last thing we heard, the Webmaster was trekking across Nepal, trying to track down the Abominable Snowman and strongarm him into signing the rights to the name "Yeti" to Bungie in perpetuity. There was also a rumor that he was locked up in Kansas, where a group of scientists thought he might fill a few gaps in the fossil record and get evolution back in the textbooks. There are a million Webmaster stories and it's always tough to know which ones actually happened. In any case, he has somehow learned of the enormous volume of free booze in the office and has returned in rare form.

Amidst the din, I think back to this time last year. I started writing weekly Halo Updates because everyone wanted to know what was happening with the game and nothing had been said in a long while. Cynical folks were inventing and dispensing rumors: Halo was done but Bill Gates was making us sit on it, Halo was cancelled, Halo was just nothing but pre-rendered CGI Bungie made to yank people's chains and attract well-heeled buyers. It struck me that I could say "That's all bogus" but I say that all the time and nobody believes me. The only chance I had to prevent the cynics and bullies from poisoning the minds of Bungie Fans was to strike back with as much factual data as I could. Tell people what we were doing; not just that we were working but what we were working on and why it was cool. Of course 99% of it was stuff that was too secret to talk about, but in the worst case I could at least allude to it. I became a Master of Allusion.

A thundering sound and a black-and-brown blur to my left. The Webmaster has discovered the pony ride in the parking lot and gotten the pony inside the building. Up to the second floor, no less. I didn't think the elevators here could handle that sort of weight. The Webmaster gallops down the hall, his giant yellow foam hat flapping in the breeze. The staccato clop of galloping hooves. Breaking glass. Terrified Microsoft employees running for their lives. "GIDDYUP LIL DOGGIES!" the Webmaster screams. The band keeps playing "Beer Barrel Polka," perhaps fearing what will happen if the Webmaster returns and doesn't hear it. The party rages on as if nothing unusual is happening. I think at this point everyone is too drunk to fear the Webmaster, or perhaps too drunk to even realize he's here.

Like many experiments, the Halo Update didn't always have positive or intended results. Certain magazines and websites complained that lowly fansites were getting more new Halo info than they were. Marketing thought Halo Updates gave away too much about the game (something I never could understand, especially in the early days when I couldn't say ANYTHING). There were days when few of the guys on the team were happy to see my smiling face or tell me what they'd been up to that week. And occasionally someone on a website or forum somewhere would take the "Halo Developer Diary" to task for not being more explicit. Those guys had it all wrong; it was never supposed to be a developer diary, just a weekly outburst from a guy who was lucky enough to see Halo every day and wanted to tell others how cool it was without breaking his NDA or spoiling any cool surprises. It wasn't a PR move to suck up to the media; it was a tiny porthole through which our fans could catch a glimpse of what we were up to and know that it was good.

I sip my drink and take a quick walk around the office. Out in the hall, the owner of the pony is trying to argue with The Man, who confounds him at every turn by laughing continuously. The Webmaster is at the other end of the hall, whispering sweet nothings into the pony's ear as they walk towards the men's room. The pony is wearing the Webmaster's hat. Tom stalks from room to room with a broken rum bottle, threatening to "cut" anyone who calls him Tommy Two-Gs. Obviously he's been playing too much of the new Pimps at Sea alpha. Paul Bertone stops pantsing the members of the band long enough to shout, "Hey Matt, when are you going to tell people I farted in the Halo Update?"

"This week, Paul."

"WHOOO!" he shouts, and tackles the bass player.

Diamond Dave Candland comes up the stairs with a piñata shaped like a dog's head. "What's in the dog's head?" someone asks. "Dog brains," replies Dave. The Man stops laughing long enough to say "Hey, if that's true, take it over by Chucky's desk."

In the hall I hear Peter say, "Hey, Tommy Two-Gs!" and then yelp. I head into the Halo room and ask Hambone to call another ambulance. Everyone sits quietly at their desks, playing Halo in twos and fours. They take their work too seriously to join in the party now; they'll wait until the game is done, at which point the rest of the world can sit enraptured in front of their TVs, and Bungie HQ will get REALLY crazy.

I head back to my desk and stare at the empty email message in front of me. What can I possibly write about this week?

  • Everyone's playing Halo, and in fact there is a contest to see who can get through the game the fastest on Legendary difficulty.
  • Some of the AI debugging tools no longer work with our new builds, so Butcher is fixing them in the hope that we will be able to iron out the last few issues.
  • Chucky added an easter egg and got his toenails painted.
  • Marty, finished with his contributions to the game, decided he had "shipped" and ended his "No Shave Till Ship" policy. His scrubbed and shorn face is barely familiar; if they don't stop carding him at the door he may be forced to grow his hair out a little in the back so he looks more like the Marty of Old. Sorry for the redundancy. Marty tells me he'd like to know whether the public wants a Halo Soundtrack. Do you?
  • Joseph Staten, having nothing better to do, took a couple of new screenshots for you guys. The best way to thank him is to pay close attention to the shots. When you know what you're looking for, you'll usually find it hidden in plain sight.

Friday, September 28, 2001 (BGH)

The Halo Update is one week away from its first birthday. I guess next week we'll throw a little party for it - cupcakes and party hats and maybe a pony. But soon thereafter we'll be done with Halo and then we'll have to take it out back and shoot it. The Halo Update, I mean. Not the pony.

  • For those of you who like to keep track of such things, Halo is now at Release Candidate 2.
  • What happened this week? Testing and tweaking. Little things, stuff you guys probably wouldn't care about. Fixing the headlight bitmap on the Warthog, minor audio mixing adjustments, scoring the attract movies, getting various game elements ready to hand off to the localization team. Minor stuff.
  • The artists are updating their tools and, as Marcus put it, "thinking about new games that will blow other games out of the water." I can't tell you anything about them because they're just ideas at this point and the team still hasn't decided what to do next.
  • Everyone is playing Halo all the time.
  • Because I have so little to say this week, I'm falling back on the old saw "a picture is worth a thousand words" and artificially inflating the word count of this week's Halo Update with the inclusion of a screenshot. Enjoy. (Screenshot is 1024x768 .JPG, 427 KB)

Friday, September 21, 2001 (HBO)

An eerie calm settles over Bungie HQ as we approach the moment when we start calling them "release candidates" instead of just "builds." A sense of quiet contemplation sets in, and the silence of employees hard at work is only broken by the occasional cry of "DIIIIIIIIIIIIIINK!" as a rocket launcher or sniper rifle does its dirty work. This is what Bungie is all about.

  • The Bear fixed a longstanding bug that allowed vehicles to push bipeds through the map. We fixed a few geometry issues as well; nothing major though.
  • Still fine-tuning performance and optimizing things all over the place for the benefit of our framerate, which is (in Hardy's words) "very playable, and only getting better."
  • There's a lot of multiplayer "testing" going on at any given moment, and some heated rivalries have emerged as a result. One group of people dubbed themselves the Halo Dream Team. Some claim this name refers to their dream of one day winning a match.
  • Just because Marty is "done" doesn't mean he can't stay here until 2 in the morning adding 131 new Covenant Elite pain and death sounds to the game. Jay claims that he and Marty have added 15,500 unique pieces of audio to Halo at one time or another over the last four months; he figures that works out to ten sounds an hour, or one new sound every six minutes, every day for the last four months. Marty said, "It's an incredible, ridiculous workload, like doing sound for ten really complex feature films at once...like ten Star Wars movies all in a row." At this point Joseph interrupted Marty's philosophical reverie with a cry of "Hey George Lucas, could you shut up for a second and help me with this sound problem over here?" It's this sort of team spirit that has propelled Bungie to the forefront of the industry.
  • There are many elements of Halo we haven't discussed in public - and we don't intend to start until long after everyone has played the game, lest we spoil a cool surprise for someone. So it's understandable that I haven't said anything about the many easter eggs in Halo. I'm not about to start either - but I will say that it pays to look around. And you haven't really won Halo until you've won it on the highest difficulty level.

Friday, September 14, 2001 (R.net)

I saw how bummed out people were this afternoon after MS launched and then retracted their Halo website. Peter suggested I could cheer you guys up with a new screenshot. As you already know, there's not a lot for me to talk about these days, so screenshots sounded good. Besides, other people had suggested back in the day that I include a screenshot with every update, and I never said I would, but I never said I wouldn't either. Peter happened to have several lying around, so we took a look at them. Some were not up to snuff, but several were great.Unfortunately they are all 50-megabyte TIFFs and converting them into something easily downloaded over the net is turning out to be a problem. Half the fun of a Halo screenshot is the ability to zoom in and see the ridiculous level of detail involved. So we won't be able to do anything this week, but we have an idea...keep your eyes on the sites where the Halo Updates appear.

In other news:

  • Work continues on optimizing framerates. We're at the point where we can run through the game watching for drops and then use a variety of tools to pinpoint the problem, be it a bunch of textures loaded off the disc or a cinematics script creating fifty objects at once. Once we know what the problem is, we can fix it. Sounds simple, doesn't it? And yet we must call upon the mad skillz of Chris Butcher to make it happen.
  • There have been a few changes in the Banshee as well - the AI now knows when it's hitting things, or is about to, and can take the appropriate evasive action - which is occasionally quite visually stunning.
  • Various team members have played a series of multiplayer games to build up a decent library of footage for Halo's attract mode. Much trash-talking has ensued around the office.
  • According to Marty, "my work here is done." Not all of it, actually - he'll still be fixing bugs and adding a few things here and there - but the vast majority of music, sound effects, ambience, and dialog are finished and in place. "The thing I like the most," said Marty, "is that the music is a seamless thing."
  • Diamond Dave Candland was absent yesterday, which meant the rest of us on the Online Team had access to his dev kit. At least one of us was playing Halo at any given time. I took over for Peter after he'd walked off in frustration at his seemingly hopeless position: stuck in a room filled with Elites, Jackals and Grunts, with no health and little ammo, and the game set to Legendary difficulty. I played a careful but tenacious game of cat-and mouse - jumping around corners, drilling enemies with the weapons I'd lifted from their fallen comrades, falling back when necessary. I died many, many times - but I seemed to get a little farther, or learn something new about my enemies' reactions, each time. Some time later, I glanced at my watch and was astonished to see that it was now 7 PM, several hours after I'd started playing, much longer than the fifteen or twenty minutes I'd expected to play. Peter took over once more after I went home; he ended up playing until 2 AM. I don't really have a point except to give an example of how engrossing this game is, even to those of us who've had daily access to it for a long time.
  • For those of you who enjoyed the Halo footage that was available for a short while earlier: there's more where that came from.

Friday, September 7, 2001 (HP)

Like Neil Diamond, the Halo Update has steadfastly refused to die. But will there be enough data to keep it going until its first birthday?

  • Post-combat behavior is in; AIs now can now comment to themselves or each other after an encounter, shoot enemies on the ground to make sure they're still dead, and so on.
  • The crewmen fight better - better than the Bobs in Marathon, notes Chris Butcher.
  • AI units now know the difference between darkness and light, and consequently know when to use the flashlight.
  • Signaling animations are in; you'll see Marines waving, pointing things out to each other and so on.
  • You can order Marines to get the hell out of the Warthog so you can drive it. This is a more humane alternative to the previous procedure for removing them from vehicles.
  • Marcus made the Banshee contrails look nicer.
  • We fixed some specular lighting issues.
  • Marty got all the music hooked up in the last mission of the game and is fiddling around with it so it matches the action and doesn't get obnoxious.
  • At nearly all times, several people in the office are playing the game. Co-op in particular is a lot of fun, but there's plenty of multiplayer action to be had. Bungie employees speak in awe of a certain 12-player CTF game that occurred a couple nights back. "It was just like a war," said Hardy. "Exactly like we hoped it would be."

Friday, August 31, 2001 (BGH)

Folks, I gotta be honest with you: I am rapidly running out of Halo Update material. Not because nothing is happening - in fact too much is happening - but everything we're working on is either a fix for existing content or new stuff (mostly cinematics) that I can't discuss without ruining a couple key surprises. In the very near future we're going to cross that magical line in the sand where we stop adding new stuff and concentrate entirely on bug-fixing and playtesting. At that point there won't be much at all for me to say in these Halo Updates...and that's GOOD because that's when the REAL interesting stuff will begin.

Here's what I can tell you this week:

  • We're balancing difficulty levels, trying to find that equilibrium between "a little too easy" and "a little too hard" - which is sometimes a hard call to make. Jason Jones has been spotted in five to ten-minute battles with individual Elites while using the tougher difficulty settings.
  • We've changed the Ghost physics in a way that makes it much more fun for the player to fly and less easy for the AI to accidentally obliterate themselves.
  • The AI units have a new vision system; now it's harder for them to catch sight of you when you're being sneaky.
  • Multiplayer is much more stable than it used to be. Testers can play for hours at a time - as all Halo players must.
  • Adrian devised a lovely "visual gravy" effect to replace the load progress bar. Not much point in seeing a bar since you won't have much time to look at it - thanks to our mad caching skillz, load times are shorter than ever.

Friday, August 24, 2001 (HBO)

I'd always thought that things would be clearer towards the end of Halo's development cycle, but these days I struggle with a number of disturbing questions. What's the real reason Joseph keeps a fish named Admiral Tirpitz at his desk? Why do those voices at the beginning of the first mission in Halo sound so eerily familiar? Why is Doug Zartman obsessively reading the Marathon's Story page and looking for a copy of Musashi's Book of Five Rings? Will Marty ever stop screaming?

Here are the few things I know to be true this week:

  • We're doing a second and in some cases third pass on multiplayer levels and textures, trying to make things look and play better. Multiplayer-specific sounds ("Red Team has your flag" and so forth) are now hooked up.
  • This update was delayed for the better part of an hour while Chris Carney and Mat Noguchi handed my ass to me over and over again on the Boarding Action map. Deep space, two huge ships floating beside each other, teleporters and sniper rifles. The map should really come into its own once the rocket launchers are enabled.
  • Tons of little graphical fixes...explosions look better, the pistol zoom now has the same nifty blurring effect as the sniper zoom, skies on many missions were improved and there's a slew of geometry fixes just about everywhere you look. Other artists are adding detail to the levels with decals and objects...look for the bulletin board.
  • Chris Butcher continued to solidify the framerate and also taught the Jackals to use the overcharger on their plasma pistols. The Bear made vehicle-on-vehicle collisions work nicely. Jason insisted that I refrain from naming the CD he was listening to.
  • We're testing and tweaking the tank's behavior in multiplayer. And there's at least one mission in the single-player campaign where several of your Marine cohorts will hop a ride on the tank when you climb in to drive.
  • Tyson claims to have "subjected a voice actor to a horrible fiery death." Unfortunately I can't talk about the details until the statute of limitations runs out.

Friday, August 17, 2001 (R.net)

Yesterday I met a cat named Brian who said he's among the growing number of people who enjoy the jokes at the beginning of each Halo Update. I'm glad they're not a total waste of space, although for my money you can't get much better than "A giraffe walks into a bar and says 'The highballs are on me'" and I've never been nearly that funny. But humor is a very subjective thing. A few days ago I was in a bar on the Sunset Strip, watching a man in a bathrobe conduct an imaginary orchestra on the sidewalk. It seemed funny until I remembered that Marty O'Donnell does the same thing, and he's a serious musician.

Anyway, I hope humor will suffice for content this week because today is the day of Bungie's company picnic and everyone is either out of the office or about to leave for this much-needed afternoon of rest and relaxation. I weaseled some tidbits out of a few people before they took off, but it ain't much - I hope it will tide you over for a week.

  • We're reaching the point where people will start a game to test something they just changed and keep playing because the game is starting to come together. Surprised shouts and exclamations like "Damn, that's cool!" now issue regularly from the same people who've been working on this game for years. This is a good sign.
  • Lots and lots of (you know what's coming next) bug fixes, including several little physics fixes - making sure the biped model doesn't poke through geometry if he's crouching and decides to stand up, that sort of thing.
  • Ammo works now - meaning you can walk over it and pick it up. No big deal, exactly how you'd expect it to work...I'm just a little short on cool stuff to talk about this time around.
  • Chris Barrett, on loan from the Phoenix team, added lush detail to the swamp - lilypads and vegetation and the like.
  • The artists, when not fixing things, spend a lot of time making new effects and animation for the Sin-O-MatiXXX team.
  • Marty, whose beard would make him a dead ringer for the Unabomber if he wore an orange jumpsuit and manacles to the office and didn't spend so much time working with computers, added 740 megabytes of music to the game this week. For those with poor math skills, that's more than a CD's worth. Lots of other things have sounds attached and in sync now: clambering in and out of vehicles, for example. And every particle of falling glass.

Saturday, August 11, 2001 (HP)

Must...send...update.....Staff at Haloplayers...falling asleep......no time for...wit.

  • Covenant grenades have this nasty characteristic: they stick to you. The AI knows this now, so when a grenade latches on to them they'll spend their last few moments running around in absolute panic. Heart-rending. On a happier note, the AI is also better at jumping back into a Warthog after you flip the sucker and fling them out.
  • The Covenant dropship has a gun now, so you can't just camp in its presence. Unless you have a death wish.
  • Marines with sniper rifles are in.
  • Mat is working to minimize the apparent load times in multiplayer maps, so you'll be able to start a game with maybe a second of delay, tops. Once he finishes making this work in Multiplayer, he'll apply it to the solo campaign.
  • Shiek added some progressive damage effects so you'll be able to tell when your vehicle is on its last legs.
  • You can say a lot of things about the Sniper Rifle, but you'd better be quite a ways off when you say them. Rob smoked a guy who was 853.053 meters away. We know this because the zoom UI on the sniper rifle now displays target distance and elevation. There's also a very nice blurring effect on the zoom, thanks to the graphics chipset inside the Xbox.
  • We have a 3D map running behind the UI now, which allows us to show a background of Halo spinning in deep space. Not especially useful - just cool.
  • Marty finished the last major dialog recording session this week. There will be one more small session to pick up a few missing lines, but almost all the dialog is recorded and ready for insertion.
  • We finally have surround sound working, and Marty and Jay are well pleased.
  • A new multiplayer map titled Damnation was thrown into the mix this week.
  • The flagpole now has a skull at the top. Hmmm.

Friday, August 3, 2001 (BGH)

Jason Jones invited all of us over to his place tomorrow to watch the Blue Angels, but he also warned "if the Blue Angels crash they absolutely cannot miss my backyard and are guaranteed to kill everyone." So just in case we all die tomorrow, it's been fun doing these Halo Updates, and here's the latest:

  • Bug-fixing, bug-fixing, bug-fixing.
  • The Marines are much better about getting out of your line of fire than they used to be, thanks to Chris Butcher.
  • We've got tanks working in multiplayer games now.
  • Shiek and Bernie got lightning in the game.
  • Eric reworked the Banshee and Pelican, tripling their poly counts and adding more detailed textures.
  • Marcus is making metal look better and more realistic.
  • Chris Hughes added a bunch of marine heads to the game (some of whom look familiar) and tweaked Cortana's face.
  • The shotgun is finally coming into its own, and is sublimely satisfying to wield.
  • Joseph is working on (his words) "a variety of infinitely cool things that our fans will love that I can say nothing about."
  • Marty has switched into "No Shave Till Ship" mode, but luckily he's keeping the mullet trimmed. The Brian Wilson of Bungie played me a haunting choral piece he composed for the end of the game. It's so lovely that Joseph said...well, it's a family update so I can't tell you what Joseph said. But it's a great piece.
  • Vehicles blow up real good now.

Friday, July 27, 2001 (HBO)

Today's belated Halo Update is brought to you courtesy of Team Bungie's merciless trouncing of several Microsoft Games grand poobahs in a four-on-four game of Halo. Yeah, yeah, I know... big surprise.

  • Again, plenty of bugfixing this week... making the big subsystems work so we can get to the little details.
  • Having introduced the AIs to the concept of driving, Chris Butcher is now teaching them how to drive different kinds of vehicles.
  • The Bear fixed a major physics issue and in the process made all our vehicles drive better and with a more realistic feel. After doing this he was able to pull out the various hacks we'd inserted to make the individual vehicles handle the way we thought they should. Better Gaming Through Physics.
  • Hardy is engaged in major multiplayer balancing: deciding the weapon spawn times, power-up placement, the weapons you start with, starting positions and so forth, level by level. This involves a lot of playtesting so it's not all sackcloth and ashes.
  • Shiek is building shuttle bay doors for a Covenant cruiser.
  • Marty and Jay continue to add sounds, including (finally) footsteps...and something Hamilton called "man-sized reverb" for a hangar.
  • The compass and bullet count on the assault rifle work now - courtesy of Rob, who's also thirty-three years old today. Happy birthday Robt.
  • One thing I've noticed in recent weeks is that Eric tends to work on some of the coolest stuff in the game - and naturally it's all towards the end of the game and involves plot points that I can't even allude to. But I can bring up small individual elements and let you guys wonder about what they mean. What's green and gooey and eats through the ground?

Friday, July 20, 2001 (R.net)

Recovering from illness and on the brink of lucidity once more, I bring you the regular Friday evening dose of Halo stuff.

  • The Bear is in the midst of a complete vehicle physics overhaul; high- and low-level stuff that will make the vehicles work better than they have in recent builds.
  • Most of Butcher's time is spent making life easier for the designers. In his copious spare time, he's worked on speeding up our framerate, reducing the AI's memory footprint and teaching the Marines to drive the warthog.
  • The Covenant energy pistol overcharges now, and the Grunts have learned to use this to devastating effect.
  • Jason managed to keep his pants on for most of the week, and also got grenades to go off when other grenades hit them. This can lead to some amusing chain reactions if you toss a grenade at a well-armed cluster of Covenant troops.
  • Adrian Perez, one of two new guys, will actually be working with the Team Formerly Known As Oni once Halo is done. In the meantime he's contributing his coding skills to Halo just like the rest of the Oni team. This week he reworked the motion sensor.
  • Chris Hughes built a bunch of little things, including runway signal batons to be used in one of the cutscenes. He also reworked some of the models to show how bullets modify chests.
  • On the multiplayer side, this week we started balancing the Sidewinder map, worked on making more new multiplayer maps, did some work balancing the weapons, and reworked the post-game stats to be more accurate and readable.
  • Shiek is working on a lovely overload effect for the generators, as well as some stuff I can't talk about.
  • Rob has stayed busy putting in more weapon LODs, making yet more revisions to the first-person weapon models, and writing combat dialog for the Covenant.
  • Marcus has spent the week fixing the skies; our friend Craig Mullins took some time out of his busy schedule to paint some heavenly bodies for us, and Marcus is putting them in the game.
  • The Sin-O-MatiXXX team pushes forward, beginning new cutscenes and adding detail to the ones that already exist. The first cutscene in the game now includes several shots of vehicles moving around a hangar bay while a group of Marines discuss the job ahead. They also got our other new guy, Adam Tews, who's working on sound with Marty and Jay. On the sound front, Marty and Jay recorded ten separate dialog sessions this week.
  • From the belated-announcement department, we nod our heads knowingly at Jay and Heather Weinland, who had a baby on Bungie Day (at 3:40 PM, no less). Some might call this mere coincidence, but those of us "in the know" realize it's all part of the plan.

Friday, July 13, 2001 (HP)

It's a good thing I type these updates out; illness has ravaged my voice this week, and the rest of me isn't doing so well either. Let's go:

  • Most of our programming and art efforts this week were directed at fixing bugs in existing code and art assets.
  • Marcus is working on blast door animations. Not just the obvious slide-up-and-down animations, either. Sometimes even blast doors don't hold.
  • Rob is modeling ammo containers. He also demonstrated the "thirteen feet of meat and bone" penetration capacity of the sniper rifle by lining up thirteen bobs and sending a single slug through all of them.
  • Chris Hughes is working on a pilot model for one of the cutscenes. It began its life as the Marcus model, and kept his face even as Chris feminized the rest of her body, which was rather unnerving. Thankfully, as Chris put it, "hormone therapy for the post-op Marcus" was successful, and she has her own face now.
  • The ball (also known as the headbone) is in the game now. It works somewhat like the ball in Myth in that it's susceptible to explosions. Thus, if you've got good aim and a certain amount of luck, you can fire a rocket at the ground and blast the ball back into your arms.
  • The music machine known as Marty keeps churning away. Lots of new music went in this week, including a version of the traditional Halo theme that might surprise you with its instrumentation. He and Jay auditioned some more voice actors today - a few of whom might surprise you.

Friday, July 6, 2001 (BGH)

Recently some fans of the Halo Updates suggested I return to the old days of prefacing each update with a witty comment. I don't know that my prefaces ever qualified as "witty," but I aim to please. I thought I would share some of the witticism generated at Bungie TestMeister Ryan Hylland's Fourth of July party, but quips like "Stop punching me!" only prove I'm no Oscar Wilde. Perhaps it's best to head straight into the update:

  • We now have the capability to merge scenarios, which essentially allows the level designers and the Sin-O-MatiXXX team to work with a minimum of coordination. This speeds up our workflow tremendously.
  • The Sin-O-MatiXXX team has spent most of this week fixing bugs in their cutscenes. But it's not all tedious clean-up. As I began writing this Halo Update, Marty emerged from the studio and announced, "I've just finished a new, three-minute piece that I like a lot. It adds real emotion and pathos to the cutscene Joseph is working on." Joseph, displaying the humility that comes naturally when working with a composer of Marty's caliber, could only reply "GreatGreatGreat. Let's get that bitch in there."
  • Marty and Jay have added some great sounds for the weapons. It's particularly satisfying to hear a Covenant energy weapon as it charges up.
  • Multiplayer UI is progressing steadily, and the team has been tweaking the rocket launcher and sniper rifle in multiplayer games.
  • Butcher beefed up the AI so the Marines follow you more intelligently.
  • Hardy's new multiplayer map is up and running. All he needs to do is texture it...and add the ice lakes of course. His goal, in his own words: "As many connections as possible, so all the areas are accessible and interesting."
  • The Online team's own Peter Marks is contributing some multiplayer maps to Halo. His newest one doesn't have a final name yet, but his first attempt is called "Hang 'Em High" in honor of the gallows-like structure at the center of the map.
  • The Bear, who is ill and thus uncharacteristically taciturn, only volunteered that he fixed some vehicle physics issues this week.
  • Speaking of vehicles: the Shadow, which was in last week, is now out - replaced with the Wraith.
  • Speaking even more of vehicles: if they happen to be resting on a glass surface, and you blow the glass surface to smithereens, the vehicle now falls. Yeah, it's what you'd expect, but it wasn't working before and now it does.
  • Speaking of glass and hearts thereof, Jason Jones volunteered that he's listening to Blondie's Greatest Hits album a lot this week, especially "The Tide Is High," and he's very happy about it. This may not seem like a big deal, but it's a big step up when you consider his fixation with the song "Crash" by the Primitives a few years back. Way to go, Jason!

Friday, June 29, 2001 (HBO)

  • We've got the first in-engine cutscene up and running, which showcases our facial emotion system quite nicely. Faces in Halo look and move much better than they ever did before.
  • Marty has recorded and mixed some new music, and his trip to Chicago yielded about 3500 new lines of combat dialog.
  • Chucky now wishes to be known as "The Bear." Asking why would only waste valuable coding time, so I'll just run with it for now. The Bear did some extensive reworking of the aim-assist code so that it works much better when your weapon is zoomed in. He's also working with Paul Bertone on a level I'm not allowed to discuss. In fact there are a slew of cool things the programmers have done in the last week, but almost all of them are still secret.
  • Hardy is working on a large outdoor multiplayer map currently called Sidewinder. It's a snow level. Snowy patches will affect vehicle physics in Halo, and I suspect Hardy will use that to especially devious effect.
  • Chris Hughes did some nice modifications to Cortana, as well as a bunch of other stuff I can't tell you about. Let's just say it involves two of the major characters in Halo's story. He showed me a sheet of paper covered with the equations that explain how Bernie's shaders work. "The scary thing," he said, "is that I almost understand it."
  • The skull is now beautifully textured and looks about as good as a mistreated skull possibly can.
  • Much work has been done on things that, as Rob put it, you shouldn't notice at all: LODs for hand grenades, the needler, a collision volume for the shotgun. That sort of thing.
  • If you've seen Saving Private Ryan and remember the way exploding shells would blast huge clouds of sand into the sky, Shiek has ensured you'll experience a pleasant sense of d*ją vu when playing Halo.
  • The Shadow is back in the game.

Friday, June 22, 2001 (R.net)


  • The team is finally getting enough Xboxes to go around. No more sharing.
  • All the human combat dialog is recorded. Marty is going to Chicago next week to record some other parts with some of the voice actors we've used before.
  • The Artist Formerly Known As The Mighty Chris Butcher And Now Known Simply As Chris Butcher delegated his title to Chucky. He also did a bunch of stuff for the Sin-O-MatiXXX team, making sure the communication system for AIs is in proper working order and working on the scripting tools.
  • The Swarthy Chucky got hovering vehicles back in the game after a protracted absence. AIs can drive them now as well. Chucky also fixed some broken math functions and wrote a bunch of new ones.
  • Eric Arroyo is working on a mission I'm not allowed to discuss. One of the visual highlights of this level is known around the office as The Money Shot. Heavy machinery, great heights, and you. I can say no more, but as Eric put it, "the wet-your-pants factor will be high."
  • Like Eric, many of our other artists are working on strange and beautiful things for Halo this week, but they all appear late enough in the game that I can't describe them without giving away some big secrets. You'll just have to wait and see for yourselves.
  • Rob is working on the shotgun, which started as a 12-gauge and is now roughly a 7- or 6-gauge; it fits better in your enormous hands that way. The shells are one inch across their face. The gun is still untextured and Stephen is still working on animations for it, but it's in the latest builds and looks fantastic.
  • Mat Noguchi did some more work on the HUD and put in a bunch of cheats for testing purposes. He claims the Bottomless Clip cheat is the most fun when using the rocket launcher, and if we have enough time we might be able to use it in the "Bob Soccer" multiplayer mode we've been thinking about.

Friday, June 15, 2001 (HP)


  • The turret is in the game now and works extremely well, unless you make the mistake of aiming it at the ground - at which point the turret becomes more of a vehicle than a weapon.
  • Marty saw, and more importantly heard, a demo of the real-time Dolby Digital 5.1 sound capabilities in the Xbox, and was very impressed and eager to get it working in Halo. He and Jay are busy recording alien speech this week. According to Joe, the finished game will have seven or eight thousand distinct lines of combat dialog (that doesn't include speech outside of combat, such as the dialog in cutscenes), which works out to roughly 160 phrases per AI unit.
  • On the programming side, we've made obstacle-avoidance and time-scale fixes (I'll leave it to you to guess why time might speed up or slow down during gameplay), fixed a long-standing importer bug that was mangling our collision models, and fixed the collision functions that caused items like grenades to disappear or fall through two-sided surfaces.
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher convinced AI characters to give you a yelled warning when they toss grenades, and gave them the brains to dive out of the way when a vehicle tries to run them down.
  • Mat added starting profiles, so you can start an individual mission with different stuff (new weapons, almost no health, that sort of thing). Soon he'll be adding all the cool sniper-rifle HUD stuff that Diamond Dave Candland has designed.
  • Mat's also doing some more work on detail objects, the woefully vague phrase we apply to rocks, blades of grass, and other things that add visual detail to the landscape.
  • Michael's fixed some multiplayer bugs - the active camouflage effect no longer works when you're carrying the flag, for example, and the flag can no longer be blown off the map. Michael also mentioned that he has a lot of time left to pack features and options into the multiplayer mode. He seems to be enjoying his job.
  • The flamethrower is working in the game and looks good when it's spewing flaming death, though Marcus promises it will look even better when he's done with it.
  • Likewise, the rocket launcher looks a little more detailed than it did last week. I was particularly touched by the SPNKr logo stenciled on the rocket tube.

Saturday, June 9, 2001 (BGH)

Busy week, long hours. Here's some of what we've accomplished:

  • A buzzword-happy Marty placed more scripted, context-sensitive, interactive music in the game.
  • Matt Segur has the beginnings of precipitation effects in the game. Presently we have no snow art, so when we test it shell casings rain from the sky.
  • Bernie's doing more work on detail objects.
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher is giving Halo's AI the capacity know when it's in a battle it can't win (for example, when it's being fired upon by an enemy out of its range, or when you've mowed down thirty of its friends with a chain gun). As a result, encounters are more challenging, and much more fun.
  • Shiek did some more explosion effects, and also worked on getting the control room (from the first Halo demo back in '99) back in the game. He's also tweaking the plasma pistol and plasma rifle so you can tell the difference between their projectiles.
  • The skull model is done but not properly textured yet.
  • Two more missions are quickly approaching playable status, and the artists are refining some existing areas, like the mazelike corridors of the Covenant ship and the swamp - adding dense undergrowth, stuff dangling from trees, that sort of thing.
  • Craig Mullins sent in some of his beautiful matte paintings.
  • An interesting tidbit: the six-point type Rob wanted to use for the flamethrower's trigger was illegible in English, so you'll see that button labeled in Chinese - which is perfectly legible as long as you can read Chinese.
  • There's a rocket launcher in the game as well.

Friday, June 1, 2001 (HBO)

Both Peter and Jason celebrated a birthday today, which only added to the chaos, but I'm taking a breather from the non-stop party that is Halo's Development Cycle to bring you these teasing tidbits of trivia:

  • Stephen is reworking the flamethrower animation and working out animations for one of the other weapons added last week.
  • Chucky has beaten the pathfinding code into a nearly-final state.
  • Matt Segur did lots of sound stuff for Marty and Jay.
  • Marty and Jay, thrilled with their new powers, spent the week placing ambient sounds and looping music tracks - new music, as yet unheard outside the Bungie offices. They also have Doppler shifts working.
  • Cortana has these nifty light patterns that ripple over her body.
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher has done the work necessary for AIs to fight in midair. He's also created a bunch of tools for Jaime to use when populating the human ship and assigning behaviors to its inhabitants.
  • Jaime is halfway done with the training level.
  • John is busy dealing with some control issues and working with the Sin-O-MatiXXX team to get a final list of all the mission-specific cutscenes.
  • Bernie put in a new lens flare that I have not seen but have heard wondrous things about.
  • Detail objects are back in the game.
  • The tank is back in, too.

Friday, May 25, 2001 (R.net)

No rest for Bungie. Here's a taste of what's happening:

  • We now have team-specific versions of all multiplayer games. We're also introducing a bunch of multiplayer options (unlimited grenades, motion tracker off, limited number of lives, player with ball runs faster instead of slower, and a bunch more) so people can set up games under all sorts of interesting, challenging, amusing conditions.
  • Speaking of multiplayer, Chris Carney is the latest addition to the team, designing new multiplayer maps.
  • Several new weapons were added to the build this week. Rob gave me a quick history of the sniper rifle to explain why the one in Halo is approximately six feet long.
  • Rob also has the skull model mostly done. He's building the teeth in his spare time.
  • Shiek, Mr. Sexy Graphical Effects himself, has inserted several new ones into the game, including a lovely condensation effect and some nifty fire.
  • Grenades now light up their surroundings when they detonate.
  • The artists are playing with fog and silhouettes to maximize the creepiness of certain levels and encounters. Though as Marcus pointed out, the real fun comes when Marty starts adding sound to those levels.
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher is doing stuff so mighty it must remain secret for now. The only thing he's done lately that I'm allowed to comment on is allowing designers to specify AI behavior in scripts.
  • Joseph is working out more cutscenes, while Marty has taken to locking himself in his studio for hours at a time.
  • Adam is working on some wounded Marines. You'll meet them along the way and might get some information or ammo from them. Shades of another Bungie game...

Friday, May 11, 2001 (HP)

This is going to be one of those painfully brief Updates. The team has put in an enormous amount of effort this week, but most of it was bug fixes and playability tweaks. There won't be a Halo Update next week as we'll be in Los Angeles for E3. Of course, we'll also be at the Bungie FanFest next Wednesday, and who knows what will happen then? If you're in the area, be sure to check it out - see www.bungie.net or http://bs.bungie.org for details. And keep an eye out for the HaloMobile.

  • We got the Marines, Warthogs and dropships to play nicely together this week. In particular, the dropship no longer drops Warthogs on hapless marines.
  • The AI is now aware of vehicles; that is to say, if you roll up in the Warthog the Marines are smart enough to hop in.
  • The Covenant Elite are significantly more bad-assed than they have been in the past. You want to make sure you take them out quickly and completely. Wounding them just pisses them off.
  • We got a lot more sound in the game, including some context-sensitive music and roughly 1400 separate dialog tags.
  • You can hurt people by slamming vehicles into them. Now you no longer need a friendly Marine manning the chain gun to make the Warthog a dangerous weapon.
  • Rob beautified many things, and Shiek piled in a slew of new effects, including a lovely plasma grenade effect.
  • There was a LOT of multiplayer testing this week. And it was a LOT of fun.

Friday, May 4, 2001 (BGH)

Boy, E3 sure is close. Here's a short list of some of the things that happened this week, plus a few observations.

  • Lots of tiny bug fixes and modifications. Vehicles no longer roll forever, guys who've been killed on the jeep no longer float in mid-air, that sort of thing.
  • Some levels have been re-imported for speed and visibility improvements.
  • The Pelican and the Covenant dropship are working in-game, and now have ground effects (i.e. when taking off they displace lots of dust, etc.)
  • Much work has been done to make the game faster in general. Our framerates have improved considerably, a change in the bitmap storage format allows the hardware to access that data more quickly, and thanks to some Bernie Magic we're now able to dump many more people on-screen.
  • Bernie is also working on energy shaders for a plasma effect (already in the game and looking very good, though Bernie says they'll look much better in the end), another pass on the volumetric shader and a brand-new shader for the HUD.
  • Chucky made some major improvements in the auto-aiming.
  • We now have multiple-colored cyborgs for net games, making it much easier to figure out who's who. The hot pink cyborg is called "Chucky" by some.
  • When you shoot objects on the ground, they spin.
  • Marty and Jay have been recording lots of voice actors this week. I sat in on the Cortana recording sessions and shot some video, which will probably find its way out sooner or later.
  • A Halo Moment: tossing a grenade at a fully-shielded Covenant Elite (whose shields protect them from grenade damage), exchanging fire with it as it flies through the air, then seeing it die from falling damage when it lands.
  • Another Halo Moment: grenading the Warthog and watching it cartwheel through the air before landing right-side-up, with driver and passenger dead but gunner miraculously alive.
  • One of the human crew models wears an oddly familiar green jumpsuit.

Thursday, April 26, 2001 (HBO)

Welcome to another fantabulous Halo Update, brought to you by the good people of bungie.org, where the tru7h is sometimes hidden in plain sight.

  • E3 is scant weeks away and as you might imagine the pressure is on to complete as much stuff as possible before the show. Lots of little details to fix, and that's reflected in this update. There are some big things being added as well, but they're secret. :-)
  • Shiek is working on control panels for Covenant machinery.
  • The motion sensor works.
  • Decal animation is in. Among other things, this allows Marines to spray blood when they find themselves on the wrong side of a moving bullet.
  • We have a Cortana model.
  • Speaking of models, Adam is doing some nice work on facial expressions.
  • Rob is working on different LOD models for all weapons.
  • On the sound tip, we've got ambient external sounds in the game, and Marty has begun writing and recording more in-game music. We've got placeholder combat dialog in the game; there's nothing quite so satisfying as "accidentally" tossing a grenade at a Marine's feet and hearing him scream as his flailing body sails past you.
  • All cutscene storyboards are finalized.
  • We may be adding a second multiplayer artist to the team shortly.
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher has given the AI a knowledge model. This means, for example, that if you're a traitorous turncoat who picks off a Marine when no one's looking, when the other Marines discover the body they'll go looking for the slain Marine's killer without knowing that it's you. Of course, if someone were to SEE you doing this, the Marines' reaction would change appropriately.
  • The first mission is getting a little bigger, with massive underground areas and major outdoor encounters set in what we would call "disaster areas" on Earth.

Friday, April 20, 2001 (Confused? read this.)

Marty's Halo Update (since Matt is out of town)

  • Weddings, weddings, weddings. Seems like everyone's getting married. The shower my wife threw for Lorraine went well, and we wish them all the best. (But come on, Rob, I cut my mullet, maybe it's time for the goatee to go-bye).
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher was asked to stop playing CounterStrike and actually start working on Halo. His reply "maybe next week".
  • Chucky has figured out three entirely new shapes that he can make with the Rubik's Snake. Unfortunately they all look like straight lines.
  • Matt Soell is working hard on "casting" for "Pimps at Sea". That's the last time I let him use my casting couch.
  • Jason has done some absolutely brilliant work on bandana physics. Of course it's not actually in the game, but looks great on his head.
  • Mat Noguchi finally figured out how to select only the red ones from my Mike & Ikes jar. Hardy believes that my Mike & Ikes jar is the source of all viral infections at Bungie. To prevent the spread of disease I have started irradiating my Mike & Ikes.
  • The sound and music department (please welcome Jay Weinland) is so far ahead of schedule that we have already finished work on our fourth Xbox title.
  • Because of Joe's absence, the soccer team was severely defeated last night 12 to 2.
  • Matt Segur wondered why all the sound was so soft and realized he had his headphones plugged in the wrong jack (oh wait that was Jason, sorry Matt).
  • The AI controlling the Pillar of Autumn was working so well that it actually picked up Bill Gates (for what he thought was just a tour of Redmond) and made a jump to the other side of the galaxy. Now we have to build a new one that isn't as smart.

Friday, April 13, 2001 (R.net)

The Halo Update rolls on for another lucky week.

  • Apart from mapping and shaders, most of the Pillar of Autumn's interior is finished - everything but airlocks and doors.
  • We got the escape pod to fly this week, though it'll probably only be used in cinematics. John calls it the Bumblebee and that's an apt name, given its bulbous nature.
  • Screen flashes (when the grenades explode) work now.
  • The amount of dialog the various characters have at their disposal grows daily.
  • Chucky continues pounding away at the pathfinding code.
  • Mat fixed 90% of the bugs in the editor's cinematic-recording mode, plus all the bugs in the code written by Jason and Matt. Where would we be without him?
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher retains his AI SackMaster crown for another week. There's a race you haven't seen yet who carry a rechargeable shield, and what they'll do when they see you is deploy in packs with their shields activated, and as you deplete their shields they'll retreat behind something and wait for them to recharge again. The net effect is a force of enemies who are tough to dispatch because the weak ones are constantly dropping back to recharge, then running back to relieve their weakened fellows.
  • Multiplayer is getting better; post-game scoring is in this week, and various tweaks and adjustments make it more fun to play. One of our many rough multiplayer maps is currently titled "Beaver Creek" - not that you should read too much into that.
  • Teleporters work, though they're not placed on any maps yet.
  • You can actually grenade hop in Halo, though I don't think you'll ever need to and I doubt you'll ever want to.
  • We have dropships docked in a much larger Covenant ship now. Very impressive.
  • And speaking of big ships, the full-scale Pillar of Autumn exterior model is a full freakin' kilometer long.

Friday, April 6, 2001 (HP)

I've spent the last three minutes sitting at my desk trying to devise a clever intro to this week's Halo Update. So much for my endless flow of creativity and wit.

Actual Halo Update material? That's another story:

  • Lots of work is being done to make pathfinding work better.
  • Matt's new scripting system is in the game now, though it's not complete.
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher has taught the AI about short bursts, long bursts, wide sprays and tight streams of weapon fire, and when each is appropriate.
  • The AI also has difficulty levels now; turning up the difficulty will give you the expected result of more enemies who are smarter and tougher to kill.
  • AI units can now turn their heads in the appropriate direction to yell or acknowledge orders.
  • Lots of updates and revisions to the multiplayer design doc and user interface.
  • We've modeled a human escape pod, with the seats facing the rear (just like real military transports) and lockers that actually open.
  • Just like the bullets, you can read the stenciling on the grenades.
  • Eric is working on a gun turret, and showed me the utterly awesome Covenant dropship model. The sides open up to spill out the Covenant troops in its guts, and an empty space in the middle holds smaller craft in a stasis field.
  • As I began typing these words, Jason, Alex, Joseph, Michael, and a few Microsoft people filed into the Sin-O-MatiXXX video editing room and shut the door. Shortly thereafter we heard the telltale, high-pitched screams of a terrified Joe Staten. I approached with my video camera, hoping to score some good blackmail footage. Alas, all I saw was the group crowded around a TV, engrossed in a 4-player capture the flag game.

Friday, March 30, 2001 (BGH)

Interestingly, a bunch of people emailed and posted in regards to my comment last week that I wasn't sure how much longer these Halo Updates would be interesting...and only one or two of them said "Yeah, Matt, shut the hell up why don't you?" Everyone else seems to like them, so I guess I'll continue for the forseeable future.

More interestingly...

  • Paul Russell is modeling the Pillar of Autumn's bridge.
  • AI just keeps getting better. The Covenant will search in packs and retreat in squads. They search different locations and will concentrate their attentions in the areas they think you were headed to. Eventually different races will use different searching methods.
  • The AI is working so well at this point that Jaime is having a blast building encounters, including some large ones.
  • Jason put every weapon in the game. Some are still prototypes - unfinished art, etc. - but the team is now able to start testing, tweaking and balancing the weapons in earnest.
  • Dying units will drop their weapons.
  • Matt Segur continues to chug away on the scripting system.
  • Covenant Elites now have a shield, which already looks decent and will look even better after Shiek works his magic on it.
  • New Guy: Derek Moore. Job: Artist. Working on: multiplayer.
  • Mat Noguchi made it possible to record movement macros in the editor. In other words, you can record anything a unit or vehicle does and then replay those movements or actions any time you want. Should come in handy.
  • Bernie created what Jaime calls the "umbra" effect: if there are trees between you and the sun, you'll see sun beams shining realistically through the leaves and branches. VERY impressive.
  • Bernie also created the "Active Camouflage" effect, a watery transparency effect that works gloriously.
  • Grenades are in.

Friday, March 23, 2001 (HBO)

"They say that Halo Update is a bad mother-"
"Shut your mouth!"
"I'm just talking 'bout the Halo Update."
"I can dig it."

  • Chucky has made great strides toward getting breakable surfaces in the game.
  • Aiming works better; you can no longer target enemies hiding behind objects, but you can target enemies in moving vehicles.
  • There's a snazzy new muzzle flash for the pistol and new ammo casings for pistol rounds. If you were to look at the back of a pistol casing in midair, you'd be able to read the words on the back of it, and see that the firing pin hits slightly off-center.
  • AI characters now have a chance of firing their weapon during a death spasm.
  • The Covenant Elite only seek cover if you do, making them, in Rick's words, "more Terminator-esque."
  • Did some more work on the model and environment shaders.
  • Chucky took on a horde of grunts with a pistol and tried to get rid of them all with headshots. He lost.
  • Mat is modifying the editor to be of greater use to the Sin-O-MatiXXX team.
  • Speaking of which, there's a new member of the Sin-O-MatiXXX team: Adam Crockett. He's currently modeling the exterior of the Pillar of Autumn. The team is also currently working on bringing Cortana to life.

Friday, March 16, 2001 (R.net)

Well, not much to talk about this week. No sir. Howzabout we just skip to the interesting bits?

  • Passengers in the jeep now take damage when shot.
  • Things other than bipeds (like bullets) now collide properly with two-sided surfaces (like glass).
  • Chris Hughes is adding some nice detail to the Marine head permutations.
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher continues to improve the AI. It now looks at interesting things: rather than just staring straight ahead and running through it's idle animation, AI units will look around at their friends, or other units walking around, or nearby machinery control panels.
  • The AI also behaves differently based on their awareness of their vulnerability. For example, the grunts tend to travel in packs, and run away pretty quickly once you start blowing holes in them. But they'll dig in and make a nuisance of themselves if there's a Covenant Elite nearby. Likewise, if you then kill that Elite, they'll lose their nerve and run for cover. When demonstrating this to me, Chris noted that one of the grunts was obstinately firing at me even though all his buddies had bailed; this was because the grunt was positioned in such a way that he couldn't see the freshly ventilated Elite corpse lying nearby, even when he popped up to take a shot. Fleeing grunts will eventually verbalize important information to help their buddies avoid those unfortunate situations.
  • Eric's working on a swamp level, texturing trees and remodeling various things. He showed me what looked like a small clump of swamp vegetation with thick stalks. He then pointed to a small arch formed by a curling root at the bottom and said "To give you an idea of the scale, you'll be able to stand under there." The plants are actually massive trees that tower hundreds of feet above you. There are alien mushrooms that are just as tall as you.
  • Shiek showed me the blood-spurting animation for a Covenant race you haven't seen yet. Nail 'em in the right place and you get a nice satisfying jet of vital fluids. And gas.
  • Marcus got the lovely gorgeous waterfalls working again and placed a couple of them on the first mission you play after you land on Halo. Of course that will be at dusk and you might be distracted by the enormous structures firing huge bolts of plasma over to the other side of the ring.
  • Hardy and Michael continue their "march forward to conquer Xbox multiplayer."
  • We got the first round of cutscene storyboards back from Lee Wilson, who's done storyboards for The Fifth Element, among other films. The stuff he's done for us looks really nice - the introductions to the cyborg and other key characters are handled expertly.

Friday, March 9, 2001 (HP)

No time this week to think up any introductory comments. Straight to the meat we go.

  • Our framerate got another boost this week.
  • Marcus is working on blood decals.
  • We've got melee attacks in for several weapons. It's quite fun to drive the jeep up to a building's front door and let Marcus distract the Covenant forces with the chain gun while you sneak in a side door, creep up behind them and slam the butt of your assault rifle into the back of their heads.
  • Marcus and Chris Lee are working on a new mission, the first big exterior mission you'll play in the game.
  • Sparks fly if you accidentally scrape a wall with the jeep.
  • Rob is upping the resolution on one of the Covenant weapons yet again. He hopes to start working on a hand grenade soon.
  • We now have force feedback in the controller when you fire your own weapon or get hit by someone else's.
  • Chucky did some tweaking to the Jeep physics. In addition to the generally improved control, you can see the suspension working again. And if there's an AI manning the chain gun when you catch air in the jeep, he'll respond appropriately.
  • Even cyborgs take a little falling damage now and then.
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher has the AI communicating target info to other AIs now; as a result they're getting much craftier about finding ways to sneak up on you.
  • Marty's written some new Halo music for Gamestock next week. It fits together nicely with the old Halo music everyone knows, with little nods here and there to some of the great film soundtrack composers - in keeping with Marty's aim to connect music with the game's action in a very cinematic way. I visited the studio this morning while Marty and his assistant Jay tweaked the mix to shake the Gamestock audience properly. All your bass are belong to Marty.

Friday, March 2, 2001 (BGH)

Neither snow nor rain nor major earthquake stays the humble Community Guy from his appointed Halo Update.

  • Lots of bug fixes on the programming side this week, getting the game ready for Gamestock.
  • We've got friendly fire logic for the AI so they don't kill each other any more.
  • The Banshee now changes colors as it takes off. It's a neat effect.
  • Rob is redoing the casings for the chain gun.
  • The Online Team met with Michael and Hardy to discuss multiplayer game types. It was a nice long meeting with a lot of good ideas thrown around. Hardy has more good ideas for multiplayer game types than any one man has a right to. We'll see how many of them we can make work. He's mocking up multiplayer levels right now and "it's really fun" says he. Michael has networking "up and limping" and is trying to fix the broken stuff.
  • Reflection works now. I saw a hologram reflecting off a glass floor situated above The Shaft. Spiffy.
  • The Mighty Chris Butcher advanced in his quest to make the AI rock by getting the Bobs to operate the jeep's chain gun. There's nothing quite like driving the jeep through a building with an AI Marcus behind you tearing through anyone in your way with the chain gun...rushing out the door and jumping the jeep off a ledge while Marcus and the chain gun face the opposite direction, blasting away at your pursuers...I don't know what to say except it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
  • Jason Jones absolutely refuses to ride a limo to Gamestock.

Saturday, February 24, 2001 (HBO)

I have nothing to complain about this week so I'll launch right into the update.

  • Our minimalist HUD now works in the game, and looks quite nice to boot.
  • There's an acceleration mask on the chain gun now, so as you drive the jeep around the gun and the chain of bullets feeding into it bobble around realistically.
  • Brake lights and headlights work again.
  • Stars twinkle. :-)
  • The Online Team got the basic UI prototype up and running. Woohoo Online Team!
  • Stephen is working on reload and recoil animations for the assault rifle.
  • Marcus has the player hopping into the jeep in a realistic way again.
  • Lots and lots of bug fixes.
  • Bernie is still working on mirrors.
  • Jaime is working on a new infiltration mission.
  • The Banshee is back in the game, though its controls need tweaking; Jaime will take care of that next week.
  • The interior of the covenant ship we're working on now is huge; a massive structure of curvy, shiny metal and these enormous docking bays for dropships.
  • The mighty Chris Butcher is beautifying the AI. He's revised and expanded Jason's AI plan, which was pretty extensive and impressive to begin with. Jason is spending a lot of time ducking behind various objects to show Butcher how he wants the AI to behave. That's his excuse, anyway. The AI is already much more intelligent than it used to be, surrounding the player from multiple elevations, picking the best spot from which to fire at you, and generally making your life unpleasant.

Friday, February 16, 2001 (R.net)

This morning the Seattle region saw its first substantial snowfall in several years. Up to ten inches in some areas, if you believe the Seattle Times. The collective response to a little snow in this land of gas-guzzling four-wheel-drive SUVs fitted with ski racks was to scream like little girls and hide in the basement. The schools are closed, the parking lots half-empty, and the Microsoft hallways almost bereft of life. But did a few paltry inches of snow prevent Bungie from showing up to do the requisite day's worth of ass-kicking? Hell no. Thus, in the Bungie spirit of standing tall and strong while our so-called peers wuss out with muttered excuses, I begin this week's Halo update.

  • Shadows work now, though they're not finished. The shadow of a tree (yes, The Coolest Tree Ever In A Videogame) swaying in the wind, for example, isn't quite right. Should be fixed soon.
  • The transparent water shader is in, and while that isn't finished either it looks beautiful already. One of the planned improvements is depth fogging.
  • Collision models have permutations now. This means that character models with permutations - a different head shape or longer arms, for example - will react appropriately when shot.
  • The Jeep kicks up dirt again. It'll kick up other sorts of debris as appropriate, though that code isn't in yet.
  • Those of you who've expressed a concern will be happy to hear that we're testing lens flares.
  • Controller support is "90% there."
  • We've started working on the HUD. After much debate the team came up with a design that everyone likes.
  • Matt got contrails working again.
  • Holograms mostly work - there's still some debugging to be done. Shiek showed me a hologram of a structure floating in midair, which cast soft, glowing lines on the ground and walls of the room as it spun. Sweet.
  • The chain gun for the Jeep is now fully textured. Rob is working on a new gun intended for "fodder-type" opponents; the geometry is almost done and texturing should be another couple of days.
  • The script for Halo's single-player campaign is about 30% done. (Don't confuse this with the story itself, which is more-or-less finished at this point, and should completely satisfy those of you who like Bungie games for the story.)
  • Chucky got the super-hi-res screenshot code working. I can't imagine what we'll use it for. ;-)

Friday, February 9, 2001 (HP)

...And on the ninth day he said "Let there be another Halo Update." And it was good.

  • The first and biggest story this week involves the size of the Halo team. Suddenly it's much bigger than it used to be. After the Oni team moved up to Redmond the Halo team filled some gaps by cannibalizing a few Oni folks. They've worked out so well that the Halo team asked the remaining Oni team members to help out - and they accepted. The resulting "Dream Team," as Alex termed it, will work together on Halo until it's complete; at that point the Oni team will separate and go back to working on their new project. Everyone here is thrilled - the Halo team gets to distribute some of their crushing workload to the more-than-capable hands of the Oni guys, and the Oni guys in turn get to show off their skills in the context of the Halo world.
  • A bug fix this week doubled our rendering speed.
  • All the models for our first-playable mission are now imported.
  • Material types in structures work now (meaning that when you shoot a given surface, the appropriate debris - wood splinters, dirt and grass, stone fragments, whatever - appears).
  • The artists are tweaking interiors, moving vertices around and placing light sources.
  • We should have holograms working soon.
  • The team is tweaking the shaders, looking for a balance between realism and graphical flashiness.
  • Jaime showed me what he called "the coolest tree ever in a videogame." He wasn't exaggerating. You guys will know what I mean when you play the game and walk up right next to a tree.
  • The team is working on new missions with a design goal of "scaring the crap out of the player whenever possible."

Friday, February 2, 2001 (BGH)

What better day than Groundhog Day to pull some fuzzy wiggling Halo info nuggets from the earth and hold them up for the world to see?

  • The programmers got a development kit update and have spent most of the week making sure their old stuff still works.
  • Chucky has been working on controller issues, and as John said "All of the hidden little things we're doing to make sure you can play Halo with a console controller in such a way that the experience doesn't suck are already working."
  • Matt has revised the particle system so Shiek can really get going on the particle effects. I got to see the wood-impact effect (bullet + speed + wood = splinters flying through the air and bouncing off the floor) and it was quite nice, though probably not the most spectacular application of the particle system you'll see in the final game.
  • Jason has spent most of the week working on the long-term schedule for the team. He also mentioned that he's reading Churchill's account of his WWI experiences. Significant clue to possible themes in the Halo story, or just a red herring?
  • Work on the map editor continues, with more bugs being squashed and a new paint feature added. Encounters are very easy to set up now, which means it's also getting easier to find and fix bugs in the AI.
  • Waves work now. They're not perfect yet but still very sexy. Too sexy for Joe, who made all sorts of lewd comments about how watching the waves made him feel.

Friday, January 26, 2001 (HBO)

Welcome to yet another installment of the weekly Halo Update. This week has been a difficult one for myself and the Online Team: apart from our usual responsibilities and pressing deadlines, this week we had to circumvent countless technical/legal/moral roadblocks to get the Bungie Store running, endure Mordia's blues harp after a broken pipe Poseidon Adventure destroyed his home, and deal with the ever-increasing heartache of the missing Soffish. Nevertheless, I managed to stagger over to the Halo team's room and beat the following nuggets out of them:

  • More programming cleanup work; this week it's structure-importing bugs.
  • Jason made significant changes to the structure of the scenario tag; Mat plugged this into the editor and, in his words, "fixed all of Jason's bugs."
  • Bernie as usual is upping the graphical beauty capabilities of the Halo engine. He's testing the fog effects (very realistic and used only for atmosphere, not to hide draw-in like other games), working on particle systems, transparent shaders, water effects, and doing some preliminary work on mirrors - but these are not just ordinary mirrors.
  • The jeep revision is almost done. Marcus upped the res of the model itself - the wheels have more sides so they look rounder, the steering wheel "no longer looks like ass" and there's a lovely new chain gun (sketched out by Rob, modeled by Marcus) on top.
  • There are new poses for many of the aliens - a more aggressive combat pose and an alternate sleeping pose.
  • The Halo programmers have a small white board in their area. Written on the board are the names of all the programmers. Any time one of them breaks something in the code and does not tell the others, that programmer earns a letter. In essence they are playing a variant of the game "horse" although the word they are spelling out letter by letter is much cruder than "horse." I believe one of them is up to "K" now. I'm not entirely sure what happens to the anyone who completes the entire word, but if the word itself is any indication, it won't be pretty. Matt the Agitator (no, not me) has a star by his name on the white board. It has nothing to do with coding and everything to do with what we at Bungie call "sack."

Saturday, January 20, 2001 (R.net)

Wow! Over a month since the last written Halo Update. It's nice to get back into the swing of these.

  • As I type these words the Second Annual Bungie Pentathlon has drawn to a close. The Halo team took first, followed closely by the Phoenix team in second, and the Oni and Sin-O-MatiXXX/Online Coalition tying for third. As soon as the collective Bungie Blood Alcohol Level dips a bit, everyone will head over to the celebratory dinner. So now seems like the perfect time to write up a Halo Update. Unfortunately there's not much to talk about this week, but hey...sometimes it's just a slow week.
  • This week has largely been a "cleanup" week; the programmers fixed bugs in the engine and editor for the artists, and the artists took advantage of the fixes to get things done. If any of it was earthshaking I'd report it here. Much of it is labor-intensive, detail-oriented stuff.
  • Work continues on unit variations. It's a different alien unit this week, with a nifty energy shield.
  • Matt Segur started work on Halo's scripting system.
  • Chucky performed some sort of bizarre coding miracle that allowed vehicles to navigate indoors, which they were not able to do previously. He demonstrated this to me by driving the jeep into a building, down several flights of stairs, and ultimately into a portion of the level known as The Shaft. Watching the sucker flip and spin as it plummeted to the bottom made my day.

Friday, December 15, 2000 (HP)

Another week, another update. How do we do it? Volume, volume, volume!

  • Pathfinding on double-sided surfaces works now. What sort of double-sided surface? Think transparent.
  • Chucky rewrote our structure importer so it's faster.
  • Mat is getting his hands nice and dirty with the tools.
  • David Dunn, formerly of the Oni team, has joined the Halo folks and is working on environments. He's currently doing some interior stuff for us. I can't tell you specifically what he's working on because saying who built the structure and what it's used for is just a wee bit too revealing at this point.
  • Bernie has been furiously adding graphical sexiness. There's so much great stuff in Halo now that it was hard for him to remember all of it and impossible for me to scribble it all down while he rattled off graphical effect after graphical effect. Remember when Chucky said "per-pixel everything"? He meant EVERYTHING. And Bernie can list everything. Some of the effects he mentioned had names you would not recognize because they have not appeared in any other game, ever. We invented them. He also mentioned that the performance of our unoptimized code is greatly exceeding the programmers' expectations.
  • Bungie Cinematronics (AKA Joe and Marty) are spending lots and lots and lots of money to equip their new studios just the way they like them. The Oni guys have already moved into our new space, and the rest of us will make the trip later this month. Joe and Marty will have lots more cool techno toys to play with, but they're also assuming a punishing workload and thus require the latest/greatest/fastest/best of everything. Your Halo experience will be suffused with a huge amount of Cinematronic goodness.

Friday, December 8, 2000 (BGH)

Another fansite joins the elite circle of hosts for my weekly Halo update. Someday Soon we'll all look back on these days and think "Remember when those weekly Halo updates were the best Halo info the fansites were getting? Things are MUCH cooler now."

So what's new and interesting this week?

  • Most of this week's programming involved fixes and improvements to the stuff I mentioned in the last update. Jason's still working on the AI. Chucky promises me more exciting programming news soon.
  • We hired our tools programmer. His name is Mat. Yes, just one T. This makes three of us, so wee tied with the Pauls (Bertone, Russel, and Clift) and just one behind the Chris clan (Barrett, Butcher, Hughes and Lee).
  • The art team worked out a long-term milestone schedule, dividing the big huge tasks into tiny little ones. According to Marcus, the main benefit to this is increased morale: tasks that were daunting before seem possible now.
  • Right now our primary goal is a mission that is playable start to finish. Marcus showed me one of the outdoor structures he's working on for this mission, as well as the general environment around it. His words: "Beach to drive around on, cliffs to marvel at."
  • Stephen is working on animations for the AI: surprise, sleep, suspicious sneaking around, that sort of thing. He's also begun the walking animation for a new (non-human) character.
  • Rob showed me the latest iteration of the handgun (the sixth, to be exact), which is still a work in progress but quite groovy nonetheless, especially with the extended magazine. He explained how the left side of the gun will have a little divot in the side so you could actually see if there's a bullet in the chamber if you looked at it up close. As he put it, "We're relying way less on textures and much more on geometry." The number of polys and vertices for each weapon is pretty close to the poly/vertex counts for the characters.
  • We should have some nifty idle animations involving the weaponry. For example, if you stand around long enough and you happen to be holding the handgun, you might idly tighten the nuts that clamp the sight to the barrel. Attention to detail.
  • One of the things we're talking about right now is melee attacks for all weapons. Not sure if it's going to happen, but we'd love to read some of your thoughts on the topic so feel free to discuss on the forum of your choice.
  • Oh, and the poly counts for some of our characters just doubled.

Friday, December 1, 2000 (HBO)

Whee! Back to the wild woolly world of weekly Halo updates. At least until I scuttle back to Chicago for the end-of-year holidays. :-)

  • Jason, Chucky, Bernie and The Other Matt kept themselves busy over the holidays. Point lights. Transparent model shaders. New input code. A revised tag editor. More AI work. A new, "more intelligent" data structure for the models. Lightmaps work on curved surfaces.
  • Chucky was rather busy when I tried to plumb his brain for news tidbits this week, but he gave me a quick-n-dirty State Of Halo Rendering Address: In the last two weeks, the rewritten Halo engine finally caught up to the old version in terms of rendering ability. Then we surpassed it. Work in the coming weeks will explore just how far we can push the graphical envelope.
  • The Halo team now holds a mission brainstorming meeting every Wednesday morning. This is a little different than the way we've done it in the past and according to John it's working very well. Rather than one or two people deciding how a given level will work, the entire team has an opportunity to think it over and provide some input.
  • One of the missions we're sketching out right now involves a volcano and something I can only refer to as heavy machinery. :-)

Saturday, November 18, 2000 (R.net)

This week's update is short, but not as short as next week's (which will not exist at all due to the holiday). The next update will be December 1.

  • Lightmaps are now fully operational. Vehicles are close behind.
  • The AI is already good enough to kill Jason and Chucky, no easy task. Lots of work still to go, but I saw a brief demonstration and was greatly impressed. One interesting tidbit: the AI has a fear factor - its willingness to pop out from behind cover and chase or fire at you is directly related to how dangerous the AI thinks you are at that moment. I hope to be able to tell you all a little more soon.
  • At the end of the little AI demo, we jumped off a ledge and were treated to an incredibly long descent. I'm telling you, some of these buildings are BIG.
  • Marty has been back for a while, but Joseph just got back this past week. The two of them spend most of the day loudly and excitedly planning Halo cinematics. The two words Joseph says most often are "John Woo."
  • Coming soon: Halo Mersh. Settle down, Meg.

Friday, November 10, 2000 (HBO)

Matt's Halo Report - November 10, 2000

  • Four programmers continue to churn out code. Lightmaps are on the verge of working better than ever. Chucky is very excited about revisiting the vehicular physics. Impressive progress has been made in the realm of AI but I've been asked to keep mum about this particular subject for now.
  • I took another look at the structure Marcus showed me last week and its complexity seems to have increased by an order of magnitude - which is saying something considering the sheer size of the place in question. Marcus says he'll be working on this one building for the next few weeks.
  • Also got a look at some of Eddie's slick concept art for a new Covenant vehicle. Interesting to hear the artists explain how the Covenant use (and misuse) technology they - heh - acquire from others, and how the Covenant hardware in the game is all created to reflect this subtle-but-definite design aesthetic.
  • Speaking of reflection, there's a lot of interesting reflection technology in this game, including cubic reflection and specular BRDF, which allows curved objects to reflect differently depending on the angle from which they are viewed.
  • One of the weapon ideas currently being discussed is suspiciously similar to a suggestion made on this very forum in days past. :-)
  • Stephen has been working on animations for certain secret beasties, including limb-specific impact animations.
  • Two of the Halo artists expounded at length about how the rewritten engine allows them to do just about any cool thing they can imagine. Overhangs, caves, and waves smashing against the shoreline were all mentioned. As always, I don't want to promise these will all be in the final version of Halo...but we can put them there if we want to. :-)

Friday, November 3, 2000 (R.net)

This is another art-heavy update because the various reconstructive programming tasks are still not finished. This one might have been a little longer but I am severely pressed for time today. So, let's go!

  • Marcus showed me one of the interiors he's working on. The interiors are put together in a very rough form - just enough to get the basic outlines of the space down - and then refined. Over the course of this process, the level transforms from something that looks like it could have come out of Marathon into...well, into a level that looks like it came out of Halo. The artists are testing out how big the levels can be, what sort of balance to strike between geometric and textural complexity, that sort of thing. The level Marcus showed me was HUGE: we looked over a ledge and saw an enormous underground labyrinth. Then he showed me the concept art Eddie drew of what the level will look like when it's finished. If you've ever seen storyboards for a well-designed science fiction movie (Aliens, for example) you'll have an idea of what some of the Halo interiors will look like. (Not in terms of Giger-esque weirdness but in the sheer complexity and scale.)
  • They're testing lighting stuff, although a lot of it doesn't work yet

Friday, October 27, 2000 (HBO)

Once again the Halo update bounces over to bungie.org. Apologies for the transient nature of these updates. At least they're on schedule. And their new home gets a little closer every day.

So what's new?

  • As discussed last week, there's a lot of reconstructive coding going on, getting the new engine up to speed. That will keep going for a while.
  • Yet another new guy! Rick Ryan. He's a producer. He's some sort of organizational mastermind. The Halo team has needed someone like this for a LONG time.
  • We're nailing down the final elements of the game - lists of characters, weapons, net game types and options. The weapon list is pretty extensive; players should have fun finding their favorites. Things are still uncertain enough that giving out an actual number would be premature, but I think it's safe to say you'll have a nice friendly double-digit figure when you add them all up. And those are just the ones players can use.
  • Jaime is speccing out the various net games as completely as possible. Again, we can't say too much here because who knows how many of them will actually end up in the game. We're trying to cover all the usual bases but there may be some unusual (read: brand new) game types as well. There are also some interesting ideas being tossed around for how to scale net games up for larger numbers of players, though exactly how many players we're talking about is still entirely up in the air.
  • Incredible detail on the weaponry. Rob showed me one of the guns he's working on and it looks absolutely glorious, right down to the scratches on the barrel. Rob says the scratches are glaring and he'll be toning them down a bit; the effect will be the same, but subtler. The process of repainting this one gun will take him two full days. And he wants the readout on the gun to be just as detailed, with a working compass and a screensaver animation when the player idles too long (though I must remind you that this is not a perfect world and we don't always get around to everything we want to do). It's been said before but it bears repeating: people who think Halo will pale in comparison to other games when it comes out obviously haven't seen it lately.
  • While I'm on the topic of art, I must note that I saw one of Paul Russel's new models and was utterly blown away. I can't talk about it in any degree of detail because to do so would give away key plot points, but what struck me most forcefully (apart from the perfect replication of the detailed and goosebump-inspiring concept art) was the amount of thought and backstory behind each alien race. Things look the way they do for a reason, not just because it looks cool. When the game is done we could publish a Halo bestiary with tons of cool background info. I'm not saying we necessarily will...just that we COULD. ;-)
  • In the midst of the month-long bacchanalian orgy that accompanied Chucky's birthday, and the spontaneous eruption of love for Stefan that occurred last week when he aged another year, it somehow slipped past us all that The Man Himself has lasted another 365 days. Happy belated birthday, Alex.
  • I'm not one for telling tales out of school but Chucky and Jason were spotted poring over the new D&D manuals in the cafeteria. How this will affect Halo is difficult to gauge. Perhaps Jason is trying to improve his saving roll against marinara stains.

Friday, October 20, 2000 (R.net)

Another dose of that "What The Hell Is Bungie Doing This Week?" goodness. Back for a return engagement at Rampancy.net, where men are men and women are Pallor.

  • Jason wanted me to point out that much of what the Halo team is doing right now is long-term stuff; certain things will take weeks or months to finish, and some weeks there won't be much to say except "Still working on the same stuff." Unfortunately this is one of those weeks. Most of you know that Bungie tends to keep its mouth shut when it has nothing important to say, but Jason wanted me to make it clear. So. Are we all clear? Wonderful.
  • The development team will be spending the next several weeks "reattaching all the things that fell off" during the engine rewrite. Boring little things, like bullets. :-) (And if you don't think bullets can bore, you've obviously never been shot.)
  • The new visualization code is up and running. Much work remains but a big hurdle is behind us. Chucky and Matt Segur gave me a quick demo, running a camera across a test landscape and then up over it to give some sense of scale. Yum.
  • You'll all be happy to know that Chucky's spirits have lifted immensely since your collective outpouring of love last week.
  • I was hoping to excerpt some choice bits from a lovely essay about Seattle penned by our own Jason Jones. He asked for a little extra time to review what he'd written and add more profanity where necessary; as of this writing I do not have it. Perhaps in a future update.

Friday, October 13, 2000 (HBO)

In defiance of expectations, I'm actually writing this update thingy. And this week it's at bungie.org, because I love those guys. At some point I'm going to have to decide on a permanent home for these dispatches. Actually I have one in mind already, but I can't tell you what it is yet. :-)

  • Did I mention last time that we're interviewing like mad? It's still happening.
  • We've been looking at the floor plans for our new space, and things are starting to come together. Amusingly, just like the last time we moved, we completely forgot to allocate any space for a storage closet. Trying to rectify that. Lots of windows in our new space though.
  • We're coming up on the end of a major engine rewrite. We're now very close to having the indoor areas kick as much ass as the outdoor areas, and consequently the game will be split more evenly between them (previously the outdoor stuff was going to seriously outweigh the indoor stuff). Whether you're outside or under a roof, in Halo things will look better than anything else out there.
  • Jason is splitting his time between AI work and story work with Jaime and John. The AI stuff is still in the planning stages, but it should be very cool. The aim is to make it the most fun AI to play against (or play with, if it's on your side).
  • There's also a new rasterizer in the works so we can take advantage of all the cool Xbox features. "Per-pixel everything," said Chucky, with a characteristically depraved grin.
  • By the way, we're all very disappointed that none of you took the time to post a "Happy Birthday Chucky" message even though we made it a news item on www.bungie.net. Chucky's doing well, considering - right now we're much more concerned about Jason's habit of dumping his lunch on himself - but we were hoping for a little support from you guys.
  • Rob assures me that my personal favorite tool of destruction, the mysterious "wall-hugging hippo," still exists. Thus we end on a high note. :-)

Friday, October 6, 2000 (R.net)

Technically this post cannot exist because everyone knows I never post to Rampancy.net. :-)

Another slow news week draws to an end, and nothing new to chew on. What to do?

  • Interviewing and hiring continues. We've picked up a few really good and very necessary people in the last few weeks. Microsoft reworked our area a few weeks ago to fill up the dead space with usable cubicles, and it looks like most if not all of them will be filled by the time we move to our new digs. (And before this shows up on the web somewhere with the headline MICROSOFT TURNS BUNGIE INTO SWEATSHOP or something equally inane, let me make myself clear: we asked for this, and we're no more cramped than we were before. The halls between the cubicles are a little narrower, iz all.)
  • Max and I are thinking about Icons, Trivia, the Store, Source, Catch Phrases, Relational Databases, Two-Way Communication and a bunch of other stuff. What do these things mean and will they pan out? We - rather, you - shall see.
  • The stuff that gets thrown around the lunch tables here is pretty exciting, especially when you're dining with Halo team folks and they talk about the story. So much is left to do, but it's like seeing da Vinci with an empty canvas or Nelson Algren with a fresh ream of blank typing paper: you know from what has come already that the work that is to come will be immensely satisfying. Unfortunately much of what we're doing these days is talking, conceptualizing, revising, figuring things out - all the intellectual grunt work that must come before we can get to the fun part of showing the results of that labor to the world. Although little bits of coolness may leak out from time to time. ;-)
  • In weeks to come expect some sort of regular updates for all the games we have in development. The where and how will probably change, but I'll make sure you guys have SOMETHING new to think about, or at least a general idea of what we're up to, once a week or so - probably on Fridays so I can sum up the week that's just ended.
  • Phrase of the day: "Microsoft Tasta Mo Lika Bungie Spice." And no, this doesn't necessarily make sense. But it doesn't need to.

Back to main page