Sniper Head by Jay Faircloth

Frankie's Bungie Update, 30 January 2004

Well, as you'll see all over the INTERNET this morning, this has been a very big, very busy week for Bungie, and the building excitement in the office is almost tangible. There's so much momentum at every level in the building - in the graphics department, in the sound studio, everywhere you look, people are working on solid, playable, great-looking bits of Halo 2. So here's a quick glimpse at what folks were up to this week.

  • Brian, me, Lorraine , and a bunch of other lucky staffers have been impossibly busy this week, basically taking a kickass SCREENSHOT of Halo 2.

It's really important to point out that this screen is straight from the current game engine. The resolution is a little sharper thanks to the way screens are dumped from the frame buffer, but this is entirely representative of the lighting, polygon counts, bump-mapping and particle effects. There's no trickery or BS here. And of course, this is early stuff, so things will change and improve between now and launch. We basically played the game and took a ton of shots until we finally picked the one that rocked the hardest, and best represented what playing that level was like.

Of course this is a multiplayer level, and no doubt you'll be scanning the shot for details, clues and hints about what to expect from the game. We did deliberately try not to give too much away, but sharp-eyed Halo fans will see plenty. Working with the multiplayer build opened us up to a lot of the cool technology that it's built around, and just about every step revealed some amazing new facet of the game - everything from the animation on the Warthog wheels to the bump-mapping on Master Chief's gloves. We barely even begin to comprehend the labyrinthine depths of this software and its associated tools. And special thanks to Chris, Ben, Mat and the guys for helping show us what's possible and how best to use it.

  • Over at the environment department, where tree-love is all the rage, Paul "Evil Paul" Russel and crew are working hard polishing up two specific levels. One is a "Really incredible, massive space" and Paul is busy fixing and polishing elements that have already been tested for gameplay. That means, for example that a big cube that once said "rock" is now a sand-textured monolithic boulder that's being properly tweaked and textured and lit so that it looks perfect.

In testing, artists and designers will often place approximations of the required geometry in an environment, so instead of a broken-down car, you'll see a box at the same position and angle, with the legend, "Broken down car" written on the side. These pre-textured levels are actually pretty surreal.

Because of the timing for the pieces they're working on, the environment guys have been pulling pretty long hours, often here until midnight, where they amuse each other by arguing the pros and cons of Marmite versus Vegemite, without the decency to include Bovril on the list. It should be noted that Chris Butcher has suggested that Vegemite is more manly and coarse than the effete syrupy consistency of Marmite.

And we must also note that Mike has gone from "pupil" to "protégé" under Paul's mentoring/tutelage.

  • As you know if you've been following this stuff - we're redesigning the Bungie.net website. Doug and the web guys are getting ready to make sure that the new Bungie.net can deal with all the extra traffic, get the new news section working and make sure the forums are integrated. The new look for the site is also being polished and buffed to a shiny gloss. You'll be pretty surprised at the difference between the current site and the new one.
  • I personally just saw something Halo 2-related that literally made my jaw drop. Like in a cartoon.
  • Marcus Lehto spent the week fretting, worrying and then relaxing about cool new ways to improve the cinematic cutscenes. He relaxed in the end because some of the solutions are perfect.
  • Michel Bastien has been meaner than usual, but this week he's been working on localization of Halo 2 for non English speaking countries That way French Canadians won't get their knickers in a twist, and Korean players won't have to wait two years to find out what all the fuss is about. Michel only handles the planning, as opposed to more technical stuff like making sure it runs properly on PAL or SECAM Xbox systems.

Well that's it for this week - next week I will ask for some movies of new levels and see how long it takes before someone actually punches me in the face. I can't promise any movies (ever) but I can promise you next week's Update will be the best yet. Probably.

This week, we got a lot of speculation on what "Goin' Ribs!" means. It does not mean this: