January 23, 2004 Originally at Subnova

Weekly Update, Friday Jan 23rd

Holy crap! Last week was apparently just a slow introduction to the whirling vortex of thrills that is Bungie. Now I've been flung in at the deep end, and all the allowances they make for n00bz have been thrown out like bad milk. It's a weird combination of frenetic, stressed, exciting and fun. Like being kicked in the groin by a fairy made of peanut-flavored light. Approximately.

I also just took a close look at a Prophet for the first time. I didn't realize it was a Covenant deal. I just glanced at it and I thought it was HotTubGuy*. I even invented a whole mythology around him. Like, that maybe he'd knocked an 8-Track stereo into his hot tub and traveled through time. Shows what I know.

Anyway, I've been witness to a tremendous amount of Halo 2 related activity this week, and I'll tell you what I can about it.

  • The whole web thing is getting crazy. We're relaunching Bungie.net soon-ish, and we're trying to assemble, create and collate all the content for it. It looks super cool. Brian is taking point on a lot of that stuff, and he's also been rounding up the n00bz for today's pentathlon. We'll let you know the results on Monday, but basically it's a contest between various layers of the Bungie hierarchy. Grizzled Ancients, Old Skool, Middle Skool and Noobz. We won the Summer Pentathlon last year but I reckon the grizzled ancients are planning to cheat this time around. The events include EyeToy and Mario Kart, but we're all pretty psyched to play Halo 2. That's right. Different multiplayer maps and different game styles, including CTF and Slayer, of course. We're trying to learn one of the more complex maps, provisionally called Burial Mounds. Favorite new Halo 2 expression? "He's goin' Ribs!"

  • Lorraine, our artist, has been incredibly busy. Some of what she's doing is punch-in-the-face secret, but she has also been working on the Halo 2 logo. It looks SWEET. It rocks harder than meat-flavored toothpaste at a British dental convention, but Lorraine isn't quite satisfied and has been tuning it. She reckons the next version has a 50-50 chance of being the final one, which means there's a 50-50 chance you'll see it soon. She's also been finishing a Gold Elite action figure, which will be available soon, and an amazingly detailed special edition Master Chief, which will only be available in one exclusive place (details to be released soon).

  • Greg Snook and the animators are doing some really cool stuff with the Chief's walking and running animation. Right now he sidesteps convincingly, has a real walk animation (instead of just a slow version of the default run set) and even cooler, he crouches and crouch-walks much more convincingly. It sounds like a small thing, but if you go back and look at Halo compared to this new stuff, the difference is astonishing.

  • The coolest stuff going on this week though has got to be the way the animation and AI are coming together. You watch demos of the technologies interacting with each other and you're thinking, "This LOOKS incredible." Then you take a step back and realize, "Oooh. This is GAMEPLAY." The demo we watched was running in realtime, basically a huge warehouse filled with objects, obstacles and Covenant. The AI sends a mixture of grunts, Elites and more, charging across the cluttered map to see how they deal with obstacles and each other. Grunts typically sprint around fallen beams and boxes, but Elites are frighteningly smart, making fast, natural and athletic maneuvers and Hunters will simply charge through the map. We watched this happen from a Chief's-eye perspective and it's pretty frightening.

  • Ryan and our multiplayer test team, , have been almost impossibly busy. Tons of post mortem meetings to discuss what went wrong and what went right with various test builds. How's the networking holding up? What problems are we encountering on DSL connections � the office is set up with a variety of broadband connections for test. They've also been busy accommodating Bungie employees with their own multiplayer builds and Xbox systems to pad out the test process. As you can imagine, it's not difficult to convince someone they have to play Halo 2 as a part of their job. The testers have also been on call for ad-hoc testing � -- running around in mostly-complete levels to test specific systems and problems � a physics thing here, an AI issue there. That and like everyone else, they're training hard for the Pentathlon � and they're testers, so they've played more Halo 2 than anyone else�

* Next week, more, bigger, better stuff from the maelstrom of excellence that is Bungie. Until then, enjoy this artist's impression of Mister Chief and the HotTubGuy.

Don't eat stuff off the sidewalk.