Rampancy.net will have its own Halo 3 FAQ of course, but in the meantime, we've taken the Bungie.net FAQ and read between the lines a little bit, just to whet everyone's appetite.
To see Bungie's questions and answers interspersed with my own commentary and additional questions, click "read more" from the front page.
Q: What kind of game is Halo 3?
A: Halo 3 is a story-driven action game, a first-person shooter featuring the classic gameplay you've come to expect from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2.
No surprises here. Although Halo began life as a third-person shooter, that was changed before the first game was released on the Xbox, and there's no change here. Halo 3 is an FPS. Although later questions point out that no specific gameplay features are being announced, this question does say "classic gameplay" but there's no indication that this means any more than the idea that you point a gun at stuff and shoot, while sometimes using vehicles and pushing buttons.
Q: What systems is Halo 3 available for?
A: Halo 3 is being made for the Xbox 360.
Again, if you're surprised, you haven't been paying attention. Of course, the original Halo was eventually ported to Mac OS X and Windows, and Halo 2 has been announced for Windows Vista, so this answer doesn't necessarily mean there will never be a version of Halo 3 for something other than the Xbox 360, but I doubt that will be discussed at all until after the game ships for the 360.
Q: When does Halo 3 come out?
A: Halo 3 will be released at an as-yet to be announced date in 2007. The final release date will be revealed at a future time.
The wishful thinking that many (including yours truly) indulged in to the effect that Halo 3 would basically be levels removed from the end of Halo 2, and thus might be finished in time for the holidays this year it seems was in error.
If, just to pull a date out of a hat, Bungie were to release in November of 2007 in time for that year's Christmas shopping season, it would mean nearly identical development cycles for Halo 2 and Halo 3: about three years, give or take.
Q: What kind of graphics can we expect from Halo 3?
A: Halo 3's graphics will include the features seen in the real-time trailer and more, these are rendered using a new graphics engine, making the most of next-gen features like HDR (High Dynamic Range) lighting, pre-computed radiance transfer, and much, much more. The game will also take full advantage of the Xbox 360's HDTV capabilities.
As already pointed out elsewhere, this trailer is being generated in realtime on Xbox 360 hardware. Nearly every Halo trailer ever done is done in the game's actual engine, but not every trailer (here I'm thinking of the X02 trailer or theatrical release trailer) was rendered in real time; that trailer was so high-resolution it had to be turned out frame by frame.
Q: Did you say real-time trailer?
A Yes. The trailer shown at E3 in 2006 was rendered in real-time using the in-game engine. All of the assets shown were running on an Xbox 360 debug kit and the trailer was built using the current engine and development tools. The development process continues and new graphics features may be added or changed at any time.
That last bit means that maybe the game won't look exactly like this, and maybe graphical features will come and go, but hopefully it means that the game will look pretty similar to what this trailer dishes out.
Of course, the Halo 2 announcement trailer was also realtime, but Halo 2 didn't exactly look like that. Not exactly.
Q: Does Halo 3 support Xbox Live?
A: Yes, Halo 3 supports all major features of Xbox Live although our game-specific features have not been announced at this time.
Here's the first mention that "no specific game features" are being announced.
However, I'll go out on a limb here and say there will be some facility in Halo 3 for allowing people to connect their Xbox 360s to each other and shoot each other with guns. Other objects, such as bombs, flags, and vehicles will likely also be present from time to time.
Q: What classic Halo features will be returning in Halo 3 ?
A: We have not announced any specific gameplay features at this time.
Now the doublespeak starts. The top of the FAQ says "featuring the classic gameplay you've come to expect from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2" and here they say "we have not announced any specific gameplay features".
Put those two answers together and they pretty much cancel each other out. So, it'll be like Halo and Halo 2 (despite the fact that those two games were pretty different, aside from being FPS games that feature cyborgs, marines and aliens) and feature "classic gameplay" features which shall remain nameless.
Feel certain you are going to shoot lots of things. All other bets are off.
Q: Does Halo 3 support HDTV resolutions like 720p or 1080i?
A: Halo 3 will support all of the Xbox 360's output resolutions, same as every other game.
It's worth noting here that it is rumored that MS will be relaxing the minimum resolution standards on the 360, and that Bungie doesn't actually commit to any particular resolution here.
I'll take a wild guess and say it'll support 720p.
The large QuickTime trailer is 1280 x 544. This is smaller than 720p, which is 1280 x 720 (hence the name).
As such, it might represent the aspect ratio Bungie intends to use for in-game cutscenes within Halo 3, whereas gameplay would fill the entire screen at 1280 x 720 for a ratio of 16:9, standard for most HDTVs.
Q: What is the plot of Halo 3?
A: The details of the plot have yet to be revealed. Suffice to say, the Chief has returned to Earth. The Covenant has uncovered a massive and ancient artifact under the African soil and Cortana is still trapped in the clutches of the Gravemind.
It seems Bungie has decided to confirm a few things right off the bat here but not do any coloring outside the lines.
I'll take a tremendous risk here and say the artifact uncovered on Earth by the Covenant, shown in the Halo 3 Announcement trailer, and bearing a striking resemblance to the Library exterior in Halo 2 as well as the interior of High Charity, is, in fact, the Ark spoken of by 343 Guilty Spark; as such, it is the artifact capable of triggering the network of Halo installations now that the Arbiter and Commander Keyes halted the activation of Delta Halo.
This answer, as well as the trailer itself, does put a bit of spin on the Cortana-Gravemind situation with the phrase "trapped in the clutches" as well as some of the uncharacteristic language used by Cortana in the trailer, which is loosely transcribed as the following:
I have defied gods and demons
I am your shield; I am your sword (source?)
I know you: your past, your future
This is the way the world ends
There's a bit of trailing sibilance when Cortana says the last word of the second line, and while "sword" seems the logical word there, the sound makes me think she is saying "swords" or possibly "source".
The first two lines are reminiscent of the Cortana from the Cortana letters, although still not quite so threatening. They also may indicate that Bungie is again borrowing from Marathon. For Cortana herself to have "defied gods and demons" makes little sense. Those words make a lot more sense coming from Gravemind, whom we already know has Cortana "in his clutches" so to speak. The gods referred to might be the Forerunners; demons might refer to the Covenant, humanity, or indeed to the Chief himself, as that is what the Arbiter calls him.
We might be seeing a fusion of Cortana and Gravemind going on, just as we saw a fusion between Durandal and the S'pht AI Thoth in Marathon.
It's worth noting that Cortana's voice seems purely and completely her own when she speaks the third and fourth lines, but that there is an effect overlaid on the first two lines, as if another voice is speaking, very much reminiscent of the way Gravemind's own voice seems composed of two separate voices speaking the same words.
The third line might indicate the time travel that was introduced into the Halo universe subtly with Guilty Spark's "the last time you asked me" remark from the Two Betrayals cutscene in Halo 1 and fleshed out as the effects of a strange Covenant artifact in the novel First Strike.
"This is the way the world ends" seems a fairly obvious reference to T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men" which contains the phrase "this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper". A wasteland seems like a fair way to describe the condition of the area the Master Chief is walking through during the trailer, and it seems clear that Bungie wants to imply the opposite of Eliot's meaning.
Q: What's new in Halo 3?
A: Beyond the continuing story and new graphics features, we have not yet revealed any details about the content of Halo 3.
See again the "no specific gameplay features" answer. Having been bitten by perhaps showing too much of Halo 2 too soon and being accused of misleading gamers, it seems Bungie is playing this one pretty close to the vest. The trailer is basically establishing firmly what most fans already knew or guessed (that Halo 3 takes place, at least in part, on Earth) and showing off the eye candy the new engine is capable of when running on the Xbox 360 hardware. Beyond that, we're not given much new to go on. The Banshees and cruisers we've seen before, and the only weapon we get to see the Chief hold appears to be an old-style Assault rifle from Halo 1 rather than any weapon from Halo 2 or a new weapon.
Then again, in the original game's cutscenes, the Master Chief was always shown holding an Assault Rifle, regardless of what weapon you were actually carrying at the time. It seems plausible to me that Bungie just didn't want to even start a discussion about weapons at this time, but still wanted to have one in the Chief's hands, so they put that one there. Of course, it might also mean that they're bringing that gun back, but it might not.
Q: Is this the last ever Halo game?
A: It is the conclusion to this story arc.
Again, more doublespeak. Do you really expect an answer to this now anyway? Bungie spent the last year and a half essentially trying not to answer a question that Microsoft's chairman was willing to spout off about with seemingly little provocation; with Halo 3's release at least another year and a half away, I doubt anybody is going to get a definitive answer about whether or not there will be a Halo 4, or a Halo MMO, or any of the other rumored Halo titles.
Bungie announces Halo 3, the third and final game in the Halo Trilogy.
So, what we're told is that this game "concludes this story arc" and is the "final game in the trilogy".
Of course, that doesn't answer the question "is this the last ever Halo game". So after this game comes out the same question will still pop up-- is Bungie going to do another Halo game or not, and if they don't, will someone else do it, or will Microsoft give the franchise a rest?
Q: Does Halo 3 support downloadable content?
A: We have not yet discussed those details.
I'll branch off a bit from the idea of commenting on the questions and answers and just say that the idea of episodic content over Xbox Live just always struck me as insanely cool, and with the emphasis that Bungie puts on story, I always thought they would be the ones to do it.
Alas, this seems to be coming to the PC side first as games like Half-Life and SiN go episodic and there's still no equivalent on Xbox Live.
If Halo 3 had been done earlier in the Xbox 360's lifecycle perhaps its engine could have been used as a platform for episodic content; but if it comes out in November 2007, then the Xbox 360 will already be two years old by the time it hits, with about another 3 years left before it is replaced.
That still might be plenty of time to publish some compelling episodic content. However, frankly I think that to date Bungie's creative processes on the story and art creation side are still too closely woven into the side that produces the rendering engine and creation tools to be effective at making episodic content.
I'd love to be proven wrong there.
Q: What was that crazy huge dome buried under Earth?
A: We're not saying, but Halo fans may recognize something about its design.
Bungie is being a tease.
Let's call a spade a spade. It's the Ark. And yes, it does look similar both to the interior of High Charity and to the exterior of the Library on Delta Halo. It probably also looks similar to the exterior of the Library on Installation 04, but we don't know that for sure since we never saw it.
Q: I noticed the Master Chief's armor was scraped and damaged, what happened to him?
A: Lots of things.
See Halo 1 and 2 for reference.
It's also possible that, as with the gap between Halo 1 and Halo 2, that there might be some action in the interim between Halo 2 and Halo 3 that is not playable.
Q: I also noticed Master Chief's gloves had changed. Does that mean it's Mjolnir Mark VII?
A: We haven't revealed that yet . Don't jump to any conclusions.
It could be new armor. Or it could just be that artists, like engineers, love to change things.
Don't jump to conclusions.
Q: Which characters will be returning in Halo 3?
A: Well as you can see from the trailer, at a minimum, we'll see the Chief and Cortana in some shape or form. And I believe Banshee pilots...
You shouldn't believe Banshee pilots, they're notorious braggarts. Besides that, these Banshees don't seem to have pilots.
Of course, as pointed out in the announcement, Cortana is still back on High Charity with Gravemind while the Chief is at least going to spend sometime gallivanting around on Earth and, presumably, through the depths of the underground artifact shown in the announcement trailer.
The superimposition of Cortana's image and voice over the trailer suggests the possibility of the Cheif receiving transmissions from her during the course of the game. Certainly, if she remains incommunicado the entire time it would scarcely seem like a Halo game.
During Halo 1, when the Chief was remote from Cortana he didn't hear her at all (as in 343 Guilty Spark and The Library).
During Halo 2, when Cortana was resident in High Charity's systems, she appeared to the Chief and spoke to him only through periodic holographic terminals.
One may be given to wonder, if Cortana has the facility to transmit remotely to the Chief's suit during Halo 3, why she didn't use that capability earlier; however that might be easily explained away as a capability offered her by the systems of High Charity which she did not have access to earlier.
Q: What about the Music in Halo 3?
A: The same team responsible for Halo's award winning music and sound design are working on Halo 3.
Which means, of course, Marty O'Donnell and Mike Salvatori.
Q: What's up with all the trumpets?
A: Could it be triumph? Or a musical exclamation point to signal a finale? It could be all kinds of things, but Marty is really outdoing himself this time.
Q: What about the Covenant civil war? Are Elites our friends now?
A: That's plot. Unless you see something in a new trailer, or spot a clue, you're not going to get any plot until the game ships. That's how we roll. You'll just have to play and see.
The "that's how we roll" reference is included there so we know Frankie is still working.
This is, of course, one of The Big Questions. We don't know what forces are in control of the cruisers and Banshees we see overflying Earth; whether they are unified Covenant forces, unaware of the events near the end of Halo 2 or perhaps somehow placated by the Prophet of Truth, or perhaps only those forces still loyal to him, at last count, Brutes, Jackals, and Drones.
The eventual answer to this question may be tied up in the answer to the next one.
Q: Will the Arbiter be back?
A: See above.
Bungie was careful never to pit the player, as the Arbiter, against human forces. That was fine when the venue for play was a distant space station and a new Halo installation. But on Earth, that's going to be difficult unless the answer to the previous question is "yes".
If Bungie does shift the alliances of the various Covenant races permanently, then the Arbiter can find a way to reach the Earth and fight alongisde humans against the Covenant forces loyal to Truth and/or the Flood, should they reach Earth as well.
If Bungie does not go that way, then it seems either the Arbiter would be dropped as a character, or else his action would have to take place once again away from human forces, against Covenant or Flood units only.
Bungie may be declining to answer here because they don't want to reveal whether or not the Arbiter will be back; or Bungie may not even have made this decision itself. If one oversimplifies the process, one can imagine that Halo 3 is coming out in late 2007, and that the game is roughly half done at this point. Bungie may have made half a game worth of Master Chief levels without even deciding whether to put the Arbiter in or not; they can then either do another batch of Chief levels if they leave him out, or put in some Arbiter levels.
However, I don't think Bungie introducted the Arbiter character in Halo 2 lightly. Those Arbiter levels revealed a lot about the Covenant and a lot of the plotline. I'd be willing to guess at this point that Bungie already knows whether or not the Arbiter will return, but they just aren't saying.
Q: I spotted an Easter Egg in the trailer after I watched it a few times. How do you explain that?
A: The New Mombasa City Council had an incredibly efficient public works department until and even during the tragic and devastating Covenant invasion.
I assume this means the sign visible at the very start of the trailer that seems to show a Grunt walking; since the implication here is that as they did on other human colonies, that the Covenant are searching for a buried artifact on Earth and have found it.