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The game was revealed to the world at the Microsoft press conference at Grauman's Chinese Theater, in Hollywood, CA. By the time you read this, the announcement trailer should be available for download on and directly to your Xbox 360, in full HD glory from Xbox Live Marketplace. Read no further if you want to avoid spoilers.

Nobody saw it coming. Halo 3! Who knew? For the last year or two, people have speculated about what our next project was and surprisingly, in all that time, not a single person guessed that it would be Halo 3. Not one.

We declare it the best kept secret ever.

Seriously though, it's been a chore biting our tongues on this one. Call it a combination of studio secrecy, corporate secrecy, Bill Gates already announcing it four times and, you know, whatever.We won't ruin the content of our short presentation by describing it frame by frame, but we will note that everything you're seeing here is being rendered in real-time on the Xbox 360, using the current version of our Halo 3 game engine. The HDR lighting, self-shadowing, GPU-run particle system and many other effects should make it intact (and more) to our final game."The trailer was built to have minimum impact on the development process"

We demonstrated the real-time nature of the demo after the press conference (thanks to our friends at Pioneer with awesome audio-video assistance) to a small group of reporters, so we'll wait and see what their judgment on the presentation was, but you should feel free to make your own.

The trailer was built to have minimum impact on the development process, and while it required long hours and hard work from many, many Bungie staffers, it utilizes real-game assets, fiction and locations from parts of the "real" game.

In fact, it's the stuff it doesn't contain that gives it a strange kind of context. You can see how detailed the Chief is, but that detail applies to our other, unseen, unrevealed characters, vehicles, environment and so on. There's no AI visible in the demo, no multiplayer, and the entire thing has been left deliberately subdued both to give scale to the artifact and because this is our announcement. The real stuff will come later.

Fans of Halo fiction will be able to guess at a vast array of possibilities, even from this short piece, and discuss them in our newly launched Halo 3 Forum. For those new to the series, we'll make every effort to bring you up to speed on the story in forthcoming updates. We'll also be resurrecting the true purpose of the Update-proper - a weekly diary on the progress of the game that has been stymied recently, by the absence of (reveal-able) information.

Of course the trailer itself is a teaser - with no multiplayer, a single Earth-based locale, none of our sweet new AI or gameplay technologies. No physics to speak of, no new features other than a sneak peek at the graphics and audio engines…but the other stuff is there, and we'll reveal more as time goes on."Cortana and the Chief being a galaxy apart is a situation we haven't seen before"

CJ Cowan, Bungie's director of cinematics discussed one of the most startling moments in the piece, the return of Cortana, "Given the variety of character and story arcs at the end of Halo 2, we wanted to boil down our announcement to a few key threads. Cortana and the Chief being a galaxy apart is a situation we haven't seen before, and is something that is a powerful component to Halo 3. We are using her transmissions in the demo to give the viewer a few subtle clues to her situation and state of mind, without revealing any specifics we want to save for the game itself."

The Cortana reveal is the first evidence that this trailer might be for Halo 3, but the game's main protagonist is the item that seals that deal. CJ explains, "It is the Chief, back on a devastated and Covenant controlled Earth, standing over the excavation of a structure buried in the crust of our own planet that is the meat of our demo."

"The questions raised by these images, and the feeling that our assumptions about the Halo universe are being challenged this late in the story is what I am personally most excited about leaving with our fans. That's the type of thing that builds anticipation even more for the payoff to this trilogy we are preparing."

CJ's long nights are far from over. Cinematics are going to be as vital a part of Halo 3 as they were in Halo 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved. As before, they will use the game engine to keep the player feeling like a part of the action.

"There is a glorious, ancient artifact buried under the Earth’s crust "

Graphically, the game follows closely in the tradition of Halo 2, although obviously upgraded to take advantage of the Xbox 360's more prodigious visual abilities. As art director Marcus Lehto explains, "It was intended to be an understated announce of Halo 3 - the tone is that of mystery and suspense – the calm before the storm. I wanted to make sure that we re-introduced the Chief, show that Earth is thoroughly conquered, with Covenant everywhere, and that there is a glorious, ancient artifact buried under the Earth’s crust which will provide H3 with the epic journey which we all want."

Asked about the battered state of the Chief's armor, Marcus ventured, "The Chief is shown as warrior who has seen horrific battle – and it shows. The Earth is dry, barren, ravaged by the Covenant." Grim stuff, but then things were grim at the end of Halo 2 when we left the Chief and the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance. A cliffhanger about which we received over twenty emails... cough.Marty O'Donnell's music will no doubt be heard over and over again. We can relate. The Studio has been thundering with the brass and bass of the trailer music for weeks. Marty hired a 60 piece orchestra and a 24 piece choir to record the trailer music. "I want the viewer to have a feeling of anticipation and wonder for the first fifty seconds or so, up until Master Chief is revealed and they realize that it’s Cortana trying to tell them something," he says.Marty's music was designed from the ground up to lull the listener into a sense of doubt, then wonder. "I want them to feel pride and longing the moment Master Chief walks out of the smoke," says Marty. "I want them to get excited and perhaps even froth at the mouth when they see the Covenant Capital ship and then the incredible buried artifact. I want them to be left with that, 'I can hardly wait to play this game' feeling by the end with a slight, 'I wonder what she meant by that' aftertaste."

"I want there to be no doubt in anyone’s mind when it is the right moment to applaud and scream. I hope they do, anyway."

As to the unmistakable new trumpety note, Marty is perfectly blunt. "The first time the world sees this trailer is at a live Microsoft press event in the Chinese Theater in LA. It is the first time we announce officially that Bungie is making Halo 3. My thought is that since it is an announcement event that is full of pomp and gravity, music will contain a fanfare and be somewhat over the top. I want there to be no doubt in anyone’s mind when it is the right moment to applaud and scream. I hope they do, anyway."

And we hope you enjoy it too. We'll keep you posted on more developments as the game progresses and look forward to more Halo 3 related goodies in the near future.

Your pals,

Bungie Studios.

PS., Make sure you check out the new Screenshot Gallery, Storyboards, Wallpapers, FAQ, About Page and of course, the forum!