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Creepy. Now when I ask people what they're up to this week, they're like, "finishing this" or "completing that." Nobody is actually starting anything. Which is both exciting and frightening. Although it's five months 'til the game is on shelves, it's only three or four months 'til we're complete. Scary! So naturally, everyone's swamped. Here's the deal this week:
We never talk to the marketing guys, because all they do is drive around in black Porsches, buying martini lunches with their expense accounts, while their Armani suits are tailored and cleaned of weird white powdery residue. That said, without the sharks, there'd be no mystery in the deep blue ocean of Halo 2 development, not to mention metal boxes, TV campaigns, magazine ads, cool storefront displays ? in short just about everything related to getting Halo 2 in your face and into your Xbox. So we asked Cam Payne (seriously, that's his name) what's been going down in the world of mktg., for short. This is what he said:
"Do you consider lots of meetings and hundreds of e-mails as something cool? Mainly this week was a lot of the day-to-day stuff for a game coming out in five months: Coordinating with agencies, reviewing advertising and POP (Point of Purchase) creative, planning and generating assets, working out the details of specific PR (Public Relations) tactics coordinating with the dozens of subsidiaries (countries that is) across the world that will market and sell Halo 2, and so on and so on
I do get to fly down to LA today for a Friday night meeting with Joe, Marty and one of our agencies. A quick 15 hour trip, as I come back tomorrow morning at 6:30 am to go see the Dora the Explorer (hyperviolent Japanese anime) show in Seattle with my kids (elite squad of Ninja assassins).
In order to save time, effort and transportation costs, I?m staying tonight in the same hotel where Marty and Joe are staying. Well, you know Marty and his need to be well pampered and taken care of?this means I get to stay in a nice fancy place where every room is a suite that?s bigger than my last apartment. In fact, I mentioned I was traveling with Marty when making the reservation and they called back and wanted to know if I wanted the peeled grapes and hand massages when I arrived or Saturday morning."
Dave Dunn didn't have much to say, but what he had to say was tremendously important. The environments and the geometry are done. That is to say, there is a building, a door, a wall and a floor everywhere it's supposed to be, you can run through the entire game without finding any gaps, and now he and the guys have moved on to polishing. They'll be tweaking textures, futzing with lightmaps and tweaking things here and there, but now they're on a different type of schedule.
The geometry and environments guys have been pretty much left to their own devices for a long time, but now they'll have a lot more to-ing and fro-ing with the designers as they tweak bits of environment to suit gameplay requirements. Dave says that while it may seem like they're cutting it close; this is a lot further ahead than it was on the first game, by comparison and with a whole heck of a lot more environments!
Adrian "Cuban" Perez describes his week: "This week I?ve done a bunch of stuff, some might be more interesting to the outside world than others?"
* The damage handling code now pushes around the cause of the damage (i.e. what weapon it came from, what vehicle you were hit by, which sniping weapon you were just headshot with). This is something we?ve been meaning to do for a while, now enough people at the end of the damage code pipeline (multiplayer messages, stats) want to know said info that we?ve taken care of feeding them.
* I made a few changes to the lightmapper that will let the artists iterate their lighting faster. The fact that the lightmapper is much faster than the Halo 1 lightmapper is irrelevant since the artists have made much more detailed geometry with much higher res lightmaps, completely nullifying any speed advantage and making the iteration times just as long. The kinds of spaces that the artists are lighting are so different than what we were trying to do in halo 1 that I?ve had a hard time making the lightmapper keep up with them.
* I did a couple of small changes to the weapon/damage code to handle a bad guy too nuts for the existing systems. Nuts in the sense that he has CENSORED where death comes out of and two separate CENSORED. Oh yeah and he?s big and mean, kind of like a Tyrannosaurus.
* The new HUD is in and working well enough to do all of the new weapon huds. We?ve been arguing back and forth a lot over the best way to integrate dual-wielding into the HUD; I think the system we have is supasweet and will be both discoverable and useful, kind of like a Tyrannosaurus.
John Butkus explains this week's bizniss: "Nothing too exciting this week?mostly miscellaneous bug fixing and making sure that the elite and marine work as vehicle passengers with all weapons and that their hands are properly locked on the warthog and scorpion hand rails. I know. Fascinating.
I also animated the first-person CENSORED (both single and dual shot), so that should be in the game and working now?it looks pretty cool, but it?s definitely a lot weaker than CENSORED and it has CENSORED now, so people are probably going to CENSORED and CENSORED. Oh well, all?s fair in the cruel world of gameplay balance."
Rival Canadian Nathan Walpole gives another Cananimator view: "Not much has gone on this week that differs from the regular attachment of animation excitement. All of us are still working hard and resisting the urge to bust home early to play Full Spectrum Warrior. We do have some current news to report. Two new animators are coming on board to help us bring the fans some incredible motion. We have a mercenary animator on loan for 2 months from a sister Microsoft studio, FASA (By the way, thanks for sharing your peeps with us - feel free to make a giant Robot in Mechassault that looks like a Grunt...). He will be helping us pound out some riveting storytelling in our cinematics. We also have a new contract junior animator starting out next week that will be helping make the in-game animation tighter than a walrus? butt hole. Oh, and the FASA mercenary happens to be Canadian too, so 50% of the animation in Halo 2 will remain Canadian made. Go Canada. Go Halo 2!"
Max is typically reserved this week as he gives a hint of what to expect from Halo 2 on Xbox Live. I know specifically what he's talking about though, so I can tell you he's understating its coolness!
"Not a very exciting week for those on the outside, but I'm incredibly psyched. For the past several weeks we've been reviewing all of our UI and Xbox Live plans. This is the hard part, polishing the design and solidifying the final specs. Should have happened sooner, but we've always known we were on to something cool, and now I'm even more certain that Halo 2 on Xbox Live is going to be incredible. I'm mainly referring to the whole LAN party over the Internet experience, or as we sometimes refer to it the Halo 2 "virtual couch". It's going to take some getting used to because we're doing things that have never been done before. But once people are used to it I'm confident everything else will seem broken."
Chris Butcher, watching over all manner of programmy shenanigans lets us know what code craziness went down:
Luke Timmins has voice communication working in game for real, and has done some very neat stuff with player CENSORED and team voice stuff.
Bart is busy doing automated take home networking tests, it?s cool, we all take the boxes home and plug them into our networks and they just play games over and over all night, silently recording the results to our data mine server (unless they crash or get stuck).
Chucky and Ben went to a technology conference yesterday, which should be important for future Bungie games.
Cuban did the damage type reporting so the game engine can have different messages appear for Melee kills vs. Sniper kills vs. Needler kills, plus we track them as separate stats which is cool.
Jason Major is back from paternity leave and immediately did some cool distortion particle FX.
And to finish, here's a pic of an early Spartan technology: