Halo PC Fanstock Writeup

When Microsoft offered me a chance to get close and personal with Gearbox and Halo PC, there was no way in hell I could turn the opportunity down. This being my first PR event that wasn't a convention, I had no idea what to expect.

There was no expecting this event.

Even as I write this, I'm still feeling the rush of information. I feel incredibly priviledged to have been given the opportunity to participate in something so important to the fanbase. Part of what made this trip so exciting was that, while those of us attending were happy to meet Gearbox, Microsoft and Gearbox treated us like we were the stars. Allow me to explain:

Day 1- Arrival

The trip began was a pleasant three and a half hour flight from San Jose, California to Dallas, Texas. A limo driver (I suppose some might call it a towncar?) waited for me outside, a sign with my name on it. During the smooth, air conditioned ride into Plano, I thought to myself "Gee, Microsoft treats its guests very well." This was to become my mantra.
When I arrived at the hotel, nobody was in the lobby to greet me, so I checked myself in and went up to my room. Being as I was only in town for one night, I carried with me only a backpack, so moving into my temporary home was not much of an issue. After spending some time enjoying the view, I headed back down to the lobby to see if I could find someone.

The Lobby had the same crowds as before, so I picked myself a spot where I could watch listen to people while staring at the hotel's chandelier. Sure enough, I eventually heard the keyword "Gearbox," and so I went up and introduced myself to who turned out to be one of the PR people for Microsoft. He explained to me that the plan was to meet later that evening in the lobby and head out as a group for dinner.
A view of Plano, 15 stories up.

An hour of discovery channel later, I return to the lobby once again, to find a group of guys talking games. These had to be my guys. I went up to them and listened in to the conversation for a bit, before someone walked up and said "Shishka?" That someone was Dolbex, of halo50k fame. Elated that someone recognized me, I began the introduction procedure with the rest of the group. Aside from Dolbex, there was also Dark Helmet, Halo trickster extraordinaire, Jjaro, who runs forerunners.org, Tycho of unrealops.com, and Firestorm, a guy who won a contest at IGN and was able to join us. A short while later, Claude Errera, aka Louis Wu of halo.bungie.org arrived, and we set off for dinner.

Day 1- Dinner

Randy Pitchford's wife Christie welcomes us to their home.

Randy talks about Halo co-op. (From left to right: Dolbex, Claude, Steve, Firestorm, Dark Helmet, John (of AEG), Randy, Tycho)
Now, it was only shortly before the final arrangements for my trip to Texas were made that I learned that the dinner planned for the first night was not to be at a restaurant, but Randy Pitchford's house! I was totally thrilled. This is the geek approximation of how old people feel when visiting the houses of stars. Sure enough, Randy has a beautiful house, inside and out. A brief tour ends in the kitchen, where we introduce ourselves a little more formally, and chat a bit while we wait for dinner. Naturally, discussion went directly to Halo PC.

Randy is very proud to get the opportunity to make the PC version of Halo. He expressed the great pride Gearbox is taking in making the conversion from Halo for XBox. Randy loves Halo just as much as the rest of us, and it was very clear that he was passionate about the work he was doing.

We discussed briefly the situation with co-op in Halo PC. With the launch of Halo PC, co-op will be the only original feature excluded from the game. However, Randy is adamant that Gearbox is going to do their damndest to get co-op working properly. They fully understand the element co-op adds to the game, and do not have any intention of allowing cooperative play to fall by the wayside. However, it is no easy task, so no official date can be given for when to expect co-op to be made available.

Speaking of release dates, Randy confirmed that Halo PC will be released in September. He was unable to give a specific date, but pointed out that Microsoft will be making a press release soon that may have an official date attached to it. The unofficial date discussed was the 21st, but that date is definitely subject to change.

Dinner was announced as ready, so everyone dug in and moved to the dining room. Dinner was fantastic- Randy has a very talented chef, and he made a superb meal. During dinner, we discussed gaming as an industry. Randy, who has such projects under his belt as Duke Nukem 3D and Half-Life:Opposing Force, has literally seen the evolution of the gaming industry first hand. He talked about some of the biggest names in gaming in a way only someone who knows the people personally can.

Randy also discussed his journey through the industry, from working for 3d Realms, to working for Rebel Boat Rocker, up to the projects completed by his own company, Gearbox Software. Like stories about climbing up through any other industry, there was a lot of politics involved. All the same, it was very interesting to hear about the growth of the industry from someone who's been involved in most of that growth.

Eventually, conversation turned back to Halo and its up and coming re-release for the PC. Randy, being a gamer at heart, was quick to point out that part of the reason Gearbox is enjoying working on Halo PC so much is that the original Halo was so awesome itself. They're getting the chance to do what I'm sure everyone has dreamed of- add things to the game that weren't there in the final release for XBox. And these aren't just simple tweaks, either. Six entirely new multiplayer maps (more about those later), two weapons reborn, (more about those later as well), a new warthog (more on that later), and the introduction of the Banshee and the Shade to multiplayer as well (more on, well, you got the idea). And these aren't quick hack jobs, either. Gearbox has gone all out to make their expansion onto Halo feel as natural as possible. Everything from the additions to the interface to the new maps carry that aesthetic created by Halo XBox.

Dinner was fantastic.

A bunch of gamers, discussing games and gaming at the dinner table. (L to R: Randy, Firestorm, John, Dark Helmet, Claude, and Tycho.)

After talking about Halo, we were all in the mood to play some Halo! We didn't get to see Halo PC until the next day, though, so instead we turned on the good ole XBox. However, we didn't play in Randy's TV room. No, the 64 inch television was abandoned that night in favor of the 128 projection screen in Randy's theater room. The room's walls were painted black and the whole room had an ambient lighting that really gave the room the feeling of actually being a theater. Of course, the 7.1 dolby surround sound system made from top of the line speakers did have a fair effect on the "theater feeling" as well.

We played various modes of battle, starting with a mode Claude set up real quick, which gave us all invisibility, shotguns, and no shields. We also played some of the pre-made modes, and basically just played around a lot. Randy played surprisingly well for someone who hadn't touched the XBox version in months. He would randomly pause for a moment, though, when he had to remind himself "Why is this different?"

We continued to play, but once Claude was tired of calling me names for shooting him in the head, he switched over to his laptop to show Randy and Tycho some of the recorded tricks we had been discussing. The hbo regulars of the group were curious to know if some of these tricks were still possible. Since Randy hadn't actually seen the tricks done before, he wasn't sure. So, while Claude loaded up a couple of Dark Helmet's recent vids, Dark Helmet and I worked at getting to the top of Halo. Judging from Randy's reaction, most of tricks are still in. When we asked him specifically if warthog jumping was still possible, he looked as us, shocked that we'd even suggest that Gearbox would remove that, and said "Are you kidding me?" Warthog jumping is here to stay!

See? It even looks like a movie theater.

Dark Helmet shows Randy what it's like to drive around on a skybox. (Steve's Leg, John, Dark Helmet, Randy, Tycho)

Claude steps up to join the fray. (Tycho, Claude, Firestorm, Dolbex, Randy)

More multiplayer fun. (Firestorm, Claude, Dark Helmet, Dolbex, Steve, Randy)

We were having fun, but the ride home inevitably arrived, and so we wished Randy and his family a good night, and went home. We were all stuffed from the fantastic dinner we had, and some of us had done more traveling than others. All the same, we were (relatively) energetic. We now knew personally how strongly Randy feels about the Halo PC project, and that the game was just in the hands of a good development team, but in the hands of fellow gamers, who knew what people wanted to see, because they wanted to see it done as well. We returned to the hotel, and went to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

Day 2- To Gearbox!

The next morning, I cleaned up what little mess I had time to make, made sure I had all my things, and went down to the lobby. Since everything was on Microsoft's tab, checking out was a matter of returning my key. Once the rest of the group had checked out, we had a seat and chatted while we waited for our ride to show up. It didn't take long before the limousine rolled up. We packed all of our things into the back, and climbed in. My mantra about Microsoft was echoing in my head.

The ride to Gearbox's office was spent discussing what we enjoy about first person shooters. Tycho, who was the only person who comes from a completely non-halo related website, had just been visiting with Epic just before he came to join us in Texas, and had been given an up close and personal look at Unreal Tournament 2004. It sounds like the next few months are going to be great for gamers.
Microsoft treats its guests very well.

We arrived at Gearbox, and were led past the wall of awards and achievements, through the halls with posters of Gearbox's work, and filed into the kitchen, to chat while the rest of the people participating in the fanstock arrived. Much to our surprise, the gentlemen from Red Vs Blue had traveled the three hour drive from QuakeCon just to check things out. Bungie's studio manager Pete Parsons was there as well, to give us a little surprise, later. Once everyone was gathered, and had been feed, we moved onwards into the conference room, where five machines were set up with Halo PC. One of them was actually controlled from a wireless keyboard and mouse at the conference room table, and its picture was projected onto a screen on the wall. I believe Gearbox shares my undying love for gigantic video screens.

The building Gearbox calls home.

RVB makes a surprise appearance to the Fanstock!

Pete Parsons shows up to hang out for a bit.

Gearbox has style.
The Question and Answer Game

Randy went right into discussing Halo PC once everyone is situated. As Brian Martel played on the main screen, Randy pointed out that he was, in fact, flying a banshee in multiplayer. In Blood Gulch, no less. The flamethrower was picked up, and we got to see its beautiful flame effect in action. But it wasn't enough just to see Halo PC- we spent the rest of the day playing it! A dedicated server was set up in one of the other offices, and everyone took turns at the computers. The following is what I learned, either through asking, or through playing.

First off, it is important to note that Halo PC's improved graphics are exactly that- a huge improvement on the graphics of its predecessor. Everything is clean and crisp, and bumpmapped. The shader system has been entirely rewritten, and it shows in every part of the game.

The speed of the new game cannot be denied. Randy pointed out that the Halo "loading" screen that we've become acustomed to in the XBox version has been removed, "because it was too slow." To demonstrate, Gearbox loaded up (the level) Halo, and then, through a console, changed levels to the Silent Cartographer. The only reason the level change took three seconds was because it took three seconds to remember to exit the console so the game will go to the next level. The level loading is nearly instantaneous.

Many XBox gamers, unfamiliar with the mouse and keyboard gaming technique the computer gamers have come to live by will be happy to know that Gearbox has included full joystick support into the game. When I say full, I mean full: It is fully possible to have an XBox controller for controlling the Chief, a joystick for your banshee, and a steering wheel for your warthog. However, Randy warned that using the XBox controller for Halo PC will not be like Halo XBox, and people may find it uncomfortable. He suggested that this was because the autoaim which Bungie had added to Halo that helped players control their combat has been removed, so combat will feel much different with an XBox control.

The single player campaign was untouched; suffice to say that it is much prettier than before. The new shaders give everything a wonderful, finished look, and it's really impressive to see the new touches in action. The only addition that has been made to Halo single player is the "Save Last Checkpoint," option, which allows you to save checkpoints to a list, which you can go back to at any time by choosing to "load checkpoint."

Multiplayer is a much different beast.

Everyone files into the conference room.

Level designer David Mertz hangs out with the group.

Hey look! A Banshee, a flamethrower, Blood Gulch, and not a single modded XBox in sight!

Flying the banshee is a dream when controlled with the mouse.

Multiplayer- Setup

Gearbox has added to Halo's user interface to allow for more customization. The profile system is still in effect, but has been slightly modified. The multiplayer options for hosts are impressive: Hosts have the option to set how many of each vehicle appear around each team's base (a maximum of four per vehicle on each side), a timelimit for each game (if kill limit or capture limit can't be reached within a reasonable amount of time), and a score of other options round out the new look to the edit and create gametypes menus. While the new menus are certainly different from Halo XBox's menus, Gearbox took great care in making their menus match the design of the old menus, and they pulled it off with 100% success.

The interface for the player has changed a little as well. The change is small and cosmetic- a team indicator to show you whose side you are on. In the case of team slayer, an icon of master chief is in the upper right corner, to the left of your health and shield indicators. His color in that icon represents your team color. In CTF, the icon is a flag, and in king of the hill, the icon is the same as the one you see when you choose to play a KoTH gametype. Those that were displeased with the icon they saw at the E3 demonstration of the game need not worry- the icons have been updated from their prototypes, and look great, now.

Those interested in hosting Halo PC servers will be happy to know that Gearbox will be making the dedicated server software a free download from their website the day Halo PC is released. The server has all the options you'd expect for a PC game server. Changes can be made to the games in progress by entering commands into the command line. Rowdy players can be kicked, or even banned. The host is able to not only have different maps in their rotation, but they're able to assign a different gametype to each map in rotation as well. For example, we played capture the flag on blood gulch, then king of the hill on Timberland, then CTF Assault in Icefields. The server offers a lot of flexibility so that the host can keep the gamers entertained.

Multiplayer- New Weapons

Two new weapons have been added to the Halo multiplayer experience: The Fuel Rod Gun, and the Flamethrower. Both guns are unique and have balances to make them fit in very well with the overall gameplay. I got some special time with both of the new weapons and the following are my thoughts on them.

I had shot the Fuel Rod Gun before, at E3. Gearbox pinned the balance on this weapon perfectly. The Fuel Rod Gun fires the high energy plasma blasts the Hunters are known for, the same shot that is your secondary fire when flying a Banshee. However, unlike the Banshee, you have a high rate of fire, practically almost as quick as you can click the mouse. However, if you do fire too fast, the weapon will overheat, and you'll have to wait for the temperature to drop before you can begin firing again. Further, the faster you fire, the more wildly inaccurate the gun becomes. The FRG's plasma blast has a strong arc to it, making it an excellant mortar cannon. To test this, I climbed up one of the ridges in Blood Gulch during a CTF game, aimed into the skies above my opponent's base, and fired away. A few seconds later, the grounds around the base were rocked with a series of green blasts. Watching the other team scramble because it was raining plasma and there were no banshee's in sight was a gratifying experience.

The flamethrower is a devastating weapon. I've heard the thoughts of people concerned that a flamethrower would be weak and worthless. Let me tell you, nothing says "backpedal" like the stream of fire from this weapon. The flamethrower has a range of roughly 10 to 15 feet. It has a heat level, similar to the covenant weapons, so you cannot just run around torching everything until your weapon is out of fuel without taking a moment to let the gun cool down. To be caught in the flames is to know pain, as the flamethrower destroys shields and health with extreme efficiency. And even if you do escape the stream of flame, once you're caught in it, you're on fire, and will continue to burn until the flame puts itself out. So, you can die even if you've escaped the flamethrower. To top it off, players can ignite dead bodies. So, imagine collecting bodies in your base in blood gulch, and turning the flamethrower on them as an enemy approaches...

Dolbex at one point pointed out in Timberland that if the flames lick water, the effect is steam. A no-brainer, you'd think, but it shows that Gearbox is really paying attention to all the details.

Multiplayer- New Vehicles

The Fuel Rod Gun and the Flamethrower aren't the only new weapons in the player's arsenal. Gearbox has also included two vehicles from the single player campaign and a modified warthog to the battle. All the new vehicles have an interesting place in Halo PC, and are a lot of fun to use.

The Shade- The turret from Halo's single player campaign has made its entry into the multiplayer universe. Unlike the single player version, though, the multiplayer Shade is fixed in its position. As such, you cannot use a rocket to even tip it over. The reason for this was that it was found that people in the beta test were smacking the shades into their bases and using them as an armed blockade. Even if you killed the person sitting in the chair, you had to push the shade out of the way to infiltrate the enemy base, which meant valuable time was wasted, and you were most likely caught with your opponents respawned.

While the fixed position feels strange, the shade is still everything you'd want in an anti-aircraft weapon. It's an excellent choice in taking out the occasional player passing by on foot as well. Maps that have shades have them in strategic positions that give players a pretty clear shot. However, opponents have a clear shot at you, so you have to remain careful.

The Banshee- Yes, everyone's dream, the Banshee in multiplayer, has become reality! The Banshee flies very smoothly with a mouse and keyboard control scheme, and is a lot of fun to fly. As with the single player campaign, the Banshee's mainfire is a rapid fire plasma shot, while the alternate fire is the fuel rod gun blast. Expect that if you're in a banshee, your opponents attention will certainly turn to getting you out of it. Like the rest of the multiplayer vehicles, the Banshee is indestructable, so it is possible to shoot down someone flying around, and jump in the Banshee after it drops to the ground.

While the new multiplayer levels Gearbox is providing were designed with vehicles like the Banshee in mind, the original levels such as Blood Gulch and Sidewinder weren't. To keep the player from flying up and out of the map, an invisible barrier was retrofitted into the old maps (the ones that allow banshee's, at least), so that the player cannot fly up above the top of the level geometry. However, this barrier applies only to the Banshee. Intrepid players will still find a way to work themselves up on top of the rock tower in Blood Gulch. Because of this Banshee barrier, banshees in sidewinder fly relatively low. Randy explained that this was unfortunate, but there was nothing they could do without actually tweaking the level itself.

The Rocket Launcher Warthog- The only "new" vehicle added to Halo, the RL Warthog (or, the RocketHog, as I like to call it), drives exactly like the original warthog. The only difference is that the LAAG has been replaced with a rocket launcher that can fire three shots fairly rapidly before needing to reload. The RocketHog is great fun, as it has all the flipping and launching capability of the regular rocket launcher. In one CTF game, the enemy trying to capture our flag resulted in a car chase across blood gulch, before we finally placed a rocket underneath their rear end, sending the driver and the flag-carrying passenger flying. Another rocket and we were able to return our flag safely. Gearbox has pointed out that they have had some fantastic warthog launching fun using the rockets to keep the warthog in the air. "Warthog volleyball" was discussed, but we never actually tried it.

In the build I played at the Fanstock, the RL hog's texture was fairly similar to the regular 'Hog, so it was kind of hard to judge which kind of 'Hog you were approaching until you were pretty close to it. To deal with this, the RocketHog is being given a black paint job. I had taken pictures, but I figure that the inevitable release of screenshots will be better than some pictures of the big screen from ten feet away in the dark. Let me just say: Yes, it is sexy.

How many times have you been playing a multiplayer game in Blood Gulch or Sidewinder and some jerk (or jerks) on the other side stuff as many vehicles as they can into their base so you can't reach the flag? Or how about the number of times people have simple stashed the vehicles away so people can't play with them anymore, without some chore of a hike up to them? Gearbox has heard your frustrated screams, and has added a vehicle respawn timer into Halo PC. The time is set by the host. If, within the alloted period of time, nobody climbs into a vehicle, the vehicle is instantly zapped back to its spawning point. This way, no vehicle is neglected for very long. Server admins will want to find the happy medium for the respawn time: Too long and the respawn timer is pointless, too short and players will find themselves without a vehicle when they try to escape the enemy base with a flag. I noticed two minutes seemed perfect.

Multiplayer- New Levels

Gearbox has added six entirely original levels to the multiplayer experience. Each level is designed with vehicle play in mind. High ceilings and outdoor environments make for great dog fights, car chases, and tank battles. As with the original levels, the new levels are gorgeous and chock full of amazingly beautiful detail. While the levels can be played in any way you want, some are designed with specific game modes in mind. Here is information about all six new levels.

Timberland- Timberland was one of the first of the new levels displayed for the public. The level is relatively small in size, and is full of hilly terrain and trees. There is a base at each end for ctf style games, which are close enough that players can peer into the other players base with the aide of a sniper rifle. However, due to the terrain, players cannot stalk the entry to the enemy base from the safety of their own base. I beautiful stream runs through the level, which, in moments of calm, sounds like what you'd expect to hear while in the mountains. You won't notice the birds chirping in the tree you passed when you're fleeing the flamethrower, though. The babbling stream your standing is mute when you see a warthog flying over a hill, straight at you. In fact, take too long to enjoy the beauty of the map and an invisible player will enjoy nailing you in the back of the head.

Combat in Timberland is swift and strategic as the terrain can be used for or against you. Moving amonst the trees and taking the shape of the terrain into account can help you sneak up on unsuspecting enemies.

Gephyrophobia- Another map that made its debut at E32k3, Gephyrophobia ("Fear of Bridges") is a dog fighter's paradise. the map consists of two bases, with a multi-level bridge between them, spanning foggy chasm. The level is roughly as wide as the area of the Assault on the Control Room pyramid in the single player campaign, and perhaps not quite as long. The high ceiling above the bridge allows for some fantastic banshee flying. Gearbox showed us some tricks they've developed on the bridge, using a quick "hop out, hop back in before the banshee falls away" approach to grabbing the items tucked away up in the supports of the bridge. The "energy cables" that are reminiscent of the AotCR/TB bridges are solid in Gephyrophobia, and a skilled player can actually railslide down the cables in the event they get stuck high up without a banshee. A good Gephyrophobia match will be partially a battle of skill, and partially a battle of style.

Danger Canyon- The first level from which screenshots were released, Gearbox describes Danger Canyon as "the combination of Blood Gulch and Sidewinder." I didn't get to play Danger Canyon, as it wasn't my turn whenever it showed up in the rotation. However, I can tell you that, like the rest of the new levels, it was designed for multi-vehicular combat on a large scale. The area everyone has seen pictures of is the middle of the canyon, where bridges span the distance, high above the canyon floor. If you get your hands on a Fuel Rod Gun, this would be the perfect place to bring the fire down on opponents passing by on their way to your flag.

Icefields- A twisted map with plenty of paths to take, Icefields is an eskimo's dream and a Warthog driver's nightmare. The paths are covered in patches of ice, which effectively turns even the strongest warthog drivers into fumbling ice skaters. The map itself offers several routes to the enemy base, including some gorgeous ice tunnels, and a large field of ice in the middle of the map. We played assault on this map, and had a great time trying to navigate the slippery path ways on our trip to bring the opponents flag to their base. If you want to be skilled at this map, you'd better learn how to slide your warthog into position.

Death Island- Designed based on the Silent Cartographer, Death Island is easily the most gorgeous of the new maps. With a base set into the island on opposite sides of each other, and multiple approaches, either by working your way up through to the top of the island and back down, or by just driving around on the island's beautiful beach, Death Island is a strongly balanced and incredibly fun map. Once you stop staring at the beautiful scene, you can get to learn how the terrain works for and against you. Expect grand battles if tanks are involved, and some incredible dogfights as there are no walls to keep the Banshee's restricted. If fighting in Banshee's isn't for you, fighting against banshees is possible thanks to the shades located on the forerunner-like structures integrated into the island.

Shortly before the end of the day, I was playing with some of the leftover people in Death Island. It was a tank match, but I was running around with a Fuel Rod Gun, admiring the view from the top of the island. Someone saw me on a cliff edge, and fired from their tank- and missed. I turned around, and began laying into them with the fuel rod gun. The subsequent explosions pushed the scorpion off a cliff, and it fell to the beach below. If you're going to shoot at me with a tank, don't miss.

Infinity- The largest of any of the multiplayer levels, Infinity gets its namesake from the way the map looks like a mobius loop from above. The map is gigantic, designed for large multiplayer games. The walls of the map are extremely high, so expect a lot of aerial combat. The map works great with ctf style games, but the heart of the game lies in race modes. The middle of the map is four large ramps that can make for some impressive warthog moves. Get two or more warthogs jumping at the same time, though, and you can get some impressive mid-air collisions.

If racing isn't your thing, Infinity does work as a very cool ctf map as well. Base defenders have two directions to watch as the bases are located on the farthest points of the loop, and the long distance between the bases makes for some interesting car chases. Gerbox designer David Mertz described a situation where a Warthog with the flag was being chased by a Banshee which was being chased by a Banshee which was being chased by a Warthog.

The new multiplayer levels add an entirely new dimension to the experience without leaving behind any of the classic Halo feel. Gearbox has gone all out and done some really impressive work. As we speak, I'm dying to play Death Island again, or participate in more Banshee combat in Gephyrophobia. The new levels are a blast to play.

Modders Paradise

Inbetween matches, I had the opportunity to listen in as David Mertz talked about Sapien and Guerilla, the editing tools Bungie's Mat Noguchi designed for Halo. Sapien is the tool used to add entities to maps; spawn points for players, weapons vehicles, ambient sound effects, even the location of static objects such as trees. Sapien uses the Halo rendering engine to allow the designer to fly through their level and place objects by dragging the mouse. If you place a tank in the air in Sapien, then load the level, the tank will drop from the sky when the game begins.

Guerilla is the Halo approximation of the Marathon series' Anvil. From it, you are able to define and modify shaders for all objects, you can change the physics and collision of objects, and a host of other controls. Virtually everything about models is defined in Geurilla.

So, how do you get your hands on these tools, you ask? Simple: You wait. Gearbox will be releasing Sapien and Guerilla as free downloads from their website shortly after Halo PC is released. Gearbox plans on writing a number of tutorials designed to help orient intrepid modded into the learning curve of the new tools. Gearbox is hopeful to start a strong Halo modding community where modders can learn from other modders, and everyone can showcase their work. Making content for Halo is not like making content for any other game, but Gearbox is confident gamers will figure it out and that its only a matter of time before third party content starts appearing everywhere.

At the release of the mod tools, Gearbox's focus will be on showing people how to make multiplayer maps, as multiplayer maps are the easiest component of Halo modding. From there, they hope that the community will grow and help them span out into supporting new models, and single player maps. Since making content for Halo takes time, expect the growth of the community to take time as well.

Halo 2

As we played Halo PC, Bungie's Hamilton Chu and Michel Bastien showed up to see how we were enjoying the game. Shortly after they arrived, Pete reappeared with an XDK and a copy of the Halo 2 demo that was played at E3. Those of us that saw it at E3 were treated to the splendor that is Halo 2 in the flesh, and those that had only seen the recorded demo came to understand how truly incredible Halo 2 looks.

Claude trying his luck at Halo PC.

Dark Helmet plays a bit on the projection screen.

David demonstrates Sapien.

Look familiar?

Day 2- Closure

Lunch arrived, care of Randy's chef, and we finally stepped away from Halo PC for a while. While we ate, Dark Helmet plugged his XBox memory card into a machine they had in the lounge area, and entertained Gearbox, Bungie, the reporters that had come by, and the rest of us with some impressive warthog jumping. A couple of the guys at Gearbox had seen the warthog jumping videos before, but even for the initiated, Dark Helmet's jumps were really impressive. He spent a good half hour launching the hog up into the air, throwing it up to the top of Halo, trying to get it to knock him to the top of the beam tower (with no success, unfortunately). People were leaving for the airport, so we spent what little time we had left playing Halo PC, and then the last of us left the office, thanking Gearbox and Microsoft profusely for the time and energy they spent on us.

In parting, the last of us agreed to e-mail each other later, and made our way to our individual terminals, tired but still feeling the excitement. At the airport, Texas left me with one last impression of where I was.

Michel Bastien hangs out with Dolbex and I outside.

Dark Helmet: LIVE!

The man himself.

Only in texas...

I'd like to thank Microsoft for arranging this event. I would also like to thank the folks at Gearbox Software for letting us distract them for a day. The entire time we were there, we were given a royal treatment, and we were told how important it was to Microsoft and Gearbox that we had come to participate in the event, but really I think the stars here were Gearbox and Microsoft, for bringing a close connection between the gamers and the developers. Bungie has always had a way of hanging out with their fans, and I love to see more developers doing the same thing. Everyone at Gearbox was great, and I had a great time hanging out with you all.

I would also like very much to thank Randy and his family for having us over for dinner. It was fantastic. Randy is simply awesome, and it was cool to be reminded that the best developers are gamers as well. It's fantastic to see everyone going so far to make the best game ever even better. Thanks for your hard work, Gearbox, and I look forward to whatever your future projects may be.


COMING SOON! Exclusive Halo PC screenshots! Stay tuned!