Chronique:BWU 02/04/2004

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Yesterday's April fool's shenanigans were met with a mixture of delight, mild amusement and abject fury. One reader, posting, perhaps ironically, on the fake website he was mad about, was incensed that we were cavorting and gamboling through the fields of whimsy, when we should have been taking screenshots and movies of Halo 2. Even though he went on to say that all of our screens so far are faked. He also described me as the "unfunniest person on Earth" so while he's wrong about screenshot fakery, he's clearly no idiot. That said, screenshots have been a big deal for us this week.

And I know this week's update is teeny. So don't hassle me, man. I'll make it up to you next week.

Brian, Zoe, Stephen and Lorraine have been fiddling around with some cool new tools that make taking screens a bit easier. That and the fact that the recent builds of the game look better and better, means that future screenshots are going to look even more glorious than they did before. The combination of our new lightmapping and dynamic lighting gives stills an unearthly, painted-looking quality, yet still weirdly photorealistic. I love that aspect of the game's look ? reminds me of how video games used to carry their own distinctive "look," like Capcom SNES titles, or the PC version of Doom.
The new Jackal model looks fantastic. His plume is actually composed of individual strands of vaguely insectoid barbs. Zoom in close enough (use your sniper rifle) and you can see that the plumes even have "joints." You'll also get to see how ugly and bump-mapped he is. They really do look manic and ferocious.
And not to dwell too much on Mr. Jackal, but since they invariably carry shields, you might be pleased to know that the shields are more detailed and transparent, so you should be able to hit that little shield notch more easily to take out the ugly cretins.
Marty stopped by to talk about the new music and Dolby stuff going into the game. Marty usually works with the (near) finished product exactly like a top movie composer (he says) so he will be sitting down with finished game and cinematics to score it properly. "Sometimes I'll hear the audio in a game, and just know, right off the bat that it was composed and scored before the game was finished. I can't work like that."
If you remember the Star Wars Episode 1 "music video" with John Williams conducting a live orchestra in front of a screening of the movie ? that's how Marty works, only with a smaller screen and more computers.
Marty's been concentrating on the Covenant musical themes for Halo 2. The Covenant, as you know, is overtly religious, very formal and very serious. Expect to hear all that wrapped up in a ball of alien noise.
Marty has also built a bunch of Dolby surround mixed ambient sounds ? instead of having them be processed on the fly. That means he can build an ambient creepy noise in a room, imagine tinkling metallic alien technology, mixed with a constantly swirling noise of rushing air. Having that kind of control over the ambient sound means that "live" sounds, like a generator your walk by, or a whooshing elevator nearby, can be processed on the fly. Marty says that serves no purpose other than to sound "sweeter."
Chris Butcher sorted/is sorting out a problem with melee combat that lets you use one BRAND NEW weapon and improves other NOT SO BRAND NEW weapons. He's also making melee combat "much more satisfying" in multiplayer modes.
Chris also has a stack of bug to deal with, as high as an elephant's eye. Trawling through this is par for the course at this stage of development. Everyone has bugs to sort through and fix, even the web team. Stupid bugs!
Our new lighting guy, Hao, who actually joined us from the Amped team in Salt Lake City (and if you've seen the lighting in Amped, you know how cool an addition he is) has been lighting BSPs (Binary Separation Planes) and I just saw one with everything turned on ? bloom lighting, bump-mapping, ordinary lightmaps and dynamic lighting. It was the single biggest shift I'd seen from Halo 1 in terms of sheer contrast. The way light changes from inside to outside buildings now is perfect, and the effect of running from inside a structure to outside is akin to that feeling you get when you leave a movie theater on a sunny afternoon. Only, it doesn't make you need to pee.

That's all for this week folks, and apologies for the shortness. We'll make a longer update next week, with any luck. And below is some insult to injury. Plus, mad props to MakaVeli4LIfe1 ? why? Because he asked me to.

BWU Dualwieldingbug.jpg