Chronique:BWU 04/06/2010

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Posted by Sketch at 6/4/2010 6:36 PM PDT

Ok admit it, by now most of you have given up hope that an update would even materialize this week. Oh ye of little faith, it's ok, Urk may have skipped town to spend the day with his Mom, leaving you all high and dry, but I'm here for you and I've got the goods. Sure, I could've taken the easy way out, choosing family over our beloved community, but that's not my style. Nope, this is my moment to shine, my moment to one-up Urk by forgoing beautifully verbose prose with little real substance and giving you an update chock full of images and infoz. Let's bake this cake.

Reaching for ZBR[modifier]

The studio is literally buzzing around the clock these days with people going to great lengths to push Reach from being a great game to a freaking awesome Bungie game. If you follow Marcus and Joe's periodic updates over at Noble Actual then you already know we've crushed a few big milestones lately and the project is moving into the final stretch. But what does it all mean? Where exactly is Reach development RIGHT NOW? I went direct to Joe Tung for the answer:

What stage of development are we in right now? We are closing. There are 18 days 14 hours and 30 seconds left before ZBR*, after which we enter a phase of testing and stabilization where changes are minimal. Most everyone on the project is focused on one thing: crushing their bug counts to zero. A lot of the final polish - the stuff that can only get done once the vast majority of the game stable - is coming online, and it is glorious. Hallways that already looked beautiful before now have smoke and debris falling from the ceilings, missions that were already fun are getting lots of design polish, troopers who have been previously mute or overly verbose are now saying the right things at the right time.

*ZBR is old school software development vernacular that literally stands for "Zero Bug Release." In reality it's a bit of a misnomer as bugs are still being fixed but it's come to represent the pivotal milestone where the game gets clamped down and the bar for making changes is significantly raised to only those that are deemed "Pri1Sev1" and have major negative impacts to the game.

E3 Approaches[modifier]

It's hard to believe we're barely a week away from the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo. Finishing the game is challenging enough but splintering off to work on content for a global tradeshow couldn't't have fallen at a worse time in the schedule. Thankfully our team rocks and our E3 initiative is proceeding as planned. I know many of you want to hear more, even a tease, but I'm afraid I can't do that. I can confirm that we'll be there, we'll show you stuff you've never seen before and it's shaping up spectacularly. It's going to be a fun week with more surprises than just the keynote itself. Stay tuned.

Sketch's Walkabout[modifier]

One of the reasons this update is so late is on account of spending my entire day playing host to a reporter who was visiting the studio to get the inside scoop on Reach (the other reason being that whole Urk-abandoning-our-fans situation). During the day we met with various members of the team and did a very in-depth tour of the studio stopping at people's desks to talk about cool stuff they're working on. Lucky for you I came across a few gems on this journey that I thought you'd be interested in hearing about:

Steve Scott showcased all of the amazing work going into bringing the visual effects to life in Reach. The sound of my jaw hitting the floor gave Steve quite a startle. I got to see something new, something that emits arcs of lightning that crackle and radiate outward, splintering into smaller bolts as it hits the ground. Imagine a mysterious awesome vehicle that's powered by a violent thunder storm. Yeah, awesome.

CJ and Lee showed off some impressive cinematic scenes getting a nice sheen of polish applied. I haven't really seen much of the new lip sync hotness until then and damn, what a huge difference it makes in the character performances. The cinematic team just passed content complete last week which means that every shot in the game is now represented fully in the engine and playing in all builds with no major changes expected. You can also see your own custom Noble Six character fully realized in the cinematics, which rocks. Speaking of customization, while your personalized armor will be visible throughout every aspect of the campaign, don't expect to be sporting your Legendary Edition flaming helmet during cinematic moments. You can light up throughout the campaign (and multiplayer) but the flames will be temporarily doused during the cinematics.

We also stopped by the animation pit where many of the crew was busy partaking in a playtest. Every Friday they stop animating and just play, getting valuable looks at their work in motion, in context of actual gameplay. I did spy one particularly awesome scene on a monitor, a secret biped that was being investigated for a bug that resulted in some weird jerking and popping during animation transitions. We saw a lot more over the course of the day but there's a point where all the teasing becomes just plain mean.

Shishka's Garden in the Shade[modifier]

What's Shishka been up to? Well I asked him and here's what he had to say:

A little tease: My workstation is always set up with a screenshot I took from Reach as a wallpaper. My current wall paper is focused on something that was recently cut, but everywhere you look there's something that hasn't been discussed, yet. There's no way we can release this screenshot. Not just because of obligations to publisher and media, but because there's so much information that peoples' heads would explode trying to take it all in.

There's a pretty awesome bug with water physics right now that causes the player to bounce as though they were on a huge trampoline. A long fall equates to your corpse being launched into the stratosphere.

Attached is a screenshot of one of the maps I'm working on. Well, part of it, anyway.

BWU HR Les fleurs est tres belle.jpg

Crotch Bugs[modifier]

When I put out a call to the team for interesting weekly update fodder I was very surprised to receive not one but TWO different responses that both dealt with Spartan crotches.

This first one was sent over by Andrew along with the actual bug that was filed:

BWU HR Tool Of Destruction.jpg

DESCRIPTION: The post game carnage report has a Tool of Destruction field which is placed in the crotch of the player's character. Some weapons look worse than others...the frag grenade may be the worst. Screenshot attached.


1. Launch build 10580-0 play.xex
2. Play a game
3. View the PGCR
4. Select a player's profile name to view the Player Carnage screen

RESULTS: Tool of Destruction overlaps the crotch of the character

EXPECTED: Tool of Destruction does not overlap the crotch of the character

IMPACT: Medium. Could be found offensive.

The second crotch-related offense was supplied by Chris Carney who apparently plays internally under the hilariously ironic moniker, "Big Dude." Remember in the beta when you'd finish a game and you'd get a screen where credits rained down while your Spartan struck a heroic pose? Well at some point that broke and the camera became centered on the Spartan's heroic nether regions. "It's particularly unsettling when the Spartan shifts his weight and turns slightly, it's just right there in your face", explained Carney.

BWU HR The Package.jpg

Tweaking Vehicles[modifier]

One thing that many of you have asked about following the beta is how vehicles are being adjusted for the final game. The vehicles, like everything else, were a work-in-progress at the time of the beta and things have indeed changed since then. Sage and Josh gave me the lowdown on what to expect in September (still subject to fine tuning):

  • Overall vehicles are "much, much meatier" than they were in the Beta.
  • Vehicles will no longer just explode on their own, "GTA style." Vehicles will only blow up from direct player damage. So, no more killing an opponent and flying away only to have your flaming vehicle suddenly explode on you.
  • Vehicle damage will now partially transfer to the player, just like you're used to in Halo 3. You'll see this represented in your own shield/health meter as your vehicle takes damage.
  • Even cooler - the damage that a player takes depends on the location of the damage being done relative to the player. So, if you throw a grenade underneath a Warthog, the driver is going to take a little bit of damage. If you throw a grenade into the sun roof or windshield, the driver will take significantly more damage.

Servicing the Service Record[modifier]

Luke sent over a sweet new image and this informative blurb:

Among other things, this is the first glimpse at the Reach Service Record. This is actually the landing page for the Service Record, with the user highlighting "Commendations."

BWU HR Service record.jpg

Pressing A on any of the highlighted categories on the left side of the screen will drill users into a stats castle an order of magnitude larger than anything we've ever shown in game.

This screen in particular is dynamically sorting the user's Commendation progress, elevating the most advanced Commendations to the top of the screen. In this case, the user has only played multiplayer matchmaking, but if they had Commendation progress in other modes, those would be sprinkled throughout this screen.

Like Halo 3, you'll be able to look at other player's Service Records and panes like this one, or the mode-specific Commendations breakdown will provide quick and dirty playstyle tendencies for your friends and foes.

A mountain of dudes, including engineers Brad Fish, Michael Williams, Gareth Lough and UI designers Dave Candland and Andrew Davis - along with some sweet, sweet iconography work from Stoshy - got the Service Record to the state it's in.

Arming the Armory[modifier]

In addition to the Service Record getting a lot of love, the Armory is now fully locked and loaded and jam packed with sweet cosmetic upgrades. Everything is now fully integrated with final name and description. Here's a tantalizing glimpse of what awaits:

BWU HR Armory.jpg

Sweet Icons[modifier]

Stosh has been really busy lately but not with work. As the project winds down, he's been recruited to pitch in and help Evil Otto with some UI work. Specifically, he's re-designed all the player rank icons. Many are just too hot to even show you but here's a peek at a few of the safer examples:

BWU HR rank icons.jpg

And speaking of Stosh, it just wouldn't be an update without a dose of "Blame Stosh." Enjoy.

And that my friends, is a wrap. Hopefully you can forgive me for the delay and it was worth the wait. Don't worry, next week Urk will be back at the helm, once again flexing his mastery of the written language and once again having very little substance to talk about. After all, he's bound to be out of the office again at some point and I'm going to need to stockpile the juicy stuff for myself.

P.S. Congrats on high school graduation, Dax!