Chronique:BWU 09/10/2009

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Posted by urk at 10/9/2009 2:34 PM PDT

Some new numbers made it out onto the interweb this week that chart the sales progress of our latest little title, Halo 3: ODST. Word is that it's already reached a tremendously stupendous tally of 2.5 million copies sold. When Miller said it was dropping into all stores, everywhere, turns out he wasn't kidding around.

According to our online stats page, you and about 2,533,978 of your closest friends have already cooperatively chewed though a thoroughly frightening forty seven million online games. You've collectively banded together to purge the galaxy of over one billion Brutes and over 1.5 billion Grunts. You, dear friends, are a freakishly-focused and digitally genocidal conglomeration of alien exterminatin' maniacs. The Covenant ain't got nothin' on you. We're just glad that you're on our side.

We're also glad you're playing. Great news like this reminds the hardworking men and ladies on the Bungie team why they do what they do. Thanks for picking up our game.

Firefightin' Around the World[modifier]

But it's not all sunshine and mountainous piles of rosy Covenant corpses. As with any major title release, we've seen a few kinks and wrinkles too. We'll try to smooth things out where we can. Some of our more astute fans picked up on some not-so-subtle differences in the way that the Halo 3 multiplayer they know and love and the new Halo 3: ODST hotness handle network latency. Turns out it's not just a coincidence (or a heaping helping of bit torrents - though those don't help). It's not really all that new either. The Halo 3: ODST model uses the same battle-tested stuff that powers Halo 3's campaign.

While we're not yet in complete command of the entire global distributing computing network, we definitely have some tips and tricks you can use to make sure that you're cooperative experience doesn't end with you and your e-friends swearing a blood feud over a dropped connection that perfectly aligns with the tail end of Set 4, Round 3, Wave 5 in your two hour Firefight Endure run. We've also have some info for those looking to lean in and have a peak under ODST's hood. We'll start with the latter first.

Since I'm kind of a dummy, I've brought in some of Bungie's brains to do the heavy lifting in this section. The depressingly beard free Luke Timmins labeled the crew that constructed these answers "the nerds." I like to think of them more as "the really smart dudes who graced this section of the update with a bunch of words." Seems to have a softer and less pejorative ring to it.

Q. Why does latency affect the cooperative and multiplayer experiences in such dramatically different ways? Both gameplay modes are using the same network architecture, right?

A. We actually use different networking models for our cooperative and multiplayer games. Firefight and campaign co-op use what we call a synchronous or lockstep model, and multiplayer/Forge use a distributed model.

A synchronous model works by clients sending controller inputs to the host, who waits for inputs from all players in the game, packages them up into a single message, and sends the message back out to all the machines in the game. Each machine then uses this message to advance the state of their world by a frame, and then the whole cycle repeats. So, same inputs to the game means we all get the same outputs.

In a distributed model, the big difference is that each machine is running their "own" world, and we are keeping state synchronized between machines by sending messages about things that are changing. For example, when a player holds down their trigger to fire their SMG, we immediately fire it on their machine, and send a message to the host that the player is firing, and the host sends a message to the other machines in the game to let them know the player is firing.

So, one big difference between the two models is latency. With a distributed model most actions like firing your weapon, jumping, running, and meleeing, all feel snappy and responsive. You press the button and your player immediately does them on your screen. In the synchronous model, your input has to make its way to the host, who has to wait for all the other inputs from the other players, who then has to send a message back that you can process and then your world state can react. This means that if you are in LA and your host is in Sydney, the game will feel sluggish and unresponsive. Things like packet loss are acutely felt as well, as your inputs to the host are sent in order, and his messages back to you are sent in order as well, so the entire game needs to wait until dropped packets can be re-transmitted.

Q. Isn't there a really quick and easy way for Bungie to crank out a patch that would remove the effects of latency altogether?

A. Unfortunately not. There is a lot of work that goes in to making our distributed multiplayer model run as well as it does. The messages that are passed around to keep the machines states up to date are crafted to minimize bandwidth and support the needed functionality. We simply have never hooked up distributed messages to a lot of the awesomeness that exists in Firefight and co-op campaign. Things like cinematics, AI, combat dialog, let alone making it all run smoothly on a 256K up host. It would be a lot of work, and we are super focused on Reach at the moment. :)

If you're way more smarter than I am and that didn't send you into a technologically-induced, drool-producing coma, here are a handful of best practices from Chris Butcher in case you're looking for some easy ways to smooth out your cooperative online experience:

  • Make sure your internet connection is not being shared by roommates. Make sure your PC isn't downloading stuff in the background. Probably a good time to check it for spyware or viruses.
  • Packet loss really hoses campaign networking. If you have to play over wireless, make sure there is no interference or reflection by following the tips in the documentary from the Halo 3 LE video that I did at Dave Candland's house.
  • Play with people located physically near you.

And finally, for some sweet icing, here's a community-crafted guide that digs into some general networking best practices. Don't mind the fingerprints. I wanted to make sure it wasn't poison. My life for you!

Wait for the Bleep![modifier]

We've also been seeing a good amount of frustration from players reporting that certain achievements aren't unlocking even though they've jumped through the correct hoops. The best practices for this issue are pretty simplistic. Wait for the achievement. For example, once you and your crew have so totally made Set 4 your very best lady, don't jump up immediately, power off your console, and uncork the campaign bottle. Give it a minute. That's a pretty monster game you just ripped out! Once the sweet sound and visual indication pops onto your screen, that's your signal that all is right with your achievement world. You should also make sure that you're signed onto Xbox LIVE before, during, and after your game. Account connectivity is pretty crucial when it comes to achievements. Network or gamertag shenanigans can cause a myriad of problemos for you and your hombres. There's also some other stuff in the official FAQ that you might want to make yourself familiar with. Give it a read. It's a real rip-roaring affair. Pay special attention to the words wearing red.

Halo 3: ODST FAQ

Maintenance Window[modifier]

Switching gears to the side of things, The Wolf came calling earlier in the week to give me the heads up about some content maintenance we'll be running real soon. Turns out there are an estimated 50 million orphaned Halo 3 screenshots that are on the verge of being sent out to pasture (that means we're gonna delete 'em).

You don't need to freak out about the stuff in your File Share. That's all safe and sound. And your screenshot gallery is cool too. The only files we're looking to take down are those that no longer have a home. Sometimes that means they're attached to a File Set without being in a File Share proper. It might mean that they're only accessible from a unique URL. Either way, if they ain't in a File Share or a Screenshot Gallery, they're a-going bye bye.

If you have stuff that needs savin', your computer's hard drive is the only suitable refuge. Save soon and save often. It just makes good old fashioned common sense.

It's Child's Play[modifier]

During ODST's launch party we took the opportunity to partner up with the fine, upstanding people from Child's Play. We signed a perfectly good pile of posters and put them up for sale, with all proceeds going right back to the charity. We're pretty proud to report that we helped raise over $3,500 for this great cause and we want to say thanks to Child's Play for their incredible and much needed work.

If you picked up a poster, you should be proud of yourself too. If you didn't get the opportunity to get in on the launch party charity poster action, you can still help out if you happen to have the means and find yourself in the midst of a giving mood.

Child's Play

"Since 2003, over 100,000 gamers worldwide have banded together through Child's Play, a community based charity grown and nurtured from the game culture and industry. Over 3.5 million dollars in donations of toys, games, books and cash for sick kids in children's hospitals across North America and the world have been collected since our inception.

This year, we have continued expanding across the country and the globe. With around 60 partner hospitals and more arriving every month, you can be sure to find one from the map above that needs your help! You can choose to purchase requested items from their online retailer wish lists, or make a cash donation that helps out Child's Play hospitals everywhere. Any items purchased through Amazon will be shipped directly to your hospital of choice, so please be sure to select their shipping address rather than your own.

When gamers give back, it makes a difference!"

Meetin' the Mariners[modifier]

We had some ball players pay us a visit this week. It was awesome. Brian wrote about it. Here's an excerpt from his journal:

"Last week we received an email from one of the PR folks over at Microsoft stating that 'some players on the Mariners are big Bungie fans and would love to stop by the studio if possible.' Turns out that two pitchers, Brandon Morrow and Ryan Rowland-Smith, started off by contacting someone at ESPN who navigated a complex web of PR people and agencies before the request finally landed in my inbox. It was an easy answer, 'hell yes, come on over!' Here at Bungie we have many, many sports fans and the studio even has season tickets to the Mariners that we share amongst the team throughout the season.

Brandon and Ryan dropped in on Wednesday morning and after a stern briefing by Jerome and the required signing of a legally binding Non-Disclosure-Agreement, I took them deep into the heart of Bungie on a no-holds-barred tour of the development floor. These two guys are the only external people besides Nathan Fillion to have ever seen real content and work that's going into next year's Halo: Reach. From what I could tell, they REALLY liked what they saw. I should add that these guys are legit - they play a ton of Halo 3 multiplayer online (and Halo 2 before that) and have the skills to back up the talk. During our hour long walkabout they were privy to glimpses of everything from new animations and 3D objects to sprawling environments and intricately detailed weaponry.

After the tour I left them in the hands of Zach Russell and Luke 'Abe Froman' Timmins to play a little ODST Firefight. Neither of the guys had gotten a chance to play yet but both already had the game back at their offseason house and were eager to get home and crack the seal. From what I hear, they had a blast and kicked much Covenant ass.

It's not often we get special visitors like this but when we do it's usually pretty cool to show off our stuff to people who are fans of us as much as we are of them. I know this usually evokes some sentiments of anger and jealousy from our fans who feel cheated that they were not offered this same opportunity. To you I say work and train hard, get yourself signed to a premier sports team (preferably based in the same city as Bungie) and then have your people call our people."

BWU Mariners 01.jpg

Miller is always watching.

BWU Mariners 02.jpg

ZOMG It's Made of Win!

Bang, Zoom[modifier]

People good at the Internet already read about three Bungie dudes of yesteryear that jettisoned from the mother ship some time ago to form a thing that will make games of the future. That thing is a studio called Moonshot Games. And the future is now (well, figuratively).

At 0700 hours on 07 October 2009, Moonshot Games achieved orbital insertion, en route to translunar passage. Reports from the craft and the ground crew indicate that all parameters are in the green.

Led by a small team of experienced industry veterans, Moonshot is pledged to the exploration and development of high-quality downloadable games. Their maiden flight is set to establish a permanent presence on this exciting new world in the gaming universe. The details of Moonshot's first mission will remain top secret until the craft makes moonfall. However, all the necessary research, planning, and prototyping are already well underway. Stand by for mission updates.

If want want to follow along planet side, the crew at Moonshot Games already has a bunch of social networking systems up and operational. Touch down at their site to sign up. Do it now and we'll stop subjecting you to crappy space puns.

Moonshot Games

Now that you've added your name to their list, here's a brief Q&A we launched to help you get even more acquainted with the cadets running the Moonshot show. And yeah, we lied about the whole no more space puns thing. Blast off and deal with it.

Q. What's the plan over there? What are you guys up to?

A. We're making smaller, downloadable games for platforms like XBLA, PSN, WiiWare and perhaps PC. Long term plan is to take over the world...of downloadable games!

Q. Why did you guys decide to spin off and start up this new venture?

A. I think we're all excited about the kinds of games that are coming out on the download platforms. They're fun, they're novel, and it's amazing to think that they are created by such small teams. We love what the indie game movement has come up with so far. We want to be a part of it, and obviously coming from a powerhouse like Bungie, we think we also have a lot to bring to it!

Q. How do you define the culture of Moonshot games?

A. Working at Moonshot is sort of like lounging at a cafe in Montmartre, Toulouse Lautrec on one side and Edgar Degas on the other, sipping absinthe and discussing ... I don't know, painting or something.

The truth is, when you're as small as we are, the "culture" is really defined by the people you work with, their values, their personalities, and how we go about building our games and our studio together. The three founders, Rob, Michel and I, have worked together for years, and we have a blast doing it.

Q. So, what kind of games do you plan on making?

A. See above -- downloadable games. Small, fun, innovative, polished games with AAA production values.

Q. What lessons and experiences will your team pull from your Bungie days to influence your new projects?

A. Pretty much literally, everything I know I learned at Bungie. A lot of our tech and tools and pipelines are inspired by the "Bungie Way". I think it inevitable that our designs will ultimately pull a lot from the Bungie design philosophy.

Q. What's the biggest difference when you go to work now in the post-Bungie world than your prior life here in Kirkland?

A. Walking into Bungie, one can't help but feel awe at the grandeur and majesty of the studio itself - a great temple to fun, with hundreds of people there, talking together, working together, toiling in the name of awesomeness. When you walk into my office space, you think "ooh, it's cold in here, can we get some heat on?"

See? That's the difference. At Bungie it was somebody else's job to worry about the heat.

No need to worry, guys. If things get bleak, you can always huddle up for warmth. Just make sure you don't make eye contact while the shared experience is going down. Oh, and best of luck making kick ass downloadable games.

Lovely Livery[modifier]

A few people have gotten their hands on early copies of Turn 10's soon to be smash hit, Forza Motorsport 3. What does that have to do with Bungie? Check out the paint jobs:

BWU Forza Motorsport 3 Wheels on the Ground.jpg
Driver: Jube3
BWU Forza Motorsport 3 Reach Mobile.jpg
Driver: m0dus

It's even more impressive when you realize these guys aren't just slapping on the official artwork. This is all brushed on by hand using Forza's in-game customization tools. If you're looking to try your own hand at creating some custom, artful livery, Forza Motorsport 3 drops on 10/23 EU and 10/27 Stateside.

Thanks to Butane123 for the linkage.

So Blue, So Crisp[modifier]

Andrew's mom went dark sometime back and we were starting to get a bit worried. It's a wild and woolly world out there and there's just no telling what kind of dangerous stuff a mom can get herself into in this day and age. Fortunately, it turns out all of our fears were for naught - she's still around. She was just on siesta from for a brief spell.

So what does she think of the new hotness now that she's back in action? Here's the straight dope from her (and our) special little boy, Andrew Harrison:

"I just got off the phone with my Mom and she said, 'Andrew, is looking really's so blue and crisp.' Kudos gentlemen, you have pleased my mother..."

The web team is just doing their job, Andrew, but thanks for sending along word. It's nice to know that their mother pleasing efforts are paying off. Big time.

All the News...[modifier]

BWU Halo events.gif
NAR is back.

itz FanFic writes: G617 g1

Protocols require that I do not leave my place of duty. I am sorry for my absence. Your world is bigger than I anticipated. Failure to succeed my intentions is not relevant. Date is changed. My intent is still the same.

Transmission intercepted

scanning ...

Origin and content suspect.

Querying assets [local to asserted origin]: activity level at point of origin [ref-G617]

Current activity level at G617: NIL

Additional query: Time since last recorded activity at G617

Time since last recorded activity at G617: 879 211 021 hours 14 minutes 32 seconds

Probability transmission originated at asserted point of origin [ref-G617]: NIL

Transmission tagged and shelved [ref-anomalous/sub/falsified]

Blame Stosh[modifier]

I'm pretty sure Stosh got his haircut this week. He's looking pretty sharp. He's also been looking through the community files for stuff. Here's some stuff he found. If you find Stosh, tell him his hair looks fabulous.

BWU Blame Stosh 09 10 2009.jpg

We Out[modifier]

A good group of us hit a local taco truck for lunch today. I ordered a burrito the size of a toddler. If you need me you know where to find me, but I strongly advise against interrupting the, uh...process. Make sure you find some time to take care of your own business this weekend.

Stay safe and stay tuned (and please, dear God, stay away from ridiculously over sized burritos).