As reported in Variety and Deadline Hollywood Daily, Larry Shapiro has left his position at CAA. What's the big deal? Remember when Bungie would mention how they were meeting with CAA and shopping the Halo script around to movie production houses? Larry apparently was a big part of making those kind of meetings happen.
In 2003 Seamus Blackley, with obvious Microsoft pedigree, joined him, and the Halo Movie rumors didn't start until 2005, but it's not hard to imagine that it was Larry, not Seamus, that had the pull to get outfits like Universal and 20th Century Fox to sit down together with Microsoft and try to get the movie off the ground. Of course, even before Larry left CAA this whole thing has turned into a fiasco (don't believe me? Take a look), but who knows how much worse it is without the all-important 'broker' that can smooth talk folks into shaking hands and committing millions of dollars in getting something as audacious as a military-vs-alien sci-fi shoot-em-up based on a video game as seen through the eyes of I-never-knew-a-budget-I-couldn't-break Peter Jackson?
Could the movie still happen? What do I know? I guess it could, but with Halo 3 right around the corner, and what I would imagine severe-brain-fatigue at Bungie after so many years of Halo Halo Halo... I have to be honest and express my desire that someone at Bungie (Jason Jones is the usual suspect) has been visiting the local library and reading some new and interesting tales that will inspire the group to create something fresh. For us Halo fans, the movie would never have matched all our wishes and dreams for something so visually and emotionally visceral: your Rosebud moment is my Jump The Shark. A parallel opinion is the cynical take on music-hero worship: Is it better that Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin died so early in their lives, at the peak of their careers, then to see them age into out-of-touch entertainers desperately trying to connect with the masses through guest-shots on American Idol?
That doesn't mean Microsoft themselves won't pursue it if possible, and damn Bungie's input if any is forthcoming. But ugh, can you imagine? I don't want to.
The evening of March 31, 2007, Louis Wu and I (and my son, Rafi) met at Yale's Woosley Hall in New Haven, CT for the phenomenon that is Video Games Live. The premise is video game music played by a symphony/choir. We had a great time! It definitely ran the gamut of games - starting with Pong and moving onwards. Did we get to hear Halo theme music in all it's symphonic glory? Does a grunt crap in its hermetically-sealed, methane-filled pants?
Below the fold there be more commentary, and actual VIDEO!
There was audience participation (in random picked audience members playing a game on the large screen with a chance to win prizes) and Jack Wall, the conductor and veteran composer of video game music was not acting like a stereotypical conductor. He was jumping, bopping, etc., to the music. Tommy Tallarico, another video game music veteran, is the host and he also brought his inner video-game geek to the event. My 11 year old son, though unfamiliar with some of the older video game music, still enjoyed himself. I would recommend anyone that hasn't had a chance to catch this tour to do so if it passes by. Check out their schedule here.
Below is the youtube link of the entire Halo portion of the concert I filmed off my digital camera. I'm actually impressed I got as good a vid as I did. They played the full Halo theme, and as a cool bonus they ended it with the Halo 3 trailer music: "Finish The Fight" If I had to criticize, the video in the background was basically just a pastiche of cutscenes, with not terribly strong links to the music as it played. Don't get me wrong... where there was a flourish - or any kind of emotional tug, the video followed suit, but in general, if you were an avid Halo player, the scenes did not really match the music. Too bad they couldn't have generated some custom vid that did a better job. I would have even preferred a medley of different Halo tunes with scenes of the levels the music was used in. Still, it's a minor quibble, and when they got to Halo 3, since the music was meant to follow the trailer, there was no issue there. Well, except for Tommy himself showing up with a Steinberger guitar strapped on. It would've been nice if we actually heard the guitar, but it really didn't sound all that good. Whoever was running the board didn't get a clean enough sound. Anyway, near the end you can hear me laugh when "Bungie" flashes across the screen, mainly because it was at that moment that I realize that in a twisted fashion, the concert is one giant 'attract' event for the forthcoming Halo 3. No other video/music composition in the concert ended with the developer logo and upcoming release date teaser. It was quite funny.
I don't mean to speak ill of Tommy and actually wish to give him major props for specifically giving all attendees permission to take pics and video and spread the wealth! He's eager for everyone to get a taste of the concert. Thanks Tommy for understanding the power of internet pic/video sharing. Many other symphonic pieces were played - Warcraft, Medal of Honor (with a very visceral *real life* montage of the horror that was WWII), Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Kingdom Hearts, Advent Rising (a game that came and went, but the music, composed by Tommy himself, easily surpassed the game's own failings), and we were even treated to the incredible Martin Leung, the Video Game Pianist that's all over youtube. His skill is unmatched, and to think he did it all with no sheet music!
My thanks to Mr. Louis Wu for his assistance in navigating around Yale and letting us bum some nice seats up on the balcony! And of course he's offering the video over at HBO at the best resolution possible.
As mentioned over at sister site HBO, I was one of the fortunate folks that got picked to play Halo 2 MP over in Times Sq today, at the ESPNZone during one of ESPN's morning shows, Cold Pizza. I heard that over 2000 folks entered the raffle, of which 50 were chosen and a handful of alternates. Maybe it was the requirement that you show up at 7AM during a work day, but astoundingly way less than 50 folks total showed up! Maybe more like 30 or so.
Read more of my experiences there, as well as how it segues into my next visit to Times Square in NYC... for the ToysRUs Midnite Madness event!!!
Folks that were watching the show on cable thought it sucked, which it did for those folks if they were expecting some new stuff revealed. It wasn't like that at all, it was a complete PR type thing... they just wanted Halo 2 there since it's such a hot item right now. But for those of us that were IN the studio, they just let us play from 7-10am. So no complaints from any of us IN the event. :) Only MP btw, no campaign. For the lucky guys that made it in, they were completely thrilled. It was good to see some of these guys, from all walks of life in the city, play the game for the first time and have a blast.
For me, I had a blast as well, but I was also trying to note any changes from the E3 build... thus explaining my sucky scores. :) One thing I definitely noticed is that they reduced the speed of the needler... like almost back to regular Halo 1 speeds. Which was frustrating because I wanted to own folks with that weapon since most of them were busy looking for the pistol (ha!). But the joke was on me. Until I discovered: DUAL wielding needlers! Never heard a nicer sound than the rapid staccato shots of unloading pink death on an opponent. Crap that was cool. Still, the weapon of choice is going to be the SMG and Battle Rifle.
Got to see Ryan and CJ from Bungie. Gracious as always, and a pleasure to personally shake their hands again and thank them for doing such a great job. Dolbex and the rest of the MLG gang was there as well. Awesome!
Gametypes played? All slayer matches, which was also sucky for me, I was hoping for some assault or plain ctf matches. But the real bonus was getting to see a map that wasn't shown before: BEAVER CREEK. This is an updated Battle Creek. And it *PERFECTLY* shows the difference between Halo 1 and 2. It's AMAZING. When you turn the corner in your base and see the exit door, the *sunlight* is shining through the doorway. It's gorgeous. And they got rid of the sniper perch ladders, instead there are soft rock ramps leading up.
One last thing... One of the folks in the MS PR consulting group was looking... for me! We chatted for a bit and when I mentioned I was coming to the ToysRUs midnite madness she was curious what I was up to. So I mentioned some ideas and she seemed really eager to see me pull it off. Since I was in Times Sq. after the ESPN thing finished, I walked over to ToysRUs with Jynx and Fuhrman and checked out the place. It's huge, and I did my little smooth-talking deal with some of the folks there and got them ready for us taking over the event. I think at this point, we're going to bring a tent, some lawn-chairs, a 100ft heavy-duty extension cord, portable heater, my projector, some large white setpaper sheets, gaffers tape, Xbox and Halo1, and basically have a mini-lan fest while we wait in the street online until midnite Monday. There are going to be news crews and they expect a seriously huge turnout. I'm pretty excited getting involved in this!
Joseph Staten mentions in a recent interview over at Gamespy (thanks HBO) the particular challenge he faced when writing lines for distinguished actors who lent their voice talents to the game. He reveals that the alien named "Prophet of Truth", was an especially interesting character to write lines for, knowing the particular nuances the actor would bring to the table.
I have a hunch we see this prophet speaking in Halo 2's first TV commercial. And my pop-culture-saturated brain also tells me that the actor that can deliver a line "There are those that said this day would never come" as deliciously as he did is in fact John Hurt. Quite the skilled actor, I certainly concur.
NOTE I've been put in my place... It's not John Hurt, but damn it sure sounds like him!
So I wonder what other mystery actors have lent their skills to the game? And looking at that bit of the commercial when coupled with such talented voice actors, the stirrings of a Halo Movie resurface in my thoughts... but not as a live-action movie but indeed an all-CG version. Hell, an all-CG version using the Halo Engine!
Halo Online Companion - Vol.1
Just before New Year (yep I still know I've been slacking off) Sketchfactor had the good will and providence to write up his experiences dying on the battlefields of the BNG servers (poor guy can't even blame it on lag). But this isn't just any blog-type woeful heart-bearing whinge. Nope, he decided to cram his tirade into guide form, for the greater good. Nice chap that Sketch, once you get to know him.
The CPL Report
Just before Christmas (yes I know I've been slacking) Sketchfactor had the chance to check out the CPL Winter Championships 2003. Several tournaments and hordes of gamers descended on Dallas to try their hands at a game commonly referred to in the industry as "Halo". With a little Mountain Dew and a lot of keyboard mashing, some folks actually managed to win some stuff! Neat! Go stuff! Go read some words!
Interview with the CPL
Some Bungie goon recently forced himself upon the benevolent dictator of the Cyberathlete Professional League, the Archangel Munoziel. Soon thereafter he held Mr. Munoz at gunpoint and harassed him to answer prying questions regarding his most worthy league and it's intimate involvement in a recent controversial accusation that Halo is soon to join the ranks of online tournament games played on the so-called "Personal Computer".
Bungie Sightings dismisses this as a fantasy and we are obviously dealing with a case of bitter mud-slinging in an attempt to poison the good name of Bungie, and we are perfectly happy to close the issue here. Bungie.net have chosen rather to badger Mr. Munoz into revealing the truth in a most dishonourable fashion. According to his lawyers, Mr. Munoz will likely press charges.
Where are we going in this example of journalism at its finest? Well, by now you should be fully confused and disorientated, leaving you open to the following shameless advertisement:
Tired of paying the same bills every month?
So are we. Call now for our unique solution to this most sordid of issues plaguing the nation: 555-2497
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Editor's note: The views and opinions expressed above are neither endorsed nor encouraged by the management. What? You think we hired this guy? Hah! No, he just showed up one day and refuses to leave till we give him all our peanuts, and there's no way we're parting with those. Yeah, I guess we're looking for hitmen...
Halo for PC - Gone Gold!
The day has finally come! PC Halo will now finally be in shops by the end of this month! SketchFactor has posted an interview conducted with Michel Bastien, Bungie's handy producer, based on questions submitted at our sister site: HBO, along with details of the release and a whole slew of new screenshots and images in the Halo PC gallery.
But you don't want to be reading my account of it, get lost! That other site is where's it's happening. Begone!
Oh and for those of you still here, you might want to read the Microsoft press release concerning this most momentous of occasions.
come back soon :(
The McLees GenCon 2003 report
Rumours of my passing have been greatly exaggerated. I prefer the term: carefully mislaid. All the same, I have now returned to do your bidding and as an act of penance, I present the "latest" bungie.net story of the moment. Honestly, you'd think I was the only one who worked here...
So, at the end of last month, GenCon decided to hold itself. Lorraine McLees was there along with her family, both immediate and Bungie extended, to report on the Halo PC tournament and various convention happenings. It looks like it all turned out well in the end.
Lights. Camera. Action!
Part 2 of SketchFactor's ongoing Making of the Halo 2 E3 Demo Talks. Quite a mouthful. This week, Brian talks with Joe Staten, Bungie's director of cinematics, on the creation process behing the demo's breathtaking cutscenes. Tune in for part trois next week.
Making of the Halo 2 E3 Demo
SketchFactor talks design with Tyson "Ferrex" Green and Jamie "Flawless Cowboy" Griesemer, who helped create the Halo 2 E3 Demo. Next week, Sin-O-MatiXXX!
Caption Contest Winners Announced
Evil Otto has judged the entries of the Halo 2 UI Contest and announced the winners. The losers, too, see some coverage and ridicule. Head on over for a glimpse into the secrets and wonders that will be hidden within Halo 2's interface. Sometimes I give myself the creeps.
Halo 2 E3 Video Unleashed
The official Halo 2 demo movie is finally here! Bungie have worked hard to bring those fans not lucky enough to attend E3 a high quality direct feed of the demo level. Numerous download links are available so if some aren't responding, there's no need to despair.
Just got back from the Microsoft Press Briefing, and I thought I might drop by and tell you a little about what I saw. ;-)
I'll skip the non-Halo 2 stuff and cut to the chase. The Halo 2 demo was the definite high point of the evening, as evidenced by the tremendous reaction when Ed Fries brought out Joe Staten to do the demo.
It opens with the MC and a bunch of Marines in a pelican, cruising over a city on Earth. First off, the Pelican is almost the same as the one we know so well. Almost, in that, instead of one pilot seat in an closed cockpit, there are two seats up front, and the cockpit area seems to be accessible from the main cabin area. Another thing noticeable here is that the some of the marines have been upgraded. A few were wearing almost-but-not-quite MJOLNIR armor with helmets. The graphics, of course, are beautiful. The depth-of-field effect, first displayed in the initial trailer, was used periodically. It really does an excellent job of moving your eye to the action, while providing a level of detail that would otherwise be confusing.
The drop ship lands (with real landing gear this time), and the live part of the demo begins. The MC is lead, in much the same way as in the Pillar of Autumn level (but this time with a weapon: the AR), through a first aid area and up to the front line of this particular skirmish. Throughout the makeshift hospital zone there is a lot of dialogue. Snatches of conversation, acknowledgements of the MC, story elements (nothing I could glean, however) all fade in and out as you move through the area. A medic is attempting to resuscitate a wounded soldier, but is unsuccessful and logs the time of death. The amount of detail on screen, in this scene alone, with no combat taking place, is unbelievable. Remember on AotCR when you climb the ramps towards the Control Room doors? Remember those paltry few bits of debris that the Covenant used for cover? Well, if you're a player who wants to check every nook and clear out every corner, be prepared to spend an eternity poking around. There's a lot of stuff - buildings, debris, supply containers, architecture, etc. - for you to check out. ;-)
Past the first aid area, we come upon our troops being shelled pretty hard. We see a section of the building that we are in get destroyed, and run past the new hole to see an enormous Covenant mortar-type unit perched a few blocks away. Looking over the edge of the promenade, we see a few Grunts and Jackals getting into trouble down on the ground. The new and improved AR, with a handy-dandy scope, makes short work of these guys. Moving downstairs, we come across an injured soldier, leaning against a partially-destroyed wall. Adjacent to him is a stationary chain gun, much like the LAAG we remember from the warthog. The current interface is a bit different, however, with the camera moving to a third-person perpective just behind and over the right shoulder of the MC. Your head is a bit of an obstacle here, which definitely will make some battles a little more challenging. The transition was quite smooth and fluid, just as in Halo:CE. After taking out a mess o' Grunts n' Jackals, the MC relinquishes the chain gun. The wounded soldier however, has a present. He offers his gun, which allows the MC to fire two weapons at once. To be totally honest, I wasn't looking close enough to tell if they were two ARs or two SMGs, but they were both the same. At this point, the big Covenant mortar-type-thing that has been mercilessly shelling the building we started in is finally targeted by squad of Longswords, dropping bombs and completely annihilating it. A quick jaunt down the last set of stairs and a few more Covenant forces out of the way and we're off through the streets.
The street area is pretty big. Lots of debris piles, exploding (and explodeable) vehicles, and the requisite Covenant forces making a big mess of things. The number of enemies and Marines on-screen is astounding. At one point I figured there were at least 15-20 different Covenant, a handful of Marines, and a whole mess of explosions, projectiles, and moving vehicles, all vying for rendering time. If there was any lag, I certainly didn't see it. Anyway, the MC shortly gets into the gunner's seat of a Warthog, only to find that someone removed the LAAG when we weren't looking. I suppose that's what he gets for parking it in such a crappy part of town. However, all is not lost, as whoever did it has graciously installed something better! Another moment of honesty here, I don't know what the thing was. ;-/ It fired a plasma-like bolt that exploded much like a rocket. So hopefully Someone Who Knows will step in here and tell what it was. Anyway, it blew stuff up real good, so our boy drove around and did that for a while.
Allow me to point out here that the streets look like the perfect place to go racing. A multiplayer level like this, Ghosts and Warthogs, and no weapons, just hijacking vehicles endlessly. Gawd, that would rock. :-)
Rounding a street corner, we get our first glimpse of the Brutes. They were pretty dark, but quite large and evidently strong. The MC got out of the Warthog to dispatch them, but a bunch of shots to the body didn't do anything, and a punch in the chest didn't either. Luckily, a well-placed grenade under a vehicle caused enough of an explosion to eliminate that particular threat, so the situation ended happily.
Then something miraculous happened. A couple of Ghosts were coming down the road towards us, and things looked pretty grim for the MC, when he jumped up onto the wing, and with one hand hanging on to the cowl, pushed the Covenant driver out and took his place! Man, that was incredible. I could watch that part over and over.
Now, using the newly-acquired Ghost, the Chief cruised the city streets, messing up the Covenant whenever and wherever he could. By the way, a new Covenant dropship, the Phantom, is a wicked-cool looking thing, and it makes a satisfying WHOOMPH when it explodes, falls to the ground, and rolls down the street. :-)
After a bit of hovering about and shooting things, the live demo portion ends and a cutscene takes place. The MC heads off, trying to lure the Covenant forces away. Many of them take the bait, and soon there is quite a large group of Ghosts and Phantoms following him down a kind of highway. There is a large door-type barrier, however, that is being closed, and the MC has to lean out of his Ghost in order to clear the gap. The cowl is ripped off of the Ghost, and the MC falls to the road. The barrier closes, however, and we are treated to a close-up of an Elite's reaction as he plows into the resulting wall.
The MC stands, ready for action, and looks around. Something strange happens. The sky is filled with falling objects. Are the Covenant bombarding Earth from orbit? Is it relief squad of Helljumpers? It seems like maybe, as the things land and open, much like the ODST pods described in Halo: The Flood. However, they're not the Helljumpers they're black Elites. A whole LOT of black Elites, surrounding the MC. Not only that, but they all have the same weapon: an energy sword. The final shot is of the MC, who reaches back with his right hand and exchanges his gun for a plasma grenade. He then charges toward the camera as the scene fades to black.
This game is going to eat your soul.
A new design and a whole slew of new content over at Bungie's Halo page. Be sure to check out the new screenshots, concept art, renders and storyboards as well as the final installment in the Legendary guide. Expect much more after E3.
Over at bungie.net, SketchFactor has announced the three finalists in the America's Biggest Halo Fan contest Bungie were running in the lead up to the FanFest. The eventual winner will be announced at E3 where the videos will also be shown to FanFest attendees.
According to the Publisher's Weekly, Halo: The Flood makes its debut on the Mass Market Paperback Bestseller's List at position number 11! Note that this isn't just sci-fi and fantasy books, but every paperback book out there. Stay tuned to Bungie Sightings for more news on the sales figures as they come available... and if you haven't bought a copy, what are you waiting for? Do it.
Thanks to Brannon Boren for the tip-off. Brannon is about to leave Microsoft for his 100-day forced 'vacation' and we at BS hope he has a nice time off.
Read on as we summarize what Brannon's been saying.
Friday, March 28th, 2003
...life for the last couple of days has been consumed by Halo: The Flood. My task is to scrub the novel for facts that need to be added into the Halo Story Bible, and then to create the new material (background for new characters, for example). I spent about an hour yesterday pulling the names, ranks, and positions of all the Marine officers out of the book, and arranging them into the org chart for the marine contingent on the Pillar of Autumn.
There are a lot of great new characters in the book, and also expansion of some facets of the setting, so I have a bunch of territory to develop. It covers lots of stuff that's only hinted at in the game - much like the novelization of a film covers events that happened off screen - and also fills in more of the background for the Halo universe. Many of the things I wondered about when playing through the game get directly addressed. The fanboy in me is really gratified :-)
I wish I'd brought my copy of the actual novel home from the office so I could take a MPG of me dancing gleefully around holding my copy (which won't be in stores till April 1st). Unfortunately, I only have my printout in a black notebook, because it lies flat open on my desk that way, which is a lot easier to work with.
A funny thing: almost everyone I know is in the game industry, or doesn't care about games, so none of the stuff I do is a big deal to the people in my direct circle. I don't have any friends who are really impressed that I have the Halo novel long before release, or that I've already got a good idea what's going to happen in the next one, or that I've had the prototype action figures in my hands. I have to keep reminding myself how special the stuff I do is, and how cool it is that I get to do it.
Thanks to Eric for slapping me on the back of the head and making me think about that.
I'll talk more about the book after it comes out - y'know, when it won't get me fired :-) I suspect the HBO Forum will be very busy April 2nd!...
Sunday, March 30th, 2003
Charged through my summarizing work on Halo: The Flood and got through half of Chapter 8. My goal for yesterday was only to get through Chapter 4, so I'm ahead of the game.
That leaves me more time for the extras I'd like to squeeze in, like doing a lot of history on the new characters, more on the ODST "Helljumper" Marines (which Eric will surely want to work on as well), updates to the current characters to explain what's changed after the latest events, and some revisions to the technology sections based on decisions we've made in the course of development. Some of my initial work on AI, for example, needs to be updated based on the things we've now seen AI systems do.
I suppose I'll need to do an update on my write-up for MJOLNIR too. I'm pretty sure Eric will want to handle the new weapons, since that's more his bag than mine, so I'm off the hook for that. I'm really glad to be able to do this, because I've lately become dissatisfied with some of that material, and I've wanted the chance to have another whack at it...
Keep up the good work Brannon and keep us in the loop.
There are times when this reporter wonders how firmly the Microsoft collar is attached to Bungie's neck. The answer may well be that the slave collar is not that tight at all. Case in point: Halo 2: Broken Covenant won't be released in time for the massive wave of Xbox Live subscribers whose yearly contract expires on November 15th. This issue is worth keeping an eye on, especially as the date of doom comes closer.
This and other issues with Xbox live are rather well explained by Chris Morris of CNN Money in the article Trouble ahead for Xbox Live? Thanks to Noah "migraineboy" Brimhall via HBO for the finger pointing.
I have been forced to take down all GURPS Halo materials from Bungie Sightings because Microsoft sent me a cease and desist letter.
The letter says, in part:
Microsoft has received information that the domain listed below, which appears to be on servers under your control, is offering infringing copies of, or is engaged in other unauthorized activities relating to copyrighted materials owned by Microsoft.
1. Identification of copyrighted works:
Computer program: GURPS HALO images and image translations
Copyright owner: Microsoft Corporation
2. Infringing material or activity found at the following location:
3. Statement of authority: I hereby certify under penalty of perjury that the information in this notice is accurate and that I am authorized to act on behalf of Microsoft, the owner of the copyright(s) in the work(s) identified above. I have a good faith belief that none of the materials or activities listed above has been authorized by Microsoft, its agents, or the law.
We hereby give notice of these activities to you and request that you take expeditious action to remove or disable access to the materials described above, and thereby prevent the unauthorized distribution of them via your network.
Just a year ago on March 23, 2002, according to a NPDFunworld market report, the official tally of copies of Halo: Combat Evolved purchased by consumers reached 1,008,992! Dave Candland reported this on April 2, 2002, and Microsoft issued the press release on April 8, 2002.
According to the latest guesstimate by Matt Soell, the worldwide figure should be well over three million. Considering that Minotaur: The Labyrinths of Crete only sold 2,500 copies in 1992, Bungie is obviously doing something right.
Keep banging the rocks together, guys.
By 2010 every person on earth will own a copy of Halo!
Microsoft (MSFT - quote - chart) stock plunged over 6 tenths of a point today after Friday's late announcement that Halo 2 would not be shipping in 2003. In heavy trading late in the day Microsoft lost 2.6% of its value, no doubt due to investors fears that a delayed Halo 2 would depress the sales of Xboxen and Xbox Live services. Both Bungie and Microsoft were not reached about this article.
Disclaimer: Bungie Sightings and its affiliates do not own holdings in Microsoft and Bungie Studios. In addition, we are pretty damn clueless about what all those stock market numbers mean. However, we do know that if you pretend something is a big deal other less mentally agile people will invariably agree with you.
As noted @ HBO and reported @ HomeLAN, Jamie Griesemer's panel at GDC 2003 concluded without the appearance of any black helicopters. However, continuing Bungie's tradition of dazzling you while they hide the bodies, Bungie's Halo level editor Sapien was mysteriously disabled and no one was able to get a good look at it. Of course, this could have been truly accidental, as Mat Noguchi was rumored to have been drinking heavily in the company of 7 transgender Bungie groupies the night before the presentation.
Marty O'Donnell must have been hitting the sauce, too, as he was unable to work a boom box for his panel the following morning and faced the world silently. Marty, ever the moderately-paced thinker, wowed the audience by whistling the Flintstones Vitamins theme. You can read more about this, as well as general GDC coverage @ GameSpy.
Shishka is currently on-site and acting as Bungie Stalker At-Large. Read.
Bungie will continue to meter out Halo goodness over then next year.
Halo for the Mac and PC will be coming out in 2003 with some extras.
There will be a Halo 2 taste at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in May.
Speaking of E3, Microsoft is rumored to reveal more details about the Xbox 2 at the show. Wouldn't it be ironic if Halo 2 came bundled with the Xbox 2?
Update: Matt has added this unequivocal statement, "No. I'm already seeing this rumor tossed around on other sites as fact. Bollocks. Halo 2 is an Xbox game."
One of Bungie's long time fans, Meg aka Pallor, sent me the following story about an assigned probationer. FYI, Meg's official title is "State of Tennessee Probation and Parole Officer II" - don't cross her within state lines, the law is on her side. Meg says:
I have a probationer and his girlfriend (who is also on probation with me) on my caseload that sees me every month. In February, they were in and saw my Halo desktop on my computer. The male asked if I liked Halo, I replied yes. One of the other Officers going by remarked that my significant other made the game. My male probationer freaked out. He became very nervous. He is about 6'0" and 300 pounds of a man, shaking in my office quivering at the site of the Master Chief on my computer. He could barely get his things together to leave.
Tuesday (March 3), the female probationer asked me if I knew how much the male respected me and was in awe (not just because I can throw him back in jail) but because of my connection with Halo. She says the game ruined her life when it was released. It was all he wanted to play. As soon as he came back from work he was in front of the TV. They had parties where his friends played games for hours. Her frustration with the game was quite obvious.
She then proceeded to tell me when they were incarcerated waiting to make bail, they had their family hock some goods to raise cash. It seems that the xbox was sold and all of the games except Halo. The male was insistent that Halo would not be sold, he didn't care they could get the $50 someplace else. He was screaming at people NOT HALO NOT HALO. So, to this day, he has Halo and no xbox. It seems owning Halo is better than your freedom.
The male came into my office for his appointment and echoed basically the same thing: They can take his freedom but not his Halo.
FYI, their convictions are possession with intent for resale of prohibited controlled substances.
When Halo was first announced, this reporter heard a number of mentally challenged people accuse Bungie of ripping-off the ringworld concept from Larry Niven. While these claims are foolish, I always wondered what Mr. Niven's feelings on the subject were.
Thanks to a post on /., this reporter has found the transcript of an IRC chat with Larry Niven where he briefly talks about this very issue.
But wait, it gets better - Del Rey approached him about writing a Halo novel.
Here is a heavily edited version of the chat log that appears on Larry Niven's site. This chat occurred on the #Knownspace channel on April 7, 2002. Mr. Niven's handle is 'fithp' and appears in red.
<fithp> New things have been happening. For some time now I've been getting email about "Halo".
<Redflame> From people concerned about whether it is Ringworld?
<fithp> Halo is a game on Xbox, with dynamite visuals. The structure that is the game's site looks like a poor man's Ringworld.
<fithp> So I get emails suggesting I sue, and I keep saying I can't patent nor copyright a ring.
<fithp> Now I've gotten a suggestion from Del Rey Books: shall I write a novelization of Halo?
<fithp> I waffled. I can't jump into a fully programmed universe, I said, and write anything good. It works better if I've been living in that universe.
<Redflame> fithp, you've played Halo?
<fithp> I'm about to play Halo. They sent me an Xbox and Halo, and some other games too.
<fithp> Steve Saffel's suggestion. [Steve Saffel is an editor at Del Ray. -pd]
<fithp> This might work for them. I did sequels to the 1001 Nights and the Berserkers, and rewrote the Green Lantern universe, because I was already living there in my head.
<fithp> They who sent me the stuff are Microsoft.
Unfortunately, that's all Mr. Niven had to say on either of the subjects.
A Halo novel written by Larry Niven would have been a coup for Microsoft and Bungie, but as Mr. Niven pointed out, he writes best when he lives in a universe. Fans like myself want him to do his best work.
However, there is still hope - but not for Halo fans. I'm making it my mission to get him hooked on the Marathon series. A Marathon book would rock!
There exists a book that contains all of Halo's secrets called the Halo Story Bible. It is guarded by seven Microsoft security personnel and one rabid hippo. Access to the book is tightly controlled. I dream of this tome and the secrets it therein. Torrid dangerous dreams.
There is a man who sits in an office at Microsoft. He dreams of Halo, too. When he comes up with a good dream he writes it down and it is placed in the Halo Story Bible. Microsoft pays him to dream. Life is patently unfair.
With the usual bribes of Apple Computer stock placed in eager hands at Microsoft, I found out that Mr. Boren not only had access to the Halo Story Bible, but actually originated materials for it! Faster than you could say, "the Jjaro were at Tau Ceti," I had my secretary, Miguelita, arrange for an interview. A
Greyhound bus private plane picked me up at the Last Chance Gas Station in the Nevada desert and threw me out flew me to Redmond.
At Microsoft's main security checkpoint I was scanned, searched, and scrutinized. When they pulled on the rubber gloves I barely flinched - for I knew I Was On To Something Here. Luckily, when I mentioned my appointment was in the lavish offices of the Franchise Development Group (FDG), they ceased to treat me like yellow journalism vermin. They even drove me to the FDG building in Clippy, the annoying talking golf cart.
The office of the FDG was a madhouse. Interns, secretaries, assistants, and executives chattered away non-stop while fax machines spat out contracts. Phones rang shrilly. Computers beeped incessantly. Most disturbing of all; everyone here was so damned happy. Everyone trotted about with thier eyes burning with the dangerous inner knowledge that they could change the world - or at least keep it entertained for eight hours or so. Right off I made a promise to myself not to drink or eat anything here.
Through the maddening crowd, Brannon Boren marched up to me with the same scary smile. After cordial introductions and minor pleasantries, Brannon and I took seats in the FDG's combination solarium and IMAX theatre. He indicated that I should first see an orientation video. Strong memories of Videodrome caused me to protest and Brannon relented. The interview began.
What department do you work in at Microsoft and what do you do?
I work in the Franchise Development Group in Microsoft Games, but not as an employee of Microsoft (or of Bungie Studios). I have an office here and I work on site full time, but I'm a contractor. I've been here for a little over two years, except for a brief leave last Spring.
My position involves contributing to the documentation and expansion of a game's universe beyond the scope of the game. I work on Halo, but also other titles. Along with Eric Trautmann, I write material for the Halo Story Bible, including describing how the technology works, creating background stories for characters, and detailing places and events. I also assist with development on the Halo novel line, and other Halo licensed products. I was asked to contribute and rewrite dialogue scripts for Halo, which is why my name appears in the credits.
What other titles do you work on?
Publishers Get Game
For those who find video games a headache, it's time to take an Advil, because they've evolved into a significant force in entertainment—including publishing. Video game sales surpassed movie sales last year, with a staggering $9.4 billion take...
...Del Rey has sold more than 150,000 copies of Halo: The Fall of Reach, with a return rate of only 10%.
Are the circumstances that allowed you to arrive at this position a one-of-a-kind thing or is involving writers and "thinkers" the way to design games today?
I can't discuss the composition of specific game teams within Microsoft, but I can speak about trends I see in the electronic game industry. There really should be a person hired to work exclusively on story, setting, characters. and dialogue, but that's not yet considered a necessary position on a game development team.
Players now consider plot to be an essential part of their gaming experience. Should gaming companies start adding professional writers to their teams?
I think so, but I'm biased. Maybe the more sophisticated and intelligent gamers (the kind who play Halo, for example) consider plot to be essential, but the game industry won't recognize the need for professional writers until gamers start voting with their wallets.
What kind of background do you have?
I grew up on the Space Coast of Florida, near Cape Canaveral. My Dad worked on the Gemini and Apollo programs, so I have always been exposed to astronomy, science fiction, and science in general. My formal education is in the biological sciences. I've found that very useful in my writing.
I started out as a freelance writer in the tabletop RPG field. Creating characters and settings is part of RPG design, so I had the requisite skills to get started when I came to Xbox, but console games are very different. I've learned a great deal over the last couple of years, and it's gotten more interesting and more fun all the time. There are down sides, and bad days, but I probably can't get a lot of sympathy from you guys. ;-)
What do you play RPG wise?
I've always been partial to genres set in modern and future times: superheroes, spies, science fiction, etc.. In days gone by I played a lot of Champions. I've played almost every sci-fi RPG - even Traveller, way back in the "little black book" era. Oh, and I used to play a good deal of Battletech, which was a great bonus, considering that one of my first assignments at Microsoft was to write web content for Mechwarrior 4.
Do you think there is enough interest to make the Halo universe into an RPG?
I think Halo fans are eager for products that give them more access to the Halo Universe, (like novels for example) but that doesn't mean every good idea will actually become a product. We do pay attention to what fans are saying on sites like HBO, though.
What books are you currently reading?
Jennifer Government by Max Barry; No Logo by Naomi Klein; Lost Languages by Andrew Robinson; Bite Me! An Unofficial Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Nikki Stafford; Beyond the Gate: the Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Stargate SG-1 by Keith Topping; and I just finished reading GURPS: Alpha Centauri by Jon F. Zeigler, a role playing book based on the award-winning computer game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.
How much do you play Halo, and are you any good?
We play two games a day, on average, and I'm definitely the worst player in my group. Eric routinely beats me 15 to... a very small number. I have no idea if I'm any good compared to "normal" people, but I'd like to think that several hundred games of Halo have imparted some degree of skill...
What other games do you play?
The Collective's Buffy the Vampire Slayer game is incredibly cool, though I'm still not able to defeat the Dark Slayer! It has enormous amounts of dialogue, cleverly integrated into the game. They got Chris Golden to write the plot, which was a smart move that paid off. SSX and SSX Tricky are two all-time favorites - I like the way the characters interact during races, and the fact that EA included biographical data and interviews. They also used great voice talent, and had good direction, which is something I'd like to see many game studios get better at.
Yes, I'm a Buckaroo fan from way back, and I own the banzai-institute.net domain (where you'll find my website). My girlfriend is an even bigger fan, though, and has all the original press kit material, Banzai promotional items from the premiere, the BB viewmaster set, and all the World Watch One newsletters! We both own original copies of the very rare novel, which was recently reprinted, and which you should go buy.
I've been meaning to do something really cool with the root home page of the domain, but time has been scarce.
...Cortana was a "smart" AI, an advanced artificial construct. Actually, the terms smart and dumb as applied to AIs, were misleading; all AIs were extraordinarily intelligent. But Cortana was special.
Smart AIs like Cortana, however, had no limits on their dynamic memory-processor matrix. Knowledge and creativity could grow unchecked.
She would pay a price for her genius, however. Such growth eventually led to self-interference. Cortana would one day literally start thinking too much at the expense of her normal functions...
- Page 235, Halo: The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund
Halo: The Flood
The Human-Covenant War, a desperate struggle for humankind’s very survival, has reached its boiling point on the mysterious, ring world called Halo. But the fierce Covenant warriors, the mightiest alien military force known, are not the only peril lying in wait.
Since you've touched a number of games I'd like to hear your opinion of Bungie community compared to other games' fan base.
Halo fans are incredible; so much energy and attention to detail. I know that I've got to do a great job on everything, because you guys will see the flaws right away. I'm a Halo fan too!
How well did Bungie have the Halo story developed before you arrived on the scene?
Halo had been in development for a long time before I came along. I had nothing to do with the storyline of the Halo game, though some things I wrote were included in the backstory/descriptions in the manual. My work on the scripts was a case of being in the right place at the right time. It was a chance to be involved in such a cool project, of course I jumped at it.
OK, this may be bordering on Things You Cannot Talk About: Did Bungie have a fully fleshed out idea of where the Master Chief came from and how the SPARTAN program worked when you arrived on the scene?
Bungie had mapped out everything they thought was relevant to the events of the game. That didn't include the Master Chief's childhood and the entire history of the SPARTAN program. There's a huge gap between what's needed for a good game and what's needed for a good novel. When we decided to go ahead with Halo fiction, we needed to fill in that gap.
What part of the Halo Universe that you contributed to are you most proud of?
Tough question... Two things: Technical data on the creation of AI beings (it's discussed briefly on page 235 of Halo: The Fall of Reach), and Dr. Catherine Halsey.
Do you have any physical facts about the Halo bible you can tell us?
You wouldn't want to drop it on your foot.
What other cool Halo stuff can we expect to see in the future?
Well, of course you've gotten the first look at the Halo action figures from Toy Fair by now. They rock! We've had the prototypes in the office, and I can't wait to get mine. I need Cortana on my desk guarding my PC from hackers while the Master Chief watches from atop the CPU for more tangible threats. HooYa!
Joyride has done a great job for us, and you can all thank Doug Zartman at our end for shepherding the process along. Halo: The Fall of Reach has done very well too, thanks to the efforts of Eric Trautmann championing the idea of a novel line in the first place, and of course the very talented author, Eric Nylund. We'll see the publication of the next Halo novel in Spring, Halo: The Flood, and more great Halo products are in the works. Can't say more. Sorry!
Do we have lots of plot goodies to look forward to with Halo 2 and beyond?
I'm looking forward to Halo 2 with as much anticipation as any of you. I think we can all rest assured that Bungie will deliver the goodies. Yum!
[At this point an excessively happy intern rushed into the room and feverishly blurted out, "Mr. Boren, Mr. Boren, Fox wants to make Joe Millionaire into an Xbox game. You need to get to Eric's office, NOW!" Brannon rose and I took my cue to conclude the interview.]
Thanks so much for your time!
I was left to my own devices to find my way out of the building. I would have lingered, but I knew the Halo Story Bible wasn't kept there. Besides, the muffled screams of Doug Zartman coming from a room nearby was creeping me out. I resigned myself to dreaming of Louis Wu's Extrodinary Goat Milk Cocktails in the future.
Now where was that bus stop?
Curt Chiarelli, Sculptor
Bungie gives up more Halo toy details when they interview Curt Chiarelli, the artist behind the sculpting of the Cortana and the Covenant Elite toys. Yes, that's right, the Covenant Elite is coming too.
While Bungie is mostly ineligible to win any game awards for the year 2002, there is one small nomination this reporter noticed. Music4games.net has reported that Marty O'Donnell was nominated for Best Game Audio Article, Publication, or Broadcast in the first annual Game Audio Network Guild Awards for the article "The Use and Effectiveness of Audio in HALO: Game Music Evolved." Way to go, Marty!