Bungie sends off Halo: Reach

PAX 2010: Creators of Microsoft's highly acclaimed sci-fi first-person shooter series delve into what it took to create their final effort in the franchise.

Who was there: Bungie brought out some of its biggest guns for its 2010 Penny Arcade Expo panel devoted to Halo: Reach, including executive producer Joe Tung, creative lead Marcus Lehto, composer Marty O'Donnell, story and cinematics lead Lee Wilson, campaign lead designer Niles Sankey, sandbox lead designer Sage Merrill, cooperative multiplayer lead Lars Bakken, and community manager Brian Jarrard.

Halo: Reach falls in less than two weeks.

What they talked about: September 14 signifies the end of an era, as it will mark the conclusion of Bungie's involvement in creating new games in the franchise that defined the Xbox as a gaming platform. With that as a backdrop, the collected Bungie contingent held forth on the series for quite possibly the last time to discuss its latest creation, Halo: Reach.

Bungie kicked off the panel by discussing how a four-man team began planning out the initial concept for the game in October 2007--six years after the novel the game was partially based on, author Eric Nylund's Halo: The Fall of Reach, was published. The process largely began with a storyboard-style trailer, where a sun crests on a verdant, Earth-like planet, with picturesque snow-covered mountains towering over lush, green fields. The trailer then fades to white, as the word Reach emerges in black print.

Next, a pencil sketch of a Spartan soldier is shown donning his iconic helmet, before speeding off along a dirt road in a Warthog. An ATV with a second Spartan soldier then appears, and text at the bottom of the scene reads "Planet Reach, in the year 2552." The panel noted that the trailer was a very early previsualization of where it wanted to go with the project, and the sequence ultimately became the opening of the game.

The team then delved into the process of creating the world of Reach, which it described as a major character in the game and the site of one of the largest conflicts in the Human-Covenant war. Though many of the details don't appear in the game, the team mapped out such features as colonization history, geography, and economic and military centers. Other features, such as the planet's 27-hour day/night cycle and 390-day year were also built into the game.

The team also selected certain features of the planet itself that it wanted to focus on, including environments such as badlands or temperate zones, as well as architecture that ranges from rustic to hyper-urban. The goal was to give the planet a lived-in feel with a backstory all its own.

At the same time, the team was also building out levels. This process began, quite literally, with the team making a zero-detail sketch composed of circles and lines that offered a rough overview of a player's progression through the level. From there, the design advanced to a Post-it note phase, where pink notes represented gameplay moments; yellow was for sandbox, free-roaming areas; and blue signified story sequences. This phase was highly fluid, as the team hammered out the game's overall progression.

Then, the team used Studio Max to quickly build out the game before placing it in the actual engine. This phase was also highly dynamic, as the rough pencil outlines became visualized. The team also used this time to define such components of the game as base run speed and how players would actually navigate through environments. The broad-stroke approach was designed to be in its roughest form possible, so the team could quickly and easily see how a level would look and work and could make necessary changes as early as possible.

The panel then shifted to the characters within the game, specifically Noble Team, the six-Spartan squad at the center of Halo: Reach. (See first trailer below for an introduction.) A lot of work was put into fleshing out the group of Spartans that players will take up with, as the team wants each of the five Spartans (the player being the sixth) to come across as fully realized characters. They then showed early concept art, which emphasized unique colors and defined weapon loadouts. Apparently, more concept art was used in Halo: Reach than in all of the other franchise installments combined.

The team emphasized that all of the characters in Noble Team should feel believable and instantly recognizable, without resorting to stereotypes. They also initially planned for Noble Team to be made up of seven Spartan soldiers, having drawn much of their inspiration from Akira Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai and its Western remake, The Magnificent Seven.

Next, Bungie discussed how it went about conveying the story to players. The team wanted the story told as if players were truly embedded in Noble Team. To do this, they gave up "meanwhile moments" in favor of having players experience the story as if they were on a need-to-know basis like their Spartan companions. Therefore, the way Noble Team reacts to events became a central way in which the story is conveyed.

Bungie also said that for the first time, they utilized motion-capture technology, which helped make player animation and subtle body language more believable. Mo-cap also helped in cinematic design, as they began to see the camera as another player that would move in a believable fashion. It also gave the game a captured feel, as opposed to a staged shot. Even facial animation benefited from technology, they said, as the team used a special capturing mechanism to better highlight characters' expressions in-game.

Gameplay prototypes were also briefly discussed during the panel. The speakers ran an early-in-production reel in which gameplay was prototyped. This trailer showed the initial work put into space combat, as well as players' ability to mount and thrash large enemies and cruise around massive, open environments in a Warthog. The team also showed gameplay mechanics that were cut from the final game, including a boat-combat sequence on the high seas.

Quote: "It occurred to us while you all were walking in that this might be the last time we talk about Halo in front of an audience like this."--Marcus Lehto, on Bungie's exit from the Halo franchise.

Takeaway: Halo: Reach looks to be the culmination of everything that Bungie has learned about what makes the franchise the phenomenon that it is. From tried-and-true concepting to new technology, the team has gone out of its way to see that Reach lives up to the reputation of quality that its predecessors have set.

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552 comments
feudemonj00
feudemonj00

And most of the COD people are a bunch of lazy, pot smoking losers who just put it on hardcore and sit in a corner getting single shot kills. I'd wipe my ass with you at Halo where you actually have to be good with a weapon consistently to get kills. It's not just "aim at a choke point and pull the trigger when something moves".

feudemonj00
feudemonj00

PS3 doesn't have a game as good as Halo. They have tried and failed. Killzone 2 was a joke. PS3 keep touting "Halo Killer" games all the time, and they don't even come close. Resistance was another one that I played, because I have honestly been looking for the game that can dethrone Halo as one of the best FPS games of all time, but so far it hasn't been close at all. COD fanboys need to stfu because you say that microsoft exploits the Halo series but Activision won't even give any dev the time needed to put out a game that is mostly free of bugs and exploits. Have fun with COD Yearly Installment.

XanderZane
XanderZane

@sirmourinho said: @XanderZane why? the game is OK at best. no need to rush out and buy it. you can pretty much skip out on buying it until next year and you would have missed nothing. its like playing an EA sports game every year, the difference between each annual release is like the difference in shoe laces. i.e no difference. this HALO game is nothing new. its a shame you are all rushing to play a game that has no new innovations or brings nothing new to the gaming community. its coz of you HALO fan boys that we are getting shafted with same old same old games and nothing new or original is getting released. ***************************************************************** I don't think there is any reason to rush out and get KZ3 or GT5 either, but I'm sure people will still rush out and get those games as well. I think Halo Reach has a lot of difference compared to the last 3 Halo games. Sure it's still a shooter, but there are enough differences, especially in multiplayer to make the game interesting in fun. GT5 will most likely be GT4 with better graphics and some canned damage. They are finally adding online and drag racing I think (after hearing Turn 10 state this for Forza 4) to give you some more mods and options. The only reason to get GT5 is for the online I think.

inferno394
inferno394

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

golgo28
golgo28

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

moglime
moglime

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

poorisaac
poorisaac

@assionac Dude I am not even a Halo fan and this one looks good. And what does it matter if someone wants to spend 40 or 50 dollars more on ANY collectors edition? It's their money. And some of those CE come with cool stuff. Because they are just that COLLECTOR'S EDITION.

Wam11
Wam11

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Assionac
Assionac

Halo fanboys will buy anything that Bungie/Microsoft puts out. It's gotta be collectors edition also, gotta have the best, the latest and greatest. Same thing with Starcraft, CE or gtfo. The flash drive is useless but you gotta have it. OHhh I don't mind paying $180 for one game haha. .... HALO ODST....

tesked
tesked

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CyberKlown28
CyberKlown28

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Flint247
Flint247

People say Halo is overrated, but look at Call of Duty...

King_Gamer19
King_Gamer19

@thatuserguy I've played Halo didn't like it I like CoD better I never said anyone who liked Halo was stupid or any thing I could care less what other people play I'm not a stupid fanboy I just didn't like Halo

tesked
tesked

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Karratti
Karratti

@thatuserguy While I can sort of understand your position, I don't think that there's anything necessarily wrong with wanting to play the "cool" games. I usually play anything that interests me, and often, it's those huge, blockbuster hits that garner my interest. Just play what you want to play. There's always a few like-minded people about who are on your same wavelength.

turtlebird95
turtlebird95

Can't believe it's less than a week away. It seems like yesterday I was playing the beta. Can't wait! See you all on Reach! :D

The_Dragon_Born
The_Dragon_Born

inferno394 has been practically living on this forum. Rather pathetic.

thatuserguy
thatuserguy

@King_Gamer19 Your name states you are a gamer, but you aren't a true gamer until you go away from what everyone thinks is the "cool" game and play what you like, and play other games you wouldn't normally to see if you like them. @wars45 PS3 would be lucky to have halo, and the new thing they bring will most likely be kickass just like the rest of the games they made (GNOP! FTW!) @inferno394 Long enough for me. There's a point when a game gets too long that you don't want to play it anymore because it will inevitably begin getting repetitive. Also, with all the features I mentioned before for it, you may as well multiply that 8 hours by 5 because that's probably what many people are going to be pulling in campaign alone.

Rhino53
Rhino53

@delta3074 Took the words right out of my mouth...

delta3074
delta3074

@inferno 8 hours? cool ,long enough for me then, especially considering i might put 100+ extra hours into the online and firefight 2.0,your sad attempts at discrediting this game just make me want to buy it even more, it must be good, you can't stop talking about it,lol

inferno394
inferno394

@golgo28 It took me a day to get this game. Only took 8 hrs to finish it. As for the game itself, not worth all this hype and isn't worth the $65. Otherwise i'd wait till the 14th.

The_Dragon_Born
The_Dragon_Born

I've heard a lot of comments about Halo being overrated. Its possible that might be true... However... Halo is good, Halo is fun, I'm not buying it because of the hype. I'm buying because I enjoy it. And so do a few million other people. Get over it.

damaster101
damaster101

I didn't like Halo 2 or 3 but this one looks good man, really looking forward to it.

Meta33
Meta33

Good to know this will be bungies last game. Now they can focus on thier new product. And watch how microsoft runs this series into the ground.

bellsmye1
bellsmye1

ODST was a bit crap, Halo 2's ending made me rage... but Halo is a fantastic franchise which has given me awesome memories. Haters, keep hating. Your hatred only sustains my erection. See you all on Reach!

Karratti
Karratti

You know, while I'm not the biggest Halo fan - Just picked up a 360 a few months ago and burned through the trilogy and ODST - I'm really looking forward to Reach. Mostly for the Forge World possibilities. You've got to think, this game is Bungie's Halo "Opus". They'll be pulling out all the stops on this one. I'll be playing this thing on day one.

wars45
wars45

well bungie last halo game then the next game is for ps3 and 360 just hope wot ever they make its not like halo has i think they are not that good

King_Gamer19
King_Gamer19

No thanks I'll stick with CoD:Black Ops & MoH

2nude4u
2nude4u

Do you want this cake?

golgo28
golgo28

too bad all the douche bag modders/hackers are already playing reach now.i hope ms bans all their butts.filthy cheats!

FoxbatAlpha
FoxbatAlpha

@twiglet015 I should hope GT5 is a canidate for Game of the Year. A 60 million dollar buget and 6 years of delays should make it perfect.

han117
han117

6 days 3 hours... ^_^ thank sweet baby jesus my exams finish before then otherwise i would have failed at life. as long as i get and finish halo reach a few times, my life will be complete

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

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icebox98
icebox98

i have to pre-order this. i don't want to be a spartan missing in action!

Flint247
Flint247

Thumbs up if you played the beta. :D

delta3074
delta3074

wow, look at all the Halo haters squirming, classice, mark me down all you like boys, i will be laughing all the way to...well, reach actually,6 days and a wake up to go!

SniperFire17
SniperFire17

Who in the bloody hell invited all these jealous pathetic PS3 fanboys in here?

y2kern
y2kern

@ k2theswiss i just wont sit hear and let the ps fans talk crap about a 360 exclusive. and also this ps fan critisized me stating i cannot afford a ps3. @y2kern eal-zubieri said there are two types of fanboys:1) fanboys who have mental issues and stick to one console for unknown reason(some can't afford it) and bashs another consoles 2) stup*d fanboys that don't know anything(like your self) who bashs games because he can't play them(their moms didn't give enough money). do you want me to give him a round of applause, for insulting me. i dont have a problem with ps fans liking their favourite games. but this is about halo reach

maazbazmi
maazbazmi

ahh all good things must come to an end

k2theswiss
k2theswiss

@y2kern "there are 2 types of ps fanboys, ones that are gay and ones that are stupid, which category do you fall in. for your information i am a working man and i could afford a ps3. but i dont want it, because when i go online i meet total idiots like you that cant play games. and are lame in everything. ps3 does not interest me one bit, psn blows balls, ps3 games dont interest me, online on ps3 is lame. like is said before this is about halo reach, you should not be here, go and play little big planet or something, and try not to hurt the kids." you know you have a couple post in this thread about fanboys and this post is the worse i seen from you so far... you claim theirs only two but i say there's three and the third one is the worse and that you... you keep going on an on and on. you a fanboy who hates other fanboys... you go back 10's of pages to find someone to hate dude i have a word search on firefox and i went back about 10 pages and couldn't find one of the people you have talked about in recent post's. what do you have a fanboy search? or enjoy going back 10's of pages just find something do?

D_E_E_G_S
D_E_E_G_S

Can't wait to play this but as others have said, the Xbox 360's game list is getting slimmer and slimmer and becoming more and more tied to Halo and Gears. Don't get me wrong I enjoy both franchises (Gears more than Halo) but the Xbox 360 really needs to branch out and do some new stuff. The PS3 meanwhile, has continued to release games in both new franchises and existing franchises. Microsoft really needs to get some more variety in its release list before people start to burn out on these franchises.

y2kern
y2kern

@ eal-zubieri, there are 2 types of ps fanboys, ones that are gay and ones that are stupid, which category do you fall in. for your information i am a working man and i could afford a ps3. but i dont want it, because when i go online i meet total idiots like you that cant play games. and are lame in everything. ps3 does not interest me one bit, psn blows balls, ps3 games dont interest me, online on ps3 is lame. like is said before this is about halo reach, you should not be here, go and play little big planet or something, and try not to hurt the kids.

y2kern
y2kern

@ amaan4ever i totally agree with you.