narcogen's blog

Halo, Starring The Keyes Blob

It may be possible to take small items from Halo and Halo 2 and extrapolate on whether or not they might be more, or less, important than they seem. Many fans took note of the "Keyes Blob" in the first Halo to be something worthy of attention. It was the only Flood unit that did not fit into any of the known forms: carrier, combat form, infection form. I think they were right to note this. In Halo 2, we are introduced to the character Gravemind-- which also is the only known form in the published games that is not a carrier, combat, or infection form. It seems able to contain or absorb the bodies of the dead in a way that is different than other forms do; Gravemind does this to the Prophet of Regret. One might interpret the Keyes Blob's absorption of Captain Keyes as a foreshadowing of this, and thus conclude that Installation 04 does not, at the time of the game, have a Gravemind entity, and that possibly the Keyes Blob is the beginning of the formation of same.

This is, of course, speculative. If anything I am persuaded to believe it is likely there is a connection between the two because I believe that the presence of a unique item in the story such as the Keyes Blob is meant to suggest something to the audience, and the existence of some Flood unit with more significance (and perhaps intelligence) than the other forms is also suggested by 343 Guilty Spark's comments about Flood behavior. That we see this suggestion take form in Gravemind during Halo 2 seems to me no mere coincidence. I believe Bungie deliberately foreshadowed the existence of Gravemind with its presentation of the Keyes Blob.

To that end, I would argue that the entire mission of the level, Keyes, is completely symbolic. That, in fact, the entire purpose of that level is to reveal the Keyes Blob to the player, and that for the purpose of the story, nothing else is necessary. And when trying to construct other reasons for the player to go through that level, Bungie unwittingly tips the player off that the mission is symbolic.

category: 
game: 
topic: 

Doing A 360

If Bungie's new title is for the Xbox 360, then it is reasonable to assume that the development cycle will be as long or longer as for the previous two games, for a number of reasons. One is the new console's minimum 720p resolution requirement. Both previous Halo games render at 480p maximum when running in real-time on an Xbox at thirty frames per second. It is still unclear whether Halo 2 actually renders in a larger framebuffer when running in emulation on the Xbox 360 or if it is simply performing upscaling of the 480p image.

If what Bungie is working on now is indeed Halo 3, then it is a sequel, developed for on a single platform, presumably using a similar engine; although I would certainly expect that Bungie would make significant changes to the Halo 2 engine to take advantage of the Xbox 360's improved graphics capabilities.

Any release of a Bungie game prior to November 9, 2007, would represent a decrease in the time required to develop Halo 2 and, depending on when you start counting from, perhaps compared to the time required to develop Halo 1 as well.

category: 
game: 
topic: 

[image:10099 left hspace=5 vspace=5 border=0] I'm so thoroughly convinced now that Halo 3 is actually being made that I've had the Halo 3 logo tattooed on my own baby-soft flesh, an experience I can assure you is not entirely unlike enduring plasma weapons fire.

game: 
platform: 
topic: 

Rockslider has put up another piece on Halo 1; this one covers how to lure Banshees into areas they don't normally belong, and the strange behavior they exhibit once they get there. This piece covers level 2, "Halo".

Quite what the explanation for the weird behaviour is, I don't know. I find the grenade chasing business especially baffling. What on earth is there in the game programming that makes them so interested in grenades in these areas, yet not in the valley? Is it actually some sort of 'Easter egg' somebody sneaked in? Seems doubtful; I'm guessing it's some unintended consequence of the Banshee being in an environment that wasn't planned for. If anyone reading this can shed some light on these behaviours or has a theory, I'd be happy to hear about it!

Having just played the first few levels of the original game this weekend, I also noticed some of the same Banshee behavior, as well as some other, related non-Banshee behavior.

I have a feeling that the scripting for Banshee pilots (or perhaps any AI unit using a vehicle like a Banshee, Wraith, or Shade turret) is "overlaid" on top of that unit's basic AI routines. So the normal Banshee behaviors we're used to seeing, such as the dive-bombing and so on, only exists in environmental areas where Bungie expected Banshees to be, and often times wrote specific scripts for specific areas.

Click 'read more' from the front page for the entire article.

category: 
game: 
platform: 

WARNING: This article contains spoilers not only for the Halo games but also the Half-Life games, so beware!

I'm not writing about Halo 3 this week.

Really, I'm not. Instead, I'm taking a side-by-side look at two of the biggest FPS games today: Halo and Half-Life.

Before anyone had ever heard of Halo, I was already cursing the luck that put all the games I wanted to play onto hardware I didn't own: namely, the PC of a good friend, where I got to see the original Half-Life and play a bit of it. I was immediately reminded of the first Unreal game as well as Marathon. It seemed to be a game that, while it was a first-person shooter, was unlike most of the games in that genre that were popular at the time: twitch games where character and story took a back seat to action and colored lighting.

game: 
platform: 
topic: 

We're emulating one of HBO's more apropos mottos this week: beating dead horses. Really.

An offhand remark in the HBO forum about the lack of information in the Weekly Updates prompted a reasonably long thread, not just about the updates, but about the lack of information about what Bungie is working on, and branching out into the general parameters of Bungie's relationship with its fans, through those Weekly Updates and other methods.

Shishka, a former fan now working with Bungie on that project they aren't ready to talk about, had an interesting comment that I think addressed a key idea, but in a way that set me off down a completely different path, the results of which you are about to see laid before you, for good or ill.

Shishka wrote:

I think when a lot of people came into the community after discovering Halo, they learned of Bungie's connection with the community, but misinterpreted it. People have become so used to media extravaganzas, information blowouts, and gigantic hype engines that Bungie's relative silence at the beginning of development on a new title is a completely foreign concept to them. It's really not new, though.

That got me to thinking. Has Halo really spoiled the Bunige fanbase? Are we now so used to media blitzes that we aren't satisfied just to know Bungie is diligently working on what will doubtless be a fantastic game? Even before that, did the Halo and Halo 2 Updates make us so used to getting relatively substantive information so constantly that the sound of a few months of silence is deafening?

While Bungie fans are perhaps understandably curious and impatient, however, I do not think they have grown unreasonable. Nor do I think they've been spoiled, or become less patient. In fact, since Halo was announced, lengthening release cycles have required Bungie fans to be even more patient.

To substantiate that, I dug around for some dates and other information and created the Bungie Timeline; a list of important events in Bungie's history from 1993 to present. It is by no means complete; but major milestones in releases and developments, including Minotaur, Pathways Into Darkness, the Marathon trilogy, the Myth series, and Halo and Halo 2 are included, along with the acquisition of Bungie by Microsoft. I'm still collecting more information, but if you know about a date I've overlooked but should include, or if you've caught me making a mistake, drop me a line at narcogen@rampancy.net.

category: 
game: 
platform: 
topic: 

Recently a poster in the HBO forum retorted that he wasn't even bothering to read the latest Bungie Weekly Update because it only contained generalizations and secrets; nothing concrete.

Whether one is itching for Bungie to say something about what it's working on or not, I felt that going to the effort to say that one wasn't going to the effort of reading the Update oneself to determine if there was new information in it or not was a bit silly.

This sparked debate about a number of related issues, into which the idea was injected that Bungie isn't saying anything because they have nothing they want to say.

I won't summarize the entire exchange in any more detail; the thread in the HBO forum is still there, so those who have not yet taken a look may do so.

I think it's assumed that Bungie has nothing they want to say right now. The question for months now has been why there isn't anything Bungie wants to talk about. Especially when Frankie is writing that things are going so well and there are so many cool things and that he wants to talk about them but he can't.

That creates the impression that not only does Microsoft want to talk about some new project that may or may not be "Halo 3" but can't (or rather does, but then recants) because Bungie hasn't announced it, but that individual employees also want to talk about this new project, while others say that there isn't anything they want to talk about.

There either is, or is not, a pink elephant in the room. I think many of us would just like it acknowledged whether or not it's really there, even if we don't get any details whatsoever on what kind of pink elephant it is or when it is going to be released in stores. If it's there, we can reassure ourselves that we're not seeing things. If it's not, we can all go back to our twelve-step programs and try to put our lives back together.

category: 
game: 
platform: 

They say every journey begins with a single step. That's true of the journey that Bungie began when it started the development of Halo; likewise the process of creating Halo 2 and... whatever game they're working on now. Assuming it's a game. Which may be a lot to assume, under the present circumstances.

It's just as true for the player and the Arbiter as they begin the last level of Halo 2, The Great Journey.

It's also an important step in Halo 2's narrative. The Arbiter, as a player-controlled character, is distinct from the Master Chief in one very important way: his knowledge and beliefs are not necessarily in sync with the player's.

In Halo 1, information was revealed to the player and to the Master Chief character more or less simultaneously; hence one of the reasons for keeping the existence of the Flood a secret prior to the game's release. In most cases, even if you were given a choice, the player would probably choose the same course of action that the Chief does, given the same information.

That isn't true of the Arbiter. Since his confrontation with the Heretic, he's heard things about the Great Journey that directly conflict with his most deeply-held beliefs, and those of his culture. We don't know what he actually believes at that point. We do know that the player already knows what Halo was designed to do, and once it's revealed that the Prophets are trying to activate the Halo rings, there's a strong suspicion that the Covenant don't know what they're in for. Still, there's no choice; you can't leave the Heretic alive and join forces with him, because he's only going to try and kill you, even though I would have liked to have tried that and see where the game went from there.

category: 
game: 

Same Flood-time, same Flood-channel, Flood-fans.

Oh, you aren't a Flood fan?

Oh.

If you're not really into the idea of dark, smoky environments where you can't see where you're going or what's attacking you, if the idea of shambling, moaning, drooling Flood zombies doesn't really do it for you, if the flashlight isn't your favorite button, then arguably this level isn't going to be among your favorites.

Sadly, despite significant changes, Halo 2's Flood aren't that much more fun to fight against than they were in Halo 1. Unlike Arbiter and Oracle, which were fairly well-lit until the very end, High Charity is dark-- darker even than the darker portions of Quarantine Zone, another area where I was tempted to change my monitor settings to gain an advantage.

category: 
game: 
platform: 

Since I've already been called out for being petulant this week, I thought I'd do a follow-up on Uwe Boll's whinefest from yesterday where he takes a few swipes at his critics, just as I've taken a few swipes at those trying to let the air out of the tires of my favorite defenseless lovelorn zombie, Stubbs.

Aside from his complaint, most likely valid, that many who criticize his films haven't actually seen them (a sure bet for films that don't succeed at the box office, I'd imagine) Boll also suggests the following series of logical propositions as a counter-argument (click read more from front page for the complete article):

category: 
game: 

The Bleat has an excellent hypothetical exchange between the Doom movie scriptwriter and a Hollywood producer:

Producer: Of the game, maybe, but you know, we’re in the reimagining business here. Value added. People go see this expecting demons from hell, we give them something else, shake them up.

category: 
game: 

Despite being not just very different games but nearly different kinds of games, comparisons between Wideload's debut effort, Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without A Pulse, and Bungie's Halo franchise are inevitable.

Wideload has derived not only their core personnel but also the game's engine from Bungie.

At first glance, if it weren't for the "made with the Halo engine" sticker on the box, there might be little to suggest any connection at all. Some reviewers have gone so far as to suggest this was merely a marketing ploy, to attach the relatively unknown Wideload's first game to the blockbuster Halo series. However, the connections are far deeper than that.

category: 
game: 
platform: 
topic: 

Most reviews of Wideload's debut effort, Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without A Pulse have been far more routine and uninteresting than the game itself. Barely a few hundred words, they run down the same checklist of pros and cons as if there was actually only one person who had played the game and written a review, and the rest were all cribbed from that original effort. This is probably not too far from the truth.

The usual litany goes like this: respect for the game's central "high concept" conceit, which is "a zombie game where you play the zombie" and a grudging acknowledgement of the game's sense of humor. The soundtrack is always mentioned, with a list of bands I'm obviously too old or out of touch to have heard of, who admittedly did decent covers of 50's standards.

Then, the review notes some of the controversy regarding the game's gore, accuses it of being too short and/or repetitive, and caps it off with some unrevealing series of numbers or snide advice about rental.

I'd like first to respond to each of these elements that most of the short reviews have in common, and then go on to take a more detailed look at what Stubbs is.

category: 
game: 
platform: 
topic: 

You knew they would change something, didn't you? If the idea had been to just replay the story exactly as the game presented-- game play included-- they could have just strung the cutscenes together and called it a day. Who knows, perhaps a good portion of the ten million Halo fans in the world would have paid money to see cinema-quality renders of their beloved game.

However, that isn't the way the Halo film is being done. Given that there's a lot of interesting things in the Halo universe to present, and only a few hours in a typical cinema release to show them, it's inevitable that some things won't make the cut, and some things that do will be... different than you remember them.

[image:9940 left hspace=5 vspace=5 border=0] So it shouldn't be a shock to anyone that moments after escaping the lifepod wreck, early in what would be the level "Halo" in the game, the Master Chief is attacked by Covenant vehicles. In the game, those vehicles are Banshees. In the script we've been looking at over recent days, it's Ghosts.

This isn't a major plot point, of course. Nothing substantive really changes as a result of exchanging one vehicle for another, and one could argue that this sequence, as written, is more dramatic than the average encounter at this point in the game. Since you've no rocket launcher at that point, the easiest way to take out the Banshees is with a pistol or an assault rifle-- neither of which would make a particularly interesting encounter that would also be believable.

There aren't any Ghosts in that level at all in-game, and as a player you wouldn't even see one until level five, Assault on the Control Room. Perhaps the writer felt that it was too long to wait. It also goes without saying that in Halo 1 you can't board Ghosts as the Chief does in this sequence; but there's no reason why the writer has to restrict himself to the limitations on character actions that are solely the result of game play mechanics, especially outdated ones.

[image:9941 right hspace=5 vspace=5 border=0] A far meatier exchange, if you'll pardon the pun, occurs when an Elite encounters a downed lifepod and instructs his minions to burn the human flesh because it "is sacrilege". The nature of the Covenant's conflict with humanity is never fully explained. The Prophets cite blocking access to sacred sites as a motivating factor, but that hardly seems fair given the Covenant's usual methods for accessing them. Here, it seems to be not just what humanity has done, but their very existence-- hence the phrase "all this flesh is sacrilege"-- that is the sticking point.

I think there are still unanswered questions about how Humanity fits into the Forerunners' plans for the Halo installations, and how that role is perceived-- or misperceived-- by the Covenant rank and file as well as the leadership. I also applaud the writer for not backing down or unduly exaggerating this essential point in the story on political correctness grounds in the post-9/11 environment. The Covenant are consistently portrayed in the books and the novels as religious zealots; their religion is the driving force behind their culture. If this aspect of the story remains, no doubt it will become a point of discussion and of comparison regarding current conflicts in the world today. It's refreshing to see that rather than the approach taken to Doom, in which many details were changes for seemingly no good reason at all, that the core of Halo's story is being preserved as originally envisioned in the first game.

category: 
game: 

About five years ago, I wondered that the introduction of a PC-like console, plus a network service like Xbox Live, might lead to consoles and console games that were just as buggy as their PC counterparts, and that would require constant post-purchase updating to fix the many glitches.

That day is now here.

game: 
platform: 
topic: 

Pages