IGN recently had the opportunity to chat to Jaime Griesemer – Sandbox Design Lead, and Tyson Green – Multiplayer Design Lead about the development process of Halo 3. Below are some of the more interesting parts of the interview.
What are some of the most impressive and arresting effects you’ve implemented?
Tyson Green: The water. The water is looking really good. And the soft surfaces look really good.
Jaime Griesemer: The thing that does it most for me are things like decorators. Being able to do grass on surface, paint moss and ivy on walls – that stuff is really cool. They’re really small – just sprites – but you can put down thousands of them and they fade really quickly. If you look down, you can see them at your feet, but they disappear into the distance. Some of the destruction effects are really cool – the vehicle damage physics.
Why was there so much mystery surrounding the X button? Was this a hype tool? Or was its function still up in the air?
Jaime Griesemer: Honestly, when we first showed it, the reason why we weren’t talking about it was because the pieces of equipment we had were not ready to show. We had a lot of placeholder art, code that wasn’t done and only a few pieces that were done, in-engine. We weren’t really ready to show it. It was sort of obvious that there was something big missing from the control scheme. So it wasn’t really done to build hype – I don’t really remember anyone proclaiming “This will change the way you play videogames!”.
Except that the rumors ran wild online, as they tend to…
Tyson Green: Yeah, and after that some of us were like, “Um, this is kind of getting out of hand. We should maybe let them know what it is sooner rather than later.”
Jaime Griesemer: It was always going to be in the public beta, so it wasn’t going to be like some sort of surprise that we kept ’til the very end or anything. We decided on doing equipment a long time ago. That’s actually why we redid the controller layout – we wanted a good place to put equipment.
You’ve unveiled four pieces of equipment thus far. Are there others yet to be seen?
Tyson Green: That’s all we’re announcing right now.
Jaime Griesemer: We actually don’t know what the final equipment count will be – it depends on how many we can get in. And there may be some items in single player that we won’t use in multiplayer. We’re really focusing on more interesting pieces of equipment rather than a large quantity of equipment, because we didn’t want to run into the problem where there were so many pieces of equipment that you couldn’t really keep track of them all. They only had one really specific use, so what we tried to do was keep it pretty small; I’d say single digits, probably.
Jaime Griesemer: Yeah, they have all kinds of uses – like the Power Drainer. It immediately takes down shields, right, but it also takes down vehicles. And then, after it takes down shields for a while, it explodes like a super-grenade too. And the BubbleShield is the same way. If you’ve got the flag, you can throw it behind you to block shots; if you’ve got a short-ranged weapon, you can manipulate the engagement range.
What is Halo 3’s single most impressive new feature, in your opinion?
Jaime Griesemer: The infantry weapon, melee and grenades all working together. It’s sort of what makes Halo ‘Halo’.
Tyson Green: When someone is walking towards you with a chain-gun, just laying it down! You’re like, I wanna hide behind something because that guy’s leading the charge. But, technically impressive? It’s hard to say.
Jaime Griesemer: I think the equipment is probably the most surprisingly interesting gameplay feature that we’ve added. There are just so many ways to use it, and you see people use it in surprising ways. If we go out to lunch somewhere and we’re talking about some game we played the night before, it almost always features some kind of equipment somehow. Kind of like, “Somebody was going to run me over with the Warthog, but I threw a GravLift under the front tyre and it went flying over me…”
Were there equipment concepts you tested and scrapped? Can you discuss these?
Tyson Green: Lots of early incarnations of equipment that we already have.
Jaime Griesemer: Oh yeah. Scrapped or combined. The power-drainer is a good one – it used to just take down shields (and not quickly, either), then we added the explosion and then we added the take-down-vehicles. Those were actually two other pieces of equipment and we just sort of combined them. You have to be able to look at equipment and know exactly what it’s for. We had some equipment that would do these sort of abstract things, where your HUD would get ‘better’ – and nobody really knew what it was.
The other thing about equipment that makes it really hard to develop is, we don’t want it to be necessarily an advantage. We want you to throw it down and then have your enemy be able to use it against you, because you weren’t necessarily thinking about how you were going to use it correctly.
Tyson Green: Like, for instance, if you were throwing down a BubbleShield in front of a guy with a shotgun. He’s just going to step inside your shield and ruin your day.
Jaime Griesemer: So there were a bunch of pieces of equipment that were cut because they were just an advantage – you always wanted to be able to use them; they made you better and there was no way for the enemy to use it against you.
Have you begun to discuss ideas for downloadable content?
Tyson Green: We’ve started thinking about it. We don’t have anything specific to announce yet. Our position on downloadable content is, it’s fun to make, it’s fun for people to download the content…
Do you have a speculative timeline for this kind of content? Will we be hearing anything before July?
Tyson Green: Ah, I don’t think so – not for DLC.
Jaime Griesemer: One of the headaches of game development is that the engine is always being changed while you’re making content. You’re always trying to hit a moving target. After the game ships, the game’s programmers have to stop – then you can just iterate on an engine that’s solid and not changing. That’s one of the reasons why we like doing DLC – it lets us polish things to a level that we couldn’t even do in the regular game.
That suggests expansions to me.
Jaime Griesemer: Well, the only limiting factor on DLC is oftentimes we want to move on and start working on the next game, right? You can spend and burn a lot of resources on DLC, and a lot of times it’s cool. But sometime’s you just want to move on and start something new.
The full interview can be found online over at IGN, here.
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