Since Microsoft launched the beta for Halo 3 two weeks ago, some have murmured that the graphics are a bit, well, uninspiring, especially in comparison to Gears of War. Next-Gen spoke to Bungie about this perception.
Bungie’s Frank O’Connor talked about the public’s reception to the beta and any changes in the game in the months between now and launch on September 25. He said, “Well to be honest, we’ve seen them [the graphics] praised too. Multiplayer is by necessity a more sterile iteration of our graphical style and will always be tuned for performance and elegance rather than jamming the screen full of pixels. We think that the final aesthetic look of our game will be judged at launch in September and in part based on the more intense single player spaces. We’re also focused on maintaining the Halo character and atmosphere in our visual design – we’re competing with ourselves, and not simply trying to match the aesthetic of other games. We think that folks will be happy with Halo 3’s graphical polish come September.”
He added that there would be some changes in the months ahead and that the game has not been seen in its complete form, “We have a long time to polish and iterate on the largely complete game at this point. We’ll be working on some big ticket items as well as making sure that the little details, like decorators and shaders are all in place. Lighting and atmospherics are going to be big keystones in our look and feel, and those really haven’t been shown except in multiplayer to this point.
There have been no complaints about Halo 3’s gameplay, and the title is sure to be a blockbuster. O’Connor said the game had been the product of “constant iteration, fine tuning and about six years experience in making console FPS games”. He added, “Philosophically, it’s making decisions at the start that you’re pretty sure won’t come back to bite you later – like including a balanced spawning weapon, making sure that the equipment add-ons are at least theoretically self-balancing, and applying the years of good feedback and data we have from Halo 1 and 2. Hopefully this beta process will supply even more data for subsequent fine-tuning. It’s already paying dividends for our network and matchmaking test process.”
On changes in the pipeline he said, “I think it’s safe to say there will be lots of visual surprises in Campaign and a few nifty graphical improvements in multiplayer.” The biggest challenge in development has been getting the right people on board. “It has been a challenge, hiring lots of people, managing dozens of them, making sure we have the best of the best and that we have space, equipment and resources to build next-gen content. Next-gen requires a lot of content. And a lot more people to build it.”
He added that Bungie had put a lot of emphasis on planning. “In the end, that will mean more features, fewer cuts, better polish and a more intensive test cycle. All of those will add up to a better game, and none of them are likely to happen without good planning. Halo 2 taught us a lot of tough lessons, but they were lessons learned."