View Full Version : Halo 2 Q&A

10-03-2002, 09:35 PM

Offline and online, Bungie's sequel game Halo 2 will quite probably be the best console shooter of 2003. Don't miss our banter with the title's lead designer inside

17:03 The phenomenal success of Halo always meant a follow-up was a given, but we still waved our flags in glee when Halo 2 was announced back in August.
Despite it being a non-shock, we're more than glad that Master Chief is returning in an all-new adventure, an adventure bigger and bolder than before, and one that'll make full use of Xbox Live.

Events in Halo 2 are set closer to home than before, the survival of humanity taking a more prominent role as Master Chief continues in his battle against the Covenant.

Revelations about new vehicles, new weapons, new enemies and a re-hashed engine have got us rather hot under the collar, and the prospect of playing the sequel online has rendered us jelly-like, wobbling amoeba-style.

The only thorn in our usually indomitable sides is that the game won't be out until 2003. Yes, yes, yes, Bungie has to develop the thing, but we want it now, ******!

Thankfully we got to partly placate our insatiable need recently when we sneaked a quick chat with Jaime Griesemer, lead designer on Halo 2. Read on to see what he had to say about one of the hottest gaming properties of next year.

Did you ever envisage Halo being so big? How does the success Halo has achieved make you feel as a developer - how does it influence future projects?

Griesemer: I was confident that Halo was going to make a pretty big splash. Every once in a while the marine manning your Warthog chaingun would shoot down a Banshee and the burning wreckage would crash into a tree and almost fall on you, and you got a brief glimpse that Halo was going to be something special.

On the other hand, every time I play I also see the hundreds of tiny flaws that we would have fixed if we had caught them in time. We've got so many ideas for how to improve the experience for Halo 2 that I don't spend much time thinking about Halo's success.

Moving on to Halo 2, we know that it's set more around Earth, but other than that we don't know much of the storyline. Could you tell us more about the plot and about where the game is set?

Griesemer: The game starts on Earth, which is being attacked by the entire Covenant fleet. Before long, however, the Master Chief and Cortana will take the fight to the Covenant, and you'll learn a lot more about their culture and why they seem to hate humanity so much.

For instance, a lot of the plot focuses on the relationship between the Elites and the Prophets, a race that did not appear in Halo. The Covenant is named for the pact between those two races, the Elite serve as the military, while the Prophets are the political and religious leaders of the Covenant.

The main change between Halo and Halo 2 is that the threat to Earth, to the survival of humanity, takes a much more prominent role and serves as the main crux of the game.

You've stated that you've re-worked the original Halo engine. Can you tell us what exactly you've done with it and tell us how these changes will influence both the look of the game and the gameplay?

Griesemer: The most important change is that we have gone from a static lighting model to a dynamic and global lighting system. This means that, instead of the rigid and unchanging environments that characterized Halo, we will have environments that have motion and life to them. We can move large objects around, we can turn lights on and off, we can even destroy large chunks of the environment, and the lighting will still work correctly.

The other important thing about the lighting is that it's global. In Halo, objects were lit in a different way than the environment, so most of the time they looked like they didn't belong, they weren't grounded in the scene.

In Halo 2 the lighting is the same for everything, so the characters, scenery and environment all look like they are part of the same whole. It's subtle unless you're watching for it, but it makes the world seem much more believable.

We're making lots of other changes to the engine, but we aren't ready to talk about the rest of them yet.

Something that really impressed about Halo was the non-player AI, especially that of the marine allies. What sort of improvements are you making in this area for Halo 2?

Griesemer: In Halo the AI was only concerned with shooting and not being shot. In Halo 2 the AI will have a much greater awareness of their environment. They will be able to adapt to it, and more importantly, they will be able to actively manipulate the environment to serve their ends. They'll knock over objects to create cover, they'll climb walls and leap between floors to get into a better position, they'll even destroy the cover the player is hiding behind to force him into the open.

Other games have done some of these things through scripting, but in Halo 2 these options will be available to all the AI at any time.

I expect the improvements to the AI to be one of the best aspects of Halo 2.

One of the few criticisms levelled at Halo was that it suffered from repetitive level syndrome. Is this something you're aware of, and is it also something you'll be addressing with the sequel?

Griesemer: In Halo we focused on perfecting the moment-to-moment combat experience. In Halo 2 we are going to take that experience and put it into a more interesting and varied context. That means we're going to focus on creating interesting mission objectives and unique environments, which should address most of the concerns about repetition.

Master Chief will have a number of new weapons he'll be able to get his hands on. Can you tell us anything about these at the moment? Will he have any new features built into his combat suit?

Griesemer: The Master Chief is getting an armour upgrade for Halo 2. It will definitely provide some new abilities, but we aren't talking about them yet.

The most important thing about the new weapons we're adding is that they will add more choices for the player, but they will fit into the existing balance.

No weapon in Halo was always useful, and no weapon was never useful - they were carefully balanced. Instead of adding lots and lots of new weapons, we are going to make sure each addition fits into the existing mix.

Right now we've shown the Battle Rifle, the evolution of the old Assault Rifle that shoots a bit more accurately (and a bit more slowly) and has an optical scope. We've also shown a Sub-Machine Gun with a collapsible stock and an optional silencer for stealthier players.

You're also adding a number of new vehicles. Again, can you tell us anything about these? Have you made any alterations or additions to vehicle control other than the obvious stuff due to you introducing new modes of transport?

Griesemer: We're not talking about the new vehicles yet [see here for some info on the new vehicles - Ed], but I can tell you that we are experimenting with new control schemes for the existing vehicles.

In Halo there wasn't much difference between a good driver and an excellent driver - there weren't any good ways to show off your driving skills. In Halo 2 we are adding special advanced features that let someone who has practiced driving do much more complicated moves than other drivers would be able to pull off.

Making the game Xbox Live-compatible is obviously a pretty big leap. Can you tell us a bit about the development process, about the things you'll have to do to make Halo 2 work online?

Griesemer: We've had this idea for a squad-oriented online game that pits Human Spartans against Covenant Elites in real battlefield situations (no flags or balls, just real military objectives) for a long time now, and Halo 2 is giving us a chance to finally bring that game to life.

The best way to describe it is taking all the elements of the Halo single-player game, the weapons, the vehicles, the combat, the explosions, the indoor and outdoor environments, even parts of the story, and bring them over into the multiplayer game.

We get the impression that Halo 2 is very much what you originally said Halo would be when your were initially developing for PC. Is this the case? If so, does this mean we're going to get to play both Covenant and humans multiplayer?

Griesemer: The single-player campaign was very close to what we had in mind, but the multiplayer had to wait until Halo 2 to get to where we wanted to be on the PC. Halo 2 multiplayer will allow you to play as either Human or Covenant, with all the weapons and vehicles included.

How many players will Halo 2 multiplayer actually support on Xbox Live, and what multiplayer modes are you going to include?

Griesemer: It's tough to make a good team game with less than 12-16 players, but we'll know more once our networking is done.

Will you have an online league or ranking system for the Xbox Live side of Halo 2? Will Xbox Live users have special access to a web server of sorts that will hold such information? How do you perceive clan games working, as traditionally a lot of this sort of thing is run on, and maintained on, the Internet?

Griesemer: We're still working on our community plan. There are features of Xbox Live that don't even exist yet that we intend to take advantage of, so we should have more details as we get closer to shipping.

It might be a bit of a moot question, but why should we be looking forward to Halo 2?

Griesemer: Halo 2 is going to be everything you liked about Halo, only wrapped in bacon and deep-fried. As everyone knows, bacon makes even the best things even better.


10-03-2002, 09:43 PM
Well, thats nice and long