Matt Soell, Hot Air Artist for Bungie Software, was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions during the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco. Of course, most of what he said was unrepeatable (he did a prodigious amount of drinking each evening, so he wasn’t always in the best of moods in the morning), but after filtering out the naughty bits, and removing the obviously wrong material (Matt, I’m pretty sure that Soulblighter wasn’t supposed to be John Travolta in baggy pants), I was left with some interesting answers to my run-of-the-mill questions.
January 10, 2000
How does Bungie keep its focus now that it’s grown to the size it is?
The simple answer is, it doesn’t. This is really its first test… we’ve never had so many projects going at one time. Basically, we do what feels right at the time.
What role did Take Two play in the series of European interviews recently?
They have an incredible array of connections there… Peter [Tamte] and Joe [Staten] had meetings all over the place, in all sorts of weird circumstances. They’d meet with folks at midnight, in an abandoned warehouse, surrounded by hooded monks holding candles… Take Two set it all up.
How long has TSI been on board, and what role, exactly, do they play?
I’m not sure exactly when they came on… it was sometime in early 1999. We didn’t feel like our products were getting the coverage they deserved… TSI does stuff like get us Computer Gaming World covers, and big Next Generation spreads. They’re mostly working here, in the US, but also some in Asia.
What’s the average length of time for a game’s development cycle, and how has that changed as Bungie has grown?
It’s mostly gotten longer. Pathways was a year, Marathon a year, Marathon 2 about 6 months, Infinity about a year, Myth something over a year, Myth II a little more than a year, Oni is heading for 2 years, and Halo 2+.
UPDATE: Straight from Matt’s mouth – er… pen… fingers. “Did I really say Marathon 2 took 6 months? I must have been high. Jason started that almost immediately after I started working here (January 95); I remember the first meeting we had about it. Ah, the days when company meetings were 5 people sitting on the floor, reading the mail while eating bad burritos…. But I digress. Marathon 2 was from January 95 until whenever we shipped it (November?).”
There have been rumors that there are problems with the networking code… can you elaborate?
The modem/internet networking has been extraordinarily hard to implement well, as people who’ve been following Oni’s development closely know. There’s a possibility that networking will be restricted to LAN play. It’s really tricky to keep a bunch of full-contact kung fu happening on a bunch of different machines connected by 56k modems.
If things work out, will there be a bungie.net-equivalent for Oni?
Obviously we love the success we’ve enjoyed with bungie.net and would love to repeat it with Oni but not everyone in the world has DSL yet.
What sorts of game options have been discussed?
IF the team pulls it off (and there’s no guarantee that they will, but we’ve worked miracles before), there’ll probably be the full complement of net game types (see Marathon and Myth for specifics). Currently, we only have deathmatch implemented.
Is Halo based on the Myth II engine, as many believe, or is it built from the ground up?
While the Halo engine undoubtedly benefitted from the lessons learned in building the Myth II engine (and probably the Marathon engine, and the Pathways engine, for that matter), it’s a completely different beast. It is not built on a previous product, as, say, Marathon 2 was built by modifying (to the point of unrecognizabilty) the Marathon source code.
How many people are there currently, on the Halo team, and what’s the breakdown of their jobs?
Jason Jones – Project Lead
Konrad Shirinian – Network code
Chucky Gough – Physics
Matt Segur – Programmer
Paul Russell – Art
Rob McLees – Art
Shikai Wang – Art
Marcus Lehto – Art
Jamie Griesemer – Design
Stefan Sinclair – Networking (Bungie.net III)
How fleshed-out is the Halo storyline, is it still being modified?
The basic backstory has been done for a while. Details are still changing, and will continue to do so.
Is there any chance that you could be more definitive about the timeframe within which Halo takes place?
What is Bungie’s general plan for online playing support for Bungie games? (That is, what is the future of bungie.net?)
We’re planning at this point to have, at a minimum, a Myth-type metaserver for Halo, which all players can access. However, we were made painfully aware that players would like the opportunity to play amongst each other on private servers, a la Quake or Tribes.
In the first press reports about Halo, the diameter of the ring was listed as 10,000 miles. At some point, on the fansite forums, Nathan Bitner corrected this by saying it was actually 10,000 kilometers, and reiterated this number at least once. However, at a fan gathering on the first evening of MacWorld, Joe Staten went back to 10,000 miles, and when pressed specifically, refused to back down. So which is it, miles or kilometers?
The Answer To This To Be Continued
When will we see #2?
Probably next week (the week of the 10th). It still needs a readme (that’ll need to be run past Alex Seropian). And distribution needs to be set up.
What does your job look like?
We’re currently short-staffed in the Tech Support department (there’s only one full-time person there), so when I get in in the morning, I spend some time doing that. After that, the job is sort of freeform… I read fansite forums, I write whatever needs writing (ad copy, manual stuff, etc.), I sit in on marketing meetings, and get to add my opinions to the decisionmaking. Bungie is one of the coolest companies to work for, in terms of people listening.
Is the Marathon source code ever going to be released, ever?!
I cannot answer that.
In the Oni forums, there has been some threads about ‘Nude Skins’ would Bungie ever support a thing like these?
If the question is “Will Bungie go after those putting these skins up with legal action?”, the answer is probably “no”. It’s unlikely we’ll actually support them, in the sense that we’ll distribute them, or provide resources for their distribution… but we’ll generally stay out of it, as long as they’re not really offensive. There was the Amazon Babes shapes patch for Marathon, and we left that alone. If it’s really bad, we might contact the author, and ask nicely that they not be distributed.
I got a voodoo2 and when I’m using glide hack for myth 2 what is a good gamma setting? Because it’s to dark other wise. Also for those voodoo3 kids, what about a patch to make a voodoo3 work with myth?
I don’t know anything about Glide Hack, so I can’t comment on that portion of the question… but the 1.3.1 patch for Myth II addresses the voodoo3 problems. (It’s currently in beta, and should be released soon.)
Do you date ladies on TV with the help of chuck wollery?
No, but nice Beastie Boys reference.
While gallivanting on the b.org hotline server, I came across a screen shot of myth it was titled ‘Soulblighter vs Konoko’ where Konoko was kicking Mr.Soulblighter in the nuts, it looked pretty real, has anyone made an Oni tag set, and if there isn’t who made that? It looks good.
To my knowledge, noone has done an Oni tag set. If anyone knows of one, please let me know… the Bungie West team would love to see it. My take on that image was that it was a standard Photoshop composite image.
Who is the new Bungie Babe? Anyway You can set me up with her, Matt?
Her name is Anna Jarrard, and she actually works for TSI. And no.
Intellectual © bungie.org, 2000
Photo © Miguel Chavez, 2000