Friday, April 29, 2005

Sams book contributors

here's a quick glance at some of the contributors to The Black Art of Halo Mods (Sams publishing).

Patrick "PC" Chin - co-author
Grenadiac - helping with the concept and community recruitment

HEK content contributors (random order):
The Swamp Fox
Some Random Guy
Wave Of Lag

full credits

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Doom III - mini review

since there have been so many negative reviews of Doom III (by id software), I haven't been all that eager to try it out. I finally broke down and picked up a copy of the Xbox version.

I've heard this game slagged for a number of reasons, but after an hour of playing, I have to say that I think that most of these arguments are pretty hollow - I'll get to the issues in a bit.

it didn't take long to realize that the monsters (at least as far as I have ventured) are the same creatures that appear in Doom I - although obviously much improved. this made me think of the original game and I started to examine how faithful id has been to the originally vision. I think that they have done a stellar job of creating a modern version of Doom. I get the impression that this is the Doom game that would have been released if the technology existed in 1993.

here are some of the common criticisms:

1. the game is a thriller masquerading as a First Person Shooter (FPS)

the fact is that Doom largely defined FPS. to say that Doom III is not an FPS is a bit of a contradiction. however, I can understand that many people playing Doom III didn't play Doom I in the early 90's. the FPS genre has evolved but critics have to remember that this is where it began - id stayed true to their vision.

having said this, I prefer the fluid play of the Halo engine. just the melee attack and access to grenades is enough to tip the scales in favour of Halo. so as far as multiplayer is concerned, I don't think that Doom currently competes with Halo. however the Doom single player campaign is enjoyable.

2. the flashlight is annoying

I heard this over and over before I played the game. having to drop your weapon to use the flashlight is clunky but it's certainly not as bad as the negative hype. remember that this game is supposed to make you jump. having to quickly switch to your weapon is a great way to increase your anxiety.

3. the tight corridors make the weapon selection boring

I haven't made it that far into the Doom III campaign (read: I should be working rather than playing Doom III or writing in my blog :), but I can see that this might be true.

4. saving the game breaks the flow of action

the Doom method of saving has pros and cons. on the positive side, you don't ever have to do the same thing twice - this can relieve a great deal of frustration. however, the automatic checkpoint system (ala Halo) offers a more fluid game experience. I'd like to see both available.

my conclusion is that if you're a fan of the original game, then I highly recommend this version of Doom. if you're looking for a modern FPS, then this may not be right for you.

Monday, April 25, 2005

new maps for Halo 2

kudos to Bungie and Microsoft for Halo downloadable content. this is a fantastic way to keep the game fresh and fill the gap between major releases. I wish all software released features in this manner.

two new free maps have been released and two more are available for a small fee.

free maps:

Containment - I really like this map. it seems to be small enough that four people could play it, but it also could be a great small team arena. I think that the design is interesting and I look forward to seeing how well it plays.

I also like the fact that the Banshee is in a small map. however, with those two rocket launchers and the gauss cannon, I wonder how eager players will be to volunteer as pilots.

Warlock - this is actually the Wizard map from Halo 1. the original map was small and chaotic - great fun. the most obvious change is the look of the map. I like it, I think it's interesting. I also like the fact that the battle rifle is so prominent on this level - combined with the 1.1 update, this favourite weapon of mine seems to be gaining some usefulness.

however, I have to say that it always amazes me when things seem to be changed just for the sake of change. this adaptation has me wondering about some things. and I can understand the desire to improve upon the presentation of a map. however, I don't understand altering basic game play attributes. if the map was broken, it seems unlikely that it would have even been considered for a port to Halo 2.

weapons: I've already mentioned that the battle rifle is in the spotlight. when this map was Wizard, each platform of this level offered a different weapon. this meant that despite the disorienting symmetry of the map, it was important to know where you were. if you wanted to get your favourite weapon (read: pistol) you had to know which platform to climb. now it doesn't matter if you have a sense of direction or not, you will find the same weapons in the same place around the map. I think that this takes something away from the game play.

powerups: I also favour fewer powerups. this is simply because I like the stock car racing mentality of competition - everyone on even ground. however, I don't like reducing the powerups down to one. now you have one person with a distinct advantage. in addition, Wizard was probably the only map where it was easy for everyone to get powerups. they were so accessible that it gave everyone a chance.

air vents vs. elevators: while the air vents may be a cool effect, I prefer the old ladders for this level. people would occasionally panic and stumble on the ladders. this would give the better players a few free shots at them, now it's just a matter of running up to the vents- no fun there.

I would love to read a map designer's explanation of why these changes were made.

BTW - I read on that Hang 'em High won't be ported because they think that it isn't fun with the Halo 2 weapons. that really doesn't make sense to me since there are enough returning weapons that the game could have been setup easily. for example, shotgun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, magnum, plasma rifle. there you go, that wasn't so hard.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Halo 2 ver. 1.1

well I've had a chance to play around with the recent Autoupdate for Halo 2. for the most part, I find the changes to be positive. my biggest complaint is something that Bungie didn't change - the plasma sword.

I'm one of the many surprised that there was no attempt to tone down the overpowered knife. when you consider that the range for the sword lunge is farther than the fatal range of the shotgun, it's difficult to argue that the sword is well balanced. if you add to this, the fact that MLG banned the sword in solo slayer games, you have a rapier sharp argument in favour of balancing the weapon.

changes in the update...

first of all, not all of the changes were included in the article. for example, an eight minute time limit was added to the slayer game variant. my buddies and I find this annoying since we'd rather play to a frag count than a time limit. we'll have to create our own variant.

Grenades: the damage of both types of grenades has been increased. plasma grenades are significantly more dangerous. I think that this is a great change because it gives the skilled grenadiers a chance to shine.

Melee Damage: I also enjoy the increase to melee damage; I use the butt of my gun more than most so this should help my game.

Magnum: I disagree with decreasing the damage inflicted by the Magnum - this change deemphasizes a skill move. the magnum weapon was not overpowered - I don't remember anyone suggesting that it was. I believe that this change may have been made to tone down the plasma pistol + magnum combo. this was a deadly dual-wielding technique but the semi-auto magnum required skill and courage to employ. now the risk far outweighs the value and I think that people will simply opt for the 'spray and pray' approach.

Dual-wielding SMG and Plasma Rifle: the SMG has been weakened in this situation. I support the idea of reducing 'spray and pray.

BTW - how is this Halo 2 1.1? shouldn't it be 2.1?

Saturday, April 16, 2005

hacked game variants and profiles

in case any modders missed this note in the update...

"Please note that the current "hacked profile" that is circulating around the internet is prohibited on Live and we consider that cheating and a violation of our online terms of use. Anyone using this or any other similar device will be blocked from playing in matchmade games."

these hacked game saves include altered game variants. the files are taken off a modded Xbox and transferred to a PC. then they are modified with hexadecimal editing software. after the changes are complete, the files are transferred back to the modded Xbox and then copied onto an Xbox memory card. once they are on the memory card, they can be used on any Xbox - modded or not.

there were two reasons that people used these hacked game variants: they wanted to add illegal characters to the names, and they wanted to use game variants that cannot be created using the Halo 2 game variant options.

the first reason doesn't really make much sense to me. I don't much care if a game is called "slayer" or "**slayer**". however, the second reason makes perfect sense to me. one of the 'illegal' game variants is 'grenades only'. now that's something worth modding for - it's a really cool variant that isn't available in Halo 2. in the game options, there is simply no way to allow people to play without a weapon.

as for banning people, I don't see why it's necessary (or even desirable) to do so. as far as I know, no harm was being done (someone pls correct me if I'm wrong on this point - EDIT: someone did :). I would have much preferred that Halo fans were given the option of creating the variants that they want to play.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Halo 2 Hacks - full credits

I want it to be perfectly clear that Halo 2 Hacks has been a community effort. With that in mind, here is a brief thank you message to everyone who was involved. The book was made possible through the generous help of all of these people. I am greatly thankful for all of your hard work!

BTW - I have made every effort to give credit where it is due. If anyone feels that I am guilty of an error or omission, please contact me so that I can correct the mistake.

Big thanks go to Brian Jepson (my editor at O'Reilly) and Neil Salkind (my agent from StudioB).

Opening thanks:
I'll start by thanking Alex Schwartz (GTJuggler) for not only contributing content, but also for helping to shape the concept of the book. Ken Masters (MrMurder) provided a great deal of information about modding and has been a tremendous resource. I want to thank Jim Cleary (Grenadiac) for putting me in touch with so many expert modders in a short period of time. To Iron_Forge and The Swamp Fox, thanks for helping this n00b get through the basics.

I want to thank Kahai Maluu (Jeff Chavez) for providing so much content that I can't use it all - and thanks for meeting me on Xbox Live to show me a proper slide jump. Patrick "PC" Chin was, once again, responsible for a great number of the screenshots in the book - thanks man.

Thanks to the modders:
Although, a number of other modders helped out (see below), I want to say a special thanks to Aztec, Chris Morgan (c2morg), Northy, Gabriel da Cruz (Gabs), Steve Hansen (XIU), and pokecancer.

I also want to thank these people for their contributions:
pimpinhobo528, Underdog ,ZENON, Jefff Nelson, Twelve Large, Cody Miller, Travis Smola (Tsmola), Richard Shields, Danny Youssef, Weaselfang, Corey Johnson (theneighborrkid), Mitchell Lindle, John Alexander Williamson (Shinoda), Mark Fischer (Danishviking,, Sebastian Belfiore (Fatal Reaction), Ian Jablonowski (trip7), Malloc, Max Kielcz (Rampaging Soda), Dark Helmet, Jeffdude1169, Scotty GEE, D-uK, Salvage, and TheGoldeagle.

Web site resources:
Jeremy Hunt (Ducain), Claude Errera (Louis Wu) and Jim Cleary (Grenadiac) your sites rule!

Sites that were helpful:

Modded hardware support was provided by Modman860 (

The following people helped with technical review and editing:
Claude Errera, Christa Peters, Patrick "PC" Chin, Scott Fynn, Rasool Rayani, Bruce Clarke, and Nick Cairns.

I'd also like to thank these people for their work in the Halo community scene:
ADI team, Ch2r team, DotHalo team, The Fantastic 6, 7th Sanctum, Re-Animators INC., Daz, Nick, greennc, Group Bocked, Stephen Loftus (SoundEffect), Kai, Acidflash, Dootdoo, Mr. Mojo Risin, 9wt, Frogblast, StarMan343, denki, Martin Wright, Aequitas, Some Random Guy, Mrhyperpenguin, scott_man328, link_36p, zulux, Vjay8088, xbox7887, Goku, bitterbanana, and Angry Camel.

Monday, April 11, 2005

interview on Urban Rush

today I went to Vancouver's Shaw Tower for an interview on Shaw TV's show Urban Rush.

I was their first ever guest in the "nerd news" segment. we chatted about Halo 2 and writing books about Halo. I even brought in some videos that I shot for O'Reilly's Halo 2 Hacks.

I'm a fan of the show so I was thrilled that they invited me. I greatly enjoyed meeting the Urban Rush team - the hosts, Fiona and Mike, were really friendly and joked around the whole time. in fact, the whole experience was positive. thanks go to their producer Lisa for organizing the whole thing.

they film the episodes the same day that they air, so I can already share a still with you (ya gotta love the digital VCR) ...

- Fiona Forbes and Michael Eckford (right) from Urban Rush

update: you can download a low quality version of the interview

Sunday, April 10, 2005

end of radio silence

yes, I've been working like mad to finish the manuscript for Halo 2 Hacks.

I concede that working day and night on one project is not the best methodology, but that's the one that I used for this project.

here's a shot from Chapter 8, Vehicle Hacks:

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

MTV Canada 969 interview

Joey Case (host) and Adam Haisinger (videographer) from MTV Canada's 969 came by to do an interview today. we spent some time trash talking over Halo 2 and chatting about the video game industry.

as for how my interview went, I was reminded of a line from a local radio station (JackFM) ad: "ya, I think that was a good one - if you can edit it and make it sound and look good"

the interview will air in a couple of weeks.

BTW - thanks go to my O'Reilly editor for setting it up.

update: you can download a low quality version of the interview.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Halo 2 Hacks book progress

so I'm nearing the end of the Halo 2 Hacks project. in fact, I probably shouldn't be writing this... I should be working on the book :)

but I thought I'd post a quick note saying that it has come together nicely. this title is a compilation of the cool things that Halo 2 fans have discovered. about 70 people from the Halo community helped with the book.

as you can imagine, it was tough to track down all the right people. but, it's important to give credit where it's due. after a great deal of research, I sent out e-mails, forum PMs, AIM messages, MSN messages and Xbox Live messages to try to contact everyone who contributed to the topics that are covered in the book.

here's a sneak peak...

keep your eye on for information about availability.

some sample credits (in random order - I'll post a more complete list when I have time) ...
The Swamp Fox
Kahai Maluu
Patrick (PC) Chin
Louis Wu