A few more trivia questions and a couple make-some-noise requests later, the emcee revealed everyone who answered a question correctly would receive a new Halo 3 edition Xbox 360. And apparently someone was getting a new car? The emcee was stoking the flames of an already unfathomable concentration of marketing hype within this group of die-hard fans, 90% of whom had already preordered the game. It was the combined "they-could-give-us-fucking-anything-right now" fervor of an Oprah audience with the near-rapturous congregation of a mega-church, greeting the emcee's pastor-like affirmations of Halo 3's sovereignty with "fuck yeahs" rather than "amens." And it made the Halo 3 tagline of "Believe" all the more fitting--a few devoted faithful made a pilgrimage from cities as far as Atlanta to see the game.
Upon finishing the mission, Bakken went into the Save Films feature, which sports a lobby just like the multiplayer modes for getting together and sharing gameplay movies. The level Bakken and Tung had played was automatically recorded as a video, and Bakken demonstrated the feature's various enhancements. Most impressive was the ability to detach the camera from your character and move it anywhere through the level--either during playback or while the movie is paused for a Matrix-like 360-degree freeze frame effect. Bakken detached the camera and moved it ahead of the rambling Warthog in cinematic fashion, freezing and rotating at pivotal moments--like the metal-meets-exoskeleton collision from a pair of Jackals being simultaneously gunned down and rammed by the Bungie duo.
The video feature seemed extremely customizable and will certainly offer ridiculous possibilities to creative types for machinima purposes, but isn't really an extension of the gameplay--which is where the Forge mode fits in. Bakken showed a bit of this in-game creative tool for customizing maps and inventing everything from new gametypes to custom weapons. You can actually play this mode like a multiplayer match, as you have full control over your character--or you can detach and fly around as a monitor, though you're still destructible in this form. You can place new objects or move existing ones into a map with ease, and Bakken proceeded to set up a stack of 20 volatile fusion coils and smack them with the powerful gravity hammer, launching his dead Spartan avatar upward.
Go to the next page for more on Forge mode and multiplayer insights from Bungie multiplayer guru Lars Bakken._PAGE_BREAK_ Most of what Bakken did during the demonstration was actually just futzing with the system--relenting to audience requests for needless flamethrowers and dropping a monstrous Wraith tank on top of Tung. So after the demo, I had to ask what he expected most Halo 3 players would do with the tools. "I'm not sure," he told me frankly. "I'm not quite sure what people are going to do. It's extremely open ended."
I wasn't surprised that I couldn't really pick up much about what had changed between the final version of the game and the beta. So I asked. "The single biggest thing was the fact that--and people figured this out pretty quickly--that the carbine was just a little bit more powerful than we wanted it to be," Bakken told me. "So we toned it down a little bit and actually brought the battle rifle up a little bit, so those two are really close in terms of power and lethality now." The fact that the largest change is essentially a tweak someone like myself would never recognize in-game says something about the science Bungie has taken into making the multiplayer as balanced as possible. Bakken said there were "thousands" of other tweaks made as well, but I'm sure they're also of the level of minutiae that's unnoticeable to me.
I left the event pretty late in the night, ushered out with the remaining lobby players by the event staff. Walking past the new car sitting outside for some lucky gamer made it all the more clear how simultaneously absurd and astonishing this level of anticipation is for a video game. But what I saw of the Forge, and what I can't even imagine will grow from this unfathomably large community, actually make this hype relatively merited. For gamers participating in Thursday's First to Play event in New York, Bakken said Tung would be in attendance, most likely accompanied by Bungie community dude Luke Smith. A tip for participants: brush up on your knowledge of Bungie's past financial achievements. And prepare to receive the largest tea-bag from a d-bag ever shown on a screen.