First things first, if you didn't read our announcement story yet, please do so HERE and check out our galleries, wallpaper and movies.
Well we got back from E3 yesterday, or at least Sketch and I did, and to be honest, we didn't see anything of the actual show. We were actually just there to do set up for the trailer and a little surprise afterwards.
The event took place at the fabled Chinese Theater in Hollywood. We were there a couple of days before to do dress rehearsals and make sure audio and video were hooked up correctly. We also had to install a 360 debug kit with the teaser on it. The entire thing runs in real time, so there was plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong, and practice makes perfect. So we practiced.
We actually had six debugs all told. Three for the E3 briefing at the theater and three for something we did later. The three at the conference were the main unit - Harold Ryan our studio manager sat patiently backstage, waiting to press "A" after Bill Gates' speech. A dirty little secret was that he pressed "A" on two controllers simultaneously. That way if one of the boxes was accidentally unplugged, or broke, or gasp - crashed, the projector would switch seamlessly to the second Xbox and hopefully nobody would notice.
That didn't happen - we'd stress tested the Xbox systems and the game code very robustly before we left. After it ran though, we were all able to breathe a sigh of relief. We didn't want to run a video of the demo - we wanted the crowd to see it in realtime, on a real 360.
The buildup to the trailer was not without its gaffes. We spotted one of our own staff wearing his Halo 3 t-shirt before the announcement and quickly told him to zip up his jacket. Amazingly, in that 20 second window - a Kotaku reporter spotted him and actually blogged it.
The other blog-related mini-disaster was the fact that the Halo 3 trailer appeared on Xbox Live at around 12:15, before it had appeared at the conference (which was running a little late). A few members of the press in the crowd probably sooted that on their wireless devices - but thankfully they kept quiet.
We were hiding in the back out of sight - primarily to see what the crowd reaction would be like. We started sweating when Gears of War got immediate rapturous applause, and the crowd went positively nuts when Peter Moore revealed that Grand theft Auto 4 would be released for 360 (my bet - set in Tokyo and starring Beat Takeshi as a Yakuza boss).
Eventually the conference started to wind down towards what we knew was the Halo 3 announce. We basked in the applause and then literally ran back across the street to set up a little behind the scenes thing for the press. Again, we wanted to stress that the thing was in realtime.
Our pals at Pioneer loaned us one of their sweet new 360 audio systems - a 5.1 surround system with a 360-themed industrial design and an awesome form factor - and a couple of 50 inch plasmas to match. Hao Chen, our graphics guy, spent two days calibrating them with his all-new custom-built HD video calibration software. We've begged Hao to maybe work a consumer version into the game. We just have to be really, really nice to him all year.
We used the TVs and audio to demo the fact that the game was realtime to an assortment of press. Basically CJ Cowan (or TJ Cohen as he's now known) and Marcus Lehto, our cinematic and art directors respectively, flew around our environment.
There wasn't much to show at the moment, since we're keeping things under warps for now, but CJ clued everyone in on the 3-mile wide Forerunner artifact, Cortana's state of mind and the Chief (no it's not Linda, or Kelly…) battered Mjolnir armor.
Marcus showed off the new engine's lighting system, the self-shadowing and realtime reflection on the Chief, and the fact that we can draw geometry out to about 13 or 14 (game) miles. There was other stuff, but we'll talk about that later.
I think we had a great showing and we certainly had fun doing it, but getting the announcement out there was a huge weight off our minds. Lots more coming soon kids.