From an engineering perspective, what was your contribution to Halo 3?
Chris Butcher: Coming off of Halo 2, I was responsible for the networking and UI and the multiplayer side of the game -- that kind of online experience, from a technical standpoint. For Halo 3, I was responsible for doing early contributions to the online side of things.
And as a lead engineer, I was just helping out with various random things. The last thing I did was I made the Chinese font display correctly. (laughs) Stuff like that. You do a lot of general-type stuff.
I think that game was a nice leap forward, in terms of its online implementation, and will probably become influential. The Forge stuff opens things up a lot to the players, but in a very accessible way. Was that a challenge to get that working?
CB: It was one of the things that we placed the largest technological investments in, in Halo 3, besides obviously bringing the game to the Xbox 360, which was one of the large technological pillars for us. One of the others was online multiplayer.
We really wanted to take the experience and make it very relevant to the player, and immediate in that sense. One of the overall principles we had when we started, was that everything the player does in this game, they should be able to do with their friends.
Everything is cooperative. Everything from the single player -- you can play through cooperatively and score with it -- you can watch a saved film, you can invite your friends to watch the saved film with you. Even if they don't have it on their box, you can be narrating it and showing them all the cool stuff that's going on, or you can play Forge together and edit maps collaboratively.
We really wanted to make that social experience part of the underlying fabric of the game, because that's what multiplayer is about. It's about connecting with people -- your friends or strangers -- and it's a big part of Halo 3.
One of the things that can be difficult in development is, say, designers working with engineers to realize their ideas. How does that work at Bungie? How are you able to implement these highly technical ideas, from a content perspective?
CB: One of the guiding principles that we have is, "The game is the thing." It doesn't matter if something you're doing can be as technically smart or elegant in design as possible. If it's not in the overall service of the game, it doesn't really matter.
I think everybody at Bungie -- from engineers to designers to artists -- understands that it's a collaborative process, and you have to be able to work really well in small groups to enable other peoples' potential.
What that means on the engineering side is that if there's something that's very easy to do technically or very hard to do technically, if it's in the service of the overall design it's the right thing to do. And vice versa. You may have something that you think is technically awesome, but if it doesn't fit well with the design of the user interface and you don't easily communicate to players how it will fit, then it's not really worth doing.