Pete then led me to a piles of whiteboards stuffed in the corner of a small room. On each one was a detailed, hand-drawn map broken up into encounters, enemy placement, dialogue, triggers for cut scenes and more. Pete explained how these whiteboards were the building blocks the team used to develop "Halo 2."
Next was a visit to the area of the office set side for Bungie.net. While most of the office was abandoned, the Bungie.net side was a buzzing hive of activity. With "Halo 2" opening up multiplayer to the world, Bungie.net has the responsibility of shepherding the world's largest game of cowboys and Indians. One of the coolest new features in "Halo 2 "is that it now has a fully-functioning online component with stats, ranking and more. The Xbox Live experience will be tied into the Web site for those gamers who have signed up on Bungie.net.
Going down a small hallway behind the Bungie.net area, we got to another set of cubicles for the game-testers. Pete pointed out how important these guys were and detailed the extensive debugging processing that "Halo 2" went through. Bungie actually developed an automated system for finding and tracking bugs in the game. As I was told by many people that day, the two Halo games have gone through far more testing than most video games. This is a key component to their flawless presentation by the time it makes it to your Xbox.
Our last stop was the Bungie clubhouse. "Not a very impressive room but a lot of important stuff happened here," Pete said almost apologetically. The "no girls allowed" sign didn't stop Agnes from following us into the bean-bag-filled room. Pete explained that the clubhouse is where everybody got together to flesh out the story of "Halo 2" and hammer out the core design work and game details.
Later in the day, I had an opportunity to sit down and talk at length with several members of the "Halo 2" team. Lead Gameplay Designer Jamie Griesemer, Bungie.net Content Manager Frank O'Conner, Designer Tyson Green, and Engineering Lead Chris Butcher. Next week, as our "Halo 2" coverage continues, you can check out our interviews with each of these guys to get the lowdown on the creation of "Halo 2."