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The Art Of Halo by Eric S. Trautman

01/03/2005. Contributed by Phil Jones

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pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 161 page softcover. Price: $21.95 (US), $29.95 (CAN). ISBN: 0-345-47586-0.

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The progress and development of computer/video games has been an interesting one. I'm a veteran gamer and remember the days when a game was developed by one person, possibly from their own bedroom. Today, a game has a development akin to that of a feature film. A huge cast of artists, programmers, level designers, writers, musicians to name a few.

Gaming started off in the arcades and humble consoles such as Atari and computers like the Spectrum and Vic 20. I think the first time I noticed a game other than just to play it was a Commodore 64 game called 'IO'. It was an incredible graphical feast. The gameplay itself was ridiculously hard but that didn't seem to matter.

A shift happened. Games became killer apps to sell consoles. Both Mario and Sonic had this effect for Nintendo and Sega. It wasn't really the hardware that people were interested in, it was the games or even the game characters that were significant. Hardware sales were more reliant on killer apps (games). There have been a few landmark games, not necessarily because of the gameplay. They could be just eye candy or they could be innovatory. 'Shadow Of The Beast' on the Amiga, 'Killer Instinct' on the N64, 'Tomb Raider' on the Playstation. On the PC, gaming really took off with 'Doom'. A first person 3D roaming shoot 'em up or as it's come to be known a frag fest. A similar game emerged on the Apple Mac - 'Marathon'. This was developed by a small company called Bungie. This unlike 'Doom' had an intricate storyline as well as being shoot the crap out of everything fest. They continued to develop a number of games such as 'Weekend Warrior', 'Myth' and 'Oni' for Mac and PC.

In 1999, a short preview of there new game 'Halo' was shown at Macworld Expo. Shortly after, with need of a killer app for there Xbox Microsoft bought 'Bungie'.

This book, 'The Art Of Halo', starts with a potted history of 'Bungie'. In an almost interview style, the comments and opinions of 'Bungie's developers are given a voice through out the book. Giving you a very personal insight into the works of a game software company. It is interesting how the move from Chicago to Washington and the change of working environment radically affected their work flow, going from open plan free from office to small cubicle style office stilted their creativity. Especially when they were under tight deadlines to get the Xbox version out on the shelves.

The book doesn't just provide you with artwork but bestows you an insight into the whole creation process. From early development sketches to final game screenshots and promotional artwork. Level design, concept, gameplay, story development, music and sound effects are all featured throughout the book with the people involved talking about their work and involvement in Halo. Both programming and environment gameplay factors are discussed and how they influenced the final look of the game.

There are plenty of pictures, drawings and painting to provide eye candy for 'Halo' fans out there and, for that matter, anyone interested in game development and the processes involved. 'Halo' was unusual in that it's a shoot 'em up, but very storyline led. It doesn't rely on feasting the eyes to draw people in. That's not to say the graphics are poor. There is some lovely 3D modelling and texture mapping and some areas and levels have a huge 3D environment in which to play out. Some of these levels are examined in detail, going through their initial development and creation to the finished product. There are development screenshots and drawing from both 'Halo' and 'Halo 2'.

In all, this is a good all-round book especially if you're interested in game development or a huge fan of 'Halo'.

Phil Jones

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