Halo creators deliver keynote at Game Design Expo

Jay Weiland and CJ Cowan of Bungie Studios gave the opening keynote at the Game Design Expo, presented by Vancouver Film School on Saturday at the Vancity Theatre in downtown Vancouver. The pair began with an explanation of how the Halo 3 team created audio and cinematics for the recent Xbox 360 blockbuster. One of the innovations the game employed was the use of “sound tags”, which tied sounds with other data, allowing sounds to be paired on the fly with weapons, vehicles and other objects in the game as need be. Other programs created entire sound environments, such as reverb or other effects, depending on what game area a character was traveling through. The game also employs a hierarchical system that travels “up the food chain” of sound types until it finds the appropriate sound for an action or series of actions. Music operates in a similar way, waiting on the actions of the player and then reacting to them with different musical cues.

In terms of cinematics, Bungie took a similar hands-on approach, with automatically generated scripts dictating the actions of objects within each cinematic in real time. If that sounds complicated, that’s because it is, but essentially, Halo 3 created movies in real time that could be changed at any point by the game’s designers.

The Game Design Expo continues all day Saturday with several Vancouver studios explaining their latest projects and breaking down their techniques for crafting great games. On Sunday, January 19th, Vancouver Film School will hold an open house on their downtown campus for those interested in checking out VFS game design courses.