Peter Jackson's Halo effect

By Peter Griffin

As the video game industry gets ready for the launch of sci-fi video game Halo 3, work is under way at Peter Jackson's new Wingnut Interactive games studio on a new instalment in the record-breaking franchise.

Halo 3 will debut on Microsoft's Xbox 360 games console next month and, with its predecessor Halo 2 having made gaming history with sales of US$125 million (NZ$181 million) in the first day of its release in 2004, expectation is running high that Halo's debut in the next-generation gaming world will do even better.

After dabbling in game development through a partnership with French developer Ubisoft for the video game version of King Kong, Jackson last year formed a partnership with Microsoft that involves Wingnut developing a new Halo game instalment and an entirely new game, details of which are yet to be released.

Frank O'Connor, who works on game content for Halo 3 at Microsoft-owned game studio Bungie, said Jackson's team was already in development mode.

"Peter Jackson really gets video games," he said.

"They sent me photographs yesterday of the Warthog in Halo 3, it's a four-wheel drive with four wheel steering. It was doing donuts in their parking lot.

"The relationship we have with them is incredible," he said of the Wellington game development team.

Bungie developers were collaborating with Jackson and his developers, daily, via email and conference calls. Bungie game engineers had paid regular visits to Wellington, he said.

No details of the Halo chapter Jackson is developing have been released, but O'Connor said it would be completely self-contained rather than a continuation of the grim, futuristic story that has propelled the three existing Halo titles.

"You can take this one to the bank. In Halo 3 we take all the gun powder in our armoury and throw a match on it. It's the closing chapter in the trilogy. We're leaving no stone unturned," said O'Conner, who worked on the initial story script for Halo 3.

The user-generated content revolution led by YouTube and social networking websites has also rubbed off on Halo 3. Players will be able to create recorded files of their game-playing antics and share them with friends.

"They are literally game files so you will need Halo 3 to watch them. We have a file share system where every single player can post movies on Bungie.net and recommend them to friends," said Lars Bakken, a multiplayer designer for Bungie.

"It's been around for PC games for a while so its nothing new to games. What we're doing is introducing a set of tools to the console for the first time, definitely the first time for as first-person shooter," added Bakken.

One of the most popular online multiplayer games in the world, Halo 3 would, for the first time, allow teams of four players to cooperate online, which is expected to prove a popular feature for Xbox Live and local network game players.

With so much character and story detail spread across the Halo trilogy, O'Connor said the Bungie team had developed a gaming reference book that had grown to several thousand pages and was constantly referred to.

"It's not an exact science, said O'Conner. "Every game we make we're reinventing things."

Microsoft has reportedly already notched up a million pre-sale orders for Halo 3, while Hollywood trade magazine Variety reported that: "Microsoft's Xbox unit wants not only to top the 2004 [Halo 2] figure but to reach US$155 million in a single day - besting the US$151 million opening weekend for Spider-Man 3, the current record holder for a pic at the box office."

ACTION JACKSON

* Peter Jackson has formed a partnership with Microsoft to develop a new Halo video game.

* It will have a new story and will not be a continuation of the plot from the first three Halo games.

* Microsoft hopes the opening day of sales for Halo 3 next month will earn US$155 million.

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