In Halo, “the sandbox” often refers to the weapons and vehicles on a map at any given time: all the toys you have to play with. But for a whole other set of Halo fans, that sandbox is the game itself. Be it through Forge or ambitious modding projects like SPV3, playing with the very core of the game itself is part of the legacy of the franchise. Now, Microsoft has made that even easier after publishing a thorough collection of modding resources for Halo: The Master Chief Collection. And as a surprise, some of these resources contain some never-before-seen images from Halo 2’s development way back in the early 2000s.
Today, Microsoft released official documentation for Halo: The Master Chief Collection’s mod tools, specifically Halo 2 and Halo 3 (other entries in the series are expected to receive documentation at a later date). As spotted by Halo modder Kiera on Twitter, some of the documentation for Halo 2 contains material directly from Bungie circa the early 2000s. With it are a few development images that few have seen until now.
What’s cool about these images is that they show off the inner workings of Halo 2’s engine. One of these images illustrates the “screenshot_cubemap” command. I’m not going to entirely pretend to know what this does, but based on the documentation, it’s for use in generating reflective surfaces, like we see in the old documentation photo provided.
Another neat pair of images shows off debugging information, listing data for when a model is using specific weapons or playing out various animations.
Like many behind-the-scenes shots, these are hardly glamorous. But they are cool nonetheless. The development of Halo 2 is a tale of high ambition at the cost of abusive crunch, much of which has been talked about openly. Various materials from the game’s development have been seen before, while others remain out of reach, like the legendary 2003 E3 demo (which 343 has recently pondered finally making playable). Today, a little more has seen the light of day.