Tag Archives | Halo

Halo 4 Creative Director Quits, Citing Halo Fatigue

Interesting interview over at Kotaku, in which Ryan Payton, a creative director for Halo 4, explained why he’s leaving Microsoft’s 343 Industries to start his own studio.

The short version: Working on Halo was burning Payton out. “I don’t regret one day of it. But after a few years, there came a point where I wasn’t creatively excited about the project anymore,” he said.

Kotaku makes clear that Payton doesn’t think Halo 4 will be a bad game. And while he didn’t disclose specifics about the popular Xbox 360 shooter’s next sequel, I get the impression that Halo 4 will follow a familiar formula. “The Halo I wanted to build was fundamentally different and I don’t think I had built enough credibility to see such a crazy endeavor through,” he said.

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Bungie Waves Goodbye to Halo

Bungie’s been finished making Halo games for nearly a year, but now the developer is cutting its final ties with the franchise and ceding control of multiplayer to another developer.

Although the changeover won’t actually happen until August 2, Bungie is saying its goodbyes now, having celebrated its 20th anniversary by playing Halo: Reach with fans. Soon, the developers will drop off the radar as they work in secrecy on a new project, as part of a 10-year publishing agreement with Activision, 1UP reports.

“Halo is yours now,” the company wrote. “In many ways, it always has been. Its new caretakers will strive, just as we did, to be worthy stewards but you have the package. Hold these characters and stories and worlds to the same unflinching standards you did while we were at the helm, but allow them all to blossom and change and grow in the ways that they must.”

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Bungie-Free, Microsoft May Regurgitate Halo 1

Halo’s been at a crossroads ever since Halo: Reach launched in September. With developer Bungie now locked in a 10-year, multi-console deal with Activision, Microsoft alone must decide what to do with its golden Xbox franchise.

But don’t expect anything rash in the near future. Over at Joystiq, Alexander Sliwinski’s sources say Microsoft will release a remake of the original game, Halo: Combat Evolved, in time for the holidays. Alexander has a solid record with Microsoft rumors — last year he broke the news that the Xbox 360 would support storage on USB sticks — and this report has a bunch of specifics.

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After Reach, Halo Needs a Revolution

Of all the people playing Halo: Reach today, I’m most envious of the folks who’ve never experienced a Halo game before.

Surely, there are some players who never witnessed how Halo: Combat Evolved defined console first-person shooters in 2001. Maybe some people didn’t play Halo 2, with its industry-changing embrace of online multiplayer. Perhaps some Xbox 360 owners missed Halo 3, which dipped the series in next-generation polish, and skipped Halo 3: ODST altogether. These people, who now see Halo with fresh eyes, and not as another revision of a battle-worn formula, are the lucky ones.

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Forget the Leak, Halo: Reach Was Downloadable

If you lack scruples, you might be interested to know that some hackers found an early version of Halo: Reach on Xbox Live, stole it, and put the code on file-sharing websites.

Personally, I can wait until Halo: Reach’s September 14 launch date. What piqued my interest was the means by which the hackers took the game.

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Bungie Aligns With Activision: R.I.P. Halo?

Two of the biggest names in video games, Activision and Bungie, announced an exclusive 10-year development deal today, stunning Halo fans and leaving Microsoft’s golden video game franchise at a crossroads.

The deal will maintain Bungie’s status as an independent game developer, but it will give Activision exclusive rights to publish a new gaming franchise on multiple platforms. Bungie manager Brian Jerrard told VG247 that almost the entire studio will concentrate on this new IP, and that Halo: Reach “is definitely Bungie’s final Halo game.”

That alone doesn’t mean the end of Halo, which transformed first-person shooters with innovations that are now industry standard — small things like regenerating health and big ideas like an automatic matchmaking system for online play. Microsoft owns the Halo IP, and that won’t change. Given the rabid enthusiasm Halo fans exude (we had over 1,000 responses to our Halo: Reach beta code giveaway), Microsoft will probably continue to create new Halo games in-house.

But in my eyes, Halo has always been about Bungie. They endlessly tinker with Halo’s multiplayer to keep things fresh and to refine the game based on how people are playing. The studio has cultivated a culture of fandom with an active forum and weekly updates on everything they do, and they keep a staff of community managers who are as obsessed with the series as its players.

Bungie is an independent studio, which means all of those resources and efforts will be going towards the new IP, except for a small group of employees who will support Halo: Reach after launch. If Microsoft intends to keep Halo alive with the same spirit it enjoys today, the company has some big shoes to fill.


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Get an Early Halo: Reach Beta Code

[UPDATE: We’re closing the contest–thanks to everyone who entered! We’ll notify winners soon.]

Want early access to the Halo: Reach multiplayer beta? Courtesy of Microsoft, we’ve got seven codes to give away. These will let you start playing on Thursday, April 29, so you won’t have to wait until May 3 and you won’t need a copy of last year’s Halo 3: ODST. As long as you can download the beta over Xbox Live, you’re good to go.

Here’s what you need to do for a chance at one of the codes:

  • Comment on this blog post with your thoughts about Halo: Reach. Use your valid e-mail address (it won’t be displayed, but we’ll need it to contact the winners).
  • You can alsot Tweet your answer to Harry (who’s @harrymccracken), if it fits in 140 characters including the @harrymccracken.
  • We’ll select people at random and deliver the code on April 29 by e-mail or direct message, so you must follow Harry on Twitter or use a valid e-mail address.

A brief primer on Halo: Reach’s multiplayer: The fundamentals of cat-and-mouse first-person shooting are the same as they’ve always been, but the developers at Bungie added new weapons and tweaked old ones, gave special armor powers that players can choose at the start of match, and created new modes (Ars Technica’s preview has a solid guide to what’s new). The beta allows people to get excited for the game while letting Bungie make adjustments based on how people play in the real world.

Good luck to those who enter. If you don’t win, you can still access the beta on May 3 with a copy of Halo 3: ODST. Either way, you’ll find me playing the beta on Xbox Live as ThePimpOfSound. I’ll destroy you all.


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Social Settings Are Halo: Reach's Coolest New Feature

My level of excitement for new Halo games has dropped off over the years, as the series’ refinements stopped adding up to anything radically different. But a new feature in the upcoming Halo: Reach sounds like a game-changer, and it has nothing to do with shooting.

I’ll just quote Ars Technica’s Ben Kuchera, who got to sample the game’s multiplayer ahead of next month’s public beta:

You also have social settings to choose from, to make sure you play with people who match your style. Do you talk? Are you quiet? Do you play competitively, or simply to enjoy yourself? Do you go Rambo, or enjoy teamwork? Do you like a polite game, or are you a trash talker? By adjusting all these options you’ll be able to filter out people whose play styles may be distasteful, allowing you a better play experience.

The idea is so simple, yet so smart, that I wonder why no one’s thought of it before. Essentially, you’ll be able to play with like-minded people without manually cultivating lists of online friends. Given how obnoxious some online gamers can be, this could breathe new life into Xbox Live.

I’m reminded of when Halo 2 introduced matchmaking more than five years ago. The game automatically found players, created teams and chose maps to play on. At the time, online console games made you manually select from a list of open matches, and if you weren’t quick to join one, they’d fill up and you’d have to refresh the list. This system became unpopular as other games mimicked what Halo 2 pioneered.

The same thing ought to happen with Halo: Reach’s social settings, provided the developer, Bungie, can properly execute the concept.


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The Games Industry’s Redeemer: Halo

ODST-frontVideo games sales bounced back modestly last month, snapping a six-month streak of declines from 2008, according to the NPD Group’s monthly sales figures.

Overall, North American game sales were one percent stronger last month than they were in September 2008. But software revenues were stronger than hardware, climbing 5 percent compared to the same month last year.

The reason, of course, is Halo 3: ODST, proving that Microsoft’s cash cow hasn’t dried up. ODST sold 1.52 million units last month, making it far and away the leader in software sales. Wii Sports Resort, a sequel to the pack-in classic Wii Sports that includes an accuracy-boosting MotionPlus peripheral, trailed in second with a mere 442,900 sales.

What’s interesting is that, despite past months of doom and gloom for the industry, gaming had its second-strongest September on record. The only September to top it was in 2007, led by — you guessed it — Halo 3. That month, the franchise’s Xbox 360 debut sold 3 million copies, while the next best-selling game, Wii Play, sold just 282,200 copies. To put it another way, the Master Chief basically carried the games industry on his back, and did so again last month without even starring in ODST.

It’s safe to say that the Halo craze is nowhere near over. ODST, which was originally conceived as an expansion pack, was criticized for being short and showing the series’ age, but it still received favorable reviews and sold phenomenally well. When the next full game, Halo: Reach, arrives next year, I’m guessing that even the people who avoided ODST (myself included) will want to take a look. Clearing the 1.5 million mark should be a breeze, and the games industry will look mighty once again.


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Halo Fanatics Rejoice! Two Titles Due in 2009

As part of the new “SteveNote,” Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Chief Robbie Bach announced that it plans to squeeze some more money out of what is arguably one of the top video game franchises — Halo. Two titles will be released during the year — Halo Wars and Halo ODST. The first is a strategy game, while ODST is a standalone expansion to Halo 3 (and was formerly named Halo 3: Recon). A few more details on these new titles can be found in this Seattle P-I blog entry.


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