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    The History Of Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 4, HALO 5 GUARDIANSHALO 5 GUARDIANS

    Halo is more than a game series. It’s more than a Microsoft exclusive IP. It’s more than a first-person shooter. Halo is a landmark, a permanent installation in the culture of gaming. The iconic and imposing silhouette of Master Chief stands above everything Microsoft has achieved since launching its first games console without Chief and the visionary studio behind him, the Xbox would have remained an outsider, an idea, an other.

    In 2001, Halo did more than just revolutionise the first-person shooter; it validated an entire generation of uncertain hardware. The Xbox was seen as an outside force, a predator on the fringes of Sony and Nintendo’s domain. And yet, five months after the game’s launch, it broke records the fastest-selling game of the sixth console generation, boosting the Xbox’s sales by over 50 per cent in the process. A previously little-known developer called Bungie had catapulted the Xbox and the first-person shooter to dizzying heights, setting a new standard for the genre on both PC and console.

    Halo revolutionised a stagnating genre, it proved that games didn’t have to take themselves so seriously all the time. It proved that competitive player on player shooting could work on console, and it laid the foundations for one of the most complete and engrossing sci-fi worlds in fiction, let alone videogames.

    HALO COMBAT EVOLVED Year: 2001 System: Xbox

    Halo was more than an innovation in first-person shooters, it was a clarification,” explains Jaime Griesemer, designer on Combat Evolved. “It was a simplification, or a purification. Because of the restrictions we had on the Xbox hardware, we had to get rid of a lot of elements that weren’t really that important to us for an FPS.”

    Halo reinvented the first-person shooter, stripping it back from the PC format excessive loadouts were replaced with a two-weapon system, and the control scheme overhauled completely from genre rivals to fit the hefty Xbox pad.

    Halo proved that the FPS was a console friendly genre, and all it took was Master Chief and his aptitude with weapons to frame that in a way gamers would understand. It was a marriage of mechanics and narrative that empowered players, and justified Bungie’s removal of a weapon wheel something that was initially done only because the original Xbox didn’t have enough memory to allow Chief to have a whole arsenal on himat any one time.

    “The main goal with Chief as a character was that he always had the ability to use the tools at his disposal well enough that he could accomplish any of his objectives,” says Griesemer. “That meant we could put you in situations where you had a limited inventory, but make each thing you could carry potent enough to win any firefight. No combination of weapons would put you at a dead end.”This new restrictive system was merged with a new kind of open level design that first-person shooters hadn’t really seen before. Rather than just ushering you from point A to point B,
    Halo created sandboxes for you to explore, and populated them with AI that understood how to take advantage of these open spaces; another first for the genre. Halo’s alien-yet-familiar vistas and sprawling open landscapes have come to define the series and Bungie’s design ethic and were inspired by Microsoft’s acquisition of the Bungie studio.

    “During the early days of Halo, we were based in Chicago,” explains Combat Evolved’s art director Marcus Lehto, “then when Microsoft purchased us, we moved out to the Pacific area out to Seattle. When we got here, we were struck by the amazing beauty of the Cascade mountains, the ocean mouth, the sheer cliff walls, the waterfalls, the peninsula out here… that all massively influenced
    Halo, even down to the exploration. We put the player into basically a giant national park, to all intents and purposes, and we wanted them to explore this giant natural wonderland.”

    These beautiful levels went against the grain at the time. Whereas a lot of other games in the genre were built around earthy, dark colour palettes, Halo was colourful and bright; spiritually reminiscent of the 3D-platformers that were dominating the industry a decade before something that came into play in the verticality of the levels, and gave birth to the now-famous ‘Halo jump’.

    HALO 2 Year: 2004 System: Xbox

    PERFECTING THE FORMULA Halo 2 didn’t just introduce online functionality to Halo it also brought smarter AI, new weapons and a pacier, more streamlined rhythm to how the game played. “Halo 2 was closer to what we originally planned,” reveals Jaime Griesemer who was lead designer by the time Halo 2 was in development. “Halo 2 was a much quicker game and I think that was a reaction to the direction shooters were going at that time.  Halo 2 sped up: people were getting better with controllers, and internet multiplayer required us to think more about how fast your shields recharged, and reload speeds and all that. We actually started designing the multiplayer fi rst, which I think aff ected the game quite a lot.”

    Halo 2 was proof that a strong, online network could exist ona console. Max Hoberman who worked on the original iteration of Halo 2 for Bungie, and recently the Master Chief Collection’s multiplayer as president of Certain Affinity explains the process behind its conception.

    What were the main things to consider when developing for this newonline platform?

    When we started on Halo 2, there was an opportunity to help shape the future of the Xbox Live service. As with all our work, we wanted to make sure that all of the online features that we requested support for were framed in a manner that would be broadly useful to other games. We were able to incorporate our dreamfeatures such as an instantly available friends list, matchmaking, rankings, and parties. These were ultimately broadly adopted by the Xbox Live team.

    Was the team ever sceptical about trying to make online multiplayer on console as big as PC?

    We always had a high level of confidence that Halo 2’s gameplay would attract a huge audience. Still, there was some trepidation inside of Bungie about the path that we’d chosen to take. The biggest point of contention was around our idea for a simple, automated match making system many long time PC gamers reeled at the idea of giving up so much player control, and very vocally voiced their
    opinion that this would be rejected by players. This continued until we shipped and our big bet proved itself.

    Halo 2has some of the most famous map design what’s your personal favourite and why?

    Halo 2 has amazing maps! My personal all time favourite is Lockout it’s the perfect combination small-scale, fast-paced map, supporting ninja like movement and expert grenade tosses (my best weapon!).

    We’ve heard you were one of two people working on Halo 2’s multiplayer?

    When I started on Halo 2, Chris Carney, a very talented environment art lead, and I were the only people dedicated to multiplayer. My team also had a dedicated UI artist and a dedicated UI programmer, and then we got spare cycles here and there from other programmers. This was a blessing in disguise a smaller team allowed us to hyper-focus, eliminating any room for error and ultimately getting it right the first time around. This is a big part of why I am such a meticulous planner, and this planning paid off in the long run.

    What did Halo 2’s multiplayer achieve that you’re the most proud of ?

    As far as I’m concerned, Halo 2 multiplayer did two things exceptionally well: first, it helped raise Halo to the position of “king of the multiplayer hill.”  Nothing could touch the popularity of the franchise for years, and this cemented the game as a fixture for multiplayer FPS gaming (including among the competitive crowd, which was unheard of for a console game at the time).

    Second, it paved the way for the Xbox Live service as we know it and an entire generation of multiplayer games on console. Neither is a small feat, and I’d be hard pressed to say which I’m more proud of.

    HALO 3 Year: 2007  System: Xbox 360

    We really spanked the 360,” laughs Marcus Lehto art director on the game. “I don’t think We could have pushed that hardware any further than we did, otherwise it would have started smoking on your table. We juiced it. It was good.” Halo 3 was released to an audience of gamers that were becoming dissatisfied with the new generation of hardware nothing much had been done to prove the 360 and PS3 were pushing boundaries. It was still early in the console’s life cycle, and it seemed
    Microsoft was getting nervous.

    “There was a ton of pressure on our shoulders with Halo 3,” Lehto continues, “and the intensity during production was palpable we all came out of it witha fewbattle scars! But it was an opportunity for us to fixa lot of things that we felt didn’t work too well in Halo 2…so we knew we had to look at the AI, we knewwe had to make it all look nicer…there was a lot of weight on us, but I think it made us work harder.” When Halo 3 finally released, it proved that the 360’s retail value was justified: Bungie’s newest effort aside from presenting the studio’s now trademarked sci-fi world in glorious HD  incorporated small details that served to make the Halo experience feel even more complete: the stunning galactic vistas nowhad parallax mapping; draw distances could render real-time movement up to 16 kilometres away; and everything had its own real time shadow(a small detail, but once you noticed it, you couldn’t stopnoticing it).

    It all played into making Halo 3 feel as epic as possible this world ending, climactic game would have fallen flat if it just felt the same as Halo 2… “We lovingly called Haloa ‘galactic romp’,” reveals Lehto, “where Halo 2 became more of a space opera, and that epic kind-of saga continued into Halo 3, and even though you were going back to Earth, the scale of it was all still there in ODST, too.” “ Halo 3 was super polished, nothing was missing it was very complete,” reflects lead designer, Jaime Griesemer. “We explored everything we could possibly do in Halo 3. It was the complete realisation of that Halo ideology we had since the first game look at the Scarab battles, right; we give the player a ton of tools, set them a seemingly impossible challenge and they have to figure it out.”

    The Scarab battles in question were some of Halo 3’s most intense challenges, and felt like a deliberate nod to the original Star Warstrilogy instead of having an X-Wing to take down AT-ATs, you had a Mongoose, or a Scorpion, or absolutely nothingto take down these monolithic walking death-bases. It was another reminder that Halowas more than just a game: it was sci-fi fiction, but interactive, player-directed, new.

    HALO 4 Year: 2012  System: Xbox 360

    Halo 4 had a lot to prove not only was it 343 Industries’ first full project (the studio’s previous work on Halo Anniversary had prepared them well for a full development cycle), it was also the return of Chief a facet of the Halo games that consumers had almost forgotten about after the emotional success of Noble Team in Halo: Reach.

    Bringing back Chief seemed like an obvious move, though even though his story seemed neatly wrapped up in the events of Halo 3, 343 knew there was more mileage in the power-armoured hero, and jetted him off into space once more to uncover the mysteries behind the enigmatic Forerunner race. While the narrative of the game veered off in a wholly new direction, most player’s focus was glued to the multiplayer. Bungie games all have a very specific flavour a certain humour, a certain pace, a certain craftsmanship and long-time Halo players were eager to see if 343 could emulate that Bungie feeling.

    “As developers, we want to make a game that’s new and exciting, but not lose track of things that make Halo, well, Halo,” details Kevin Franklin lead designer at 343 Industries when we asked him about 343’s philosophy when adding to the Halo library. “While building new game modes, maps, and experiences, we frequently go back and playtest legacy titles; they all set a very high benchmark. We also hired pro Halo gamers onto our development team and their feedback is immensely valuable in helping us shape new experiences.” One of these new multiplayer experiences 343 introduced was the divisive Dominion game mode an ambitious playlist that combined Halo’s rich story assets with a capture-the-flag inspired multiplayer battle mode.

    “Dominion was inspired by the ambition of Reach’s Firefight,” explains Franklin, “we liked the deeper level of fictional immersion, and 343 shared a desire to do something big and bold and new.

    Creating new modes is a lot of fun, especially when you get to layer on all sorts of configurable options.”Max Hoberman Creative Director at Certain Affinity, the studio that worked on a lot of Halo 4’s multiplayer agrees: “That’s one of the things that I love about Halo: the awesome variety of settings that you can (and should!) play around with. Games are meant to be fun, and the series has always embraced this and not taken itself too seriously in multiplayer.”

    HALO 5 GUARDIANS/HALO: NIGHTFALL Year: 2015  System: Xbox One

    The sprawling sci-fi universe created by Halo has never just been about the ameplay between books, graphic novels, live action TV shows, Halo Waypoint and a myriad of other online content (including a Bungie produced ARG game playfully titled ‘I Love Bees’), Halo has established itself as one of the most complex and complete sci-fi universes in fiction. Master Chief is merely one thread in a narrative tapestry that extends beyond our solar system, and beyond recorded history.

    Halo 5 plans to build on what Halo 4 trailed in the Spartan Ops section of the game, although it’s going to be a bit more experimental than Halo 4’s episodic mission structure: this time, Microsoft is going to run a dedicated TV series alongside Guardians. This has only been done once before with SyFy’s Defiance cross releasing asa game and ongoing TV show.

    Defiance performed poorly as a game, yet has gaineda cult following asa TV show if Microsoft takes its cues from SyFy and learns fromthe production company’s mistakes, the Halo 5project could be an incredibly successful cross-media outing. But it’s not just the fragmentation of the game that interests us: when Halo 4 was announced, under the banner of 343, the developer announced it would be the first entry in a whole new Halo trilogy the ‘Reclaimer’ saga.

    Since Halo 5’s announcement and subsequent information drip-feed, Microsoft Studio’s vice president Phil Spencer has stated the publisher and developer have U-turned on that decision that the ‘Reclaimer’ saga will likely expand beyond a three game narrative arc because the studio ‘didn’t want to limit themselves’.

    Halo 5: Guardianswill be written by Brian Reed a notable comic scribe who’s takinga break fromalong career in comics to join 343 full-time.

    Reed is a Halo veteran, having worked on Marvel’s Halo: Fall of Reachseries, a three issue short Initiation and the on going Dark Horse Halo comic series Escalation. But, for us, his most notable work was on the second volume of Marvel’s Ms. Marvel series, in which he took the dormant Carol Danvers character and mixed her aggressive personality with insecurity,

    We asked Marcus Lehto what he thought of the direction 343 is taking with Halo, and how he feels about the studio’s custody of the franchise. “It feels like [343] took my baby, who went off to college and got married to someone else, and are doing something else with it! I respect what they did But using the Forerunner tech to create this more magical feeling in Halo 4 ? That was a risky direction to take but I agree they needed to do something different. [Halo's] longevity is a double edged sword: you need to appease the hardcore crowd, but if you change things too much people say ‘It’s no longer Halo’. It’s a tough line to walk, and I have continued respect for 343 and what [it’s] doing with Halo side of things, really, so what’s the best way of letting you get to know these other characters, these other places in the world? That’s what we’re exploring [with Nightfall].”

    Sci-fi virtuoso Ridley Scott has been recruited by 343 to act as producer on the film, a decision that makes sense considering what Wolfkill told us: Scott isa master of domesticating science fiction, of turning the outlandish the exotic, the cosmically foreign into something immediately identifiable and accessible.

    Halo needs that: it needs the human touch, something to make us care about these characters we’ve followed to the edges of known space and back.

    “We hada pretty interesting first meeting with Scott he told us [Halo] was a universe he was interested in, and he was intrigued with the things we were doing,” explains Wolfkill. “For him it was interesting to have a universe that was somewhat established to play around in, and it was funny to see [he noticed] the elements of his work that Halo had leaned on in the past and vice versa, too: I think he’s been influenced by things we’ve done before.” So where does Locke come into this? It seems that the new protagonist is the connection the franchise needs to bring that human element into the universe: unlike Chief, Locke isn’ta full Spartan when we meet him we get to see his face, we get to understand his motives, we get to live alongside him for a while and take a good hard look at what he’s about something we never got to do with the stoic John-117.

    “Locke’s a thinker, he’s very logical, very precise and he doesn't do anything half-cocked,” explains the actor behind Agent Locke’s helmet, Mike Colter. “He really takes in everything, takes in the information and relies on his team to help him make the right decisions. But when he comes across something that he believes in, he makes his decision and doesn't look back.” The Nightfall experience was written asa feature film, but is being broken into episodic segments to be released concurrently with Halo 5: Guardians . The live-action portion of the whole Halo 5 package will focus on Locke travelling to a planet new to the Halo universe to quieten a threatening Covenant presence. “[Nightfall] is basically Locke dealing with a terrorist threat immediately,” explains Colter. “There’s a treaty with the Covenant and Locke goes to the planet Sedra because he suspects there’s been a breach of the treaty.

    There’s talk of a bomb that’s been built and that’s a direct violation. It’s sort of like, ‘Here we are in America, we're always suspecting who might have nuclear capabilities, and what we're dealing with is similar: we are trying to figure out who is a threat against the humans. If the treaty is broken there’s the implication of war, and we deal with that immediately.’ It’s a manhunt of sorts. With the information Locke and his team has discovered, they are going to have to find out what’s what.”

    The Covenant are up to their old tricks, and it’s down to a small crew of professionals to step up and take action. Bringing Locke into the universe in both a cinematic and gameplay way is a pincer attack on those expecting ‘just another Master Chief game’. After all, with 343 releasing The Master Chief Collection later this year, it makes sense to focus on a fresh face and it gives the writers a chance to really try something new in a universe where humans have been on the back foot all too often.
    “I think it’s an advantage not knowing much about the Halo world.

    It’s almost like… the ignorance of the gaming world and of the Halo franchise helped me a lot,” Colter explains when we ask if he was au fait with the vast Halo mythos before jumping on-board with Halo 5. “If I’d have known exactly how big it was, I think there would have been a lot more pressure! It’s nice to go into something, to really create something from an artistic aspect and working in a bubble, than to be completely

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