Xbox 360

Today we have a very special interview, all thanks to the guys and girls at the XCN. Frank O’Connor and Brian Jarrard of Bungie Studios participated in this interview, giving you info about everything from single player to multiplayer, from beta to the future after Halo 3.


First off, here's two short bio's about the two:
Name: Frank O’Connor
Title: Writing Lead

* Time at Bungie: Four years
* Bungie Work History: In the past I’ve worked on lots of Bungie.net stuff, IP projects like the graphic novel as well as script and combat dialog for Halo 2.
* Current Role at Bungie Studios: I still participate in the items above but we are a bigger “department” now with more focus on the writing needs at Bungie for Halo 3, IP projects and upcoming secret stuff. I continue to work on the website, game manual and we oversee the “Halo Story Bible” to ensure consistency throughout the Halo Universe across all projects.
* Personal / Background Note: I was born and raised in Scotland, worked as a video game magazine journalist for ten years and moved to Seattle because someone told me it was really sunny.

Name: Brian Jarrard
Title: Director of Franchise & Community Affairs

* Time at Bungie: 4.5 Years
* Bungie Work History: I was hired at Bungie to manage and foster our beloved community and help achieve the studio goal of World Domination.
* Current Role at Bungie Studios: I am still planting seeds for world domination and helping to foster and nurture our rapidly growing fan community, but nowadays I’m also involved with planning and execution for PR initiatives related to the Studio and Halo 3 as well as all of our licensed products such as action figures, comics and the Bungie online store. Through my time at Bungie I’ve had the opportunity to meet amazing people all around the globe during my travels to promote the studio and our games.
* Personal / Background Note: I was born and raised in sunny Florida before making the leap all the way across the country to less sunny Seattle. Prior to working at Bungie I was involved in business development and management in the arcade industry. Gaming has been my #1 pastime ever since I received my first Atari 2600 decades ago. I have a new baby daughter who might end up being a Halo multiplayer prodigy.

The talk

How do you feel about the feedback you got from the Beta, and how has it influenced changes to the final game?
FC: There were a number of changes which we already had in mind before the Beta came out – but which we didn’t have time to implement before it launched. Thankfully, a lot of the feedback reinforced that these changes were going to be the right ones so we were very pleased from that perspective.

BJ: However, there were a load of unforeseen things which we were able to glean from the Beta – we saw players expose different exploits such as managing to get outside of maps, things that we’ve been able to now eliminate thanks to viewing the data.

How much pressure do you feel working on Halo 3, giving that the world is expecting the biggest videogame of all time?
BJ: We are of course aware of the pressure on this game. But, to be honest, we mostly keep our heads down and try not to worry about it.

FC: It’s all about making the best possible game that we can and we have more than enough internal pressure to be getting on with! Most of all, we just don’t want to let anybody down - be that ourselves, each other or the game’s fans.

Does it annoy you when Halo fans seem to be overly critical of tiny things, like some of the criticism that emerged online after the E3 trailer?
FC: Not really. It’s important to remember that the only reason that this kind of thing happens is because the game is under a massive amount of scrutiny because it’s so popular and loved.

It just comes with the territory and the fact that people will analyse every last detail of what we’re doing is more a compliment than an annoyance.

You seem to have made a decision to share more information about Halo 3’s campaign mode pre-launch than you did with Halo 2. Was this a conscious decision, and why?
FC: The Halo story is rich and complex and we really just wanted to get fans up to speed on current events in the game. We don’t want Halo 3 to be in any way unapproachable for a novice player who never played the first two titles. It’s important to note that you don’t need to have played these earlier instalments to know what is going on in Halo 3 but by giving away a few more details of the story ahead of launch we’re able to ease players in to the experience – whether it’s the first time or they completed parts one and two a couple of years back.

Do you feel to have been able to reach the highest possible technical and artistic expression with Halo 3? Have there been any constraints on your creativity?
FC: Yes. There really hasn’t been a single idea that we have wanted to implement in the game from the start, which we haven’t put in there. Now it’s more a case of deciding where to rein things in and what to leave out. We could have implemented even larger battles with even higher numbers but this wouldn’t necessarily make the game better or more fun to play.

Will the player get a better idea of who Master Chief really is in Halo 3? Will he take off his helmet (or have it forced off)?
FC: You know, Master Chief is always defined by his actions in the game and the activities that he engages in. He’s not defined by an Id or Super-Ego or anything like that and we’re not going to be having any big reveals talking about a traumatic childhood or something. Master Chief is defined by his role in the story.

The customisable Spartan armour suggests you want to offer a more personalised experience. Is that a fair comment, and are there any other things you’ve added to this end?
BJ: Yes I think that is a fair comment. With the online modes player like to feel a sense of ownership over their character, undoubtedly. What with the sets of customisable armour and the different logos and colours we calculated the other day that there will be over four trillion different permutations of characters – more than enough for everybody who plans to express themselves uniquely!

Co-op via Live seems to be something that gamers are looking forward to, can you confirm whether this is something you are hoping to implement even if it’s for two players only?
FC: Yes. There will co-operative play for up to four players both over Xbox Live and through local play.

How many players can play over Xbox live, and why did you settle on this final number?
BJ: It’s still going to be sixteen as a maximum. This is intentional as it has nothing to do with the technology – it’s a pure gameplay decision. We’re not making a Battlefield game here – we’ve found the sweet spot is around 12 people to be honest. Here teams can work well together and everybody has something to contribute so we’ve very much designed the multiplayer game with that scale in mind.

FC: In some of the maps that are tight even 6 people can feel a little cramped. The ferocity and pace of Halo makes sprawling battles with large numbers unmanageable.

What DLC do the team have planned for the game? Can we expect new multiplayer maps and any additions to the single player?
FC: We have no announcements as yet but these will be driven by players’ feedback and we’re pretty sure about the kinds of things they’ll ask for…

How do you think the Halo community will use the new video capture features in Halo 3?
BJ: We’re every excited to see what the community will come up with using these tool kits. They are really very powerful and we’re expecting to see videos being used for multiple reasons: from teams looking back over replays to work out what their weaknesses are or Youtube style stunts right up to the kind of machinima that launched Red vs Blue. We’re certain this is going to be a key component to Halo 3’s ongoing appeal.

Is the Halo story going to continue after Halo 3? Will the story be going forward from the published books and the game, or are Halo games/stories going to fill the spots between the now known stories or even going back in time, exploring the time before the first game/novel?
FC: While there certainly won’t be any cliff-hangers or significant loose ends at the end of Halo 3, the mythology will continue to exist. This will be explored in many ways from new titles like Halo Wars through to the new project with Peter Jackson as well as in new novels. While we’re very careful about how the universe is explored and by whom, you can certainly expect that it will be.

What was the biggest challenge for you when developing Halo 3?
FC: Mainly it was supplying the sheer manpower that the game required.

BJ: We had to hire a lot of new people and when you’re only looking to hire the absolute best this can be tricky and take time. We have a full time team of 120 people as well as a slew of different contractors who have and are working on this game. Managing this sheer size of team while maintaining a steady and workable pipeline has been the biggest challenge while developing Halo 3.

Have you given any thought to remaking or possibly continuing the Marathon game series after all these Halo games?
FC: Well, of course Marathon Durandal has now been released onto Xbox live Arcade. As for an internal remake or sequel it’s not going to happen anytime soon. We’re working hard on getting Halo 3 finished and then supporting it.

Some people have now been working on Halo games for ten years and so they really want to do something pretty different for a next project. That said, you should be able to notice a lot of links and homage to Marathon in the Halo trilogy if you look hard enough…

Red vs. Blue: What's your favourite colour?
BJ: Definitely Blue for me.

FC: I’m colour-blind so I can’t actually see either.

BJ: He really is.

Does the single player game of Halo 3 have any never-seen-before features that you think other game designers are likely to be copying in future?
BJ: To be honest we’re not looking to reinvent anything with Halo 3. We’re trying to make an extremely attractive and logical conclusion by evolving the series.

This is the biggest and best version of Halo and so we’re not really looking to make never-before-seen features in the sense of entirely new concepts. Rather think of it as Halo on a never before seen scale, pushing the envelope.

Will the ending of Halo 3 answer the questions raised in Halo and Halo 2?
FC: Yes. The vast majority of you questions will be answered by the end of Halo 3 although a few more might be raised…

After Halo 3, will you explore new paths? Do you fear you will remain linked to this franchise, and that people will keep considering you "the Halo guys" even when your making different games?
BJ: We will of course remain linked to the franchise but that’s not something I think we fear. Rather, next time we touch a different genre Halo will act as a badge of quality.

FC: I don’t think we’ll be a studio defined by First Person Shooters. How we evolve beyond where we’ve now got to we’ll have to see. But, in all honesty, we became famous for an RTS game rather than an FPS one. We can absolutely do other things and I think that, when we do it will also be very good and successful.

Will there be any characters in Halo 3 which were in the books (such as Dr.Halsey, Spartan III...)
FC: The timeline and locations are totally different avenues of the canon. You won’t see any characters appearing in Halo 3 that aren’t shared by both worlds – and this compartmentalisation was always intentional.

Will you be working on a brand new shooter for the PC/Mac as you originally intended to do with Halo?
BJ: We don’t have any plans to at the moment and, to be honest, we’ve always been platform agnostic. When we do work on a new game it will be the best for all concerned.

What are your thoughts on the merchandise surrounding Halo 3? Do you have a say in what is produced, and did you envision so many merchandise spin-offs?
BJ: Firstly, I wouldn’t agree that there are ‘so many’ merchandise spin-offs. We do keep a close watch on what is made and we generally only allow merchandise to be produced which the members of the team feel like they’ve want to buy and own. As such we take great pains not to over-saturate the market and we always only work with the very highest-quality partners.

Everything that is created has to fit within the reference bible which we have and we make sure that the creators share our passion for the world. We at Bungie are pretty sceptical when it comes to merchandise and so our litmus test of “Would I buy that?” proves to be effective.

Will the feature that requires you to press up on the D-pad to speak be in the final game?
FC: We’ve made a bunch of changes to ‘push to talk’ so that everybody can set up their game how they want it. It’s now extremely flexible and we’re confident that everybody will be able to settle on a scheme that they are happy with.

What do your friends and families say and think about your "Halomania"?
BJ: Um, they mostly think its cool but, in all honesty, probably don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. One of our good friends runs the local coffee shop and he is a huge Halo fan. We’ve been on an information lock-down with him as he’s desperate to avoid knowing anything about the game before it’s been released!

A big thanks to Frankie, Brian and the XCN for this great interview!

Nonexistinghero
Nonexistinghero
Commented on 2007-08-09 13:19:38
Cool interview.
In reply to
team56th
team56th
Commented on 2007-08-09 13:28:46
It was really, really good interview. Kudos for XCN by making great questions.
In reply to
cma112087
cma112087
Commented on 2007-08-09 14:01:10
Good, but i wish they would have asked more about the game, and gameplay itself.

I wanted to hear them hype it up some more. Lol. I hope he wasn't exaggerating when he said ''pushing the envelope''.
In reply to
jioann00
jioann00
Commented on 2007-08-09 15:05:05
i drempt that i played halo 3 last night
(i know thats really sad lol)
but i was really dissapointed with it
if the real halo3 is anything like what i played in my dream then expect it to be really short, a rubbish story line and very little fighting along side marines but lots of the arbitur and gravemind.

hopefully my dream was wrong cos im SO HYPED ABOUT THIS GAME
In reply to
Kethmach
Kethmach
Commented on 2007-08-09 15:26:44
Very cool interview. I'm looking forward to the game in a way that borders 'sick'. I've got two days of vacation planned out JUST for Halo 3- but I'm back in the office on that Friday JUST SO I CAN TALK ABOUT IT TO MY FRIENDS... and then the whole weekend will be LAN parties (which we do now- but for Halo 2... obviously).

The recent interviews and that wonderful EGM that just came out- really reassured me that they've covered their asses this time and are putting out a quality product. Not that I'm bashing Halo 2- but you can see where TIME played the worst enemy in that product. This time- they don't seem cocky and just really REALLY confident that they did it right. What more could I ask, as a fan I mean?
In reply to
IIGrayFoxII
IIGrayFoxII
Commented on 2007-08-09 15:52:21
This game should be ...fun.
In reply to
Real720
Real720
Commented on 2007-08-09 16:30:40
Co-op via Live seems to be something that gamers are looking forward to, can you confirm whether this is something you are hoping to implement even if it’s for two players only?
FC: Yes. There will co-operative play for up to four players both over Xbox Live and through local play.

Great!
In reply to
GrimThorne
GrimThorne
Commented on 2007-08-09 16:30:44
Posted by Manager
Will there be any characters in Halo 3 which were in the books (such as Dr.Halsey, Spartan III...)
FC: The timeline and locations are totally different avenues of the canon. You won’t see any characters appearing in Halo 3 that aren’t shared by both worlds – and this compartmentalisation was always intentional.
This is somewhat dissappointing, I fully expected the events surrounding Halsey and the Spartan IIIs to be at least addressed in the final Halo.

If I had known that I would have never finished reading Ghosts of Onyx. I didn't realize that Bungie treats their Halo novels like expanded universe, and I can't stand seperate continuities.

I do think it's great that they actually look to critical sentiments as an analysis for further insight into what fans want out of the Halo experience.

120 people is huge amount of people for one game, but it may become the norm for epic projects in the future. And I can't wait to see their first non-Halo game. I'd love to see a new IP from Bungie.
In reply to
GR1F1TH
GR1F1TH
Commented on 2007-08-09 18:15:47
I kind of expected the compartmentalisation of games and Onyx... my hope is to see them in the mini series... or movie... or the "Peter Jackson thing".... but that also means they'll probably never show Forerunners in the game either. *sigh*
Whatever. Great interview.... although not very prodding ;)
In reply to
Optimusv2
Optimusv2
Commented on 2007-08-09 19:02:14
BJ: To be honest we’re not looking to reinvent anything with Halo 3. We’re trying to make an extremely attractive and logical conclusion by evolving the series.

This is the biggest and best version of Halo and so we’re not really looking to make never-before-seen features in the sense of entirely new concepts. Rather think of it as Halo on a never before seen scale, pushing the envelope.
Thats what I love to hear :)
In reply to
otto12
otto12
Commented on 2007-08-09 19:07:46
Nice Interview
In reply to
Phaethon360 - Mr Pant<s>s</s>ies
Phaethon360
Commented on 2007-08-10 01:11:47
Ah, I forgot about to push to talk feature. Good feature for co-op, during the dramatic scenes, I don't want to hear breathing or "Hey Joe, we're all going to Chillis later, what are you doing?"
In reply to
OmegaSpartan666
OmegaSpartan666
Commented on 2007-08-10 01:30:35 In reply to jioann00
Posted by jioann00
i drempt that i played halo 3 last night
(i know thats really sad lol)
but i was really dissapointed with it
if the real halo3 is anything like what i played in my dream then expect it to be really short, a rubbish story line and very little fighting along side marines but lots of the arbitur and gravemind.

hopefully my dream was wrong cos im SO HYPED ABOUT THIS GAME
dont worry it was just a nightmare
In reply to
RC_Master
RC_Master
Commented on 2007-08-10 13:19:08
Good interview, although a lot of the answers I already knew.
In reply to
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