The Halo game series received its first-ever comprehensive oral history on Tuesday, courtesy of Vice Waypoint employee Steve Haske. The post contains a whopping 35,000 words of the series’ history told by 16 key members of the Bungie and Halo development teams.
It’s a juicy, all-encompassing read that I recommend whether you’re a Halo fan or not. Most notably, it contains the most telling detail ever revealed about the biggest cancellations in the series’ history: the game Halo Chronicles and the accompanying Peter Jackson movie.
Chronicles life for Bungie began as a contractual obligation, which former Bungie music producer Marty O’Donnell described as one of the “three buckets” (the others are halo 3 and Halo Range). The game would go on to be co-produced by Jackson’s new video game studio, Wingnut Interactive, with key Bungie employees helping with planning, writing and prototyping.
This was Bungie’s first Halo project in which Master Chief was not the lead controllable character. Bungie personnel writer Joe Staten had a slogan for Halo Chronicles: “Be the bullet.” Players would have piloted a standard Marine who had no weapons, but was instead imbued with alien technology discovered over the course of the game. As Bungie’s Paul Bertone put it, “Not modified in the sense that you just put on some power armor, but where biological shit happens to you.” The control scheme included melee, stun, and “push” attacks, along with double-jump and dash mechanics – which sounds as close to “Mega Halo Man X” as the series will ever get.
Five halo 3 missions were rebuilt with this control and skill scheme, along with a “kung fu” AI system that caused enemies to crowd around this weaker-than-main character, but attack only one or two at a time. (This eventually became a standard in modern beat ’em-up games like the Batman Arkham series.) Later in the game, you’d turn into a space rocket and “target specific parts” of Covenant cruisers.
“Joe struggled to see that movie”
In the meantime, Halo staff members repeatedly visited filmmaker Peter Jackson’s production headquarters in New Zealand to develop ideas and scripts for a Halo movie. The feature film never got off the ground, but that didn’t stop Jackson’s Weta workshop from building a fully controllable Warthog and strangely unveiling it to the Bungie team.
“We were sitting in his big conference room, Peter was talking away, and I’m looking out the window and suddenly the Warthog drives by,” Bertone told Waypoint. “I was like, ‘I’m sorry, the Warthog just drove by.’ Peter was just as excited. He said, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll have to check that out now.'”
Bungie staffers were then invited to step in and pilot the Warthog, which Bungie Producer Chris Creamer then crashed into the side of a building.
Staten Says The Film Never Crossed The Threshold Of Full Development Because “We Never Ended Up” [a script] that was solid enough.” Staten praised Jackson for being responsive to Bungie’s story requests and had kind things to say about people who had worked on scripts, including any Game of Thrones showrunner Dan Weiss. But he admitted that studios were hesitant to pull the trigger on a $150 million budget for a video game movie. The game project languished pending script and story approval, and when the movie was formally canceled, the accompanying game was scrapped entirely.
O’Donnell confirmed what was long believed that HaloThe original film director, Neill Blomkamp, funneled as much of that project into the film as possible District 9 as he could. “You really see some of the props that were made for the… Halo film painted white again” in District 9, O’Donnell told Waypoint. “To Joe [Staten, who had worked heavily on the Halo film project]it was like, Wow. I love District 9, I love it. But Joe struggled to see that movie, let me say.”
The piece goes on to talk about how Halo 3 ODST derived from Halo Chroniclesash, along with tons of information about Halo‘s life before, during, and after Bungie’s tenure at Microsoft. (Unfortunately, Waypoint doesn’t go into too much detail about the failed launch of the Halo Master Chief Collection.)
the next big one Halo game may not be announced for some time. Series handlers at 343 Industries recently confirmed that: Halo will only offer fans “a little something” at next month’s E3 Expo. So consider this gigantic oral history as a way to fill your life Halo appetite while you wait for more from Chief ‘n Friends.