A loose modding community is showing resistance in the wake of the recent DMCA takedown of the leaked closed beta code for the Hello online. Members of that community recently spoke to TorrentFreak about their goals to make a microtransaction-free version of the game playable outside of the Russian market, which is the game’s only official home for now.
[Update: A Microsoft spokesperson sent Ars teh following statement: “While we’re thrilled there’s so much interest outside of Russia, the beta of Halo Online is a PC experience tailored specifically for the tastes, tech and infrastructure of the Russian market and furthermore, is still in an early state. As such, we want to ensure a quality experience for our beta participants within Russia which could be impacted through unauthorized use.”]
Much of the motivation for the “ElDorito” hack project seems to be the desire to simply play a new one Halo game on the PC, a wish Microsoft hasn’t fulfilled since releasing a 2007 port halo 2. “The PC crowd clamored for Halo 3 for years and years, and we saw the opportunity with this leak,” modder Neoshadow42 told the site. “The fact that we could theoretically bring the game that everyone wants, without the added stuff that would ruin the game, that’s something something we would be proud of.”
That “added stuff” refers to the free-to-play game’s microtransaction model, which appears to allow players to buy different types of armor and rent time-limited weapons for real money. As Neoshadow42 sees it, it is developing a truly free version of Hello online that works independently of that infrastructure is not the same as cracking a standard pay-to-play game.
“This whole project would be completely different ethically if we took a paid game and reverted it so everyone could access it for free,” he told TorrentFreak. “Ultimately, El Dorito strives to deliver exactly what everyone wants. It’s the closest thing to one Halo 3 experience possible, but on PC. If that works out, I’ll be more than happy.”
After initially obtaining what appears to be an “early internal alpha” of the game via a link on 4Chan, the modders say they’re not deterred by Microsoft’s successful DMCA takedown of the files from an online Github repository. “In terms of DMCA/C&D mitigation, we’ve created redundant git backups on private and public git servers,” modder Woovie told TorrentFreak. “Further DMCAs could potentially take place, it’s not really known at this point. However, our backups will always exist and we will continue until we are satisfied.”
Hackers and interested parties have gathered around one Hello online subreddit and an IRC channel to share updates on development progress. While multiplayer still doesn’t work, hackers are already playing around with tweaks like a third-person view and tools to take almost full control of the accessible single-player environments.