Microsoft Originally “Hated” the Name Halo and Multiplayer was Nearly Scrapped, According to Designers
Bungie‘s original flagship game series Halo has been a huge part of Microsoft ever since the groundbreaking shooter quickly becoming a bestselling game for the original Xbox. The story of how the game series became a household name had always been an interesting one, and recently, Waypoint posted a very comprehensive feature about Halo‘s rise to the top, as told by the creative people that made it a reality. Titled “The Complete, Untold History Of Halo,” the insightful chronicle features the likes of a number of developers that shaped Master Chief’s adventures, one fascinating story point being that Microsoft initially “hated” the title Halo, feeling it wasn’t cool enough for mass-market appeal.
“They said that it doesn’t mean anything, and to people it does mean something to, it’s not on-brand, because what we’re selling is the super soldier, not this weird space junk,” said designer Jaime Griesemer. “In every foreign language it sounds stupid, it’s feminine–they had so many reasons why the name should be changed. They went for months and months, and they came back with a bunch of names. It was another border dispute.”
The development team consistently stood firm with the name Halo, and refused to budge when pressured to change it. Eventually, Microsoft came forward with the subtitle “Combat Evolved“, which did not impress the Halo creatives to say the least.
“At some point they said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do a subtitle.’ And this was before subtitles were the thing every game had,” Griesemer continued. “We thought that was dumb, but whatever, we could ignore it. Eventually they came back with Combat Evolved, and we thought that was the stupidest thing ever. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s not really informational, and it’s not even good grammar.”
As we all know now, Halo: Combat Evolved would go on to become very successful, becoming well-known for its innovative controls and competitive multiplayer. Later on in the article, we learn that Bungie nearly nixed the split-screen mode altogether, something that definitely would’ve been for the worse.
“Multiplayer was also kind of bad until very shortly before the game shipped,” Griesemer said. “You would just shoot at a guy forever, and they wouldn’t die.”
Paul Bertone, a former Bungie designer, added that the multiplayer component was considered for removal until “very close to the end of the project”, to which Bertone admits would’ve amounted to “an obvious tragedy.”
Having worked on Bungie’s Halo community team, Max Hoberman recounted Bungie had originally wanted a more “arena-based” multiplayer, but limited time forced the developers to “shoehorn” a more head-to-head multiplayer into the game. “It was never really by design, the way it worked. It was just a scramble to get something done,” he said.
One of the more unreal takeaways from the Halo retrospective came from former Microsoft Games Studio head Ed Fries, who was reportedly put in a tough spot when requesting more time to complete Halo 2‘s development. According to Fries, the success of the first Halo, had made many of the higher-ups at Xbox anxious to get a sequel out as soon as possible, regardless of quality.
“I remember I was in a meeting about Halo 2, and the reality was that we needed to move it back a year to deliver the game that we wanted. (Former chief Xbox officer) Robbie Bach turned it into a vote,” Fries said. “The choices were to force Bungie to ship Halo 2 a year before it’s ready, or give them the extra year to get it done right.”
“All the senior people who worked for Robbie voted to force the team to ship it,” he added. “I walked out of the meeting, saying: ‘I’m going to quit right now if that’s what we’re going to do.’ So they went back on it and gave Bungie extra time, but I still quit six months later. That vote had showed the attitude of what was going on there.”
Fries seemed to be right in the end, as the game went on to be a smash hit for the original Xbox. This money-making trend would continue for the next decade, with 343 Industries’ Halo 5: Guardians being the most recent entry in the main series, and the spin-off Halo Wars 2 being the latest overall. Halo 5 was viewed as a misstep by many for its lack of focus on the single-player and local multiplayer modes that originally made the series a success, a mistake developer 343 plans to acknowledge in the future, just not in the near-future.
Are you surprised Microsoft would want to change Halo so much? Do yo think the original game have been a best-seller without its beloved multiplayer? Let us know what you think in the comments below and be sure to follow DFTG on Twitter to be informed of the latest video game and entertainment news 24 hours a day!
Eric Hall2712 Posts
Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his biweekly "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.