Let me start off by clarifying that for all intents and purposes I am primarily a fan of Bungie’s Halo offerings. The Bungie developed Halo games populate some of the fondest memories of my life. It’s important to clarify this because one of the largest detractors for people’s positive opinions of anything 343-Halo related is that they have only gotten into the Halo series recently. I really like 343 Industries, I am of the opinion they are genuinely talented and respectable people that love Halo. More importantly, I think it’s fair to say that it’s not exactly Bungie that made the Halo games so good, it’s the people the studio was comprised of.
A good majority of the hardcore Halo enthusiasts out there will know exactly who I’m talking about when I mention names like Joseph Staten, Marcus Lehto, Max Hoberman, Marty O’ Donnel, Paul Bertone, Jaimie Greisimer and many others that I was very tempted to list but figured would be overdoing my point. To those of you that don’t know, these people were Bungie employees who had major parts to play in the success of the Halo games. Whether it be the music, the writing, the level design or anything else you might imagine a stellar game franchise would need. To me these people are Bungie. Obviously, there are many other important people, some of which still work at Bungie who contributed to the monumental success of Halo but for all the ones I listed, they have either left or have been fired from the company.
When you look at the outcome of Bungie separating from Microsoft you’ll see that instead of one video game developer associated with Halo in the industry, we now have two. This decision had Microsoft establish a new internal studio, 343 Industries to shepherd the franchise and bring it forward; while Bungie dives deep into development on what eventually became the Destiny franchise. The reason I am even talking about this is because of those out there who think Halo would be in a much better place today if it was still in Bungie’s hands. If we look back to 2007 when Bungie first announced their separation, we see a studio beyond fatigue that desired to work on anything but Halo for the rest of eternity. They were burnt out, understandably so as this one franchise had encompassed their lives for nearly a decade. Take this information, combine it with the fact that several people from the studio quit or were fired and then look towards Destiny’s launch to see the kind of game they wanted to create. Regardless of whether you thought Destiny was a good game at launch or ever was, you must at least admit that the type of game the studio was interested in making was far from a story driven linear first-person shooter. All that considered I think we are surprisingly living in the best timeline.
That is, the best timeline if you wish for the Halo universe to continue. I as well as a few others are of the mindset that sometimes it’s best to conclude on a high note rather than to continue for the sake of it. I think Halo 3 was a beautiful, perfect conclusion to the Halo saga. I also think that ODST and Reach were fabulous spin-offs that bolstered the universe rather than diluted it. Nevertheless, the franchise didn’t end there. If we think about it, it was never meant to. Mysteries were left unsolved; characters stories were left unconcluded and books were still being printed. The writing was on the wall. To quote Master Chief it was apparent that we were “just getting started.” Imagine having a new studio created specifically for your favorite franchise filled with the most talented developers in the industry who are all passionate fans of the Halo universe. It’s something that was rather unprecedented at the time and I think we take it for granted. Bonnie Ross, the studio head at 343 once shared an interesting fact in that Microsoft was close to commissioning Gearbox to make the next Halo game. What a different world that would have been. You see, it’s entirely possible someone else could have done a better job but how likely is it they would have? Even more so how likely is it that we’d get a consistent quality of Halo titles coming from different development studios left and right? I realize now just how much I appreciate Microsoft valuing their IP enough to invest the money in an exclusive in-house studio. It’s the absolute best thing that could have happened for Halo fans who want to continue experiencing new stories.
In conclusion I’d like to say what we all are thinking. I, like many wish Halo had of gone in one of several different directions. I’ve been disappointed and let down by several different decisions that have plagued the series since Bungie left. I’m not saying anyone is wrong to feel frustrated or alienated by the way Halo has been handled by this new studio. I’m just asking that we understand the process and the accompanied growing pains. 343 Industries desperately loves this universe just like you and I. It’s obvious they want to show it, just like a small child gazing up at his father always longing for approval 343 makes every effort to impress. In some ways they have, they’ve done an amazing job of connecting and cultivating the universe. Some of the best books, video game collections and Halo events have come out of this studio. It may have not been the smoothest ride these last nine years under new leadership, but I’m determined to see it out. It’s not a call for others to accept things they don’t like, it’s a rally for hope and acceptance. Acceptance for the good things that have come out we do enjoy and hope for the future of Halo. I love this franchise; I think it’s obvious 343 does too.
SECRET AFTER CREDITS SPOILER: Halo 4 was a GREAT game.