Bungie is an outstanding story. They were on the front line, when it came to Macintosh game developing and they've created great game series like Myth and Marathon. Now Bungie is betting it all on Xbox and it looks like they've placed themselves in the front seat there too. We asked the designer Jaime Griesemer, from Bungie, a couple of questions.
GR: When Bungie left PC and Mac (especially Mac) and started work on the Xbox, the criticism wouldn't come to an end. Did you ever regret the decision to jump to a new platform?
Jaime: No regrets. Bungie has never chosen any specific platform. We want to be in the lead for which ever platform we develop for.
GR: Is Halo a tribute to Marathon? I'm thinking of the Marathon symbols in the Halo logo.
Jaime: I would like to see Halo as the "spiritual sequel" to Marathon. It's not a direct continuation of the same story, but the theme is the same and so is the joy of playing the game.
GR: While Halo still was being developed for PC and Mac, you said that it would let the humans fight a guerilla war against the covenant. This was underlined in the 2000 E3 video. Why was this part downplayed while a more adventure-like style took over?
Jaime: The feeling that was established with the first videos was clearly more desperate, and the humans were outnumbered. But we wanted Master Chief to confront the covenant heads on! The early missions has got guerilla warfare to it, but as the game unfolds, the humans get braver and can hit back more efficiently.
GR: In which fase of developing Halo, were you when Microsoft showed up and wanted you on their payroll?
Jaime: We were at the point, where we could show Halo's potential, but we still had a long way to the finished product. We had a stabilized engine, but the AI and story was still being developed. We din't have any playable missions either.
GR: It's said that parts of Halo, had to be changed in order to make it "fit" to the Xbox. Is this why certain elements, that you've seen earlier on, didn't make it to the final product? What did you have to change?
Jaime: Most of what we changed was in the artistic department. We changed the models and increased the number of polygons, improved textures and redesigned certain characters. Furthermore, we removed things, if they weren't entertaining or didn't meet the smae visual standard as the rest of the game.
GR: Is there anything you would have liked Bungie to do different, when developing Halo?
Jaime: It's difficult to say. We thought a lot about all the things we did. It felt right then, and it still does. If there is one thing, I would like to have made different, it should be making some levels a bit shorter. We could have made them more unique without hurting the game at all.
GR: Did you ever dream of Halo, making such a great impression as it did, at the release?
Jaime: We were very pleased with the game we made, so we expected an amount of response from critics, fans and new gamers, who hadn't tried our games before. But we weren't counting on the huge amount of positive response we got at the release. Halo was created for hardcore gamers, but a lot of the people, who played Halo had never played a first person shooter before, and they really liked it. It was a great accomplishment to to get such results.
GR: Halo's release is no less than a pure success, but what kind of negative criticism have you received, and are you responding to it?
Jaime: We actually take more notice of negative than positive criticism. Sometimes it's tempting to rest on old merits, but when I feel that way, I read some of the "colder" reviews. A lot of the criticism was right on, and believe me, no one knows the game downsides better than the developers.
GR: The gamers are screaming for another Halo and according to "Official Xbox Magazine UK", Jay Allard (Xbox creator) has told them, that a sequel is in development and is due to be released christmas 2003. Any comments?
Jaime: Bungie won't announce their new games in a side comment to a random journalist. We'll do it with fest and fireworks to make an impression, and to make people know what's really happening. We won't discuss any future projects yet, but believe me, when Bungie reveals something, you'll know!
GR: There is a great demand for an Xbox-live version of Halo. Will there be an upgrade or expansion for the existing Halo?
Jaime: Unfortunately Halo wasn't developed with the ability to add new material, so there won't be any expansion. We're interested in Xbox-live and we're keen on making an online game, but it isn't going to happen with a semi-bad expansion pack.
GR: A lot of PC- and Mac-gamers would, of course, like a version of Halo. There haven't been any official announcements on this possibility. In an attempt to make a straight line: Will Halo be coming to PC and Mac, and are these versions under development at the moment?
Jaime: I think this question is covered by the "no comments to a random journalist" -rule, that Bungie has got when it comes down to announcements and revelations. We know that people are tired of waiting.
GR: How do you think the Xbox will be able to compete with Sony in a comfortable lead and Nintendos great fan group?
Jaime: It's really important to underline, that this is a marathon and not a sprint. The more you look at the real distance, the better it looks for the Xbox. It's got the most powerful graphics hardware, something that will be important, as the consoles grow older. It's got internal network possibilities and the online part is, of course, the future when it comes to gaming. It's got an internal harddrive and Dolby 5.1, which gives the developers a great playground. I'm pretty sure the future is there for Xbox.
GR: Anything you would like to tell your scandinavian fans out there?
Jaime: I wish I could express how good it feels to have scandinavian fans. Imagining that somewhere on the other side of the planet there are people speaking a language, that I don't understand, having fun killing each other in a game, that I have been a part of the creation of. It's a lovely feeling.