The Andrew D. Montgomery Theory

Andrew Montgomery <> submitted this discussion of the origins of the game's name. It's had some bare-bones html added so you can read it, but otherwise is just as he sent it to us. Enjoy!

Theory: What's in a name

Althought bungie may weave the name into their story, I'm willing to bet the name "Halo" actually refers to something much more... terrestrial. I should start off, however, by telling you that I haven't any affiliate with anyone at Bungie (though I do know someone over at Ambrosia). So this is all just educated guessing. But it just seems to make too much sense. Remember, you heard it here first.

Marathon was a wild success on the Macintosh. Thank you (thank you, thank you, thank you...) Bungie.

Then there was "Weekend Warrior". Heh. It might have been cool. I remember seeing demos of it at Macworld. I wanted to be totally wowed. And, to be sure, what they were trying to do was indeed impressive. But it lacked on many levels: compelling story, compelling graphics, playability. It just wasn't there, and it wasn't going to make it there either. It required massive hardware AND 3D acceleration at a time when that was unheard of, or at the very least extravigent. I don't know if it ever actually sold. I know it was bundled with a few of the really high end Macingtosh clones.

But the idea was fantastic, in the truest sense of the word. Instead of making a computer world *look* real, why not just make it real? Or at least as real as we can. Instead of animating falling objects to make them look like, 1) objects, and 2) they are actually falling, let's just make a real object, stick it in a real physics model, and let the computer do all the work of... well... computing. Instead of painting a grey circle on the ground for a shadow or a bringht spot on a wall for a light sorce, let's just make real light sources and let them play with the environment as they naturally would. One problem though: the average person still owns a quadra or *cringe* performa. In a best case senerio the person is buying a brand new 180 Mhz 603e. I'll take 2.

A few things are true: we die, we are supposed to pay taxes, and the number of transistors in a microprocessor doubles approximately every 18 months. If it's not fast enough for you now, it'll be too fast for you in 2 years. So, being the bright-eyed, thrill-seeking coders they are, Bungie could have given us a few more sequels to marathon and waited for the right time to pounce. There time would come. They could have... if they were any other company.

Let's break this "fantastic" game down. We need a real 3D environment with a real physics model. We need to understand the dynamics of game-play in this new environment from the third-person perspective. We need to develop a way for a player to control her character in numerous (unlimited?) environments - handling melee weapons, range weapons, vehicles, and other objects - without any break in action. This control needs to be easy enough for a player to learn the basics quickly (or who's going to bother), but complex enough to handle the significant differences these offer. We also need to study development of a playing field with no artificial boundries. (The list goes on, to be sure: team play, internet play - what about those modems?) A mountainous task, to say the least. What if we break this up into separate projects, though. This does several things: 1) makes the "fantastic" project more managable, 2) gives Bungie a source of income while they are developing this "fantastic" game by turning these projects into commercial games, and 3) allows Bungie to keep this top secret project... well, top secret. The best place to hide the truth is right in plain sight.

Project 1 studies the real 3D environment, a real physics model, and the dynamics of game-play in this new environment from the third-person perspective. Oh, and Bungie needs to sell this as a game. What's doing well? Command & Conquer is kicking ass and taking names. Let's apply all this to a real-time strategy game like C&C. The culmination of this part of the "fantastic" project becomes Myth. Recognize those terrains in Halo, anyone? All of you physics majors who played Myth probably soiled your pants the first time you tried to throw a satchle up hill... and failed miserably. Didn't think phyiscs worked there like it does here, did you? And team play? Unequaled.

Project 2 has a much more complicated focus: studying game play with characters that can behave in multiple environments, manipulate and interact with entirely different objects, all while being fairly simple to control. This should all take place in an environment that has no artificial boundries. The culmination of this second project becomes Oni.

Where does this lead us? At Apple, every so often, a product is released that was designed to be the best that the current projects underway at Apple could be. The Power Macintosh 8600/300. Clean, stable (mostly), decent shipping OS. The culmination of years of work on many different projects. They are milestones, demarking important - defining - events. Apple calls such producst the "Halo" of a run.

I don't know how the name "Halo" will weave into the story of the game. Maybe it will be as simple as the ring actually representing a halo around something. Couldn't tell ya. But I'll just bet this is were the name actually came from. Doesn't Halo just SOUND like a project code name that was just too cool to change?

Just sitting here waiting,

- Andrew

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