What's 343 up to ?

The Angel and The Frankie

BS Angel pointed out on the Halo Waypoint that Wired Magazine has a small piece featuring 343's Frankie O'Conner as he chats about what a new Halo game might look like post Bungie handing over the tiller.

O’Connor said he’s worked on such projects for years. “That part’s really easy,” he said. “The hard part is these nuts and bolts of making games,” adding that improving upon the Halo experience is “no small task, nor is it one any staff member takes lightly, or with hubris.”

To re-create a Bungie-like developer inside the walls of Microsoft, 343 — named after a snarky, backstabbing robot in the games — is staffing up heavily.

“You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to look at our hiring page and figure out roughly what we’re going to do,” said O’Connor.

Microsoft is attracting some of the game industry’s best and brightest: There’s Ryan Payton, a producer of the Metal Gear Solid games, and award-winning programmer and former rocket scientist Corrinne Yu.

“Every single person we’ve hired has joined the team because of a passion for the Halo universe,” O’Connor said.

Two of the Defiant maps, which were created in partnership with Dallas developer Certain Affinity, are straightforward, competitive battlefields drawn from places referenced elsewhere in Halo lore.

But 343’s O’Connor suggests that, if you really want to glimpse the future of Halo gameplay, you look at “Unearthed.” Rather than a traditional multiplayer battlefield, Unearthed is part of the game’s Firefight mode, which pits a team of players against a brief, computer-controlled alien invasion.

This segment of Defiant offers some clues as to how 343 might tackle a single-player Halo.

“It’s [single-player] campaign gameplay in a way, captured as these little digestible chunks,” said O’Connor. “You’re definitely seeing how 343 and Certain Affinity treat the AI and scripting in campaign mode…. Gameplay that’s emergent in a multiplayer space is different than gameplay in a sandbox with AI.”

As 343 moves forward with the franchise, fan-watcher Errera said he hopes the team captures the je ne sais quoi of Halo’s groundbreaking gameplay.

“The things that make Halo Halo are often little — the feedback you get when you fire a gun and see your shells flying out of the chamber,” he said. It’s slower-paced than other first-person shooters, and the resulting gameplay can prove more satisfying than in competing games.

“Success is less about memorizing where your enemies are and more about fighting out what sort of combat works for you,” Errera said. “Players often pick a weapon that meshes well with their gaming style, rather than picking up the one go-to weapon that everyone uses. Future Halo games will need to have this sort of flexibility.”

Defiant’s acceptance by the fan community is a weight off 343’s shoulders as the group continues to work toward its true purpose: Creating the next Halo game.

Both O’Connor and Bungie’s Osborne hinted strongly that fans can expect some big surprises timed to Halo’s 10th anniversary this November. This week 343 said it would host a Halo fan festival at Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. Rumor has it that a high-definition Xbox 360 remake of the first Halo could be announced at E3 next month. 

A halo announcement from 343 would be awesome as Bungie have said they will not be at E3 in an official capacity.

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