Recently, Waypoint published a new mammoth feature all on Halo, one of the most iconic series in video games, originally from developer Bungie and publisher Microsoft. Titled “The Complete, Untold History of Halo,” the feature is a must read for any fan of Halo, offering up incredible insight into the series.
Featuring in the history report is Bungie Founder Alex Seropian, composer Marty O’ Donnell, Halo prototype designer Marcus Lehto, writer Joe Staten, and other numerous personal involved in the creation of the series, which as we know, continues today and is still a prominent franchise in the landscape of video games.
That being said, one of the most interesting details to surface from the feature is that apparently Microsoft hated the name Halo, and did everything it could to change it.
According to FPS control designer Jaime Griesemer Microsoft believed the name Halo didn’t mean anything, was to feminine, sounded stupid in every foreign language etc. Griesemer specifically had the following to say about the name dispute:
“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. 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.”
Apparently Halo was originally just supposed to ship as Halo, which is what everyone called it. It’s an awesome name. But as you may know, the game actually shipped as Halo: Combat Evolved — a horrible sounding name — and apparently this was a result of the name dispute. Griesemer adds:
“At some point they said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do a subtitle.’ And this was before subtitles were the thing every game had. 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 you will know, mutliplayer is a huge component of Halo, and the series in general was an important player in defining the multilayer shooter space. However — and this is crazy to think about — the new feature reveals that Bungie almost removed multiplayer from the first game. Griesemer told Waypoint the following about mutltiplayer:
“Multiplayer was also kind of bad until very shortly before the game shipped. You would just shoot at a guy forever, and they wouldn’t die.”
Meanwhile, former Bungie designer Paul Bertone added the following:
“Multiplayer is actually something that was on the chopping block until very close to the end of the project, which would’ve been an obvious tragedy.”
And according to Max Hoberman, Bungie originally saw Halo’s multiplayer as more “arena-based,” but due to timing constraints they opted to make a more head-to-head mutliplayer. However, the game’s mutliplayer that shipped was never really by design Hoberman notes more “just a scramble to get something done.”
Lastly, we also learn in the new interview that there was also much strife between Microsoft and Bungie over Halo 2, with the aforementioned wanting to ship it well ahead of the time Bungie was saying it needed to complete it. Former Xbox boss Ed Fries specifically said the following about the situation:
“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. 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. 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.”
As mentioned above, if you’re a fan of Halo or video game insider history, you owe it to yourself to check out the full feature which is chocked full of interesting tidbits about the franchise, which still belongs to Microsoft and is currently being worked on by 343 Industries.