343 Industries created a new vision for the Halo franchise back when they released Halo 4 in 2012, and here we are only a few days away from the studio and Microsoft releasing the next chapter in the Halo series. This coming Tuesday, Oct. 27, the next-generation of Halo will arrive on the Xbox One.
There will be plenty of new features and things for players to learn about in this new world of Halo, and it feels like one that could be enticing for both long-time and new players. 343 Industries has major aspirations for Halo 5 Guardians, that much is very clear.
With the upcoming launch of Halo 5 Guardians, atombash.com had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Frank O’Connor, who is the franchise development director at 343 Industries. The time for Halo 5 Guardians to launch has nearly arrived, but before then, enjoy our chat with Frank.
Examiner: How will the relationship between Locke and Master Chief evolve in Halo 5?
O’Connor: We’re definitely showing one aspect of the relationship between Chief and Locke, from the viewpoint of a hunter as he stalks his prey. However as a lot of players have already speculated, there’s more to it than that in terms of both big ideas as well as nuanced perspective. Something that I think is as interesting, if not more, are the varying perspectives of both Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris squad members. The Master Chief is central to this story and the effect he’s had on individuals is in some ways just as important as the effect he’s had on galactic-scale events. And the other perspective of course, is Chief’s. He’s been through a lot and you’ll start to see how that has taken its toll.
Examiner: From a campaign standpoint, what were some changes the team wanted to make in regards to plot?
O’Connor: Ironically, the changes we’ve made to the Campaign mode are actually multiplayer co-op opportunities. With three other Spartans guaranteed to fight alongside you, there are brand new approaches to both level and encounter design, as well as storytelling. Our levels are more intricate and thanks to the new added mobility with Spartan Abilities – much more vertical meaning there’s more to explore. The inclusion of squad commands makes the game more replayable than ever, especially on harder levels of difficulty and with more characters to play as in Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris, fans of the story will see content specific to their favorite character.
Examiner: Master Chief is already a hallowed character that has done so much. How do you do justice to his past while trying to create a future still worthy of the character?
O’Connor: It’s a powerful and meaningful legacy, definitely a huge part of some players’ lives, so we have to be careful how we treat him. We can’t disrespect the fact that he’s been a stoic, faceless vector for a player’s own sense of adventure, but over the years he’s come to mean more to fans than just that; he’s developed a persona in the story and fans have layered their own personal understanding on top of that. So it’s a tricky balance to strike – explore the character, his effect on the universe and his effect on other in-universe characters – without breaking the innate sense of quiet mystery that’s defined him for more than a decade.
Examiner: Are you worried about co-op distracting from what has made Halo’s campaigns so unique over the years? That primary element being Master Chief himself.
O’Connor: Absolutely not. I think when we started down the squad-based path there may have been some reservations, but I’m confident in saying that this new aspect will be one of the most unquestionably positive additions to the game. Fans of course will decide whether it holds up holistically, but our goal is to make it more than the sum of its parts. And even the squad mechanics and story honor what the previous games have achieved. It feels like Halo from top to bottom, but more expansive and with even more of the freedom players have sought out over the years.
Examiner: What type of role will space gameplay have in Halo 5?
O’Connor: Suffice it to say that you will be flying vehicles in space and in atmosphere in both Campaign and multiplayer. I will say that the Phaeton, a new Forerunner flying vehicle, has quickly become an office favorite, and I suspect fans will enjoy the rapid lateral mobility and agility – as well as the firepower. Think of it as a Banshee with Tron-like symmetry.
Examiner: What has the team learned from Halo: The Master Chief Collection that can be applied to Halo 5?
O’Connor: Halo: The Master Chief Collection’s launch woes and matchmaking difficulties were certainly a black eye and the Halo 5 team learned whatever they could from it, but ultimately they are two completely separate teams and the games have radically different code bases. Knowing what we know now about MCCs issues rather than what we saw in the simulated Live environment, we would have done things differently, but it’s an apples to oranges comparison technically. With that said, last year’s Multiplayer Beta for Halo 5 taught us a great deal and we made significant improvements, not just to the tech but to certain design elements, thanks to great feedback from fans as well and the data captured.
Examiner: What are the biggest differences you’ve noticed when thinking about work during the beginning of the project compared to where you are now with it?
O’Connor: At the start of a project, the most nerve-wracking things are the big ticket items – like squad mechanics, the 60 fps engine, or the new mobility. But as you get closer to launch and test and beta data helps you prove out ideas, the nerves come less from thinking about design objectives, and more about final execution and polish. Now that the game is complete, the fear and nervousness can switch to worrying about the main problem any game must overcome: fan enjoyment and acceptance. We’re feeling good, but it’s the opinions of Halo fans that really count. Millions of Xbox gamers are the ones who ultimately decide whether we succeeded or not.
Examiner: From a big picture standpoint, what does Halo 5: Guardians represent and what place will it have in the history of the series?
O’Connor: As the credits roll on Halo 5, I think it’s safe to say that players who’ve followed the series from day one will see that certain threads from the very first game have played out to either logical or surprising conclusions, and that the universe will never be the same again. Seismic changes will in the story – and over the decade-plus of evolution – to the gameplay and sandbox too.
Examiner: Where will Halo 5 lie in regards to the future of the Halo franchise?
O’Connor: It’s hard to say, but I like to think of it as one step or maybe more of a springboard into a pretty compelling and enthralling future for the series. It’s the first game we’ve made where sustain is built into its DNA from the get-go. This is a game we wanted to make, and we intend to love and nurture from start to finish.
My thanks to Frank, 343 Industries and Microsoft for taking the time to speak with us regarding Halo 5 Guardians. The game will launch this coming Tuesday, Oct. 27 exclusively for Xbox One.