The upcoming fourth game in the Halo series sees the return of main character Master Chief and his AI compatriot Cortana, as well as a slew of new things to keep veterans placated, like a new Spartan Ops multiplayer mode and a new race of enemies to deal with, called the Prometheans. GameSpot Asia recently spoke with the franchise's development director Frank O'Connor about the e-sports part of the series, the most-requested maps from the community, and even a bit about the game's music.
What will Studio 343 announce in terms of pro gamer options and features ala Call of Duty: Black Ops II's recent announcement?
E-sports has always been a big part of the Halo community, even before Halo went online. People were playing Halo: CE back in the day, carrying Xboxes, LAN cables, and routers to people's houses. We take it very seriously; we support this in a variety of ways, like with Halo Waypoint, which is going to have a relaunch with new additions, like stats support, come November.
We have other stuff to feature on that front, which we can't talk about just yet until October. It's nothing too major; just the evolution of things that we've already done back in Halo: Reach. However, we can say that we'll be showcasing the game at MLG Dallas a few days before the game's November 6 release date.
We will definitely see new players emerging from the scene, because the established Halo players won't have time to practice in advance. It'll be interesting to see how gamers will deal with the changes.
How much of a leap will players have to make from Halo: Reach to Halo 4 on the multiplayer side of things?
I can tell you with no doubt that every time a pro gamer picks up a new Halo game, they'll have an immediate feel and affinity for the controls. Granted, they'll give you different opinions, but the changes are very subtle, yet distinct, to a pro gamer. I myself am an average player, so I can't tell you how it is from an expert's mindset, but we've been getting good feedback from some pro gamers so far. We are working closely with MLG on this, especially on our multiplayer strategy guide, which is out on launch.
What are the most-requested maps to be included in Halo 4 from the community?
The ones we get asked a lot (but may not come back) are The Pit, Valhalla, Lockout, Beaver Creek, Blood Gulch, and Hang 'Em High. Since sprinting is a default command in Halo 4, most of the requested maps might be too cramped. We have one remake of an old map that I can't reveal yet.
Let's talk a bit about the campaign mode. How different are the Prometheans when compared to the Covenant?
The big difference is that the Covenant are tactical, while the Prometheans are more strategic in a sense that they can enforce and multiply when least expected. Since the Covenant and Prometheans are working together, there can be a situation when you're fighting a Covenant squad when all of a sudden a Promethean launcher shows up to turn the tide of battle. Also, hiding behind cover may not work when fighting them, because their crawlers can climb over cover and flush you out.
Since the Halo universe has been on anime and graphic novels, what other avenues are you exploring within the next few months?
Currently, the biggest thing is exploring the digital TV space. We are doing a series called Forward Unto Dawn, which starts on October 5. It's live action, has visual effects, and is being worked on by the producers and writers of The Pacific. It's supposed to tap on the human side of the UNSC, and takes place 20 years before the events of Halo 4. It'll not only introduce new Halo 4 characters to veterans, but will also serve as a great entry point for fans who want to start learning about the Halo universe.
As for how it got started? It was all an internal pre-production discussion; we wanted to do something special to complement our first numbered Halo sequel since Halo 3. We knew we were going to have new players join in the fray, so we were thinking up ways of developing a primer or introduction to the Halo universe, and how to make it compelling for people.
When we looked back at the live TV commercials we've done, we figured that people were excited about it, but were disappointed that there was no real story to follow. Thus, this was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
What new things will you bring for the game's score?
Since Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori were still with Bungie, that was our biggest challenge: to fill that void. They're both the best music guys in the industry, and it's really hard to follow up with that. We realised early on that we don't want to find someone whose style sounds exactly like Martin and Michael; a cheap copy, if you will. So our strategy was to do something different. Our audio director Sotaro Tojima introduced us to Neal Davidge (producer and key sonic facilitator for music outfit Massive Attack), who turned out to be a Halo fan.
We really liked his past work involving electronica, so we asked whether he's interested in bringing a big epic sci-fi feel to the universe. It was both a smart and incredibly early decision we made on our part. He really helped paint out a canvas and helped evolve the music in a way, while at the same time not getting endlessly compared with Martin and Michael's work.
Halo 4 will be out on November 6.