Halo 3 Q&A: Campaign, Co-Op and More

We uncover more of Master Chief's secrets with Bungie writer Frank O'Connor.

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Not that we're keeping track or anything, but the release of Halo 3 is just 46 days (roughly 1,100 hours, or just over 66,000 minutes) from now. Yeah, OK, just like the rest of you, we're excited about the release of what is surely going to be one of the biggest releases in an already jam-packed year for games. To help assuage our anticipation of the upcoming release of the third game in the Halo series, we recently spoke with Frank O'Connor, writing lead at Bungie Studios, to get some insight into how the final stages of development are going for the game. We also dove in for some details on the recently announced four-play cooperative play for the campaign mode and found out how the Bungie team has been tweaking the game since the Halo 3 multiplayer beta program ended in early June.

It won't be long before Master Chief is blasting his way through your Xbox 360 in Halo 3.

GENERAL

GameSpot: How's development been going?

Frank O'Connor: I'd have to say, all things considered, very smoothly. You can attribute that to excellent planning and production, as kind of a general impetus among the staff to ship something special and ship it on time. The main challenges and pressures have been, as ever, internally generated.

GS: Why didn't you show playable at your E3 briefing?

FO: The gameplay demo that we did behind closed doors of a single, playable level was something we felt would work well in the more intimate setting of the meeting rooms. On stage, on a big screen, a lot of the nuance and impact of the combat we showed would have been lost and an important part of that demo was the chance for those smaller audiences to ask detailed questions--again--impossible during a live stage show.

We chose instead to run a "music video" of sorts, to paraphrase our composer Marty O'Donnell, and just give a taste of Campaign. In hindsight, I think we made the right choice. We knew we had plenty more to show and tell. We still do, as a matter of fact.

GS: What have you made of the rabid speculation going on around the Internet on the game?

FO: Same as any developer. We watched as misinformation, both hilarious and tragic, spread like wildfire. Not to mention the occasional guess where someone nails it.

CAMPAIGN

GS: Is the single-player portion of Halo 3 finished? If not, what aspects of the campaign are you still working on?

FO: At the time of this interview, I would say 99 percent done. Right now, the only things we can do are polish difficulty, tune some minor gameplay items, and fix those lingering bugs.

GS: Has it turned out the way you expected? Or did it evolve into something else throughout the course of development? How much did player feedback affect it?

FO: Player feedback largely reflected our own internal criticisms of our game. With that in mind, we set about fixing the things we didn't like about Halo 2, reinserting some of the stuff that made Halo 1 cool, and inventing some new stuff that should ensure Halo 3 is everyone's favorite Halo--fingers crossed.

GS: The Arbiter showed up in the E3 trailer. How will he figure into the game this time? Will you play as him or--for that matter--anyone else besides Master Chief?

FO: We recently announced a four player co-op mode wherein one of the playable characters will be the Arbiter. When playing solo Campaign, the Arbiter will accompany you on many of your missions, this time controlled by artificial intelligence.

CO-OP

GS: How important was it to have co-op in the game?

FO: Very important. It's something we've always had in some form in Halo, and it was only natural to want to expand that feature to Xbox Live and throw in something extra: four player co-op.

Take one Spartan, add two Elites and an Aribiter and what do you get? A recipe for four-player co-op fun.

GS: How did that affect the development cycle?

FO: Obviously, it has been challenging. A lot of development, design, engineering, and test work has gone into making it a reality. But it has always been in the plan, so it affected the development cycle as much as any other planned element.

GS: Why extend co-op to four players this time? Come on, four Master Chiefs?

FO: Nope. One Master Chief, one Arbiter, and two brand-new Elites: N'tho 'Sraom and Usze 'Taham, respectively. Only one player actually plays as a Spartan in co-op. And yes, that would be the host.

GS: How are you balancing the four-player gameplay? Will the difficulty scale increase with the number of players in a co-op game?

FO: We've actually included a whole layer of ways to make co-op more challenging. But the first and most important step for players is to forget that easy and normal even exist. If you have any chutzpa at all, you might as well forget heroic while you're at it. Real men (and ladies) play co-op on legendary. We'll reveal more about the other stuff later this month.

GS: What were the technical challenges of getting cooperative play to work online at all, much less with four players?

FO: Obviously, performance is a big deal. But the most challenging aspect is making sure that four separate consoles running four separate games are communicating fluidly and perfectly, so that each player enjoys a seamless experience. To keep the game in sync while tracking all that geometry and AI is a significant task.

MULTIPLAYER

GS: What kind of feedback did you get from the multiplayer beta? Did you make any significant changes to the game based on what players loved or hated?

FO: Although we gathered tremendous amounts of hard data to improve networking and matchmaking, we also made careful notes of trends, preferences, and techniques. As a result, almost every aspect of multiplayer has been touched to varying degrees. Some changes will be subtle and some very obvious--but beta players should at least feel at home.

GS: You've mentioned the multiplayer in Halo 3 is visually less complex and impressive than the campaign. What graphical corners did you have to cut to keep performance consistent in multiplayer matches?

The multiplayer beta helped Bungie gather a tremendous amount of data for use in fine-tuning the online experience.

FO: Actually that's a mischaracterization. We would never state that our MP levels look "less impressive" since they all look pretty darned nice. What we have said is that MP maps require a different, cleaner aesthetic as a baseline in order to achieve a good balance of visibility, playability, and clarity. We certainly don't go as bananas with atmospherics and cover as we do in Campaign, but the overall aesthetic of the game should not be jarring when switching from MP to Campaign; it should feel familiar and correct to Halo's visual style. So in fact, we don't cut corners at all. We carefully plan line of sight, elevation, and so on, and let our artists build beautiful new multiplayer spaces.

GS: Thanks for your time.

Check out our Halo 3 launch center, with a Halo video retrospective and more.

Discussion

610 comments
Link971
Link971

Four player coop??!!!!! I so want this game right now!!!! I might even have to skip school just so I can get and play this game.

saiyajinsc
saiyajinsc

I beat the game already. I'm so disappointed with the ending. The game play was great but the campaign was rather short.

Bczican015
Bczican015

Hmm. My ticker says a little less then 6 days, 7 hours, and 30 minutes until Halo three. i dont think i can wait that long for this game.

JackRipper6
JackRipper6

ya i saw the ending too but i liked and it was kinda dumb but still cool

Talon2587
Talon2587

I think im gonna trade in my ps2 and games so I can get a 360 so I can get this. I was thinking about getting a ps3, but after seeing all the gameplay and promo vids for Halo 3 (the Museum of Humanity ones) I was pretty much convinced to get a 360... dang marketing division!

Merciador
Merciador

God i love it when some one posts to try to irritate people; if its so bad why bother posting? Why waste our time (the people who already love and adore this kick ass game) Its only the beta. A test for the unfinished game and to get people intrested.

Niffirg6
Niffirg6

answer for 713PIMP. well the beta lowered its grafix so it could handle sooth gameplay. and if u look at the campain grafix, they are freakin amazing! if halo 3 "SUX" well then why is it the most antisipated game ever? whey are they ALREADY making 200 billion off of preorders? xbox360s are being bought JUST TO PLAY THIS GAME!!! halo three is bigger then u think, and part of it is already here. so preorder today at gamestop.com!! =D

713PIMP
713PIMP

I GOT A QUESTION, WHY DOES THIS GAME LOOK LIKE THE SECOND, THIS GAME HAS 2 MUCH HYPE I PLAYED THE BETA, AND IT SUX. GRAFIX SUCKED DONT LOOK 2 AMAZING LIKE U ALL MAKE IT SEEM. HALO 3 SUX

Merciador
Merciador

11 Days; seems forever but i have waited ages already

memanguy
memanguy

Why wont it come out already!!!!! Ive been waiting ever since i beat Halo 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Spartan0218
Spartan0218

I believe this game will be great and the news coming in is great, i cant wait until the 25th when we can play that day microsoft is going to make a but load of money and bungie

memanguy
memanguy

Oh my god! I can't wait to play it!

tigershark16000
tigershark16000

Meh... I suppose I understand. It's just another Halo to me. I've actually heard some very encouraging things about it. I've seen a video featuring a developer and he was saying things like "Halo 1" and "Assault on the control room" (saying that Halo 3's campaign will have a more epic, interesting, less repetitive, and fun feel like Halo 1's campaign, and that there will be some epic missions similar to Assault on the Control Room). So I'm feeling pretty good now, but still... It's just another Halo... Overrated? Yes. Terrible? Of course not.

bjmage16
bjmage16

"How on earth do you guys know it's going to be an amazing game? Please enlighten me. I want in on this secret. Have you played it? I don't mean that sub par beta. That crap almost made Halo 2's multiplayer look interesting. Almost." Because all previews of the game say it will be the best Halo yet. ALL. The beta wasn't bad, however it isn't supposed to be amazing, hence BETA.

Haku_Ryushi
Haku_Ryushi

Killzone 2, Halo 3, SuperSmash Bros. Brawl..........WHICH ONE!!!?!?!?!?!?

DarthSamus
DarthSamus

I'm easily excited the most about the 4 player co-op. Having each person play as Arbiter, MC, or Elites is just awesome.

kingcole225
kingcole225

SSSSSSSSSWWWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

AKAkiwi
AKAkiwi

long as its not to easy with 4 players it will be cool

tigershark16000
tigershark16000

How on earth do you guys know it's going to be an amazing game? Please enlighten me. I want in on this secret. Have you played it? I don't mean that sub par beta. That crap almost made Halo 2's multiplayer look interesting. Almost. So seriously... How do you know it's going to be amazing? I'll tell you what, I hope they make it as fun as Halo 1, but after the travesty that was Halo 2... I don't know. I just wish I were as sure as you all seem to be.

SpikeDelight
SpikeDelight

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ChudWarrior
ChudWarrior

Great indeed, but I wonder is the four player co-op available offline via split-screen or system link? Or is it only available via Xbox live? Which would mean offline you could only do two player splits-screen co-op. Twould be but a minor disappointment though for the game is going to be remarkable.

BBPirate06
BBPirate06

Frank, what's wrong? Sound a little defensive. Then again, it is Halo. It'll be great anywho. Also: Four Player Co-op! ****

zilke1
zilke1

it halo 3 this guy suck and he souds like he hates hole and i think it going to be the best one yet

tigershark16000
tigershark16000

It's not that, it's just that as a professional journalist, he or she must take a more objective approach. How ridiculous would it sound if he were a ravenous fanboy like half the zombies on XBox Live?

skazbot
skazbot

Why does it seem the guy conducting this interview doesnt like halo?

66Skullkid99
66Skullkid99

I am really being satisfied with this game. Bungie is doing what it takes to innovate with the new Halo, but I think it will be as good as the last ones. I only imagine if the co-op will be right implemented, or if it will be a disaster. But I really don't care, Only if it totally ruins the game, and this is not going to happend. Finishing, where is the Metroid Prime 3 Launch Center? =D

popdude338
popdude338

so i take it that we will be playing exclusively as the Master Chief in halo 3 as in Halo 1? either way the game is gonna pwn :D but you better not restart in coop legendary if someone dies like in Halo 2 :@ Halo 2 ruined legendary, too unfair with the crazy sniper jackals and forcing you to restart sections in coop (not to mention Tartarus was crazily impossible. though i eventually got him), as a note i only play legendary in Halo 1 :P

rocker_of117
rocker_of117

played tekken 6 awful game halo 3 10/10!! can't wait for halo 3!!!

darkblitz666
darkblitz666

verb (used with object) _ 1. to stimulate, excite, or agitate (usually fol. by up): She was hyped up at the thought of owning her own car. _ 2. to create interest in by flamboyant or dramatic methods; promote or publicize showily: a promoter who knows how to hype a prizefight. _ 3. to intensify (advertising, promotion, or publicity) by ingenious or questionable claims, methods, etc. (usually fol. by up). _ 4. to trick; gull. noun _ 5. exaggerated publicity; hoopla. _ 6. an ingenious or questionable claim, method, etc., used in advertising, promotion, or publicity to intensify the effect. ...................................................................................................................... 7. a swindle, deception, or trick. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [Origin: Americanism; in a sense to trick, or swindle I'm Not promoting The Term or discerning it

rocker_of117
rocker_of117

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

7footGrunt
7footGrunt

This is going to be sweet except for that the chief will kill me with more painfull weapons.

ghost89x
ghost89x

no who wants to pay 130 dollars for a f!@#@$ game

trayvincent
trayvincent

I just preorderd the Legendary Edition. Have any of you done this yet?

Eraak
Eraak

"biocrock is the king of a overrated game by far" Jealous much?

CANOFOWNAGE
CANOFOWNAGE

Im with predator, all you people who think this game is hype are dendropheliacs. Hype is where the game is super popular, but is garbage. This is the best FPS on consoles, and will probably still be after 10 years.

TurboBlue
TurboBlue

biocrock is the king of a overrated game by far.

Aicdu
Aicdu

cant wait till halo 3 comes out that will be the best out of them all even with co-op to 4 players that will be my favorite 360 game and if anyone can can u send me any updates or info about halo 3 to tyler_utley@yahoo.com thanks alot

Prtofdacrowd
Prtofdacrowd

Cant wait to finish the fight when my 360 comes back from the repair shop!!

cool-fuzzy457
cool-fuzzy457

4 Player Co-Op, a MC, 2 Elites, and an Arbiter, awsome...... but does the Master Cheif team up with any more then just 4 elites is my question?