Halo 4 narrative designer jumps ship

[UPDATE]: Ryan Payton leaves 343 Industries to start new studio, says he was no longer "creatively excited" about upcoming first-person shooter; Microsoft downplays impact of departure.

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Halo 4 may mark the return of Master Chief when it is launched next year, but the game has already marked the departure of a high-profile developer. As reported by Kotaku, Halo 4 creative director Ryan Payton has left 343 Industries to start his own new studio, Camouflaj.

Halo 4 wasn't creatively exciting its narrative designer.

"I had a great run at Microsoft," Payton told the blog. "I don't regret one day of it. But after a few years, there came a point where I wasn't creatively excited about the project anymore…The Halo I wanted to build was fundamentally different, and I don't think I had built enough credibility to see such a crazy endeavor through."

While the specifics of Payton's role in Halo 4's development are unknown, he reportedly focused on the game's story and building out the fiction behind the Halo universe.

Payton gained notoriety as the English-speaking face of Metal Gear Solid 4, on which he served as assistant producer. Payton left Metal Gear developer Kojima Productions three years ago to work on Halo.

As for Camouflaj, the company has two projects in the works. While it doesn't explicitly state the studio's focus, the Kotaku article suggests that Payton's new outfit will focus on smaller-scale projects that don't carry big budgets or price tags.

"Some people say I'm crazy, but I want to make a game that 1 billion people play at once, and it's something that hits them harder than a great book or film," Payton said, although that was presented as an eventual achievement rather than the immediate goal of Camouflaj.

[UPDATE]: Microsoft released the following statement about Payton's departure, clarifying his role on the project:

343 Industries has assembled an all-star cast of talent working on Halo 4 under the design leadership of Studio and Halo 4 creative director, Josh Holmes. We're excited to tell the next story in the Halo universe with Halo 4 as the first game in the Reclaimer Trilogy. Ryan Payton, who left earlier this summer, served as narrative designer on Halo 4 for 15 months. Armando Troisi was hired as the Halo 4 narrative director in March, having formerly served as the lead cinematic designer on Mass Effect 2. Ryan has been a great friend and colleague during his tenure at 343 Industries and we appreciate his contributions to the team. We wish Ryan the best in his new game development venture.

For more on the sci-fi shooter sequel, check out GameSpot's previous coverage of Halo 4.

Discussion

176 comments
Lord_Regnier
Lord_Regnier

They should just let Halo end on a high note. It's an amazing gaming series and deserves respect!

RavageCobra
RavageCobra

Halo needs to end. There's a reason Halo 3's main slogan was "Finish the Fight." But no. They managed to pump out ODST, then Reach. Microsoft is going to tie halo to a horse and drag it through the ground kicking and screaming until they can milk every last cent out of the sheep of a fanbase. Bungie isn't even developing it. And this guy leaving is only the beginning to an ugly end for Halo, I don't care how important he is to 343, Kojima, or anyone. They just need to let Halo roll over and die already.

Sendmn23
Sendmn23

wasn't this dude like the "English-public-relations" dude for Kojima productions? Its not like this guy was standing over Hideo Kojima's shoulder and telling him what to put where... its not like this guy had any input that was worth anything to the Metal Gear franchise... he spent 18 months basically sitting behind a cubicle, or at the water station telling dirty jokes... Believe me this guy probably felt intimidated when he realized there was an actual thought process behind making a game. This is why MR-"not-creatively excited" chose to start a studio making arcade style games... LMFAO! read between the lines people... this is for the better!

DKant
DKant

Eh. He wasn't involved for that long either. So, doesn't matter.

KrazzyDJ
KrazzyDJ

Well, given that this guy has worked on Metal Gear Solid and Halo, we can certainly expect a game with great storytelling from Camouflaj !!!

gamer4ever2
gamer4ever2

I just think Mr. Ryan Payton does not fit to be the creative director of a Halo FPS title. Why? Because too many ideas, too much innovations will alter the gameplay and feel and most of the Halo fans/players will be upset with too many change. I mean take a look at Halo Reach. Though the changes were not that radical, over the half of the Halo community bashed at Bungie, claiming this is not Halo. Now with Halo 4, most likely fighting against the forerunners and no Covenants anymore, too many changes will kill the franchise. I think Frank O'Connor should be directing the game as he also has been responsible for the Halo canon.

bigcrusha
bigcrusha

@MXVIII They don't need anything else. Third party publishers do everything else for them. They have so much third party support, for them to even put revenue towards another flagship franchise is redundant. But w/e, we can argue this all day, if you're tired of Halo, you are entitled to that opinion. As for me, I'll stay a loyal customer until they start going yearly release and virtually nothing significant is added between games (MW3).

MXVIII
MXVIII

@bigcrusha The problem is they've excluded everything else. What else does microsoft have? Nothing. Nintendo has created hundreds of franchises since its inception. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, etc. I mean hell even if it is casual, atleast they make new things. Microsoft has been closing studios left and right, and just focusing on this ONE franchise. Its getting stupid.

bigcrusha
bigcrusha

@MXVIII What's wrong with Halo being a flagship title? Oh I suppose your going to tell me that Mario is being milked as well right? There's a difference between milking and catering your fans. They recognize that Halo still has a HUGE fanbase behind it. You can't compare the contrast of Halo 3 to Halo Reach as you would for MW2 to MW3.

MXVIII
MXVIII

@bigcrusha So basically you want a game with cutscenes depicting stories from the book? Id rather watch a movie. The halo franchise has been established, it should focus on other mediums, and microsoft should finally work on a new IP, instead of miling this one, and yes it is milking when Halo is your flagship franchise for both generations of consoles, as well as almost every E3 and gameshow you attend.

bigcrusha
bigcrusha

@MXVIII In books, not games. I'm gonna go on a limb here and say more that 80% of people who purchased halo games haven't read any of the novels.

Mr_arizona
Mr_arizona

But after a few years, there came a point where I wasn't creatively excited about the project anymore. This 1 sentence makes me feel more confident in my prediction we'll still be fighting flood and Covenant species in Halo4. Maybe Forerunners or their tech but mostly Grunts and Brutes again.

mos2000
mos2000

@XxABIHxX I'm not the biggest Halo fan, but I totally have to agree. A little over-rated...hmmm maybe, but milked, a bit of a stretch. The game has been out for 10 years and spans 2 generations - how many are there; 6 (if you include Halo Wars) COD since MWF almost has as many games within a four year span. And Assassins Creed, dear lord, is on it's 12th installment in as many months.... Talk about milked. For a game of that type to come out annually, only one of two things are going on here: Either Ubisoft is the greatest @#$%^'n team out there, and nobody knows it (including them), or the game has become seriously watered down. Regardless, I think Halo has not done anywhere near as much to wear out its welcome as some of these other games. I look forward to see what this new arc brings.

MXVIII
MXVIII

@bigcrusha All those questions have been answered

bigcrusha
bigcrusha

@DARKNESSxEAGLE Halo has a pretty rich story behind it, believe it or not, the original trilogy left soo many unanswered questions. Check Halo Wikia if you don't believe me. Many still want to know about John 117's origins. Who is the man behind the helmet? What drove him to being the badass he is? Reach focused on the creation and origins of Cortana. Although, who created those artifacts, just who exacly are the forerunners who created the Halo's? What does the planet Sanghelios look like? How did the Sangheili join the covenant? On what planets other planets are the other 800 human colonies situated? Why has Chief been dubbed the Reclaimer? Can they go another 3 more games with this? I kinda doubt that but there's a boat load of plot story they can still put towards campaign. By the way, that video is a teaser, not a trailer. Teasers won't show you much.

XxABIHxX
XxABIHxX

i dont believe that they are milking the franchise, i think some people are just not happy enough with the way it ended and they want more. i for one am excited. bring back the BR please : ) its not like cod or assassins creed with a new one each year... ODST would be the only example of milking i could think of... even though bungie just threw it out to finish their contract with MS

DARKNESSxEAGLE
DARKNESSxEAGLE

The only reason this game may end up being partially comparable to it's predecessors is because of the people working on the game. We can see that this is just their way of milking the franchise dry but it may end up worth buying as long as the gameplay is fresh while keeping obvious traditions. The plot however, is already dead, as we can see from the trailer.

Tsuchikage
Tsuchikage

@marvel456: Halo: Reach is the fourth major game (not including expansion packs or spinoffs) and the true "Halo 4" (even if it's a prequel storywise). Halo: Combat Evolved is obviously the first game, then Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo: Reach. Halo 3: ODST is an expansion pack for Halo 3 and doesn't count as a true sequel, whereas Halo Wars is a spinoff RTS. Halo: Reach is "Halo 4" because of all the upgrades Bungie made compared to the previous games (new engine, armor abilities, loadouts, etc.); in fact, Bungie themselves have said as much.

Shantmaster_K
Shantmaster_K

It his choice. I like his idea of a billion people playing at once lol. But I'm Halo 4 will be good like the previous halo games. I am quite excited for it.

toonsim2
toonsim2

Oh no, not Ryan Payton.........

kerrman
kerrman

If he wasn't feeling the game anymore, I couldn't be happier he left. I want Halo 4 to be as good as the rest.

conkerton
conkerton

I'm not big on the Halo scene, but its a good thing if he is leaving because his creative heart is not into it.

jasonlc3221
jasonlc3221

@sune_Gem but this is what the gamers want. They've been begging to have Master Chief brought back. I happen to be pulled both ways on the subject. In some aspects, I agree with you that they should just leave it where it's at. But in other ways, I feel that I want to play as Master Chief for one more go-round. He probably is in the top 5 video game characters of all time (Mario, Zelda come to mind immediately as well). Obviously everything is all based on opinion, so you don't have to agree with me. But I also don't think we're only seeing Halo 4 because MS wants to milk every last dollar out of my wallet. They are answering the numerous prayers from the many, many Halo fans.

jasonlc3221
jasonlc3221

For all we know, Payton could have wanted to take the whole Halo Universe in an entirely different direction years ago, meaning it could have been a direction that would have made the games less than interesting. We'll never know for sure, but my feeling is that he didn't just wake up one morning and was suddenly disgruntled with where the Halo franchise is going. I'm sure it's something he's wanted to have control of for some time, and probably for better reasons, he was never allowed that full control. Best of luck to Ryan Payton on his future endeavors.

theslimdavylp
theslimdavylp

He's only been there 3 years... Halo's been around for a lot longer, Halo will live on after he is gone

sune_Gem
sune_Gem

As a long time Halo fan I generally think that a new Halo trilogy sad. The main plot ended on Halo 3 for the most part. The fact that they're now creating a whole new trilogy based off of the final cutscene is just nothing more than a way to milk the franchise I feel. The events following that final cutscene could have been summed up in a single book, it doesn't need a whole new trilogy of games...

twztid13
twztid13

@Megavideogamer i completely agree, but i think you are misunderstanding. he said that about his NEW studio, not about Halo 4, so that's even less likely.

WithoutGraceXII
WithoutGraceXII

I actually find Halo's story and universe to be pretty interesting. Then again, I've read most of the books and they really help give stuff a lot more depth than you get from the games alone. Even though I'm a huge Halo fan, I almost don't care how the new trilogy turns out because in my mind Halo = Bungie. I hope the new games are good, but they can't tarnish the achievement the originals were.

Santesyu
Santesyu

stale series and microsoft trying to milk it, life after halo is a terrible thought.

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

1 Billion people will never play a single game On-line at once. First person shooter science fiction and otherwise. Will have a strong following but there are not 1 Billion fans to play a game (on-line) The is the main draw of Halo and other FPS on-line competition. 1 Billion people at once never. Not for anygame. of the total worldwide videogame playing population a fraction of them play On-line "seriously/intently" Halo 4 will be good but not that good. "12 million people" have played World of Warcraft. On-line but not all at once. Halo games never have reached those numbers. 1 billion people play a videogame at once on-line or even off line. Not realistic. Never going to happen.

Rottenwood
Rottenwood

Halo's a solid multiplayer shooter, but the franchise has never been 'creatively exciting.' It's a bunch of standard sci-fi tropes stuffed into an FPS. Kudos to Payton for leaving easy money behind to pursue his art instead.

burtonboy05
burtonboy05

While the 360 is my only console halo doesn't form a single part of my game library. Other than the original which I did enjoy on the original xbox, the rest just don't do anything for me. Good luck in the new venture though bud.

StryfeBringer
StryfeBringer

I guess Ryan Payton's departure was just a conflict of interests. Sounds like he wanted to do something on a grand scale while MS didn't. I know I'm going to get quite a few thumbs down for this, but the story and gameplay behind Halo wasn't all that interesting. I remember quitting about 3/4 the way through Halo 1. I didn't pick up another Halo game until ODST and that game basically made me not want to buy another Halo game. So, for me, a grand scale story would probably be nice for the franchise.

moonkill3
moonkill3

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

punkpunker
punkpunker

he probably left because halo 4 is a start of a new trilogy. any halo fan wanted to know what happens to the chief in halo 4 and put him to rest forever.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Hmm.. kind of odd. I'm excited for the new games as I seriously think they needed a new lease of life, but if the narrative designer doesn't have faith in it I can't help but feel a tad worried. A friend of mine is a huge Halo fan, has the little novels and everything, but even he doesn't have high hopes for the next game.. Until we see more of it I suppose we can't judge, it does make you wonder though :|

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

"Halo 4 wasn't creatively exciting its narrative designer." He only JUST realised that the Halo series isn't creatively exciting? Better late than never I guess.

thebloodytenth
thebloodytenth

I see this as good news, mainly because of his statement, that he wanted to make Halo into something completely different. I do like improvements on games, so they don't feel stale and rehashed, but at the same time, you can't change a flagship franchise like the Halo series, just so you can see your creative vision realised. You have to think of the fans, all the fans, the ones who like innovation and progress in a franchise AND the ones who just want to don the Master Chiefs suit and pistol whip some grunt in the head.

Shame-usBlackley
Shame-usBlackley

Ryan Payton worked on Metal Gear Solid 4, which turned out to be crappy compared to other games in the series. Thus, his departure is a good thing. At least now, the plot for Halo 4 won't be "the nanomachines did it."

sirtoggle
sirtoggle

This kinda makes me worried about about halo 4 a little. I'm going to guess he left because his creatively was limited by the company because either they are going to not try new things with halo 4, OR he because his creatively was limited due to the fact he was trying to go way to out of the box of the halo universe.

ChaosUndivided
ChaosUndivided

Not that he could really offer anything creative that the rest of us couldn't come up with seeing as though he was only there for 3 years. The foundation for the story was already set and anyone who has a good understanding of it can easily speculate new directions to take the story.

stEElyDaN909
stEElyDaN909

I don't care too much about the story. Just bring the pistol back.

xgalacticax
xgalacticax

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

Vaultboy-101
Vaultboy-101

I bet Camouflaj will just be another of those small groups that never make anything successful. The best thing he could have done was to stay with halo.

taisui
taisui

So like, this guy has never worked on any of the previous Halo, how is this going to matter? Guess we'll find out how talented he really is now he's on his own, IMO even John Ramano's got more street credit than this guy.

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

@Yulaw2000 Microsoft could have been ****s to him first man. We simply just don't know and never will because we were not there to witness the falling out. All we have to go on is here say

steelmouth
steelmouth

to those wondering about this guys creative ideas,i honestly dont think they were that creative else MS or any other big publisher would have roped him in to develop a new IP but no,no one was interested hence he had to start his own budget studio keep walking dude

blasterchief
blasterchief

Eep . . . hope he hasn't left because story was getting thrown out the window . . .