Halo MMORPG had $90 million budget pre-cancellation

Ex-Ensemble developer Dusty Monk says Ensemble Studios spent three years developing a WOW killer--before Microsoft suddenly pulled the plug.

In July 2005, evidence surfaced that Age of Empires developer Ensemble Studios was working on a Halo-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Two weeks after Microsoft closed Ensemble in September 2008, reports surfaced that the project in question had been set in the Halo universe. Apparent art assets from the game surfaced, showing a sci-fi world that bore a resemblance to the wildly popular fantasy MMORPG World of Warcraft.

Ex-Ensembler Dusty Monk said he worked for three years on the Halo MMORPG, code-named "Titan."

Two years later, a former Ensemble developer has pulled back the curtain on the stillborn Halo MMORPG to IncGamers. Ex-Ensemble Studios member Dusty Monk, who founded indie shop Windstorm Studios last March, told the game site that Microsoft had planned for the Halo MMORPG to be a full-on competitor to WOW.

What made Ensemble think it could take on the biggest MMORPG in the world? Money, for one. Microsoft allocated $90 million to develop the project and, given its deep pockets, would have likely given more. Secondly, its tight-knit team had confidence. Ensemble had success taking on Blizzard's real-time strategy games and had studied its opponent enough to think it could compete against WOW. Third and foremost, it had Halo, unquestionably one of the most popular brands in gaming.

Microsoft apparently had budgeted $90 million for the project so it could take on WOW.

Unfortunately, after more than three years in development, the project was undone by one little white box--and a lot of office politics. "There was a bit of a changing of the guard at Microsoft at this time," Monk explained to IncGamers. "Microsoft, from its gaming division, was really changing directions. They were looking really hard at the Nintendo Wii and they were really excited by the numbers that the Wii was turning. This was about the time that Microsoft decided that its Xbox platform and Xbox Live Arcade really needed to go more in the direction of appealing to a more casual, broader audience."

As a result, the Halo MMORPG--code-named "Titan"--was quietly canceled in 2007, and eventually Ensemble itself was closed down. Ironically, some of the game's former developers found jobs at WOW developer Blizzard Entertainment, and Monk feels that many of the game's concepts can be found in the DNA of other MMORPGs.

"We were developing a cover system. This cover system is in Star Wars: The Old Republic," explained Monk. "We had the idea of quests…between 2004 and 2007, before Warhammer Online had been released…where you could participate and pull [characters] together without having to be on the same team. This would be a public quest that everyone in a particular area could work on. That idea went into Warhammer Online."

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308 comments
thorn3000
thorn3000

well, you just gotta love execs decisions...one day they think this will be fine, the other day they decide they wanna try something else and will close down a whole studio for it...that xxx people will lose their jobs, three years of work will be undone and xxxxx fans will be disappointed means nothing, simply the Wii makes better numbers so that's that....not even trying to think in a "what if" way, trying to think that things could change tomorrow...no...we have to act on evidence we have today, we cannot give in to chance it might change tomorrow...

lancerhawk
lancerhawk

So... The kinect killed what could've been one of the best MMO's of all time... Another reason to hate it... The most legitimate one to hate it, actually.

RPGOmen
RPGOmen

So the "Project Titan" that Microsoft developers were making was a Halo MMO targeted to go against WoW. Shortly thereafter the project is scrapped and Blizzard hires former employees of Project Titan for their new MMO, which they nicknamed Project Titan. It might just be coincidence, or Microsoft has teamed up with Blizzard with their Halo IP, while they themselves work on the casual audiences. Blizzard has given no real information other than it will be a FPS and that it will not be of their existing IPs. In addition, both Bungie and Activision seem to be working together on various fronts as of late; there was also a promotion in 2007 which Blizzard helped pay for that exhibited Halo merchandise and no traditional Blizzard IPs. Who knows?

Deluhathol
Deluhathol

"They were looking really hard at the Nintendo Wii and they were really excited by the numbers that the Wii was turning. This was about the time that Microsoft decided that its Xbox platform and Xbox Live Arcade really needed to go more in the direction of appealing to a more casual, broader audience." For some reason I just stumbled across this article again, and I noticed something I didn't the first time. The above just makes me want to cry ; thinking about how many potentially AWESOME games have been canned, or simply remain a repressed twinkle in a dev's eye, how many studios have been shut down, how many talented people have been fired, ALL because of the corporate machine going all out for the casual market. 'tis a sad era for gaming, if you ask me.

AshTray1986
AshTray1986

While I doubt I would have shown much interest in this, it seemed like there would have been a captive audience... and Crush_Project, Communism is a stinky odour, spare us.

crispy2226
crispy2226

fine by me, i wouldnt have paid the money to keep an mmo account alive anyways... besides, we halo junkies have reach to keep us entertained now XD

Crush_Project
Crush_Project

Curses, this would have been another total failure, and they need more epic bombs. Much hate to Ensemble, blizz, microsoft, bungie and all these other spineless capitalist prostitutes.

PureDarkness17
PureDarkness17

@DarthEthong467 Read the below comment, i didnt tag you xD

PureDarkness17
PureDarkness17

DarthEthong467 i totally agree with you, the other guy as no idea what he is on about. Also mirrors edge was a brilliant game but just too short with no DLC support xD. BioShock is more RPG than FPS id say and Fallout 3 is RPG and nothing else, it can also be played in 3rd person so its not a FPS.

Serentor
Serentor

@24k_Solid_Gold Same here. Besides that, wouldnt it have been better if it was FPSMMO rather then this?

24k_Solid_Gold
24k_Solid_Gold

Shame, I would have liked to see how a Halo mmorpg would have turned out.

DarthEthong467
DarthEthong467

@dunnuck I know what an FPS is. And Fallout 3 is NOT an FPS, its all about leveling which is in fact an RPG. Gamespot even has it listed as an RPG. Bioshock has RPG elements. Portal and Mirror's Edge are both great games, neither of them are FPS though, they are both puzzle games played from an FPS viewpoint. And what are you talking about me wasting my life on a game I complain about? Please explain. You really don't seem to understand what a true FPS is.

dunnuck
dunnuck

@DarthEthong467 FPS is first person shooter. Those two games are first person shooters with RPG elements, not the other way around. How about Portal? And you can complain about a game and still waste life on it. Just take a listen to the online "I hate this game! blah blah blah". And Mirror's Edge...

DarthEthong467
DarthEthong467

@dunnuck I may have generalized about all FPS games having a limited story, but you seem to have missed my point. I enjoy all video game genres. You don't really seem to know what you're talking about. Tell me, what FPS game does not rely on faster reflexes? You seem to be relying upon Bioshock and Fallout for your examples. While both of those games have FPS elements, they are in fact RPG's. There is a big difference between an RPG and an FPS, even if it includes FPS elements. You also stated I'm using MW2 as the basis for my complaint, so why would I waste my life playing it if that's the case? Before you go around attacking people maybe you should understand what the f*ck you're actually saying first.

dunnuck
dunnuck

@DarthEthong467 Disagree on almost all counts. Most MMORPG stories are just a clusterf*** of events. Its just stuff that happens and since it actually HAS a backstory, people mistake it for a good story. Nothing very good about most MMORPG stories. And no MMORPG has a better story than "all FPS games combined". There is a pretty healthy portion of FPS games with great stories, ones that, in a single game, wipe the floor with MMORPG stories...and there are a lot of FPS games in which its not just reflexes. Thats called Modern Warfare 2...which is probably what your using as a layout, outline, or format for EVERY OTHER FPS. Which is a sad mistake. Go waste your life on FPS games like MW2 and Halo 3...meanwhile, I will be playing something like BioShock or Fallout...

dunnuck
dunnuck

You know, when my friend first told me about this, I was upset. Why? Not because it was canceled. But because it was a Halo RPG...a Halo MMORPG at that...and after reading this, im kind of sad. Everyone keeps saying "dont kill it, dont kill it", I say shoot for it. Im not the biggest Halo fan, but I would have been interested in seeing what the 90 million could do. Who knows? Maybe it could be good. I always think that (most) ideas can be a success if done correctly. But I have to admit, this IS exploiting fans...but still. It's a shame I didn't get to see that 90 million put into work.

Nekromenos
Nekromenos

HALO GUISE!!1 Got it? Huh? Did ya? :S

Great_Ragnarok
Great_Ragnarok

9thdevilmaycry, lists of halo games are dwarfed by lists of mario games and other established franchises. *cough*NFS*cough*. so need to bash Halo for attempting a MMORPG. Personally I would have loved this game since the halo universe is quite exciting with all it's human planets,alien races and mysterious ancient societies. shame this was canceled.

9thedevilmaycry
9thedevilmaycry

AND ive got MORE halo games! 21.halo gaiden 22. master cheifs bash out! 23. master cheifs learning fun(oh god not a halo kids game...) 24.haloeye 25. cooking cheif 26. halo cry 27. dance dance halolution 28. need for warthog Coming out when halo civilization comes!

dogpigfish
dogpigfish

It looks terrible. No wonder they cancelled it.

asilaydying4
asilaydying4

I'm a huge Halo fan and I'm really glad this was canceled. Its great that people want to expand halo but exploiting it because of its fan base is wrong. Halo wars was pushing it, halo legends was terrible and poorly executed, ODST felt like a beta, the movie seemed like a good idea before Halo Wars, and than there are several other titles yet to be officially announced under the halo name.... Microsoft effectively killed a once great franchise, if this would have went through and released I would have lost all respect for Microsoft.

bigmack_20_20
bigmack_20_20

i am glad they cancelled that Halo needs to slowly bow out instead of being exploited

9thedevilmaycry
9thedevilmaycry

oh i can name heaps more halo games! 1. halo kart 2. god of halo 3. halo sports 4.the legend of halo 5. super halo bros 6. guitar chief 7. chieftroid 8. halo life 9. MORTAL HALO 10. halo caliubar(misspelt) 11. halo play 12. hotel halo(PLESE DONT RELESE THIS) 13. halo and the faces of evil(NO NOT THIS EITHER) 14. halo may cry(FINNALY A GOOD ONE AFTER 13) 15. halo 4? 16. left 4 halo 17. halocraft 18. halopoly(I KNOW ITS A BOARD GAME BUT IT COULD BE RELEASED ON XBOX LIVE) 19. halo fantasy 20.(the last on the list)grand theft halo

wrednajasobaka
wrednajasobaka

"This was about the time that Microsoft decided that its Xbox platform and Xbox Live Arcade really needed to go more in the direction of appealing to a more casual, broader audience." Pay attention, loyal Xbox360 fans. Microsoft killed what looked like pretty good game because they want to attract more casual gamers from Wii. They already betrayed us, PC players, you are next.

Ne_rome
Ne_rome

Depending on the gameplay, this could have been good. I'd have to give it a chance before I judge.

bsnimunf
bsnimunf

Images dont look that much like Halo. I call the Halo tie BS. This was just some other game

thphaca
thphaca

MAN C'MON... Give that old crap a break. Yes, the original game was great, but do we have to drag the name on any longer? Sheesh, why don't we make a halo racing game next? Pick whatever color warthog you'd like.

SocialAnXieTy
SocialAnXieTy

I'd say it's a good thing this game got cancelled.. I mean really, a Halo MMO? Fail.

shkar
shkar

thank goodness !!!!!!

DarthEthong467
DarthEthong467

This game would've been truly epic! Its sad to see Ensemble Studios get closed down, especially when their last game (halo Wars) was such a flop. Ensemble Studios was always a PC based developer, Microsoft should've never forced them to develop on a console (Console RTS's are the worst combination ever).

DarthEthong467
DarthEthong467

@knoxyknight There are MANY MMORPG's with guns in them. And there is more "real story" in one MMORPG than all FPS games combined. Unless you're referring to a "realistic" setting. I love MMORPG's and I love FPS's, and I have a hard time really enjoying either the leveling system of MMO's or the "skill" (aka who has the faster reflexes) based system of FPS's. In both cases you need to waste your life to get better, that's the philosophy of all video games.

knoxyknight
knoxyknight

Something about a guns and mmo together just dosen't sound right. I hate mmos anyways, I prefer my games with a real story, and when it comes to competitive multiplayer, winning based on skill instead of whoever has wasted more of their life grinding.

DaRk_NiTeMaRe
DaRk_NiTeMaRe

Maybe it would have been Borderlands-esque. Possibly Third Person controls with RPG elements in the form of quests, stats, and new weapons depending on your character's level?

Garygok
Garygok

I'd love to see an actualy contender for WoW...not sure this would have been it though. I think the only people good enough to do it is Blizz itself

JOKER677
JOKER677

this would be something like when they made halo wars, useless

GunBladeHero
GunBladeHero

It was an interesting concept but,if the gameplay would be like WOW it was going to be awful,because it would not feel natural to the FPS that Halo is.

shooters125
shooters125

It would've never worked out anyways.

karloss01
karloss01

UrbanMessiah - haven't you heard of Halo Kart and Guitar Chief?

X-RS
X-RS

dont see how chucking 90 mill is 'milking', know what im saying. microsoft has at least SOME respect, unlike someone else i know.

Dezuria
Dezuria

I don't see how a sci-fi Halo MMO would be a WoW killer. Aside from the genre, they aren't even related.

UrbanMessiah
UrbanMessiah

"Lol milking the Halo title much?" When it gets as bad as something like Mario? Then I'll worry. -=x

Pete5506
Pete5506

To many MMo's in the world

Inconnux
Inconnux

sounds like microsoft was trying to milk the Halo name like Activision does to CoD

thingta42
thingta42

Actually what must of sucked is spending 90 Millilion on a game, and then three years later axing it.

Charocks
Charocks

Kinda glad it got axed... Halo's story is already confusing and weird and from what I've seen from this, it would've been comparable to making the next Mario game an FPS

alexLmx6
alexLmx6

that must really suck to have your project axed after 3 years of work... and i can't decide why, but somehow dusty monk is the best name ever

Kaeban
Kaeban

Wow sucks, people gets insane because they want to play wow all day.