With Halo 3 now on PC, the developers tell stories of building relationships through the game, playing to pass time in the military, and more.
It's September 25, marking the 13-year anniversary of Halo 3's release on Xbox 360. When the game hit PC earlier this year as part of The Master Chief Collection, we spoke with a number of developers on the game about their experiences with it. Read on for a look at their stories.
Halo 3 is remembered fondly by many Halo fans. Originally released in 2007, the game remains a fan-favorite to this day, in part for what is considered by many to be Halo's best multiplayer offering to date.
Everyone who enjoys Halo probably has their own story about what Halo 3 meant to them. And this includes developers from 343 Industries, the new stewards of Halo after taking over the franchise from Bungie in 2007. Twenty-two developers from 343 Industries shared with us their memories of Halo 3 and why it was so special to them.
Halo 3 represents a bygone era for Halo and FPS games overall. There was no sprinting. No loadouts. No perks. No XP grind. Whereas newer entries in the Halo series--and across the wider industry--have focused on engagement through things like battle passes, microtransactions, and live events, Halo 3 kept you playing because it was damn fun and all your friends were playing it. Plain and simple. No gimmicks.
It feels surreal that a game from 2007 still performs and looks so good in 2020, and remains all kinds of fun thanks to Halo: The Master Chief Collection. But Halo 3 isn't done growing yet. The game is finally out now on PC through The Master Chief Collection, and it's a big deal because--unlike Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2--Halo 3 was never released on PC. Coming to PC opens up a new audience for the beloved game, and it offers another opportunity for existing fans to revisit the game on a new platform with crisper and more fluid gameplay.
The developers tell tales of late nights playing Grifball and Duck Hunt; of cultivating family and personal relationships through the game. They are stories of putting in the work and earning your first 50. One developer, Sean Cooper from the Master Chief Collection publishing team, tells a story of playing the Halo 3 public beta while he was serving overseas in the military to pass the time when he wasn't on duty.
Halo Infinite multiplayer designer Fernando Reyes Medina says he didn't have enough money to buy an Xbox when he was living back at home in Mexico City. So Medina went to an internet cafe and rented an console for $1 per hour to play Halo 2. The story only got more interesting when Halo 3 came out in 2007.
"The owner of the cafe that was surprisingly not very tech savvy asked my group of friends and I to set up Xbox Live so people could play Halo 3 there online. We set the whole thing up and my first online match was just magical," Medina said. "Playing with people from all over the world made me realize how impactful games can be in terms of bringing people together, because no matter who you are or what part of the world you were in, when you were in game you were just another Spartan. That moment was the eureka moment for me where I decided to become a game developer because I wanted to bring people together that way through my own games, and here I am now, 10 years later, as a multiplayer designer on Halo Infinite."
You can check out all of their testimonials down below.
Lisa Barber | Environment/World Building Artist, Halo Infinite
“Halo captured my imagination more than any other game I've played, and Halo 3 really opened my eyes to exploring creativity and community in games. Being able to utilize Theater mode and Forge mode let me express myself in a really innovative new way. It also was the first ever title I got to play on Xbox Live, and I still have long-time friends I made during that time. Not to mention, countless nights staying up playing custom maps like Duck Hunt and Grifball with my best friend! My love for Halo has never stopped, and I’m really proud to be a part of 343 and help bring Halo Infinite to life. ”
Tyler Ensrude | Multiplayer Designer, Halo Infinite
"This game changed my life forever. Besides the incredible Campaign and multiplayer suite, there was an additional way to play the game through a new mode called Forge. This allowed players to go behind the multiplayer curtain and create their own experiences within the game. While I didn’t know it at the time, this was the very beginning of my journey into game development. In fact, 10 years later, on the anniversary of Halo 3, I was offered a position on the multiplayer team to develop ‘Halo Infinite.’ I’ve spent thousands of hours playing Halo 3 over the years, and it has given me so much in return. I owe my greatest friends, my relationship with my brother, and my entire career to this game. I’m honored to have the privilege of working on this franchise, and I hope that Halo continues to inspire a whole new generation of people, the way it inspired me.”
"This game changed my life forever." -- Tyler Ensrude, Multiplayer Designer, Halo Infinite
Ben Madlena | Sandbox Quality Analyst, Halo Infinite
“Halo 3 holds a lot of special memories for me because I played it as a kid and before I had Xbox Live, so it was usually just my brother and I playing split screen together. Halo 3 was a big deal for us because it introduced Forge mode – we used to spend countless hours making 1v1 maps and different custom game modes. The Sandbox being opened up in Forge really made the game seem endless, and it’s one of the reasons I grew to love Halo so much and wanted to work on the Halo team someday. It’s really fun to see how Forge has continued to evolve over the years – my brother and I mainly keep in touch via Xbox Live these days and we love playing all the unique maps/modes made by the community on Halo 5: Guardians!'"
Nick Bird | Forge Quality Assurance, Halo Infinite
“Halo 2 is where I started, but Halo 3 Forge is where I flourished. Every day I would get online with my friends and either mess around in Forge or play some crazy custom game we constructed. There are countless memories and stories to share of the fun we had, ranging from driving a warthog through an obstacle course to games of random weapons with superspeed and low gravity. I spent hundreds, probably thousands of hours in Forge, so much so that I had to create a second profile just to keep additional maps I created. Even then I would get friends to come into the session to save a map so I could figure out what to delete to clear some space. My time in Forge and the Forge community eventually led me to pursue a career in the industry, and ultimately landed me a position to work on what I love in a franchise I love.”
Hunter Young | 3D Environment Artist, Halo Infinite
“From 2007 to 2012, I played Halo 3 nearly every single day. 291 campaign missions, 2521 ranked matches, 5374 social matches, and a whopping 10197 custom games. Halo 3 was not just a game to me – calling it a game would be a disservice to what it meant to me. It was a way to talk and hang out with some of my best friends. It was also a sport - and one that showed me that I could actually be good at something. It was a story that I could re-live as much as I wanted, and it was a creative tool letting me forge bases with friends and share them with the community. Halo 3 was not a game - it was my entire life.
While I played and loved both Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, Halo 3 was the perfect storm of an experience. Looking back, it let me escape everything that was going on in my life at the time, but most of all ‘Halo 3’ introduced me to real friends. Even then, I knew game design was exactly what I wanted to do in my life. My only goal was to make games one day, so that I just had to put my head down and get through the difficult times
After a short time went by I started my own Halo 3 clan - FSC: Fire Stealth Courage. I made a ranking system, hierarchy of power roles, multiple squad-based tier systems that revolved around different areas of the game and more. We grew to 210 members with a competitive team, forge team, screenshot team, and my 7 officers that served below me to help administrate the entire clan - all headed by me, some 8th grade kid from Tennessee. I had a legitimate double-life. Despite having a hard time in school, I could go home and be a leader and someone that 210 people looked up to. Starting that clan was the best thing that I could have done. While we were incredibly active with a litany of activity and contents, most of all FSC and ‘Halo 3’ paved the road for many life-long friendships with some of the best friends that I've ever had. We made real friendships that went beyond the screen.
Although I spent my entire time from 2007 to 2012 playing Halo 3 every single day, it didn't take me away from life, Halo 3 GAVE me a life. It gave me something to look forward to every day, paving the road to where I am now. I look back on those days as being some of the best years of my life, and it was all because of Halo 3."
Richard Meier | Associate Producer, Halo Infinite
“Between Halo 2 and Halo 3, I’ve played over 14,000 matchmaking matches and custom games. Halo 3 released the year that I graduated high school, so it was an awesome way for my high school friends and I to stay in touch and continue to game together. I remember finishing college classes or work, hopping on Halo 3 and gaming well into the following day. Some of my best friends today are people who I’ve never actually met – but are people who I played Halo 2 and Halo 3 with. Between different Forge Maps and Modes and ranked MLG and TS, Halo 3 was the perfect combo of social and competitive gaming. The Halo franchise is what inspired me to work in games. I vividly remember the LAN parties, late night custom games, and earning my first 50. Halo gave me an opportunity to hang out with my friends, even when life pulled us in different directions, and it connected us to so many more awesome people. I’m truly blessed to be able to work on the franchise that provided me with countless memories and I’m excited to be able to try and deliver the same experiences to both the old and new generations of Halo players.”
Patrick Wren | Multiplayer Modes and Systems Designer, Halo Infinite
“I had played a lot of Halo 2 and couldn’t be more excited for Halo on the next generation console at the time. Halo 3 brought so many memories with it and in ways I couldn’t even imagine. I played everything from Campaign, to competitive tournaments, to wacky minigames. At this point in time I knew I wanted to get into game development, but Forge pushed that desire to a whole new level. I tried to create in Halo 3 as much as I played, hounding my friends to test my creations. Years later I am now working on ‘Halo Infinite’ and can’t wait for people to get their hands on it. Halo 3 created many late nights of laughing with friends, that I can’t wait to play again on PC.”
Sean Cooper | Software Engineer on the 343 Publishing Team, The Master Chief Collection
“2007 marked many firsts for me. First time living overseas. Hit my first full year in the military. First time playing the beta version of a Halo. Any time that I wasn’t on duty, I was trying to log some time in the Halo 3 public beta. It was a great way to checkout, forget about things for a while, and just have fun with my friends, many of which were thousands of miles away. Many years later, I’ve been fortunate enough to land a job not just working on Halo, but working on the original Halos. I’m on a team that’s keeping them alive and bringing them to PC. So now I’m the developer. I’m helping fans of Halo, both new and old, have an outlet that lets them play with their friends, whom they might not have seen for many months now.”
Turner Sinopoli | Technical Environment Artist on the Campaign team, Halo Infinite
“Back when Halo 3 came out I was in middle school and my dad took me to the midnight release. It was a big deal because A) it was a school night so I got to be up WAY past my bedtime and 2) my dad did not care about video games at all so it meant a lot he would take me. We sat out for hours with chairs in line and then finally checked out with Halo 3 and a case of that sweet Mountain Dew game fuel in tow. When we got home, we played split screen Campaign for hours and it was the first time I really played video games with my dad. It’s one of my favorite memories I have with him and the thought of creating moments and stories like that for others drives me to help ‘Halo Infinite’ be the best it can be and hopefully make a lot more warm and happy Halo memories. ”
Eric Richter |UI Artist, Halo Infinite
“The online friends that I play with today all found each other over 10 years ago, when Halo 3 launched in 2007. Our earliest memories together include territory battles on Valhalla, custom games in Sandbox, and playing (and replaying!) such an amazing story together. Once our community had gained enough members, we organized forums to stay in touch, and created a ‘Risk’-like gameboard comprised of all the multiplayer maps, splitting into red and blue armies to vie for control of the galaxy. This structure provided the basis for years and years of scheduled play sessions and kept us together through our toughest times. The re-playability of ‘Halo 3’ was the perfect catalyst and proving ground for our friendship, giving us endless ways to interact, unwind or get competitive, and have fun together above all else."
Tahir “Tashi” Hasandjekic | Lead Esports Producer
"College wasn’t a great time for me, but it’s the memories of playing Halo 3 with my closest friends at the time that I still look back fondly on." - Tahir “Tashi” Hasandjekic | Lead Esports Producer
“At the end of 2006 I moved away from home for the first time ever as a freshman in college. I didn’t know anyone except for my friends on Xbox Live and kept to myself most of the time. In the Spring of 2007 I was lucky enough to be invited into the Halo 3 Friends and Family Beta a week before any Crackdown players got in, and I’m pretty confident that I was probably the only one in the whole school who was playing Halo 3 early. So, I decided to leave my dorm room open in hopes of luring in potential friends. Sure enough, some folks came in to check it out, some of which would later become my best friends in college. We played Halo 3 quite often as a group and even ran through 4-player co-op together the night Halo 3 launched later that fall. College wasn’t a great time for me, but it’s the memories of playing Halo 3 with my closest friends at the time that I still look back fondly on. I even had the chance to reconnect with one of them at the 2018 Halo World Championship in Seattle for the first time in almost a decade where Halo once again brought us together.”
Fernando Reyes Medina | Multiplayer Designer, Halo Infinite
“Back home in Mexico City, my friends and I didn’t have money to have a proper console at home, so we would go to an internet/gaming café where we would rent a console for a dollar per hour and we would play Halo 2 in LAN for hours. But when Halo 3 came out, the owner of the café that was surprisingly not very tech savvy asked my group of friends and I to setup Xbox Live so people could play Halo 3 there online. We set the whole thing up and my first online match was just magical. Playing with people from all over the world made me realize how impactful games can be in terms of bringing people together, because no matter who you are or what part of the world you were in, when you were in game you were just another Spartan. That moment was the Eureka moment for me where I decided to become a game developer because I wanted to bring people together that way through my own games, and here I am now, 10 years later, as a Multiplayer Designer of ‘Halo Infinite’ ”
Alex Bean | Multiplayer Designer, Halo Infinite
“I had been a Halo fan since playing Halo: Combat Evolved co-op for the first time at a friend's house, but Halo 3 was a turning point in my relationship with games. Leading up to its September 2007 launch, I was fascinated by Bungie's willingness to give insight into the game's development through the release of mini documentaries (‘ViDocs’), the multiplayer beta, and Bungie.net community interaction. When the game released and delivered on my immense expectations, the limited-edition bonus disc contained behind the scenes content that further detailed the making of the game. The depiction of immensely passionate creators working together to craft the game that I loved had a profound impact on me. By the end of that year, at age 14, I was determined to become one of them.”
Ben Frazier| Character Artist, Halo Infinite
"Halo 3 truly shaped my love for online gaming. Whether it was climbing to max level in ranked modes, or just playing custom games like Infection, the replay-ability seemed endless. The gameplay was tight, the graphics were great, and the social interaction had me consistently itching to join my friends for ‘one more game.’ Forge and the replay system were also super innovative. They brought me tons of fun, and this gem of a screenshot. Calculated.”
Kaleb Nekumanesh | Campaign Level Designer, Halo Infinite
“Halo 3 was the first Halo game I played and I was instantly hooked. The experience of playing with all my friends was an amazing experience. With the innovation of the new Forge and Theatre modes, we were able to continue inventing new ways to have fun such as making levels, game modes, and short films. Playing Halo 3 with my friends for days at a time was one of the most fun memories I have from that period of my life. I’m super excited to be able to relive those memories and share them with a whole new group of players.”
Paul Bronowski | Game Editor Developer, Halo Infinite
“A long time ago, in conference rooms far, far away, we used to play a ton of Halo 3. Those were some very late nights. We had to hunt for conference rooms to play on that were on the same sub-net when sys-link play packets were restricted, and we were often reminded to return the room wiring to the state we found it. We had suitcases and backpacks with our hardware and Can-Am pizza on speed dial. There may have been adult bevs involved. In 2007, DevDiv held a Halo 3 tournament for the giving campaign and we decided to form a team. I wasn’t the strongest player on the team, but we somehow took first place.”
Allen Wilson | Campaign Level Designer, Halo Infinite
“When Halo 3 released I was fourteen years old and it was the only game I cared about at the time. My entire network of friends pretty much revolved around Halo 3, and it was a daily routine to hop online the second I got home from school. Halo 3 connected me to a community, not just within my group of friends, but also to people overseas! Which now-a-days doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but when you’re growing up in a small town like I was, it was a life changing experience. Going from a community member to actually working on and contributing to the next big Halo title in the series is an actual dream come true. Huge thanks to the MCC team for bringing a masterpiece to PC, can’t wait to get into some custom games!”
Daedra Christopher | Campaign Level Designer, Halo Infinite
"I have always had a special place in my heart for Halo, especially when my youngest son told me his new name was Green Armor. The Halo franchise for me has always been a part of my family whether it was my eldest annihilating me in almost every match or my husband laughing at me when I called the Elites, whoop whoops. My boys and I would play Halo 3 together and have a blast. When I left my native Texas to join 343i, it was difficult leaving my kids behind, even if they are no longer mom’s little boys. I know working on their favorite franchise of all time makes them proud every day. I am proud not only to be a part of Halo, but to be part of such an amazing, talented team of people who believe in what we stand for: hope, heroism, wonder, and community. We make Halo.”
John Louis Wilson | Environment Artist, Halo Infinite
“Halo 3 was the first Halo game I owned on an Xbox console. I always had to play Halo 2 at friends’ houses and I annoyed my mom with how much I’d play the ‘Halo: Combat Evolved’ trial on PC during the school day. It was the game that taught me that the best memories don’t come from what you do but the feelings you have while doing it. When I was playing Fat kid, duck hunt or Jenga in a lobby full of people I’ve never met before, we’d be laughing and creating moments that I want others to have and share with the games I work on! It’s always so satisfying when you can say ‘I did this and that’ and it would instantly click in the mind of the person you’re talking to and they get it and can share that feeling!”
Kolbe Payne | Campaign Level Designer Halo Infinite
“When Halo 3 launched, I was in middle school. I will never forget the excitement of getting home after a long day at school and playing Halo 3 all night with my friends. Most of the time I would ‘forget’ that I had homework that was due the next day and would rush to get it finished in the morning before classes. ‘Halo 3’ was the start of my late-night gaming sessions that I still have every night. To think back then that I would be a Campaign Level Designer on ‘Halo Infinite,’ my younger self would absolutely lose his mind.”
Noah Benesch | Product Marketing Manager – Halo on PC
“I think everyone remembers the first video game they really engaged with. The first experience you simply couldn’t put down, the thing that made you realize the promise of gaming. For me, that game was Halo 3 because of the virtually limitless experiences it had to offer. From the astounding story, to nail-biting SWAT games, to the chaos of a Mongoose racetrack, Halo never could manage to leave me bored. In fact, Halo 3 was the first title I attempted to achieve 100% completion on –- though beating the game on legendary proved an insurmountable challenge at the time. Now, some 13 years later, I’m looking forward to completing that challenge on PC.”
"The first experience you simply couldn’t put down, the thing that made you realize the promise of gaming." -- Noah Benesch | Product Marketing Manager – Halo on PC
Amity Mathews | Senior Data & Applied Scientist, Halo Infinite
Back during Halo 3, there was an internal beta available to Microsoft employees. Being a long-time fan, I jumped at the chance and filed a number of issues. Unbeknownst to me, the top 16 bug filers across Microsoft would be invited to put Halo 3 through its paces in a weekly on-site playtest… and I made the cut! For several months, we would play Campaign, Customs, and have dialog with the engineers about why we felt a certain way or work with someone to repro an oddity that had just happened. This occurred in the cryptically unmarked (and no longer standing) building at 434 Kirkland Way.
My favorite story from that time: It happened on Isolation; a multiplayer map covered in vibrant vegetation. It would take the community a few months to discover that vegetation slowly withers over the course of a match as it becomes infected by the Flood. Our evenly matched teams were tied 49-49, as I faced off against someone with Rockets with my Shotgun. We both fired at the same time, and both our shields were knocked out. I was too far away with the shotgun, and he… was livid. ‘Point blank rocket didn’t kill him! WTF?!’ Tension mounted. He fired again, right as I meleed… and neither of us were damaged. ‘WHAT THE *%!*’ Because I’d meleed, I had a faster cycle time and clutched the win with my second melee, laughing. I had no clue how I’d survived. A Bungie employee promised they’d look into it as they saved off the film with the new playback feature.
Later, we both received screenshots… and an explanation that it was technically ‘by design?’ ‘Halo 2’ rockets used a ray (a line, shooting right from the tip of the rocket forward) to determine collision. At the precise moment it passed me, it managed to fit right through the few-pixel gap of my Spartan’s thighs. That made some sense, but what about the second, point-blank rocket?! It truly didn’t seem to fire. There was certainly no explosion. But, zooming out there was. Against a far wall of the map and behind the guy with rockets. As it was explained to me, early in development rockets had a habit of exploding in the rocket tubes. The rocket was originally armed immediately upon firing, and if you spun too fast the rocket tube would clip the ray and it would explode. Thus, the rockets were changed to be launched kinetically, then arm as they left the tube. There was a one or two frame window of time, in which I could swat the rocket onto a new trajectory. Which is precisely what happened! I immediately recalled the moment in The Fall of Reach where Master Chief deflected a Scorpion missile with Cortana’s help. The moment still brings a smile, not to mention wonder at the depth and nuance of the franchise. I’m honored to be a part of this legacy.