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.
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.

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