Halo's Master Chief Could Have Resembled An Anime Character

The original development process on Halo involved testing out and iterating on different designs, and Master Chief almost had a very different look.

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Master Chief has become an enduring pop-culture figure and an important video game protagonist since his debut in 2001's Halo: Combat Evolved, but his design could have been very different. Marcus Lehto, the co-creator of Halo, was largely responsible for the Master Chief design that made it into the game, and in an interview with IGN he explained the process that led to the character's creation.

Lehto remembers how Halo started--a two-person team, consisting of him and Jason Jones, working on a sci-fi strategy title. "Even at that time, there was a character that we called 'The Super-Soldier'," he recalls, "and that super soldier was, in all honestly, the very root of what became the Master Chief."

Eventually they built a vehicle for him to drive (which would ultimately become the Warthog) and switched to a third-person camera, which meant continuing to beef up the character's design. "Through that time frame, of course, the Master Chief continued to turn from... this really, really simple block model to something that started to look more like this armored, true 'Super Soldier,'" he told IGN.

However, a different iteration of the Master Chief was also worked up, and could have made it into the final game if things had gone differently. "One of our concept artists at that time, whose name's Shi Kai Wang, who is a fantastic, great, talented person... had worked on some early concepts that were more anime-inspired," Lehto recalls. "We built that character, and it was much more slender and agile-looking, at that time. That's the character that we showcased in the Macworld demo."

However, the stockier Master Chief eventually won out, because, as Lehto puts it, "he needed to look like a tank that could take on an entire army."

Halo fans on PC have finally been able to dive into several games that were previously Xbox-exclusive thanks to the slow rollout of The Master Chief Collection. Halo 2 Anniversary is out now, and Halo 3 is right around the corner.

Lehto is no longer with Bungie, and his new game is Disintegration, which combines FPS and RTS elements. It's due to release on June 16 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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