Microsoft Considered Ending The Halo Series Or Bringing In Borderlands Dev To Make A New Game

Borderlands studio Gearbox was considered to make a Halo game of its own.

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After Bungie split off of Microsoft, the Halo series was at something of a crossroads. Veteran Microsoft developer Bonnie Ross recalls in a fascinating new interview that at this time, some at Microsoft questioned whether or not the series would live on.

"When we spun Bungie out, the future of Halo was uncertain," Ross said in an interview with IGN. "We weren't actually sure [if] Halo 3 was going to be the last game."

As fans may recall, Halo 3's story ended in ambiguous fashion. Master Chief could have been dead. He wasn't of course, and his story would go on to be continued in Halo 4 and Halo 5. Those games were developed by 343 Industries, Microsoft's internal Halo development studio that Ross founded.

She recalled pitching the idea for an internal Halo development studio, and the reaction wasn't entirely positive. Ross said she remembers then-Xbox boss Shane Kim advising against it. He warned her that people at Microsoft might try to convince her to do things with the franchise that aren't right for it. Another former Xbox boss, Robbie Bach, also said it might not be a smart move to continue the Halo series with Bungie out of the picture, Ross said.

"Robbie Bach and Shane Kim were like, 'Hey, Halo's great, Bungie doesn't want to do it anymore.' Robbie and Shane were not people who were thinking just for the money but it was basically like, 'Hey, I think it's maybe good for another game or two and [then] let's just cut our losses and tell another story.'"

So the idea became to potentially tell a four-game series of Master Chief-focused Halo games and then "wrap it up," Ross said. With that in mind, Microsoft considered potentially bringing on an outside studio to make potentially "one or two other [Halo] games" after Halo: Reach and Halo 3: ODST. Those titles, which were developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft after the split, do not feature Master Chief as the main character. But the new titles presumably would.

The leading name to take on the job was Gearbox, the studio behind Borderlands. The studio has a history with Halo, as it developed the PC edition of Halo: Combat Evolved. However, Ross said she thought it was "blasphemy" to have an outside studio make a Halo game.

As for why Ross believed in Halo as a franchise so much, she pointed out that the entirety of Halo 1-3's story takes place in only three months of time, fictionally, so there are many more stories to be told. Indeed, the story of Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians went in new directions. The next Halo game, Halo Infinite, puts more of an emphasis on Chief than Halo 5, but nothing else is known about the story. A recent report from Brad Sams claims Halo Infinite will be a launch title for a new Xbox releasing in 2020.

Ross was recently inducted into the AIAS Hall of Fame. The first woman in the AIAS Hall of Fame, Ross joins other industry legends like Bethesda's Todd Howard, along with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, Metal Gear designer Hideo Kojima, and Valve founder Gabe Newell.

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Avatar image for Shantmaster_K
Shantmaster_K

Glad they didn't. Although nothing has topped Halo 2 or 3 imo, I do enjoy the games.

Avatar image for bizuit
bizuit

Should had stopped at 3 because every game after that turned into Halo: Call of Duty and really ruined the franchise

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

"But then we'd have to make something else, and you see what happens when we do that...."

Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

Halo 4's big team battles and both sides of Halo 5 Warzone (incl FF) are STILL some of the best console MP gaming you can find. Would be nice to have them both on PC with cross-save, if not full cross-play too.

Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

Blasphemy could have been giving it to Gearbox alright? Well, at least it turned out to be good in the end. For me at least.

Avatar image for sladakrobot
sladakrobot

As much as i like Borderlands, i am happy Gearbox didnt got the job to continue with Halo.

How Gearbox handled Colonial Marines was a disaster and big dissapointment for me as a fan of the Alien/Aliens movies

Avatar image for girlusocrazy
GirlUSoCrazy

Interesting. It's nice when you get to pry into the inner workings of a company and see what goes into decision making. More like this please.

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Avatar image for edwardnygma
EdwardNygma

They should have ended it after 3.

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Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

@edwardnygma: Reach and ODST were delightful campaigns.

Avatar image for YukoAsho
YukoAsho

@Pyrosa: Then again, they WERE Bungie's swan song for the series. They put their hearts into those games, and it showed, especially with Reach. Hopefully now that they're free from Activision, Bungie can bring passion to a project again.

Avatar image for bigbox
BigboX

Thank god they kept Halo going. It's one of my favourite franchises and Halo CE is still my all time favourite game.

I still think Halo CE campaign gameplay hasn't been bettered.

I still haven't played a game to date where the gameplay has made such an impression on me. It's that good.

And I think Halo 5s campaign gameplay is the closest they've came to capturing the classic. More so than any of the bungie sequels so I'm quite happy for 343 to hold on to the mantle wink wink.

Agreed the stories could have been better but the actual gameplay of 4 and especially 5 have been pretty damn good.

And Halo 5s multiplayer is some of the best in the business.

Keep up the good work 343i.

Can't wait for the next one it's looking awesome so far. Well that tech demo looked awesome.

Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

@bigbox: I too find Halo CE as the best in the series, because it's simplified but smart designs really shines there along with mixing it up. I miss the savage flood of Halo CE, in Halo 3 they didn't mix anything at all, they just fired at you like the Covenant, making the great combat stal as you advance trough the campaign

Avatar image for Vodoo
Vodoo

I'm at least glad that MS hasn't annualized Halo like a CoD game. One comes out every 4-5 years like a proper 1st party game should. There was a point when they did used to come out more frequently though.

Avatar image for YukoAsho
YukoAsho

I say this as someone who greatly enjoyed Halo 4. Halo SHOULD have ended with Bungie. 5 was a train wreck and has all but shattered any hope for a good Halo 6. Not only that, but it really feels like they're desperately trying to lengthen it artificially, much like Gears 4 did.

Unfortunately, I also see why Halo is still around. Honestly, I doubt anyone at Microsoft has the skill or vision to create something with even a tenth of the franchise potential.

Avatar image for michellebennet
MichelleBennet

@YukoAsho: based on your logic then, God of War should have ended with GOW3, and the newest one should never existed.

Halo fans think otherwise... and it was fully evidenced by the Crows Reaction at halo Infinite E3 reveal

Avatar image for Blade_Runner_07
Blade_Runner_07

@YukoAsho: What's kinda sad is even though there were a lot of problems with Halo 4, if they would have ended it there and not tried to lead it into Halo 5 with Spartan Ops and the cryptic story scenes with Halsey, I wouldn't have minded seeing Halo 4 as a tribute made by fans of the series.

That's what Bonnie Ross always was and what most of 343i has consisted of since the beginning. They should have just left the Master Chief on the station in orbit above earth contemplating the loss of Cortana and finally taking comfort in the fact that he not only saved humanity from the flood and covenant but from (as far as we knew then) any threat the Forerunners might have been to the universe. They did create halos after all. When he took off his helmet and armor at the end it felt conclusive. They brought the hero home to die in comfort.

Avatar image for TazX14
TazX14

@YukoAsho:

I agree. While I understand it's one of MS's mainline series, I kinda wish they'd ended the MC saga and moved onto something else allowing 343 to make something that stands on its own. I feel that they've kinda run the series into the ground and are now fighting an uphill battle trying to regain the series' past glory.

Avatar image for YukoAsho
YukoAsho

@Taz14

Too true. Why not just make Locke the hero of a new story, or better yet, just leave Halo to be?

@Blade_Runner_07

That's a damned good point. You can tell with Halo 4 that 343 really wanted to end the Master Chief arc and move to something else. That face reveal, what other purpose could that have? But no, Microsoft had to force them to keep using the character.

Avatar image for Defender1978
Defender1978

I remember buying the original Xbox because of Halo.

Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

Well, damn. I gave Xbox too little credit. Kim and Bach knew exactly what they were doing. They were right to suggest they should wrap up the story and do something new and different. It's Ross that carried the franchise into mediocrity.

Avatar image for yeezer
Yeezer

@Barighm: She proceeds to get honor, fame and awards for her role at 343. See the issue here? We're celebrating and awarding mediocrity. Leading to more mediocrity.

Avatar image for Blade_Runner_07
Blade_Runner_07

I wish I knew what Bonnie Ross contributed to the Halo franchise that was greater than the influence and direction of Jason Jones, Joseph Staten, Marcus Lehto or any of the other names in the credits of the first three Halo games. The success of the Halo franchise is because of that team as Bungie working on those games. It feels like she is accepting such a high honor for their hard work.

Not to discredit her own professional efforts and accomplishments. I'm just saying it's a shame that post-Bungie Halo is what they highlight as her biggest achievement when she had no hand in the creation of the most revolutionary and successful titles in the series. Her peers describe her more as an avid Halo fan who happened to have the privilege of working for the publisher of the series and took the opportunity of a lifetime by becoming the manager of the entire franchise after Bungie left.

Good for her, but she didn't make those games. Just don't like it that they are giving such a high honor to her and the biggest reason is "Halo", while other recipients like Kojima, Miyamoto and Howard burnt their eyes out of their head in front of screens working round the clock coding, drawing, writing, crafting these masterpieces that become the foundation of million dollar franchises that are Metal Gear, Super Mario, and Elder Scrolls respectively.

Not to devalue what a great asset her fandom of all things Halo has been to Microsoft but I wish that if they would have talked more about her passion, activism and specific contributions to the industry. That instead of painting a general picture which has left many people with the impression that her influence on the Halo franchise reaches all the way back to those Bungie games.

Avatar image for gruntygunner
GruntyGunner

@Blade_Runner_07: Bonnie Ross is just there for the photoshoots. She doesn't even play the game. In a recent interview she was too proud to admit that Halo 5 had any shortcomings. On stage she thinks if Halo just has enough fairy sparkles this time around then this will be the game that makes it. Infinite trailer is proof of how tone-deaf they are on what classic art style is.

Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

@Blade_Runner_07: Yeah, in my experience I found fanboys/girls to be a poor substitute for the original creators of a franchise. You're better off going with someone skilled who has great respect for the franchise, but is not an avid fan (fans have a bad habit of exploring or exaggerating themes that aren't really necessary), or just starting an entirely new story arc with different characters (where there is less risk of falling into writing traps such as growing too attached to your favourite characters).

Avatar image for Blade_Runner_07
Blade_Runner_07

@Barighm: It's nothing against Bonnie Ross. She's done a fine job doing what she's been hired to do, I'm just saying that the AIAS Hall of Fame is full the most legendary names in the industry sitting next to their babies. Ross name sits next to Halo, and while I understand Bungie shared the much of the design credit with multiple people, I know they could find one person to honor if it had to be only one.