[quote][url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtG6--4r_qk&t=49m10s][b]"With ODST, with Reach, in ways that we haven't revealed yet we absolutely learned important things from all of those games."[/b] Joe Staten, Lead Writer and Cinematics Director for Halo 1, 2, 3, ODST and Reach[/url][/quote] Practice. Bungie began the development of Halo 3: ODST and Reach after their departure from Microsoft. In return, Microsoft contracted Bungie to develop two more Halo games before they could be set free to do their own thing. I think this benefitted both Microsoft and Bungie, allowing both companies the time, money and momentum to get them prepared for the final transition of Halo ownership, which will be complete, come March 31st 2012. For Bungie, it seems that those extra 3 years of preparation, from 2007 to 2010, gave them the chance to do more than just prepare themselves for a life without Halo; it gave them an opportunity to actively field-test concepts, techniques and gauge public response to what they were planning to do post-Halo. [quote][url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtG6--4r_qk&t=40m4s][b]"The deal was essentially: we make a couple more Halo games, we leave Halo with Microsoft and we can split amicably."[/b] Harold Ryan, President of Bungie[/url][/quote] [quote][b]Halo 3: ODST - Developed 2008-2009[/b][/quote] Halo 3: ODST came to be when the Halo Chronicles tie-in with the Halo Movie fell through. It was developed in the space of just 14 months and was released in September 2009; which means the development began in August 2008. This is supported from this update [url=http://www.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?type=topnews&cid=15171]posted by lukems at 8/15/2008 4:09 PM PDT[/url]. So, what's important about ODST? Well, it gave us a few things that were ultimately different from Halo 1-3, that I believe were Bungie's important development lessons. [quote]* The VISR mode (night-vision) * Much more realistic characters and interactions * Subliminal messaging for the future ([url=http://www.bigshinyrobot.com/reviews/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/destiny_awaits.jpg]through environments[/url]) * The compass (NSEW at the top of the HUD) * The overview map, which we could set destination-markers on, or see quest-locations * The hub world; reusable environments, both day and night * Our first sense of being the character, having no backstory to go by but our own * Quest items (clues) * Multiple playable characters * A huge consistent open environment with naturally spawning AI and events * A meta-story, Sadie's Story * Our introduction to a space-to-ground sequence * Huge scripted sequences in the distance in real-time (glassing, etc) * Introduction to animals that aren't just birds or rats, although dead (this is actually important) * A true sense of being vulnerable against enemies that would be pushovers as a Spartan * Firefight - an understanding of controlled combat situations and environments and how to design for the ultimate experience that could go on for hours, yet still be fun * Music that breaks away entirely from the heroic, ancient and galaxy-saving superhuman theme; much more relaxed and moody * Made with a really small team using a pre-existing engine and some pre-existing assets, but being able to construct such a large amount extra in just 14 short months[/quote] And there are probably even more that I'm neglecting to mention. [quote][b]Halo Reach - Developed 2007-2010[/b][/quote] Halo Reach ties in many of the significant features from ODST and expands upon them a thousandfold. [quote]* Armor Abilities (Sprint, Jetpack, Camo, etc) * MoCap-animated characters and cutscenes * Vignettes sequences in level (scripted animated action scenes during gameplay) * An entirely detailed planet and backstory, along with geographies and architecture * An entirely customizable character, with an in-built economics system * Integration of multiplayer and Firefight areas into Campaign to truly maximize for tested enjoyment * Reusing environments to see how changes such as a higher tide, or battle-damaged affect mood * Our second and properly fleshed out sense of being the character; having no backstory to go by but our own * Orbital weaponry (this seems significant to me for some reason) * Fully fleshed out characters with defined personalities, actors and appearances * Epic space battles. * Hugely non-linear environments and levels, with sufficient dialogue and action to support, without negatively affecting level appearance in an obvious way * A meta-story, the datapads * A true in-engine cutscene transition from ground movement to space battles without any loading screens (this is SUPER important) * Huge scripted sequences in the distance in real-time (glassing, warfare, etc) * Introduction to huge and lifelike fantasy animals that you can interact with, and even kill and be killed by (this is more important than ODST's animals) * A return to being afraid of the aliens you're fighting, in terms of their brutality and alien nature. * Not many people know this, but Bungie actually wrote an entire Sanghelios language for the voice actors to do their Covenant dialogue in. An entire alien language. Not just warblgarlblarrgh or reversed English. * Music that breaks away entirely from the heroic, ancient and galaxy-saving superhuman theme; and much more focussed on the death and loss on a dying planet in a lost war. * Forge was completely revised to incorporate massive amounts of asset-placement with a variety of reusable objects in a map roughly the size of a small campaign level.[/quote] But don't just take my word for it: [quote][url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbjdyVxIJRY&t=4m57s ][b]"We wanted to make sure that this planet felt like a real place; that it was a lived in place, with a real history, a population and a backstory all together."[/b] Marcus Lehto, Creative Director[/url][/quote] If you've ever explored Winter Contingency, you'll know full well the extent that Bungie went to populating this game with detail that the gamer familiar with Halo games from the past would never see. Why wouldn't they focus on simply designing a linear path as they have before? Why the multiple paths, the multiple locations, orders and scenarios in a level largely designed to be linear? Why the decorated history of the population that we only get to talk to for a whole of 5 minutes? We'll get to that. [quote][url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbjdyVxIJRY&t=5m35s][b]"We defined three distinct geographies that we wanted to explore: Boreal, Badlands, and Temperate. In addition we explored a ton of architectural styles, including this Pioneer style, which is this more rustic colony kind of place to live, Industrial, Hyper-Urban and ONI."[/b] Marcus Lehto, Creative Director[/url][/quote][quote][b]Winter Contingency[/b] - Boreal, Temperate, Pioneer [b]ONI: Sword Base[/b] - Boreal, Badlands, Industrial, ONI [b]Nightfall[/b] - Badlands [b]Tip of the Spear[/b] - Badlands [b]Long Night of Solace[/b] - Badlands, Industrial, Space [b]Exodus[/b] - Hyper-Urban [b]New Alexandria[/b] - Hyper-Urban [b]The Package[/b] - Boreal, Badlands, ONI, Industrial [b]The Pillar of Autumn[/b] - Badlands, Industrial [b]Lone Wolf[/b] - Badlands, Industrial[/quote] That's a lot of variety in geographies, now that you mention it, Marcus. I wonder if you could say that it was practice to get used to, and to have a library of concept art and reference images for such environments. Seems to me like they could all quite easily be interconnected together to build a cohesive world that isn't limited by cutscenes and levels, don't you think? [quote][url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbjdyVxIJRY&t=6m18s][b]"We set out really to define every detail about this planet Reach, including the planet's colonization history, its overall geography, primary economies, major population centres and strategic military sites. You might not see this in the game, but for example, Reach orbits Epsilon Eridani, a star. It's got a 27-hour day, a 390-day year, and those that are born on the planet are called "Born-Heavy", because it's a little bit bigger than Earth."[/b] Marcus Lehto, Creative Director[/url][/quote] Okay, dude, that is an entire planet. You weren't joking about clearly defining the details. Combine that knowledge with the geographies and architectural styles and you've got yourself a pretty formula for creating an entire [i]playable planet[/i], don't you think? Or at least a continent. Not to mention the sheer level of detail you've gone into the planet's backstory, most of which we aren't "privy" to, which I believe you're going to discuss with us now. [quote][url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6itAzvJBWs&t=4m49s][b]"As far as the shooting style: we didn't have any "Meanwhile" moments, things that you've seen in movies all the time, when you see someone that might'velike, Colonel Holland giving a briefing the Spartan team, if you saw him prior to this and seen some of his motivations, it would certainly tell you more about the story, but it's not something that the Spartans are privy to, so That gave us the opportunity to know that we were working within these rules, and use the Spartan reactions as our information throughout the game."[/b] Marcus Lehto, Creative Director[/url][/quote] So you've developed all of this information about Reach, its population, its fauna, its geographies, its system, but you've decided to slap some tunnel-vision on us and only show us what we're privy to? Intriguing. This does two things; the first being that it puts us into a solid and entirely conceivable and believable world; the second being that it made me think about why you went to the effort in the first place. The only logical conclusion I can reach (no pun intended) is that you went to such effort in order to warm Bungie up for what's yet to come with Destiny, for all disciplines. [Edited on 02.06.2012 1:13 PM PST]
You almost wonder if they created other places and used the Halo engine to test out things that we may never see. What if they practiced making these livable planets? What is Forge World is actually an entire planet, but they put boundaries on it knowing current gen stuff couldn't handle the load? I hope they reveal it someday in a developmental diary or something, because this topic is incredibly interesting to me. GREAT post, OP. Liked x 10!