We try to get more details about Halo 3: Recon from Bungie and cover topics such as pricing, the name, and more.
By Thierry Nguyen 10/10/2008
You're reading a Tokyo Game Show 2008 preview, which we've broken into three sections to make it easy to sift through during this week of convention madness. Check out TGS.1UP.COM for all (meaning words, screens, and videos) of our coverage from the show.
Now that Microsoft and Bungie have officially unveiled Halo 3: Recon, there's been a lot of questions and concerns floating around. How big is it? Is it a squad-based shooter? What else is new? We had a chance to catch up with Brian Jarrard (community and PR director for Bungie) and former 1UP news editor Luke Smith (writer) and chat a bit about Recon (well, the stuff they can talk about, at least). While Smith and Jarrard still do a pretty good job of keeping Recon details close to the vest, if you get nothing else out of this interview, you can at least see how well Smith picks apart our suggestion to bring back the scoped pistol from the original Halo.
1UP: Can you talk a little about the naming strategy? On one hand, you've built up a sort of branding with the Recon Armor in Halo 3 multiplayer. But then, you've already seen the jokes and theories that Halo 3: Recon is going to be a squad-based shooter in the vein of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter....
Luke Smith: You're correct with the first assumption; I think we've captured a lot of mindshare with the term "Recon" just on the account of Bungie-specific armor. And because the project is an expansion project, we felt like it made doubly good sense for the Recon name to be used [not only] as something that the fans already can associate with but also something they're going to associate with Halo 3. It serves that purpose. And the second purpose is what Brian has said before: reconnaissance. You even get a little hint of that in the teaser trailer, where you see this ODST [Orbital Drop Shock Trooper] looking out at a small Brute pack and then staying in the shadows, investigating the situation. What did happen on New Mombasa? There's a bunch of questions that the teaser trailer asks that won't be answered until the game comes out.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Halo 3: Recon screens.
1UP: Is former Ghost Recon creative director Christian Allen even working on this game?
LS: Christian Allen is not on this project.
Brian Jarrard: There really was no -- the only implication from "Ghost Recon" was us being like "Hmm, damn, I wonder if this is going to be too much of a problem to actually call this game 'Recon,'" and Microsoft did all of the trademark and legal stuff just to make sure everything is cool. But we always liked the name Recon for all the reasons Luke described.
1UP: Historically, Bungie doesn't do expansions, even stretching back to the Myth days. Was a Halo 3 expansion always part of the plan, or is Recon really a spur of the moment response to the community?
LS: It's definitely more of the latter. It's also a product of our schism from Microsoft; where now, one of our core tenets as we left Microsoft is to be a multiproject studio that's able to focus on new IP. So as we begin to focus on new IP, and we have multiple projects spin up at once, [the idea of] meeting our fan desire for more Halo 3 content, and doing it with a team of incredibly grizzled veterans at Bungie, made perfect sense to us.
1UP: You've mentioned before that Bungie had at least two other projects going on in some form or other. How does this compare, ambition-wise, to those games?
LS: This is a smaller dev team, and as a result a smaller-scope project than the other stuff we're currently working on.
1UP: Can you talk a bit about the production process? Bungie hasn't made small expansions before, so what was the production cycle like? Did the multiplayer downloadable content team just one day decide to take on the expansion?
LS: The content-ratio pipeline, in the wake of Halo 3, has been really focused on augmenting the multiplayer experience, and from that, a group of guys, who were originally working on [Halo] Chronicles -- that's been well discussed -- like Joe Staten, Paul Bertone, CJ Cowan -- these are those grizzled Bungie veterans, and they spun up on this project and very rapidly iterated through a preproduction phase. Actual game development and production started just a handful of months ago. The whole process has been very swift.
BJ: Yeah, we're not saying this is two year's worth of work, even though it comes out two years after Halo 3 shipped.
1UP: Are you comfortable with putting a specific time on the actual production phase? Was there a day when people were like "OK, now we're officially working on Recon?"
BJ: I don't know when that magic date was. It was earlier this year. But it really didn't begin in earnest until a couple of months ago.
LS: That's part of the reason why -- I mean, the project is so early that we only have a CG trailer.
1UP: Is it early enough that things could change drastically from what you say today to when it's released? Could someone take a comment you make today and possibly use it against you when we see the actual game for the first time?
LS: [Laughs] I don't think we've made any Peter Molyneux-esque statements today. We definitely talk about things loose enough that if things do change....
BJ: The vision of the game has pretty much been locked. Because the timeline to make it is so short, and the team is so small, we had to make all of these decisions early and sort of streamline the process. In a little way it is kind of an experiment for the team in terms of how we make games; we haven't tried something like this before. Like you said, we haven't ever done a smaller, quicker release or expansion-type product before, so it's a little bit of an exercise to see what that's like as a studio. But I don't think we have the luxury of time to go back and make drastic changes at this point, like suddenly saying that the fans all say it needs squad-based components and decide how to do that. What this game is is pretty much set in stone now.
1UP: Sometimes, when there's "feature creep" -- ideas for features that come up after you've already locked down what your game's going to be -- developers sort of treat an expansion as a "let's put things that we couldn't fit into this game" type of deal. Is that the case with Recon?
LS: We actually did manage to shoehorn everything into Halo 3 that we wanted to get in. When you're talking about feature creep, the things that were on the cusp of being cut from Halo 3 all shipped.
BJ: I mean, there was no "mission to play as the ODST" that we cut at the last minute, and now it's turned into a new disc. These are all assets being built for this project. I think guys like Joe and Paul and the team had ideas that they thought might be cool to explore, like not playing as Master Chief in a typical fashion. It's not like these things were just cut last minute and are being repackaged at all. It does represent an opportunity to explore those different takes on Halo.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Halo 3: Recon screens.
1UP: OK, a sort of random multiplayer question: Will the scoped pistol return in Recon? After all, if the ODST is weaker than the Master Chief, maybe you balance it out by giving him a pistol that can hit from further away....
LS: Would it really make sense, fictionally, for the UNSC soldiers to have better weapons than their supersoldiers? That would seem, on the design level, a pretty bizarre choice for the UNSC....
1UP: I was just thinking about how you can compensate for having a weaker protagonist by giving him a nicer gun to counter the fact that he can't do things like flip over Warthogs or possibly not be able to regenerate health....
LS: So I'm a UNSC general, and I'm doling out weaponry to people, and I'm saying, "My best soldiers get my worst guns?" I just don't think that....
BJ: You also mention multiplayer, and I want to make it clear that there's a distinction, because the Halo 3: Recon campaign where you play as the ODST and all that might entail does not cross over into Halo 3 multiplayer. The multiplayer maps and whatnot are Halo 3 multiplayer; the campaign is a totally separate piece. You would not be playing as an ODST in multiplayer, for example.
1UP: You mentioned feature parity to Halo 3 -- how different will Recon be? Obviously, some weapons and vehicles might be different to a certain extent, but are we going to see the equivalents of the ones in Halo 3, without mentioning specifics, or something drastically different?
LS: I feel like that's a question for you to duck.
BJ: We're not bullet-pointing the sandbox, but keep in mind that it's a pretty short development cycle. We are just trying to build on top of Halo 3. I wouldn't expect to see the equivalent of adding the Brute sandbox in Halo 3, where it's a whole suite of weapons and vehicles attributed to a single race; that was just a much bigger scope project that we're not trying to do in Recon. There might be things that are specific and contextual to playing as the ODST, but I can't really detail those out today.
1UP: Not one gimmick weapon? No gravity gun?
BJ: [Chuckles] That's a good idea.
1UP: Do you see Recon as a first step toward an episodic model like Valve is doing with Half-Life 2, where you have smaller, more focused adventures on a regular, as it is, schedule?
LS: Nah, we're actually looking at Halo 3: Recon more as an endcap to the Halo 3 experience. We're going to be putting a pretty fine point on the Halo 3 experience with Recon, and after that, we're gonna roll the people off of those projects on to other things.
1UP: Is this going to be the next Bungie game we see? We're not going to see another Bungie game between now and Recon?
LS: This is the only project that we're anywhere near being ready to talk about.
1UP: You mention before that it's still quite early, and therefore that's why you have a CG teaser. Can you give any indication as to when we might see actual gameplay?
LS: Sometime before fall 2009. Oh man, that is such an ass answer [Laughs]
1UP: You couldn't even give us a season!
LS: I absolutely gave you a season: before fall 2009. North American fall 2009.
1UP: Now that the game has been announced, what's been the stupidest, or funniest, comment, reaction, or fan speculation that you've seen online?
BJ: I remember reading something like someone saying that Master Chief just got out of the drop pod?
LS: Someone wrote that; that was pretty spectacular. For a moment, you see a fleeting tip of a gun and a black boot, and I guess you have guns and black boots in Halo 1, 2, and 3, so maybe it was the Chief!
BJ: Actually, it's been more of the opposite, even with the teaser trailer weeks ago. There's been some kids out there that were 100 percent correct.
LS: Eerily so.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Halo 3: Recon screens.
1UP: Is it still be early enough that if some kid happens to magically stumble onto the exact storyline for Recon, you could change up the story a bit? LS: It might be early enough to do something like that, but the guys who wrote the story for the game pretty much wrote it in a vacuum. While the fans do impact a lot of the things we do at Bungie, I don't think we'd really....
BJ: That'd be a very dangerous cycle, where we'll always be trying to play "stay a step ahead of our fans"....
LS: EVE Online does that, right?
BJ: No, we're not in that game, necessarily.
1UP: Well, OK, We don't want to take up much more of your time....
BJ: Don't forget -- Mythic Map Pack coming early next year.
1UP: So is it January, or just "early"?
LS: We're saying "early."
1UP: So it's not hidden in the trailer as "1/6/09"? That's not a date readers should go by?
BJ: I wish I knew; we don't have a confirm date. We at Bungie want the maps to be released as soon as possible. The sooner the better. We know our fans -- we know people want them right now. But "early next year" is all we have to go with right now.
1UP: Actually, to clarify: There's the Mythic Map Pack, and then there's the additional multiplayer content in Recon. Will there be another map pack in between Mythic and Recon?
BJ: I don't think there would be.
LS: We joke, but that's it.
BJ: But there're definitely maps allocated for Mythic and ones for Recon, so there's already been stuff allocated like that.
1UP: With the additional multiplayer content in Recon, do you think there might be a DLC package as an option for people who don't pick up Recon?
LS: That's a Microsoft item. Those questions are open items when we have discussions with our publisher.
BJ: It's totally TBD, but we think there's a lot of value to the disc itself. We don't want to start 18 different SKUs and methods to get this content; pointing to the disc is hopefully going to be the best experience and is what we prefer people do. But there's been no more talk of whether we break it apart and make it DLC later or not.
1UP: Are you intending for this to be a full-price game?
BJ: Well, we at Bungie have nothing to do with setting price points, period. Certainly, our intention, and the spirit of this game, is that it's more of an expansion pack. The campaign in Recon, compared to the full campaign in Halo 3 -- they're not really within the same scope and scale with one other. I would hope that would somehow turn into some value-oriented package that was a great value and had lots of great content, but it has not been determined yet.
1UP: Random last question: Halo 3 was tuned to be played on Heroic difficulty. Since Recon is a sort of "thank you" to hardcore players within the Halo community and expansion packs tend to be harder than the things they're expanding, are you going to tell people to play Recon on Legendary difficulty?
LS: That would just go against some core design tenets. I don't think Legendary is something that we would necessarily recommend, as it's a pretty significant challenge. [Pause] If you're not a wuss, you play on Legendary.
No Additional Content Coming To Halo 3 ODST
Standalone expansion pack will be Halo 3's "final exclamation point."
By Kat Bailey, 02/05/2009
Halo 3: ODST is a standalone expansion pack for Halo 3. And apparenty that means no new content, at least according to Bungie. In an interview with IGN, community director Brian Jarrard said that a smaller team is working on finishing up ODST. Otherwise, the rest of the studio is making progress on "other, larger, secret projects."
"Overall though, we are viewing the ODST campaign and the included multiplayer maps as the final exclamation point in our ongoing efforts to extend the Halo 3 experience," Jarrard said.
At the moment, Bungie is putting together their Mythic map pack which features the levels Sandbox, Assembly and Orbital. Apart from that, there will be a few more exclusive multiplayer maps included with ODST.
From there, it looks like Halo fans will have to make do with what they've got. But between Halo Wars and ODST, it's not like they're exactly lacking for new content, right?