343 Industries’ shooter is shrouded in mystery but production director Chris Lee may have some answers.
As if this year’s release calendar wasn’t packed enough already – what with Fallout 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Destiny: The Taken King, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and much more releasing – there’s also Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Industries’ “biggest title till date” to look forward. Taking place after Halo 4, the Xbox One exclusive will chronicle the tale of both Master Chief and ONSC Agent James Locke. There’s plenty of intrigue about, including hints that the Chief may not exactly be everything we thought he was.
GamingBolt’s Leonid Melikhov spoke to director of production Chris Lee about various aspects of the game, including the possibility of Firefight returning (spoiler: don’t hold your breath), the story mode, various Achievements players can look forward to and much more. [This interview was conducted during E3 2015]
"For example: we took Sprint which was a hot button issue for the community and we looked at how powerful the sprint was and we agreed and we decided that it was a bit too powerful."
Leonid Melikhov: Many fans are upset about The Master Chief Collection for obvious reason and are worried about Halo 5: Guardians. What steps have you taken to make sure that there isn’t a repeat of MCC fiasco? Especially, since many of those issues arose when the game released in the wild?
Chris Lee: Master Chief Collection was a great learning opportunity for the entire studio and for Halo 5: Guardians we had the Halo 5 arena beta earlier than we’d ever done a beta for a title. We really wanted to get it out there so we could both get feedback from the community but also make sure we’re testing the game with an actual live public beta test. So that way we could find those issues and then make sure we could resolve anything before we launch.
Leonid Melikhov: As opposed to interval limited tester capacity?
Chris Lee: Exactly. So, teams have been hard at work and I am positive we’re going to have an awesome offering for fans when we release Halo 5: Guardians later this year.
Leonid Melikhov: Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer has received both praise and flak based on the recent beta build, but it feels like there is more to come. Obviously, you’ve talked about Warzone and what else can we look forward to in the coming months? Maybe like besides Warzone or the Arena multiplayer..? I know you guys got the 15 maps coming out for free as downloadable content as a big winner so.
Chris Lee: This is the biggest investment in multiplayer we’ve ever had. You know the arena beta experience? Fans gave us a ton of feedback and actually had been doing a bunch of work to take that feedback and really refine the experience so that it’s in tip-top shape by the time we launch later this year.
For example: we took Sprint which was a hot button issue for the community and we looked at how powerful sprint was and we agreed and we decided that it was a bit too powerful. So what we did was lowered the top line speed of sprint and actually increased the baseline movement speed to close that gap. Sprint still provides a good tactical option, but we’ve made it a lot less powerful than it was in beta, directly responding to that feedback.
As you’ve mentioned we do have the largest amount of content that we’ve ever shipped in Halo game for multiplayer. There are more than 15 maps post-launch in the first 8 months plus we have all the requisition content that feeds both Arena and Warzone that will be coming out as well. One thing we haven’t really talked much about is that we’re also going to have Big Team Battle that we’ll release shortly after launch.
"One thing we haven’t really talked much about is that we’re also going to have Big Team Battle that we’ll release shortly after launch."
Leonid Melikhov: Will that be free content update also?
Chris Lee: Yeah, absolutely.
Leonid Melikhov: Do you guys still have CTF and the good old modes?
Chris Lee: So the modes we’ve announced to date are: a new Breakout Mode that was in the beta, Slayer, Team Slayer and we have shown Capture the Flag. Warzone brand new which is 12v12 + enemy AI mode and 4x bigger than any map we’ve ever made.
Leonid Melikhov: And I am sure you have some more ideas for the future?
Chris Lee: Of course, we always have lots of ideas. But we aren’t talking anymore about that today. But, we’ll have more stuff in the coming months.
Leonid Melikhov: Some people were wondering what’s going on with Firefight?
Chris Lee: Firefight debuted in Halo 3: ODST and was also in Halo: Reach.
Leonid Melikhov: I know Bungie did that and then you guys took over and I don’t remember if it was in Halo 4, was it?
Chris Lee: Halo 4 had a different mode called Spartan Ops which is different from Firefight, but provided 4 player co-op.
Leonid Melikhov: Yeah, what’s going on with that for Halo 5: Guardians? Any plans for some kind of co-op experience? Warzone is a cooperative experience because you’re fighting AI and then you’re dealing with actual players so it’s Player versus Everything. I would say it’s more competitive, because you are competing against other team of people.
Chris Lee: Yes, definitely a competitive mode. We don’t have any plans to introduce a Firefight Mode specifically for Halo 5: Guardians. However, we have built the entire campaign from the ground up to run on dedicated servers and have 4 player co-op throughout the entire campaign so that should be a great co-op PvE experience for our fans when we release.
"I think Chief is a really interesting character and we’ve got to learn a lot about Chief in Halo 4. But I do think we wanted to bring the Blue Team in who has a really deep connection with Master Chief."
Leonid Melikhov: Speaking of campaign, let’s get into the story stuff. The story in Halo 5: Guardians seems more mysterious than the past games. Though there are hints, what motivated the idea for Hunt The Truth campaign which was amazing by the way and presenting a story which is essentially two views, one which could be true and other a lie.
Chris Lee: Okay so, to get into the specifics of that we are not going to tell you exactly what is a lie or any specifics. Part of inspiration of it was, we’re continuing the saga that we’ve started in Halo 4 with Master Chief’s story. We left him on USMC Infinity and then we reunited him with the Blue Team. The Blue Team is (if you know about the Spartan 2 program) the Spartans were taken as children, trained and then genetically modified to be super soldiers.
So the Blue Team are actually other Spartan 2s that trained with Master Chief so they’re sort of like his brothers and sisters. We have a really interesting story that is shortly after the game starts. The Blue Team goes on a mission and receives a mysterious transmission and then goes absent without leave from the military, then that’s where we bring Fire Team Osiris to start trying to hunt Chief and try to capture him and bring him back to the USMC.
Leonid Melikhov: The perception of Master Chief by the world is a focal point for Halo 5’s story, which is interesting when you consider just how little has been known about him. Is Halo 5 an attempt to solidify Master Chief as a real character in the universe, perhaps humanize him beyond the “iconic” status previous games have bestowed?
Chris Lee: I think Chief is a really interesting character and we’ve got to learn a lot about Chief in Halo 4. But I do think we wanted to bring the Blue Team in who has a really deep connection with Master Chief and kind of see him from a different perspective than you have in previous games.
Leonid Melikhov: Halo 4’s single-player was solid but felt a little too “safe” in the eyes of many. With all the new abilities and the intriguing story-telling approach inherent in Halo 5: Guardians, what kind of campaign can players look forward to?
Chris Lee: We’ve built an epic campaign for Halo 5: Guardians. It’s built from the ground up for co-op which is a big departure with 4 Spartans in your squad at any given time throughout the campaign with our fire team. We have a new fire team AI system. If you’re a solo player or don’t have friends online at that time, or you just want to have a solitary gaming experience for the campaign, then those Spartans will join you and you can issue them limited orders throughout the game.
You could tell them to attack a specific target by pressing up on the D-pad , to pick up a weapon from the ground or drive a vehicle. I think we have a lot of great new things that we’ve brought into Halo 5: Guardians with our new Spartan abilities that we’ve showed in the beta, just really adds a lot of opportunities. Big open environments that give player a lot of different options for different objectives and way to fight with our encounters. So I think there is going to be a lot of great stuff for players all running at 60 FPS running on our dedicated servers, it’s going to feel, look and play great.
"You play a significant amount as both Master Chief and Spartan Locke’s squads throughout the campaign."
Leonid Melikhov: So the campaign and multiplayer both run at 60 FPS?
Chris Lee: Yep.
Leonid Melikhov: 1080p?
Chris Lee: So, we’re still optimizing the game as we haven’t launched so we haven’t locked in our final resolution yet. But we will talk more about that in the future.
Leonid Melikhov: How much of Halo 5’s single-player campaign will take place from the point of view of Master Chief and how much from Agent Locke’s? Will there be two campaigns or a switch back and forth in the same campaign?
Chris Lee: We’re not talking any specifics about the structure of the campaign or how much you play as one or the other. But you play a significant amount as both Master Chief and Spartan Locke’s squads throughout the campaign.
Leonid Melikhov: Since you’re putting two entities now, it is now probably a challenge to balance that story out. You don’t want to do much of the Blue Team cause then it’s going to feel like you’re not focusing the real star here which is Master Chief and then people would be like this is not Halo. I want to know more about Master Chief, you know what I mean?
Chris Lee: I think we’re telling a really great rich story. I think it’s going to be a mysterious story that the fans get to figure out and unravel as they go through. As far as managing the balance, we can’t really talk about the specifics there. You’ll have to play in October to see it.
Leonid Melikhov: What was the most challenging thing for you guys in development for Halo 5: Guardians?
Chris Lee: I think we’ve done a ton of work to bring our title to the Xbox One and leverage the power of that. I think at the same point we’ve gone after really ambitions modes like Warzone. Warzone is our new 12v12 plus enemy AI mode that we’ve talked about has everything from the core Halo gameplay in that mode. Its got enemies, its got vehicle, and its got the biggest player count we’ve ever had, so that was a really big technically challenging feat.
"Halo 5: Guardians is the most ambitions title we’ve ever made at 343. It’s the first title we’ve built from the ground up for Xbox One. Something we’re really excited about is our new epic campaign, and we’ve talked about featuring the both the fire team Osiris and Blue Team. "
Leonid Melikhov: All at screen going at 60 FPS. It’s a lot of stuff going on in the background coding wise and rendering, you’ve got AI systems, this and that.
Chris Lee: Yeah, absolutely.
Leonid Melikhov: Was the eSRAM causing any problems with the programming on Xbox One? Because I remember some developers saying that it was problematic.
Chris Lee: It didn’t cause any issues for us.
Leonid Melikhov: What kind of achievements can we expect other than Legendary, beating the game etc..?
Chris Lee: So we have a ton of achievements. We’re not talking about the specifics, but we’ll have 60 achievements for 1000 Gamerscore.
Leonid Melikhov: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we end this interview about Halo 5 to the fans?
Chris Lee: Halo 5: Guardians is the most ambitions title we’ve ever made at 343. It’s the first title we’ve built from the ground up for Xbox One. Something we’re really excited about our new epic campaign, and we’ve talked about featuring the both the Fireteam Osiris and Blue Team.
The Arena mode that’s a throwback to the legacy of Halo games. It’s the biggest investment we ever made in multiplayer with Arena and Warzone, our giant new mode and we have all that free content that we want players to enjoy after post-launch. I really hope fans enjoy it and see us there on October 27th.