By 343 Industries -
On November 15, 2001, I wasn’t working on Halo. I was working on Zoo Tycoon for the PC and Fuzion Frenzy for Xbox. I remember the E3 before the launch of our first Xbox and Halo: Combat Evolved – prior to that first console release, we were a PC gaming company mainly focused on titles like Flight Simulator, Age of Empires, Golf, and Pandora’s Box, amongst a host of others of course. We showed up at that E3 with a first-person-shooter on our console without a locked framerate – keep in mind that back in the day, the FPS genre was a PC-only domain. Needless to say, industry gossip ensued.
What I love about Halo is it defied the odds on all levels. It brought the FPS to the console. It brought story to the FPS. And in my opinion, it made Xbox relevant (luckily, only my community team edits me so I can say whatever I want here!). Halo: Combat Evolved truly did change the game, and it did so in so many ways. For me it was the Silent Cartographer, the Magnum, the tranquility of my underwater drives in the Warthog, and the unpredicted fun of the Halo sandbox.
As Halo hits its 15-year anniversary, I want to thank Bungie for having initially brought this world and game to life. I want to thank the fans for making Halo their own. And I want to thank our team at 343 for continuing to carry that torch forward. The Halo universe belongs to the community and it is an honor to serve you.
Happy Birthday, Halo!
Bonnie Ross, Head of 343 Industries
LIKE THE CORNER OF MY MIND…
Before we dive into the details of all the ways we're celebrating the 15th Anniversary of Halo, we asked members of the 343 team and community to share some of their own personal memories and reflections:
KIKI WOLFKILL - Studio Head, Transmedia @ 343 Industries: One of my favorite Halo moments (I refuse to pick just one!) is John and Cortana’s last moment together in Halo 4. I have been a Halo fan since the beginning and have always felt deeply connected to John’s journey. The opportunity to express the culmination of their relationship was also the opportunity to express who the Master Chief had become as a human… not just a hero. While their story certainly continues in Halo 5 and beyond, this was the end of their era and John was left as someone both stronger and more vulnerable than ever. We named the achievement you get after this moment MIDNIGHT because that was the codename for Halo 4; from the beginning of that dev cycle this was where we wanted the story to end - Chief’s darkest moment before the dawn…
DAN AYOUB - Studio Head, Strategy @ 343 Industries: I have been a fan of Halo since the first time I played Halo: Combat Evolved. I remember being at Ubisoft at the time, and a bunch of us were all crowded around a machine watching someone play. I was blown away. I had always been a PC player, and this was the first shooter on console to really make me see the potential. I was hooked.
Beyond that, I would say it’s a tie for every single opportunity I have had to interact with the amazing fans out there. I am always humbled by the energy and passion you all have for this franchise. I will also say that I think you all underestimate how profoundly rewarding it us for us at 343 to meet you and spend time with you. Making games is a long, grueling process and you guys are the reason we do it; you’re the fuel that keeps us going.
FRANK O’CONNOR - Franchise Creative Director @ 343 Industries: I’ve literally always worked in the games industry, one way or another, since leaving school in (cough) 1992. The first half of my career was spent writing about video games and the second half working on them directly. But in all that time, only one game has so rigorously overtaken my life, not just professionally, but personally too.
I can tell you the most magical Halo game moment I ever experienced and I’m guessing a significant percentage of you guys will recognize it either broadly, or exactly. It’s level two of CE, when you tumble out of the Bumblebee, released from the oppressive confines of both the escape pod, and the now wrecked corridors of the Pillar of Autumn, scattering through the atmosphere above you. And as you look skyward to see where you fell from, you see the silvery ribbon of the Halo ring arcing impossibly above you.
But that’s a moment in a game. For me, I’m lucky enough to have enjoyed moments of life and work too – like my first day at Bungie, seeing what they were pouring into the sequel – or, a few weeks later, seeing what wonders they’d have to cruelly rip out in order to ship on time.
Or musing on the relationship between Shaw and Fujikawa with Rob McLees and Joseph Staten, and then having to explain our imaginary casting of the pivotal pair (Ian McKellan and George Takei) to all of our wives, only to discover that they were more concerned by the fact we’d bothered than our actor picks.
Or interviewing Jason Jones about his philosophy of game design and management, only to discover he was secretly coding a remarkably impressive video tool just to pass time and decompress some intellectual pressure.
Or hosting a disco dance party in Marty O’Donnell’s office while he was out, or getting crushed by Luke Smith and Paul Bertone in the match that created the Steak Dinner award (I still owe them the steak, btw) – or commuting to work with David Berger and discussing the foundations of 343 Industries, and how we were going to build a 200 person team from scratch, or meeting Bonnie for the first time, an executive who blew my mind when she started badgering me about deep canon in the Fall of Reach. Or discussing the sequel to that novel with the inimitable Eric Nylund, or meeting Greg Bear to establish the Forerunner mythos, or meeting a Mexican fan who’d used Halo as a metaphorical crutch to get him through rehabilitation as he literally learned to walk again.
I’ve had the incredible pleasure of working with amazing leaders, like Josh Holmes, Kiki Wolfkill, Matt McCloskey, Dan Ayoub, Chris Lee, Pete Parsons, Phil Spencer, Nicolas ‘Sparth” Bouvier, Bryan and Brian - Koski and Jarrard (twice!), Marcus Lehto and literally hundreds of other amazing people from 343, Bungie, Microsoft, Blur, Hollywood, Scotland, Russia, England and dozens of other places, companies, organizations and gangs of blistering talent.
But. And you knew this was coming. Because today is kiss-ass day. You guys. The fans who’ve played us, praised us, panned us, guided us, cajoled us, scolded us, loved us, drubbed us, scrubbed us and helped light and guide our way through fifteen years of ups, downs, highs, lows and are the north star to which we’re inevitably pointed. You’ve made it all worthwhile and every single line of code, every single pixel and every single moment is built to delight, surprise and engulf you in a world that has grown, stretched, amplified and evolved for 15 years. Here’s to 15 years now, and 15 more to come.
DAVID ELLIS - Designer @ 343 Industries: My first significant Halo memory was standing in line at midnight at the launch of Halo 2. Until then Halo had been a local experience with me and my immediate friends. Once I got my hands on that metal-cased beauty (You did upgrade to the collector’s edition, right?) I couldn’t wait to get home and start it up. Thanks to Xbox LIVE and the party system Halo broadened my connections with the gaming community in a way that lead directly to my current position helping to design experiences that will hopefully keep players lining up at midnight for decades to come.
TOM FRENCH - Director of UGC @ 343 Industries: My favorite Halo moment is my days playing it. Building up to the launch of the original Xbox and Halo my friend and I were so excited we did what any self-respecting nerd would do; we preordered our consoles and went back to work and put in our vacation requests for two days when it launched. Both of us were young game developers and all the previews we saw of Halo had our senses tingling. We prepped everything for that day; plenty of snacks, drinks, and draaanks were stocked and if worse came to worse pizza was just a phone call away. We moved two big ol’ CRT TVs out and his network router into the living room along piles of pillows and blankets. Girlfriends were warned, during this time we might not be really available for anything, mentally, physically, or emotionally. This was our time!
The morning of we were up early and at the store well before they opened. Once we had our giant bags in hand we could hardly contain ourselves as we headed out the door and back to his place for the next day plus of gaming. After carefully removing the consoles we frantically hooked everything up as quick as we could. It was go time! First we fired up some of the other launch titles knowing once we put Halo in, likely, we weren’t going back. I don’t think I even played another hour of the other games, we had a date with Master Chief to get to. We turned the TV so we wouldn’t see each other play and with “Dukes” in hand we put the Halo discs in the drive. What happened next is kinda a blur. I remember being floored by the tone backed up by the score tugging at my heart strings. Eventually we got to the same-ish place and switched to one box so we could play together. Rollin’ around in “the hog” together, co-op flanking encounters, sticking aliens, all of it. People came in and out of the room, sun went down and came back up again, but we kept playing. We were hooked! It was all we could think and talk about.
When we finished the campaign we had to step back, catch our breaths. It was EPIC! At that time I had no idea I’d ever touch the Halo franchise as a developer so coming aboard 343 to work on Halo 4 was initially a bit of a fan boy moment. Even with Master Chief being my boss for the past few years and working with him on an almost daily basis I still feel that bright eyed sense of awe and wonder when I finally get home and launch the game for the first time. Long live the Master Chief.
JUST CAN'T QUIT YOU
MAX HOBERMAN – CERTAIN AFFINITY, former Multiplayer Design Lead @ Bungie: Now that Halo is old enough to apply for a part-time job and a learner’s permit, it’s amazing to think back to the early days - before anyone outside Bungie knew it existed, when it was code-named Monkey Nutz. Back then, Bungie had a history of getting attached to code names and using them for the final title, so we chose a ridiculous code name in a deliberate effort to break ourselves of that habit.
But what if we hadn’t? We could be celebrating the 15th anniversary of Monkey Nutz! We’d grab our Monkey Nutz action figures, put on our Monkey Nutz t-shirts, pore over our Monkey Nutz novels, and search the web for info about the rumored Monkey Nutz movie. We’d drink Monkey Nutz Mountain Dew and munch Monkey Nutz Doritos!
Hmmm. Maybe it’s best that things worked out the way they did. Here’s a toast to 15 years of the Master Chief, Cortana, Captain Keyes, Chips Dubbo, Crewman One, the Food Nipple Grunt, Dustin Echoes, and all the rest. Long may they wave.
VIC DELEON – HIGHWIRE GAMES, former Artist @ Bungie & 343: I've played Halo for years and I'm an old man now, but I'm still in awe of it. The real gut-punch is watching my kids play - they weren't even born for Halo 2. They grew up looking up to these heroes: John, Cortana, Johnson, Arby, Palmer, Locke, in a way I can't fathom. Now I can't even keep up with them, they're really good. No-scopes and stuff. Tears! I'm tearing up.
Everything about Halo is magical. I've been fortunate enough to have had a front-row seat to witness millions of people all over the world coming together as a community to play this one, crazy-fun game. I have some amazing friends on every continent thanks to Halo, and we truly have some incredible memories together.
PAUL RUSSEL – former Artist @ Bungie & Certain Affinity: Back in Chicago, a couple handfuls of people including myself, created a game that has been enjoyed by so many around the world. I was proud to be a part of the making of that game and its sequels and spinoffs for 12+ years and I'm happy to have watched it grow, and how much it meant to people. Stories like children bonding with their dying parents through the game, or people who have found a sense of empowerment through it while going through trauma, children with cancer who felt it a lifeline. Sometimes things aren't just entertainment.
I'm so proud of everyone who worked on these games, and so grateful to the fans that keep them alive. Behind all the marketing and hype, there's a lot of blood sweat and tears that go into making games like this. So, maybe I can extend my feelings of love and solidarity to game devs everywhere.
Happy 15th anniversary to all the people who make and play Halo.
DAVID "DEEJ" DAGUE, BUNGIE, TTL GUNSLINGER: One of the loudest things I've ever heard was 40 Gunslingers cheering for the winning team at a Tied the Leader LAN Party. The year was 2007. In a few long weeks, the launch of Halo 3 would change the game that had made us a Clan. As a grand sendoff for Halo 2, we had piled into a historic ballroom in downtown Chicago to settle the score. After two days of structured events - and a few blown fuses - two teams faced off in a final game of Oddball.
With one final second remaining, the score was tied for what seemed like forever. The entire room watched as each team tried to move the clock by one agonizing digit. One by one, a player would pick up that blasted Skull, only to be put down immediately by the other team.
"Ball Taken." BLAM!
"Ball Taken." BLAM!
This happened over and over. Every time, the room laughed harder. Finally, the clock ticked off that final cursed second.
Four gamers jumped to their feet. The beam of a projector became their own personal spotlight. There were too many of us in that room, and we all roared. That sound was startling, especially to that poor wedding reception across the hall. You would have thought we had just witnessed the end of the Super Bowl. It felt that way to us. That's always been my favorite thing about video games - their ability to turn gamers into heroes.
One of the highlights for many of us here over the past few weeks has been reading through your very own Halo memories, as contributed on our Waypoint forums. Each and every one is an absolute gem, and while we don’t have the time to repost them all, we thought we’d share just a few of our favorites from the thread here. Enjoy!
ASSASSIN9: It's crazy to think that it's been almost 15 years since I first tried this new IP for a new console that would become the greatest and my favorite video game franchise ever. For a series that has given me so many wonderful memories: the first time hearing the Halo Theme while storming the beach on The Silent Cartographer, playing Halo 2 for the first time against real people across the globe on Xbox Live, all the awesome memories I've created (and am creating) in Halo 5... it really is hard to pick a single one.
Halo CE allowed my wife (then girlfriend) to really get into gaming. Having the ability to play the entire campaign together was incredible, and all these years later we still have the tradition to sit and co-op any new Halo title before we do anything else. In fact, my wife and I used the Halo theme as part of our first dance song at our wedding. Halo 2 allowed me to be there for my younger brother when I moved out and lived 400 miles away. I was able to be there and experience him growing up, only not in person. Halo was the vehicle for that.
The reality is that 15 years spent with a franchise that means as much as it does to me is actually more than just memories. It has become a part of who I am. Sounds silly I know, but it has had more than a hand in shaping me as a gamer and positively impacting my life.
DUSTSTORM: Halo is a dynamic, endless experience backed by a marvelous universe and supported by an incredible fan base, the likes of which is not often found in other gaming communities. The ability for a game to bring together so many different gaming experiences including a playable story with iconic characters, fun and competitive multiplayer with a wonderful sandbox of weapons, vehicles and maps, customizability of gameplay through Forge and expressiveness of artwork through screenshots and machinima brings together a diverse group of gamers who identify under one franchise umbrella. It is this unity in diversity that makes Halo meaningful to me and has been the foundation of some of my best friendships and memories.
SUUPERCHICKEN: I was first introduced to Halo with Halo 2 when I was around 10 (I know too young to be playing this game) by my two older brothers. Due to them introducing me to Halo and my strong relationship with my family, my fondest memories have been playing Halo with my brothers. I remember it just like it was yesterday. We started off playing split screen 2v2 on Halo 2, but then we started playing system link 2v2 or 2v2v2 (I have 9 brothers) on Halo 3. We still play Halo 3 to this day whenever we come back to my parents' house.
Our favorite games were Snipers at Foundry and Crazy G at Guardian (King of the Hill with snipers and shotguns with the hill in the middle of Guardian). Since we were in separate rooms, after the match ended, the team that won would rush up/down stairs to talk trash to the brothers that lost and the team that lost would say that they lagged or the other team double teamed them (we did not like people teaming up in 2v2 even though that is the point of the game) and call for a rematch. Thank you Halo for the great childhood that you gave my brothers and me. You really brought us closer together.
HARUSPIS: I remember that moment where you step out of the Bumblebee escape pod (having quite undoubtedly killed all of your fellow Marines in the pod by opting not to strap in), looking up to see that curved band in the sky, soaring through the clouds, hearing the wail of those Banshees getting closer. Like it was with so many others, that was the moment where the concept of 'Halo' was born for me. We've come a LONG way since then, I have certainly grown up alongside the development of the franchise, and so much has been built on those foundations... but the mere mention of the word 'Halo' brings those memories flooding back. Those innumerable times that I've replayed that moment (and many other moments in the series) simply just doesn't get old. *raises glass* Here's to another 15!
PELUX94: Wort wort wort wort wort, wort wort - wort? Wort! Wort wort wort, wort wort wort wort. Wort wort. <3
Anniversary Halo LiveStream
Join us today at 3:43 p.m. PST at Twitch.tv/Halo for a very special episode of the Halo Livestream to celebrate 15 years of Halo! Join Grim and Ske7ch for a behind the scenes invitation to the 343 team celebration including:
- The Halo 5 15th Anniversary REQ Pack
- Halo Museum Tour with Frank O’Connor, Joe Staten & Corrinne Robinson
- Halo Wars 2 Blitz Mode interview with Dan Ayoub & Max Szlagor
- The Halo 5 “Anniversary Throwback Playlist” with Uny
- 343 vs. the Community CTF match on a Forge remake of Battle Creek
- Unboxing the newest Loot Crate statue with James Monosmith
- HCS Las Vegas preview with Tashi & Strongside
Throughout the show we’ll be sharing Halo memories and shout-outs from current and past Halo development team members, voice actors and some of our community friends.
We’d love to hear from you! Our man Uny will be glued to Twitter as we take some of your questions and share some of your favorite memories using hashtag #15yearsofHalo.
15th Anniversary REQ Pack
One of the best things about any birthday party is of course, cake. But the next best thing are the parties where everyone gets a goody bag!
As a special token of thanks to Halo fans for 15 years of support we’re happy to offer a very special anniversary Halo 5 REQ pack. Log in to Halo 5 any time between now and Nov.22 to claim the following:
- Mark IV Armor & Helmet
- 4 SPNKRs
- 4 CE Magnums
- 4 Halo 2 Beam Rifles
Anniversary Throwback Playlist
Jump into the Halo 5 "Anniversary Throwback Playlist" for some old school action on these exquisitely crafted Forge creations hand crafted with love and care by members of our community. Play 4v4 Team Slayer and CTF on re-creations of six classic Halo: Combat Evolved Maps:
IN DA CLUB
Join us online throughout the day as members of the 343 team take to Xbox Live to throw down in the Anniversary Throwback playlist. Be sure to join the official “Halo Club” to find us and other fans to party up with (well beyond today!). While it’s very likely you’ll see miscellaneous members of the team playing all week, we’ll have the studio playtest lab setup today with some of our all-purpose gamertags so you won’t know exactly who you just stuck (or who just pounded you).
Of course you can always be on the lookout for members of our community team strike force: ske7ch, GrimBrother One, B is for Bravo, Frankie, Tashi and StrongSide!
Keep an eye out for the 343 emblem to identify team members and today specifically watch out for these gamertags on the field of battle:
SOMETHING, SOMETHING, "STICK IT"
To celebrate Halo’s 15th anniversary, we’ve updated the Halo iOS sticker pack with some legendary new ways to express yourself. From alien expressions of appreciation, to epic approval of Chief concern, there are truly some rad new additions to the current iOS Sticker Pack offerings. Oh, and these new bits and bobs are absolutely free, so yeah. If you’ve got the right device, go make your messages twice as nice!
Prepare to Shop!
Now’s the time to grab yourself some sweet swag or get a jump on holiday shopping for all the Halo fans in your life with the Halo Gear Store’s 15th Anniversary Sale. From now through Nov.30, 2016 get 15% off and free shipping on all purchases including the brand new long-awaited plush Plasma Grenade.
Show your longtime support of Halo with some fancy new Xbox gamerpics! You can find these on your console now, for free! Also feel free to adorn your social media profiles with some Halo goodness using the source files below (just ‘right click save as’ on whichever ones you like!):
If you want to really represent and grab high res versions of all the gamerpics and the sweet Halo 15th Anniversary Wallpaper you can download everything in this handy ZIP FILE. (14.6MB)
Happy Birthday, Xbox!
Of course today isn’t just the 15th anniversary of Halo, it’s also the anniversary of the launch of the very first Xbox console! Xbox fans will want to check out all the great anniversary activities taking place today including livestreams, giveaways and plenty of online play. For the full run down of all the day’s activities and ways you can celebrate with Xbox, check out Xbox Wire. And be sure to share your Xbox memories and shout-outs on Twitter using hashtag #15yearsofXbox.
It's truly humbling to reflect on fifteen years of Halo and the hard work and passion poured into the franchise by hundreds of devleopers, partners, and most of all, the immense support a global fan community. You elevated Halo beyond simply a "game" and continue to be a source of inspiration driving everyone committed to nurturing and growing the franchise for years to come. Thank you from everyone at 343 and everyone who's come before. Halo wouldn't be what it is without its fans.