Thanks for the Memories
As we reflect back on ten awesome years, I've asked folks across the 343 team, and the community at large, to share some of their favorite Halo 3 memories. I'll kick things off myself:
ske7ch, community manager
I don't have one specific favorite memory - for me, the entire development process, the go-to-market campaign, the launch, and the post-launch sustain is a period of my life I'll always treasure. The work was very hard, the hours very long, but it was immensely rewarding. When I think of Halo 3 I have fond memories of the game, the story, the music... but for me, Halo 3 will always be about the people - both the people who worked tirelessly to develop the game and those I met along the way across the community. Traveling the world sharing in the excitement with the community, rolling up to the midnight launch amidst a mob of frenzied fans, playing online with fans and interacting in the Bungie.net and HBO forums, and spending late nights at the office playing pre-release multiplayer builds just because we liked it so much we'd rather stay and play than go home after a long day's work - that's what Halo 3 means to me.
Over the years I seem to have misplaced a lot of my old photos and materials but thanks to 343's official Halo archives and the power of the internet I did come across a few gems worth sharing:
This was at the Bellevue, WA Best Buy for the midnight launch of Halo 3. That night was just surreal - the entire country seemed to be hyped beyond belief and eager to Finish the Fight. I'm joined by none other than Marcus Lehto (Creative/Art Director for the Halo series), Luke Smith (community guy turned player investment desginer turned Destiny Creative Director) and that other guy is of course Mr. Bill Gates himself. Huh, I didn’t realize that jacket of mine is going on a decade old and I still wear it from time to time...
I believe this was the first ever in-game screenshot I took in the retail version of Halo 3. This is Luke Smith and I flaunting our flaming Bungie helmets on Snowbound. I just booted up Halo 3 on back-compat on Thursday and was greeted by my flaming helmet, still burning bright after all these years. I know it was a source of much ire across the community but I really loved the flames. And Recon.
BONNIE ROSS, head of 343 industries
The launch of Halo 3 was a bittersweet moment for me on so many levels. I loved Halo 3, especially taking a road trip down Tsavo Highway, which is one of my all-time favorite Halo missions. That scenic drive, with so many very satisfying road kill opportunities, is something I’ll always remember. But it was also a time when Bungie and people we had worked closely with for eight years were leaving to pursue their next dream. In many ways, I think of Halo 3 as Bungie’s love letter to the fans and that letter still resonates with me personally to this day.
Frank O'Connor, Franchise CREATIVE Director
When we test games internally, we’re often playing under less than ideal circumstances. Flaky frame rates, unfinished button layouts, missing textures and shaders and so on. Part of the job is to fill in those blanks, to try and identify the underlying experience. So it was during Halo 3 development.
I’m not a speed runner in the traditional sense of that term, nor am I a “tricker” – obsessed with trying to break through kill volumes or invisible barriers, but I am obsessed with figuring out what the sandbox will enable. So when we got a mostly functional version of the Road to Voi level, I decided that there had to be a way to get a Warthog across the gap in the shattered highway past the main tunnel.
So I started tinkering with the scenario. I’d push jersey barriers, nudge empty Ghosts, and manipulate rubble trying to form a ramp. As I was doing this, a designer came up and watched.
“What are you doing dude?” he said. “Trying to get the Hog over the gap,” I said. “It won’t work, but good luck,” he replied.
I knew it would work, because the geometry on the Jersey barriers was sort of literal, and the geometry on the Ghosts has kind of a slippery, smooth “forcefield” over it. After about thirty minutes I got the Hog over the gap. Now I had a machine gun, to paraphrase Die Hard.
That same designer came over, curious, and watched me roll up to the gate. He didn’t delete Jersey barriers. He didn’t force the game to erase the Hog. He didn’t change the scenario after you make it over the gate. Because instinctively he knew and said two things. Nobody was going to do that on their first playthrough, and everyone who succeeded would know a brief moment of triumph and joy, even if it became apparent that the Hog wasn’t actually all that helpful post-gap.
But he also noticed that in my stupid, pointless efforts, I wasn’t paying enough attention to THE MASSIVE COVENANT CRUISER flying directly overhead just before that point. So he suggested a change to the audio team, to draw more attention to it. Some people still miss it, but the point is that while Halo gives you near limitless freedom to mess with the sandbox and the environment, there are very few scenarios that haven’t been considered, tested and retuned to be more fun.
That designer? Albert Einstein. Oh no wait, it might have been Bertone.
Tim Longo, creative director
I remember the first thing I did when Halo 3 came out was to gather a group of friends from work and go home and play the entire campaign through co-op on Legendary. I think I convinced my family to leave for that weekend and we finished the campaign in our underwear (online, not in the same room, ha!) in two sessions that weekend. It was a total mess and total chaos but it was everything I wanted it to be. Yelling, crying, one guy broke his controller, everyone got smelly and no one ate well that weekend. The buildup was just incredible and I’ll never forget some of the most tense moments working together and bro spawning to get through that thing. THEN, after we finished we dove right into Forge as a foursome and built a couple ridiculous modes and yelled some more. Then my family came home and saw the carnage at home and the magic was over…for a time.
Andy "Bravo" Dudynsky, Lead Producer
Halo 3 took me on some great adventures. One of my favorite memories has to be getting a call from StrongSide (who I didn’t know too well at the time) asking if I wanted to coach Final Boss at Toronto 2008. The event was in less than a week, and I was starting college on the Monday following the event. I got another call from OGRE2 a short while later asking if I could come out to the OGRE house in Ohio to LAN for a few days before the tournament. I immediately packed my car for Ohio, Toronto, and my entire first semester of college. I drove 8 hours from NJ to Ohio for a few days of LAN practice and endless Smash 64 games, then drove another 8 hours to Toronto, we placed 3rd, and then had to drive a final 8 hours back from Toronto to NJ. I arrived at college a day or so late, slept through every bit of orientation, and had absolutely no idea where to go for my classes. It was great.
(Bravo note: I have no idea what is going on with Tom and I here)
Tashi, esports producer
I think Halo 3 was when my love for esports took off into the next stratosphere. I followed all of the tournaments I could during Halo 2 and still grinded online, but in Halo 3 I was actively forming teams, streaming and creating content, watching all of the tournaments I could, being active in the community on various forums, and even running some of my own tournaments in college. I’m even more obsessed with esports today as it’s my full time job, but Halo 3’s scene, particularly the MLG Pro Circuit, made me see things in a different light back then. Here are two fun clips - the first is that time I matched against Final Boss on Guardian and gave StrongSide the business:
And then this troll vid I made after someone got salty when I beat him:
Tom French, Multiplayer director
As a fan of the series I was excited as anybody else around me for the announcement of Halo 3 to see what Bungie had been cooking up. Yep epic, yep Chief, excited, pumped even, wait, what, what’s this Forge thing?!?!?! At that time in my career, a few years before I had switched from being a tools programmer to a designer, the idea of designing tools for players was SUPER exciting to me. I’d tinkered around with almost every console based editor in the market but they were always clunky and let me down. In my book if anyone was going to solve this problem and really tap into this concept it was going to be Bungie. Needless to say the day it was released I was ecstatic to run over to the local game store, pick up my copy, and head back to the office to fire it up in our meeting room.
Normally at this point, in any other Halo game, I’d have closed the door and immediately put myself into the head of my favorite big green Spartan. Not this time. I fired up Forge and spent the next few hours tinkering around. Dropping objects. Exploring the different types of pieces and gameplay toys. I was in love with the idea that people could poke into the world of Halo and put their own twist on things in a franchise that we often feel so personally invested in. Coming home late at night I spent weeks playing around with Forge to see what it could do. Never anything I’d say that was worth anything, just playing around to see where its limits were, taking notes, and scribbling ideas of what I’d do if I ever got to build something like it. Ultimately I had a game of my own to ship and my late nights ended up shifting back to work but now Halo 3 planting a seed of inspiration in my head. Flash forward years later to Halo 5, I got to do just that, and on the very same tool that inspired my brain to dream of what it could be like to empower users with tools to create new worlds in their favorite game. Inspired and proud to have been part of that legacy which without Halo 3 would have never existed.
Michael Wolf, Halo Marketing TEAM
I joined the Xbox team about six months before we launched the original Xbox (yes, I’m old). That’s about when I first got my hands on an early release build of Halo: Combat Evolved. I remember playing it and thinking “Holy crap. Wow”. From that moment, I was hooked. Halo immediately became one of my all-time favorite games, and has been since. But unfortunately, when Halo 3 came around I was working on a different business at Xbox. I didn’t have the inside track to get hands-on with it before launch like I had with the first and second games. So when it launched, I was more “fan boy” than “employee”. I went to the launch event at the Best Buy in here in Bellevue, WA just to hang out with the other fans, and watch the first sales begin at midnight with the first lucky buyer walking out with his Legendary Edition. But within moments of the first sales beginning, I jumped in the car and drove straight home to finally fire up the game (which may or may not have gone over well with my wife and one-year-old son). I’ve been at Xbox for more years than I care to recall, but through it all I’ve been a Halo fan at the core, and will never forget the incredible feeling of the opening moments of Chief touching down in an overgrown jungle to the his final moment telling Cortana to “Wake me when you need me."
Sean "Dersky" Swidersky, PM / "Pro team"
Halo 3 holds a very special place in my heart as this was the first Halo title that I became a professional in. Through the countless hours of grinding and honing my skills to accomplish this goal, there were many memories and experiences along the way. With the recent release of Halo 3 on Back Compat, one of those many memories came back to me when I looked at my File Share and found a clip from a competition back in 2009.
It was MLG Meadowlands 2009, I was competing on the team Flatline which consisted of NocturnaLKernaL, Tuss, NickeL 9, and myself. We made it to Winners Bracket Round 5 where we squared off against End Result which consisted of Gilkey, Talent, Mad Max, and Moniz. They were the easy favorite to run the Open Bracket since they were one of the highest seeded teams. The winner of this series advanced to the Championship Bracket where you squared off against sixteen of Halo 3’s finest pro teams. Our series against End Result was a best of 3 and we had just tied Game 3, Guardian Team Slayer 48-48. We replayed the game and won 50-49 to advance to the Championship Bracket. What made this moment so special was that I killed Talent for the 50th kill seconds before my teammate would have died. Literally, I remember jumping up with all my energy, knocking over the 22” ViewSonic monitor, and celebrating with my teammates. Unfortunately, I don’t have my 1st person POV from the match, but this will do!
Mike "StrongSide" Cavanaugh, esports PM / "Pro team"
Some of my favorite memories from Halo 3 include:
- Endless room service orders with Bravo & Neighbor
- Winning the first Halo 3 tournament with Final Boss
- Monthly trips to the Pennacchio’s in Chicago while on Status Quo
- Sniping players from Top Mid when they lifted from man cannon on Narrows"
Mason "Neighbor" Cobb, PM / "Pro TEam"
This photo was taken right after my team, Str8 Rippin won our first Halo 3 major tournament. My team consisted of Tsquared, Elamitewarrior, Legit and XXX. The two other guys in the photo were representatives from our team sponsor, Dr. Pepper.
This was an important win to our team because a lot of people doubted our skills leading up to this tournament. At the previous Halo event, we placed 5th and It was disappointing and very uncharacteristic. We needed to prove to ourselves, our sponsors and our fans that we were the best Halo 3 players in the world and we did just that, by only dropping 1 game the whole weekend. These guys were really my Halo brothers.
David Ellis, MP Designer
Halo 3 holds a special place in my mind for many reasons. The beta launched just a few months after I joined the dearly departed 1UP.com. It was my first experience helping to cover a major gaming release. “You mean I get access to the game…early?” Heady days to be sure. I was lucky enough to play through the campaign in co-op with a couple of Bungie folks (Hi Lars and Dan) who pointed out lots of cool details I might have otherwise missed. Halo 3 still contains my all-time favorite Halo campaign 1-2 punch in the form of The Ark and The Covenant. If I ever design something half as epic I will consider myself a happy designer.
Eric Helbig, Senior Software Engineer
Working on Halo 3 was such a memorable time in my life. A ton of blood, sweat and tears went into that game from everyone working on it, and the passion involved was insane. As a tester, I got my hands into a ton of systems, and watching the game develop while riding the ups and downs was intense. Then there were the bugs…. rivers of dead fish, marines gone bad, and so many others it could probably fill a book, if only I had saved more of them. Here are a couple that didn’t make it into the game. Its still my favorite Halo to go back and play, and it will always have a special place in my heart… especially the flying dumpsters.
Jeff "GrimBrother One" Easterling, Community Team
Halo 3 is one of those unique entities in gaming that is more than the sum of its parts. It was truly a watershed moment in gaming history – a sort of “coming out party” for the gaming industry in a lot of ways and ushered in the age of what most folks today think of when it comes to “AAA” gaming. It was this perfect storm of franchise hype, industry growth, and a then-unprecedented feature suite. Everything just clicked – from the marketing brilliance to the madness of the midnight release phenomenon, Halo 3 was a seminal moment for not just Halo fans, but video game fans.
I remember exactly where I was like it was yesterday, in line with my brothers and dad, all eagerly anticipating getting our copies, but enjoying the actual wait and comradery itself. From epic campaign runs and late-night MP sessions, to Annual Achievement attempts and Easter egg hunts, Halo 3 both promised and provided.
John "UNYSHEK" Junyszek, COMMUNITY TEAM
Growing up, I used to only be able to play Halo when all my homework and chores were finished. Eventually, I realized that if I woke up early and snuck downstairs to play before school started, I could get around this restriction. So about a month after Halo 3 launched, I was sneaking down to my Xbox 360 at 6am every day to play for an hour before heading out to my bus stop. One morning, while I was playing Team Doubles on my 49, I noticed towards the end of the game that I was going to be late for school if I didn’t leave RIGHT THEN. Luckily, we were up 23-13 in the match and I could trust my friend to close out the last two kills. I turn on my mic (remember, I was playing when I shouldn’t have been), apologize to my friend for having to leave, shut off my Xbox, and run out of my house without knowing the fate of the match.
Once I got home from school with my best friend Cedric, we boot up Halo 3 to play and relax. We were just talking and hanging out while the game loaded and then we hit ‘A’ to get into the matchmaking lobby. After this happens, the Brigadier emblem flashed on the screen in the bottom right – which puzzled me, because that only happens when you rank up – and was immediately replaced by the General emblem, which slammed into place forever establishing me as, “da bomb.” I started yelling and dancing, had to take a quick break to explain to Cedric that I was now the highest rank you could get in Halo 3, at which point he started celebrating with me too. It’s such a memorable experience for plenty of reasons, but remembering that 15-year old me was dancing because of Halo… that’s something special.
JEREMY PATENAUDE, LEAD FRANCHISE WRITER
Hope this doesn’t expose an egregious lack of gaming ethics on my part, but personally my fondest Halo 3 moments were rolling with the dudes from Ascendant Justice on Valhalla in the 2-Flag CTF playlist. We had a vicious pool of talent on that team and an amazingly effective CTF methodology: We would almost always snag two flag captures within the first minute or two of the match. We had some folks on that team who were absolute ninjas. This meant we were almost immediately ahead of the other team 2-0 and needed only one more flag cap to win. At this point, we had a major moral failure, so please forgive what follows: We would steal the last flag and all of the ATV vehicles on the map, then proceed to form a caravan with a Warthog at the front end, holding the flag carrier. The carrier would wave the flag and sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” while we did laps around the map until time was about to run out, when we’d cap that final flag. To be fair, this opened us up for humiliation—hypothetically, the other team had a ton of opportunities to turn the table… hypothetically.
Carlos Naranjo, Franchise producer
Ahhh, Halo 3!! Such good memories. From the countless MP hours played (as yes -- an elite and with my verrry average K/D), to all the campaign split-screen co-op fun, new friendships and connections made (oh and meeting Bill Gates at the launch party!), and the moment in the Starry Night commercial when Chief is charging into battle…!
Halo 3 for me was not only an epic and truly memorable game, but it was also my entry into working on the IP. I had already been working in the industry for nearly a decade, but getting to work on Halo and at Bungie was a dream come true. The growth and challenges throughout Halo 3 helped shape things for me down the road too. Getting an opportunity to contribute was not only an invaluable experience (especially for something so big and far-reaching with the most passionate community and fanbase ever!), but also really rewarding, challenging, and ultimately FUN.
I could go on and on about all the great memories of Halo 3, but I’ll wrap this up with one of the first things I worked on (and to this day, still leaves me with the feel good memories when I see them out there in the wilds of the internet) and that was creating Halo 3 screenshots. My job was made easy with such a pretty game, but little did I know at the time they would become so iconic and widespread. Halo 3 is a game where every shot tells a story and when you see them, you know whatever was happening was epic - it was Halo. When you step into the Halo universe, anything is possible…