Dev Team Diaries
In this section, I got a chance to hear some of the fun stories from members of the Publishing Team here at 343 Industries. They are the group directly responsible for overseeing and developing Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Instead of an interview, I asked them to write about some of their favorite memories over the past year.
These are their stories (DUN DUN DUN).
Dante Campana – Software Test Engineer II
A lot of things involving the community and their steadfast meme generation stick out from my time on the project, but for me nothing matches the “Halo: Reach, Except It's Pizza Time” video.
It is hard to forget how the announcements of Reach being added to MCC and the PC port of the whole collection triggered a huge reaction from the community and an onslaught of pizza deliveries to 343i for an extended period of time. But around 3-4 weeks after these announcements took place, a video from a community member appeared on YouTube that floated around the testing bay for a long time. It was gameplay from Reach where all of the textures were replaced with pepperoni pizza texture, the music was overdubbed with a truly exceptional rendition of “Funiculi, Funicula” (standard pizza shop repertoire, of course), voice over saying “Pizza Time” replaced all of the SFX, and all of the text elements in the UI were altered to read “pizza time!”
For some, the video quickly became a source of much laughter and inner-office memes, but for others it quickly became the bane of their existence….. which was then weaponized by the first group for further shenanigans. The memes our community develops and the speed at which they are made can yield some truly hilarious moments for the team and often times helped get us through the big mountain of work that it took releasing 6 Halo titles to PC over the span of a year.
Kyle – Software Test Engineer
H2 launched with a bad issue of being able to kill people just by looking down at the ground. This was unfortunate and a low point for the project. However, we were able to get the issue fixed and got a time slated to launch the update. On the day we were updating, /u/Suilean had posted on Reddit stating that they would drink 12 Raw eggs on camera if the update came out in the next 26 hours. Our launch window just so happened to be the same day as that post. As we logged on getting ready to make sure everything went live properly, we were also refreshing Reddit constantly waiting for people to notice the update and see the response. It was a good laugh and a great morale boost for the team. This was also our first launch while working from home so it was great to see that we could make a great impact even under these circumstances.
/u/Suilean ended up following through on this promise:
There has been a lot of crazy bugs on this project, but one that was really weird was when the environment assets of H2A Anniversary maps became enlarged and took up most of the maps. Playing on Shrine was like going through a dense jungle. The interesting thing about this was that some machines would see it on a map while others wouldn’t, and then the next map it would be flipped. This made it really hard to find the cause of this bug, but it was a great laugh trying to land a shot through all the plants.
Eric Ferdinand – Studios Quality, Halo Publishing
We live in a world where we can celebrate the Collection being complete and available on PC, but there have been plenty of reasons to celebrate along the way as well. Here are some of my favorite moments on the road to bringing MCC to PC.
The Announcement to the Reclaimers
If you know, you know. I was given the honor of making the announcement of our plans to our external taskforce known as the Reclaimers, a group of Halo community members that partner with us directly to help assess and improve MCC. That may have been the biggest rush of adrenaline I had ever felt. I was terrified, and to this day, I’ve never seen 50 people spam a chat quite like that.
The week-long Pizza Party!
We knew in the days leading up to the announcement that it was going to be insane. Nothing could have prepared us for the literal non-stop flow of pizza deliveries that the Halo community sent to our office in the days that followed.
Halo: Outpost Discovery (Chicago)
As a Chicago native, I was looking forward to the event regardless of the happenings. But seeing the Halo: Reach demo being played on PC and being enjoyed by so many people at once was breathtaking. I knew all of the long hours and hard work were paying off.
Oh yea, that’s also where I met my lovely girlfriend, Max. We just celebrated our 1st year together, and look forward to many many more! A major thanks to everyone who helped make this dream a reality, both at 343 and beyond!
Max Szlagor - Design Director, Publishing Team
What can we do to celebrate Halo 2’s anniversary? Is there a way to offer an even bigger anniversary experience than what we did for Halo: CE? Those were some of the initial questions we sought to answer when we first began the journey of working on Halo: The Master Chief Collection. I was not yet part of 343 at the time Halo: CE Anniversary was made. Playing through it, I was impressed with the ability to switch between classic and remastered graphics at the push of a button, the all new campaign skulls, and brand new Halo: CE inspired maps for Halo: Reach multiplayer.
When the team started discussing a release that included not just Halo 2: Anniversary, but all of Halo 1 through 4, we considered what we could do that would be unique and special about including everything within a single unified framework. We wanted to respect the legacy experience while building in new reasons to replay and seamlessly move between games. From these seeds, we rallied around the ideas of a unified UI, unified controls, cross-game playlists, all new campaign scoring and speedrunning features, campaign leaderboards, and hundreds of achievements celebrating easter eggs scattered throughout the games. There was even a design for a developer’s commentary mode that never made it in.
As someone who enjoys playing old school game compilations, I wanted to make sure we provided a best in class game collection with a seamless and unified way to launch a campaign experience, party up with friends, and jump into multiplayer sessions without having to reload or navigate multiple different interfaces. For any given multiplayer game, players prefer specific modes and maps but rebuilding maps in each future game is a substantial amount of work. I always wondered if there would ever be a game that allowed players to enjoy the greatest maps of all time in one place, and Halo: MCC provided the opportunity to deliver on that inspiration via our cross-game “best hits” style matchmaking playlists. Further into our live development, adding the match composer for social games provided even more ways for players to curate their own best hits collection.
Putting all this content into one place has been both challenging and awesome. We’ve learned a lot throughout the journey of developing Halo: MCC. When we laid out our initial plan, we wouldn’t have imagined that we would eventually include Halo 3: ODST campaign and Firefight and all of Halo: Reach, or that we would bring the whole collection to PC with support for a ton of new PC options and settings. We evolved from a single Halo 2 style multiplayer ranking system to include match xp and account levels, challenges, and multiple seasons of all new customization content across games in the collection. We added yet another engine to bring the full 3d Spartan customization we envisioned at the start of the project. We are always reviewing community feedback, discussing our wishlishts, sharing playtest notes, and looking at ways to improve the experience across the board. We just keep making the experience bigger, and we even have an expression for the this on the team whenever we look at adding things – “So many Halos. All the Halos.” (to be clear, we won’t actually be including them all, though there is indeed a lot of stuff in MCC).
And we still have a lot more planned. I’m excited about the progress we are making on custom game browser, new customization features and content, modding, and many quality of life improvements. For those of you on this journey with us, thank you so much. We appreciate all the games you have played and the feedback you have shared with us. Your passion fuels our motivation to continue refining and expanding on Halo: MCC. We look forward to sharing another excellent year of updates for Halo: MCC in 2021.
Tyler Jeffers – Franchise
I definitely had a few moments during the most recent MCC development that were impactful for me.
Waves development – being able to work with the same audio developers that created the DSPs used in Halo 3, Halo 3 ODST and Halo Reach was a great experience. Knowing that the work being done not only was going to solve an ongoing issue from the community, but that the solution had the support of the original audio development partner was incredible. I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. It was a lot of work and it involved a lot of folks from across multiple teams within 343 and Xbox as well as partners like Formosa Interactive and Waves. But it was obviously worth it.
Halo 2 Anniversary – I had not watched the Halo 2 Anniversary cinematics I worked with Blur Studio on since we launched back in 2014. In anticipation of the relaunch on PC, I sat down and watched all the content we developed (darn near over an hour total!) and it reminded me of all the hard work, late nights and incredibly talented people we were able to partner with to make everything on that screen happen.
I mean Tartarus, I love that freakin’ Space Bear! That project was so massive, I still don’t think any of us really knew what we were in for when we made the decision to pursue pre-rendered cinematics with Blur. I am so proud of that work and it still stands up pretty well (despite the backwards flying Phantom 😉), given that it is technically 6 years old. 😊
ONI Archive – We just launched the final Halo 4 ONI archive video in November, which is bittersweet. While we wrapped up what we aimed to do nearly a year ago, the project itself was so fun that I am already missing working on it and with the people involved. That content was something Jeff Easterling and I pitched as a way to bring new players onboard for each MCC title. Our emphasis was to provide a high level intro to the game that was about to release and/or recap the events leading up to it.
You can check them out below:
In addition, we also wanted to ensure that we were able to develop new content that would provide something for all of our core/lore loving fans that already knew most of the story around each game. Each episode hit its own stride in regards to content, production, release and fan reaction. And we were so fortunate to have the ability of pulling in a variety of voice talent to help us continue to flesh out the narrative Jeff had crafted. It was really great to see how this content found its audience and how well the team worked to develop these pieces. Especially given the circumstances we were all working under.