343 Industries is coming up on its tenth anniversary since the foundation in 2007. To celebrate that, Studio Head Kiki Wolfkill and Franchise Director Frank O'Connor were featured in a lengthy interview on the latest GamesTM magazine (issue #186).
While 343 Industries helped Creative Assembly with Halo Wars 2, their latest big game was Halo 5: Guardians. The reception was positive overall with an 84 average score on Metacritic, but several fans complained that the game's campaign didn't focus enough on the usual main character, Master Chief.
O'Connor acknowledged that mistake and promised to double down on him in future installments.
We took some digs for storytelling in Halo 5, but they were absolutely merited. We very much realized that people wanted Master Chief's story of Halo 5.
We definitely marketed in a way that we hoped was going to bring surprise, but for some fans and certainly fans of Master Chief, it was a huge disappointment because they wanted more Chief.
They loved Blue Team, they liked Osiris, but they wanted Chief. And that has been a big learning. Chief we tend to think of as kind of a vessel for your adventure rather than necessarily this major character in the universe. He's really just your entry into the universe.
But people have become attached to him over the last fifteen years and they've started to sort of fill in the gaps that the character deliberately has for gameplay reasons with a genuine emotional attachment. We certainly underestimated that with Halo 5.
The effect that the character has on his surroundings and 'the fate of the galaxy' has had a resonant effect on fans over the years. It wasn't that surprising to me, but the volume of 'give us more Chief' at the end of Halo 5 was significant and so I think if anything he's slightly more important now than he has ever been, certainly to our franchise. Instead of focusing on bringing new characters into the world and expanding the playable characters we've sort of shifted the focus a little bit to making the world a little bit more realistic and compelling and, I would say, more fun for players who get to inhabit the Chief in the future, pretty much as they demanded.
There's always a call and response element of shipping a game, you have to ship improvements, you have to ship tweaks and you have to ship changes and sometimes you have to walk some of those back.
Doubling down on Master Chief story and the amount of focus on him was probably the easiest learning from Halo 5. That was a really simple thing to absorb and embrace.
E3 2017 is about a month and a half away, but it's unlikely that we'll see anything more than a teaser for the next mainline Halo game (which should launch on both Windows PC and Xbox One, as all the other first-party games by Microsoft from now on).