We recently got the chance to sit down with Halo: Reach Creative Director Marcus Lehto and talk to him a little bit about the upcoming game. We also got to ask him about the feelings he has about Reach being Bungie’s last Halo game. Read on to get a little glimpse at how he feels about the series, Reach and more.
How did the genesis of Halo take place?
I was there on day 1. We had just finished up Myth: The Fallen Lords. Jason [Jones] and I began work on this sci-fi skinned RTS game. It was the genesis of what would become Halo.
It was just a few of us working on it at the time. That was the fall of ’97. We spent about 2 years poking in the dark in different areas with the franchise to come up with something that interested us. It ultimately became a game that we wnted to play that we couldn’t find on the storeshelves.
We started creating this universe that we really fell in love with. We were like “Wow, this is really fun.” That started to garner some interest from local media, and some grassroots. In early memories of it, we were building our version of Star Wars for video games. That kind of thing. We just couldn’t find that kind of universe in a video game. As we continued to build it, it started to take on a life of its own.
Star Wars? How so?
A universe that not only has a believability to it, that has things that people can connect to–the vehicles, the weapons, and even the characters. In some games, those things are just so wildly out there. They’re crazy in a way that they’re hard to really connect with and have some sort of relationship with.
It was really important for us right off the bat, to have that element of familiarity within not only the things you play with, but the environments you explore, combined with a sense of wonder. And then, the charaters themselves were a big part.
We put a ton of effort into making sure we had characters that players could relate to, that they could fall in love with these cast of characters. We wanted people to believe that in some way they exist in their own mind, in their fictional universe. that’s the kind of that you’d seen in some great stories like the Star Wars series.
What did you think of the “Noble 12″ Halo 2 players, those guys who did the video game equivalent of chaining themselves to a tree?
That was a great story. I love those guys. I mean, we look at that kind of thing and we’re like “We can’t believe our fans love to play what we created so much.”
We couldn’t believe Halo 2 was still being played that long, after it has been released. That final testament of the fans’ commitment to want to stick it out of the very end–hats off to them. We love those guys. That’s the reason we’re still around, because of fans like that. Without them, we wouldn’t be in existence anymore.
What is it about Halo that makes it “Halo”?
There are a couple of components to it. At the core, it has a rock solid game. That “game of chess.” That thing that people loves to be experts at. It’s for the MLG fans, those guys. That’s that hardcore component to this game that keeps it really moving like a locomotive.
The other part to it is the heart and soul. It’s got character. It’s got something deeper than just that surface game, something that’s just more than just pixels moving on the screen. We didn’t create all that. We built the foundation for all of that. Then, our fans began to pick up on that, and they began to build more of this universe, and fictionalize it, and keep expanding it and expanding it.
Until, it became this thing all by itself. And it started to permeate the pop culture in a way that we never anticipated. It’s amazing to see how that grows. It’s amazing to see what people are doing with it. Novels are being written, comics are being created. Machinima is being created. All kinds of really interesting things are being developed based on this intellectual property that we created 13 years ago.
Speaking of fan-creations, what are some of your favorite fan-created Halo things?
One of the most hilarious ones–and it still sticks in my mind because it was one of the first–I can’t remember the guys name, he lives right in Seattle–he created the warthog jump movie from Halo 1.
We build a sandbox game. We build a game that is not scripted, it’s not something where we intend to run the player on a rail. So, as a sandbox environment, we’re not fully sure what’s going to happen in the game. It can be different every time.
What we didn’t anticipate is what people were going to do with the game in ways that we had just never designed it. With people piling grenades under a vehicle and launching it all the way across a map. Those are hilarious things that shocked us. From that point forward that kind of set this bar, for people to see like “Ok, what can I do to top that?” What can I do that takes advantage of this engine and does fun things with it?
Randall Glass. That’s the guys name.
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