Halo 2's Development Was a Gigantic Mess

John Funk

U.N. Owen Was Him?
Dec 20, 2005
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Halo 2's Development Was a Gigantic Mess



As the plug is pulled on the original Xbox Live - and Halo 3 [http://www.amazon.com/Halo-2-Xbox/dp/B00008J7NZ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=videogames&qid=1278536101&sr=1-1] originally one game, but the famous Halo 2 E3 demo was "all smoke and mirrors."

This week, Microsoft will be pulling the plug on its Xbox Live service for the original Xbox - on April 15th, to be specific [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/98069-Microsoft-Dropping-Online-Support-for-Original-Xbox-Games] - and with it dies the multiplayer for Halo 2, still played by thousands. It may be difficult to remember in a post-Modern Warfare 2 world, where millions play online on their Xbox 360s and PS3s (and the occasional Wii), but console online multiplayer used to be a pipe dream at best - until the massive success of Halo 2 cemented it as the way of the future.

There's a really fascinating (if long) read awestruck by the E3 2003 demo [http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/better-than-halo-the-making-of-halo-2-article], the game's engineering lead Chris Butcher said that said demo was all "smoke and mirrors."

"The graphics engine that we showed at E3 2003, driving around the Earth city... That entire graphics engine had to be thrown away, because you could never ship a game on the Xbox with it," said Butcher. "Through putting ourselves through hell, we were able to do a five-minute demo of it, but after we came back from E3 we had to admit that this graphics engine was never going to work - it was never going to support the kind of environments that are really important for a Halo game. So we literally scrapped the entire graphics engine and started from scratch."

The level with the Flood in the quarantine was a mere 20% of a "gargantuan, sprawling level that was meticulously built and hand-constructed, but that could never, ever have shipped in any engine," said Butcher - and those sorts of cutbacks were endemic of a troubled, disorganized, chaotic development cycle in which entire features and levels had to be tossed out in order to desperately make the ship date.

In fact, the game that actually hit shelves was only half of what Bungie had dreamed up. The other half? Well, they took a bit more time on it with a much more organized approach this time around, and eventually released it as Halo 3. That's right - the annoying cliffhanger ending to Halo 2? It wasn't supposed to be like that, in Bungie's original plan.

If you have the time, the whole interview is a really interesting read - detailing the game's "brutal" crunch [http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/better-than-halo-the-making-of-halo-2-article], among others.

Honestly, it's a testament to Bungie's skill as a developer that Halo 2 turned out as good as it did, despite the many, many troubles during the game's development. Flawed, yes, but also good.

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AceDiamond

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Jul 7, 2008
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The collector's edition DVD about the development of Halo 2 pretty much said the same thing here, only not as in-depth
 

sephiroth1991

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Well that explains one Halo

OT:Does this mean that Halo fans got ripped off by haveing two games, originally one
 
Apr 28, 2008
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Just goes to show what a little organization and planning, or lack thereof, can do.
 

rockingnic

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sephiroth1991 said:
Well that explains one Halo

OT:Does this mean that Halo fans got ripped off by haveing two games, originally one
It was still worth the money. And for being such a mess, it made xbox live and turned out a great game considering. I was wondering why the E3 demo seemed different than the actual game, despite being a demo.
 

zombie711

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the escapist should hold a round of halo for the last day of the original live survice
 

Icehearted

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So reminiscent of Soul Reaver. As I recall basically it was half a game as well, annoying cliffhanger and all, just because they rushed it out the door unfinished. So technically, I guess this means customers are dupes, because the game fanboys were willing to set people alight for disliking even slightly wasn't even a finished one at that.

At least the parts they did slap together were pretty fun to play, but I'd be lying if I said I even care about or enjoy the Halo series after the way #2 ended. It pretty much took the wind out of my sails for good.
 

GodKlown

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Just the difference in runtime alone between the two games made it pretty evident that they had cut corners. When you could get through Halo 2 in around 4 hours and Halo 3 went back to 8 hours, we all pretty much knew we were getting the short end of the stick.
 

Space Jawa

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Irridium said:
Just goes to show what a little organization and planning, or lack thereof, can do.
That and why sometimes, pushing back release dates is a good thing.
 

CyberKnight

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AceDiamond said:
The collector's edition DVD about the development of Halo 2 pretty much said the same thing here, only not as in-depth
Yep, you beat me to it.

It would be interesting to see some of the things that got cut. They've said "a lot of things had to be cut", but they haven't gone into any great detail as to what those "things" were. What's the story that would've been? If Halo 2 had been finished as designed, would there have been a Halo 3? Hackers found a Flood "juggernaut" character in the Halo 2 code that was never used in the game; what else was missing?

What I find interesting is, despite all the stuff they say they've cut, what was left over was still commendable. Sure, there are reasons to hate it, but it's still the most-played Xbox 1 game out there, and its sequel hasn't left the top 3 of Xbox 360 games played since its release 2½ years ago.
 

Aptspire

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I remember the first time I played Halo 2 (the day it came out)
me and a friend were playing it on co-op. I remember saying "I think we're gonna have a level with that Heretic Elite dude." And he kept saying "No freaking way" Only in the second half of the Arbiter opening cutscene, he said "Well...I'm not sure anymore" (Yes, we did make the effort to watch the cutscenes AT LEAST ONCE) and then when we had control again all we were doing was stabbing at nothing, because the energy sword was the first purely meelee weapon in the series :D
and then when we heard the spec-ops cmdr. say "That stench...I've smelt it before" we were like "Oh sh*t...Here we go again, with the Flood" :(
But yeah, it was a wild emotional ride :p
 

jbigboote

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Sep 21, 2009
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"...and with it dies the multiplayer for Halo 2, still played by thousands."
Uh, I am pretty sure Halo 2 multiplayer is only dying on the Xbox Live platform. I will still be playing Halo 2 multiplayer on my PC after April 15th (yes, people really do play Halo 2 online on PCs).
 

Jared

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Jul 14, 2009
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So that explains that ending ><

well certainly intresting to hear them speaking frank about it. Goes to prove that bit more that working on games is no walk in the park!
 

Jack and Calumon

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Dec 29, 2008
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But you could call it a snap if you compare it with say... Duke Nukem Forever. I count 2 Engine changes, Numerous Graphic updates compared to Bungie's big overhaul, and more delays than any game ever, and we still don't have it.

Calumon: Always become homeless by betting on Duke.
 

AceDiamond

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CyberKnight said:
AceDiamond said:
The collector's edition DVD about the development of Halo 2 pretty much said the same thing here, only not as in-depth
Yep, you beat me to it.

It would be interesting to see some of the things that got cut. They've said "a lot of things had to be cut", but they haven't gone into any great detail as to what those "things" were.
One of the things I know they had to cut was the combo melee system they were planning, since they just stuck with the "press B to whack enemy upside the head" system.