Big things are afoot in Redmond, Washington. Following confirmation that the next Halo will release later this year, 343 Industries is shifting production up a gear with a reshuffle of its core creative team, which has led to a host of internal promotions and new hires.
With ex-LucasArts and Crystal Dynamics alum Tim Longo recently joining the Halo team as its creative director, former creative director Josh Holmes has taken on the role of Halo 5's executive producer, heading up the internal development team. Holmes is now responsible for "overall project leadership and business ownership," as the man himself explained in a blog post on Halo Waypoint. As for Halo 4's exec producer, Kiki Wolfkill, Holmes assured readers that she was still at 343, "developing exciting new stories, experiences and technologies that will transform the way you experience Halo. She will have more to share at a later date," he continued, "but I can promise that what she is working on is really cool."
Room with a Bouview
Newly appointed art director Nicolas 'Sparth' Bouview, whose previous credits include the Assassin's Creed franchise as well as RAGE and Prince of Persia, has big plans for the future of the series. Taking over from previous art director and 343 founding member Kenneth Scott, Bouview was lead concept artist for Halo 4 - so already knows his way around the franchise. Scott, however, will still be working remotely on the title as a visual design consultant - in his underwear, he claims, in case you were wondering: "those Skype meetings will get awkward..." Bouview's introduction on Halo Waypoint was accompanied by a sneak peek of a piece of his concept art; "an early exploration of a new location that features prominently in a little game project we're tinkering with..." No prizes for guessing which project 343 is referring to there.
Those aren't the only Halo-related hires that have happened over the last few months, however. Joe Staten, Bungie's lead writer and cinematics director, and the man responsible for penning practically every Halo from the 2001 original right up to Halo: Reach in 2010, left Bungie last September. This occurred just as the studio was deep into development on Destiny - on which he was working as a writer and design director.
At the time, Staten claimed his decision for leaving was so that he could seek out "new creative challenges". New, but also kind of familiar it seems, as just a few months later Microsoft announced Staten's return to Bungie's former parent company. Though the publisher has since confirmed that Staten will not be working on the next Halo title directly, it has said that in his new role he'll "help shape the franchise strategy for some Microsoft Studios titles." And all this on top of providing the voices for Halo's now-iconic grunts - the guy's done well for himself.
Chief and chips
So what do we know about the new Halo so far, other than Microsoft expects it to be in our hands by the year's end? Rumours suggest it'll be preceded by a TV series - the one that's being helmed by Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg, no less. It's also almost certainly the second chapter in 343's 'Reclaimer' saga, which kicked off with Halo 4. This overarching tale was originally intended as a trilogy, until Microsoft decided it didn't want to restrict the franchise or 343 to just three 'Reclaimer' titles.
In last year's E3 trailer - the only real glimpse of the new Halo we've been privy to so far - Master Chief faces off against a humongous bird-like being, which is almost definitely a Forerunner Construct and possibly a War Sphinx or Seeker. Owing to its orange-yellow colouration, it's also a fair bet that it's of Promethean origin. John-117 holds an AI data crystal chip in his hand while approaching the construct; if we were to guess at its significance, it's possible he's searching for a way to bring back our old AI friend, Cortana. This chip is specifically mentioned in a listing for the game on Microsoft's online store, which, before being hastily pulled by the company following its discovery, read: "In possession of a mysterious data chip, Petty Officer John-117, aka Master Chief, confronts a new battery of challenges and tests in a Herculean effort to stay alive in a galaxy where sentient life is mercilessly hunted."