Exclusive: Bungie discusses Halo 3: ODST with VG247 at GamesCom

By Stephany Nunneley
21 August 2009 16:06 GMT


Interview by Patrick Garratt.

During GamesCom, Bungie’s community manager Brian Jarrard and director of cinematics CJ Cowan sat down with VG247 to talk a bit about all things Halo.

The guys also spoke a bit about the split from Microsoft, why Reach does not fit into the Halo trilogy,and how ODST is a new way to propel the missions and the narrative structure of Halo 3.

Loads more on past the break.

VG247: There was a bit of controversy about the pricing of the product. You said in interviews that as you went along you kept on adding more and more content and it justified the fact it was a full-priced product. Do you think that people are going to be getting their money’s worth?

Brian Jarrard: Absolutely I do. It is true that last year when we announced the game it was very early in development and the initial spec and scope for ODST was more of a traditional expansion, but over development, very much the game just kept snowballing with more and more content. The city itself was something that really wasn’t even a proven concept initially, so that took on a life of its own, and the missions kept growing as well. That’s on top of firefight, and the second disc, and the beta itself. Now that we’ve had some press and people getting their hands on the full campaign, I’m definitely confident that there’s a meaty experience there. There’s a lot for fans inside the box.

VG247: How long is the single-player campaign from beginning to end?

Jarrard: I’m not really going to put a number on it, because there are so many variables that are going to impact that. Just like Halo 3: I know people that took 12 hours to beat the game and others that took five hours. I’ll just say that I think the campaign definitely stands on its own, and that doesn’t include the extra content that’s available.

It’s had a bit of a tumultuous life-cycle. There was the name change after it was announced at TGS, and there was the controversy over the price. You don’t tend to expect this from a Bungie product. You have a squeaky clean image.

Jarrad: Yeah, ODST has been a different product for us a lot of respects. It’s the first time we’ve had a game that we’ve basically done on an accelerated 12 month schedule with a small team. We’re definitely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in a short time. It’s been a first in many ways, but I think that the final product came out even better than we had hoped, and it’s going to speak for itself when it comes out next month.

What’s the general feel like at Bungie now you’ve split with Microsoft? Is there a different feel at all?

Day to day life hasn’t changed that much. We’ve been super-busy, obviously. We’ve finally been able to announce Halo: Reach, which has been in development right since the end of Halo 3. Having a portion of our team working on ODST while Reach has been going full steam; we’ve been too busy right now to think
about too much else. We’re just heads-down making great games. Right now that’s our focus.

You’ve said that ODST is going to be the last part of the Halo trilogy for Bungie. Is that absolute?

For now Reach is definitely our next big thing, and it doesn’t really fit into the Halo trilogy itself. It’s definitely a prequel, standalone offering, so we don’t have current plans to go back and inject more content into the current Halo trilogy. I think ODST is going to be a nice exclamation point, a nice rounding up of multiplayer content and a different side-story, but right now Reach is our focus.

You’ve said previously that ODST was born because people wanted more Halo action on earth. Surely they’re going to want more action on earth after ODST as well? Do you think there will come a point where people are going to stop wanting more Halo action on earth?

Who knows? It’s hard to say. Everybody can relate to the ‘rally together and defend the planet’ theme. It resonates. I think a lot of people can get behind that. I know when CJ and the team sat down and talked about ODST, and thought about ideas and settings and context, the time-line was very interesting for us. We’d heard a lot of feedback from Halo 2, where people expected to do more fighting on earth, and more defending earth and they didn’t feel as though they did enough of that. So, I think that kernel got the discussion started internally, and from that the ODST as a character, which has always got a lot of fan response. Everything just kind of fell into place, and it seemed to be the best of both worlds.

What about the open structure of ODST? It’s something you haven’t really done before. Is this something you’re going to extend into Reach?

It’s possible. We can’t really talk about Reach right now, but you’re right: ODST is a whole different way for us to propel the missions and the whole narrative structure. I speak for these guys; they had a lot of fun doing it. It was a different experience. A welcome change.

Does it kept it fresh?

CJ Cowan: Yeah. One thing that I found about it is that in the trilogy there are so many storylines and different places, and you’re trying to keep track of everything, and we were struggling all the time to try to keep the stories simple. With ODST we decided very early on that we wanted to make this a small story about a small group of guys and what happened to them, and to tell it in a very elegant and complex way, with back-flashes and jumping into the boots of several of the characters.

Do you think it’s a more personal game, as opposed to the more gung-ho, flag-waving thing?

CJ Cowan: It is. It’s contained right here in New Mombassa, and it’s about this squad of people that you really get to know throughout the game, especially as you jump into their shoes. You understand all their motivations. It’s very character-centric, far more so that our previous games.

Sounds great. Thank you both very much.

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