Speaking to Shacknews, Ensemble tech boss Dave Pottinger has outlined the background for the firm's canned MMO, and revealed that the game was green-lit and had staffed up to 40 employees before is was axed in an exec changeover.
From the interview:
What were the circumstances behind the Halo MMO?
Pottinger: Ensemble has been wanting to make an MMO for a long time. That was in production for a long time. The Halo IP was a great IP to launch an MMO with. Microsoft... hasn't had the best track record with those.
And we worked on it for a long time--we had staffed up an almost-40 person team. And then there was some reorganization at Microsoft, and the new bosses thought it wasn't the best idea anymore. It had actually been green-lit, and then it got cancelled after that.
So you guys were feeling good about it?
Pottinger: Yeah, we were happy with it. It was a long road to go, and we had proved the gameplay we wanted to prove.
It actually turned out--we ended up reusing a lot of the people. We had hired people who were excited about making a Halo game, and we used them on Phoenix--Phoenix is the Halo Wars codename. And a lot of that stuff that we picked up was able to be reused. So we didn't lose everything. It wasn't all wasted.
From the screenshots that were leaked, it seemed very World of Warcraft-esque. Was that your model?
Pottinger: Yeah. It's a popular one.
Was the concept such that there were Covenant and UNSC factions, in the same way that WoW has Horde and Alliance?
Pottinger: It was more broken up than that. The Covenant weren't quite the Covenant yet.
That idea of that sort of stylized approach to Halo was something that we were very interested in, in terms of the art. Some of the art that leaked out wasn't art that was actually in the game, so people were a little more torqued than they needed to be.
But it felt very Halo--we had a combat demo that felt like a very action-oriented MMO, but still had that MMO depth. So it was very analogous to the RTS that we worked on.
So you didn't have plans to go for a more FPS-style game.
Pottinger: It was definitely more of a classic MMO, but it still had that very action feel. Definitely more actiony than WoW.