Composer Marty O’Donnell is best known for his work on the Halo series and Destiny. Given just how memorable O’Donnell’s scores have been for gamers and with the composer having been an integral part of Bungie for over a decade, it was quite a shock for everyone when Bungie fired him in April of last year. While Bungie’s official statement on O’Donnell’s termination noted that his work had left an “indelible mark” on fans of their games, and that he had made “unforgettable sounds and soundtracks”, the composer tweeted that they had fired him “without cause”, seeming to suggest that the split was less than amicable.
As a result, O’Donnell soon took the developer to court, filing a lawsuit against Bungie’s Chief Executive Harold Ryan. In his lawsuit, O’Donnell alleged that not only did Bungie and Ryan provide no reason whatsoever for firing him, but that in doing so they had violated a company agreement that entitles all fired employees to payment for unused vacation time and several other benefits. Ryan disagreed and filed a countersuit against O’Donnell, but in court a judge ruled in favor of the composer and O’Donnell was soon awarded just under $100,000 in compensation.
Most people who have been through a messy, public legal battle with their former employees would leave the industry and never look back, but O’Donnell doesn’t seem to be like most people, as he has now revealed his very own game studio called Highwire Games. At Highwire, O’Donnell is formally listed as the owner and audio director, and he has also hired former Halo, Uncharted, and Destiny designer Jaime Griesemer, as well as Jared Noftle, who previously worked on Dark Void and Quantum Conundrum.
In an interview with IGN, O’Donnell says that they know what’s “compelling” about games and he also describes the Highwire team as a “small team of veterans to make the kind of games that are impactful and have the right kind of polish to them.” Additionally, the composer revealed that he founded the studio as he really wanted to get into games on a developmental level.
When Bungie was a smaller company, explains O’Donnell, he was able to be involved in big game development decision but with the company growing as it got much more successful, that was no longer possible. So, as Highwire’s audio director he will be “intimately involved with the design and the creative direction of the game.”
As for what Highwire’s first game will be, the team isn’t prepared to reveal specific details just yet. In the interview, O’Donnell speaks about creating a game that makes players really care about their characters, even when they’ve completed it, and that to do this, their game will be on a smaller level than “saving the universe.” So when Highwire selects people to play a demo of the game at PAX Prime (which takes place in Seattle in August), fans shouldn’t expect to play an indie version of Halo or Destiny.