Though still not official, Halo 5 is destined to be a next-generation release. 343 Industries remains tightly guarded, of course, with their plans for the second (and third) installment of the Halo “Reclaimer” trilogy. But like any other developer releasing a game in late 2012 or 2013, and almost certainly as a beneficiary of inside information, the Halo 4 studio is faced with reality: The window is closing on the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii.
Widely believed to launch in late 2013, the impending arrival of the Xbox 720 means that Halo 4 will represent a generation at its zenith, the final progression – the perfection, some will argue – of a 7-8 year console life cycle. It also means that Halo 5 carries infinitely more promise.
Speaking in a recent interview with The Independent, 343 Industries lead game designer Scott Warner discussed the challenges and strategies of developing in such an environment. For Halo 4, and the Xbox 360, the studio’s focus is all about maximizing power:
“Our current development is all centered around the Xbox 360 and trying to harness everything we can get out of that box, so everything you’re seeing is sort of custom built for the 360 experience.”
The attitude towards the next generation, however, is noticeably more prudent. Being a subsidiary of Microsoft, 343 has the inherent upper hand on third party developers when it comes to the Xbox 720, inside access to any groundbreaking innovations the new console might usher in. While the blank check certainly has its perks – one mark of an early generation, unfortunately, is the games that fail in grasping its new tech – 343 has to manage the level of change they exert on the Halo 4 formula:
“I mean certainly as things develop, we have the advantage of working for a publisher and first party development, and if things happen we would certainly want to take advantage of those things.
“There’s always kind of a careful balancing act between what you decide to improve upon, what you have that you think is really good, what’s the great mixture of that to put you in the best position to be successful as a team. But certainly as things go on in development we have an advantage in the sense that we can cross those streams a bit.”
And yet, on the precipice of a chaotic industry transition, 343 remains confident – “absolutely” was Warner’s response to question about “kicking ass” in Halo 5. Yes, many who have expressed such bravado before have found the ensuing taking names and making games part easier said than done. But as Bungie modeled with Halo: Combat Evolved (2001), Halo 2 (2004), and Halo 3 (2007), and the 2010 prequel Halo: Reach, the core line of the franchise is incredibly resilient to both change and time, with its developers continually investing on new innovation, devising new concepts, learning new skills and working with greater technology.
Ranters, how would like to see 343 handle the Halo series across multiple generations, into Halo 5 and Halo 6? Do you think gaming is better at the tail end of a generation, when developers have all but mastered the current tech, or is the potential of what’s new and next too hard to pass up?
Halo 4 releases on November 6, 2012, exclusively for the Xbox 360.
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