The Xbox classic Halo: Combat Evolved is looked back on fondly by many, and the franchise still remains as one of the biggest heavy hitters for Microsoft's console. But during the original game's development, there were no guarantees that the game would be successful. In fact, the original Halo almost shipped without one of its most defining factors — multiplayer.
In a massive feature called "The Complete, Untold History of Halo," one of the former developers at Bungie who worked on the game, Jaime Griesemer, says that multiplayer didn't seem fun and was almost cut until the last minute before Halo was finished:
"Multiplayer was also kind of bad until very shortly before the game shipped. You would just shoot at a guy forever, and they wouldn't die."
According to another former Bungie developer, Max Hoberman (who would go on to continue working on the future of Halo's multiplayer maps with 343 Industries), says that the design of Halo's multiplayer and how fun it ended up being in the final game was a bit of a happy accident:
"The original plans for multiplayer, pre-Microsoft even, were always to do something less head-to-head and more arena-based. On Halo the team just ran out of time and ended up shoehorning it in. It was never really by design, the way it worked. It was just a scramble to get something done."
It's lucky that the chips fell where they did, as Halo became arguably the most popular game on the original Xbox and influenced console shooters for years to come. As another former dev, Paul Bertone puts it, had Halo never had multiplayer, that "would've been an obvious tragedy."
It's interesting to hear how much a game can change during its development and how different decisions can pay off (or not). The feature on the history of Halo is definitely worth a read for fans of the original game, and tells even more about stories about Bungie's hit sci-fi shooter.
For instance, Microsoft hated the name Halo, calling it "feminine" and not descriptive of a game about a futuristic super soldier shooting aliens. After considering alternate titles, Microsoft came back with adding the Combat Evolved subtitle, which it seems Bungie collectively hated as much as Microsoft disliked the name Halo. But it stuck and Bungie didn't fight it.
Halo: Combat Evolved was created by Bungie, who worked on the franchise through Halo: Reach in 2010. Now, the series continues under the Microsoft game studio, 343 Industries.
The next major entry in the game, Halo 6, is in development at 343, but Microsoft says the game will be a no-show for E3 this year and will not be releasing in 2017.