Halo 2-Year Anniversary
Friday, November 14th, 2003, 2:35 PM
Happy Anniversary Halo
It’s hard to believe Halo has been out for two whole years now. It seems like only yesterday we were seeing previews and sneak peeks from MacWorld '99. Then, without warning, Bungie moved to the ranks of Microsoft and Halo was announced as an Xbox exclusive. Now, two years later, the game is still going strong, with close to 3.5 million copies in the homes of gamers across the globe. What started life as a pseudo real-time-strategy game for the Apple Mac has turned into the number-one-selling Xbox game of all time and a driving force behind much of the console’s overall success. With the newly arrived PC version selling like hotcakes and the Mac version due out in a matter of weeks, the Halo phenomenon hasn’t skipped a beat and shows no sign of slowing down.
In honor of this special occasion, I wanted to contact the people whose lives have been affected by Halo – our fan community, people from the gaming media and of course, members of the Bungie team. What follows is a collection of memories, stories, impressions and general thoughts from all three of these groups. There’s a lot to say about a game like Halo, so grab a seat. This might just be the longest Top Story in the history of Bungie.net.
The Fan Community
To us, the most important element of Halo’s history and success is the fan community. Without their intense support and devotion, the game could never have grown into the epic monster it has become today. With nearly 3.5 million copies sold worldwide, the fans have whole-heartedly embraced Halo and now two years later, the community remains as strong as ever.
Unfortunately it’s just not possible for me to solicit comments and feedback from all three million-plus Halo players out there. Instead, I opted to contact several key figures in the community to get their memories and impressions of Halo on this special anniversary. I asked them to share anything they’d like to about Halo and how it has affected them – their fondest memories, how Halo has changed their lives, what they like most about Halo, etc… Halo has had a different impact on everyone… here’s what these three people wanted to share:
Tours & Handshakes
“My fondest Halo moment was getting a tour of Bungie Studios back in February 2002.
The day I released
to the net, I received a few e-mails from Bungie personnel commending me for my video, including one from Marty O'Donnell. I had long been a fan of Marty's music and even owned one of his soundtrack CDs. Since Bungie was only a hop and a skip away from where I lived, I figured it's now or never: I'm inviting myself over. I asked Marty if he'd sign my copy of the Myth 2 soundtrack. He agreed and I drove over to Bungie HQ during my lunch break. When I arrived I not only got my CD and copy of Halo signed, but was treated to a tour of the studio! Marty showed me his sound studio and played some tracks from the Halo soundtrack he was mixing. Jason Jones even popped out of his office for a congratulatory handshake. I was impressed. A year later Bungie flew me down to the Fanfest at E3 as their guest.
I am continually blown away by the generosity Bungie has shown their fans. Halo has definitely put me on a new path. It has rekindled my creativity, brought me together with an awesome online community, and has really solidified my desire to pursue a future in the video-gaming industry.
My predictions for the future of Bungie are "it's only going to get better."
-Randall Glass, Halo Fan, inventor of the “Warthog Jump” and pioneer of Halo videos
The Ultimate Driving Machine
”For me, it's the Warthog. I don't know what it is about that car, but it's got a special place in my heart. For a guy that hates driving games, it's baffling how much time I have spent just tooling around Blood Gulch in that jeep. It's amazing to me how a small addition to one game can have such an impact on an entire genre. People just expect vehicles in FPS games now. I know it's the first thing I look for in an action game. It's one thing to dominate another team in Capture-The-Flag, it's quite another to leave a tire tread across their back. It almost makes me understand what all those NASCAR fans have been yammering about. Almost. So for me, it's the Warthog. Even if it does look like a puma.”
- Burnie Burns,
I’m a Halo Fan
“Since 1995, I've been working on Bungie-related fansites. It's a long time to devote to ANYTHING, much less websites aimed at the fans of a particular gaming company. It's been a constantly evolving hobby - but there was a radical shift in 1999.
In 1999, Halo was announced, and it rocked my world. It rocked a lot of worlds, actually... but this is MY story. Up to that point, I hadn't really imagined a game that would replace Marathon in my life; I'd always played games, but I was a dabbler. I played for a bit, I moved on. Marathon was the first game that ever captured my attention for any length of time (and at that stage, we're talking more than four years, some pretty serious time spent). I knew one day Marathon would get old for me... but I figured when it did, I'd go back to dabbling. I simply couldn't see another game demanding the sort of effort I'd put into Marathon.
I was wrong. Halo's graphics sucked me in - as they sucked in thousands of others. And as time went on, and Bungie changed... it wasn't just the game that was keeping me interested, it was the interaction. At MacWorld 2000, I met a goodly number of Bungie employees (before that, Matt Soell was my main point of contact), and once they moved to the Pacific Northwest, I'd stop by the Bungie studios when I was in the area visiting family. Bungie employees began dropping in to our forum to comment on discussions or questions. I started scheduling trips to major Bungie fan events. And Halo turned out to be the killer game we guessed it might be in mid-1999, justifying the inordinate amount of time I've put into supporting its fans.
And when I stop and think about it... it's those fans that keep me coming back. I have close friends in several cities that I know ONLY because of Halo - I visit them whenever possible, I meet up with them at conventions and fanfests, our families know each other. Periodically, I host Halo lanfests at my house; they've grown from about 12 people (mostly local, though a couple were coming from as far away as New York) to 30+ people from six or seven states (and a couple of times from other countries!). It's definitely about the game - but it's also about the people. And it always will be.
I've played the other first-person shooters out there; I've played Unreal Tournament, I've played Quake III, I've toyed with Ghost Recon, and many others - but it's Halo that keeps me interested, and it's Halo that brings in the thoughtful fans who frequent our Halo Story page site, and submit huge numbers of creations, from artwork to sculpture to movies. Bungie didn't create a genre - but they hit the sweet spot; Halo does almost everything right. Break it down, it's just a shooter. The art's good, but not revolutionary. The guns are ordinary, for the most part. The storyline is deep, but translates into relatively linear gameplay.
Put it all together, though, and you have a game that resonates with fans like no other game resonates with fans. Fans that keep coming back, fans that have more to say than 'hAl0 r0x, d00d!' Fans I'm proud to call friends. Fans of a game made by a company that cares about the little things enough that the big picture is gorgeous.
And I’m one of them.”
“Louis Wu”, Webmaster and founder of
If you have your own memories and experience of Halo, I encourage you to visit our
and share your thoughts with your fellow Halo fans.
A View from the Top
Halo was not only a landmark title for Bungie, but for MGS (Microsoft Game Studios) as well. It was the title that propelled Xbox into the mainstream and accounted for much of the console’s overall success. To get an idea for how Halo impacted MGS, I tracked down Ed Fries, the head honcho for all of Microsoft’s Game Studios. Ed has the difficult yet exciting job of planning out Microsoft’s overall software library for both Xbox and PC.
“Most of my memorable moments are the scary ones, ” says Fries, when asked to reflect back on two years of Halo. “Jason (Jones) and the team got their first look at Xbox and realized they’d have to completely overhaul and rebuild the architecture to take advantage of the hardware. All of this had to begin before the final specs were even set.”
In the early days of Halo leading up to the launch of Xbox, skepticism was running rampant through the media as well as through some of the halls of Microsoft. “Could a FPS (first person shooter) really succeed on a console?” Some industry critics were hesitant about both the Xbox and whether or not Halo could actually deliver.
Fries recalls, “Our first E3 press event went REALLY bad. The Xbox didn’t even power up. Halo was the grand finale and we had some serious framerate issues and hiccups.” This naturally led to even more skepticism about the future of Xbox and this flagship title. Ed and team stood by their convictions. “I was completely convinced from Gamestock that this game was amazing. After playing through Assault on the Control Room I thought to myself, ‘Either I’m crazy or people just don’t get it.” This skepticism would linger all the way until the game was finally released and it was nearly drowned by a flood of praise and high scores in magazines across the world.
Ed is a Halo player himself though keeping tabs on the flood of new games coming to the system every month makes it hard to find time these days. I asked him if he one shining moment, one in-game experience that he’ll never forget. “I was running along, through the ice and snow, with a rocket launcher in hand playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with a strafing Banshee. I let loose with the rocket and the Banshee dropped from the sky in a ball of smoke and fire. The wreckage crashed into the ground and then proceeded to slide across the ice, stopping inches from my face with smoke still billowing into the sky. It was so perfect. That’s what Halo is all about.”
The final perspective to cover when looking back at two years of Halo is the actual developers themselves. Many of the people at Bungie Studios have been here from the very beginnings and have quite a few games under their belts. However, Halo was by far the biggest title to date for everyone. Today the team is hard at work on Halo 2 but everyone still has memories of Halo and how it affected them. I asked the team to share anything they wanted to about Halo – memories, experiences, strategies, etc... Here’s what they had to say…
”My halo handle is Chumpy. Just last weekend I was over at a friends house and one of the couples their brought their daughter who was a huge halo fan. She and my friend sat down and played through some levels co-op. I am constantly meeting people who play and have opinions about what we should do for the next one.”
– Michael Evans, Halo Engineer
” I started as a Halo fan, and now I am helping the sequel become a reality...and that is cooler than any wet T-shirt my friends...Halo changed my life.
"...to become a man, I became the Master Chief..."
“ I did not work on Halo, but I worked the hell out of the game."
"Halo? ...well the "bentllama" is not "bent" from just any game..."
"Halo RAGE is a beautiful thing. My plaster walls are free from damage now, but the amount of controllers I go through is atrocious. "
"Viva la bibliotheque! " [ask Michel about this one, ask him about spelling too]
“ Goldeneye, eat your heart out! "
"Give the Needler a second chance. It is a great opening weapon to grouped combat, and it doubles as a can opener. "
– Nathan Walpole, “bentllama”, Animator
” Halo handle ‘Killdozer’. HaloPC handle ‘BNG-Dozer’
Any map with the flood is a good map- even the Library. Blasting them away with heavy weaponry is just plain fun, no matter where you are.”
- Greg Snook, Engineer
” Halo handle: stormincow
fav weapon: shotgun
fav map: CTF on 'da gulch
“Although I didn't work on Halo, after playing it I knew that Halo was the kind of game I wanted to work on. Why be in the gaming industry if you aren't making FUN games you really enjoy playing? So about a year after it came out, or six months or so after I broke down and bought an Xbox to play it, I decided I wanted to work at Bungie. I worked really hard for a few months getting some stuff together to show them, and now I'm here! So has Halo changed my life? I certainly wouldn't be here at Bungie without it, and that is definitely a change for the better because now I'm working on Halo 2!”
– CJ Cowan, Cinematics
“When I first came on at Bungie, I was doing web design, web development and miscellaneous print items like t-shirts and jewelcases. Late in the dev cycle of Halo I was asked to take on a fourth job as UI designer and do the HUD and interface for Halo. I don’t know how I came up with the time to do it all. I guess if fans want to blame someone for the stale nature of bungie.com they can blame me. Right before we went gold, everyone started sleeping here. It was like one big Bungie slumber party. People used the scooter more often those days to get around for expediency’s sake. Squirts. It was a stressful time. Even Marty and Joe’s bantering sounded hostile at times. However, the team never lost its collective cool.
On the last few days, we all enjoyed a nice game of ‘hide the sausage.’ The Tijuana Mama would find its way to someone’s desk like some twisted game of executive hot potato. If the golden moment arrived and the meat was on your desk, you were
to eat it. Poor Hardy. He ate the Mama with more grace than most of us that watched him do it.
After Halo was released, I figured it would be big, but I had no idea how big. My biggest surprise was how huge the phenomenon of the system link “Halo party” would get. I constantly get invitations to attend Halo parties –even from friends I barely know. I frequently see something mentioned in the press along the lines of, “we play a lot of Halo.” I believe “poker night with the guys” is a thing of the past. The game of choice is Halo.
My kids have enjoyed a minor celebrity status at school. The kids at church hit me up for some tidbit on Halo 2 every Sunday. So do the men. Nobody there ever reads anything online so I tell them some piece of public knowledge to satiate them, and they count themselves as privileged insiders. =) “
- David Candland, aka “Evil Otto”, Interface and HUD Designer
” Biggest change, I think would be to have Bungie's name being recognized in the game industry as a studio that is formidable…
I think what was really weird for me was that I never felt like there was closure on Halo. Even though the game got shipped and you can hold it in your hands or buy it in a store, the development never felt like it had a closure. Maybe because we still use a lot of what we did in Halo as reference or that when it was done, it was a grudgingly slow process of fixing bugs and what not. And even when that was done, no one really said 'alright folks, that's a wrap'. But what has made it all worthwhile is when I hear my friends playing and loving it, holding parties to just play Halo and have a ball. All of which was exactly what our intent was, even if it meant that we never really knew when we should stop making it fun.
Even though it has always been like this since I got onto Bungie (circa Chicago time), as the years progress it definitely feels more like how Bungie is a second home, and that you're always welcomed here and that everyone treats this job not as a job but a great-paying hobby.”
– Shiek Wang, Artist
” Halo is ruining my ability to make new friends. If you run the numbers then a pretty significant percentage of my age group have played Halo, and a lot of them enjoyed it. But I don’t want to talk about Halo all the time – damn you, Xbox, damn you...”
– Chris Butcher, AI / Networking
” Well, since I didn’t join Bungie until after Halo was completed, my fondest memory would be playing the game until 3am for five nights straight back in 2001 until I had beaten it on Heroic. I literally could not put the game down – even when my eyes burned from lack of sleep and I was so tired I wanted to sleep for days, I just had to finish the game. Now that I work here, it’s great to stay late after work and just have a blast on system link with the guys.”
- John Butkus, aka “anim8rjb”, Animator
”I fondly remember crunch time - not that crunch time was fun…it wasn’t – but I fondly remember the camaraderie that developed amongst the worker bees. There was a routine established towards the end where dinner would show up and a lot of people would eat over in the environment artists’ pod – because we’re the most fun – and afterwards we’d play a few multiplayer games to try out the new maps before getting back to the grind. Lots of catch phrases and nicknames were developed during those times. I even had a media player playlist of John Howard’s entire best placeholder dialog that I would play for ambience. John used to love that. Then there was the time when Jason was standing in front of me while eating and I just couldn’t resist yelling out “Hey, check me out” as I pantsed him. Ahh…the memories.”
– Dave Dunn, Environment Artist
” The coolest thing about working on Halo is that it has become a small part of the cultural landscape. Even my 40-something-year-old sister-in-law has played through co-op on legendary. People used to say to me “You wrote the Flintstones Vitamins jingle? Cool!” now they say “You’re one of the Halo monks? Cool!” Well, maybe not that many people but you get what I mean. Even after working on developing the game I’m still having fun playing it two years later. Look for me on-line. Watch out for Lance.”
– Marty O’Donnell, aka “Lance”, Audio Director
”I decided to get creative & wrote a little Halo poem to share...
"To Pishi, from Shaq 'Rumi' Diesel"
Now you've departed and I await your respawn- On what strange ways you've gone from this world!
Can you see how I dance over you now?
You shook your fist and swore to the gods; You flew away, far, to the soul's own world, Rockets and plasma grenades lifting you ever higher.
You were a nightingale among the owls-
Together we explored the Flood-infested swamps, You suffered headache from its bitter dregs- Until at last you went to the eternal tavern...
Infection forms fell like rain on the terrestrial roof, Run here and there, escaping through the Autumn's hull.
Be silent-there is no more pain of speaking:
You are protected by a loving friend!
Until we meet again in Halo2... “
– Stefan Sinclair, aka “Shaq Diesel”, Engineer
” Halo pulled me to LA for my first E3. Halo had me turn the world upside down to extend my internship at Microsoft Games Studios in 2001. Halo set the stage to some of the coolest, most fun evenings I’ve had with my very best friends. Halo screwed up my last semesters in college. Halo constantly inspires me to reflect on interactive entertainment and numerous random topics. Halo convinced me to move 3000 miles away from what I call home. Halo led me to make very hard choices. Halo paved the way to my entrance into the Bungie world.
Halo makes me happy! “
- Michel Bastien, Producer
”People who notice Halo T-shirts: boys, cashiers at EB, women who want to impress a boyfriend with a shirt just like the one you're wearing.
I once overheard a woman tell her friends about her favorite episodes of a particular show while attending a women's rugby game. She was quoting lines that sounded oddly familiar. She confirmed my suspicions when she said, "And the best part is, it's all done with the Halo characters." She was talking about the anti-tattoo PSA of Red-vs-Blue!”
– Michael Wu, Environment Artist
“I have two very fond memories surrounding Halo… The first was when I had a chance to fly to Redmond, WA to visit a college buddy of mine who happened to work on the Xbox team. (I wasn’t working for Bungie back then) He brought his debug kit home for Labor Day weekend and we played a pre-release build of Halo co-op almost nonstop for three straight days. Since it wasn’t the final build, we never knew when we would run out of game and every time we thought we’d finally reached the end we’d come back an hour back an hour later and discover a way to get past what we thought was a game ending obstacle. This continued for 3 days and we were almost to the Maw when I had to leave and return home. I was standing in line at a local Walmart at midnight a few weeks later to get my Xbox and Halo.
I also have fond memories of being at home over the Christmas holiday of 2001 and my Dad decided he would buy "himself" an Xbox. (this was a ploy to lure us to visit more often apparently). Though he has no inkling of gaming ability and is generally very intimidated by technology, I convinced him to check out Halo and blow some aliens away with me. Naturally he didn't do that well but he got a kick out of throwing grenades and shooting me in the back and that was our first true father/son gaming experience ever. -sniff-... it almost brings tears to my eyes... -sniff- "
- Brian Jarrard, aka "sketch", Community Team
As most everyone knows, Halo faired pretty well in the game media world. Receiving impressive review scores and 'editors choice' awards from a slew of magazines and websites, Halo was catapulted into the upper echelon of gaming stardom. The list of awards and accolades that Halo has received is staggering and way too long to list here. Suffice it to say, Halo liberally applied boot to ass all across the industry.
One particular media group that holds a special place in their heart for Halo is the staff of the
Official Xbox Magazine
. Two years after its release, Halo is still played by the staff on a daily basis. Here are the "Halo Bios" for the OXM team:
Mike Salmon - "Mr.Death"
Editor in Chief, OXM
Favorite Weapon: Pistol
Favorite Place: On top of your base
"The key to any great game is delivering memorable and amazing gameplay moments - an event or a moment where you have to stop and go, "whoa." In my opinion, Halo has more of these than any game on any system ever. It all starts with the single-player game. Who can forget the first time you stuck a plasma grenade on an Elite... and he came running after you! Or what about the first time you got in the driver's seat of the Scorpion Tank... the Banshee... even the Warthog. What about the Flood? And don't forget about your AI teammates and the actual feeling of being in the middle of a huge battle.
Now here I am two years later and I'm still discovering cool new things on a daily basis in multiplayer. Whether it's a bizarre physics moment or an across the map tank blast, every single game of Halo has a moment to remember. I've been reviewing games for 10 years and playing them for 20 and no game has ever given me as much pure pleasure for as long as Halo. Viva le Halo!"
Ryan McCaffrey - "Iconoclast"
Assistant Editor, OXM
Favorite Weapon: Pistol
Favorite Place: Just behind the hill
"If Halo were a sport (and it practically is), I would be our office Rookie of the Year. I wasn't around from Day One, but when I arrived several months later, I quickly established myself as a Master Chief to be reckoned with.
During our profanity-laced office duels on Blood Gulch CTF, I can often be found doing one of three things:
1. Circling the enemy base with a Ghost, serving only to annoy the sanity straight out of the opposition while my teammates infiltrate the base and capture the flag.
2. Approaching the enemy stronghold on foot, putting pistol rounds into your head from 100 yards away.
3. Serving as Fran's hood ornament when she mauls me head-on in her Ghost.
P.S. Pistols fo' life, yo. Just ask the rest of the staff. Hahahahahahaha&138;."
Frank O'Connor - "Franxorz"
Executive Editor, OXM
Favorite Weapon: Rocket launcher
Favorite Place: The ridge with the cave
"I first played Halo at an event in New York a couple of months before the launch. I played a quick game of rockets in Battle Creek. "Hmm, this is an OK game," I thought. Cut to two years later and I still play it every night at around 5:30 against the OXM staff. And then at home on PC. And I still prefer the Xbox version.
If you ever happen to wander into Blood Gulch one night, in CTF, you'll find me using the rocket launcher as I hurtle from the driver's seat of the Warthog at full speed, catapulting past your defenses and straight into your base. Of course, I do tend to kill myself and everyone nearby as I panic in the flag area. But it doesn't cost nothin' and I usually have some backup going in the back door..."
Holden Hume - "Futureboy"
Art Director, OXM
Favorite Weapon: Unexpectedly ludicrous behavior
Favorite Place: The rock spire near my base
"Okay, for starters, please note that my email signature includes the phrase
"Voted: Worst at Halo -- and deteriorating from here forward." This is because of a phenomenon I have recently decided to call Degenerative Acute Haloiosis. It's a not-so-subtle disease in which the gamer, despite keen interest and seeming dexterity, gets worse and worse instead of better and better. No cure.
That having been said, it was none other than Official Xbox Magazine Intern defector Matt Leone who so dubbed me "Worst at Halo" -- so maybe it's just his particular brand of Benedict Arnoldy black magic that holds it's soggy trigger spell on me. Or maybe it's the fact that Dave and Fran know a secret special way to win and they won't tell me. Or maybe it's that Frank is hopelessly addicted to the lesser and weezier variety of Halo called Rockets rather than the steadfast and ultra-worthy CTF in Blood Gulch. Whatever it is, it doesn't stop me from being a damned menace in my renegade, psychotic tank, wedged without mercy into the rear hillside embankment and terrorizing my superiors even as they spawn in their filthy little base. Eat tank lead, evildoers!!!"
Juliann Brown - "J-Bear"
Assistant Art Director, OXM
Favorite Weapon: Shotgun
Favorite Place: Inside your base
"Everyone can just bite my ass. Seriously, I haven't been able to play for AGES and everyone's been playing Rockets. Nobody wants to play CTF when I'm available. It's always, "Oh, I gotta leave to catch a train, so just a quick game of rockets, mmmkay?"
I use a wide range of techniques, including sniping, big giant walks around the outside of Blood Gulch and the ever popular melee attack from behind. "Thwock!" I believe the expression goes. I am also a dab hand at tank-related chicanery, but I like to move around, rather than camping like Holden."
Senior Editor, OXM
Favorite weapon: Pistol
Favorite Place: Inside a Ghost
"I am not a FPS gamer. I'll admit it. The first time I tried to play Doom or Quake, I got violently ill. So, instead, I always brushed off the genre claiming, "Oh, god... I don't have time for that kind of game. I'd rather spend my time playing stuff with pixies and orcs and experience points." Deep down inside, I was simply a scared gamer -- afraid that the gaming world was passing me by with its superior mouse and keyboard skills. That is, until Halo.
Once the game came into the office over two years ago, the guys on the staff would sneak off at 5pm every night to participate in their secret Capture the Flag rituals. I was intrigued, but I still sucked.
I killed my own teammates a few times. I couldn't handle the power of the rocket launcher to save my life. Yet, slowly but surely, I gained more confidence, overcame my FPS block and clawed my way to the top of the Most Kills ladder once in awhile. Now it's an addiction. And now you'll find me, plowing through my staffmates' heads with the Ghost any given workday after 5pm on Blood Gulch. I consider it a personal victory being able to go toe to toe with these guys who've been doing this for years."
Disc Editor, OXM
Favorite weapon: Pistol
Favorite Place: Just at the top of my base ramp, safe from tank fire.
"Seriously, I'm the king of pistol. I can kill anyone, in vehicle or out, from anywhere on the map with my pistol. Everyone here admits it, and hates it. I especially enjoy knocking someone out of the tank in three shots. The next Halo needs to register surprise of the face texture maps. Ha!
I'm a big sniper too, either with the rifle or the pistol, and I like the cave up on the ridge. Running backward and forward between the two entrances keeps people on their toes, but you need a lot of ammo."
The Future Looks Bright
Naturally, this is but a small taste of the stories and memories surrounding the past two years of Halo. I encourage you to pay a visit to our Bungie.net forums and share your own moments from the past and reflect back with your fellow fans. Halo has turned out to be bigger than most anyone ever thought it would be and the franchise is still going strong. With new action figures, a PC community that's growing by the day with soon to be released mod tools, the Mac version nearly complete and Halo 2 shaping up to raise the bar in every way, the future truly is bright for Master Chief and the world of Halo. Happy anniversary Halo. And thank you to all of our fans and supporters who have made the past two years memorable and possible. Here's to many, many more... .