Today Halo is a massive multimedia franchise and the cornerstone of Microsoft’s Xbox empire, but, like many big things, it came from rather humble beginnings. Halo began life as a PC and Mac third-person action game designed by an initially-tiny team of only 12 to 15 guys at Bungie, and the game’s journey from there to hugely-hyped Xbox launch title was not a smooth one.
Vice Waypoint recently posted a massive oral history of the original Halo: Combat Evolved (seriously, it’s over 35,000 words), featuring the voices of Bungie founder Alex Seropian, designer Jaimie Griesemer, composer Marty O’Donnell, and a whole cast of others. The piece is jam-packed with new information and juicy gossip, but some of the most interesting stuff concerns the many ways the game almost went off the tracks. For instance, Microsoft really, really hated the now-iconic name “Halo” according to Griesemer…
“They said that [Halo] doesn't mean anything, and to people it does mean something to, it's not on-brand, because what we're selling is the super soldier, not this weird space junk. In every foreign language it sounds stupid, it's feminine -- they had so many reasons why the name should be changed. They went for months and months, and they came back with a bunch of names. It was another border dispute.
At some point they said, 'Okay, we're going to do a subtitle.' And this was before subtitles were the thing every game had. We thought that was dumb, but whatever, we could ignore it. Eventually they came back with Combat Evolved, and we thought that was the stupidest thing ever. It doesn't mean anything, it's not really informational, and it's not even good grammar.”
Oh, and believe it not, the guys at Bungie almost cut Halo’s multiplayer. No, really.
“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. Multiplayer is actually something that was on the chopping block until very close to the end of the project, which would've been an obvious tragedy."
If you have an afternoon to spare, I recommend you check out Waypoint’s full article. It’s a fascinating, candid, and very thorough, look at one of the most successful games of all time.