In just 10 short days, Halo Reach — widely tipped to be the biggest hit of the year — will descend upon the gaming masses. It will mark Bungie's bittersweet departure from the Halo franchise — a franchise that unarguably helped to build the Xbox 360 brand. ("Without Halo, I do not know where the Xbox business would be today" — Microsoft's David McLean.)
We recently caught up with the game's executive producer, Joseph Tung, at a Halo Reach preview in Microsoft's Sydney office. We quizzed Tung about the game's multiplayer mode, Forge World, the genesis of the jetpack, his favourite Halo weapon and the ending of Halo Reach's campaign.
Halo Reach executive producer, Joseph Tung. Hi Joseph. To start off, why don't you tell our readers a little about your role at Bungie and on Halo Reach?
Sure. My name’s Joseph Tung and I'm the executive producer for Halo Reach. I’ve been on the project since day one, when it was a group of four guys talking about what the next Halo game was going to be.
My role is work hand-in-hand with the creative director [Marcus Lehto] — his job is to come up with the crazy ideas and my job is to tell him what we can and can’t do, and make sure we ship on time. So we work really closely together to manage the whole project.
This will be Halo’s fifth stint at multiplayer. How do you guys keep things fresh?
Well, it’s hard. It’s a real challenge. One of our lead engineers put it best: “There isn’t anything you can change that someone won’t care about.” So it’s a real balance to preserve what we feel is core about Halo multiplayer, and yet, push the envelope and keep it fresh.
I think we really did push the envelope with Reach. If you played the beta, you saw things like Armour Abilities, you saw Load Outs; they really do change the game quite a bit. We’ve also tweaked a lot of the core player movement and jump height. We want to make you feel like Spartan IIIs, for sure.
Then there are the brand new game modes, like Invasion. In Invasion, we want you to feel like you’re taking part in the war on Reach; it's Spartans verse the Covenant. It’s wrapped in fiction; it’s a much larger, more chaotic battle.
Then, I think we’ve innovated quite a lot in something like Arena, which is absolutely for the hardcore. It’s for the guys that got to level 50 playing Slayer in Halo 3. It takes that experience, and wraps it in a different experience, where it’s not just about getting to 50 and staying there. It’s about playing seasons, and seeing where you stack up, season after season.
And then, of course, there’s the player reward system for Reach. That’s really exciting. No matter what you’re doing in Reach — you could be playing multiplayer, you could be playing firefight or the campaign — you’re earning credits, you’re buying custom armour and you’re investing in your unique Spartan.
So when you put the whole experience together, I really think we’ve offered a brand new take on Halo multiplayer. But at the same time, it’s got that wonderful Halo core.
What would you say is the single biggest improvement to multiplayer?
You know, when we get asked that question, it really is like asking which of your kids you like the most [laughs]. I really love what’s happened with Arena. I’m sort of a hardcore player myself; Arena just keeps me coming back for more. We’ve got that system where you play three games to get rated in a day, and the next day you want to play your three games again.
On top of that, I think the team is really proud of what we’re doing in Forge for multiplayer. I think the ability for the fans to sustain the community with the improvements we’ve made to Forge is insane. The changes we’ve made [to Forge] are really near and dear to my heart.