Harold Ryan, the man in charge of running Halo-creator Bungie, which recently parted ways with Microsoft to become an independent studio, has revealed that the studio is "actively" working on new non-Halo IPs.
In an exclusive interview with Develop, available to read here, Ryan discusses the studio’s plans for the future now that it has divested from the Xbox 360 format-holder, and provides more thoughts on the tensions that existed between the two until they parted ways.
He revealed that new ideas plus more Halo content is in the pipeline amongst the 115 troops (pictured) in the studio’s employ.
"Obviously Microsoft wanted us to make more Halo games. Both I and some of the more senior guys from the original Halo game have deep piles of game designs for the Halo universe that we are excited to build at some point. If the stars align and motivations are good and the platforms are right we’ll do them," he said, reiterating Bungie’s commitment to the massive franchise it spawned and which has become a key game for the Xbox in both its incarnations.
"But, on the other hand, a lot of the staff here are fans of the original game or fans of the studio. We shipped Halo with 45 people and now we’re 115, so two thirds of the studio have only shipped one or two games in the Halo series. For the most part they came here because they were really excited to work at Bungie and in the Halo universe. So from that point of view we don’t have a shortage of people happy to make Halo games."
He added: "But obviously there are guys that have shipped Halo games for ten years, and they are definitely ready to work on new IPs or create new things. We’re actively engaged with the senior staff here on a couple of new IPs right now, but the team that can generate cool Halo games is still running full-speed as well.
"I’m sure those senior Bungie guys will sit in as advisors – on pre-production, design review and polishing the game as we build it – but they won’t have to get their hands as dirty in the bits of pieces of the next couple of Halo games."
Previously, he said, Bungie had tried to spin off new projects, but the crunch around Halo 2 meant those endeavours were ditched.
He explained: "During the development of Halo and Halo 2, we had other, non-Halo IPs in development and we killed those projects both times. Both teams were swallowed whole by the Halo team. With Halo 3, that was the first time we know that we couldn’t let that happen – it’s not an acceptable way out to add 20 people to the project by killing that prototype.
"We kept that prototype running throughout the development of Halo 3 and now we have a creative team which feels like they own that. We also have Halo DLC on the way, and a new IP prototype that we are very excited about. Then we have other Halo games that are cranking along also. So the end result so far has been exactly as it should have been – we’re happy, excited, and doing our best work on a path that lets us grow."
The phrase ‘as it should have been’ is a key one, and it’s clear in our conversation with Ryan there were some inevitable tensions caused by a clash in the corporate view and the studio’s independent spirit that gave rise to parting of ways between Bungie and Microsoft.
"When it came to the actual conversations about us divesting from Microsoft, certainly there are people in the organisation who were dead set against it because they do see that they had an internal, world-class developer," he added, adding that it was the support from Microsoft Game Studio execs Shane Kim and Phil Spencer, and a certain very important that led to the team’s independence – and the eventual separation.
"There was, certainly from [some Microsoft execs] point of view, the view that the sooner we did Halo 3 the quicker Xbox sales would spike. There were some concerns, but Microsoft Game Studios were completely behind us in making Halo 3 the game it needed to be – even all the way up to Bill Gates."
The studio is also keen to protect its identity, he added. "We want to be seen as different from the other developers that publish with Microsoft. As far as we believe it, we make better games and they are better quality in user experience across the board. Ultimately you want to be proud of anything you put the Bungie name on. We want people to know that, as soon as they put the game on and our name rolls up, the game will be awesome."