Microsoft’s most valuable development studio is leaving the company with a positive parting message.
Bungie community director Brian Jarrard – who has been involved in development of at least four Halo projects over eight years – says that Microsoft deserves respect for the careful way it manages its studios.
”I don’t think we’d be here where we are today without tremendous fan support,” Jarrard told Develop, “but Microsoft deserves a lot of credit for nurturing our studio, giving us enough rope.”
Jarrard, whose studio is set to begin a ten year partnership with Activision, says the last decade with Microsoft has been “a great partnership and a great ride”.
Looking back, he says: “We’ve learned a lot. A lot of Microsoft people have come over to work with Bungie, and I think we’re a better studio because of it. Bungie was once a young start-up scrappy outfit from Chicago – a few guys just throwing games together – and we’ve become a refined professional developer over the years, and Microsoft has helped us do that.
”Microsoft worked with us to have a friendly divestiture from the company, and – overall – it’s been awesome.”
Bungie sought full independence of Microsoft as the group was wrapping up development on Halo 3 – though there were few rumours of discord between the two groups, the purveying message was that Bungie simply needed to move away from the work-for-hire business it had with the Xbox owner.
Jararrd insists Bungie would have sought independence even during the nadir of the global financial crisis. But the desperation to leave was not because of Microsoft.
”Honestly, to Microsoft’s credit they were incredibly supportive; it was a new relationship for them, but they gave us that freedom with a hands-off approach, and they let us connect with our own community which was incredibly important,” Jarrard adds.
”I’ve been here over 8 years, and when I started we were in this sort of cubicle-filled office building in one of their office parks. We were in there with a lot of other first party development teams.
”Going from there to get our own custom-built space that was miles away from Microsoft’s corporate office, for me, was the most significant step. It gave Bungie its creative freedom, it fostered our own culture, our teamwork and our ability to feel autonomous and not just a part of the Microsoft corporation.
”We had our own key cards so that anyone Microsoft couldn’t even walk into our building. It was a bold, big move on there part, and even the investment needed for a new studio was a great gesture”.
In the first half of Bungie’s interview with Develop, Jarrard explains how Bungie initially struggled to merge with Microsoft, before the group was given access to its own offices.
”Initially, a lot of Bungie guys who were there from day one found that assimilating into Microsoft was not easy.
”The way that we build games, the way that the team works, means that being in that oppressive Microsoft office was not conducive to the type of work that we do. I do believe that we felt like we wouldn’t be able to do good work there – maybe we would have died a little bit inside had we not been set free into our own studio.”