Ten Suggestions For A CErtain Remake
We have all heard the rumours by now. Every major gaming web site and publication has covered a number of rumours about a remake of the first Halo game. There are claims about the studio making it, claims about the release, claims about the engine and more. Nothing has been confirmed. Smoke… fire?
343i have been running relatively silent. The Halo Waypoint team have been busy developing the Waypoint platform and a small team have been working behind the scenes transitioning the Halo franchise from series creator, Bungie, to the new stewards. There have been notable hires of individuals in 343’s ranks from across the gaming industry. The 343i ship is crewed by some of the brightest talent working in the gaming industry. We all know a new Halo is coming from them at some point. Now is not the time for Halo 4 however. With Reach not even a year old we’ll be waiting years to see the story continue and see what the future has in store for the Master Chief.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the franchise. A whole decade fighting the Covenant and uncovering the secrets of the Forerunners. There are plans to celebrate this occasion. Officially what this means is unknown and unannounced. It could simply be more Halo: Reach DLC or an expansion or maybe, just maybe, it could be something more substantial. Before we get a chance to look forward into Halo’s future we might get the chance to experience the magic of the birth of franchise once more.
If 343i tackles a remake of the original Halo it gives them a chance to establish themselves, establish the studio and cement their reputation, if done right. It is much easier to get things wrong that it is to get them right. Halo exceeded expectations when it launched as the flagship title of the original Xbox and recapturing that magic would be no simple feat, no matter how much talent you have trying to make it happen.
We present here a list of what we think a Halo CEmake must include or do in order to hit that famously difficult to reach quality bar in the eyes of fans. It is by no means complete or definitive. It may not even be right. Some folks say you could print anything with a Master Chief helmet and it would sell millions. Phone it in and call it a day. We here have confidence that this would never happen. Just in case though remember we fans have sometimes unreasonable high expectations. We ask for everything. This is what we would consider reasonably. Maybe.
“They should just bring over the PC version, make it 1080p and add online co-op and make it downloadable over Xbox Live.”, He said.
This disturbed individual made a rasping, wheezing cough and quick, darting motion with his hands, clawed in an unnatural position, to catch the escaping bits of spittle from his open mouth. The man sat down on the cold floor, ignoring the lack of available seating.
He slowly rocked his agitated body backwards and forwards, scratching his long and greasy unwashed hair with his hooked hands.
This is an example of a crazy person. Do not listen to this crazy person.
Halo is the flagship game of the entire Xbox brand and fans have high expectations. We can’t imagine at the E3 keynote this year some Xbox executive taking centre stage and announcing the next entry in the Halo franchise for the Xbox 360 will be a years late port of the original game with a few added token features. No, upping the resolution (this can be done on the PC version), bumping up the textures (this can be done on the PC version too!) and adding online support just won’t cut it in today’s market and not for today’s fans. Perfect Dark from the Nintendo 64 era was given this exact treatment last year and it was fantastic. No one expected to ever play the game again so it was nice having it brought to the Xbox Live audience. Halo isn’t Perfect Dark.
We know 343i have the Reach engine so why not use it to remake Halo? Using an already developed engine would be a huge time saver for any studio and would remove a significant portion of the game’s development. The engine already comes feature packed with multiplayer support, online infrastructure and features such as screenshots and saved films. In fact, the only task left would be to produce the actual in game content. No small task, but much easier than starting from scratch.
Additionally, having 343i develop the title internally would give them a Halo title under the belt before tackling the bigger Halo future. 343i would already be able to claim development of a Halo title when the Master Chief’s future is revealed. They would be a proven development studio. It would reassure the fans that question whether a new studio can handle Halo’s Mantle.
A multi-billion dollar empire. It has been described as a cultural juggernaut and described favourably as a modern day Star Wars. Whatever you do with a Halo CEmake, do not pull a Lucas on the fans.
The game starts with the Master Chief aboard the Pillar of Autumn and ends with the Master Chief and Cortana escaping on a Longsword. Stuff happens in between these events. Important stuff. Stuff we remember. Don’t change this stuff. It should be as we remember it. That night time sniper level. That tank level. That island. That library. That Warthog escape.
People don’t like it when you tell them they are wrong. When Star Wars was re-released back into cinemas Mr Lucas told millions of fans that they were wrong. He added some stuff in but most importantly he changed things. The nerds spoke up and rebelled against the evil Lucas Empire.
Just like Star Wars, Halo has instilled a trilogy of memories into the hearts of millions of gamers and fans. We know the Master Chief. We love Cortana. We respect Sgt. Johnson. You don’t need to change any of the sequences and events from the first game to make a point about the character’s personalities. We like them as they are and new fans will love them too, just as they are. It is the same deal with the levels. Everybody loves the Silent Cartographer and everyone will love a remade version. Unless it has lasers and gunboats and volcanoes and robots and sharks and cyber bees. Nobody likes cyber bees.
This is an important message, not to 343i or the developers of the potential Halo CEmake, but to the fans. If the decision to remake Halo has been made, then it is a certainty that the game will have the multiplayer feature set of ODST instead of Halo 3 and Halo: Reach. This means that the legendary Halo multiplayer that started off a chain reaction of LAN parties across the globe will most likely be missing in action this time around. No Sidewinder for you.
Before you grab the pitchforks just take a moment to calm down and rationalise this out. It is pretty obvious the game cannot include traditional multiplayer and no, it’s not because it would cut down development time (the lack of a traditional multiplayer mode would cut down on the content needed to be produced though!). Halo 3 lasted a few years before Halo: Reach came out. In that time we had DLC releases for multiplayer expansion and two further Halo games, ODST and Halo Wars, to expand the franchise whilst we waited for the next big game. With Halo: Reach still relatively new and fresh we still have years of Reach based multiplayer gaming ahead of us. Yeah more maps and the like. Maybe an expansion. The focus is on Reach’s multiplayer right now and will be until the next big Halo game comes along with a full multiplayer suite.
A Halo CEmake cannot have traditional multiplayer because it would immediately tap into and take from Reach’s active player base rather directly. We’d see a serious migration of the fans move over to it instead of staying on with Reach. That means that the next Reach map pack would have a smaller audience and sell less. The players that move, what if they want more maps too? The players would expect equal treatment in terms of support and online infrastructure. That means stat tracking, screenshot and film sharing. What about DLC for them?
343i are already in the finishing stages of the transition of Reach’s multiplayer and forcing another major multiplayer game on top of this so soon, running both multiplayer environments simultaneously, would be as disastrous as it sounds. This doesn’t preclude the idea of multiplayer entirely. Online and offline co-op would surely return as well as the addition of features such as screenshots and films. Add in a few skulls and maybe expand the co-op for up to four players online and voila. Maximum win.
There’s another lesson to be learned from ODST. Including the complete multiplayer experience disc with ODST changed Halo 3’s online environment. Suddenly everyone had all the maps. It was the great equaliser and playlist restrictions dropped quickly and the online community was all happy and loving. Or it would have been had it happened earlier. ODST’s release meant that multiplayer content for Halo 3 was pushed back from its presumably intended original release date. Players waited almost a year for new maps and weren’t too happy to have to wait so long. As long as Reach players aren’t starved of new content in between now and the release of a potential remake, we would be happy to see the inclusion of a Reach multiplayer disk. More maps for active everyday players and a chance for the freeloaders to catch up with the big spenders. Everyone would be equal again to headshot in love and friendship.
The Halo “sandbox” wasn’t really a sandbox to begin with. It wasn’t treated as such when it was developed but as the series progressed the importance of the sandbox was recognised and now, in retrospect, it is very important that addressing the sandbox – the interaction of players, vehicles, and weapons, is handled with due care and attention.
Without having to worry about multiplayer, the sandbox in the campaign should be recreated to match the past experiences of players. That means that yes; we want the old Pistol back. We want a powerful Needler again and make the spray and pray Assault Rifle badass.
This also means that you should not remove anything from the sandbox or decide to “improve” it with unnecessary additions. That means no Armour Abilities of any kind and no Equipment either. The original game earned millions of fans without any of the modern sandbox additions and any remake will win gamers’ hearts without them too. Also, seeing Master Chief performing an Armour Lock would make certain people physically sick. Law suits would follow. Just no. Please.
The original Halo game set many standards for modern video games, one of the most notable was the restriction to carry just two weapons at a time. This forced the player to become aware of how the weapons functioned in different situations and to pick and choose the best weapon for the right job. We need to be reminded of this.
It is unlikely that the original Halo game was designed as the start of a multimedia franchise. Since its debut, Halo has evolved in many ways and universe has become bigger and deeper. New characters have been introduced, developed and fleshed out. This is the perfect chance to iron out some minor inconsistencies. Facts and dates and such, the small details that the hardcore fans like us like to argue about. They can be corrected and updated to ensure the universe retains consistency. A perfect chance to iron out the wrinkles.
We do not need more characters artificially inserted into the game. We don’t need the Gravemind to show up or the Arbiter (Supreme Commander Thel’Vadam as he was known back then) to give us a speech or lecture. We don’t need to give Sgt. Johnson additional motivation via a sequence of progressive flashbacks of an angry superior taunting him in his youth.
Dialogue can be updated and rewritten but adding new characters, scenes or levels is a serious risk to the integrity of the original game. There are very few examples of such additions being well received by fans in other media and that should be warning enough.
The Reach engine is a great example of modern technology and is very capable of adding soft cushion exclusion zones, kill zones and other methods to force players to stay within certain developer mandated play spaces. Players are idiots. We see some lofty mountain and we want to climb it because we are just dumb like that. If there is a ledge just out of reach, we’ll find some way to get on top of it just to prove to ourselves that we can do it. Isn’t that just stupid?
The original Halo didn’t have this miraculous anti-player, pro-developer freedom technology and so the levels were designed in such a way that the average player in an ordinary run through of the game wouldn’t normally escape from the expected play areas. The player wouldn’t normally find himself on top of a mountain he shouldn’t be standing on. It was only the really bored and dumb players that would find the various ways out of levels. Or on top of buildings and other structures.
Now you don’t have to worry about these dumb players ruining the game any longer. With your new modern technology you can force the dumb player to behave like normal players. Liberally apply invisible barriers around every single level. Label every square centimetre of unintended geometry as off limits and enforce a fun kill countdown timer that forces the player to behave or die. They love it.
The new technology in the Reach engine is so powerful it should allow you to place invisible barriers and kill zones in places never you would have never before considered and the possibilities are endless!
Halo’s physics were beautiful. The art of Warthog Launching was the pinnacle of human innovation and entertainment. A remake will not be able to fully emulate the original game’s physics properly and this is to be expected, but please tweak the physics to allow the art of Warthog Launching to make a beautiful return to form. Launching is a vital aspect of the Halo experience for maybe three or four people out of the millions of Halo players out there but just do it. You know you want to.
The music and audio of the Halo games are simply iconic. From chanting monks to the chattering grunts, the audio department is one of most significant and integral aspects to the entire Halo experience. Reusing the old music is simply not an option for a remake but efforts must be taken to ensure that the music is immediately familiar to the fans.
Halo Legends is a great example of a Halo soundtrack and should be the audio template to follow for any potential remake. Legends featured orchestral renditions of music originally featured in the game and it was beautiful. Update the music in this fashion and it’s difficult to believe that anyone would complain. The original music in Legends was also outstanding and kept the charm, tone and feel of Halo fully intact.
Halo Reach brought back the Elites as the primary antagonists for the player. Revisiting the original Halo game will once again bring the Elites to centre focus. Halo: Reach was going for a darker tone and so made one glaring omission, the guttural and iconic “Wort Wort Wort” cry of the Sangheli warriors. Yes, its gibberish and yes, we love it. Reach was darker and maybe it didn’t fit in with the tone of that game but the original Halo needs it. Bring back one of the franchise’s most loved catchphrases!
Halo has always had great hidden surprises for the player to discover and enjoy. It is part of the fun of the experience knowing that there are secrets to be found somewhere if you just looked hard enough. From personal messages from the developers to alternative endings, the game should be filled with easter eggs that keep fans looking for years to come.
We also like to be surprised. Change the locations of expected hidden secrets. Change the meanings. Add in new puzzles to solve. Make the easter eggs unique to this unique game and keep players guessing. We like it that way.
Yeah, put it up for sale at GameStop and tell us when we can pre-order and what extra special Xbox Live avatar hat we can receive by pre-ordering it exclusively from our favourite retailer.
The truth is you have to sell the game to the fans. You need to make them want to buy this game and it isn’t easy. Halo is an evolving franchise. From books to animation, there are plenty of new stories to tell and events and characters to flesh out. Given that the universe is rich with a galaxy full of possibilities, you need to convince fans about why the concept of remaking a game is a good thing.
Right now we can play Halo CE on an old Xbox or we can play it on the Xbox 360. We can also play it on a PC in high definition at 60 FPS. We don’t need a remake of a game we have bought twice already across two different platforms so there is need to convince us that we want it.
We need to be convinced that we want to walk down memory lane instead of opening up a newer chapter in the franchise. Why remake Halo instead of delivering a sequel to Halo Wars or an expansion for Halo: Reach?
We are fans at the end of the day and yeah we’ll buy a remake blindly without a second thought because we love Halo as a franchise and we loved that first game. Playing it again with better graphics and online would be pretty sweet. Make us feel good about that blind loyalty to the franchise and please do not simply take advantage of our nostalgia. In short, make us feel happy when we give you our money and our time.