Staff Editorials

Halo Wars Interview
Posted: 20.02.2009 16:43 by Richard Walker Comments: 12
Sat within the Cabinet War Rooms in Westminster, the same place Churchill and his men conducted their battle plans during World War II, we’ve come to chat with Halo Studio Lead Producer, Jason Pace about Halo Wars – an altogether different kind of war.

We've had extended hands-on time with both the single-player and multiplayer aspects of the game, so we thought it only fit that we quizzed Pace further on the details of Halo Wars following our interview with Ensemble Studio’s Graeme Devine back in November of last year.

Jason Pace, Halo Studio’s Lead Producer
Expect plenty of Spartans but categorically NO Mater Chief
 
StrategyInformer: First of all, can we start by asking a bit about Halo Wars story?

Jason Pace: Halo Wars is set 20 years before the events that happened during Halo: Combat Evolved, and it really tells the story of the first time that humans encounter the Covenant in a large way, as well as the first time they encounter The Flood. It really sets the stage for the events that occur in the other Halo games.

StrategyInformer: Do you think Ensemble used Age Of Empires as their jump off point when starting work on Halo Wars?

Jason Pace: I would say Ensemble certainly took everything they learnt from Age Of Empires as a template but in addition to needing to redesign the controls and the fundamental game mechanics for the console, they actually had the added task of really pumping up the action and really taking that visceral Halo experience and translating that into a genre, which was something that Age Of Empires has not necessarily done.

StrategyInformer: Were you exposed to the burden of expectation that was heaped onto Ensemble when tasked with turning Halo into an RTS?

Jason Pace: I would say there are two very large burdens we’re working through – one is the Halo fans and first and foremost this needs to be a Halo experience, right? If you play through this game and think, ‘Well, that didn’t feel very Halo’ then we have failed absolutely. So, that was one set of expectations, but we also can’t ignore the strategy fans that are going to play this game. The legions of RTS fans, the Ensemble fans that are going to want to check it out simply because it’s an Ensemble title, so it’s very important that we really nail the core fundamentals of a great strategy game. With those two sometimes-conflicting mandates that we had to figure out how to blend something together that really worked.

StrategyInformer: Do you see Halo Wars ending up on the PC in the near future?

Jason Pace: I would never say never, but we have no plans to take it to the PC, for the same reason that ports from PC to console don’t generally work. The mechanic was changed and tuned for the input device of a control pad and the controls were built all around the console experience, so moving it over to the PC would have us running into these sort of problems.

StrategyInformer: When we spoke to Graeme Devine about the game, he mentioned that there’s some great DLC lined up for post-launch. Can you tell us any more about Halo Wars DLC?

Jason Pace: I can’t talk about any post-launch plans, but I can tell you that we’re looking at the best way to support the title moving forward. There’re a lot of great ideas coming from a lot of folks, but nothing committed yet.

StrategyInformer: We asked this when we spoke to Graeme Devine, but we’re going to ask again anyway. Master Chief definitely isn’t in the game. Do you foresee releasing Master Chief as a downloadable character if fan demand is high enough?

Jason Pace: One of the things that’s important to keep in mind is that we never do anything with Halo content that doesn’t fit our canon and our storyline, so if this game takes place twenty years before Halo 1, Master Chief - I don’t know off the top of my head – I don’t believe he was a Spartan yet, so having him the game probably wouldn’t make a ton of sense.

We’ve got to say it again – the game does look lovely
The Covenant bases operate slightly differently to the Spartan bases
 
StrategyInformer: Are you able to tell us what’s next for Ensemble studios? Are you able to comment?

Jason Pace: I’m sure most know now that the folks from Ensemble have formed another studio. We have a relationship moving forward with that studio and they will actually be servicing Halo Wars for any critical errors and supporting it moving forward. We would love the opportunity to work with those guys again, although we haven’t committed anything we’d certainly hope – and I speak for many people – that we get the chance to work with them again.

StrategyInformer: What do you make of the feedback you have about the game thus far? Is it mostly what you expected?

Jason Pace: One of the most awesome and most rewarding things that we’ve seen about this particular game is that the reactions from folks who’ve played Halo Wars are very comparable to the reactions we had when they played Halo 3. So almost universally players are coming away validating what we were hoping to have accomplished with the game, and that is that it feels very much like a Halo experience and it’s very satisfying for Halo fans. Also, that it’s surprisingly deep for a strategy game based on the changes that we’ve made. I think there is unexpected depth there from the strategy side that players will experience over time that we really hope will give the game longevity.

I think that it’s safe to say that the majority of folks we expect to play the game will likely be Halo fans first and foremost. There are a good million of them out there and that’s fundamentally who the Halo studio thinks about. That said, we’re always looking to grow our Halo fanbase and this is the ideal opportunity to pick up some strategy fans and hopefully pick up a lot of the Ensemble fans by getting them into a Halo experience that works for them.

Pace: “If you play through this game and think, ‘Well, that didn’t feel very Halo’ then we have failed absolutely.”
There’s certainly no danger that Halo Wars will be anything but a true Halo experience
 
StrategyInformer: It’s quite a leap for an FPS fan to go from his favourite shooter to an RTS. Accessibility and action must have always been the core mandate for Halo Wars.

Jason Pace: Absolutely. You’ll notice when you play through Halo Wars that there is an intense focus right out of the gate on the action and all throughout the game as a matter of fact, we’ve made very conscious and strategic decisions to streamline certain elements of the micro-management that you experience in traditional RTS games in favour of a more action-orientated game. We actually like to call Halo Wars an ‘action-strategy game instead of an RTS because we think that better reflects the evolution of that model.

StrategyInformer: Finally, are you able to tell us anything about Halo: ODST at the moment?

Jason Pace: I can tell you that Halo: ODST is developed by Bungie, it is an extension to the Halo 3 experience but you’ll also undergo the first-person, Halo 3 experience from a different perspective. So, you won’t be playing as the Master Chief and there will be more emphasis on a sense of exploration – but that’s all I can say about that.

Halo Wars is out on February 27th. You can check out our recently published review here.

Comments

By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Feb 21, 2009
JustCommunication
Master Chief was a Spartan when this game was set, as he was part of the first 'batch' of Spartan II's. Although that point largley depends on whether or not they will accept the canon established with the novels.

However, as far as I'm aware, the Chief never took part in the reclamation of Harvest, although they were made aware of the covenant a few years before the game took place, which would explain how the spartans in the game came to be there.

Nice interview, by the way.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Feb 23, 2009
lichlord
yea nice interviewi do hope they will get it for the pc
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Feb 23, 2009
JamieSI
Perhaps in the far future it will come to the PC :)
By BlitzKrieg (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 27, 2009
BlitzKrieg
nah not if ensemble closes, well be lucky if they dont
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Feb 27, 2009
JamieSI
Members of Ensemble have formed a new studio
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Feb 27, 2009
Wowerine
StrategyInformer: Mr. Pace, can you tell us why are you giving away one of your Special Limited Edition Halo Wars Xbox 360 consoles to one of our members?

Jason Pace: What do you want me to say? Well, they are quite a charming group of gamers, very dedicated to gaming and ready to help out anyone. I guess they deserve a gift. hehe
By liltspackler (I just got here) on Feb 27, 2009
liltspackler
i think they should put a achievement for 10 g called 177 where you gotta make 177 spartans. this interview was good btw. i wish there was a upgrade for the spartans that gave them better armor and made em more powerful.
By marshallrulezzz (SI Newbie) on Mar 01, 2009
marshallrulezzz
The graphics are really givin you that awesome halo feeling, I love it
only i hope they'll release it on pc since I dont have an xbox.

ps: liltspackler, dont you mean 117 spartans, like in spartan 117 or is it completely unrelated? (just wondering, dont mean to be a wiseass) 0.0
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 04, 2009
Wowerine
They should make the 300 achievement, where you have to make 300 Spartans and go attack king Xerxes! LOL haha
By pimpboy101 (SI Newbie) on Mar 07, 2009
pimpboy101
this game rocks
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 08, 2009
Wowerine
Just saw a cool video on YouTube. For a console RTS this i pretty sick (in a good way). And those fancy effects are so fluid... Man, I gotta play it! :D
By crawlroman (SI Core) on Mar 10, 2009
crawlroman
I saw some cool videos about this "SICK" GAME and it looks awsome,the graphics,gameplay,sound,I liked all,all I want is the feeling of playing it ^.^