Bungie Studios LiveText

Jonty Barnes and Frank O'Connor transcript.

Hello and welcome to the latest Eurogamer LiveText interview. Sadly you're a bit late for Bungie Studios production director Jonty Barnes and his colleague, and writing lead, Frank O'Connor, who have already buggered off. Fortunately, you can read a transcript of the interview below.

How many blankets would they use if they were sleeping in an unheated tent during a mild summer? And what colour is a bear? Possibly some of this and more.

Our live coverage of this event has finished.



Tom Super Moderating Hero Bramwell: Despite what it says above, we're still waiting for Frank O'Connor, but we thought we'd get going with Jonty Barnes in the meantime. So, as is tradition, Jonty, tell us a bit about yourself first.
Jonty Barnes: I joined Bungie in August 2006 as Head of Production. Previously I worked at Bullfrog and then Lionhead for 17 years on various titles. As Head of Production at Bungie, it's my job to try and allow/facilitate the team to 'produce' and realise their ambitions. Personally, I think I have the most fun - but there's plenty of people who think I get to get in the mix of the shittiest jobs!


Moderating Hero: Hurrah, Frankie's joined us. Just in time.

Obvious question first, you guys going to be working on any other platforms other than 360?
Frank O'Connor: We have no plans to work on any other platforms beyond 360 at this time.
Moderating Hero: He wrote that before he actually saw the first question.
Jonty Barnes: Microsoft have been good friends to us. You can see the strength of our relationship in Halo. We're really focused on continuing our collaboration in making the best games we can, and that right now is on 360. It's our hope this relationship continues to be our strongest one, as we have a lot of respect for the people we have worked with at Microsoft.


Moderating Hero: For those of you wondering what Frank's background is like, this is what Frank's background is like.
Frank O'Connor: I'm a writing lead at Bungie which means I work on everything from character and combat dialog to board game scripts to this kind of thing. I am a Euro of sorts, born and raised in Edinburgh and a veteran of olde UK video game magazines like Amstrad Action, Total! and Computer and Video Games, the paper one.


Have you guys got any info on the Halo movie and what's happening with it (if anything)?
Frank O'Connor: The Halo movie, as everyone knows, came to a somewhat ungainly halt as various men in suits tried to get all their ducks in a row, Hollywood style. The end result was that the movie was put on hold. We'd love to see a movie made, but only if it was being put together with the same kind of passion that we'd pour into a game. Nothing new to report, I'm afraid, it still has it's pause button firmly pressed.


Do you ever see a time when digital distribution sales of games overtakes retail and would you welcome the change?
Jonty Barnes: I think there's almost an inevitable trend to digital distribution, I'm most interested in what's the best experience for the player, and if that means digital distribution allows us to reach more players - then I'd welcome it. Though, there's something quite nice about going to a software shop and seeing the games in action...


Will we ever see a Marathon game for the Xbox 360?
Frank O'Connor: Marathon is a great love of ours - it introduced a lot of concepts and ideas that we'd flesh out later in the Halo series. Bungie owns the Marathon IP outright, so it's not outwith the bounds of reason that we could revisit it one day. I can however tell you we're not working on anything Marathon-related right now.


One for Jonty. You was at Lionhead for a good number of years. What have you taken from your time at Lionhead and used at Bungie to improve the game development process?
Jonty Barnes: The main thing I learnt from Lionhead is working with different creative and technical people. Ultimately in Production, unless you understand where people are passionate from, you cannot really represent their motivations and weigh them against other important parts of the projects. The rest is about organisation and processes which we all learn as teams get bigger.

I learn a lot from Lionhead that I didn't expect to apply at Bungie. Peter Molyneux gives you design insight I didn't know I had and PR experience definitely helped. However, my programming background has always given me technical confidence.


As a studio, where do you stand on episodic gaming? We've seen Valve (sort of) do it with Half-Life - do you see this happening on current consoles with games like Halo or is that the next 'next-gen'?
Frank O'Connor: Episodic gaming has great promise, but given the realities of big game production, it needs to also benefit from a renaissance in the actual production environment, as well as asset and team management, and all of that is before you get to the nuts and bolts of how an episodic story would play out. It can't just be a sequence of unrelated games, six months apart. It needs to have a flow and rhythm that can draw the player into the world, and make them care about the characters therein.


Given that this particular Halo trilogy/story arc has now concluded, have you considered releasing a multiplayer-only Halo 'Tournament' style game every year or two?
Jonty Barnes: There's a lot of ideas in the Halo Universe that we have talked about in the studio. Many people are passionate about where to take Halo further. Really we don't look at copying what other people have tried, we look at the Halo and gaming community is changing, and combine that with new concepts we feel strongly about - sure the idea of doing a MP only game has come up - but so have a lot of other things. We still love Halo though. Too much sometimes!


Can Frank or Jonty tell us anything more about the vehicle alterations or customisations they've hinted at for the new DLC maps? Also, why does Frank a no speaka wi de accent no mora?
Frank O'Connor: I have been in the US for more than ten years, so that's where the accent went. As for "vehicle customizations", this is the second time I have been asked this in 24 hours, so he must be talking about something specific I said - to reiterate, I don't think I have ever (consciously) hinted that new or customized vehicles were coming. But Forge is an interesting beast and can certainly contain toys unavailable before. One of those will be revealed on Spike TV this Sunday.


Apart from Stubbs, the Halo technology has always been strictly in-house. Is Bungie considering licensing or re-using the Halo engine?
Jonty Barnes: We're about making the most impactful gaming experiences we can, not in the building gaming engine business. While financial comfort is important now we're independent, we're not interested in focusing on how we can generate the most revenue. Bungie isn't built on developing engines for other people, we're built on trying to realize our creative ideas. And this consumes us.


Moderating Hero: Tell us something that nobody else knows about the new Halo 3 map pack.
Frank O'Connor: There are at least two Easter Eggs on Stand Off - each more horrifying than the last. Go find them.


At what point in a game's development does it become playable? And at what point after that does it become fun? How do you know when it's finished?
Jonty Barnes: We build in lots of time in our production plans for Halo to iterate on the game experience. It's loosely termed polish, but that covers design iteration after you get a representative experience as well as revisiting art content to bring it up to a higher level and more. For Halo 3 I recall being able to play through the whole game last December, some missions were much more progressed than others but you could walk through the whole game. It was nothing compared to the final product but it was vital that we were able to play in the correct spaces, analyse our missions and all the other pieces of the game as early as possible to allow us to create the Campaign and MP maps we believed in.


Hey guys, this one is for Frankie. Frankie, you are one of Bungie's emplyees who is always in touch with the community. How has this feedback from the community affected development for the Halo franchise? Have you ever read something that one of the fans suggested and presented it to the development team?
Frank O'Connor: Actually yes, all the time. Obviously we used the beta to gather metrics and "hard" data, but we monitor and interact with the community constantly to find out what they like and what they hate. We make changes and adjustments all the time based on that feedback, and it's inevitable that we'll make more significant changes in the future based on community ideas and complaints.


In the past Bungie staff have publicly stated that as a whole Bungie always focused on the game at hand and not defining the Xbox platform. Did this cause some aggravation with Microsoft, whom particularly with the original Halo were looking to define a new entrant to the market?
Jonty Barnes: I'm sure Microsoft would have loved Halo 3 as a launch title, but they understood how important Halo was to Bungie, so Microsoft were fully behind us making it the game it needed to be.


Mark Rein has praised Sony for it's attitude on Mods, do you feel that Microsoft's hard line on this particular subject might be reversed in future?
Frank O'Connor: I can't speak for Microsoft, but I wasn't aware they had a hard line against mods, so much as they're concerned with a high quality bar. Unreal is actually a good example to watch and pay attention to. In my experience about 95% of user-created maps and mods are terrible, with 5% being amazing. That still amounts to a LOT of cool, amazing maps, but a lot of crap to sift through. Bungie has a habit of hiring brilliant mod creators. Some of our top folks in the studio started their video game careers tinkering with Myth or Marathon mods. Forge is designed to give ordinary players some "mod-like" abilities, but is obviously very limited in terms of its toolset.


I'd love to see some multiplayer bots as a download in Halo 3, even if only for the slayer game types. Any chance of this happening?
Jonty Barnes: I cannot comment on the plans for Halo 3 at this time outside of the snippets of DLC announcements we've already made. Bungie is focusing on what we think is the best use of our talents in the studio for complementing Halo 3 right now.


Given that you are not interested in "how you can generate the most revenue", whose idea was it to charge for the DLC, and do you think it is fair to ask for so much more money, so soon after the release of the game itself? Won't this also effectively split the online players into two distinct groups, and how will matchmaking handle this?
Frank O'Connor: The decision to price our DLC at 800 Microsoft points was not made by Bungie. Boiling it down to it's most basic components - We assemble a DLC team, spend months making the maps, and send MS a bill. It IS an expensive business with most of the Bungie team being involved at one stage or another, so I'm not surprised MS is trying to recoup its costs. The maps WILL be free in just a few months, so the patient can simply wait it out. The Matchmaking playlists will not be affected at all. A check occurs to see who in a lobby has new maps, and if one or more players don't an "old" map is automatically selected. An entire playlist devoted to the new maps will ensure that they can be played nonstop, if that's what the player desires. It should be seamless.


With the bigger marketing budget put towards promoting the Halo franchise, do you feel sympathy for Rare and their view that titles such as Viva Pinata were given enough a backing, leading to ignorance from Joe Public in relation to their new franchise?
Jonty Barnes: To be honest, we don't get involved in the marketing spend at Microsoft. We are not marketing people, so cannot always understand their thinking. They are looking at the whole portfolio and the platform in their tactics. Rare is a great studio with a lot of talent and history, and we respect them.


Not including Halo 3 what is your game of the year and why?
Frank O'Connor: My game of the year would be a three-way tie between Orange Box, Bioshock and Crackdown. The first for value, the second for atmosphere and the third for sheer mindless pleasure.


Peter Molyneux told us last time that he does not feel the need for Lionhead to go independent again since 'being part of a family that truly wants to make great and innovational games is more important than being independent.' What are your thoughts on this issue?
Jonty Barnes: Peter is very happy at Lionhead working with Microsoft. We are also very happy working with Microsoft and long may it continue. However, for Bungie I think it's a healthier environment for us to be independant. We wanted a heightened level of ownership which also helps increase the teams level of excitement and investment in what they're doing. For Bungie is was a great time to evolve our company and give us greater flexibility.


Moderating Hero: I thought we might like to hear about Jonty's favourite games of the year too.
Jonty Barnes: My game of the year will be Mario Galaxy. I've always had a soft spot for this type of game and I've really enjoyed playing it through. I know Frank will give me hell for that, but I canot help the pure fun it offered me.


The FPS genre is so stuffed to the gills with games that you'd swear it'd reached saturation point. So where is left to go in your opinion(s)?
Frank O'Connor: I think an FPS in many ways is a means to an end - a narrative vehicle to tell a story, or a world to fill with sand box toys. In that regard, there's no limit. An FPS can run the gamut from Portal to Bioshock. And First Person is the most "realistic" perspective in games - which is why every simulation uses it. There's a long way to go - and saturation point is a bigger problem for stories and ideas than it is for the genre, per se.


How much input have the Bungie team had in the making of Halo Wars?
Jonty Barnes: We have talked to Ensemble during the making of Halo Wars, but mainly it's been advise on the fiction and the universe of Halo, not the actual gameplay. They've kindly visted and showed us the game and we want them to create Halo Wars to be amazing, but it's very much their project.


Moderating Hero: Since we're in this kind of area, Frankie, what do you think of Valve's golden rule of never letting Gordon Freeman speak?
Frank O'Connor: Given the deliberate policy of making sure the Master Chief doesn't yank you out of the mood by yapping all the time, I can appreciate why they're doing it. Although in a way I already made up my mind about who Gordon Freeman is because of the fact that I know his face and I learned a little about him in Half Life (1).


Gaming has garnered a great deal of negative media attention lately for its portrayal of violence and lack of ratings (Manhunt 2, et al). As a developer of action/shoot-'em-ups, do you feel responsible for ensuring that the content you create is suitable for your audience, knowing also that there's a good chance younger kids may get their hands on it?
Jonty Barnes: Harold [Ryan] made a good quote that having his young son play Halo and being prepared for an Alien invasion doesn't discourage him.
Frank O'Connor: Harold has some very interesting theories about home defence. But he's right of course. Halo, while competitive in nature, is very approachable in terms of language - violence is very subjective and although to me it's almost cartoonish and wrapped in Space Opera, parents should always pay attention to what their kids are playing.


Does Bungie plan to release any games on XBLA?
Jonty Barnes: Bungie currently has no planned XBLA titles being focused on, but we'll never say never... I believe Halo Combat Evolved is now available over Live though.
Moderating Hero: Yep, 1200 Microsoft Points as part of Xbox Originals. Did that take much work on your part or did Microsoft handle it all?
Frank O'Connor: The Halo on Xbox Originals is a perfect snapshot of Halo - it has no new features beyond the 1080p scaling and it runs exactly as the old game did. Bungie created it in that sense, but had nothing to do with the "port" which isn't really a port. It IS convenient though.


Who has the highest score on the Halo 3 track for Guitar Hero III? I'm guessing you'll all play it on Expert ;p
Frank O'Connor: I suck at ALL music games.
Jonty Barnes: There's a lot of people who like GHIII in the studio. We have a games pentatholon once a year where we all get together and compete in games. Marty finds the guitar too limiting though!


Are we likely to see any of the old maps from Halo and Halo 2 make a comeback as downloadable content?
Frank O'Connor: It is very possible some old classics could see a comeback as DLC. We pay attention. We know what the ladies like. And also, the gents.


Which is your all-time favourite FPS?
Jonty Barnes: As I'm newer to Bungie I feel I'm allowed to say Halo: Combat Evolved. It's one of the reasons I was motivated to join Bungie.
Frank O'Connor: Halo excluded (it's Halo 3) mine would be Quake 2 or 3. 3 was better, but I played a LOT of Quake 2.
Jonty Barnes: I liked Golden Eye and Deus Ex as well.


Moderating Hero: Last week someone asked Peter Molyneux whether he would rather be invisible or have lasers for eyes. Would you rather be invisible or have lasers for eyes?
Jonty Barnes: Invisible. Definately. There's so much more you could do if you could turn on and off your invisibility. I'd sneak everywhere I could.
Frank O'Connor: Invisible, easily and yes, I would use it to rob banks and spy on the Sorority Pillow Fights I know for sure happen in colleges all over America (that's how they resolve their differences).


Was it a conscious decision not to push for Gears of War level of graphical detail with Halo 3?
Jonty Barnes: [Laughs]
Frank O'Connor: Gears is lovely, but it's a very different game. You can't have Gears level of detail in a world that you can traverse on foot, or by air in a Hornet. The scale is too different. We chose to follow and evolve the art direction taken in prior Halo games - which is huge open vistas, fully explorable - and using an all-new lighting engine to take advantage of some lovely HDR.


Moderating Hero: It's time to wind down, so we're saying goodbye to Jonty and Frank one by one. Jonty's off first - for a well-deserved break in sunny Surrey. Thanks Jonty!
Jonty Barnes: My pleasure. Thanks to everyone for their questions. Let's do this again!
Moderating Hero: I should say thanks to you too, Frankie. If there's room for one more though, I know our readers would kick me if I didn't ask (despite none of them actually bothering to!) Back in the olden days, our former editor gave the first Halo 8/10. Did that make you happy, or sad? And how do you feel about it in hindsight?
Frank O'Connor: I've reviewed plenty of games myself, and it's a subjective business. If he didn't like it, he didn't like it. I think celery tastes like Satan's own brussel sprout, but people love it.
Moderating Hero: Oh, I think he did like it. I only ask because every time we've ever reviewed anything to 9/10 since, the first dozen or so comments have been "better than Halo then?"
Frank O'Connor: Haha. Actually, I think if Halo had been reviewed six months later, with all that System Link under folks' belts, all the review scores would have benefited.


Moderating Hero: Well folks, that's it. Both gentlemen have left us, but with the promise of coming back one day. Thanks for all your questions and see you next time!

Latest comments

Sign in to comment on this livetext.
    raasafa 13 years ago
    I have a question for Bungie Studios or anyone else. On Halo 3, I finally got the IWHBYD skull after hours of work, and all the other skulls on two files, and i"m still not getting the Hayabusa head piece. Anyone know why?
    mkreku 14 years ago
    Hmm. These guys weren't very open, were they? Very PR trained answers. No problems afterwards for them, no fun to read for us. Bah.

    Next time bring in someone who actually wants to talk to the community. No point otherwise.
    dog2_99 14 years ago
    i am really enjoying this new Eurogamer feature of getting developers in...who is next!?!?

    and yay my questions was answered!
    pinchofsalt 14 years ago
    I dont remember a bum level, must be a Freudian thing.
    Nallen 14 years ago
    My questions must be gash, I've asked 7 in two sessions and not a sausage.
    gizmo 14 years ago
    The Flood are terribly boring to the point I simply race through any level they are on. They near killed Halo1, and they should have stayed there. The only good bit with the flood was when the AI was in combat with them. They should have been a side show, nothing more.

    It was a boooooooooooring and sloooooooow Q&A IMHO.

    Plus, they never answered my question :(

    /cracks Halo3 disc (before 360 does it for me)
    Anthony_UK 14 years ago
    Yeah I asked about the Bum level too and the flood in general (May of been to late though)

    I wanted to ask why continue to include the flood when so many people clearly don't like them in the game? And in doing so, was they purely from a story point of view, and that we are all forced to fight them so Bungie can tell there own story how they want regardless? or are we all wrong and just missing the point of them?
    Shinji 14 years ago
    The answer to PEEJ's question on FPS saturation point was not really an answer. More of a Tony Blair avoidance response. What bullcrap!

    It seemed like a perfectly solid answer to me. I have no idea why people talk in terms of FPS "saturation", when there's such variety within the genre - there's never an equivalent discussion of third-person perspective "saturation", and people seem to intuitively understand that Tomb Raider, God of War and Mass Effect are different types of game. Why doesn't that reasoning get properly applied to FPS games?
    Madder-Max 14 years ago
    The answer to PEEJ's question on FPS saturation point was not really an answer. More of a Tony Blair avoidance response. What bullcrap!

    /watches Halo 3 deserved rapid chart fall....
    BadDevotions 14 years ago
    "I asked about the 'anus' level - why? "

    shits and giggles
    BadDevotions 14 years ago

    why isn't the "party up" lobby system not used more often in other 360 multiplayer games? do you own the copyright on it?
    gizmo 14 years ago
    I asked about the 'anus' level - why?
    Eighthours 14 years ago
    Anyone else have questions unanswered?

    I had two.

    "Level 8: why?"

    And one about whether they'd promise to only let Ellie review their next game.
    afghan_jones 14 years ago

    You idiot. xxx
    BadBoyBonner 14 years ago
    SeanLB 14 years ago
    Better than Molyneux? (Trademarked to me that one)
    Nobuo 14 years ago
    None of these fucking people will tell me if they prefer Sonic or Mario.
    Orange 14 years ago
    Nice Q+A.
    SeanLB 14 years ago
    Ditto; really appreciate the time you guys and Peter have put aside for this and for providing thorough and interesting responses.
    agparrot 14 years ago
    Thanks for the answer, and thanks for the time you have given over answering all the questions - this and the Molyneux thing last week are really much appreciated. Thanks, and thanks EG.
    Orange 14 years ago
    Apart from Halo, which games impressed them the most in 2007?
    L42yB 14 years ago
    @BadBoyBonner - Yes, there is a program called XBConnect that allows you to play System Link games over the internet.

    However, there was no system link co-op in Halo 1 or 2... only split screen.
    mouse 14 years ago
    It doesn't work on Safari at the moment Owen, sorry. Please fire up Firefox if you can.
    BadBoyBonner 14 years ago

    Sounds like you have answered your own question ;-)
    BadBoyBonner 14 years ago

    @morriss - I reckon there is 0% chance of that happening... Halo 1 will never support online as the libraries are missing (in fact, Xbox Live didn't even exist when Halo 1 came out).

    Memory is a little hazy, but wasn't there some kind of software on the PC that tricked the original Xbox into thinking it was on a LAN so you could play over the net? Clearly it wasn't over live - or maybe I dreamed it!
    miiiguel 14 years ago
    I quote the entire shinyshirthero text, if that helps getting those answers. And I also address the compliments.

    No so sure about the pistol thingy though...
    Lea 14 years ago
    We have no plans to work on any other platforms beyond 360 at this time.

    bah :/ Wii-Halo please!!! :)
    mattigan 14 years ago
    Has Forge been the success you hoped it would be? As most Halo 3 player I know consider it to be a bit pointless, considering it's "non ranked" nature. Are there any plans to introduce a Forge hopper into Matchmaking so people can host their creations?
    shinyshirthero 14 years ago
    I have a couple of questions
    Firstly is there likely to be any additional gamerscore added to halo 3 in the future - ala oblivion or crackdown
    and Secondly - the legendary cut scene right at the end of the game... that was high charity right?
    Thirdly - are there plans to bring back some of the old multiplayer maps from previous games - personally i would love to see hang em high again

    Just wanted to say brilliant game guys - cannot stop playing it - i must have played campaign 10 times at least now and the multiplayer is brilliant looking forward to the new maps

    However taking out the lock on ability on the rocket launchers was criminal and it would have been nice if you had bought the pistol back with a zoom.
    CJF 14 years ago

    Dude, it's something I've been interested in ever since Microsoft bought the company. I think it was a great move by MS, but I've always been somewhat frustrated by the fact that PC gamers had to make do with a port of the Xbox version when a PC and Mac copy were almost finished when Bungie was snapped up.

    Sure, Halo has done incredibly well on the xbox as a machine, but it may have been "the better game" had it been released on the PC first (particularly within the context of the mod crowds). If a bunch of people can mod HL2 and come up with a game released in its own right, think what a bunch of people could have done with an engine that operated as well as a racing game as is did as an FPS.
    Batman2100 14 years ago
    Given an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of workstations and infinite time, could monkeys have made Halo?
    JonFE 14 years ago
    My question would be: "Is Bungie willing to experiment with the Wii or the PS3 (or portable consoles for that matter) or they will concentrate solely on the x360 and its successor?"
    daveaka 14 years ago
    Whats your favourite colour and or cheese???
    Uncle_Fishboy 14 years ago
    CJF - that is a long sentence. It's also a load of boring old bollocks
    CJF 14 years ago
    This is the question I would like answered:

    Do you feel the funds that Microsoft brought to the project when they purchased Bungie enabled Halo to be as successful as possible in the direction that the two of you wanted the franchise to take, or do you feel that by selling to Microsoft, and compromising largely complete Mac and PC versions (developed with moderate input from the Mac community if I recall correctly), was too big a price to pay when accounting for the added sophistication of Mac/PC shooters as regards the interface, and the prevalence of the modification scene on those platforms?

    That's a pretty long sentence :/.
    L42yB 14 years ago
    @morriss - I reckon there is 0% chance of that happenning... Halo 1 will never support online as the libraries are missing (infact, Xbox Live didn't even exist when Halo 1 came out).

    As far as Halo 2 goes, they tried their utmost to get co-op working on it, but there were too many bugs. I remember testing the Pre-cert for halo 2 and it had online co-op, but it was *very* broken and crashed all the time. Eventually they had to pull it...

    I think it would be awsome tho... just isn't really plausable.
    Uncle_Fishboy 14 years ago
    What about important questions like what sort of tits they like best?
    RANGERSBYOY 14 years ago
    someone ask about clan support?
    Madder-Max 14 years ago
    I'd be interested in his opinion on how well suited a narrow first person view is in an open game world as opposed to corridor based shooters and are they exploring 3rd person perspective for any future projects. if not they should be.
    GamesConnoisseur 14 years ago

    Forgive my language but I ll be offline whole of the duration at work and will only be able to read this afterward.

    Last week I was unable to read beyond the first post and gave up, before the comptatibility problem with Vista's version of Internet Explorer got fixed. Just hoping for benefit of everyone this will not happen again.

    Would love to be here but have fun!
    morriss 14 years ago
    Ok. I'm not going to be here for this unfortunately, but as President of the EG Halo-fanboy Club and Halo Appreciation Group Admin, I feel I have the God given right to get a question answered!!

    Which is, incidentally, "Will we at any point in time see a Halo Box Set with all three games and Halo's 1 and 2 are online co-op enabled? If you say yes I'm likely to splurge Halo-gunk all over the screen. In fact, if you say no, I'm likely to do the same thing!"

    Thanks in advance, Tom!
    afghan_jones 14 years ago
    Warthog Rocket Race please!
    woodnotes 14 years ago
    No doubt there will be loads of questions about their split from MS. Personally I'm hoping someone asks when we'll hear more about their next project.