Halo star Master Chief was deliberately absent for much of Halo 5's campaign - a decision the game's developer 343 Industries has now admitted was a "huge disappointment" for fans.
In a new, candid interview with GamesTM magazine, Halo franchise director Frank O'Connor and 343 boss Kiki Wolfkill have spoken about their learnings from Halo 5, and how the studio also weathered the storm of criticism generated by the disastrous launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
"We took some digs for storytelling in Halo 5, but they were absolutely merited," O'Connor admitted. "We very much realised that people wanted Master Chief's story of Halo 5.
"We definitely marketed [Halo 5] in a way that we hoped was going to bring surprise, but for some fans and certainly fans of Master Chief, it was a huge disappointment because they wanted more Chief. And that has been a big learning."
O'Connor went on to admit that the studio underestimated player attachment to the character. On the one hand, Master Chief was originally designed as a blank slate, an avatar for the player. But, over the last 15 years, he has become a character in his own right - and the most recognisable part of the series.
It sounds like Master Chief will now become more prevalent in Halo 6 as a result.
"The volume of 'give us more Chief' at the end of Halo 5 was significant and so I think if anything he's slightly more important now than he has ever been, certainly to our franchise," O'Connor concluded.
"Instead of focusing on bringing new characters into the world and expanding the playable characters we've sort of shifted the focus a little bit to making the world a little bit more realistic and compelling and, I would say, more fun for players who get to inhabit the Chief in the future, pretty much as they demanded."
Halo 6 still lacks a release date, but will not make a surprise launch before the end of the year.
"This holiday we don't have a huge triple-A individual game coming out," O'Connor noted, "so this year can be a good year to get our heads down on the next big things."
While on the topic of criticism, Wolfkill also addressed the botched launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The game's launch in late 2014 was overshadowed by technical issues which left its online matchmaking broken for weeks after launch.
"I don't think it's any secret that the launch of Master Chief Collection was a challenge externally and internally. It was really painful for a lot of reasons," Wolfkill recalled.
"From a purely tactical reason sourcing the issues after all of the testing that we had done, it was a pretty jarring moment. Just working through that with the team while at the same time working through all of the feedback and the valid responses from the community was emotionally difficult. We worked so hard to build trust with our audience and with the community as a new studio and developer for Halo that to lose that trust was pretty heartbreaking for us.
"It felt personal, and not in a personally attack kind of way, but personal in a deeply saddening way. That was a big threshold moment for the studio in terms of how we go through something like that, both from an emotional and morale standpoint and from how do we learn and move forward and not have this happen again?"
While Halo 6 won't release this year, perhaps we'll see a brief tease of it at E3 in a couple of months?
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