Is Halo Reach 10 times better than Halo 3? (Interview with Halo Reach's Joseph Tung)

Q&A with Halo Reach executive producer Joseph Tung

Can you go into a little more detail about the changes you’ve made to Forge?

It’s crazy. Here, let me show you some stuff...

[Tung fires up his Xbox 360 on the projector behind us and demonstrates aspects of the Forge World as he speaks.]

Halo Reach

The changes to Forge are threefold. One; we’ve absolutely improved the palate in Forge. We’ve increased the number of building blocks and they’re built to be much more modular and flexible. The palette itself is much easier to use and more conducive to building that map that you’ve got in your head.

Number two; the tools are much, much improved. In Halo 3, when you drop an object, it’s physically simulated; it was like building a house of cards. In Reach, you can place an object and choose between three physics modes. Normal is the equivalent of Halo 3. Fixed means if I let it go it’s going to stay there [i.e. in mid-air]. Phase is far and away the most exciting. When I choose Phase I can sink an object into the ground, I can merge it with another object, and again, wherever I let it go, it’s going to stay there.

Halo Reach

This has made building in Forge much, much easier and much more flexible. In just a couple of weeks since Forge has been stable, a tonne of crazy Forge variants have been coming out of the Bungie team. So once the community gets their hands on it, we expect to see an explosion.

Oh, and the third big improvement in Forge is Forge World itself. It is without a doubt the largest space we have ever put into multiplayer. I’ll try to give you a sense of that.

[As he continues to speak, Tung flies the Forge camera around the vast landscape...]

Halo Reach

So, I’m starting out in a space called The Colosseum. It’s primarily built for Grift Ball, the variant created by Rooster Teeth for Halo 3. But that’s just the tip of the ice berg. I’m flying as fast as I can here. Over here, is a space that we’ve used to build the Halo 2 multiplayer map Ascension, 100 percent out of Forge. It’s shipping on disc, so you can fire it up as a Forge variant.

Halo Reach

Up here is another space for an arena style 4v4 map. Down here is a place we call The Island. It’s great for race style maps, or larger scale 6v6 or 8v8 maps. Over on the far side of Forge World is Blood Gulch, the Halo 1/Halo 2 classic. Again, the bases will be entirely built in Forge World and it also ships on disc.

But the reality is, you can build anywhere, because of the ability to place an object and have it stay there. If you want to create a map that sinks into the side of a cliff, you can do that. If you want to just make a bunch of floating platforms for a jetpack map, you can do that. One of the testers in the office made a Banshee race map, where you fly banshees around and go through gates. He built a dragon’s head out of rocks, which fires something we call a Kill Ball. The Kill Ball kills anything that touches it. So it’s sort of these weird, enormous obstacles in the way of your Banshee race map.

Halo Reach

The thing I like to say about Forge World is that it can pretty much be used for anything. It’s a big, blank canvas for people who want to play. Marcus, the creative director, his kids have been playing with this recently. They’ll jump into a session together and go to separate ends of the map, and then they’ll just build castles in the sky.

You mentioned the jetpack earlier. How did that come about, and what has the fan feedback been like?

The jetpack was absolutely one of the most popular armour abilities in the Beta, and I think just sort of across the board. The armour abilities in general are definitely an evolution of the equipment system in Halo 3. But we wanted to make equipment be more of a choice that matters — it’s something that sticks with you for an entire round in multiplayer, and something that changes gameplay throughout. So that’s how armour abilities in general came about.

Halo Reach

As for the Jetpack, well, who doesn’t want a jetpack? [Laughs.] It was something that we kicked around, and knew it was going to be a challenge to make it feel really good. I think Sage, our lead sandbox designer, did an amazing job making the jetpack feel really weighty and good to use.

I think it just came about as one of those things: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if you had a jetpack in multiplayer?” And there’s definitely going to be some cool stuff in campaign as well.

Halo Reach

What’s your favourite weapon in Halo Reach?

I’m pretty partial to the DMR [M392 Designated Marksman Rifle]. I’m a headshot guy. I also like to play competitive multiplayer, so yeah, I have to go with the DMR.

Is there anything about Halo Reach that you’re especially proud of?

I think one of the things I haven’t spoken about too much is the approach we made to the campaign. We made big bets, and big investments in moments that were maybe a little bit less ‘general use’. Space combat, for instance, was a big investment for us.

Halo Reach

It’s a highpoint in the campaign, but it’s not something you’re going to be doing for an extended period of time or in numerous missions. That approach was actually by design; we really wanted to invest in these big, tent-pole moments in the campaign. There are definitely some more of those that we haven’t talked about just yet.

Halo Reach

And — in as ambiguous a way as possible — I’m super proud of the way the campaign ends. I think it’s a really amazing ending to a game in general, and it’s a really amazing ending to Bungie’s involvement in the Halo universe. I think the fans will like it too.

And finally, on a scale of one to 10, how much better will Halo Reach be compared to Halo 3? You can say 10.

Ten! I honestly believe that!

Thanks for your time, Joseph.

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