Developers do level best not to tarnish the 'Halo' universe
343 Industries has been formed to take the Halo franchise forward
Kiki Wolfkill has just returned from Lichtenstein. “It was amazing,” she gushes.
“It was definitely mind-blowing. Obviously we were involved on working on the script with the team over [in England] but the experience itself exceeded our expectations.”
She is referring to the launch of Halo 4, which featured big-budget, live-action re-enactments of scenes from the game series and took over swathes of the region, including building sets and elaborate pyrotechnic explosions.
Kiki Wolfkill – her real name, incidentally – is Halo 4’s executive producer.
Seattle-based Wolfkill has worked in the games industry as a motion graphics and cinematics before the Halo 4 appointment. She was director of art for Microsoft Game Studios and has worked on a number of iconic titles, including Fable, Gears of War and Mass Effect.
Halo’s publicity often invites comparisons with Hollywood blockbusters, whether it is the opulent red-carpet launches, live action short films or (in the case of Halo 4) ads produced by director David Fincher (Se7en, The Social Network).
Indeed, a big-budget film produced by Peter Jackson was mooted at one stage, but never made it to the screen.
“The former film deal has been out of play for a long time,” says Wolfkill. “We obviously still own all the rights to do a movie and we always look at it as this. When the time is right and more importantly, when we find the right partner, we’ll definitely look at doing that again.
“For us, it’s not really an end point, but it’s definitely something we would love to do. The better prepared the universe is for a movie, the better shape we’re in anyway, so it would be something meaningful and not a movie of a game. It’s something we think about, but not something that we’re actively focused on.”
Wolfkill and Co are not in a rush to make a film and, frankly, they don’t seem to need it: The Halo franchise has sold in excess of 46 million units and generated more than $3 billion (€ 2.3 billion). Halo 4, which launched this week, is already selling healthily and basking in rave reviews.
“The reviews are important,” she says. “Nobody’s going to say that they’re not. Ultimately what matters is the community and how well the game is received by the public. Our hope is that the positive reviews reflect how the community will feel. Whether it’s a love letter from a magazine or from a long-time Halo fan, they all feel great and, as a new team, it is incredibly gratifying because people really poured their heart and souls into this.”
The new team to which she is referring is 343 Industries; a developer which is a subsidiary of Microsoft Studios and which has taken over the franchise from Bungie. Halo is exclusive to Microsoft’s console, Xbox 360.
“It was definitely a known challenge,” Wolfkill says. “We put this team together to make this game, so everyone came into it knowing that there was going to be a big mountain to climb.
“Part of that [challenge] was knowing that there’s a community out there who is loyal to Halo and would rightfully be sceptical of our ability to continue the Halo experience. We’re all Halo fans and we wanted to build something that, as fans, we would be proud of as well, not just as game developers.
“I think it meant for a very intense production cycle. The team was under a lot of pressure primarily from us. But even though this is our first time together as a team, they are an incredibly experienced group of individuals. They came mentally prepared for the intensity of the cycle.
“I think one of the benefits of forming 343 and having it come together to take Halo forward is that we did nitty-gritty analysis work on the state of the universe and the franchise and we put a lot of work into where we wanted it to go.”
“We’re at such an interesting time with media and games and how they all intersect,” Wolfkill adds. “I have faith in the stories that we have in the universe and it comes down to execution and how we can tell them in interesting new ways.”