343 Industries creative director Josh Holmes talked about the studio’s upbringing and the “insurmountable challenge” that came when developing and shipping Halo 4 at GDC 2013.
“We wanted the skills, we wanted the talent, but more importantly we wanted the right chemistry,” said Holmes. “We pulled together developers from all across the industry, and as we added each new member of the team we knew we’d have to adapt and evolve.”
343 has grown from a small core team founded in 2007 to having over 300 members today, effectively adding one person for every four working days.
Holmes spoke to the audience about their desire to create a “marriage between player and protagonist,” balancing the need to add something new to the series while building upon its strengths.
“We wanted this to be a much more personal tale, to delve into the things that make Master Chief tick and force him to change as a character,” said Holmes. “Historically, Chief has been a vessel that you pour yourself into.”
The biggest and most controversial decision involved the plotline around Cortana and her slow decent in rampancy as Holmes described his colleagues “tearing their hair out” over the matter: “Tackling this kind of story in a game like Halo is difficult, because it’s a very action-oriented game,” he explained. “There were doubts within the team around whether we should pursue this.” Holmes mother was also diagnosed with dementia around the time of development for Halo 4, which made Holmes want to tell the story of Cortana that much more.
Holmes admits that the end results of their work on Halo 4’s narrative weren’t entirely satisfactory noting that some players were confused by the story, or that they’d missed key details along the way. However, they have learned from their experience and plan to make a narrative that is “self-contained and satisfying in and of itself.”