Ever since Halo debuted at Macworld in 1999, the franchise has been a staple of the game industry. Master Chief has become an iconic hero, carrying the series on his shoulders for 20 years.
In that time, we’ve heard of quite a few Halo projects that never saw the light of day. That’s far from unique in the game industry, and we wouldn’t be surprised if there were even more attempts that never became public knowledge. To celebrate Halovember, we decided to look back on those we know. From an attempt to see Master Chief on a handheld console to collaborations with director Peter Jackson, the history of Halo projects cut short is vast and fascinating.
Years before the 2009 release of Ensemble Studios’ real-time strategy title Halo Wars, there was a bigger idea in the works at Ensemble. The team, known the Age of Empires and Age of Mythology series, had been iterating on several potential projects. Most never left the rough prototype stage. Half of the team was focused on finding the next big hit.
Microsoft had acquired Ensemble in 2001, and getting these ideas greenlit was a difficult task. The studio’s founder, Tony Goodman, considered the publisher “pretty risk averse.” All of this led to the RTS concept that became Halo Wars in-mid 2006. But Halo Wars wasn’t the only game in the mix.
Around 2004, Ensemble began development of a PC MMO codenamed Titan. According to the book Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, the project started as an original concept before adopting the Halo name and universe — and even then, Microsoft was aware of the project, but hadn’t given formal approval yet. According to ex-Ensemble Studios’ senior software engineer Dusty Monk, Titan had a $90 million budget.
Titan was supposed to be a large-scale MMO set in the Halo universe. It wasn’t part of the Halo timeline that players knew; it was set 100,000 years before the Halos had been set off. The game was in production for several years and presented mechanics that were ahead of their time. One was similar to the cover system in Star Wars: The Old Republic, while another involved public quests where players could join as long as they were in a designated area. Aside from concept art and mockups, most of the team’s progress on the game hasn’t been shown publicly.
Over time, Microsoft kicked off preparations to move the team to a new office that would support the game’s development and maintenance post-release. But the success of the Xbox 360 resulted in a lack of interest on the PC as a viable platform for Microsoft; so Titan was a hard sell.
To the studio, the Halo MMO was going to be a competitor to World of Warcraft. In an interview from IncGamers (now PC Invasion) , Monk attributed that sentiment to the fact that Ensemble’s lineup rivaled Blizzard Entertainment’s RTS franchises Warcraft and StarCraft. But, he said while Blizzard