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How Halo 4 developer 343 Industries made Forward Unto Dawn on a 'threadbare' budget

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Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, the live-action webseries from Halo 4 developer 343 Industries, took its form by making the best of a limited budget, the developers said during a panel at GDC 2013.

343 Industries, which inherited the Halo universe after original developer Bungie moved on to Destiny, wanted to use the series as a primer for the Halo universe and an introduction for Halo 4. It takes place about 30 years before Halo 4, where viewers meet a live-action version of Halo protagonist Master Chief and a cadet, Thomas Lasky, who also appears aboard the UNSC Infinity in Halo 4.

O'Connor said that 343 knew how to make games, but not movies, so the studio sought out experts. 343 found a combination of seasoned professionals, particularly in regards to visual effects, and newcomers who had fires in their bellies to deliver the work and performances that would be required.

But they also needed to do it on a relatively tight budget, a fact that affected fundamental parts of the series.

"We needed people who knew how to get things done, on a particularly threadbare budget," O'Connor said.

To keep the budget low, they said, 343 and the filmmakers focused the story not on giant space battles full of aliens and special effects, but on a personal narrative structure that followed human beings.

343 told three origin stories in Forward Unto Dawn, O'Connor said: those of Master Chief and Thomas Lasky and the human/Covenant war, all of which had to tie into the larger Halo universe and directly into Halo 4.

"Ultimately, I think that the stories woke well together," executive producer Kiki Wolfkill said.

The public seems to have agreed. Franchise manager Kevin Grace said that the videos received over 55 million views online.

The episodic webseries Forward Unto Dawn was in the weeks leading up to Halo 4's release last November. It's available to rent or purchase on Blu-ray and DVD. You can also watch the first, second, third, fourth and fifth episodes through the preceding links.