343 Industries head Bonnie Ross said at this week’s DICE Summit in Las Vegas that Halo FPS games will “always have split-screen going forward,” calling the removal of the feature — and the ensuing fan outcry — a painful learning lesson for the studio.
At DICE, Ross spoke about 343 Industries’ efforts to evolve the Halo series since the studio was established in 2007. Ross said that 343 is proud of its efforts to both “honor the core” of the franchise and move beyond what original developer Bungie did with Halo, “even if that means sometimes we fail.”
“I like what we've done moving it forward,” Ross said.
However, some of the studio’s efforts haven’t always been well-received by its passionate fans.
“We've also had a lot of learnings along the way,” Ross said. “You know when we fell down with the multiplayer launch of [Halo: The Master Chief Collection], or when we didn't put split screen in with Halo 5. I think it's incredibly painful for the community and for us. It erodes trust with the community, as the community is part of our world building. [We’ve had a] lot of learnings from that, and I would say for any FPS going out forward we will always have split screen going forward...”
Split-screen cooperative and competitive multiplayer was part of the Halo franchise since the original game, 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved. When it was gutted for Halo 5, then-creative director Josh Holmes called the decision to remove it “one of the most difficult ones we’ve ever had to make as a studio.”
“To move Halo’s gameplay forward and deliver a true next-gen experience, tough choices had to be made,” Holmes said at the time. “Our decision was driven by a desire for scale, fidelity and focus to ensure that we would deliver the best quality experience possible. With Halo 5 we are delivering massive scale environments, improved AI behavior, increased visual and gameplay fidelity… something that truly takes advantage of a new platform. Many of our ambitious goals for Halo 5 would be compromised in a split-screen setting and the time spent optimizing and addressing split-screen-specific issues would take focus from building other parts of the game.”
Ross also said that 343 is adapting how it tells stories in the Halo universe, saying that the developer will rely more on media outside of its games to flesh out its narrative and world-building.
“While we love our transmedia, sometimes I do think we tell a bit too much story in our games,” Ross said. “You know when you have a gun and aliens shooting at you, it is kind of hard to digest a lot of story. Hopefully we're showing in Halo Wars 2 a more simple story and using transmedia as part of the way to get the deeper story but keeping the game story more simple.”