Alex Birlo on November 4, 2020
In today’s news we have: Chris Lee, a veteran member of the team at 343 Industries, stepping down from Halo Infinite development.
First of all, if you never heard of him, Chris Lee is a longtime executive at 343 Industries. This studio is the one responsible for the Halo game franchise at Microsoft.
Chris was with the team ever since 2008 and even filled the boots of executive producer back with Halo 5.
In a recent article on Bloomberg, Microsoft announced that Lee will no longer be working on the team, though he stays a Microsoft employee. He is simply being relocated to a different project.
In the article, Lee says to Bloomberg “I have stepped back from Infinite, and I am looking at future opportunities,”.
He goes on to comfort fans stating that “I believe in the team and am confident they will deliver a great game and now is a good time for me to step away.”
Why this is so important?
Well, Lee’s departure is only one of several high profile departures that occurred throughout the development process of Halo Infinite.
Lee himself, was appointed as studio head of 343 Industries, in 2017, after the departure of the previous studio head Dan Ayoub. Who was also not fired, but mysteriously “relocated” to work on mixed reality projects somewhere else at Microsoft.
And it goes to show how troubled is the development of this game.
Back on July 23, this year (2020), Xbox hosted a games showcase where the star of the show was supposed to be Halo Infinite.
Spoiler alert – it wasn’t.
The internet was outraged! The graphics are mediocre, the enemy types are largely the same as were all these years throughout the franchise, and the only substantial addition to gameplay was the semi-open world and a lame grappling hook.
Originally, Halo Infinite was scheduled to release alongside Xbox’s next generation consoles, as a launch title. But such a reaction from players, was largely the reason for Microsoft to delay the release of the game.
Now when we factor in this story, it is possible to see the bigger picture. Lee’s departure is potentially a result of a new rearrangement of the team working on the game.
Microsoft is really concerned with this big franchise and are trying their best to get it right.
When we include a couple other developments at 343 Industries, we can reinforce this theory.
Lee’s departure, also happens right around the time that a longtime Halo developer and writer Joseph Staten was brought back on board, now acting as project lead for the single player portion of the game.
And Pierre Hintze, another veteran who worked both at PlayStation and at Square Enix, was brought to lead the development of the multiplayer portion of the game.
But wait, there is more!
343 Industries saw a lot of high-profile departures during the development of this game.
How about Mary Olson in October of last year (2019)? An executive producer who spent 7 years working at 343 and rose through the ranks.
Or how about Tim Longo, a creative director that worked at 343 for 6 years, and then left a month before Olson?
This creates a suspicious and quite scary picture to be honest. Some might even go as far as to say that Halo Infinite was stuck in some sort of “development hell”.
But I say – there is hope.
Since Xbox got so close to finally releasing the game, and even went so far as to show the game to the public, means that the game was very close to the final stages of development, after many changes and improvements throughout its difficult development.
And now that Joseph Staten was added to the project, we can assume that he will only be tweaking the story bits, and we might expect some gameplay additions. But the bulk of the game already exists, and they do not have to remake it from the ground up.
So we cannot quite call it a “development hell”, as the game has been set on track and seems to be developing just alright – at the moment…
To wrap this all up, we must understand what stands at the core of Microsoft’s decision here – the franchise’s face.
Halo is such an important asset for Xbox in the console war, that they cannot afford to release another “meh” game in the series. The next Halo has to be great and blow everyone away, and they are willing to go to any lengths now, in order to make that happen.
“Mary Olson leaves 343 Industries” article on gamesindustry.biz:
“Tim Longo departs 343 Industries” article on gamesindustry.biz: