Halo 2 and the Art of Storytelling

The Appeal

HSW: So here's this first person shooter game where you play this armored cyborg in the future, fighting aliens who are trying to destroy mankind. It's classic sci-fi themes -- classic video game type. If you back up and look at it, it's not that special or groundbreaking. What do you think made "Halo" so special? What made it stand out above all these other games?

Pete Parsons: At the end of the day, I don't really know. But I've got a strong hunch which is I think we have been able to create a character that is almost universally cool and who you want to be. The Master Chief is something of this empty vessel that I can fill, that I can become.

I think we have then been able to place him beside and against characters that have more motivation than just another bug hunt. We've been able to give you characters like Sgt. Johnson or Cortana; things that are interesting and have their own threads of history themselves ... The characters are like you and me, but hundreds of years in the future. And then the Covenant, which again is certainly bugs to be hunted, but smart bugs that have their own culture and their own philosophy and their own motivation.

Then we've able to place it all inside of a universe that is believable. We were able to provide this stage that was really compelling. Even though when you say, "Yeah it's about a cyborg in the future and he kills aliens." [laughing] It doesn't sound very good. Once we created that stage with a protagonist and an antagonist we would be able to apply a game mechanic to it that was really interesting and felt really natural.

Then all of the good stuff, whether it be great graphics, or being continually forced to make interesting choices on your weapon, or being able to do what you want to do -- simply the act of putting a bullet on a pixel or making the controller feel really interesting -- I think all of those things remove those filters that compromise the suspension of disbelief. I think if you do enough of that, all of the sudden you've got something you can really feel a part of.

I've heard people say many times, "You know Halo didn't do any one thing better than anybody else, it just did everything really, really good." And that made it what it was.