Ensemble’s Halo MMO cancelled due to Microsoft wanting to pursue “Wii” like experiences
Dusty Monk has been continued his talks with IncGamers this time expanding more on the cancelled Halo MMO codenamed “Titan” and believed to be titled Halo Universe. Confirming much of what we have read before that the change of management at Microsoft did not believe investment in the project was strategic and wanted to re-deploy resources in other games. The Halo MMO was upwards of a $90 million dollar project and there was even talk of new offices being built to support the studios MMO. However sadly the project didnt see the light of day other than some very early screenshots and concept art.
“There was a bit of a changing of the guard at Microsoft at this time, Microsoft, from its gaming division, was really changing directions. They were looking really hard at the Nintendo Wii and they were really excited by the numbers that the Wii was turning. This was about the time that Microsoft decided that its Xbox platform and XBLA really needed to go more in the direction of appealing to a more casual, broader audience.”
According to Dusty the MMO was going to compete directly with World of Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment. Ensemble had taken on Blizzard in the Real Time Strategy genre with Age of Empires competing against Star Craft. The next step was to compete in the MMO space.
“It was going to be the Halo MMO, and it was absolutely going to compete against WoW. You have to remember that Ensemble came from a standpoint of being really good at competing against Blizzard Entertainment. We had a pretty good history of knowing the types of stuff that Blizzard put into their games to make them really successful, and the kinds of things we’d need to put into an MMO to compete against Blizzard
Just to give you a couple of examples, we were using a heroic stylised artform. This heroic stylised artform is exactly the artform that you see being used in Star Wars: The Old Republic right now. It’s timeless. It doesn’t age itself like a game that’s built with a strictly realistic artform does.
We were developing a cover system. This cover system is in Star Wars: The Old Republic. We had the idea of quests – and like I said, this was between 2004 and 2007, before Warhamer Online had been released – but we had this idea of quests where you could participate and pull them together without having to be on the same team. This would be a public quest that everyone in a particular area could work on. That idea went into Warhammer Online.”
Certainly sounds like a very exciting and thought out project. The game had been in development between 2004 and 2007 so a huge amount of work would have been put in by the studio. Once the team was informed the project was to be cancelled Ensemble lost a few key staff who later went onto join other studios to work on MMO’s. One of those was the now famous Gregg Street who joined Blizzard Entertainment.
“We had all this incredible talent, we had the right people, the right passion, we had a phenomenally successful IP – the Halo IP.”
The talent at Ensemble Studios would of been perfect for the MMO project. Looking at how Ensemble built up successful RTS games I have no doubt the MMO would of been incredibly successful as well.
“Even though a lot of people talk about how you just can’t build a WoW killer, I absolutely believe that we could have built an MMO, if Microsoft had maintained their commitment, that if it hadn’t been a WoW killer it certainly would’ve competed.”
All is not lost though. If you are after an MMO keep your eye on Windstorm Studios, Dusty Monk’s startup company out of Ensemble Studios. They are working on a single player RPG at the moment and if successful will launch into a full blown MMO. I look forward to seeing what the great minds at Windstorm come up with. Be on the look out for updates on the project later this year.
Meanwhile stay tuned also for the full interview with Dusty Monk on incGamers where there will be more talk about Windstorm Studios.
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