343 on Halo 4: 'We can do better'
Now this is the type of thing you want to hear from a developer of a blockbuster franchise. Rather settling for the product they put out in Halo 4, first-time game developer 343 Industries is focused on what they can improve on. And with a franchise as popular as Halo, that isn't something easy to do.
It's simple to sit back and say Halo 4 was a success based on sales numbers, but in a letter to fans 343's game director Frank O'Connor admitted, "We have a lot to learn."
"We made a lot of mistakes. We can do better," O'Connor acknowledged of his studio's first-ever fully fledged title, built from the ground up creatively and technologically. "And we know this, and we will."
"And for a first effort, it wasn’t half bad."
O'Connor spent much of his note, explaining how stepping in to fill Bungie's shoes was difficult, but explained how through the process the team grew, learned, and "we're still learning."
He expanded: "We altered the engine. We expanded the universe. We innovated in storytelling, technology, and even marketing. It wasn’t flawless by any stretch of the imagination, but by most objective criteria, it was a resounding success. So we know we have a lot to do. And we know we have a lot to learn. But we also know that we now have the capacity, the teamwork, the technology and the experience to do much better next time."
Halo 4 wasn't without problems though. O'Connor recounted a number of things the team wished they could've done better, noting: "Features that didn’t make it into the final game. Glitches that emerged. Missteps made. DLC fiascos. Communication breakdown." But for everything that went wrong in 343's eyes, there were things that went "astonishingly well," he said.
O'Connor concluded his letter by pointing out the Halo community of fans was the "most important aspect" of the company's success.
"It may not have ended up precisely the way you imagined – there are simply too many voices and perspectives to make all of the people happy, all of the time – but we think of the community as a direct and democratic extension of the team and, indeed, of the development process," he said.
Concluding, O'Connor pointed out that "it's safe to say I'm more excited about the future than the past. Excited about what this team is already working on. Excited about what this team is capable of. And excited about the future of Halo. A future we want you to be a part of. A future we’re building for you."
Upon reading the letter, it may sound that O'Connor is being overly critical of 343's work on Halo 4, but isn't that the kind of attitude you want a game director to have? Always looking for improvements, never settling for what is. I thoroughly enjoyed Halo 4, but there are a number of things I also would've changed. Halo 4 was a great first game for the studio, and just a sample of the type of things they are capable of producing. I'm excited to see what Frank O'Connor and the rest of the team at 343 have to offer in 2013 and beyond.