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Halo 4 Narrative Designer Ryan Payton Departing 343 Industries

Former Kojima Productions producer cites creative differences for taking the plunge.

If you squint, it looks like Master Chief is competing in a space-based air guitar contest.

Just months after Microsoft and 343 Industries finally started talking about one of the industry's worst kept secrets, Halo 4, one of its lead creatives, Ryan Payton, has announced he's leaving the game.

"I had a great run at Microsoft," said Payton in an interview today with Kotaku. "I don't regret one day of it. But after a few years, there came a point where I wasn't creatively excited about the project anymore. [...] The Halo I wanted to build was fundamentally different and I don't think I had built enough credibility to see such a crazy endeavor through."

Payton previously worked as an assistant producer at Kojima Productions and was one of the public faces of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. He's widely credited with championing some of the fundamental gameplay changes in that game, such as modernizing the game's often criticized controls.

When his mother was struck with cancer, he decided to move closer, which meant leaving Japan. He joined Microsoft.

He couldn't elaborate too deeply on what exactly prompted him to leave, but said he was diagnosed with depression, a situation punctuated by his creative unrest. He became inspired by his friend, designer Jake Kazdal. Kazdal co-founded Haunted Temple Studios, which is currently working on Skulls of the Shogun, a strategy game coming to Xbox Live Arcade.

As a result, Payton has founded his own studio, Camouflaj, and he's working on two new games.

Microsoft issued this statement to me regarding Payton's decision to leave:

343 Industries has assembled an all-star cast of talent working on Halo 4 under the design leadership of Studio and Halo 4 Creative Director, Josh Holmes. We're excited to tell the next story in the Halo universe with Halo 4 as the first game in the Reclaimer Trilogy. Ryan Payton, who left earlier this summer, served as Narrative Designer on Halo 4 for 15 months. Armando Troisi was hired as the Halo 4 Narrative Director in March, having formerly served as the Lead Cinematic Designer on Mass Effect 2. Ryan has been a great friend and colleague during his tenure at 343 Industries and we appreciate his contributions to the team. We wish Ryan the best in his new game development venture.

Halo 4 is scheduled for a release sometime next year.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek
If you squint, it looks like Master Chief is competing in a space-based air guitar contest.

Just months after Microsoft and 343 Industries finally started talking about one of the industry's worst kept secrets, Halo 4, one of its lead creatives, Ryan Payton, has announced he's leaving the game.

"I had a great run at Microsoft," said Payton in an interview today with Kotaku. "I don't regret one day of it. But after a few years, there came a point where I wasn't creatively excited about the project anymore. [...] The Halo I wanted to build was fundamentally different and I don't think I had built enough credibility to see such a crazy endeavor through."

Payton previously worked as an assistant producer at Kojima Productions and was one of the public faces of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. He's widely credited with championing some of the fundamental gameplay changes in that game, such as modernizing the game's often criticized controls.

When his mother was struck with cancer, he decided to move closer, which meant leaving Japan. He joined Microsoft.

He couldn't elaborate too deeply on what exactly prompted him to leave, but said he was diagnosed with depression, a situation punctuated by his creative unrest. He became inspired by his friend, designer Jake Kazdal. Kazdal co-founded Haunted Temple Studios, which is currently working on Skulls of the Shogun, a strategy game coming to Xbox Live Arcade.

As a result, Payton has founded his own studio, Camouflaj, and he's working on two new games.

Microsoft issued this statement to me regarding Payton's decision to leave:

343 Industries has assembled an all-star cast of talent working on Halo 4 under the design leadership of Studio and Halo 4 Creative Director, Josh Holmes. We're excited to tell the next story in the Halo universe with Halo 4 as the first game in the Reclaimer Trilogy. Ryan Payton, who left earlier this summer, served as Narrative Designer on Halo 4 for 15 months. Armando Troisi was hired as the Halo 4 Narrative Director in March, having formerly served as the Lead Cinematic Designer on Mass Effect 2. Ryan has been a great friend and colleague during his tenure at 343 Industries and we appreciate his contributions to the team. We wish Ryan the best in his new game development venture.

Halo 4 is scheduled for a release sometime next year.

Staff
Edited by pochunki

stolen!

EDIT: upon reading this article, i feel bad for this guy. hope he finds some happiness with his new studio- it's got an amazing name, so that's a great start.

Edited by Toxin066

I can't believe he's creatively exhausted before his first Halo game hits stores. Shame he doesn't get to build the game he wants, though.

Posted by laserbolts

I can understand how he wouldn't be creatively excited working on another halo game.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

That's too bad. 

Online
Posted by Enigma777

Well, they're replacing him with the ME2 guy, so it can't be all bad.

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

Good luck to Ryan Payton; he seems to do good work.

Pretty cool that Halo 4's Narrative Director is the former Lead Cinematic Designer of Mass Effect 2.

Posted by JazGalaxy

So much for Halo 4 being the game that fixes the mess than Halo has become...

Posted by Rawrnosaurous

I am really curious as to what this entails for Halo 4, did he leave because it was too much like Halo and he didn't like it? Did he leave because it wasn't like Halo at all and he didn't like it?
 
Is the development going badly? How hurt is the dev team that he quit during their first game? God dammit Patrick I need answers!

Posted by admanb

@Toxin066: he does now. :P

Edited by ProfessorEss

"The Halo I wanted to build was fundamentally different and I don't think I had built enough credibility to see such a crazy endeavor through" 
 
That's pretty genuine sounding right there.

Posted by dox

This doesn't seem like news. He is one designer in a very large team and I don't think his departure is interesting at all.

Posted by patrickklepek

@Rawrnosaurous said:

I am really curious as to what this entails for Halo 4, did he leave because it was too much like Halo and he didn't like it? Did he leave because it wasn't like Halo at all and he didn't like it? Is the development going badly? How hurt is the dev team that he quit during their first game? God dammit Patrick I need answers!

Everyone I've met working on the Halo 4 team seems highly selected, highly skilled. I don't know whether they're going to be making something radically different than previous Halo games (I wouldn't mind that), but they seem to have their shit together.

Staff
Posted by moonpix

@Cubical: you seem really angry

that's pretty silly

Posted by DonPixel

@Enigma777 said:

Well, they're replacing him with the ME2 guy, so it can't be all bad.

Until MS start sending memos again.

Posted by Slaker117

Hard to say if this matters. Hope everything turns out alright for all parties.

Posted by Zabant

*Prepares for kneejerk comment about halo and creativity.*

Posted by SgtGrumbles

@Cubical said:

He has only done one halo game and never finshed it. in other words He wanted to fuck with the games and make something insane and microsoft said no so he had a hissy fit and left. IF i only I could have that power I get fucked over my company makes me make crap for a fucking worthless Apple products like the Ipad and we used to work on the fucking PC engine and xbox unreal engine. Not that I care about fucking halo and console noob shooters, thank god when we make one of those that is when I quit or they force us to make crap like gears of war.

Wh…what?

Posted by Moonshadow101

Can't say I know what to make of this. The fact is that Metal Gear Solid is a series that really could have used a few people on the team who were willing to say "no" once in a while. It's hard to get upset about someone from that psychotic environment wanting to leave.

Edited by Cubical
@moonpix:  
 
Ok you work on the crap Ipad and phone then and I will go work on the new jazz jack  rabbit game I have been trying to push through the company since I got there.  It's fun, in fact it sucks.
Posted by Chris2KLee

Hope he has success with his new studio. He helped make MGS4 probably the most playable in the series, and I was looking forward to see what he might have brought to Halo 4.

Posted by SmokePants

I don't have any idea what qualified him to be a narrative designer in the first place. It seems to be a clear upgrade from him to the ME2 cinematic lead.

Posted by yourgoodfriendCharles

kind of a dick move saying that you would do Halo 4 completely different as you are leaving. oh well best of luck to him.

Posted by MormonWarrior

Before reading this article: zero interest in Halo 4.
 
After reading this article: ...yep, still zero interest in Halo 4.
 
Also, Ryan who?

Posted by mbr2

@SmokePants: He was Kojima's right hand during the developement of MGS4.

Posted by penINC

Metal Gear's batshit crazy narrative design worked for it, but I can't see it working for any other thing ever. I kinda feel bad for the guy, but let Halo be Halo.

Posted by ovrlrd

depression? ouch, video game devs don't have it easy man.

Posted by shadystx

I like Ryan Payton from what i listened to him and seen of him on podcasts and videos and he has worked on some great games but I do not think Halo needs anything radical done too it, the gameplay is solid just keep adding to it, I really could not see MS allowing anyone to take Halo in a totally different direction as it simply could kill the franchise, If its not broke don't fix it, Halo is not one of my fav games but its very enjoyable. 
 
For a second I was thinking about a bat shit crazy plot similar to something from MGS, I really do not think that would work although i love MGS games, But when you have a top franchise you dont mess with it while its still selling really well.

Posted by wsowen02

Good sign

Posted by big_jon

@Cubical said:

He has only done one halo game and never finshed it. in other words He wanted to fuck with the games and make something insane and microsoft said no so he had a hissy fit and left. IF i only I could have that power I get fucked over my company makes me make crap for a fucking worthless Apple products like the Ipad and we used to work on the fucking PC engine and xbox unreal engine. Not that I care about fucking halo and console noob shooters, thank god when we make one of those that is when I quit or they force us to make crap like gears of war.

Are you going to cry?

Posted by Scrawnto

@Cubical said:

@moonpix: Ok you work on the crap Ipad and phone then and I will go work on the new jazz jack rabbit game I have been trying to push through the company since I got there. It's fun, in fact it sucks.

Wow, duder, you should maybe calm down a bit. Your rage seems to be keeping you from putting together a grammatical sentence.

Posted by Fokma

All the best to Ryan Payton, I hope he can conquer his depression and make what he truly wants to. It's weird, for someone who wants to be creatively free, he's always thrown himself behind some big name titles that have a very set structure already.

Posted by mlarrabee

I've never been one of the "Halo is the pinnacle of gaming" kind of guys, but I enjoyed their run and appreciate what they did for the FPS genre.

But I feel like Microsoft should recognize that they are retroactively killing Halo. Irrational stopped making games featuring SHODAN because

Every time I go back into the universe of Halo, every time I again beat the Covenant, and every time I hear Cortana's voice, the Halo universe seems a bit less wonderous, the Covenant seem a bit more pathetic, and Cortana's voice becomes a bit more like Jen Taylor's. Am I alone in this?

Posted by thunderbear

I didn't know he left for Microsoft. That makes a lot of sense, considering how he was the main rumor mongerer behind MGS4 coming to the Xbox360. I can't even remember how many threads there were about quotes of his sparking rumors that it was coming to Xbox360 and how many forum "wars" it created. That's funny. 
 
What's not funny is that he got depressed and the situation with his mother :(. Career wise I feel he should be fairly happy with the attention he's gotten considering he was junior producer on MGS4 and then got a Lead Designer role at one of the biggest games developers in the world. Would he have gotten several articles written about his start-up, that most indie-developers would beg for, without his "fame"? I hope he finds his happiness in the indie market and we get to see what he's capable of on his own. I'm sure with his name that he'll land a publisher easier than other indie developers.  
 
And to all think that a large part of it might be because he fueled the flames behind the MGS4 coming to Xbox360 deal. If you don't believe me, how many of you knew his name before MGS4? And can you name, without looking it up, the current junior producers on MGS Rising or MGS Peace Walker? He did a good job getting his name out there.

Posted by TheKing

I wish him luck and happiness.

Posted by AuthenticM

@Cubical said:

He has only done one halo game and never finshed it. in other words He wanted to fuck with the games and make something insane and microsoft said no so he had a hissy fit and left. IF i only I could have that power I get fucked over my company makes me make crap for a fucking worthless Apple products like the Ipad and we used to work on the fucking PC engine and xbox unreal engine. Not that I care about fucking halo and console noob shooters, thank god when we make one of those that is when I quit or they force us to make crap like gears of war.

What the fuck are you rambling about?

Posted by Alex_Carrillo
@Cubical
He has only done one halo game and never finshed it.
 
in other words  He wanted to  fuck  with the games and make something insane and microsoft said no so he had a hissy fit and left. 
 
IF i only I could have that power I get fucked over  my company makes me make crap for a fucking worthless  Apple products like the Ipad and we used to work on the fucking  PC engine and xbox unreal engine. 
 
 
 
Not that I care about fucking halo  and console noob shooters, thank god  when we make one of those that is when I quit or they force us to make crap like gears of war.
Calm down, princess.
Posted by mordukai
Wait a minute...He worked with Hideo Kojima and MS burnt him out???? WOW!
Posted by lordofultima

@penINC said:

Metal Gear's batshit crazy narrative design worked for it, but I can't see it working for any other thing ever. I kinda feel bad for the guy, but let Halo be Halo.

He was not narrative designer on MGS, he had a WIDE arrange of influence all over MGS4, to Americanize it and make it a bit less crazy. The crazy in MGS has always been there, have you played the games? lol

That said, I am a big fan of Ryan Payton and hope he can find an avenue for his creativity, seeing him bummed out makes me bummed out!

Posted by Tan

Well, hope he does well with his new studio.

Posted by theanticitizen
@Rawrnosaurous It says in the article he was diagnosed with depression and that contributed to his feeling uncreative
Posted by theanticitizen
@JazGalaxy Yay! Opinions! Not everyone thinks it's a mess, just so you know
Posted by Rawrnosaurous
@theanticitizen: Depression doesn't suddenly make you feel as though your not creative, I would say it would be the other way around not being creative can sometimes cause depression. It's not like he was depressed and he felt he wasn't creative, he left the studio and already has (2 games in the works) that leads me to believe he left because he didn't like making something so similar to Halo. Leads me to believe that he took the ideas he thought should have been in Halo 4 and since he couldn't get them into that game he is going to make them on his own.
 
Which I think is a little concerning especially when we are talking about where the series is headed in this new trilogy. If he left because he felt stifled creatively then what does that mean for the game that he left?
Posted by mattman734

I can totally see why they wouldn't want him to mess with the halo fiction but since this next game is after the finished trilogy i say why not go in a crazy direction.

Posted by Deusoma
@mlarrabee said:

I've never been one of the "Halo is the pinnacle of gaming" kind of guys, but I enjoyed their run and appreciate what they did for the FPS genre.

But I feel like Microsoft should recognize that they are retroactively killing Halo. Irrational stopped making games featuring SHODAN because

Every time I go back into the universe of Halo, every time I again beat the Covenant, and every time I hear Cortana's voice, the Halo universe seems a bit less wonderous, the Covenant seem a bit more pathetic, and Cortana's voice becomes a bit more like Jen Taylor's. Am I alone in this?

Well, the last time I stepped into the Halo universe, the Covenant murdered billions of people, stabbed me to death, and then blasted every square inch of an entire planet into unrecognizable shrapnel for good measure. On very rare occasions, the villains get to win, and when they do, it actually makes them seem frightening. Although let's be fair, that's beside the point, Halo 4 isn't going to be about the Human-Covenant War.
Posted by Mentalnova

Can't help but feel Microsoft wants to stay safe and make a Halo 3.5.

Posted by Grilledcheez

Well people have different opinions about what they want, I'm assuming that applies to video game development. Just because it wasn't the game he wanted, doesn't mean it's not the game we want. If heads were clashing over game direction, then maybe MS wasn't the best place for him. Now he gets to go and make the games he wants, the way he wants..so good for him!

Posted by wisdumcube

This kind of worries me and/or confuses me. Was he a major component of Halo 4? Was he trying to make Halo a completely different kind of game both gameplay wise and narrative wise, or just trying to spice things up creatively to prevent the stagnation of the series?

Posted by demonknightinuyasha

Looking forward to seeing what he does out on his own.

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