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.