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The Halo MMO That Wasn't?

Gamasutra digs up some details about Ensemble's canned Halo MMO.

What is this, World of Gears of Halo?
With Halo Wars developer Ensemble Studios soon closing its doors, it would seem that some of its secrets are leaking out. Gamasutra has unearthed some mock screenshots and concept art that seem to suggest the strategy house was working on a Halo MMO at one point. The shots, which there are now a full Flickr gallery of, originally came from an artist's online portfolio that was linked to the official Ensemble website--not exactly hard evidence, though rumors from a 2006 Game Informer about an Ensemble-developed Halo MMO, Ensemble job listings for an MMO project from 2006, and suggestive comments from Ensemble's Bruce Shelley and Microsoft's Phil Spencer further corroborate the story.

Gamasutra also called in the pros from Massively.com to break down a few of the screens, which seem to suggest a game UI that, unsurprisingly, was taking a lot of its cues from World of Warcraft. Microsoft and Ensemble have yet to comment on the authenticity of the shots, and the sourcing is a little sketchy, but all of the shots are highly evocative of the Halo aesthetic even when they're not canonical, and the sheer volume of concept art and mock-ups suggests they're legit.

On a personal note, I'm not the world's biggest Halo fan, but I think some of this character stuff looks sick as hell. The environments don't really pop, but I like the way some of them extrapolate from the core Halo design. Mostly, though, I'd just really like to see a non-fantasy MMO get a real foothold, and aside from Starcraft, Halo is probably the best sci-fi candidate. It's a shame that this stuff is probably dead in the water, though you can be sure that this won't be the last time Microsoft considers turning its wildly popular FPS into some recurring monthly payments.
32 Comments
Posted by Ryan
What is this, World of Gears of Halo?
With Halo Wars developer Ensemble Studios soon closing its doors, it would seem that some of its secrets are leaking out. Gamasutra has unearthed some mock screenshots and concept art that seem to suggest the strategy house was working on a Halo MMO at one point. The shots, which there are now a full Flickr gallery of, originally came from an artist's online portfolio that was linked to the official Ensemble website--not exactly hard evidence, though rumors from a 2006 Game Informer about an Ensemble-developed Halo MMO, Ensemble job listings for an MMO project from 2006, and suggestive comments from Ensemble's Bruce Shelley and Microsoft's Phil Spencer further corroborate the story.

Gamasutra also called in the pros from Massively.com to break down a few of the screens, which seem to suggest a game UI that, unsurprisingly, was taking a lot of its cues from World of Warcraft. Microsoft and Ensemble have yet to comment on the authenticity of the shots, and the sourcing is a little sketchy, but all of the shots are highly evocative of the Halo aesthetic even when they're not canonical, and the sheer volume of concept art and mock-ups suggests they're legit.

On a personal note, I'm not the world's biggest Halo fan, but I think some of this character stuff looks sick as hell. The environments don't really pop, but I like the way some of them extrapolate from the core Halo design. Mostly, though, I'd just really like to see a non-fantasy MMO get a real foothold, and aside from Starcraft, Halo is probably the best sci-fi candidate. It's a shame that this stuff is probably dead in the water, though you can be sure that this won't be the last time Microsoft considers turning its wildly popular FPS into some recurring monthly payments.
Posted by Scooper

I'm not really a fan of Halo, I found it abit dry and I couldn't deal with the huge crosshair that felt like it was moving on ice when there were games like Call of Duty to be played.

Posted by Aaox

NO! FPS'S AND MMO'S DON'T WORK TOGETHER! Did you not pay attention to Tabula Rasa? The mistakes! The sadness!

Posted by CleverLoginName

Microsoft sure is milking the franchise for all it has. 

Posted by Kinarion

Haloside?  Yes, that's what  the world needs.

Posted by MJames70

One would have to think the game must have been coming along really poorly for Microsoft to cancel a cash cow like this.....the screens sure do look cheesy, though.....

Posted by Arrers

I think I speak for everyone when I say: thank god this was canned.

Posted by selfdestroyer

Feel the warmth on your face as it goes down in flames..

Posted by DukeTogo

If an MMO with sci-fi roots ever had a chance (outside of EVE which is sort of a different breed) I'd expect a Mass Effect one.  The universe of it, combined with the design and combat, would make a solid MMORPG that didn't rely on the fantasy template.  SWG came close, but it went from very niche to generic, and never got the perfect balance.

I seriously hope the Boiware MMO is Mass Effect and not KOTOR.  The guys created a far better universe to use than the stale old Star Wars one that has so many loopholes and paradoxes that keep anything you do so far removed from the holy trilogy, that it might as well be called Space Fights instead.

Posted by LifeByDegrees

The design style seems to imply a plot where humanity either met up with the Forerunner's themselves or fully adapted their technology. Presumably this would occur post Halo 3- as humanity continues to expand and meets/conflicts with other species. If it wasn't that- then they were just planning on breaking the whole plotline. The graphics themselves seem like they could simply be a Tabula Rasa mod. Why would anyone in MJOLNIR not wear the helmet? I admit that the sketches reflect some of the Halo art style- with some very dramatic breaks. It feels like it could easily be a fan art Flickr- a fan who decided to play around. If its not that- I'm glad this didn't go through. We don't need mages in the Halo universe.

Posted by Shasam

I wouldn't want an MMO (I don't think), but I think a Halo RPG, Mass Effect or Fallout style, could actually be pretty good. Get someone on that.

Posted by albedos_shadow

Do you know how bad this had to be coming along for Microsoft to turn this down? 'So we have this Halo MMO that will make money for years..." "Sold!"

Posted by Kohe321

Good, I feel the mmo marked is satured at the moment. Wrath of the lich king is coming, warhammer just launched (and is AWESOME btw) and conan has been out for a while (Which sucked, btw -imo)

Posted by LifeByDegrees

Wouldn't a properly done Halo-oriented RPG be exactly what the supposed Halo squad based tactical combat game might be? Multiple plotlines based on player decisions doesn't work in a game where a linear and specific plot is key to its overall franchise value. And yes- we don't need another MMO. Someday, someone will probably successfully enact the massive action/FPS format. Halo probably won't be the franchise for that.

Posted by mrsmiley

I agree with Jeff, the characters actually look pretty badass. Who knows, this have been ok...

Posted by Hitman101

@Aaox

If you say that MMO's and FPS' can't mix then you obviously haven't played Planetside.

Posted by mawfu

Wow,(and not the game) I can't believe they tried to make another Halo game that I just wouldn't care about.

Posted by Dejiko

5 days tops until M$ gets raided by halo fanboys

Posted by TheGreatGuero

I know these were just early mock-ups, but I think that display picture looks like a nightmare. I'm glad we won't be seeing this game come to life.

Posted by Crono

I'm not sure how exciting a Halo MMO would honestly be given the kind of people that fill in the "Halo Fan" demographic.

Posted by Media_Master

Not another MMO!!! NOT ANOTHER HALO!!!

Posted by Torb

Hmm, if done right it sounds fun. The problem is I don't think they would have done it right, so it's probly for the better...

Posted by jakob187

The face on the Spartan there is a base face that can be created in the World of Warcraft, the graphics are very similar in both shading and textures, and that appears to be a Draenei in the background.

Sorry, I'm sayin' that these screens are fake as hell.  Once I see confirmation, then I'll say how happy I am that the shit got canned.  Stupid Halo.  Only good thing from the damn brand was Halo: The Fall of Reach.  Great book.
Posted by FuzzYLemoN

LOL, what a terrible idea. Probably for the best that it was canceled.

Posted by Ubergeist

Glad this didn't happen.

Posted by SmokePants

If this Halo MMO were a newborn baby, I would throw it to the ground and stomp the life out of it. It's a complete abomination. It.... should.... not...... BE!

I'm a Halo fan, which is why I'm so passionate in my disgust. To see how much corruption of the Halo universe had to take place to get it to fit within the horrfic confines of a modern MMO framework just makes me want to stab something.

Posted by GioVANNI

If they made it right, it could be EPIC.  Buuut, I don't think Ensemble would've done a very good job...

Posted by bingbangboom

Is it just me or does anyone really have any idea what Microsoft is doing with it's internal studios? They let go of Bungie, their big work horse because Bungie wanted more room. Heck they even pissed them off at E3. This is the third MMO that they have canceled. True Fantasy Online, Marvel Universe Online and now Halo MMO have all been cancelled by Microsoft. It is still very strange on what exactly the plan is for Microsoft Game Studios. It seems that they are pulling away from 2nd party studios and instead will just be a publisher of exclusive content. But then again it is loosing IPs or doesn't fully support them. PGR4 was released with a whimper and so was Forza 2. They did such a great job with Halo 3 but just don't support their own games.

They now don't really have any great IPs for their console and have yet to grow any new ones. They are sticking to Halo like it is their Mario, but it is not. I am sorry but we won't be seeing a Halo Baseball game.  What is going to happen for the next Xbox? Will it soley survive on third party games with a sprinkle of first party software? I have never seen a first party publish so few games throughout the year. I am pretty sure you can count all of the Microsoft published games on two hands. Nintendo and Sony continue to crank out titles, good or bad at least they typically have some sort of plan with their games for the whole year.

Posted by Godzilla_Sushi

I personally enjoy the Halo aesthetic. Don't know if that would have ever worked, but it sure looks cool! The one thing you know with a Halo MMO, people would definitely play it no matter what.

Posted by Libb

Please God, let there be an MMOFPS in development somewhere inside MS's bunkers based around Halo - with PlanetSide on life support, Huxley going nowhere, and the rise of the goddamned fantasy MMORPG to swallow up the market, it's my only hope for a true modern MMOFPS. I LOVED PlanetSide, but design mistakes and a buggy platform have worn it down to the point where it''s nearly dead - I want the PlanetSide experience in a modern game.

Give me 500+ person battles with Spartans and Ghosts flying everywhere! MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Posted by Destroyeron

MMO + FPS can work, ever heard of Planetside? It was great until the devs slowly choked it to death.

Posted by Dejiko

fully automatic box loaded laser sniper rifle with grenade launcher and flamethrower attachments