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Bungie's Creamer:  ODST  Tested Team's Adaptability

Bungie's Creamer: ODST Tested Team's Adaptability

September 22, 2009 | By Kris Graft

September 22, 2009 | By Kris Graft
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More: Console/PC

Halo 3: ODST launched this week, but not before going through a few public metamorphoses. For example, it was originally called Halo 3: Recon. That changed to Halo 3: ODST. It was announced as an add-on for Halo 3 that would cost $30 or $40. Now it's a larger, full-priced game.

Behind those changes were shifts in the game's development direction within Bungie. In a feature interview published Tuesday, ODST executive producer Curtis Creamer shared with Gamasutra some of the resulting challenges within the studio.

One of those hurdles was a lack of time. "For the previous Halo games, we're talking about three-year development cycles. In ODST, we were shooting for about a year of development time," Creamer said. "The challenges for us were having an understanding of just how much of a game we could make in a year, and also knowing the aspirations we were going to have, and how we were going to pull those off with all of the limitations we had as a studio."

He added that the 165-person full-time Bungie team had split up into three groups to develop the upcoming Halo Reach, ODST, and an unannounced title, a format that led to personnel constraints. The ODST team, he said, was about 60-70 people, five of which were on the core design team.

"We didn't have the full resources available for the project like we would normally have. We didn't really understand exactly how much we could make and how far we could push the technology," Creamer said.

There were also technical challenges. "The biggest challenge for us was with the design of the game. We decided we wanted to focus the story in one location on Earth, in New Mombasa, whereas in the previous games, you were jumping from the Halo ring to Earth to a Forerunner installation to a different side of the ring -- but now it's snowing. The environments were really different."

ODST, unlike previous Halo titles, incorporates non-linear movement through the game in a single city. "It was something that the Halo engine had never really been designed to do. That was probably the biggest technical challenge for us -- how are we going to create this gigantic city? How are we going to make it do things the engine was never set up to do? And then, how are we going to do it with fewer people and on a shorter timeline?"

But the ODST was able to adapt by employing new methods that Bungie hadn't used before, at the same time bringing some new elements to the Halo universe's formula. Bungie was able to complete the game at the beginning of May this year.

For more on the development of ODST, read the full Gamasutra feature interview, where Creamer explains the game's pricing, new storytelling method, and other aspects of the game's development (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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