Cancelled Ensemble Game Was Halo MMO

By Jim Rossignol on September 23rd, 2008 at 2:42 pm.


[Click for full image] UPDATE: Full Flickr set here.

Gamasutra have unearthed evidence that the Ensemble Studios project that was cancelled during 2007 was in fact a Halo MMO. The evidence includes several pieces of prototype art, with one mocked up screen (above).

The title seems to have been in development in 2006 and some of 2007 — though it’s by no means clear that it was the only MMO-related title in development at the studio at that time.

What is clear, however, is that Ensemble’s Bruce Shelley mentioned in a June 2008 blog post that they “…set up three prototype teams out of the staff of a major project that we cancelled. After six months of very interesting work, we have now stopped two of those prototypes, with one getting more time to demonstrate the value of its concept.”

Seems I was right about a Halo MMO being in development, but my timing sucks… It also means that a Halo MMO could well now be in development at another studio. Let’s try and guess!

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36 Comments »

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  1. Bobsy says:

    Yawn. I mean, I’m by no means anti-Halo, but an MMO? Sounds like the raucous mooing of a cash-cow to me. They just don’t match up enough to make sense.

    Next: “Aisle MMO in development”. That’d be ace.

  2. Paul Moloney says:

    I foresee a “Halo”-themed floor wax and dessert topping.

    P.

  3. terry says:

    *masterchief sits down and starts singing about gold*

  4. twb says:

    The last thing we need is an MMO with a /teabag command.

  5. Bobsy says:

    @twb: City of Heroes/Villains already has one. Observe.

  6. JonFitt says:

    It might have worked quite well, the Halo FPSs already have tons of auto-aim, it’s only a hop-skip-and-jump to mashing 2 for the Sniper Rifle while mashing 3 for your special power “bunny hop”.

  7. The Shed says:

    Damn, I said this ages ago. Halo is one of the few franchises that would work as an MMO- you’ve got almost as much tech and choice as planetside for gods sake. Playing Marines Versus Elites in a huge battle would be good, plus all the vehicles and scenery.

  8. itsallcrap says:

    That’s a gooey blob! I have Wizard 7 as my avatar on some forum or other.

    Happy days.

  9. Gap Gen says:

    That mock-up is amazing. “SPACE PLANET”!

    Also, to the right of the bar at the bottom: Is he carrying a vacuum cleaner and a brain?

  10. rocketman71 says:

    Poor Ensemble. Not only MS killed them, they were also raped.

    It’s sad passing your last months working on Halo. I can’t understand how such a dull shooter could sell so much.

    Oh, yeah, I know!. At the time, there wasn’t any other console FPS!.

    Damned Microsoft.

  11. Jim Rossignol says:

    I’d visit Space Planet.

  12. wikane says:

    Halo would make a great MMOFPS (slow-paced, co-op focused combat). I’m not particularly a fan of the games but would be incredibly excited by that. It’s disappointing that they didn’t even explore that option but instead apparently tried a WoW clone. Chasing $^9s I guess.

  13. Schrodinger's Lolcat says:

    Wow, yet ANOTHER skill bar… You can almost smell the originality.

    And where is my planetside-style Warhammer 40k MMO? That would teabag the hell out of this sorry attempt.

  14. Heliocentric says:

    Lionhead? I call them for halo rpg after fable 2

  15. Ketch says:

    You know, this could have worked if it was similar to Planetside.

  16. SwiftRanger says:

    Uhu, a WoW sci-fi mod would pale in comparison to a proper Halo-themed PlanetSide. Too bad Ensemble wasted effort on the first apparently.

  17. twb says:

    To be fair, the original vision for Halo was pretty similar to an MMO: huge areas, third-person view, co-op multiplayer, and so on. Damn shame it got turned into a generic if well-executed FPS. I’d still like to play Bungie’s original version, even if I had to run OS9 to do it.

  18. Stupoider says:

    Terrific mock up there! xP Thought it was an actual screenshot, before I noticed “Space Planet” and the “character name” parts.
    D’you reckon it would’ve been Xbox only?

  19. cyrenic says:

    I guess it was too much to assume a Halo MMO wouldn’t have a skill bar.

  20. bobphile says:

    You know who else was right? Bobphile. Search my comments in the story you linked.

  21. aiusepsi says:

    I can only concur – a Planetside-style Halo MMO would have been actually pretty good. The fiction is perfect for such a thing – two clearly differentiated sides, lots of overarching story potential, etc.

    Not to mention that the brand recognition is excellent, helps draw people in initially.

    If they made WoW in space though, it would get slaughtered, because they’d be competing against WoW itself. To be optimistic, maybe this project has been shot in the head to pave way for a Planetside-style project.

  22. CrashT says:

    I am seriously hoping this is a joke on Ensemble’s part. I like the art direction to some extent but a WOW-esqu Halo MMO, I mean What. The. F**k?

  23. Gap Gen says:

    Looking at the skills bar at the bottom, the skills appear to be:
    1) Broken computers
    2) Broken computers with sick on them
    3) Punching the sponge
    4) Leaving your shoes in the grass
    5) Flaming ice creams
    6) Letting your waffles go off
    7) Cola bottles
    8 ) When punching sponges isn’t enough
    9) Stabbing yourself in the face
    0) Folding the toothpaste tube to get the last bits out
    -) Cleaning Lady
    +) Pet brain

  24. wikane says:

    Wow Gap Gen, how’d you find out the next TF2 achievements already?

  25. IIshin says:

    Wow, what do they think Halo is? Cool?
    Cool enough to make them try and sell an mmo…

  26. NegativeZero says:

    Clearly they canned it because trying to stretch a Halo skin over the MUD-based MMO framework is never going to produce anything that people would want to play.

    I have my suspicions that while this prototype might have been shitcanned, the concept is still alive and well somewhere at MS.

  27. CannedLizard says:

    Can someone answer WHY Halo is hated? I played through the entire first and third games, and while it’s hardly worth the 99/100% scores it got, it’s damn fine, polished series of games with entertaining gun and vehicle play, decent multiplayer and one of my favourite set-pieces in gaming to date (playing co-op in the third game with a friend, riding around in a Hornet, dropping each other off on the various Scarab tanks on the level, taking them out one by one).

  28. RichPowers says:

    played through the entire first and third games, and while it’s hardly worth the 99/100% scores it got

    I think you answered your question :) Plus Halo fans are stereotyped as frat-boy lugnuts who honestly think Halo is the only FPS game ever made, after Goldeneye of course. Halo’s pretty fun and has excellent multiplayer for a console game…the praise and fanboyism got excessive, though, and that always prompts a backlash.

  29. Harlequin says:

    It’s funny…all the people thinking that that screenshot is a “mockup”. IGN has the same one, plus an additional showing a Spartan with twin energy blades.

    Too bad…I’d have been somewhat interested in this.

  30. Esha says:

    @terry

    Heh, I remember that. Wasn’t that from the Lord of the Rings text adventure? That seems like a lifetime ago, now. But it was a very apt and highly amusing reference, I applaud you on your knowledge of old games and wit.

    Sometimes one simply has to highlight these things.

    @Halo MMO

    I definitely agree with those who’ve said that its success or failure would be based on whether it was basically Planetside or Tabula Rasa.

    I don’t really know how to say this without being offensive. /sigh So…

    Every 360 owner I’ve talked to thus far is a rabid Halo fan, and I’ve ran my own experiments to see the levels to which this goes. The PS3 has nothing like this, which is why I avoided the 360 in the first place, but that’s a story for another day. Really though, I’m talking about fanatical support here, almost to the point where Halo is a religion.

    Try insulting Halo in front of any 360 owner, even one that claims they aren’t a Halo fan, see how far you get.

    Was there a point to that? Yes. Yes there was. Bear with me.

    The failure of Planetside was hinged on the fact that there was no real marketing to speak of, there was no marketing symbol, no known product name, et cetera. It was basically just an FPS on a large scale. I played it, and it was fun. But at the end of the day, that’s all it was. And when people getting bored of it so there were so many less people to shoot at, the game started falling apart.

    However, take Planetside and give it a Halo spin and the servers would be filled with people to shoot. I’d actually be interested in playing such a thing even if it were Halo, simply because there would always be so many people around to have fun with. Basically, adding a known product label like Halo to a formula like Planetside could have made it work.

    And really, it’s a shame that it’ll never happen.

    Instead, I’ll just look forward to that Korean thing that’s apparently Planetside rejigged, maybe they’ll get it right.

    I admit though, this post was probably more about Planetside than it was about Halo, oops.

  31. Mark says:

    I think a Halo MMO has a lot of potential but damn, if those screenshots indicate anything it’s that we were saved here. That looks hideous.

    My favorite:
    “When the player types in words the text showes up here.”

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/30784486@N04/2882625802/sizes/o/in/set-72157607452469273/

  32. The Sombrero Kid says:

    this is a reskined wow for sure

  33. roBurky says:

    Those interface screenshots have to be a joke.

  34. Okami says:

    There’s a bunch of concept art for the game on Kotaku:

    http://kotaku.com/5053787/halo-mmo-concepts-what-your-sexy-mistress-chief-could-have-looked-like

    I have to say, that this looks almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Halo.

  35. Pattom says:

    @Okami: Yeah, that concept art is way too far out to reasonably called Halo. Granted, it’s far enough way to actually come back from “that’s not canon!” to “that’s pretty sweet!” to make me disappointed, but as aiusepsi said, I wouldn’t be playing long enough to like it anyway. Here’s to the hope they explore an idea closer to Planetside.

  36. Conman17 says:

    Okay. Ensemble deserved to be shut down. What’s wrong with them? First they corrupt Halo with an Age of Empires knock-off, and then they try to force the mythos into WoW? Halo’s going downhill now that Bungie isn’t involved. Halo: Recon is going to be the last real Halo game. Hopefully Bungie’s next IP will take it’s place nicely.