Halo 3: Are They Or Aren't They, Part Two

Recently a poster in the HBO forum retorted that he wasn't even bothering to read the latest Bungie Weekly Update because it only contained generalizations and secrets; nothing concrete.

Whether one is itching for Bungie to say something about what it's working on or not, I felt that going to the effort to say that one wasn't going to the effort of reading the Update oneself to determine if there was new information in it or not was a bit silly.

This sparked debate about a number of related issues, into which the idea was injected that Bungie isn't saying anything because they have nothing they want to say.

I won't summarize the entire exchange in any more detail; the thread in the HBO forum is still there, so those who have not yet taken a look may do so.

I think it's assumed that Bungie has nothing they want to say right now. The question for months now has been why there isn't anything Bungie wants to talk about. Especially when Frankie is writing that things are going so well and there are so many cool things and that he wants to talk about them but he can't.

That creates the impression that not only does Microsoft want to talk about some new project that may or may not be "Halo 3" but can't (or rather does, but then recants) because Bungie hasn't announced it, but that individual employees also want to talk about this new project, while others say that there isn't anything they want to talk about.

There either is, or is not, a pink elephant in the room. I think many of us would just like it acknowledged whether or not it's really there, even if we don't get any details whatsoever on what kind of pink elephant it is or when it is going to be released in stores. If it's there, we can reassure ourselves that we're not seeing things. If it's not, we can all go back to our twelve-step programs and try to put our lives back together.

Forgive a poor fan for feeling confused. Even for those who have followed Bungie since before Halo, this is a rather novel situation.

After Myth 2 shipped there was a gap before Halo was officially announced. Given that the Halo engine originally was intended as a replacement for the Myth engine, there was an understandable period of doubt about whether Bungie was continuing that series or doing something entirely new.

However, the conclusion of Myth 2 arrived at a more or less satisfactory logical and dramatic conclusion, unlike Halo 2. In addition, the hardware platforms that Myth 2 ran on, Windows and MacOS, were not financially depending on another installment of that series to provide the bulk of their sales, unlike the Xbox and Xbox 360.

It's beyond just not wanting to talk about anything, but a question of whether or not Bungie will confirm or deny multiple statements made by other well-placed people in Microsoft's management structure to the effect that Bungie is working on a game that for practical purposes may be referred to as "Halo 3".

Bungie's insistence that those statements were to be disregarded as only Bungie will announce what Bungie is working on can, is, and will be interpreted differently depending on what the final announcement actually is.

If Bungie eventually does announce that it is, and has been, working on a game that for all practical purposes may be referred to as "Halo 3" then there will certainly be those who will come to the conclusion that Bungie is not, in fact, a completely autonomous unit within Microsoft free to do whatever it wishes (within reason) but is at the disposal of the corporation which owns it and is bound to follow its instructions.

This is a fairly logical conclusion to make. I imagine most people, given the financial success of Halo 1 and Halo 2, would choose to develop a third installment of the series were they in Microsoft's position.

One may conclude that Bungie wished to maintain the appearance of autonomy, and perhaps even express its displeasure with Microsoft's premature statements, by forcing those people to eat their words and then entering a long period of enforced silence.

Given that such a game as "Halo 3" would be highly anticipated, if Bungie should choose not to develop it at this time, it seems logical to assume that such an announcement would be made earlier rather than later to stem the tide of those who were expecting that the next project would be Halo 3 , irrespective of Microsoft's own announcements. Many gamers I think came to the conclusion that Bungie did intend to develop a third game based solely on the way in which the second ended, which was far more open-ended than the first. The latter merely left the door open for sequels, where the former practically demands it.

One may posit a situation in which Bungie makes absolutely no announcements until the current project is actually finished and shipping to stores. Gamers arrive on site to purchase the new Bungie game and find, to their surprise and possible chagrin, that it is not Halo 3. Violence ensues.

Bungie staffers did make statements to the effect that Bungie would be pursuing other non-Halo projects after shipping Halo 2. These statements were later replaced with the now-standard mantra that nothing has been announced. I don't think it's going out on much of a limb to say that this represents either a change in direction (that is, Bungie was going to work on other projects, but is now instead working on Halo 3) or a desire to create the impression that this change has taken place.

I recognize that Bungie has no responsibility to gamers to make "Halo 3" or any other game-- or indeed to fulfill any whim of the market. We paid our money for the games we already have-- either we like them or we don't and that's it.

It is also more than likely that any rancor generated by this silence will evaporate the instant any announcement is made that Halo 3 is in development. Should an announcement be made that it is not, I think people will wonder why that announcement took so long to make, and then I suppose the conspiracy theorists will really start having a field day.

The whole thing from the release of Halo 2 up until now reminds me of a dialogue exchange in one of my favorite movies, "Blazing Saddles", between the know-nothing, philandering Governor, played by Mel Brooks, and Hedley Lamarr, played by Harvey Korman.

It goes something like this:

Hedley Lamarr: Meeting adjourned! Oh, I am sorry sir, I didn't mean to overstep my bounds; you say that.
Governor Lepetomane: Say what?
Hedley Lamarr: Meeting is adjourned.
Governor Lepetomane: It is?
Hedley Lamarr: No, you say that, governor!
Governor Lepetomane: What?
Hedley Lamarr: Meeting is adjourned!
Governor Lepetomane: It is?
Hedley Lamarr: Here sir, play with this! [Hands the governor a rubber ball and paddle set.]

The phrase "Halo 3 is in development" as uttered by Bill Gates and others fits nicely into Lamarr's dialogue in place of "meeting is adjourned".

It is?