Installation 01: The Team Bringing Classic Halo to PC
We reached out and talked to three of the devs about their work on bringing classic Halo action to PC players.
We recently had the chance to talk with Reece Godfrey (project manager/code lead), Aiden Leeming (netcode lead) and Isaac W. (assistant art lead), three of the creative minds behind Installation 01, to discuss the future of the project. All three rank Halo 3 as their favourite Halo game, although Reece admits to enjoying "some elements" of Halo 5: Guardians.
We levelled some important questions at the devs ranging from what inspired the project to whether they are worried about their endeavour being shut down. Here is what they had to say.
So, tell me about the project. How did you all get started?
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Reece Godfrey: Well, TheChunkierBean (Alex) started the project originally in 2013 using unity asset kits as he wanted to build a Halo game but didn't really have the experience, as time progressed we've slowly picked up members, some have come and gone but we've got to the point now where we've got a really solid dedicated team to build the game. I personally joined the team back in 2014.
Aiden Leeming: I personally found out about the team on the Unity forums whilst looking for a team to join.
Isaac W.: I was recruited from forums posts, specifically Bungie.net.
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Where are you with the project then? What state is it currently in?
Reece Godfrey: Things are coming along nicely, as I mentioned to you we're building our own network API to hopefully better support the game, we've got a lot of things near completion, however every element of the game is an iterative process and so we're still refining some things.
I take it there's a multiplayer focus then? Or are you looking at the campaign(s) too? Tell me exactly what you want to achieve.
Isaac W.: We are focusing on multiplayer for now. Everything we need to build a working game is addressed by working on multiplayer, except for AI. Many on the team, myself included, would love to work on some sort of firefight or campaign mode, but we can't make any promises on that front until we are done with the multiplayer side of things.
How many maps are we talking about, and will the focus be on Halo 3?
Isaac W.: Well, in our trailers I think we have shown about 5 maps so far, but when we do a public release we want to have 8-10, because we will have to address the different players counts for big team vs rumble.
Reece Godfrey: 4 maps and a tinnnyyyyy bit of one of our WIP maps.
Isaac W.: Halo 3's Valhalla inspired Iskaldr, but it's very different in terms of layout, but we also showed off a hang em high remake, which stems back to Halo CE.
What's the biggest challenge in recreating a classic map? Where do you start?
Isaac W.: First we will gather lots of references, both by playing the games and getting screenshots. Then we will ask one of our concept artists to take the map and add some sort of unique flavor to it, I think we show two concepts for Iskaldr in our vidoc. After that, tons of asset creation, roughly 100+ man hours of work, detailing, spawn points, and so on.
How did you go about choosing the maps that you'd go on to work on? Selection by committee?
Reece Godfrey: We have a team meeting to discuss the next map we're working on, whether we want a remake or an original and after the discussion the leads get together to make the final decision on what we work on. We then go back to the team and start working on the maps in the way described above.
Isaac W.: Once forge is complete we will also be able to pitch concepts really easily to the team for playtesting. It will also reduce the man hours required to make a map, every asset we create adds to the forge palette.
No arguments over when you get to start Guardian or Cold Storage?
Reece Godfrey: Well for Guardian, we actually have an original map we're working on to fill the same bracket but we try to avoid arguments where we can. A happy team is a productive team.
Isaac W.: Shhh, we don't talk about Guardian yet.
You appeared in the news this week after speaking about your position in relation to Microsoft. Has anyone been in touch yet? Given how much time you've invested you must be very confident that you're not going to get shut down.
Isaac W.: We have spoken with BS Angel in the past, she referred us to the Game Content Usage Rules, which we were already complying with. We are hoping to get more word from 343i or Microsoft regarding how we can be careful as we apply the rules usually used by YouTube personalities and Twitch streamers.
With the project coming under the gaze of the wider gaming public, what has the reaction been like?
Isaac W.: Very positive
Isaac W.: That's a tweet we just got from the creator of Master Chief and the community at large has been very loving, and admittedly it feels like all eyes are on us to deliver on the dreams of thousands of PC Halo fans. I believe we got a 95% upvote ratio on the Halo Subreddit, which is something that has not happened in the past with our older videos.
So you think that there's a place on PC for a slower-paced Halo-esque experience?
Isaac W.: Yes I do think there is a crowd waiting for that sort of gameplay.
Reece Godfrey: The amount of positive reaction to the news we're aiming for a more classic experience suggests that there is definitely a place.
Isaac W.: There is the unique factor of playing it on a keyboard + mouse though, I've found myself to be lining up no-scopes with a sniper much easily than I ever have on the Xbox.
What was it about Halo 3 and that game's pacing that made it such a defining classic in the genre, and what are you doing to bring that back to life?
Isaac W.: It was starting to approach a more tactical state with the presence of equipment combined with the usual power weapon rush, without having so many options on the map or player abilities that gameplay ends up swamped. Bungie always touts their "30 seconds of fun" idea based on gameplay that sort of builds up, via weapon spawns and players positioning themselves, which then results in a pitched battle for 30 seconds.
I take it, then, that you're planning on having timed weapon drops on your maps when you eventually launch?
Isaac W.: Yes, classic Halo style. Classic referring to the trilogy.
Talk to me about weapons. Are you drawing them from the first three game as well?
Reece Godfrey: In terms of weaponry we are drawing primarily from the first three games, however that doesn't mean that all of the weapons from the first three will make it in and none of them from the later ones will, for example the DMR is currently in-game but the Brute Spiker is not. We would eventually love to have weapons from all the games in, however that won't be for a long time yet.
What is the long-term plan with the game?
Isaac W.: Long-term plan is to deliver and upkeep a classic Halo multiplayer experience for PC. We get lots of questions about campaign and Firefight modes, I'll just say that we want to do those, but feasibility comes into question right now.
Where do you stand on Spartan customisation? Is that on the agenda, or is it just another thing that you'd like to do eventually?
Reece Godfrey: It is on the agenda, we have a few different sets of armour in the works at the moment and once again as we move forward we'll continue to add more variants into the game.
What systems are you going to put in place for matchmaking? I know one thing people really miss is the old style ranking.
Aiden Leeming: Well, we wish to support ranking, the problem with that being that we have no money for servers due to the fact that we're not allowed to make any and even if we took donations we don't want to rely completely on a source of income that is so unstable. So one thing we considered was a local ranking system, the problem with this system is it would be easy to hack. However we think we might have a trick up our sleeve to pull it off properly. So in short, we want to support old style ranking however we're not 100% sure that we'd be able to pull it off.
The big question: when will the game release?
Isaac W.: That's a tough one, and I know everyone is worried that we won't release. In terms of netcode and art we are expecting to be conducting a closed alpha in 4 months. Depending on what we find out during that alpha we will release in the months following.
Isaac W.: To clarify, that release after the alpha would be a public build.
Steam/Valve is often supportive of efforts like this, maybe there?
Isaac W.: We would not put the game on Steam unless we have explicit permission from Microsoft.
So as you can see it seems like the team are quite confident that Installation 01 will get an official release even amid concerns from fans about Microsoft's possible intervention. Only time will tell if the game gets a definite release date.
In the meantime you can take a look at their work for yourselves here: Halo Waypoint.