Saturday, March 8, 2008

Xbox360 Temp interview: Bungie's Frank O'Connor

In another 4 minute E3 round robin interview (check out our first session with Peter Moore), we got the chance to interview Bungie's Frank O'Connor, better known simply as Frankie to Bungie fans. We made sure to ask him about Halo, of course, but we also asked him about Peter Jackson's project and Bungie's magnum opus, Pimps at Sea.

First of all, when did you actually start Halo 3's production? Was it almost immediately after Halo 2?

Some of it was even before, you know, some of the concepting and design stuff was done before then, but pretty much three years of development.

When you were doing Halo 2, was there a time when you were thinking Halo 1, Halo 2 and that was it, or were you always thinking trilogy?

We were thinking of a trilogy. I can't say that we felt that during Halo 1 but certainly during Halo 2. That became very apparent that there was more story to tell than could fit into a 10 hour, 11 hour game.

The last trilogy you did for Mac was the Marathon games. And Halo 1 you were originally doing for Mac ...

There's some symmetry there, yeah.

So, all the Halo fans are familiar with the mysterious story bible, that has all this stuff we won't ever see and things like that ...

Well you see some of it. Every now and then stuff gets out. I don't know if you follow the sort of object fetishes that we do on the side. You know, the Warthog, the turnarounds, and stuff. Some of the detail and facts that you see in there are plucked straight out of the story bible, verbatim in some cases. So, we build all that backstory, you know, the comments from the soldiers who use it in the field and all that stuff.

Now that we've got Halo Wars coming, Halo 3 is coming out, how much more content is there to mine? Could we be seeing books for years on something like this?

Yeah, I mean it's a huge universe with a lot of complicated characters and scenarios and locations, so as long as there's good things to do with it you'll see stuff, and when it starts to suck we'll stop.

How involved are you guys with Peter Jackson on his "interactive" media?

I wish I could tell you exactly what it is, because it would probably help clarify it -- but I can't contractually -- but very involved. We're working with him very directly on it.

Can you even reveal maybe how far into the project things are going?

It's hard to say because it's a pretty unique project. It's not like a game, you know, where the engine is done, and, you know, whatever. It's a little complicated and when we reveal more, that'll be easier to understand, but I'd say it's halfway through.

So, is it even in a state where he can hand you a controller and say "try out the latest build?"

It has been for longer than he's had content for it. I'll put it that way.

Everyone wants to know about Halo, obviously, but what happens next?

You mean in Halo 3 or after?

After Halo 3.

After Halo 3 we go on a nice vacation because we've been on a crunch for three years, right? So, then I think the next thing for Bungie, the next public-facing thing is going to be downloadable content of some kind. You can imagine that we'll do multiplayer maps for example. There's a bunch of stuff we haven't revealed about Halo 3 yet. That's going to be important to what Bungie is doing after Halo 3 ships. Then it'll all become ...

Forge? (This is a menu item we spied during the demonstration)

(Smiles) It's just a text string, it could be anything. But there's gonna be some stuff you'll read about in the next couple of weeks when some embargoes are lifted on some press stuff that should clarify the whole thing.

Have you put much thought into revisiting old franchises by chance?

We think about it. We have skunk works projects and things on back burners all the time, but pretty much we're a forward moving company. We've never repeated any old memes.

Do you have any idea of Pimps at Sea beyond a title?

So, Pimps at Sea development continues apace as you know [laughs]. And you know, we joke about it, but sometimes we think to ourselves on dark nights, man, that Pimps at Sea film poster is pretty cool." I'd like to see a film about pimps on the high sea with piracy and pimping. And you never know, like, maybe an Xbox Live Arcade game ...

It would be perfect.

Or an MMO ....

Did you enjoy the Halo film pitch that you guys showed at the press conference?

Yeah, I mean it's really just for hardcore Halo fans. It's for people who want to see sniper rifles being manufactured, right?

(The bell rings. Our time is up.)

We'd like to thank Frank for his time during a very busy E3.

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