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Clarifications From A Halogen Team Member 47

The folks behind the now shut-down Halogen Halo mod noticed your concerns in the comments for Saturday's story. Adam Saltsman, a team member, took the time to answer some of the questions you posed. He touches on why they bothered to do it in the first place, and the much discussed issue of 'getting permission from Microsoft'. From his comments: "MS Games is, not surprisingly, a game company. Therefore, they will happily and cheerfully support machinima ads for their own game made for free by other people. However, they are quite touchy (to an extent that we did not previously understand) about people making GAMES about their games." Many thanks to Adam for putting this together for us. Read on for his complete response.
Hi, my name is Adam Saltsman. I created all of the infantry units and weapons for Halogen, and I was hoping I could answer some of the outstanding questions/assumptions made by many of the commenters on Saturday's post.
  1. "Why did they even bother making a Halo mod?" A multitude of reasons. One, we are only about 5 guys. Who all work fulltime, and some of which were also attending school. It's not like we had the time or ability to create a whole universe ourselves! While we did bring a lot of original content to the mod, it was all extended or heavily based on Bungie's concepts. This was fun for us, because we really enjoyed the designs (despite not enjoying the games THAT much) and it was a HUGE time saver. Also, there were a LOT of people out there (in the tens of thousands) that wanted a Halo RTS, and Microsoft sure wasn't filling that need. We thought that if we approached it professionally and seriously that maybe they'd let it slide; obviously we were wrong.
  2. "If they were going to make a halo mod, why didn't they just ask for permission?" With our magical powers of hindsight, sure we would have done certain things differently. Basically our plan was something like this: just make it, and hope that we get it either finished or to a level of completion where people would be really impressed with what we'd managed to do with a 5yr old engine and some severely limited FPS IP. Also, in a lot of ways, we just wanted to play a Halo game that we felt was big and galactic and really felt huge like Halo should (rather than like a rail shooter, for example). We thought that if we asked MS Games that would just shoot us down without being able to see how great it could be. Our intent was never to sell this thing, but we still treated it like a very, very careful publishing pitch. Why on earth would MS ever grant dev rights to 5 people spread all over the world to develop something as resource intensive as an RTS? Just seemed far-fetched. However, if we showed them how good a game it could really be...
  3. "Well they should have kept this on the lowdown, so MS wouldn't have noticed and canned them just to protect its IP from ravenous adoring fans." Its not like no one knew about this mod; we were slashdotted a year ago, were on the front page of RvB, Bungie definitely had their eye on us, we got mentioned in a couple print mags...we were not shut down because we got "too big" or "just got noticed". I think I know why MS Games canned us, just need to wait a couple of weeks to make sure, so I'm not really comfortable writing about it yet. But I'm 95% sure it had nothing to do with "spontaneous noticement", and very little to do with "MS are teh jerks and will do anything to stop their IP from being Xploited!!"
  4. "Microsoft lets Red vs Blue do their thing; if these guys had just asked for permission, then there would be no problem." Erm, not exactly. MS Games is, not surprisingly, a game company. Therefore, they will happily and cheerfully support machinima ads for their own game made for free by other people. However, they are quite touchy (to an extent that we did not previously understand) about people making GAMES about their games. When the 2d sidescrolling halo fangame was released and apparently had no problems, we thought maybe they'd let our RTS do its thing too.
I hope this helps clear things up!
- Adam
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Clarifications From A Halogen Team Member

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  • To me, the biggest question by far, is if it had financial motivations. If it had no financial motivation (not even a donate link), then that is a far different question. Just like copying a CD for your friend is a lot different than selling the copies on the corner.
    • by BondGamer ( 724662 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @02:47PM (#16083098) Journal
      He already stated what he thinks the motive is. If you can't read between the lines: Microsoft is going to announce their own Halo RTS.
      • by twistedsymphony ( 956982 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @03:49PM (#16083695) Homepage
        That was my first guess when I heard the news. Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't Halo originally going to be an RTS before bungie was bought by MS? There have been rumors about a Halo RTS in the works for a while, before Halo 3 was announced a lot of people were speculating that the next title might be an RTS. Not to mention it makes sense; RTSs get barely any coverage on the console space (debatably because they're hard to play with a controller). It'd be in MS's best interests to build their start franchise laterally instead of making it just a straight sequel machine.
        • Who wants a Halo RTS? Isn't there enough teenagers throwing around deregatory comments with just the FPS games?
        • Originally the game was going to be a First person shooter with 3 unique storylines. I believed intellegent squadmates were planned, but fully a FPS.

          However of course Microsoft bought them, unique story lines were canned, squadmates were ok, but it became a shell of the original idea.
          • Halo 2 and the novels hinted at multiple storylines; Master Chief, Arbiter and arguably Cortana "could" have seperate storylines. Master Chief is obvious, the Arbiter is hinted to have been in the first Halo but simply never crossed paths with the player/Master Chief in the games/novels, and Cortana is alone or disconnected from the player for several missions gathering information some of which are revealed in the novels.

            If you want to get extreme you could even make Sergeant Johnson (the black Marine who

            • Sorry, no no no

              I should have said 3 unique story lines. 3 story lines from three different races, each would be for the most part completely seperate. So one would be master chief, the other two wouldn't even be "human"
            • by Wolfrider ( 856 )
              I think it would sell if they came out with "Halo 2: The Untold Story" for the original Xbox. There are a few story sequences that come to mind:

              o When Sarge Johnson gets in the Pelican, leaving MC to take out the lizard-snipers
              (" Outskirts " level ) -- Play as Sarge

              o Level 9 "Regret" -- Miranda asks Johnson to meet her at the Library. -- Play as Sarge, then as Miranda

              o Level 10, Marines fighting the Flood

              o When the Arbiter gets in the transport (right before he gets "killed" by the head Brute - the human
              • Actually there are even more, larger battles that take place in the Halo universe that the Master Chief (and therefore the player) never see.

                In Halo 1 alone, theres a battle between the Marines to recover the weapons and equipment onboard the ship (now you know where all the Warthogs and Scorpion tanks came from) and the Covenant (which explains why the ship is filled with them on the last level.) An easy D-Day styled missions with lots of mortars going off around you and the player rushing through in vehi

      • Please reread what I said. Carefully.
        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Since no one else appears to get the obvious. He is saying that he didn't think they ever had a shot at being published, they were just a bunch of garage developers from different locales. Now their mod is mega popular and Microsoft is going to release a new Halo RTS. Here is the very important part Halogen is to be that new Halo RTS. Congrats guys if you do actually get this published!
          • Here is the very important part Halogen is to be that new Halo RTS. Congrats guys if you do actually get this published!

            That's pretty much how I read it, too, although see this comment [] for why it might not be Halogen itself that gets published. My guess is that MS hired the team to work on their own development, and that shutting it down was a condition.

    • There's this funny thing about trademarks, intellectual property and the like. The owners are required to stomp unauthorized derivative works when they find out about them, or they run the very real risk of losing the rights to it.

      But why didn't Microsoft do this before? There has been lots of noise about it!

      MS is a big company. A very big company. Even if someone climbed over the wall at the Gates estate wearing nothing but printouts of screenshots from the Halogen project, it would still take a very l

  • Red vs Blue (Score:4, Informative)

    by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @02:54PM (#16083168) Homepage
    It is not true that MS just "let Red vs Blue do their thing". The RvB team has had a private agreement with MS from very early on that allows the use of their IP.
    • The RvB team didn't start off with a private agreement. In fact, I believe it was at a (the?) Bungie Fanfest in 2003 or 2004 that the Rooster Teeth guys were invited and spoke with some MS reps that "congratulated" them with "it's ok, we're not going to completely sue the shit out of you."

      They haven't been supported, they've just been allowed to work and a deal was worked out over time. Same thing here but since it's a competitor's game, it doesn't help MS as much (or at all).
  • by skorch ( 906936 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @03:37PM (#16083581)
    As pointed out repeatedly in the prequel to this article, these guys were making their mod using the C&C engine, which is EA property. So while even if these guys had no intention of distributing it for profit, and even if it turned out to be a success, it would be impossible for MS to officially capitalize on the promotion of their IP because it is based on software that doesn't belong to them.

    And then people are ignoring the fact that if MS hadn't tanked this project first for using their IP on someone else's software, EA probably would have for using their software to promote someone else's IP. There is no way either of these two entities would be able to compromise on a project like this, and it would be naive to presume that both companies would lay down their arms to allow these guys to do their thing (as holding-hands-around-the-world beautiful as that might be).

    My question, which I doubt the guys involved in this project can answer, is whether or not the same outcome would have happened if they had used an MS owned RTS engine (there are some out there, Rise of Nations comes to mind). I would be very surprised if MS were less willing to approach these guys with some kind of deal if the project had started out using entirely MS owned products from the outset. And if they would have still killed the project, my guess would be it's either because it planned to significantly diverge from Bungie's intended continuity or brand direction, or they have plans brewing as we speak to develop a Halo based RTS in house and they didn't want a potentially popular, free competitor out there months to years ahead of their own product.

    Now I'm no fan of MS, but I always try to be fair, usually willing to give people (and companies, even the big evil ones) the benefit of the doubt, and generally consider if I wouldn't do the same thing if I were in the same position. Given the conflicting IP issue with the game engine, I don't see too many options for MS to resolve this issue that doesn't have them either shut the project down, or have them restart the entire thing using one of their own engines. Given those choices, I think I can guess which one is easier and cheaper (and arguably shortsighted, but so is just assuming a big company would be ok with you using their IP to do anything).

    To be clear I am sorry to hear the project was killed, sounds like it might have been a fun project. I would have preferred to see MS take a different route, but I'm not going to use this as an example of how MS is any more evil or greedy than any other company out there.
  • Back in 2000 Activision released Star Trek: Armada and great modding ensued many times encouraged by makers of the game. You had Babylon 5: Armada , Star Wars: Armada, etc... great times great mods. I dont recall anyone getting upset over IP rights and shutting projects down. Heck when STA 2 (2001) came out the developers released better tools for the modding community. It made the game better you had more playtime out of it (Borg vs Shadows need I say more). In my opinion if its not being sold there should
  • Man, he sounds like one of those guys who likes pugs.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal