Q&A with Bungie's Doug Zartman
June 19, 2000
by jason "loonyboi" bergman
With this morning's announcement that Microsoft would be acquiring Bungie (developers of Halo, Oni, and the Myth and Marathon games) we tracked down PR manager Doug Zartman and had him answer a few questions about what this means for their games and the company's future.
Blue's News: Okay, the first thing everyone wants to know...what does this mean for Halo? Will it affect the schedule of the project and will the game still be released on the Mac?
Doug Zartman: It's important to understand two things: The decision about what platforms Halo and future Bungie games will be developed for remains in the hands of Bungie Studios, in the hands of the teams developing them. In Halo's case the decision has not been made yet. The development team has a ton of options to consider, and thats what theyre doing right now. They may choose to concentrate on one platform, to bring the game to every platform under the sun, or something in between. As of this writing we simply dont know what the answer will be. We cannot promise that a Windows or Mac version of Halo will ship, but we can't rule it out either.
Blue's News: What about Bungie's post-Oni/Halo projects? Will Bungie remain committed to cross-platform development?
Doug Zartman: The development team for each title will make the decision of which platforms to develop for. That may mean one platform, or several.
Blue's News: Who retains the rights to the Oni, Myth and Marathon series? Is Bungie keeping them, or will Take Two own them?
Doug Zartman: Take 2 will get Oni and the Myth franchise, Bungie keeps everything else.
Blue's News: Microsoft's press release says, "Bungie's development staff will be integrated into the Microsoft Game Division as an independent development studio..." What does this mean? Will Bungie be closing one (or both) of its studios to integrate with Microsoft in Seattle?
Doug Zartman: Yes, the two Chicago teams are going out to Redmond now to form Bungie Studios, and the Oni team will be joining them once Oni is complete.
Blue's News: It says specifically that Bungie will remain an, "independent development studio." Will Microsoft have any influence on game development and direction at Bungie?
Doug Zartman: No. The plan is that they'll leave us more or less alone to do what we do, and trust that the results will be worth it. They will be involved on some level at every step of the process, including conceptualization, but they will not shape the development of the games or censor content. Their interactions with us will mostly be on a business level.
Blue's News: Are there any personnel changes as a result of the acquisition? Will there be any layoffs?
Doug Zartman: Many of Bungies publishing staff are interviewing with Microsoft for positions within their publishing departments. Others are unable to make the move out to Redmond, and will be moving on to some other company. They are our friends, and we wish them well. Nearly all of the developers at this point are going out there.
Blue's News: Will Halo and Oni definitely be released for the Xbox?
Doug Zartman: Oni will definitely be released for the PS2 but it's not up to us to make Xbox announcements.
Blue's News: Will Halo ever be released for the Playstation 2? A port was rumored to be in the works, but has never been confirmed. Does the Microsoft acquisition destroy any chances of this happening?
Doug Zartman: That has never been anything other than a rumor - no PS2 version of Halo was never in development, and now it is not likely that one would be.
Blue's News: What is the current status of Oni? Who will be publishing it, and is there a planned release date? Has Oni's development been affected by this?
Doug Zartman: Oni's development is unaffected by this. Oni will be finished by the Bungie West team in their San Jose office and tested by Bungie's QA manager and his team. The game will then be published, distributed and supported by Gathering of Developers for Mac and Windows, and by Rockstar Games for the PlayStation2. It will ship for PC, Mac and the PlayStation2. After the game ships, the Oni team will relocate to Seattle to join the rest of the Bungie staff and start work on their next project.
Blue's News: Another line reads, "Microsoft expects the Bungie development studio to play a key role in the development of future first-party content for the Xbox platform." Does this mean Bungie will be creating Xbox exclusive titles?
Doug Zartman: As above, it's up to the teams.
Blue's News: Does Microsoft have plans to utilize the Halo technology in other projects?
Doug Zartman: Nothing to announce.
Blue's News: One question many people have regarding this announcement is simply...why? Bungie has always been a fiercely independent company, having self-published both Myth games, and last August, Take Two Interactive purchased a 20% stake in Bungie, so why, almost a year later, this decision to align with Microsoft?
Doug Zartman: For two reasons:
A. Microsoft is offering us the opportunity to lead the way on a next-generation console system. We will not only be one of the premier developers for the platform, but we'll be working directly with the Xbox team, helping to optimize the hardware and software for each other. We'll influence the design of the system; we'll help to ensure that the Xbox is the best platform to code for, and the most impressive console on the block. Such an opportunity does not come often. Bungie has always tried to keep abreast of the industry, if not ahead of it, and next-gen consoles seem like the place to be if you develop games. This deal allows us to get into that market in a big way.
B. The business of publishing entertainment software independently has changed enormously since Bungie started. Bungie was not in immediate danger of going under or anything like that, but we realized that within a few years wed need a strong partner if we wanted to keep making games the way we always have. We opted to make what we saw as an inevitable move while we were still in a position of strength, rather than wait for circumstances to force our hand. The ultimate goal is to ensure Bungie continues to exist and continues to produce the high-caliber games for which it is known.
Blue's News: Lastly, the announcement that Halo might be switching to a first person perspective received audible cheers from our readers. Can you give us any more information on this? Has a definite decision on whether or not to change the perspective been made? What factors are involved?
Doug Zartman: Halo will not be either 100% first person or 100% third, but instead will use the best mode for whatever activity the player is engaging in. You gotta have first person for sniping; you gotta have third for driving... an artful mix is the best solution.