343 Industries quite rightly has an enormous amount of pressure riding over its head. Not only does Halo 4 herald the long-awaited return of Master Chief as lead protagonist (a very welcome return might we add), but this, the seventh game incorporating the Halo license – a franchise racking up revenue of over $2.8 billion might we add, as of January 2012 – is the studio's very first as lead developer. With Bungie relinquishing the reigns of the franchise, 343 has an incomprehensible weight placed on its shoulders to live up to what's expected both from its ever-faithful fan-base and Microsoft itself.
But the studio is nothing but quietly confident about that which it has been entrusted, a fact that hits home in the latest developer diary delivered directly from Microsoft's recent Spring Showcase. “We've really focussed on crafting this moments that really live up to the legacy of the Halo experience,” says creative director Josh Holmes. The diary also reveals some interesting information about the essence of the game's plot - “In Halo 4 we're really delving into Master Chief's humanity and exploring what makes him tick as a character...[Introducing] a threat that is beyond anything Master Chief has faced before” - in addition to revealing some of the artistic ideas behind the game, the use of motion-capture to propel a “more cinematic experience” and, more importantly for die-hard fans of the series, information relating to the multiplayer.
Apparently, each multiplayer map will be “purpose-built” for the online arena, rather than composed of re-purposed art assets from some of the campaign's most memorable locales. More interestingly, 343 has a trick up its sleeve in order to merge the gap between the main storyline and competitive, red vs. blue matchmaking, going as far to say that they've “created a fairly compelling, convincing reason why red spartans can fight blue spartans”. While we've never ourselves questioned the humanity or indeed reasoning behind spartans battling hell for leather in competitive online multiplayer, 343's attention to detail and respect for the franchise is clear for all to see. Check out the video below for the full developer diary.