Joseph Staten only leave Microsoft. Technically, it doesn’t really change anything when it comes to Halo’s future compared to when he left 343 Industries, the developer of Halo. returns to his previous role at Xbox Publishing back in January. That comes between fuel shaker layoff on the set has seen many high-profile protagonists leave at that time or in the past year since Halo Infinite first shipped. Still, somehow, his departure from Microsoft completely makes this longtime Halo fan feel a little sadder, because it means he’s less likely, if ever, to influence to the future of the franchise – which he can still have from his Xbox Publishing Perch.
And so, while it’s fair to wonder where Halo is going from here – I’ll address that in a bit – I wanted to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the person who contributed great in making some of my favorite games of all time. Staten is a “Grayed Ancient Man” Bungie, the studio’s internal term for someone who has worked at the company for a long time. This is the guy who wrote the original Halo trilogy. Remember, the first game was almost perfect – the game had a memorable campaign and the characters who single-handedly made the Xbox a major player in the console space – the sequel is cleverly told and shocking that you played The Arbiter in one piece of the adventure, and the trilogy capper gave Master Chief and friends closure and meaning while still leaving a glimmer of hope that one day Somehow Spartan-117 might return. “Wake me up… when you need me.”
But Staten still hasn’t finished Halo there. He followed that by directing Halo 3: ODST, the film noir-inspired Halo game that takes you out of your MJOLNIR armor and into the boots of a regular human. Covenant’s villains (well, except for Grunts… by the way, voiced by Staten) look a lot bigger as a regular human than as a seven-foot-tall super-soldier. And it’s all set in a pseudo-open central world where you can go where you want and revisit the places when you want or need to. Everything is overseen by the mysterious AI Director (“Keep it clean!”), which, incidentally, is also voiced by Staten. And the mood is set by the piano-heavy, jazz-inspired soundtrack by Halo composer Marty O’Donnell, which makes ODST feel unlike any other Halo game. To this day, it is still loved by Halo fans, and for some, it remains their favorite Halo game ever.
And then, of course, we come to Halo Infinite. Its six-year development cycle is messy, even from what we’ve seen publicly. And after the game launch for the Xbox Series X’s top day-to-day debut went poorly, Microsoft took the bold and somewhat embarrassing but absolutely necessary step of delaying Infinite. from the Series X launch window and brought in Joseph Staten in 343 as the project’s creative director. Although I know there are fans out there who would blame Joseph for making tough decisions like split screen cooperative cut and delay Forge – and as creative director, the hard part will stop for him – in the bigger picture, look where Halo was before Staten arrived (i.e. Craig) and look at the last campaign we got December 2021. We have an outstanding single-player campaign – a Halo campaign that gets a soft reboot while continuing the Chief story. And one, may I add, has successfully washed away the unpleasant taste of Halo 5 pathetic campaign out of our mouths. No, Staten didn’t do it alone, but he still deserves credit for pulling Halo Infinite together like he did.
And as I mentioned earlier, the future of Halo remains murky. Looks like we won’t be getting any campaign content – be it backstory DLC with Blue Team (as they are mentioned in the audio log) or the complete “Halo 7” – at any time. in the next few years or perhaps more. Another big question is “Who will lead Halo in the future?” It wouldn’t be Staten, whom I had fully trusted. Instead, it could be a younger generation of game development talent at 343 – similar to the young shooters at id Software who successfully reinvented Doom for the modern era in 2016 – or 343 may seek to poach big-name talent from other studios.
But that’s a conversation for another day. For now, I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to Joseph Staten for helping to create so many of the best Halos ever: Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Infinite Aura. He’s very proud of that, and I’m glad I played those games as they came out and enjoyed the fun conversation each game generates – and talk to him about his amazing journey.
Enjoy your next adventure, Joseph, and thanks for all the greatness of Halo.