Ex-Ensemble Studios staffer and current Windstorm Studios founder and president Dusty Monk has told IncGamers about the Halo MMO that was in development at Ensemble prior to the studio’s closure.Monk revealed to IncGamers that, from 2004 to 2007, he spent all of his time working on a project codenamed Titan, which you might know better as the cancelled MMO set in the Halo universe.”It was going to be the Halo MMO, and it was absolutely going to compete against WoW,” reminisced Monk.“You have to remember that Ensemble came from a standpoint of being really good at competing against Blizzard Entertainment,” he noted, drawing comparisons between the success of the Warcraft series and the success of the Age of Empires series. “We had a pretty good history of knowing the types of stuff that Blizzard put into their games to make them really successful, and the kinds of things we’d need to put into an MMO to compete against Blizzard.””Just to give you a couple of examples,” Monk elaborated, “we were using a heroic stylised artform. This heroic stylised artform is exactly the artform that you see being used in Star Wars: The Old Republic right now. It’s timeless. It doesn’t age itself like a game that’s built with a strictly realistic artform does.””We were developing a cover system. This cover system is in Star Wars: The Old Republic. We had the idea of quests – and like I said, this was between 2004 and 2007, before Warhamer Online had been released – but we had this idea of quests where you could participate and pull them together without having to be on the same team. This would be a public quest that everyone in a particular area could work on. That idea went into Warhammer Online.”Monk also notes that, since Ensemble’s closure, a number of Ensemble staffers have since moved to Blizzard – not least of all Greg Street, known to World of Warcraft fans as Ghostcrawler.“We had all this incredible talent, we had the right people, the right passion, we had a phenomenally successful IP – the Halo IP. We were going back in time for the Halo franchise to broaden the story a little bit, in the exact same way that Star Wars has gone back in time so they can tell a more broad story, and we had a company that had our back when we started and the funding to put together that type of project.”So what happened to the Halo MMO? “There was a bit of a changing of the guard at Microsoft at this time,” explains Monk. “Microsoft, from its gaming division, was really changing directions. They were looking really hard at the Nintendo Wii and they were really excited by the numbers that the Wii was turning. This was about the time that Microsoft decided that its Xbox platform and XBLA really needed to go more in the direction of appealing to a more casual, broader audience.””So part of this changing of the guard at Microsoft came along with the changing of the attitude to this very expensive, very long and very protacted $90 million USD project we were working on, which was Titan. To cut a long story short, Titan was closed down.”Today, though, Monk is still optimistic about the chances the MMO would’ve had.”Even though a lot of people talk about how you just can’t build a WoW killer, I absolutely believe that we could have built an MMO, if Microsoft had maintained their commitment, that if it hadn’t been a WoW killer it certainly would’ve competed.”The first part of our interview with Dusty Monk has now gone live, and you can read it right here.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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