While Ensemble Studios - recently shuttered by owners Microsoft - were busy stowing their gear and shutting down operations, Gamasutra thought it'd be an idea to go ask a few more questions about the Halo MMO.
What they found was that the game has a long, long history. Indeed, it began before Halo, as a sci-fi project by the name of Titan, an MMO inspired by Ultima Online. Then, when Ensemble were brought into the Microsoft fold, the Halo license "was incorporated in the game", and the project's name was changed to Orion.
Apparently, "everyone at Ensemble expected this MMO to be the new focus of the company", and work even began on a new building to house the dev team. Down the road, however, "work on the new building stopped", and it wasn't much longer until Microsoft closed down the entire studio. A suggestion that the cancellation of Orion led to the studio's demise, perhaps?
Moving on from Halo, a number of other unreleased projects came to light as concept art and design documents were packed away. There was a "fantasy-adventure RPG", a "Diablo in space" game, a "pirate-themed take on Diablo", a "Ratchet & Clank-style platformer" and a cartoony platformer called "Agent".
Interestingly, one more older project was unveiled: "Phoenix", an RTS pitting humans vs martians that "changed over time" to become Halo Wars.
The full report - including some concept art for both Orion and Agent - below.
Ensemble Studios: The Last Tour [Gamasutra]