What started conceptually as a hub for Halo content on the Xbox 360 may develop into something more, the creative director for the new Halo Waypoint Xbox destination told Kotaku.
Developed by Microsoft's Halo group, 343 Industries, in conjunction with game development studio Certain Affinity, Waypoint launches in November. It is intended to be a must-visit digital location nestled into the Xbox 360 dashboard.
Waypoint will allow Halo fans to watch Halo videos, track their quest for new Halo gameplay awards, brush up on Halo lore and learn about great Halo players. It will also likely be something that they can someday play.
The gameplay aspects that Waypoint creative director Jason Pace hinted at to Kotaku won't be apparent at launch on November 5. Ideas for it are still in development.
"I think it's safest to say that it would be a game-enhancing experience," Pace said. "It will be a much more deeply interactive one."
Responding to suggestions from Kotaku that Waypoint's gameplay could involve anything from a Halo character running through the Waypoint hub to an interactive Halo timeline filled with secrets, a la the PlayStation 3's Metal Gear Solid Database, Pace said, "My answer to that is that both options are fully on the table."
While Waypoint may become some sort of game down the line, what it will be on November 5 is a nexus of Halo content that, in Pace's words, "aggregates your experience across the Halo franchise."
Waypoint will retroactively pull the Xbox Achievements accomplishments from players' Halo 3, Halo Wars and Halo 3: ODST save files. It will apply those Achievements toward Halo Waypoint Awards. An example of an Award is a Vehicle Specialist, which will be offered in several tiers. The lowest tire might require a player to have just a few of the vehicle-based Achievements in any of the Xbox 360 Halo games. But to reach the second tier of that award, a player would probably need to have and excel at more than one.
Another sample of an award would be a career-completion tracker than levels up as players finish each Xbox 360 Halo game. Halo games that don't support Achievements — the first Halo and Halo 2 — will not be tracked.
The development team is pondering awards that would require group efforts, but none is planned for Waypoint's initial release.
At launch, pride will be the only reward for achieving the awards in Halo Waypoint's first iteration. But that seems likely to change. "Moving forward, absolutely we feel it is important to pin that achievement to something tangible," Pace said. By "tangible," he said he was referring to anything from additional game content to Avatar add-ons.
The roll-out plan for Waypoint at launch involves an offering new content, seven days a week. Mondays are spotlights on people who play or make Halo games. Tuesday focus on non-video-game Halo projects. Wednesday's are days to showcase Halo gamers' best screenshots and saved films. Thursdays' highlight machinima. Fridays are strategy days. Saturdays are premiere days for portions of the Halo Legends anime series. Sundays are days for delving into Halo lore.
All of this content and the award-tracking is intended to feel like it's being presented as taking place within the Halo universe. Pace said he doesn't want to mess with the established fiction and go so far as having, say, Cortana doling out Achievements to players, but the team's intention is that "the information being presented to you on the screen is coming from a UNSC source."
The launch of Halo Waypoint is not a shutdown of Bungie.net, the longtime hub for Halo info and deep stat-tracking administered by the now-independent inventors of Halo at Bungie Studios. That site will continue, and Pace said that Waypoint won't be trying to duplicate what Bungie's site does best. "They do stats so well it would be silly for us to re-invent that wheel," he said. "There is such a wealth of information there I wouldn't imagine we would look at changing that for Halo 3."
As Bungie moves beyond making Halo games — it's last announced one is next year's Halo Reach — and Microsoft continues to make them, it makes sense that a Microsoft-backed Halo nexus would be built. The teams involved in Bungie.net and Halo Waypoint will coordinate with each other to ensure the ideal content is available at both virtual locations, Pace said.
Waypoint will launch for all Xbox Live users for free on November 5, before switching to premium Xbox Live Gold-only access later in the month. As to whether there could be a mobile version for a Zune or iPod, Pace said he couldn't comment other than to say "mobile is very important to us."
Pace said Halo fans can expect the Waypoint team to "continue to push new features and content all the time."