One of Halo’s main writers and current chief creative officer at 343 Industries said he thought the protagonist of the Master Chief series was originally pretty bland.
The faceless space marine is one of the most recognizable mascots in gaming and recently starred in last year’s Halo Infinite on Xbox Series X | S. But Joseph Staten, who served as writer and cinematic director on Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 and was one of the defining voices behind Master Chief, didn’t always like the character.
“At the end of Halo [Combat Evolved]I felt like Master Chief had limitations,” Staten said, speaking to Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (opens in new tab). “If we wanted to tell a deeper story, expand our world, Master Chief was the least interesting character in the Halo universe.
“Through a combination of technology and the choices we made about keeping his face masked, I was pulling my hair out and saying, ‘What can we do with this character?’
Enter the Referee
Staten says his frustrations with the Master Chief’s blandness eventually provided the springboard for Halo 2. games. He features heavily in Halo 2’s storyline and is even featured as a playable character in its single-player campaign.
“That was the most interesting character,” Staten said. “You have this hero who has paved a bloody path in the Covenant. Who is the most interesting character? The one the Covenant blamed for this disaster. That’s where the Referee came in.
“The reason I was upset with the Master Chief and thought he was the least interesting character in the Halo universe is that we never put anything in opposition to him that felt like a real dramatic blocker; a character who could be an equal partner in this dramatic conflictual relationship.
“With the creation of the Referee, I started to feel, ‘This is clicking now. There is real dramatic opposition here. There’s a different point of view, and a villain has his reasons for acting the way he did.’ Then everything started to work.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Staten describes how Halo Infinite’s open world underwent a “significant downsizing” prior to its release. Regardless of its final size, you’ll soon be able to explore it with a friend as Halo Infinite co-op is on the horizon.