Yesterday 343 Industries released Halo Waypoint, the Xbox 360 destination for all things Halo. Kotaku spoke to Halo franchise executive producer Josh Holmes about how fans will help determine the direction Waypoint takes.
Josh Holmes has been in the industry for around 15 years. He was part of the EA Canada exodus that formed Propaganda Games in 2005, having previous worked on the first two Def Jam titles and the NBA Street series. At Propaganda he worked on the most recent Turok game. He came to Microsoft's 343 Industries and now holds the position of executive producer of the Halo 3 franchise.
My first question for Josh following yesterday's release of the Xbox Live Halo hub was what's next for the Waypoint team? His answer? Sleep. Waypoint has been a labour of love for the development team from the get go, to the point where they stayed up well into the early morning on Wednesday night, watching the players download and explore the fruits of their labour. "The team here has been really grinding to complete this and launch it. We're all super excited to see it go live. None of us slept. We just stayed up and watched as people came in and tried it out."
And try it out they did. During the first few hours of availability, some users experienced problems downloading Waypoint due to the overwhelming response fans have to anything Halo related. "We've been blown away by the number of people we've seen coming in to check out Waypoint, and that number is bound to get larger."
So now the fans are watching Halo Waypoint. They're keeping track of their progression; replaying Halo 3 and Halo Wars in order to complete innovative achievements that span all the Halo 3 360 titles; and learning about the Halo Universe through an stylised information database.
And there's a lot more on the way. Starting Saturday night, four episodes from the Halo Legends anime series will be made available for a 24-hour period every other weekend, alternating with making-of videos. There'll be new fiction, interviews and news. The aim is to have daily updates, with content that, if viewed on a regular basis, give players an idea of what's going to happen next in the Halo Universe.
While you can read all about the regularly scheduled content in Halo Waypoint in Stephen's excellent article on the future of the service, it's the amount of weight that player feedback will have on future content that's the most interesting aspect of Waypoint.
Josh first mentioned community feedback in response to my query about the possibility of eventually meeting friends and launching games from within Waypoint. "There's a ton of great ideas that the team has had brainstorming about the types of things we'd like to do in the future, but we're also going to be really taking the lead from a lot of feedback we get from the community."
The community focus came up time and time again throughout the interview, generally after I suggested potential upcoming content, such as excerpts from the upcoming Halo Evolutions anthology novel, or more avatar rewards. "Avatar awards are just one of the ways we can reward people for being a fan of the franchise and a good member of the Halo community."
The Career section of Waypoint is also ultimately in control of the fan base. "We may be looking at additional ways to compare data between friends in the future, and might be one of the things we evolve if we hear from fans that that will be something valuable to them."
You get the basic idea here. If there's something you'd like to see or a new feature you'd like implemented on the Halo Waypoint service, make some noise. Talk about it in the Halo forums. Twitter about it. Facebook it. Josh Holmes and the 343 Industries Halo Waypoint team are paying attention.