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Jason Jones did his first interview in more than a decade with IGN, and the conversations revealed some long-kept secrets.
Jones is the co-founder of Bungie, maker of the Halo and Destiny video game franchises. While his games have sold tens of millions of units over time, Jones has been shy about talking to the press. (I haven’t interviewed him since I talked to him for my first book, Opening the Xbox).
In that interview, Jones admitted that one of the myths of Halo’s design was true. He tweaked the power of the pistol in the original Halo to make it more powerful. Many players felt it was far too powerful, as it was able to take out both weak and strong characters. Jones is known as a perfectionist, but his attention to detail has paid off over time.
“There was a moment towards the end of Halo 1 where we were very close to locking down,” Jones told writer Ryan McCaffrey at IGN. “The balance on the pistol was such that both in the competitive game, but also in the solo game, it wasn’t where we wanted it to be. It was too late to change the… Well, we didn’t feel comfortable actually changing the data anymore. The game was so locked down that when you changed a piece of data, gigabytes of crap had to be reprocessed.
“What we did feel comfortable doing was changing the code,” Jones added. “And so… I added code specifically, when the map was loaded, to change a single number on the pistol. Whether that was ‘ninja style’ or not,” he says with a laugh, “I’ll be happy to let you decide. I will take the credit and blame for the pistol in Halo. I’ll take the blame for everything in Halo. That answer, I mean… If it’s important to go micro on something, I’ll do that. I feel like design really is about the details.”
He said that he structures his day to lead people where he wants them to go, but he wants the employees of Bungie to be able to make their next game, Destiny, without him. He goes both “high level” and “low level” on design, depending on where he needs to be at any given moment. But he doesn’t demand to sign off on everything in the game.
IGN is running parts two and three of the interview on Monday and Tuesday.