A Grand and Glorious Conclusion
There are few video game endings as disappointing as Halo 2. It ended with a completely unsatisfying and dumbfounding cliffhanger. Recently, in an interview with IGN, Marty O’Donnell, one of Bungie’s most veteran employees before he was fired in 2014, has spoken about Halo 2’s ending.
O’Donnell claims that the original ending involved Master Chief finding the Ark of the Covenant on Earth. Master Chief and the Arbiter would fight together on Earth to vanquish the Prophet of Truth and expel his forces from Earth. The game would have a “grand and glorious” conclusion, finishing the fight on Earth right then and there. O’Donnell states that Bungie had all the dialogue recorded and that he even has the original script somewhere.
Why the change? O’Donnell says that it was necessary to get the game out the door on time. “We just couldn’t finish the plan, it was just impossible. So everything got re-jiggered, and we had the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers.”
O’Donnell is not the first to express displeasure at Halo 2’s cliffhanger ending. Halo writer Frank O’Connor said in 2007, We drove off a cliff Thelma and Louise style.” Chris Butcher, Bungie engineer, was even more forceful. “We had about four to fix weeks to polish Halo at the end…but we had none of that for Halo 2.” We miscalculated, we screwed up, we came down to the wire and we just lost all of that. So Halo 2 is far less than it could and should be in many ways because of that. It kills me to think of it.”
This ending sounds vastly superior to Halo 2‘s actual ending. Hopefully developers can take a lesson from this and realize it’s fine to delay a game by a few weeks or month if it’s truly necessary to finalize a project and make it just right.