Halo RTS from 1999 is being restored by 343 Industries

Halo was originally designed as a real-time strategy game for the Mac, and now 343 Industries is bringing its old assets to the Master Chief Collection

Halo is undergoing a huge restoration project, with 343 Industries working to bring cut enemies, guns, and vehicles from old entries in the series to the Master Chief Collection’s modern editing suite, including assets from a real-time strategy game from 1999.

In a post on Halo Waypoint, 343 details its new “cutting room floor” project, whereby designers, coders, and modders are working through the old Halo and Halo 2 archives, uncovering abandoned material that they can rebuild, upscale, and add to the Master Chief Collection.

It’s an absolute treasure trove. Did you know, for example, that Halo 2 would originally feature a scaled-down, golf-buggy-looking version of the Warthog called the Piglet? Did you know the tank in Combat Evolved was originally going to be able to turn invisible, or that the Needler was designed as a mini-gun?

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There are dozens of fascinating little findings, but we’re especially awed by the leftovers of a 1999 version of Halo, back when it was designed as a real-time strategy game for the Mac. Guns, vehicles, character models – 343 and the rest of the so-called “Digsite project” have managed to take these assets, and completely reinvent them for first-person gameplay and modern visual standards. Using old design documents, the team has rebuilt a sniper rifle, an old version of an SMG, and some abandoned prototypes for the Spartan armour. Not everything is recoverable, however, and some finds are going to take longer to bring to the editing suite than others. As 343 explains:

“The RTS-era vehicles are very interesting from a historical perspective but are not going to be easy to integrate, and have little in the way of support data (textures, animations) that look good in first-person. We also don’t really know what many were even supposed to do, as there are no design docs of that era available to us, and little in the game mechanics we can glean from the early builds. We are still working on these vehicles, but they will require more time in the development oven.”

Another big find is the abandoned “Earth City” level, which featured as part of Halo 2’s original reveal trailer at E3 2003, but was cut from the final game. 343 and its modding colleagues have uncovered assets and design documents for Earth City, and is now working to also bring these to the editing suite.

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As for a release, no specific date has yet been given, but 343 suggests it could be soon.

“We would not be doing this article if we couldn’t see the finish line coming up fast,” says the developer. “That being said, we don’t have a specific date as we still need to follow Microsoft and Xbox Game Studios processes and reviews, even for ‘mod’ content. The team is not willing to put out half-broken content, so we’ll be fixing stuff and making additions right up to release.”