Halo 5 isn't even here yet and 343 already has a foothold in the next game. In an upcoming Golden Joysticks Halo 5 special, 343's Frank O’Connor and Bonnie Ross talk about the future of the series, including talk of a "fictional foundation" for the next 20 years. That's a lot of Master Chief.
"We do kind of know what’s going to happen in the next game pretty well at this point," explains franchise development director Frank O’Connor. "We’re doing serious real planning and even some writing on the next game already, and that’s a luxury – we’ve never been in that position before. So we both know at a very high level what’s going to happen in, say, ten years from now. But at that very granular level knowing what’s going to happen in the next game and that’s just been a great feeling for me".
343's studio head Bonnie Ross talks about the long term plan, highlighting Frank and his team's role back in the ODST and Halo Reach days, "to really lay the fictional foundation for the next twenty years". There are ideas are in place. Several, in fact. "You can look at the ending of Halo 4 – and where Master Chief is," she continues, "and obviously we had to know where we were going to take Halo 5 and Halo 6 with that. You have an epic sci-fi universe and we have multiple ways that we can go with this story, but all the pieces are laying there. The canvas is there for us to paint".
But while there is a plan currently in place, Frank is cautious about total absolutes as the game progresses over the coming years. "If you start making those stepping stones too rigid, then you’re not being realistic about the game development process. That process could change the story but we know what’s going to happen in the next game, and we kind of know what’s going to happen to the Master Chief ultimately.
There's some interesting backstory from Frank to help illustrate the evolution of Halo's world and how development changes could derail plans. "Halo 1 was unique, because you don’t know if there’s going to be a sequel, you don’t know if you have a franchise at that point. I think by the end of Halo 2 we knew we had a successful franchise and we knew that we had a story, but Halo 2 itself suffered so many pretty giant changes in the story and in the content as a result of production issues that all the plans for the story kind of got thrown out of the window in some way. And so when we started Halo 3, there was a lot of kind of... 'OK, we’ve got to finish telling the story that we had in Halo 2, but we also have to move it forward.' So we kind of had the luxury, as Bonnie said, of being able to bond the universe and figure out roughly where the story is going to go'".