On the phone from a Toronto hotel room, Holmes said he still gets chills thinking about the first time he played the original game, Halo: Combat Evolved, which came out in the fall of 2001. “I just went back recently and played it,” he told the Georgia Straight, “and it holds up to this day. It’s still a phenomenal game experience.”
The trick, according to Holmes, is going to be attaining the same level of quality that Bungie did with the Halo games it produced. “We are extremely excited at the opportunity to take the baton from Bungie…but it’s a daunting challenge,” he said.
Holmes got his start in the video-game business in 1995 at Electronic Arts’ campus in Burnaby. While there, he helped create the lineup of games featuring Def Jam hip-hop artists, as well as the NBA Street series. In 2005, he cofounded Propaganda Games, which was acquired by Disney Interactive shortly after it opened. He said his decision in 2008 to leave Propaganda, where he was vice president and studio general manager, was difficult to make. But Disney wanted Propaganda to develop games based on Disney properties, and Holmes felt that was limiting his creativity.
In 2009, Microsoft hired him to help chart the future of the Halo franchise as part of 343 Industries. He helped launch Halo Waypoint, a community portal on Xbox Live that has expanded to Windows Phone 7 and is coming to the web this year, and he was executive producer on Reach.
Holmes said there won’t be any announcements about future Halo games for a while. However, he explained, “I think we’re continuing to look at expanding the universe and continuing to explore those deep, dark corners that are full of magic.”
The Halo universe will continue to grow in other media too. Novelist Greg Bear has signed on to write a trilogy about the Forerunners, the creators of the Halo stations and an ancient race worshipped as gods by the Covenant. The first novel, Halo: Cryptum, was released on January 4.
New games will come, eventually. While they will be set in the familiar Halo universe, Holmes was clear about one thing. “You can’t just reproduce the same thing over and over again and expect people to react to it with the same amount of surprise and delight,” he said. “You have to be willing to take risks and try new things.