In celebration of Halo Reach’s addition to The Master Chief Collection and release on PC, a handful of current and former Bungie employees on Twitter shared memories under the hashtag #ReachMemory.
In the tag you’ll find fond accounts of working on the Firefight mode, hear how its famous final mission almost got cut, and see how it felt for one Halo fan to become a Bungie dev. One tidbit, though, stands out in particular: as with the original game, Microsoft and Bungie insisted on different titles for the final product.
David Candland, who designed the user interfaces for all of Bungie’s Halo titles, says that Bungie internally referred to the game simply as “Reach” before Microsoft added “Halo” to the title for the sake of brand recognition. Still, Reach’s original title screen—not part of its re-release in The Master Chief Collection—keeps to the shorter title.
We’d been calling the game “Reach” for a while before MS insisted we call it “Halo Reach” for brand recognition. I remember discussing the title screen with @game_fabricator. We concurred, let’s call it what we want. They’ve bought the game at this point. #REACHmemory pic.twitter.com/msCKV5IIR4
— David Candland (@drcandland) December 4, 2019
“From an aesthetic standpoint, ‘Reach’ felt much more in tune with the thematic storytelling,” Candland tells me over Twitter. “That game takes place on the world we developed—Reach, not a halo.”
As Candland points out in a follow-up tweet, Halo: Combat Evolved also forgoes displaying its Microsoft-approved name on the title screen. In Waypoint’s 2017 oral history of the Halo series, former Bungie designer Jaime Griesemer recalled how the then recently-acquired studio chafed at Microsoft’s last-minute addition of the subtitle:
At some point they said, “Okay, we’re going to do a subtitle.” And this was before subtitles were the thing every game had. We thought that was dumb, but whatever, we could ignore it. Eventually they came back with Combat Evolved, and we thought that was the stupidest thing ever. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s not really informational, and it’s not even good grammar.
“There was a lot of dialogue in the studio where people hated the tagline,” Candland recalls of the Combat Evolved days. “We wondered that showing soldiers with guns and turrets and explosions on the box apparently wasn’t enough to sell that this was a combat game?”
In a way, it’s fitting that Bungie butted heads with Microsoft over the title for its last Halo game, just as it did with the first. After all, this is the company that drafted a joke document called “Seven Steps to World Domination” after being acquired by Microsoft. Step six was “stage bloody coup of new parent company.” I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether Bungie’s managed to hit step seven with the Destiny games, either before or after parting ways with Activision.
Today, as thousands of players are playing Halo Reach once again, Candland doesn’t even disagree with Microsoft’s logic behind the name change. “I think Halo Reach was the right call for brand recognition,” he says. “I’ll bet it did impact sales. It also made googling the game much easier.”
If you’re playing through (Halo) Reach again in The Master Chief Collection, USG’s guide section can tell you all about season points and how to unlock an achievement for finding an easter egg Candland put in the game.