Talking Past, Present and ‘Halo 4′ with 343 Industries’ Frank O’Connor

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Master Chief said goodbye to his parents last November when Halo: Reach served as Bungie’s swan song. After months waiting to hear what exactly the future of Halo would be after its original creators moved on, this year’s E3 finally brought fans the news they’d been waiting for.

(More on TIME.com: The Halo Trinity)

Microsoft is finishing up Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary for a fall release and unveiled the next chapter of Master Chief’s adventures in a teaser trailer for Halo 4. Frank O’Connor is the head of 343 Industries–Microsoft’s Halo headquarters–which makes him the man steering the sci-fi first-person shooter into the future.

O’Connor talked about what a post-Bungie Halo is going to look like.

Techland: One of the most obvious things about Halo in its tenth anniversary year is, I think, we have to be honest and admit that it’s not quite as dominant as it was before. Halo titles used to be the games that everyone fired up to compete against each other in and now they’re not.

Frank O’Connor: We exist on a single platform and that limits the ecosystem. We mostly admire and respect our competitors. Call of Duty came in so strong in the last couple of games. They deserve everything that they have. But they have a huge advantage over us, in terms of just numbers, which is that they’re multiplatform. So ultimately, as a studio, the best thing to do is just to focus on what you do best, and you can’t be distracted by that kind of stuff.

What do you think that is? What is it that you do best? The property has obviously made a transition now. What are 343’s core tenets?

Our core tenets are to respect the franchise and to respect its foundations and its rules, and we know what some of that stuff is. Some of it is even in Anniversary, like you pick up that controller and it feels like a modern shooter because the strength of the basic game premise is so strong. The strength of the sandbox is so strong.

People still pick up that game and just tool around, and don’t do anything except play. But the universe itself is really big. There’s this huge sci-fi universe, and the sci-fi universe basically gives you more freedom to create characters, and create unrealistic and exciting scenarios. I always like to breakdown the Halo audience into components because you can’t pin down anyone.

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