Halo: Combat Evolved is generally regarded as one of the most important first-person shooters ever made, and was a groundbreaking title for Microsoft and Xbox. All of that success came at a price though, as Bungie had to make several sacrifices during a chaotic final stretch of development to ensure that the game launched alongisde the original Xbox. The game's scope was severely reduced and several weapons and set pieces were cut, one of which was originally going to be the game's iconic Scoprion Tank.
In an interview with Edge Magazine (thanks GamesRadar), lead programmer Chris Butcher and Bungie co-founder Alex Seropian talked about the hardships the team went through to get the game out of the door, and how chaotic the final 8 months of development were. As an example, Butcher claims that the team was asked to cut the Scorpion Tank from the game entirely just four weeks before launch, but ignored the request and crunched for a week and a half to get the vehicle ready for release.
"Four weeks before ship, John Howard decides we're cutting the tank, because it's not ready," says Butcher. "The designer Paul Bertone was basically like 'fuck that, I'm not gonna listen to you, John - without the tank, this game sucks'. And so he went to the artists and the animators, like 'I know John told you guys that we cut the tank, but we're actually going to do it.' And they all just worked really hard, and a week and a half later, we're playing with the tank."
Even though the Scorpion Tank eventually made it in, Seropian claimed that a lot was sacrificed during that final 8 month period. Teams were merged, weapons were cut, and quality control wasn't up to par, as Seropian says that the game shipped with "at least one level that we probably shouldn't have". Seropian doesn't mention which level, but I'm yet to meet someone who didn't suffer their way through The Library on their first playthrough.
It's not surprising to hear that Bungie underwent significant crunch during the final stages of Halo, especially since the practice is still rife in the industry in the modern day. A lot of old-school developers bring certain aspects of a game together at the last minute and hope for the best, with Dragon Age and Mass Effect developer BioWare being the most notable example as of late.
Bungie will likely say getting the Scorpion Tank out was worth the effort though, which is now an iconic vehicle alongside the likes of the Warthog and Pelican. In fact, it so beloved by Halo fans that one has even managed to recreate it in Starfield.
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