Interview: Ed Fries reveals Halo 2600

Exclusive catch-up with the Microsoft Game Studios vet as he surprises fans with a Halo title that’s straight out of left field.

By Adam Doree, August 3, 2010

Unless you only started following the video game ‘scene’ in the last couple of years, chances are you know already who Ed Fries is.

The popular industry exec was one of the original visionaries behind the first Xbox, and was loved by gamers for bringing about some of the system’s biggest and best franchises.

One of them was a little game called Halo. Back in our classic 2005 video interview with Ed, he tells us a bit more about the story behind that one – but today we’re not looking at Halo, its sequels or the upcoming Halo: Reach. That’s because Ed Fries is back with a “new” Halo you never expected: Halo 2600.

The title, developed by Ed in his spare time over the last six months, imagines what it would be like to have created a Halo game back in the days of the ancient Atari 2600 console.

Understandably, we were endeared to the project as soon as we heard about it, and earlier this evening fired off an email to Ed to see if he’d let us in on the story.

“The memories it brought back were more like, ‘Hey it’s fun to make games!’ And ‘Hey, I can still do this’”, he told us in the email.

“The 2600 is very difficult to program, and so it presents a really interesting and fun kind of challenge. Very good development tools exist these days so I really enjoyed the whole experience.”

Here at VGD we typically feel upbeat about games these days, with all the innovation that’s going on all the time. But occasionally, you can understand some gamers’ views about lack of originality in games when they talk about too many sequels or whatever.

So does Ed think developers should maybe think back to what made games fun in the 2600 era?

Halo 2600

Who says Atari 2600 games can't fly off the shelves these days?

“It’s funny but I was thinking about it in the opposite way: ‘Have we learned anything over the last 30 years that would make games more fun if we could go back in time and live under the same constraints as existed in the old days, or have all the advances just come from the hardware getting more capable over time?’ I’m not sure Halo 2600 answers that question or not but it’s fun to think about.”

OK, so we’re guessing Ed still has a few contacts at Microsoft, despite leaving the company around more than six years ago. Why doesn’t he see if they’d like to put Halo 2600 out on Live Arcade or as a hidden easter egg in Halo Reach?

“If they want to do something with it they are welcome to it”, he explains.

“I tried to keep a few people at Bungie and at Microsoft in the loop during development just in case they were going to get upset about what I was doing but they never discouraged me, so I just kept plugging away.”

I'd rather play Halo 2600 than Halo Reach right now...

Find out more about Halo 2600 at the official site here. Meanwhile, though, what else has Ed been up to? As always, he’s always working on something:

“I’m doing some stuff with 3D UI through a cool company called Canesta, and that makes me think that the combination of 3D (Kinect-like) UI combined with 3D vision could be something really new and compelling.”

We look forward to learning more about that. But if 3D seems too expensive and Atari-era graphics aren’t quite your thing, then head here to find out what Bungie might be working on next back on planet earth…

Continue to page 2 for Ed’s “About Halo 2600″ document which has a ton more info.

Posted in Interviews, News, and tagged with , .

9 Responses to “Interview: Ed Fries reveals Halo 2600”

  1. Edwin says:

    “I’d rather play Halo 2600 than Halo Reach right now…”

    This is because you’re a big wet girl.

  2. Adam Doree says:

    A girl I may be, and wet, most of the time – but big, you can no longer call me!

  3. Porky says:

    Ed Fries rules, I mean seriously how cool is that?
    Never thought we’d see a system seller for the 2600 again!
    Good work vgd

  4. NamelessKILLJOY says:

    well i think how could i get it

  5. Brush says:

    Tsk…you start in the forest not on the ship – continuity Mr Fries!

    i’m not sure this can sate my Reach lust for long…but i am going to head back to the flash site, just to make the chief do his funny walk again.

    who would have thought Fries would do some game coding?…next up J Allard is going to come up with an extreme snowboarding game…with a bit of luck

    Extreme tribal snowboarding

  6. Mattadonna says:

    If you like the game there is also a really helpful website called Halo2600 Area Map( that has laid out all the boards, enemies and weapons. You should check it out.

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