“The game has gone gold and is in production now,” Jason Lyons tells us.
Those words don’t sound like much on their own, but when they’re referring to the completion of Halo 4 – one of the most anticipated video game releases of the year – they take on a whole new meaning.
Jason Lyons is a 2007 graduate of Full Sail's Game Development program, and worked on Halo 4 as a gameplay programmer at Certain Affinity, an independent game studio in Austin, TX that helped to co-develop the latest entry in the long-running series with Microsoft’s 343 Industries. Jason joined Certain Affinity after a successful three-year run making corporate software in Philadelphia. Switching from business applications to video games would have been a big change for anyone, and you can only imagine what it was like when he found out he’d be contributing to the Xbox’s flagship shooter series.
“It wasn’t until after I got the job that they told me what they were working on, it was definitely a shock,” Jason says. “I was a fan of the series beforehand and played all the other games, so the experience has been pretty incredible. The reaction I’ve gotten from friends and family has been tremendous too. My mother is oblivious to video games, but when I told her I was working on it even she said ‘Oh, I know Halo.’”
Jason’s position as gameplay programmer had him providing support to the designers to get their content functioning properly in the game. This involved in-depth work like creating new pieces of tech, altering extended functionality to existing tech, and finally debugging the code to make sure all of the features were implemented seamlessly. For a franchise with a fan base as large as Halo’s, it wasn’t a production that was taken lightly, especially with this fourth chapter. As Jason reminded us, it’s been five years since Halo 3, the last direct entry in the series’ narrative, and the responsibility to deliver wasn’t lost on the studio.
“There’s a lot of work that’s gone into this, and everyone here has been focused on making it the best it can be,” he says. “We wanted this to be something that has longevity, which has been a staple of the Halo series. It’s all about engaging people, understanding how they play the game, and keeping them coming back. Now with all the press and fan reactions starting to come in, it really hits you how many millions of people are going to be playing it, and I’m so confident with what we’ve done.”
Halo 4’s evolution of the series’ strengths has obviously paid off, with previews showcasing lush new landscapes, expanded enemy rosters, and other gameplay additions that have longtime fans excited to step back into the shoes of lead character Master Chief. Jason still counts himself among that group, and even after having spent the majority of his year working on the game, he’ll still be heading out on launch day to pick up his copy. Who knows, you might even find yourself going up against him in multiplayer.
“It’s exciting now it’s come down to the game actually coming out and being able to enjoy it with my friends like everybody else,” he says. “Getting to see something I worked on in action, people enjoying and playing it, will be a whole other level. I’m still as much of a fan of the series as I was before working on it, and it’s going to be awesome to have people digging into all the content that’s in there.”