Q&A with T.A.G. Creative Director John Patroulis
How did you come up with the Halo 3 campaign concept?
Patroulis: Essentially, the core of the Halo phenomenon is a simple story about a hero—the idea being that the hero is universal and resonates deep inside all of us. Master Chief came to life by our treating and honoring him exactly the way heroes have been honored throughout history.
What was the objective overall?
Patroulis: To use every medium we could to communicate the simple idea that Master Chief is a true hero to all humankind, from building monuments to creating fictional documentaries to interactive tours of the diorama to hanging plaques commemorating his exploits to fictional symphonies written in his honor.
What was the biggest obstacle you encountered?
Patroulis: Getting the diorama physically made was one of the biggest challenges. We all felt that making the actual, physical object was the key to creating the Master Chief story—the very core of the campaign. This was something people could see, feel, interact with, and, obviously, film for broadcast and the website. We also faced the challenge that makes any global campaign a bit tricky: implementing and executing this idea all over the world, in different cultures, in ways that brought the idea to life with as much dimension as possible.
How did you overcome those challenges?
Patroulis: We were lucky, a lot of people got excited about the idea and helped us connive and scheme and figure out ways to actually make it happen. We wouldn't have been able to make that diorama without Rupert Sanders and the team at Stan Winston and New Deal Studios going above and beyond. And Simon McQuoid killing himself on some of the fictional veterans films for the website. And as far as keeping it relevant and tight globally, we had partners all over the world helping us grow the idea and execute it in new and different ways—from heroic murals to Master Chief in Canada to fictional war photo exhibits in Europe, and more. In the end, we found that we had an idea a lot of incredibly talented people were willing to get behind—and work their asses off for.
What was the challenge of doing this kind of work in the gaming sector?
Patroulis: The big one is always about getting outside of the perceived ideas of what video games are, who the people are that are playing them, etc."Hard driving music! Lots of explosions!"—that kind of thing. There are some conventions in the category that feel a bit outdated—that you need to show footage, that only hardcore gamers can identify with certain titles. Happily, Xbox understands that staying in those conventions will never get you anywhere.
What was the most significant risk?
Patroulis: The goal was to make this the biggest title launch in Xbox history. And we went about it by executing a global campaign that used absolutely no game footage, starred either plastic figures or old men in its films, used classical music as its soundtrack, and almost never showed Master Chief, the hero character the game was based on. Also, from what we were told, no one had ever made a diorama that size and tried to film it before. So, yeah, there were a couple of risks. But that's what made it fun.