Because the first Halo was such a huge hit, said Bungie creative director Marcus Lehto, the designers felt they had to continue with the story in the sequels. There were many gameplay ideas the designers wanted to implement but couldn't because the story didn't support them. Bungie is avoiding that problem with Halo Reach, which focuses on a smaller event in the backstory of the Halo universe. The designers were able to come up with fun scenarios and missions for the campaign and then mold the story around them. But there are parts of the game which may piss off "hardcore fans" of the series. Halo Reach is due out sometime this year.
"[Halo Reach] doesn't have the burden of continuing a story like Halo 2 and 3 had to carry," Lehto said. "It was a true burden for us when we were making those games, because we sometimes wanted to do something but couldn't because the story wouldn't let us, or we had to support this giant steamroller of a story."
"The approach we took to the campaign is a major turnaround from how we did it before," added Bungie executive producer Joseph Tung. "Earlier on we came up with a modular story, a wrapper, and instead of trying to write a linear narrative for the story that missions have to adhere to, we lived with the wrapper for a while and came up with a bunch of crazy ideas for missions and then fit them into the wrapper."
Lehto added, "We are very sensitive to the Halo canon, and we are careful not to be stomping on the Halo timeline. We're playing to the events of the book." The book refers to the novel Halo: The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund which was released shortly after the first Halo and details the story of Master Chief's orgins and the vitrification of a planet's landmasses, turning them into glass, by the Covenant.
"There might be certain things the hardcore fans will take issue with [in Halo Reach]," Tung said. "But there will be other things that will make them absolutely delighted."