Slipstream Productions began work on Halo-themed Command and Conquer Generals mod Halogen back in early 2003. On the 8th of September, the team were asked to cease work on the project by Microsoft. “We always figured that since Halogen was such a different take on the Halo franchise, we might manage to make it without incident,” they commented on their site.

While a solid date was never set for release, the game had recently gone into a closed Beta. Various videos of the project had also been released, leading to the project gaining attention from sites well outside of the usual modding community.

We spoke to project leader and modeller Dispraiser about the project, the word from Microsoft, and the future of Slipstream.

What was Halogen? I gather it wasn’t a Halo mod.

Halogen was not a mod of Halo. The second half of its name, “gen”, comes from Command and Conquer Generals, which is a real time strategy game EA released. For those unfamiliar with mods, Halogen was a total conversion mod, meaning that we took the existing Generals engine and removed all of the art assets, then replaced them with our own models, skins and code to create what is, essentially, a new game.

How long had you been working on Halogen?

I had been working on the mod since April 2003, when it was started. Other staff is newer, but most of our hard workers have been around for at least two years.

How close to finished was it?

Halogen was actually VERY close to finished, which makes the attack by Microsoft even worse. We had begun to distribute a closed beta test, which is a pretty big indicator we were moving into balancing stages where all of the art assets are already in-game and functional, and release was just around the corner.

How many people had contributed to the game?

That depends on how much of a contribution is considered. We have many people such as Jared Hudson, Godwin and others who contributed amazing work to our soundtrack and game art, respectively. Unfortunately, they weren't regular contributors, because they had a busy lifestyle. Then, we have other staff such as SpyvSpy, Sc4, Adam Atomic and myself who have made dozens of things for the mod. I believe that Halogen has actually had at least 200 or 250 models created, counting the various scrapped units, civilian structures, and other models - that's a lot of work! In all, though, I'd say our team has hovered around nine true people who can be counted on as staff, and probably as many as a dozen occasional contributors.

Why did you start working on the game?

I don't know, honestly. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it kinda snowballed. Originally, I was interested in sticking one or two original units in the game and adding them onto one of the existing armies, then it grew into a plan to create the entire UNSC and reskin the existing buildings in Generals to be more suiting, and then eventually just grew into creating a complete mod.

When were you told by Microsoft to stop working on the game?

September 8th. I do have to credit Bungie for their handling of the situation. The community manager asked Microsoft not to send us a Cease and Desist, and instead asked to tell us himself, so he could explain exactly what was happening rather than an army of lawyers. I have been on mods that faced the army of lawyers before, and it is much, much less friendly.

What was the reaction of your team and fans?

I was amazed at the reactions. It's amazing that our team stayed intact completely, and so far no one has given up on creating a mod of some sort. The fans are the ones who really surprised me, though. I left my computer for a few hours and came back and had dozens of AIM windows from fans, and all over the Internet things are abuzz with talk of our mod getting axed. We popped up on Slashdot's news twice, on G4's website, dozens of messaging boards and we even (finally!) got our own OneOneSe7en comic. I was really proud to see that a lot of people came out with very eloquent, well thought out arguments for Halogen, and understood what we were doing. I was a bit disappointed to see the people who instantly called us "thieves" and claimed we should've asked Bungie in the first place.

Did you expect that you would, at some point, run into legal trouble?

We had our fingers crossed that we wouldn't. We knew from the beginning that Halo IP is theirs, and that if they wanted to, they could shut us down. At first it seemed like a gamble, but as time went on and we got mentioned on more and more major Internet and print news sources, we became increasingly certain Bungie was aware of us and chose to ignore us. In an effort to create that kind of relationship with them, we always tried to do everything with the utmost respect for Bungie's property. Where other mods extract Bungie's models and hard work from the game then re-brand it as their own, we ALWAYS created our own models and skins. In the past, we have even fought with two other mods that ripped content from Halo and Halo 2. I gather Bungie understood that respect we had for their work, and was respecting our work, but then big bad Microsoft told them to get rid of us.

Where do you go from here? Is there anything that is salvageable from the game?

Oh yes. More shocking reactions from fans were emails I received "What kind of leader are you!?!" They asked what kind of leader I was to just give up after three years of work. Well, I'm the kind of leader who does fear millions of dollars of fines and jail time. Luckily, though, everyone on our team is devoted. When I posted in the staff forums about the email, the thread was titled "What now?" not "It's over" or anything of the doomed sort. Most of our models are original units, including every structure but two, and even some vehicles. In fact, some of our most popular units, the Skyhawk, Hammerhead and Firefly, are all original units that we designed. Without saying too much, I hope everyone doesn't leave and miss the real show...Definitely keep your eyes on Slipstream Productions and the ex-Halogen crew.