Halo Wars E3 2007 Demo
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At the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2007, Ensemble Studios showcased a demo of Halo Wars. The demo was later released on the official halowars.com website (which itself launched at the same time as the demo's release) as a free download, alongside a number of screenshots, renders and concept art.
This demo should not be confused with the announcement trailer released for the game the previous year and the E3 2008 demo, which showcased a build much closer to the final game and the Five Long Years cinematic trailer.
The demo was showcased at E3 in 2007. The build was put together in the weeks leading up to the event, and taken to Santa Monica by Producer Chris Rippy and Lead Designer Graeme Devine, wherein the demo was shown to around three hundred journalists over the course of three days, who were able to play the demo. The demo was positively recieved, with the console-centric controls picked up by the players without much issue. To showcase the demo, a number of spare devkits were taken to the event in case of issues, though they were ultimately not needed.
The ten-minute pre-recorded demo showcases Ensemble Studios' lead game designer Graeme Devine playing through a short segment of an alpha build of Halo Wars, showing off a number of features for the first time.
The demo opens with Devine giving a brief rundown of the game's story and setting, before jumping into the action. The actual game footage opens with a panning shot of a Pelican dropship and two Sparrowhawk gunships (notably, the first time these aircraft were ever revealed) heading toward a UNSC base on an unknown Forerunner installation. The track De Facto the Matter from the Halo Wars: Original Soundtrack plays in the background. The Pelican drops off its troops, and Serina informs the player that Covenant forces are situated to the north of the base and about to attack. However, Devine (now controlling the game) proceeds to showcase some of the structures and buildings that make up the base facility.
Ensemble Studios logo is shown, followed by the Halo Wars title art. Concept art is shown.
Opens to a cinematic: two Pelicans flying over a natural terrain.
One of the Pelicans fly away while the second flies over a lake.
Two smaller UNSC aircrafts join the Pelican.
The aircrafts fly over a wall and arrive at a UNSC base inside a canyon. Marines exit from the Pelican, which then flies away. Gameplay begins.
View shifts upwards to Warthogs under repairs near the base entrance.
View shifts left to the Airpad.
View shifts left to two missile silos.
View shifts downwards to a barracks.
View shifts downwards to a supply depot. Upwards, there is a command center. To its right, there are two vehicle depots.
View shifts upwards and the reticule hovers over one squad of Marines.
The squad of Marines moves around the base.
The two squads move around the base.
The two squads of Marine move around the base. View shifts upwards, past the base entrance, to two lances of Covenant, each composed of six Unggoy and one Sangheili.
The Marines approach the Covenant and the two sides fire weapons at each other.
Despite taking down a few Unggoy, the Marines are wiped out.
View jumps back to the command center.
The reticule moves to one of the vehicle depots and selects the building, bringing up the circle menu.
The Warthog option is selected.
A Warthog exits the depot immediately.
The Warthog is commanded to move around the base.
The second vehicle depot is highlighted.
A second Warthog exits from the second depot immediately.
The Warthogs approach the Covenant infantry and both sides open fire.
The Warthog moves up, running over some Unggoy before firing at another lance ahead.
The second Warthog moves up.
Together, the two Warthog eliminate the final group of Covenant infantry.
The view holds over the Warthogs and a tunnel entrance.
The views continues down the path in front of Warthogs. There is a chasm on the path.
The Warthog are commanded to drive across the chasm.
Further down the path, there is a giant battle between Covenant infantry and UNSC Marines in front of a Forerunner structure.
Banshees circle over the battle as the Warthogs are commanded to drive into battle.
Wolverines drive up behind the Warthogs and begin shooting down Banshees.
The Warthogs are commanded to move forward, followed by the Wolverines.
More Marines join in the battle.
The Ghosts attack the Warthogs. The Marines are commanded to attack the Ghosts.
Three Scorpions approach from the back and are commanded to attack the Ghosts.
The battle tips into the UNSC's favor. A cinematic plays: a large hatch in the distance opens, and a Scarab climbs out.
Gameplay resumes. The Scarab enters the battlefield.
Despite under attack by Marines, Warthogs, Wolverines, and Scorpions, the Scarab opens fire, quickly destroying the UNSC units.
The UNSC forces are nearly wiped out.
Entering the Leader powers menu, the MAC option is highlighted, and the MAC reticule appears. It moves to the Scarab.
Six MAC shots rain down on the Scarab, which explodes.
Changes from the final release of Halo Wars
The E3 2007 stage demo showcases a radically different game than what eventually released in 2009 - later remarked upon by Pottinger as " a lot of the PC RTS still in transition to the console". When put together, the demo represented one of the first times the art team was able to put all of their work together for a presentation, and helped future development by identifying weaker areas in the visual design. The game has a noticeably muddier visual tone, and showcases a number of units and buildings that never made the final release. One of the most radical of these is the inclusion of the Protos-pattern Scarab; the Scarab design featured prominently in Halo 2. By the final release, this Scarab was cut entirely and replaced with the Type-47B model that made its debut in Halo 3. Other units seen in the demo and related promotional imagery that would later be cut from the final release include the Elite Rangers and Brute Tank.
Of the changes from this build to the final build, the most notable is that of the UNSC base construction system. In this build of Halo Wars, base building was intended to be much more free-form than the system seen in the final game, with bases and buildings seemingly able to be placed anywhere the player liked - much akin to more traditional real-time strategy games. The base designs seen in the build shown at E3 2007 demonstrate a total aesthetic change from the final game; the Airpad building contains a runway and hangar with Sparrowhawks docked on the runway, the Barracks building has Marines doing drill exercises outside it and the other buildings - the command centre, Vehicle Depot and Field Armory all demonstrate notable aesthetic changes. In addition, the base has some additional building types; the missile silo and the landing pad.
It is unknown precisely how base site selection was intended to work in this build of the game. In the demo, the base is nestled into a custom-built section of the map, complete with specially-designed perimeter walls, towers and turrets (all of which were cut from final release). Ultimately, this system was deemed as too complex, with the development team ultimately working on five redesigns of the building system over the following year to reach the system found in the E3 2008 demo and the final game. One thing that was particularly well-recieved from the E3 2007 demo was the appearance of units physically leaving the base, and this was ultimately kept for final release.