Excitement was high in 2014 when Microsoft partnered with Sabre Interactive to create a PC version of Halo that was essentially a greatest hits of maps and mechanics based on the immensely popular Halo 3. This free to play title was called Halo Online and launched exclusive to the Russian market.
Unfortunately the game was cancelled by Microsoft before it launched in any other territories for undisclosed reasons. No shockingly though, the game and it’s source code escaped Russia into the wilds of the internet before going totally black.
The ElDewrito Project was a fan driven mod for Halo Online bringing the game back online and free to play for fans. Built on the idea that Halo Online was considered by Microsoft to be abandonware or that the project would be tolerated by the good will it created for the Halo franchise, the ElDewrito team began work on adapting the code to modern operating systems, fixing bugs and adding features.
“ElDewrito is a community-made mod for Halo Online, a cancelled free Halo 3 derived PC game for the Russian market. It allows the game to be played in player-hosted servers and aims to restore removed features, fix bugs and glitches, and add mod support.”
“ElDewrito can be played for free and is open source, allowing you to contribute to a real community project.” -The ElDewrito Website
What was the early result of their work? A damn fine mod by all accounts.
“Halo Online returns with a bang […] and it’s the best PvP Halo experience you can find on PC today.” – Dominic Tarason, Rock, Paper, Shotgun
“Pretty great for a game that’s not supposed to exist at all.” – Andy Chalk, PCGamer
“Probably one of the most modern and best versions of a multiplayer Halo game and it comes from a mod team.” – LevelCapGaming
None of the goodwill or positive feedback could prevent one large issue with the project though. It was using code and art illegally taken from Microsoft. 343, the internal developer of the Halo franchise reached out to the ElDewrito team before Microsoft’s legal department did to halt all production.
“While we are humbled and inspired to see the amount of passion poured into this project, the fact remains that it’s built upon Microsoft-owned assets that were never lawfully released or authorized for this purpose.”
“As this project reverberated across the community, our team took a step back to assess the materials and explore possible avenues, while Microsoft, like any company, has a responsibility to protect its IP, code, and trademarks. It’s not optional in other words. “
“With Halo Online, there’s a common misconception that once it was canceled, the assets were either turned over as “open source” or left for the community’s whims as “abandonware” – neither of which is actually true. Not only did Microsoft issue takedown notices at the time of the original leaks, but many elements of that underlying code and content are still actively being used today and will continue to be in the future.”
– 343 Industries
343i is currently speaking with the ElDewrito team about how they can influence and possibly work with Microsoft officially in the future but you can bet it won’t be via Halo Online as Microsoft has already announced the Halo Master Chief Collection, a remastered package of past Halo titles will be officially coming to PC.
We can’t wait to see where this talented mod team arrives in the future.