Ryan Payton, one of the creative directors on the new Halo 4 title has left 343 Industries, citing creative differences and a feeling of being drained. In an interview with Kotaku, he explained his reasons:
I had a great run at Microsoft. I don’t regret one day of it. But after a few years, there came a point where I wasn’t creatively excited about the project anymore.
The Halo I wanted to build was fundamentally different and I don’t think I had built enough credibility to see such a crazy endeavor through.
In recent months, Payton had been diagnosed with severe depression: “For somebody who loves this industry as much as I do and know how lucky I’ve been, I never thought I’d get to a point where I was so drained,” he said. “That was when I knew I had to do something else.”
Previously, Payton worked at Kojima Productions as an Assistant Producer and did a lot of work on the controls of Metal Gear Solid 4 as well as trying to expose the development team to more western-style games. After the release of MGS4, Payton left Kojima Productions citing family reasons. As it turned out, his mother had been diagnosed with cancer. This led Payton to reconsider his priorities and ultimately caused him to look for a job in the States. “This was earth-shattering,” he said. “The decision was made for me—there was no way I would return to Japan for the next project, so I set my sights on finding something closer to home.”
Prior to Kojima Productions, Payton had worked for about two years as a freelance writer for various publications ranging from 1UP to WIRED.
Now he’s started his own studio called Camouflaj and is currently working on two titles.
Analysis: Honestly, this sounds more like Payton wanted to make his own game. In all likeliness, he probably tried to channel this creativity through Halo 4 and was starkly rejected. Whatever the case may be, it looks like he will be making his game after all through his own production studio.
Payton stated he wanted to make an emotionally “hard-hitting” game that “a billion people can play at once.” He feels that while this may not be possible right now, he intends to move down that path. To me, these seem like lofty ideals. While I respect that he has the drive to start an independent studio and attempt to make these ideals a reality, I also think he may just be another jumping on the indie bandwagon. Big names are jumping the AAA ship for the indie market, but I’m not sure this is a viable option for everyone.