At HaloFest during PAX Prime 2011, 343 Industries has revealed some details of Halo 4 for the first time, which will be the first part of what 343 called "The Reclaimer Trilogy", and will focus on the Forerunners.
"We're investing heavily in the look and feel of Forerunner," senior art director Kenneth Scott said. "The thing that connected people initially way back in the first Halo experience is that mystery. That's where a lot of our pressure on the art team is going right now. We want the player to feel that initial experience of discovery.
"You've lived with the Forerunner for 10 years now, and three, four games. What do we do to move it forwards so it still connects the player with a mystery but it hasn't fallen into the abstraction that will happen over that period of time? There's a lot of push there."
Halo 4 has been a massive undertaking as well. 200 or so people are reportedly working on Halo 4, with staff from 25-30 different game studios hired by the developer. The focus is on making sure that Halo 4 feels and plays like a Halo game.
Some of the tidbits about Halo 4 at the panel included snippets of the story. According to 343 boss Frank O'Connor, "It is a direct continuation in a way of the events of Halo 3. I'll clarify one thing from the interwebs. The 2554 year model would have shipped at the end of 2552. So you're not getting any chronology clues from the new (Wart)Hog (shown in Forza 4). But it will deal with the fate of John and Cortana. There's a lot of speculation about Cortana's mind state. There's a lot of relationship between those two characters. Character is something we're focusing on very strongly this time.
"Halo to me has always been about enigma and exploration and wonderment and scale. You've already seen a little bit of the artwork, and it gives the sense of incredible grandeur and scope. To me the story has that scope and that grandeur, too. Having three years to think about the story and plan it, and to commit to a trilogy right from the start, is a luxury even Bungie didn't have with Halo 1.
"We know we have a loyal fanbase and we know we have a community that's going to enjoy Halo games, so we're able to build a big, epic story with lots of wonder and explanation."
343 also stated that Cortana plays "an important role" in Halo 4, and that the relationship between Master Chief and his AI companion will be at the heart of the series.
343 also confirmed several other things about Halo 4. For one, Master Chief's design as seen in the Halo 4 is not the final Chief, and that he's constantly being tweaked. The developers tagged co-op as a huge element of the Halo series and it will definitely be included. Most importantly, the Halo Forge will be in Halo 4, with a stress on community sharing.
Halo 4 will be released next year for Xbox 360.