In our modern climate, words like "passion" have become nebulous marketing terms, but among the Bungie community and its creators the dedication seems tangible: when you listen to the people involved in creating Halo talk about the series, you get a sense of empowerment and pride. Pete Stacker has lent his vocal talents to the franchise since the beginning, playing Sergeant Stacker and uttering the first game's opening line as Captain Keyes. Talking on the Halo Universe panel at Halo Fest - which, coincidentally, was the first time Master Chief and Cortana voice actors Steve Downes and Jen Taylor ever met in real life - Stacker reflects on the last decade with sincere nostalgia and a lump in his throat:
"I just think being part of something that is actually part of the crust of America... I know that sounds really cliché or whatever, but over 10 years to see the amount of people who are playing it, that's what's really cool. People from all over the world, man, in different languages. And everybody is playing the game. To be part of that is really unique. I've been part of a lot of cool things, I've been a very lucky guy, but this is especially cool because, beyond anything else, [the team at Bungie] are my friends. So for us to get to be able to play with you is especially cool. And the pictures and the art, and the amount of work that goes into this, by everyone involved... everybody is going to the extra level because we're into it and, when everything is all brought together, that makes it about the coolest damn thing I've ever been part of."
Halo is currently in a transitional period, with development and maintenance of the mammoth franchise being passed from Bungie - now working with Activision to create a multiplatform IP - to new studio 343 Industries.
Even if you think the big floaty jumps are silly and the guns a bit too weak, there's no denying that Halo has become a cultural phenomenon over the last ten years - I know more than a few people who refer to it as the Star Wars of our generation. Surely Bungie is finding it hard to say goodbye to Halo?
"We leaned many years ago, not months ago, that it wasn't really ours anymore - it belonged to all of you guys," says Staten during another Halo Fest panel. "It hasn't been too hard to say goodbye because it has a home. It has people who care about it."
O'Donnell also takes a moment to reflect on what Bungie accomplished, but also to wonder about if they'll ever be able to make something that popular ever again. "I talk to Jason [Jones, Bungie co-founder] about how, wow, we really caught lightning a bottle here - what are the odds of being able to do this again? And he goes, 'Yeah, slim to none, but we're sure as hell going to try'. We have a bunch of people back at Bungie and our goal is to do this again."
One thing is clear: 343 Industries certainly has a tough task over the next few years, with the fledging studio now taking Master Chief forward into the Reclaimer trilogy. "We've got a big challenge ahead of us," says Ayoub. "We've got a franchise that has a huge legacy, a ton of very serious diehard fans, and I think that is really the key."
"As I say all the time," he adds, "the fans are the reason this franchise is here after 10 years, and the fans are the reason we're going to be here in another 10 years."