Halo 5's Forge Gets Bigger and Better With Huge Update

Here's everything you need to know about the massive Forge update.

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On Tuesday, 343 Industries announced the first details the Halo 5 Monitor's Bounty update and teased some new Forge items and functionality. Now, GameSpot can reveal much more about the Forge updates--and it sounds pretty great. To start, more than 650 new objects are being added, bringing the total number of unique objects to upwards of 3,800 in the map- and mode-making toolsuite.

The big focus of the update is the addition of "powerful and robust" scripting tools that players can use to create all manner of gametypes from simple to complex. Players are already doing this, as we've seen some incredible creations like Star Wars podracing and Quidditch, as well as the "Clogged Toilet" mode. It's very exciting to think about what players will cook up with the new, more feature-rich tools.

What will Forge users come up with next?
What will Forge users come up with next?

One element of Forge's new scripting system is what's called the "Action Target." This allows you to modify the actions of up to 64 objects at the same time. Additionally, scripts can now have four actions per condition, while scripts can be disabled at three different levels: map level, object level, an script level to further enhance and refine what you're making. There are also new conditions being added, including those that trigger events based on score changes or the specific time in a round. Another new condition is one that checks when a player or object enters, exits, or remains inside a boundary.

343 is starting things off with its own gametypes in the form of Race and King of the Hill (these were in past Halo games but not Halo 5) and a new, awesome-looking one called Battle Golf. Watch the video above to see it in action.

Another big part of Halo 5's new Forge update are new canvases. These come in the form of Barrens and Depths. Barrens is a large, desert-themed canvas that has three unique lighting themes. Depths, as its name suggests, is set under water. In addition to the canvases, there are more filters and effects being added to Forge with the Monitor's Bounty update, including the Heat Distortion, Under Water, and Infected Flood filters and the Bubbles effect.

General Forge enhancements, tweaks, and changes are also included in the update. One of these is a file recovery feature. Already present on PC, the feature, which creates an auto-save of your map when you get disconnected from the server, makes the jump to Xbox One. Another new feature is "Machinima Mode," which lets you snap screenshots of your levels directly in the game.

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A new Custom Games browser is also being added on both Xbox One and PC to allow players find and join custom games. This is a big change on PC, as there is currently no server browser at all. Check out the images in the gallery above to get a closer look.

The full patch notes for Halo 5's Monitor's Bounty update will be published tomorrow, December 8. That is also when the expansion launches.

GameSpot spoke with 343 Forge boss Tom French and producer Nahil Sharkasi about the new Forge updates and a lot more. Check out our interview below.

GameSpot: We've seen a lot of incredible creations from the Halo 5 community when it comes to Forge content. Did the idea for "mini games" come from the interest you saw from the community, or was this always the plan? Basically, what was the origin of the idea?

French: The spark for minigame came a few months before we launched Forge last December. I kept thinking about a classic community game mode from another game I loved that I wanted to bring into our sandbox and what tools we would need to do it. After launching we definitely saw the community asking for things to let them make their own modes but the dream died when our original Forge programmer left. Flash forward a few months later a few members of the multiplayer and sandbox team made a functioning prototype of Race that was a great catalyst to see how we could get it into the game. There was the worry that they wouldn't have enough time to get all the bells and whistles in before launching it into the wild, not to mention other classic Halo modes that still needed to be stood up in the current engine pipelines. At the same time the Forge team started bringing up the idea of us working together to build the minigame mode which we were going to supplement with new scripting functionality inside of Forge. We began discussing the idea of, 'What if we couldn't give them Race, but we could let them make Race?'

"After launching we definitely saw the community asking for things to let them make their own modes but the dream died when our original Forge programmer left." -- French

Collaborating toward one goal let us do A LOT more and would ultimately give the community more tools to do what they want. From there, everything lined up beautifully! We started some of the initial scripting foundation changes, our new lead programmer started, we leveraged Arena engineers, and really started cranking away. Everyone really seemed to buy into the idea and get inspired which drove us to work harder to get everything in there we possibly could. It’s been an amazing cross team effort for everything to come together; from the core minigame mode, Forge scripting/upgrades, and our Online Experiences team building the Custom Games Browser into the game.

For a while I was even working with a community member to polish up maps in the evening from home and he volunteered his time to come in and help us pull everything together at the offices and we really couldn’t have done as much without his help! All of this makes me super proud personally of what we’re delivering. I’ve been working day-in-day-out with the tools and continue to get excited and inspired by the potential things I can do, coming up with more modes than we thought we had time to put together. Now giving it to the community and knowing that broad, untapped amount of creative freedom and imagination they have, I really can't even start to begin to imagine where they go with this stuff.

How robust are the scripting tools and functionality? How did you go about making them approachable but also deep enough for hardcore players?

French: With the time we had to pull this off, we had to build off what's there--what's working well enough and what can we do to enhance it. The scripting is still the same style we launched with: editing properties to change behaviors. To make minigames work we had to tackle many improvements; scripts supporting multiple actions, options for how scripts run, a handful of new conditions, over a dozen new actions, and some core improvements to what was there to drive it home. Our mantra for Halo 5: Forge has always been 'treat them like community game developers,' so sometimes our tools tend to be more skewed to advanced creators. I wouldn't say it's gotten any harder than it was before, but on top of what was there, the new features add a lot of additional depth that people will be able to tap into and find interesting uses for things we never planned.

"The new features add a lot of additional depth that people will be able to tap into and find interesting uses for things we never planned." -- French

That's what I really love about what we did. It took some work, time and multiple iterations to get there, but I think we managed some really interesting changes to the scripting that make it exponentially more powerful than what we’ve had! I've spent the past couple months building and working on getting modes running with our new features, and I continue to find new and interesting ways to improve things I've done or tackle some challenge I wasn't sure how to do. I think looking into the long term future, we see Forge becoming a bit more approachable, but for now we wanted to push as much power as we could to see what the community can do with it.

Battle Golf looks and sounds terrific--please tell me more about how this came to be and what your hopes are for it.

French: At the same time we launched our summertime Forge content where we brought back the golf club and added some golf-themed assets, we also started initial discussions to kick off building minigame support. While building our live stream demo map I was constantly smacking a golf ball at some cups in the level and having fun with the real-world golf-like skills I had to develop to hit the ball at the cups constantly. We started sketching ideas up on a board and imagining in our heads how fun it could be to play. Around that time, we also brought on an additional Forge designer and put him to task to learn Forge by diving into the tool with a goal of building Battle Golf as something we could launch alongside the update and show what could be done with the new toys.

While I focused on the other updates and testing the scripting with classic modes like Race and King of the Hill, he just ran with Battle Golf, evolving it and growing it. It was a really cool process to watch how organic it was! We’d chat about things, he’d get excited and run off to get them into the build. It took a bit before all the scripting had matured enough to the point we could even have our actual first full 4v4 playtest, but when we did… it was glorious!

He really brought every idea to life! We were having so much fun yelling, trash-talking--they even had to ask us to even keep it down. There hasn't been a dull playtest since, which is usually a pretty good sign that something’s hitting the fun button pretty hard. I look forward to seeing if we can catch a community with it. We’d kill to see a full hopper eventually of Battle Golf!

343's ongoing support for Halo 5 has been impressive to say the least. With this new update, you've added 650 new Forge objects, bringing the total up to 3800. Did you always have this ambitious of a plan for Forge, or did your enthusiasm grow after launch when you saw what the community was cooking up?

Sharkasi: The team's always been super ambitious, and has tons of ideas and content they want to bring to Forge. We're always trying to deliver as much as we can in each release with the time we have, while maintaining quality. It has been really gratifying for our team to see what the community has been coming up with. We want both our community and our internal team to feel motivated and empowered to create amazing experiences.

French: I wish I could say we had that much of an ambitious plan. At first it was very reactionary. Fixing things, grabbing additional assets, and adding some missing legacy things. As we got going though, looking back I think we found a really cool rhythm with the community. Looking ahead to find themes for our ideas, feeding off what they wanted, finding features to help them make what they’ve showed us look/play better, and even experimenting with new ideas that they had no notion we even wanted. With every update, we'd push to give them as much new fun as we could and then watch what they did with it all; for better or worse.

We found a stride where we could plan ahead in a meaningful way to deliver new content while still keeping some time scheduled for reacting to what the community was requesting. I think through the dialogue we established with them (largely on Twitter) we found a decent balance to where we listened and did what we could while at the same time pushing our rock further up the hill. This openness and willingness to have a two-way conversation is one of the things we’re most proud of in this process and I think the benefits of it come out in the quality of the work that comes out from the community on a regular basics.

We're already a year past Halo 5's release--not many games are supported this much, for this long. Why has it been so important to support Halo in this enduring kind of way?

French: Originally, we were just excited we could sustain beyond the initial launch to improve the tool and add new toys. It’s become one of the most important things to Forge because the success of what we do is directly tied to the ability of what the users can do with it. With what we shipped, people have made some really good stuff, but through their creators the depths of the tool coupled with the variety of new features, objects, and improvements we’ve given them, the difference of what they’re able to make today is leaps and bounds better than when we started.

Sharkasi: With Windows 10 we had a new opportunity this year to reach even more Halo fans, and with Halo 5: Forge is an important part of that sustain effort. We want people to feel like they’re joining a vibrant and dynamic community and experience, whether it’s a day after launch or a year after launch. Also, the past year for Forge has been about giving tools to the community to sustain their creativity and engagement, and that's really what keeps the experience alive.

We can only imagine what you might have in the pipeline for the next step-function update for Forge in the next game--anything to say on that front, maybe at a high level?

Sharkasi: Our studio as a whole has gotten excited about the response to Forge and what the community has created. I've seen a lot of creative lightbulbs popping up across a lot of different teams--people are inspired by Forge and it’s generating more mindshare as we develop new experiences.

French: We learned a lot over the past couple years making Forge for Halo 5 and we feel we've taken it a giant step forward in terms of features and what it’s capable of. While we plan on continuing to evolve it and find ways to help the community grow more into Halo game developers with the means to build their Halo--or pancake or toilet monster or pirate or really any--fantasy they have in their head, we need to take a step back and find ways to make it more inviting and not just for the power users.

As long as someone has an idea of something they want to build, our goal is to find ways to facilitate them in doing so; whether that's just making the initial Forge experience less daunting, expanding the types of Forge-able experiences possible, or finding ways to connect the builders together. It may not all happen at once but ultimately that inviting, accessible experience is the direction we're aiming for.

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What do you make of the upcoming Halo 5 Forge updates? Let us know in the comments below!

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