Halo Infinite Had A Zelda-Like Open World Before The Studio Cut Two Thirds - Report

Halo Infinite had a long and challenging road to release, it seems.

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A new report has shed some light on Halo Infinite's development, with current and former developers speaking about the challenging production process to bring the game to market.

A story from Bloomberg says 343 began planning what would become Halo Infinite not long after Halo 5: Guardians released in 2015. The studio considered different ideas before settling on a plan to make Halo into an open-world game, the report said. But development proved difficult in part because 343 was using a development suite known as Faber, which was old and challenging to use, developers said.

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Now Playing: Halo Infinite Campaign Review

This was seemingly a part of Halo Infinite's new Slipspace engine, which powers Halo Infinite. 343 boss Bonnie Ross said in an interview with GameSpot sister site CNET that creating a new engine and overhauling existing development tools amounted to something similar to "trying to fly the plane while we're building the plane."

"I think that that just caused a lot of pain for people. Things just took way longer than they should to get the content into the game and make sure the content is polished," she said.

Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier added on Twitter that 343 considered switching to the Unreal Engine due to the complications.

The Bloomberg report mentioned that another issue was Halo Infinite's development team was made up by contract workers--who apparently comprised about half of the total development staff. They could only stay on for 18 months due to Microsoft policy, the report said. This in turn apparently led to turnover and other issues. One developer told Bloomberg that Halo Infinite's development felt like "four to five games being developed simultaneously," which led to challenges and other problems.

In Summer 2019, this came to a head, and 343 elected to cut nearly two-thirds of what was planned for Halo Infinite, according to the report. "Eventually the game's open world was cut back from a vast, Zelda-like experience into something far smaller," the report said.

Bosses are said to have told employees that Halo Infinite needed to be a launch title for the Series X|S in November 2020, but those plans shifted after the Summer 2020 campaign demo failed to impress fans and spawned the infamous Craig the Brute meme over its graphics. According to Schreier, Microsoft considered releasing Halo Infinite's multiplayer in 2019 with the campaign on tap for 2020 before electing to push both projects to 2021.

In the CNET interview, Ross acknowledged that 343 bit off more than it could chew with Halo Infinite. "But if you could go back in time, there are some decisions--maybe we shouldn't have tried so many new things at once. Like doing free-to-play and doing a more expansive world with your more traditional story, but you're also allowed to have a lot more agency in your play," she said. "Those two things are huge in and of themselves. And we decided to take them both on."

Ross also admitted that, although she is proud of Halo Infinite now, some leadership decisions could have been handled better.

"As far as a leadership perspective, there are probably decisions--not probably, there are decisions I should have made earlier on that would have made an easier development path for the team," she said.

Halo Infinite is unlike any previous game in the series in that it's designed as a live-service game that will grow and evolve over time, both for the campaign and multiplayer. Features coming to the campaign over time will include Forge, campaign co-op, and the ability to replay missions. For multiplayer, fans can look forward to new modes, maps, weapons, and events through the game's seasonal updates.

Ross said Halo Infinite is a "fresh start" for the Halo series, and that it's more of a platform than a single game. "So, it's basically just, you know, a fresh start for how we look at Halo for the next 10 years. Like a platform upon which to build storytelling for the next 10 years," she said.

Both Halo Infinite's multiplayer and campaign are being received very positively. GameSpot's Halo Infinite campaign review scored the game a 9/10 and our Halo Infinite multiplayer review-in-progress lands on an 8/10. The campaign officially unlocks later today, so keep checking back with GameSpot for more.

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