One of the weirdest aspects of the Halo Infinite campaign for me was the final section, where there’s one giant portion of the map still hovering around, and yet when you finally arrive there, you’re just given a liner mission or two and that’s it . No exploration in what looked like a third major island on the map, and no hope that Halo Infinite would expand beyond its singular biome.
Turns out that once upon a time, Halo Infinite did have a much larger scale in mind, but it was slowly slimmed down and down over time. The open world shrunk, many campaign segments were kept linear and the biome remained uniform.
This is not some insider talking about rough development, this is 343’s Joe Staten, being up front about how much the game had to be scaled back over time, both before he joined the project, and after. Speaking on the Game Maker’s Notebook podcast (via TechRadar), he had a lot to say about what the game cut over time.
“The team went through a lot of iterations on scope and biome variety before I joined. Even after I joined the team, we had to make choices about where to scale back.”
“We didn’t end up cutting that much ultimately from the open world, but I know from the original designs there was a pretty significant scaling back of what the team had hoped at one point that they could deliver on. We knew that we needed to truly deliver a quality experience [and] scope our ambitions to make sure that the stuff that we did ship met expectations.”
In other words, they had to scale things down in order to make sure what was there was really polished, no doubt mandated after the disastrous initial showing which caused the final year delay of Infinite. But it was more than that too, as Staten said they even talked about inserting crafting systems to use more mechanics from other open world games:
“We talked a lot about crafting, for example, and my infamous line to the team was something like ‘Master Chief doesn’t need to kill animals to make leather shirts for himself. He’s a massive armored super soldier. If he wants something, he goes and kills it, grabs its gun, and then keeps on going.’”
I am…vaguely unnerved that crafting was ever seriously considered for a Halo game, open world or not, but at least Staten was very much right in his pushback on that point. Still, this is yet another tick in the “does 343 really even get Halo?” column, as of course Staten himself got his start with the series back in the OG Bungie days.
One confusing aspect of Microsoft’s plans for Halo is where things go from here on the single player front. Yes, we know Halo Infinite will continue to produce multiplayer seasons, and it’s releasing features like campaign co-op and Forge mode. But we have gotten zero indication of how and when Zeta Halo itself is going to expand. The idea appeared to be that Halo wouldn’t need to go 5-6 years between major games anymore with Infinite used as a “platform,” so…when do we see Chief again? When do we get those missing biomes? When do we meet the Endless? All open questions in search of answers since launch.
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