Halo Infinite has been a rather divisive game since launch as, despite its high critical rating, excellent campaign, and smooth multiplayer mechanics, post-launch delivery hasn’t been ideal. Due to the live-service nature of the multiplayer, expectations were high, and we believe it’s fair to say that 343 Industries has struggled to get into a solid cadence of delivery. With that in mind, the team at 343i released a roadmap update today which includes details on campaign co-op, Forge, career progression, new seasons, and more.
I will offer my summary and thoughts below but as always, I highly recommend watching the full presentation from the team at 343i for complete context.
Let’s begin with fall of 2022 and the shift in content delivery. As always, there’s context to provide and I’ll do my best to summarize the statements made by Halo’s head of live-service, Sean Baron.
- The core focus for the team in terms of content delivery is what they refer to as “seasonality” – that is, delivering meaningful content every season on a faster cadence than they have so far.
- There are four core tenets of player experience improvement that align with their seasonal approach which you can see below.
With the seasonal approach in mind and driving towards the long-term cadence, here is the roadmap that has been shared for fall of 2022 and into early 2023.
The first thing that anyone should notice is that “season 3” has been pushed to March of 2023. This is a notable timeline shift and certainly doesn’t meet players’ expectations (nor does it meet 343i’s prior target). However, as I noted there’s quite a bit of context to consider. Let’s look at what is being delivered in the newly-named “Winter Update” come November 8th.
- Campaign co-op and mission select
- Forge open beta and content browser
- Two new maps (Detachment and Argyle)
- New game mode “Covert One Flag”
- A free, 30-tier battle pass that will focus on Reach armors and cosmetics
- New events in December and January that will include new game modes
- The beginning of the new career rank progression with match-based XP
- Multiple “drop pods” with quality of life and tuning updates
- HCS year two kickoff
As you can see, there is a lot of content coming this fall in the Winter Update. In fact, if you compare the content being delivered in the update, in many ways it’s more significant than what was delivered in season 2 Lone Wolves. The main exception is the lack of a new 100-tier battle pass and the small narrative event. But generally speaking, the biggest concern is likely going to simply be that this fall’s update isn’t named “season 3.”
With that in mind, I’m much more comfortable with the Winter Update than I was at first glance. As explained by Baron in the presentation, one of the core reasons for the free battle pass is to fine-tune the new career progression. As they are shifting the way progress is made in the game, they wanted to ensure they nailed it down before offering another paid pass. In terms of design this makes sense and will likely result in a better experience for players moving forward (and one they’ve specifically requested).
Does it excuse the delays or explain why they didn’t launch with XP-based career progression to begin with? Of course not. But, it shows they are working towards the community ask(s) and want to do so in the right way.
So then what does that mean for “season 3 proper?” According to 343i, season 3 is titled Echoes Within and will launch in March. It will begin what they consider their “true” seasonal approach moving forward which will target 13 week seasons. Right now the goal is to deliver the following beginning March 7th:
- Two new maps
- New weapon (M392 Bandit Rifle)
- New equipment (Shroud Screen)
- 100-tier battle pass (free and paid tracks)
- New game modes (Escalation and VIP at a minimum)
- Forge updates and a custom game browser
- In-game reporting
- New events and quality of life updates
- The schedule is currently slated for March 7th – June 27th so slightly more than 3 months.
There are some very substantial updates here and honestly, I feel as though 343i doesn’t highlight them well enough. But first things first: getting to the 3 month seasonal cadence is imperative. And it’s nice to see that beginning in March that will be the standard. It’s also a good thing that beyond maps, cosmetics, QoL updates, and new battle passes, we’re going to continue to see more new modes, weapons, and equipment. Additional guns and equipment are exciting not only for the gameplay possibilities, but for how it will evolve the HCS meta which, for hardcore fans like myself, is a notable change.
With reference to larger items, the custom game browser is a fantastic addition. With Forge launching in the fall, by time the custom game browser goes live there should be an enormous number of maps and modes for players to jump into and have fun with (outside of standard custom games). These games have represented some of my favorite times with Halo, so I’m very excited that it’s coming with season 3. To be clear for those who may not understand the nuance here:
- When Forge launches in November, it should include the ability to create your own maps and modes while also allowing you to download maps and modes from other creators. You will then be able to use those in custom games with your friends.
- When the Custom Game Browser launches in season 3, it will allow you to search live games on a wide-selection of created maps and modes where you can then join in with players from around the world. This function offers near endless replayability within the Halo Infinite community.
In-game reporting, meanwhile, is a great addition as well as it will help 343i identify problem players and technical issues more regularly. This will simplify the ticketing process players have been using to-date.
The one negative I don’t want to overlook is that Joseph Staten stated that split-screen co-op has been cancelled. While this is something that would only be used by a small percentage of players, it’s still disappointing and it is something 343i previously said was coming. So it’s yet another case of “It’s frustrating but I understand.”
It’s also worth noting that the seasonal content are not the only “updates” that Halo Infinite receives. The drop pods will continue to tackle a range of other items as well including:
- The highly-requested “cross-core” updates to spartan customization.
- Game mode additions
- Weapon tuning and changes
- Additional challenge and career progression updates
- Networking and online multiplayer updates including “region select” which has been requested by the community
By far the largest addition to Infinite though, is Forge. While there’s been a lot of discussion around the delivery of Forge and its timing, what seems to generally be missed is just how large the scope of the new Forge is. It is far beyond what has ever been delivered in a Halo game to-date, and will give creators more power than ever to create imaginative maps and modes.
Just from the testers we’ve already seen some incredible creations so I can’t wait to see what the larger community creates in time. With Halo Infinite representing the “future” of Halo, again it was imperative that Forge be something broader than it has ever been as that will allow continued growth and evolution into the future. 343i is delivering exactly that – and it will stand alone in the gaming industry.
As one example, I’d like to share the brief “Toy Story” stage that @RedNomster showed off yesterday.
I'm making Toy Story in #HaloInfinite's Forge mode!
I added Jenga, which has RUINED my work flow 😅
RT and follow for daily updates ❤️ pic.twitter.com/kYx5OIC0rx
— Red Nomster 💭 (@RedNomster) August 31, 2022
After the update from 343i I’m generally feeling good about the future of Halo Infinite. I certainly understand, and agree with, many of the frustrations with development speed and delivery. And being honest 343i does as well as they have talked about it openly. To me, having the transparency we’ve had from 343i about their lack of delivery is important, and I believe the foundation they are building into next year will greatly benefit the game going forward.
I still have concerns about the resolution of some of the online technical issues that players experience. Those can be frustrating to no end, and I absolutely feel as though the Ranking system is confusing at times. I also want to see the HCS grow but it seems as though pro-players have a wealth of concerns there. So I will be paying close attention to the 343i teams that support HCS and how that hopefully evolves and grows with HCS year two.
For now I will continue to work on my game and look forward to the Winter Update. I will also be at the Halo World Championship in Seattle in October to catch up with some of my Xbox and Halo friends. If you’re going to be there, reach out to me via Twitter!