Ask343 March 2021 - Campaign Team Q&A
Updated: Feb 9
After each Inside Infinite article, fans can ask questions of the team interviewed in the article on social media using #Ask343. Two weeks later, in the Community Update for the following month, they will put out a video interview in which some of the community’s questions are selected and answered. Although one might expect that it would only be clarifying what was already in the Inside Infinite blogs, there is new information too. This month, John Junyszek sat down with Quinn DelHoyo, Lead Sandbox Designer; John Mulkey, Lead World Designer; Troy Mashburn, Gameplay Director; and Justin Dinges, Campaign Art Lead, to answer several community questions about Halo Infinite’s Campaign setting, as well as a few bonus questions. Here’s a summary of what we learned.
Q: “The dynamic day/night cycles look fantastic! Can we also expect some degree of dynamic weather?”
A: “We’ve definitely added things like there’s a really cool wind system, which is not just visual but also audio; we have fog systems...that come in to different altitudes and different times of day. We didn’t go down the road of having rainstorms and thunderstorms and snowstorms and things like that for our launch this year, but we’re really excited for the future and what that might mean for things like that.” - Justin Dinges
It’s not every day that your question is used to open an Ask343 video, so hearing my own question asked here was quite a treat. We also got to learn a little bit about what weather systems exist in Halo Infinite: wind and fog. While there won’t be storms that arise all of a sudden, having dynamic wind and fog will still make for a very lively environment. Plus, it sounds like they have plans beyond launch that may involve stormy weather, although they did not go into specifics here.
Q: “The day/night cycle in Infinite looks and sounds amazing! Is time of day going to affect how enemies respond to your presence or change types/groups/numbers of enemies depending on what time it is?”
A: “When you’re moving through the world in the darker periods, you’re gonna end up seeing more patrols of Phantoms moving through the space with searchlights… You’ll probably run into more opportunities where Grunts are sleeping on the job… You’ll run into shield Jackals and that kind of thing because when they put the shields on, it looks really cool in the dark. We put more Coils in places...because they glow and have really cool effects in the darker spaces, enemies with personal shields, that kind of stuff.” - John Mulkey
One of the cooler elements of the day/night cycle is that it isn’t just cosmetic. There will be some subtle differences in enemy behavior and the likelihood of encountering certain enemies or sandbox items. Phantoms with searchlights (Halo 3: ODST anyone?) will be more frequent, and shielded enemies and Fusion Coils will be placed in areas where their innate glow creates cool effects. And, of course, Grunts will be more likely to sleep while it’s nighttime.
Q: “Wildlife was confirmed in the last Inside Infinite update. What kinds of wildlife can we expect to see? Will all the wildlife be friendly, or will there be some that are hostile to the player and enemies?”
A: “We don’t have any hostile wildlife in the environment; we wanted to focus the idea on the battle between the Banished and the UNSC forces...so we didn’t want to bring in the idea that you’re fighting the ambient population of the ring. But, we do have them as an element that really brings the ring to life. I think people have seen the ‘space gophers’...; we have some bird kind of creatures that are flying around… Some of those will actually draw attention to locations… Something that I missed when we talked about day/night cycle: some of the wildlife that we have have a bioluminescence quality to them, and so, in the night cycles, you’ll see some of those come out and be more prevalent.” - John Mulkey
Since the focus in this game is going to be the Master Chief fighting against the Banished, the designers chose not to include any hostile wildlife. However, there will still be some “space gophers” and bird-like creatures. The flying creatures will, in some cases, draw attention to points of interest. And, some of the wildlife even features bioluminescence during the night cycle.
Q: “Is there a plan to bring back dual-wielding in Halo Infinite?”
A: “Currently, no, that’s not in the cards right now… We wanted to really focus down on the weapon, the gunplay, grenades, melee, and where we wanted to put that bet this time was on equipment, bringing equipment back. Right now, dual wielding isn’t necessarily there, but that’s because we’re trying to focus on all the other things that we’re working on.” - Quinn DelHoyo
No, dual-wielding will not return for Halo Infinite, at least at this time. While this could always change after launch, the team’s current focus is on polishing and bringing in other sandbox elements.
Q: “Will there be playable Elites in Halo Infinite?”
A: “No, we’re not currently planning on supporting Elites as a playable character in Infinite, and the reason is this is a Master Chief story and a Spartan story, especially in Multiplayer. We want to make sure that we focus on how Spartans battle against each other and that it feels fair and is competitive and balanced.” - Quinn DelHoyo
Although they did leave the doors open for the future on this point, no, there will not be playable Elites in Halo Infinite. The current plan is to support only playable Spartans in Campaign and Multiplayer for balancing reasons.
Q: “Will there be weapon upgrades in the Campaign?”
A: “Early on, we toyed around with that idea of adding weapon upgrades to the game, being able to customize your weapons, and this started leading us down the road of, ‘well, you have customized weapons, you’re going to want expanded inventory,’ and we started really heading down this rabbit hole. They’re all features that we liked and we thought were really cool, but the game started to veer away from what we felt like Halo was all about, and we decided instead to take a different avenue.” - Troy Mashburn
In short, no, weapon upgrades will not be in the Campaign, at least as far as allowing the player to customize the weapons they have on-hand. The priority here was making sure the Campaign still felt like a Halo Campaign, rather than having it feel entirely different with these features.
A (cont.): “There are things in the game that you can progress. We hinted a little bit earlier about equipment items that you’re going to be able to unlock as you progress through the game, and you’ll be able to upgrade these to improve their capabilities as you go. And, you’re also gonna be able to find and unlock some cool weapon variants.” - Troy Mashburn
Although weapon upgrades will not be present, there will still be in-game progression as players play the Campaign. There will be unlockable and upgradable equipment items, and there will be ways to discover and unlock weapon variants as well.
Q: “Y’all mentioned being able to hold multiple pieces of equipment in campaign. Does this ability also appear in multiplayer, or is that strictly for campaign?”
A: “For the base multiplayer experience,...you need to be able to find and scavenge the equipment that you find, and you can only hold one at a time, and you use it and it’s gone and you need to find another one. That being said, we are putting plans in place to allow players to customize the game via Custom Game options...where you can be able to hold multiple equipment.” - Quinn DelHoyo
In competitive multiplayer, players will only be able to hold one equipment item at a time, in the same way that players may remember from Halo 3. However, they also hope to include an option in Custom Games that would allow players to hold multiple pieces of equipment at once.
Q: “Is the game going to be open world or semi-open world?”
A: “We wanted to capture the essence of this feeling of player choice… What we started asking ourselves is, ‘What if you could keep that Scorpion [from the previous mission]? What if you could drive that Scorpion to the next mission and use it again?’ And then, we started taking that further: ‘What if, instead of going through the front gate of that mission, you can drive that Scorpion up on the hill around the back side and blow up that Wraith that’s parked there before the enemy even knows you’re around?’ ...We expanded the world to account for this kind of combat, to account for Halo combat… It’s that expansive combat area that you really felt like you had in Silent Cartographer realized.” - Troy Mashburn
Although this answer doesn’t really address the question of whether the game is “open world,” it does help clarify what the design goal was for Campaign: giving the player a bunch of options and letting them choose what they want. The open environments are a medium that provides players a choice of objectives and tools to complete those objectives by engaging in Halo combat with their enemies.
Q: “I know that exploration is a major focus of Infinite, but what I’m curious about is biomes. What sort of environments, if any, can we expect on Zeta Halo aside from the PNW-inspired landscapes we’ve seen so far?”
A: “Pacific Northwest is our main biome… Within that biome, you actually find diversity within sub-biomes, so we have some high-altitude palettes, we have some more wetland palettes—more swampy wetlands. We also have some war-torn areas—we refer to those as the deadlands—where you can really see some storytelling going on with the biome itself and maybe what happened on the ring. Along with our biomes, we have a lot of other palettes. We have the hexagons themselves, [which] lead to some really interesting kind of visual and gameplay situations of having a cavern made out of hexagons. Speaking of caves, we actually have cave systems in the game as well, so you can go exploring in some really dark, kind of moody areas and see what you can discover. We have the Forerunner architecture; you go inside the Forerunner with that classic palette. And then the Banished themselves bring this plethora of really interesting architecture and buildings and fortifications. When you put all these things together, it adds a lot of variety in a very natural way.” - Justin Dinges
The primary biome for the ring is inspired by the Pacific Northwest, and much of the natural environment is based around this biome. However, this biome itself is very diverse, featuring sub-biomes such as highlands and wetlands that have unique features. Additionally, the foundational hexagons, Forerunner structures, and Banished fortifications provide significant contrast with the natural environment and make the ring feel more interesting to explore.
Q: “I’m curious about how or if the hexagonal pillars have changed? I don’t know if I missed them but didn’t see any in the new screenshots.”
A: “Yeah, the hexes are still around. They’re one of our early decisions around the game of having...this underlying structure...on the ring itself, and, again, this has allowed us to go in this path of having massive destruction on the ring without it becoming really noodly and noisy and complex… We’ve continued to...work on their rendering. That was one of the things that’s always bothered us in the past: ...how they looked on screen. And so we’ve made a lot more investment into their shaders and how they render and how they’re grouped and things like that. But, again, they lend so well to both the narrative of the destruction of the ring and then also gameplay. A hexagon is a really convenient shape for gameplay to kind of live on and play around for cover and for using the grapple and getting up on the shelves of hexes.” - Justin Dinges
The hexagons seen in last year’s demo have not gone away, but they have been revamped from a visual standpoint. The design goal with these hexagons is to provide a sort of “building block” for the Halo ring, one that can be shifted up or removed to change up the landscape without it seeming too out-of-place, particularly given the damaged segments of the ring.
Q: “You touched on it some, but how will missions and other objectives be separated from each other in a more connected world? What is stopping me from grabbing a Banshee and flying it to the objective 3 missions ahead in the story?”
A: “In a way, the answer is ‘Do it!’ ...The way that the game is structured and the way that the primary narrative moves through the game, there’s certain things that just naturally, by the structure of the game, you don’t have the opportunity to jump ahead and sort of sequence break and break the experience.” - John Mulkey
Although player freedom and exploration is heavily rewarded, players don’t need to worry about doing the main story out of order. The Campaign’s story itself is still a linear experience, but the environments provided are wide open and available for players to experience.
A (cont.) “The game embraces this to a degree, but on top of that...you might be dropped off in a location from the Pelican, and there’s your primary objective. You can see over the ridge that there’s a location that you’re going to be heading to, but then off to the left there’s a UNSC forward operating base that’s now been overrun by Banished. Do I go down there before I go to the main story beat and take that back, and then maybe I can pull in a vehicle to go use? I could...change out my loadout to what I want to do from the things that I’ve unlocked. I look over to the right, and there’s some green smoke popped that’s coming over that ridge over there. That’s probably a group of Marines that are...battling for their lives against Banished forces right now. I can go choose to rescue those guys… And then, over there, there’s a big Forerunner tower sticking up over that ridge across the gap. Maybe I want to go explore that.” - John Mulkey
This detailed explanation of the freedom given to players is littered with interesting details. While players could certainly just run from main objective to main objective, there are also options to reclaim UNSC bases, save groups of Marines, and explore Forerunner locations. Within the UNSC bases, it sounds like we’ll even get to scavenge vehicles or access weapon variants or equipment that we’ve unlocked.
Q: “With Zeta Halo being a major character, will there be ways to find story elements within the world beyond the ‘Golden Path?’”
A: “Yes, absolutely… The locations are connected in the world—you can drive from one location to the other—and, along the way, you’re going to discover cool elements in the world. You’ll see a Pelican that’s crashed and skidded across the terrain, and it’s burnt out an area. You can go over and discover/explore that space, and [in] some of these spaces, you’re going to find things like audio logs. Those audio logs are going to be telling a lot more story about the ring, about what happened, about the battles that took place here or people’s personal stories… The audio logs are great: there’s great voice acting and background sounds. It’s like a cool radio drama.” - Troy Mashburn
Story elements in the Campaign will not just be delivered through the main story but also through visual clues, setpieces, and even audio logs that can be found within those setpieces. The audio logs themselves will contain all sorts of details and are likened to a “radio drama.” We heard one audio log with the Inside Infinite February article, and it sounds like the other audio logs will be similar in quality.
Q: “Is the ring in the skybox a fully rendered 3D model? If so, why did you decide to make it a 3D model instead of just painting a skybox? It looks beautiful btw!”
A: “We chose to go with a 3D model mostly because the ring...[is] a character… You think of a 3D model in the sky and, as you move across the world, you’re going to see it from different angles... When you’re on the gameplay space island and you’re looking off across the world, you can kind of see where it connects back to the ring and then goes up into the sky… [The 3D model also] plays really well with our day/night cycle… The star—the light source sun—rises and you can see the shadows on the ring kind of change because it’s a 3D model and it’s actually casting shadow… At a certain time in the day...there’s an eclipse, and so the ring actually eclipses the sun and you get this ‘midnight feel.’” - Justin Dinges
Yes, the ring in the distance is actually a 3D model, rather than a 2D skybox painting. This means the ring in the sky will appear differently depending on where the player is located in the playspace. Additionally, you can actually see where the ring in the sky connects to the accessible playspace if you find the right vantage point. The ring in the sky will react to the position of the local star, which will cast shadows on itself as the ring rotates. Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, there will be a brief period during the day cycle where the star is entirely behind the ring, creating an eclipse that darkens the ring.
Q: “How will the day/night cycles work with cutscenes? Will they also be integrated into them or will they always be in a predetermined time?”
A: “In Halo Infinite, we don’t do what might be considered ‘traditional’ cutscenes… There’s not pre-rendered things. Everything’s done live in the engine, and we really focused on the idea of doing smooth transitions. So, Chief will move into a particular interaction, and the camera kind of pulls from the head and transitions into the scene, but everything is playing out right in the space, so whatever time of day it is, it’s going to be that. Whatever weapons you have in your hands, those are the ones in the cutscene. And then it’ll transition back out and continue on playing.” - John Mulkey
As we saw in the July demo, cutscenes in Halo Infinite transition very smoothly from and to gameplay, without even so much as a camera cut. All cutscenes will be done in-engine, so the time of day and equipped weapons will be whatever they were just before the cutscene began.
Q: “What’s the design philosophy for the Banished in Halo Infinite? What colors, styles, and goals go into ‘Banishing’ a hallway, weapon, vehicle, or structure?”
A: “The Banished have this really heavy metal, red war paint aesthetic to them. They’re literally led by a Brute so they have this brutish vibe. You’ll see this in the way we built their structures and their fortifications in that they all have these big spikes under them. And so, what’s happened is the Banished have dropped them from orbit, and they’ve slammed into the ground, and they built these fortifications across the ring in this very...heavy way… You look at the Wraith or you look at the Banshee, and now those things...have this heavy metal plated armor on top of them with the red warpaint of the Banished… Even within our Forerunner structures, you can see their influence of what they’re trying to do with the Forerunner technologies.” - Justin Dinges
The goal with the Banished art style is to show a very brutal, heavy metal vibe. Their bases are dropped from orbit and crush everything beneath them, with no regard for preserving the structures of the ring underneath the fortification. Their vehicles and weapons are uparmored and painted red to further demonstrate this brutish nature.
Q: “In Halo Infinite, will we be able to knock things off the edge of Zeta Halo? Asking for a friend...”
A: “The answer is yes.” - Troy Mashburn
Not only will players be able to go up to the edge of Zeta Halo, they will also be able to push things off it. Although I did not include it in the answer above, Troy Mashburn describes an experience where he managed to push a Wraith off the edge with a Scorpion tank, watching the Wraith plummet to oblivion.
Q: “Will all the events in the game be created in advance, like outposts and missions? Or will there be random encounters like unscripted patrols that will look for Chief?”
A: “There’s also these patrols that are out in the in-between spaces and random encounters that the player will run into as you’re exploring and going between locations… We have a system in place to react to some of the choices the player makes. So, for instance, if you’re moving through a space, and you’re on foot, we will understand that, and the random encounters you might run into are encounters that would be fun to engage in on foot. And if you’re coming into a space and you’ve got a flying vehicle for instance, and you’re just cruising through, you might run into an encounter that’s fun to fight against in a flying vehicle. I want to emphasize that the goal...is to make it so that we’re giving you things that are fun to engage with with whatever you’re bringing to bear… It’s not a reaction pushback [where] ‘Oh, the player’s in a flying vehicle, let’s punish them!’” - John Mulkey
In addition to entrenched Banished forces in various bases and fortifications, there will be random Banished patrols strolling about in the world. In fact, the makeup of these patrols will be designed to be fun to fight with whatever vehicle or weapon you are using. If you bring a Scorpion to battle, you will be presented with patrols that are fun to fight in a Scorpion, and if you arrive on foot instead, you will instead be presented with combat that is fun for that situation.
Last month’s Q&A was informative, but it pales in comparison to the sheer amount of info we got this month. Here’s a quick summary on the most important details.
Halo Infinite will feature a dynamic wind and fog system, but storms will not be included at launch. There was a suggestion that the future may be bright for further enhancements to the weather system, although nothing concrete was given.
During the night cycles, players will notice more Phantoms with searchlights, more sleeping Grunts, and more enemies with personal energy shields and Fusion Coils. This last point is purely for the cool factor of having glowing lights in a dark environment.
There will be no hostile wildlife, but there will be “space gophers” and bird-like creatures. Some of the wildlife is bioluminescent and will appear more often at night.
The flying creatures will sometimes draw attention to points of interest.
Dual-wielding will not return in Halo Infinite, at least at launch.
Playable Elites will not return in Halo Infinite, at least at launch. This is due to a focus on making sure the multiplayer is fair, competitive, and balanced by having all players play as Spartans.
There will not be weapon upgrades in Campaign, but there will be equipment unlocks and upgrades and weapon variant unlocks.
Players will only be able to hold one piece of equipment at a time in multiplayer, much like Halo 3. However, they hope to make this adjustable in Custom Games settings.
The goal of the Campaign environment is to provide the player with a bunch of options and let them decide what to use. The Campaign is not open world in the sense that the main story can be completed in any order. Rather, there is a linear Campaign story that connects a series of large environments that players can explore.
Although the primary biome for the ring is based on the Pacific Northwest, there is significant diversity in the form of sub-biomes. Two sub-biomes described were highlands and wetlands, and there will be natural cave systems available for players to explore.
In addition to the natural environment, Forerunner and Banished structures will provide a deep contrast between the natural environment and one another.
The Forerunner hexagons are still present in the same way as before, but they have been visually improved in a significant way since the July demo.
Some side objectives available to players include liberating a UNSC base to requisition a scavenged vehicle or acquire some unlocked weapon variants, rescuing a group of Marines under attack from the Banished, and even exploring an enigmatic Forerunner structure.
There will be visual clues, setpieces, and audio logs that work together to tell stories beyond the main storyline. The audio logs are likened to a “radio drama” and are similar to the one we heard in the February Inside Infinite blog.
The ring in the skybox is a 3D model, which allows it to appear a little different depending on the player’s location on the ring, connect directly to the playspace, cast and react to shadows caused by the moving light source, and even create a brief eclipse each day as the star moves behind the ring.
Cutscenes in Halo Infinite smoothly transition from and to gameplay with no camera cuts.
All Halo Infinite cutscenes are done in-engine, which means the time of day and equipped weapons will be unchanged when a cutscene begins.
The Banished art style is focused around showing brute strength in a heavy metal package. For example, the Banished fortifications are built with large spikes underneath them so they can be dropped from orbit and crush everything under them to form a base.
Players can push objects off the edge of Zeta Halo.
There will be random patrols that exist between points of interest, and they will be automatically tailored to be fun to fight with whatever weapons or vehicles the player is currently using.