Halo Infinite Development Update - August 2021
Updated: Feb 9, 2022
Following the July 2021 Technical Preview, 343 published a video in which they discuss some of the bigger improvements that will be made based on feedback from the flight. They also give a general update on the road to launch and some unfortunate expectations for launch itself.
"We had a lot of pain on getting into the flight initially. We know we had issues on the Halo Insider side that we're working on. We also had some problems getting in from the Xbox Insider Hub on console, and we've been working in close partnership with the Xbox Insider Hub team, and we're working on some solutions to that and ways that we can mitigate that for the future." - Sam Hanshaw
When the Tech Preview first launched, there were numerous issues with accessing Halo Waypoint and accessing the build on console through the Xbox Insider Hub. In future flights, these issues should hopefully be reduced in severity, allowing more players to have an easier time getting into the flight after being invited.
"We had a misconfiguration in how the exe was running, and that was resulting in about a 20% performance drop. That's been addressed on our side, and so for the next release, you can expect at least a 20% improvement in performance." - Sam Hanshaw
In the Tech Preview, nearly all PC players encountered poor performance while playing the game, even if they had extremely good hardware to run it. As it turns out, some of these issues stemmed from a misconfiguration in the build that caused 20% performance decreases. This issue has been resolved, so future Tech Previews and eventually launch will feature better performance on PC.
"In addition to getting in the flight, getting into matches was a bit of a struggle. Match loading had some inconsistencies, some folks would drop out of matchmaking every now and again, some folks dropped out consistently. While that did cause a lot of pain for folks, it also helped us get a lot of data so that we could address those issues... Now, people are getting into matches super consistently." - Sam Hanshaw
Among the more significant issues encountered during the Tech Preview, there were a lot of cases where loading into matches would fail for one or two players. This meant that searching as a group was a gamble as to whether everyone would be able to play in any particular match. The good news is that the telemetry data generated by players encountering this issue was analyzed, and several of the causes were addressed. Internal tests are now showing a much higher success rate for loading into matches.
"We got some nice new loading screens for people to look at that they should be seeing for a lot less time." - Sam Hanshaw
When loading into matches in the July 2021 Tech Preview, players saw a black loading screen with three dots in the top left corner. It wasn't particularly interesting, and it felt particularly frustrating to watch for up to a minute while the game tried and failed to join the player to the match. The loading screens have been upgraded so that they are more fun to see, and loading times in general have been improved.
"Now we're going to be keeping [the Halo Insider] Support site open past the end of the flight so that the people who were dedicated and playing the entire time...can file their bugs at the end." - Sam Hanshaw
At the end of the July 2021 Tech Preview, the Halo Insider Support site closed just as the Tech Preview itself closed, meaning that players could not submit their bug reports after the fact, even if that had been their plan. This was the case for me and for quite a few others, so 343 will be leaving the Support site open for a little while after the next flight ends, allowing everyone to play and note bugs while the flight is open and report the bugs to 343 after it closes.
"You can definitely expect another big-scale flight like this with even more people invited. We're going to include the same content we had this time, the Bots and the Weapon Drills, but we're also targeting a full release of 4v4 PvP action, and we want to go even bigger and have Big Team Battle." - Sam Hanshaw
There will be at least one more Halo Infinite flight between now and launch, but this time, it will include 4v4 and BTB PvP, as well as all the content included in the first flight. More players will also be invited than before, so make sure you've signed up for Halo Insider and updated your profile to be as complete as possible for a chance to be included!
"Once we get to launch, we also have hopes and anticipations to flight features and content beyond." - John "Unyshek" Junyszek
The flighting program may have just begun last month, but it will continue to be used after the game launches this Holiday. Much like with MCC, the Halo Infinite flighting program will allow Halo Insider members to test new features, content, and major changes ahead of its integration with the retail build.
"We know that there's quite a few Halo players that want to know what happened to their feedback they left on the forums, on Twitter, sent to the Community Team directly, and we will have a blog coming up on Waypoint here in the next few weeks." - John "Unyshek" Junyszek
As promised, there will be an after-action blog containing all the changes and fixes that 343 will be making based on feedback from the Tech Preview. This will be arriving in the coming weeks.
"Although we didn't have split screen multiplayer in the Tech Preview, we will absolutely be shipping that Day One for launch on all Xbox family devices. On PC, it's a slightly different story. There are just technical challenges on PC, with a whole bunch of different configs and other issues, so we're not going to have split screen multiplayer on PC for launch. But it's absolutely something the team's excited about exploring post-launch." - Joseph Staten
After being entirely absent from Halo 5: Guardians, split screen will be making a return for Halo Infinite multiplayer at launch on all Xbox consoles. While PC fans will not be getting split screen at first, they do plan to explore ways to add the feature after launch.
"Unfortunately, as we focus the team for shut-down and really focused on a quality experience for launch, we made the really tough decision to delay shipping Campaign Co-op for launch. And, we also made the tough call to delay shipping Forge past launch as well." - Joseph Staten
In some extremely unfortunate news, Halo Infinite will not feature Campaign Co-op and Forge at launch. These features will still come after launch, but since the team is now in shut-down mode (where the launch content is tested, fixed, and refined without any major new content additions), they will not be able to reach the quality bar necessary for a Holiday 2021 release with the rest of the game's content.
"We are 100% committed to releasing this Holiday, both Campaign and our first Season of free-to-play multiplayer. We just have to...work through a couple more details and we'll be talking about our actual release date very soon." - Joseph Staten
Although Halo Infinite still does not have a specific release date, they are planning to announce one soon. There are no further delays planned for the game, so it will release this Holiday. Expect to see a date as early as Gamescom but possibly a little later than that.
"What we're targeting is to ship Campaign Co-op in Season 2, and then we're targeting to ship Forge in Season 3... Timing-wise, for us, a Season is about 3 months; that's our goal, is to ship a Season every 3 months. So when it comes to Campaign Co-op, our target is to ship Co-op in Season 2, about 3 months after launch, and then our goal is to ship Forge in Season 3, which would be about 6 months after launch. But, of course, all these plans are subject to change as we dial things in, but that's our goal right now." - Joseph Staten
Halo Infinite's Seasons, as stated previously, will be about 3 months in length. Currently, the plan is to release Campaign Co-op with Season 2, three months after launch, and then release Forge in Season 3, six months after launch. These features would, of course, accompany a large volume of new content releasing with each Season. While plans could change for the exact timing of each feature, these are the current goals for 343.
"Halo Insiders would have the opportunity to participate in some hands-on Forge ahead of release through Flighting, similar to how we've been doing the Tech Preview for launch this year." - Brian "ske7ch" Jarrard
Although it will likely take 6 months after launch before all players can use Forge, Halo Insiders will be able to test it ahead of its launch to ensure it's ready when it finally comes to Halo Infinite.
"The Forge tool is amazing. I was around at the beginning of Forge, and to see how it's progressed is really, really cool. I can't wait to see what people create with it. But, as a toolset, it's really advanced and is hopefully going to give people the ability to create a whole bunch of new innovative, novel experiences. But again, there're technical complexities there, and it's just going to take time to get it right.
"And on the Co-op side, we have the opportunity to play Campaign all the time. It's this wonderful, wide-open, non-linear take on a Halo Campaign, and it's going to offer so much more flexibility to take down Banished bases from all kinds of different angles, to progress through the game in your own way, to a certain extent. At the same time, though, that's complicated when we think about save systems and all the technology that needs to drive this more nonlinear experience.
"In the Co-op scenario, that's even more complicated, and that's another reason why it's going to take longer just to make sure it's quality Day One, and people can jump in and play and have fun." - Joseph Staten
I've decided to include this quote in its entirety because it gives some insight into why Co-op Campaign and Forge are not going to be included at launch. For Co-op Campaign, there is very little in common with previous, linear Halo Campaigns. When one player chooses to go in one direction and another player goes in a different direction, how do you handle it? If the environment is as expansive and explorable as they've described, do you want to have one player be teleported to the other's location when they get too far apart? Does it even make sense to do that? What about split screen? If players are far apart, is the experience on Xbox One performing as expected, or is it dropping resolution to that of a well-shared meme just to maintain 30 FPS? These technical difficulties are unique to Halo Infinite's Campaign due to the way they've built it from the start, and resolving them by Holiday 2021 is unfeasible while also making sure the rest of the game is polished and ready to ship.
Similar technical challenges face Forge, although less is known about this mode. It will likely be even more powerful than the Forge mode offered in Halo 5: Guardians, which also took a few months after launch to release.
"The team is in what we call shutdown mode, and what that means is essentially a lot of bug fixing. A lot of reviewing the game, playing, looking at areas where we still need work, whether it's on Campaign or on Multiplayer. And again, the goal is to make sure that on Day One we deliver an awesome experience whether you're playing on an eight-year-old Xbox One or a brand new, cutting-edge PC." - Joseph Staten
At this point in development, the Halo Infinite team is in shutdown mode. That means the launch content is essentially complete and the work on the initial build from here until launch will be focused almost exclusively on bug fixes. The goal is to make sure that what they are releasing will be high quality and as bug free as possible right from the start.
The final few minutes in this Development Update video give us a glimpse at the team hard at work reviewing gameplay and scenes from the game while safely meeting in-person. One such scene is shown above. Although quite blurry, this image shows a Banished interior, complete with dark red and gunmetal gray everywhere. There is a green console toward the back of the room, although its purpose is currently unknown.
Here, two different players are at different points in the Campaign. What's interesting is that the player on the right is using a weapon that we are just now seeing for the first time in-game: the Shock Rifle. It still isn't clear how it will work, but it seems to feature red paint and a scope-like attachment on the top. The magazine also holds at least 10 rounds, a bit surprising since this type of weapon seems like it would be battery-powered.
There is also a small, hard-to-see detail in the grenade indicator on the left view. Underneath the counter for the M9 Frag Grenades is a small symbol, which is likely the damage type indicator for the grenade.
The leftmost screen in the group shows a player using a Sentinel Beam, confirming that this weapon will return as a useable sandbox item.
As it turns out, the Shock Rifle does have a scope, and its view is shown here. Also, the player is currently looking at a damaged Sentinel, which appears to be friendly to the player.
This screen shows a console with the Kinetic damage type icon floating above it. When the player approaches the console, a prompt comes up that can't be read directly. However, it might say "Refill [Kinetic Icon] Kinetic Ammo". When the player interacts with the console, the empty MA40 AR and MK50 Sidekick suddenly get ammo, suggesting that this interpretation is at least close to the actual text.
"We just need to stay focused on shutdown mode. Once we're past that hurdle, we're going to be going after things like gameplay captures and trailers. That will all be coming a little bit closer to launch." - Joseph Staten
The marketing cycle is almost here, but 343 will be waiting until they close out shutdown mode and have the game mostly ready for launch before gathering the footage they need to make trailers and demonstrate it.
Today's Development Update was unfortunately laden with some bad news, especially for fans of Campaign Co-op and Forge. While this news was likely the focus of this update, we did also hear about some of the progress that has been made since the last Tech Preview in terms of bug fixing. We also got to indirectly look at a few moments from the review process for Campaign, giving us a tease of more content that we have yet to see.
Numerous improvements have been made to the process for accessing flight content through Halo Waypoint and through the Xbox Insider Hub on console.
A misconfiguration causing PC performance to be reduced by 20% has been resolved. Performance should be noticeably improved in the next flight.
Issues with getting into matches have been almost entirely resolved thanks to data from the first Tech Preview.
Loading screens have been updated to be more interesting than a black background with three dots, and load times in general have been reduced.
The Halo Insider Support site will remain open for some time after the conclusion of future flights so that players can report bugs after the flight has ended.
There will be at least one more Tech Preview prior to launch, containing all the same content as before but also 4v4 and BTB PvP. More players will be invited to this Tech Preview.
Flights will continue for new features post-launch.
There will still be a blog post on Halo Waypoint in the coming weeks summarizing the key takeaways and improvements that will be made as a result of feedback from the Tech Preview.
On Xbox consoles, split-screen multiplayer will be available on Day One.
Split-screen will not be coming to PC on Day One, but there are plans to explore adding it after launch.
Halo Infinite is still launching in Holiday 2021, and the release date will be announced very soon.
Campaign Co-op and Forge will not be releasing on Day One with the rest of the game. This is due to the technical complexities introduced with both features. Campaign itself is fundamentally different from previous Halo Campaigns, so a new Co-op system entirely is needed, and Forge is apparently an upgrade even from Halo 5: Guardians.
Campaign Co-op is currently planned to release with Season 2, 3 months after launch.
Forge is currently planned to release with Season 3, 6 months after launch.
Forge will be flighted prior to its release so that players can use it and provide feedback to help it launch in a polished state.
The development team is currently in "shutdown mode," wherein they are focused primarily on fixing bugs and refining the launch content for release.
Through secondhand gameplay snippets, we have seen a Banished interior, complete with red and gunmetal walls and floors.
We got our first look at the first-person model for the Shock Rifle, a scoped round-based weapon with at least 10 rounds per magazine. It has red paint on its top.
Grenade inventory indicators in the HUD now show the damage type of the grenade beneath the count.
The Sentinel Beam was also shown being used by a player.
Sentinels appear to be friendly and can take locational damage.
There is a station for refilling Kinetic-type weapons. It can be identified by the Kinetic damage type icon floating above it.
Heavy marketing for Halo Infinite will kick off once shutdown mode is completed and the game is nearly ready for launch, which will happen soon.