Nov 19, 2021 - Technology

"Halo Infinite" developers used 1-year delay for polish, not expansion

A screenshot of Halo Infinite

Screenshot: 343 Industries.

The developers of the much-delayed "Halo Infinite" spent an unexpected extra year polishing their game ahead of its December 2021 launch, but restrained themselves from making massive changes.

Why it matters: In an era of games that are rushed to release, the team for "Halo Infinite" got to explore what happens when the publisher hits the brakes.

  • The sci-fi shooter game featuring iconic Xbox hero Master Chief was supposed to come out last November, alongside the new Xbox Series consoles.
  • Instead, a poor public showing with unimpressive graphics in mid-2020 triggered a one-year delay.

What they’re saying: “The natural tendency is that, [if] you get more time, you're like, ‘We've got to have more stuff,’” the game’s character director, Steve Dyck told Axios.

  • “And it's like, ‘No, we didn't. We didn't do that.’”
  • “The game is the same game we were going to ship a year ago,” associate creative director Paul Crocker said, “obviously more polished because we had more time.”
  • The team used that time to focus on pacing and making selective additions to better introduce some enemies. They also “cleared some space,” Dyck said, to set up big moments in the adventure.

The big picture: Game designers usually get very little time to experience their game as a whole prior to release.

  • Big-budget video games are made by teams of hundreds of people and constructed in parts.
  • That leads to developers often discover only last minute which system don’t work well or, at times, how big their games actually are.
  • Not so for “Infinite” studio 343 Industries, thanks to the delay. "The biggest benefit of that time was time spent with a nearly finished game,” Dyck said.

What’s next: The true benefits of the added year will be clear closer to the Dec. 8 release, when reviewers are able to assess the full experience.

  • Previews released today have praised the early part of the “Infinite” campaign for being fun and feeling polished.
  • But previewers caution that they can’t yet size up the full adventure, which takes the normally linear approach to “Halo” games and sets it in a more open world where players can explore in all directions.
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