It’s rare to see a video game developer publicly acknowledging the crunch, let alone quoting its avoidance as a cause of delays. On Friday, developer 343 Industries unveiled the long-awaited roadmap for Halo infinitefilled with a number of withdrawn functions along with an honest acknowledgment that such decisions were made in order to prioritize “team health.” Some glory players turned out anyway.
Halo infinite has been on a bit of a roller coaster since its release last November for the Xbox and PC. For the first time in the series, its multiplayer mode is free-to-play, with a seasonal model not unlike similar models in similar free-to-play games. It was the biggest glory launch in the series’ historybut a few months later, in the midst of a shortage of new cards and modes – an event repeated six times over the course of the season – players started jumping out of the game. Earlier this month a lot of info about upcoming maps and conditions revived interest a bit ahead of season two, scheduled to launch next week. Then the roadmap came out.
It’s almost comical that a JPG with some text and a handful of bullshots could trigger an entire weekend of ~ discourse ~. But you have to understand, the most devoted players have long looked at this thing as a promise to commit hard to Halo infinite would pay off along the line. Plus, even the roadmap did not roll out on its scheduled timeline. In November, 343 Industries creative Joseph Staten led said Halo infinite‘s one year “roadmap would come out sometime in January. Your calendars may indicate that it is at least a few days ago.
Examined in a vacuum, purely merits of “content”, devoid of the explicitly stated limitations and human cost of what it takes to create said content, the roadmap is obviously a bit disappointing. Some core features have been pushed back beyond their intended release windows. Others have been given more flimsy “TBD” timelines. (The entire roadmap is marked with a disclaimer “subject to change”) a blog post published at 19.00 ET on a Friday night, the State pointed to a pretty solid explanation:
… A ‘zero priority’ for team health and to get ourselves into a sustainable development rhythm, so that we can provide good experiences for all of you and at the same time maintain a healthy balance between work and private life. We know we need to deliver more content and more features faster. Staying true to priority zero means we sometimes have to slow down to stay healthy and move faster later. But we are also looking aggressively at ways to accelerate.
It’s no secret that the video game industry is plagued by the plague “crunch” or prolonged periods of overtime, either mandatory or insidious, typically a significant factor in cases of burnout and attrition. That 343 Industries is going out of its way to put its developers first – in the midst of an ever-raging pandemic, no less – is not the kind of thing you see every day. What it really means for Halo infinite:
- The online co-op, originally scheduled to roll out with the release of season two, is scheduled for a while in August.
- Splitscreen co-op is now decoupled from online co-op. It’s scheduled for, uh, “timing TBD.”
- The ability to replay campaign emissions, which is something you can not at the momentis scheduled for a while in August.
- The popular Forge creation mode will receive a beta in September and also be in beta for season three. (Leaked footage indicates it will be the most robust iteration of Forge yet.)
- And the big one: Season two lasts six months, twice as long as its scheduled timeline. Season three rolls out in early November.
The latter is the biggest problem for players who regularly quote glory‘s progression system as a reason to jump off the game. Halo infinite‘s battle pass is on 100 levels. If you play regularly and focus on completing challenges for XP, you can easily max it out in a month or two. So what, they ask? Do you want to play for fun? Pffft.
This weekend, a Reddit post about the roadmap collected thousands of comments, many of which are negative. Some are even cross-border vitriolic, calling it “depressingly pathetic” and saying it is “a miserable time to be a glory fan. “A common sentiment narrowly points out that if you put the package of cosmetic options aside, new features are planned for Halo infinite‘s first year amounted to … three new modes and two new maps.
Players compare this to previous ones glory game developed by 343. Within its first year, 2012’s Halo 4 so 343 add 11 new cards added to the game’s rotation spread over four paid DLCs after release. For the 2015s Halo 5343, meanwhile, added fewer official maps during the game’s first year (only nine), but displaced them with additional levels to PvE Warzone mode and with maps created in Forge. However, these games were not made during a pandemic. Halo infinite is also the first game in the series that has not recycled popular cards from previous games (at least now).
“Most fans are not aware that the damaged ring represents the unfinished product that is Halo Infinite,” a player joked. Others, more seriously, went as far as to raise the issue of whether or not Microsoft should disclose glory franchise to a developer other than 343 Industries.
Even players who are generally positive about the game have not exactly jumped to its defense. People over on LowSodiumHalo subreddit-a digital space for fans to gather “without all the salt” typically associated with the more mainstream glory communities – say they are “disappointed” and “uh” even though they acknowledge that having general dates for certain features, such as the Forge beta, is at least an ointment.
To some extent I understand that. glory fans are hungry. I have personally been on the edge of my seat for splitscreen co-op since launch. Six months was a bit long for the first season, so even though I’m eager for what’s coming in the second – the new modes sounds completely wild-I’m not quite sure it’s enough to keep the player base healthy for six more months. But if 343 Industries is serious about putting its team first, if the rationale is not just public mouthpiece to wipe out some behind-the-scenes crunch for minimal end results, then it’s definitely worth the wait. Not a question in my mind.
Representatives of 343 Industries did not immediately respond to a request for comment. If you work at the studio, or is otherwise knowledgeable about the status of its operations and would like to chat – on or off the record – my inbox is open: email@example.com.