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Halo Infinite's Joseph Staten: 343 Industries "didn't have time" to fully realize the game's open world

For 343 Industries, the path to making an open-world Halo had some stumbling blocks.

Joseph Staten, head of Creative at 343 Industries, is shedding more light on the process of creating Halo Infinite's open-world environment, which was a new milestone for the long-running series.

Speaking with Insomniac Games' CEO Ted Price on the Game Maker's Notebook podcast for the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS), Staten admitted that 343 didn't have the time it wanted to fully realize the world of Zeta Halo (the name of the ancient alien space installation where the game is set) similar to prior installments. 

Halo Infinite, which released in November 2021, was notable for being the first open-world game in the series.

Prior to its November 2021 release, Halo Infinite was noted for being a completely open-world game. Previous Halo titles, such as 2009's Halo 3: ODST by original developer Bungie, experimented with expansive spaces in their respective story modes, but hadn't committed to fully explorable environments. 

Infinite is considerably larger and features gameplay staples of the open world genre, such as open-ended activities like destroying radio towers and liberating bases. 

Staten joined 343 as campaign lead in mid-2020. He was candid in his chat with Price, sharing how aspects of the game, such as biome variety, were things that had to be scaled back after his arrival. "We just didn't have the time to go after the level of fidelity as much as we wanted to," said Staten. "I know that from the original designs, there was a pretty significant scaling back at what the team had hoped, at one point, they could deliver on." 

343 had to make "targeted cuts" that drew back from the team's original vision. Staten noted that he's proud of how much the game improved following the E3 2020 demo. He was also quick to admit that no developer succeeds at making an open-world title for the first time, calling it "learning on the fly." 

A marketing challenge for Microsoft

Staten also discussed that part of the struggle with Infinite was how to properly convey in marketing that was open world without getting direct comparisons to a title like Red Dead Redemption II or Spider-Man. "We're like an open-world game inasmuch as our game is a lot more open," acknowledged Staten. "But we weren't layering on systems." 

During the discussion with Price, Staten brought up an instance where 343 had considered incorporating crafting elements. "Master Chief doesn't need to kill animals to make leather shirts for himself," he recalled. "If he wants something, he goes and kills it, and grabs its gun. He doesn't need to gather around a campfire and cook food to replenish his health." 

As a fan of open-world games, he wanted the team to remember that what's common good for other open-world games aren't necessarily good for Halo. His comments are a decent lesson in how even large, experienced development teams can run into struggles when adapting a beloved series to a new genre.

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