The head of Halo developer 343 Industries has shed new light on the poorly received July 2020 Halo Infinite campaign demo, explaining what went wrong and why. Because developers were mostly working from home at the time due to the pandemic, not everyone working on the game saw the same picture quality for the demo, which was known internally as Ascension. Some people working on the game raised concerns, but ultimately Microsoft moved ahead–and this was a misstep, Ross said. It did lead to the Craig the Brute meme , but overall it was a bad showing for Halo Infinite, she explained.
“I do want to say there were multiple people on the team pointing out, ‘Hey, I think this is wrong.’ But we’re all looking at it at home on whatever monitor with whatever color grading that we have,” Ross told GameSpot sister site CNET . “And that was a huge wakeup call for us.”
This helped 343 realize that there is real value in having developers physically in the same room, looking at the same screen.
“After Ascension, we cleared out a whole section of our fourth floor and then put monitors in with all the different versions of the game and then also set up cameras so people who didn’t feel comfortable coming in could still work from home and participate from home,” Ross said.
Also in the interview, Ross said the Ascension demo represented a version of the game that 343 had planned to release by Holiday 2020 to be a launch title for the Series X|S. The studio made a “tremendous amount of cuts” to meet the deadline, she said. Ultimately, Microsoft elected to delay Halo Infinite a full year, and Ross said this was the right move in the end.
“We had people on the team already raising flags that we’ve cut too deep,” she said. “And I think that was just more of a very public look in the mirror that, ‘Yes, we did indeed cut corners that we shouldn’t have cut,’ and we needed to really take a step back and make sure that we were spending the time we needed.
“But I would say, unfortunately, putting that out in public was not what the team wants to see. You know, I think the team wants to be proud of everything they put out and wants it to represent the quality of their work. And what we put out didn’t.”
Also in the interview, Ross spoke about why Halo Infinite’s development time has been so long. She said part of it came down to building a new engine, SlipSpace, and pushing the series into new directions with free-to-play multiplayer and a “more expansive world” for the campaign.
“It’s kind of like we’re trying to fly the plane while we’re building the plane. And I think that that just caused a lot of pain for people. Things just took way longer than they should to get the content into the game and make sure the content is polished,” she said.
The full interview contains many more fascinating stories and insights from the development of Halo Infinite.
After years of development and a year-long delay, Halo Infinite’s campaign releases on December 8. Reviews are coming online now, and here at GameSpot, our Halo Infinite campaign review scored the game a 9/10. For more, check out what other Halo Infinite reviews say.
The Halo Infinite multiplayer beta is out now, and you can check out GameSpot’s Halo Infinite beginner’s guide to get started.
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