343's campaign team discuss making the game accessible to a new audience…
In an interview with the media held this week, character director Stephen Dyck explained that Infinite will be the first game in the series where the Normal difficulty is the main focus and is then scaled up to harder difficulties, rather than the other way round.
“Traditionally, Halo’s always been developed on the Heroic difficulty, and we did the same thing for 4 and 5,” he explained.
“So usually we look at Heroic, we’re tuning everything here, everything is scaled down a little bit for Normal and Easy and then scaled up a little bit for Legendary. This time, we spent much more time on the Normal difficulty, expecting new players to come in.
“That doesn’t mean that Heroic isn’t hard and that Legendary isn’t very punishing, those are things that are still just part of Halo, but we did spend more time on Normal difficulty from the standpoint of, ‘what if you were a new player and you’d never fought the covenant before or you’ve never fought anything in Halo before and it’s your first time using an AR?’
“We want those players to have fun and success and not immediately be hit with a wall from a gameplay standpoint where they’re like, ‘aw man, I haven’t played this, I don’t get it… am I supposed to use a specific damage type here?’ Or, ‘that grenade didn’t do anything, why didn’t it do anything?’
“So one of the philosophies we’ve had is, the player’s always right or the game says ‘yes’. If the player wants to use something or a certain type of weapon, while certain weapons will be more successful, we’re never going to say, ‘you’re just wrong, you can’t do that’.
“That’s where I’d say from a gameplay standpoint our philosophy was a little bit different, we were just kind of like – come in, play, we’ll ease into things, we’ll tutorialise things for you especially with the addition of things like equipment and things like that. So ideally, the player has a smoother ramp into the Halo world of gameplay.”
Associate creative director Paul Crocker added that the game has an unspoken ‘golden path’ that players should generally follow to progress throughout the game, and that stepping outside of that path can lead to optional, more challenging moments.
“The golden path is very curated by us,” Crocker explained. “The further away from the golden path you travel, you’ll hit difficulty spikes which are challenges to return to if you fail when you first encounter them.
“As you engage with equipment upgrades, as you capture more FOBs, as you bring marines, you can bring help with you for those encounters.
“Anecdotally, some of the people on the team actually found Normal difficulty a bit harder because it was more open and more 360 degrees of combat, whereas players who play a lot of other titles were finding it very easy, so the balance was making sure it was inviting to all players on Normal difficulty, then a guarantee that if you bump up the difficulty, it gets more challenging.”
The game’s campaign art lead Justin Dinges told us that the decision was made as a result of newcomers struggling to get into a series that assumed a lot of prior knowledge. “We got a lot of feedback on 5 that there was a high price of entry into that game of knowing things,” he said.
“So we wanted to make the price of entry into the franchise more available to people, so they didn’t feel that they had to [know things]. That doesn’t mean all that information isn’t there… hopefully, it just doesn’t require you to know that stuff.”
The features have been pushed back again…
And in a new interview with Eurogamer, Staten confirmed that the delayed release of Season 2 and Season 3 mean campaign co-op and Forge have been pushed back too.
“At the time that we talked about campaign co-op and Forge I said our goal is to ship campaign co-op in Season 2 and our goal is to ship Forge with Season 3,” he said.
“Yes, we are extending Season 1. So our goal still remains what I said before, which is to ship campaign co-op with Season 2 and Forge with Season 3. But those remain goals. Those remain targets. And we can’t commit to any hard dates right now, because as we’re seeing with this multiplayer beta, other things might move up in the priority stack for us.
“If it turns out that our progression system just isn’t working the way that we intended, if we need to move some of these bigger rocks sooner, then we as a team will make those decisions and will clearly communicate to our fans why we’re why we’re doing certain things.”
Staten added: “It’s going to be a constant challenge to address some of those bigger rocks that I know players have completely legitimate feedback about. But we’ve got a couple big things that we still have to deliver to fans: campaign co-op and our Forge toolset are really big promises that we’ve made that we need to make good on.”