Microsoft's 343i will switch Halo to Epic's Unreal Engine and put more emphasis on multiplayer.
What's important to know
In a new report, it's explained how 343 Industries is changing the Halo franchise after Microsoft laid off workers. At least 95 developers are said to have been hurt by the cuts.
Halo is moving to Epic Games' Unreal Engine, which is a big deal. Sources who know about how Halo Infinite was made say that its engine, Slipspace, was hard to work with because its code was old. This includes the delay of modes like Extraction and Assault that can be played with other people.
"Project Tatanka," a game being made by 343 and Certain Affinity under a code name, will be the first thing built on Unreal. At first, people thought Tatanka was a battle royale mode for Halo Infinite.
343 has also stopped making new story content in the style of a campaign for now. Many of the developers who were prototyping and pitching new Halo projects based on Unreal have been let go.
Microsoft announced earlier this month that it would lay off more than 10,000 people because of the bad economy. The developers at 343 Industries were among the most affected. At least 95 people have lost their jobs at the Halo development studio, making many people worried about the future of both the company and its most popular game series. Not too long ago, 343 Industries' Studio Head Pierre Hintze tried to calm people's worries by saying confidently that Halo is "here to stay."
But a new report says that while 343 will still be in charge of the Halo series, both the series and its developer are going through a huge reorganization right now. The most important step in this process is switching to a new game engine, which is a set of tools that are needed to make games like Halo. The Slipspace Engine made by 343 is said to be "buggy and hard to use" because it is based on code from the 1990s and 2000s. Sources who know about the making of Halo Infinite, the latest Halo game, say that problems with the Slipspace Engine have caused a number of development issues, such as the delay of multiplayer modes like Extraction and Assault.
Due to problems with Slipspace, 343 is switching to the popular Unreal Engine. The Unreal Engine, which is made by Epic Games Inc. and used by many game developers around the world, is expected to be a much easier tool for the people in charge of Halo to use. Reports say that the decision to switch to the new engine wasn't made until Bonnie Ross and David Berger left 343 and Pierre Hintze took over as Studio Head and Engine Lead, respectively. The first game that 343 will make with Unreal will be called "Project Tatanka." It was first thought to be a battle royale mode for Halo Infinite, and the studio is working on it with Certain Affinity. Tatanka could still be like a battle royale, but it could also "go in different directions."
The move to the Unreal Engine has been people who know what's going on. Internally, there was a lot of back and forth about the change, with some developers wanting to make the switch and others saying that Halo should stay on Slipspace. Often, different development teams were bound by their own non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which made it hard for them to talk to each other and work together. Notably, we've heard rumors that Microsoft has a prototype of Halo Infinite's popular Forge Mode map-making tool running in Unreal. We've also heard that Project Tatanka's Slipspace build hasn't been updated since early December, which supports the idea that it's moving to Unreal. In the end, though, it will be hard to get full confirmation of this news until 343 makes it official.
The report also says that 343 has stopped working on any new Halo story content. Many developers were working on pitches and Unreal Engine prototypes for new Halo games instead of Halo Infinite missions, but many of them lost their jobs in Microsoft's ongoing round of layoffs. So, 343 isn't working on any new campaign-style projects right now. At least for now, it looks like Halo will focus on multiplayer experiences going forward. There are no plans to "kill" Halo Infinite between now and the release of Project Tatanka, and that Halo Infinite will continue with new releases like Season 3: Echoes Within on March 7.
As a huge fan of Halo's campaign content, I'm very sad to hear that we probably won't get any more of it for a very, very long time. Even though I understand that 343 has to focus on what keeps the lights on in the face of an unstable economy and painful layoffs, it was the gameplay, story, and lore of its campaigns that first drew me into this wonderful sci-fi world. The campaign in Halo: Infinite was amazing. It was easily one of the best shooter experiences in recent years, and the fact that the game did so well when it came out shows that I wasn't the only one who thought so. How long before it gets the attention it deserves? Will we see the Master Chief and other characters we love at all before 2030?
Fans like me can only hope that things will get better in the long run with new leadership and a more user-friendly development engine. Rumored from people who know how games are made, it seemed like 343 under Bonnie Ross was full of chaos and competition, with different teams only coming together because they loved the Halo series. It seems like the studio didn't have a single voice and clear direction until Halo veteran Joseph Staten joined. Staten, on the other hand, is said to have gone back to Xbox Publishing, making the future of both Halo and 343 uncertain.