What do you want to know
- A new report from YouTuber Sean W suggests Halo Infinite’s battle royale, codenamed “Tatanka,” is moving to the Unreal Engine, and possibly even Halo itself.
- We exclusively revealed Tatanka earlier this year as a “battle royale-lite” Halo game designed to appeal to a new audience.
- Since the departure of Halo frontman Bonnie Ross, many fans have been wondering what, if any, leadership change might be in the works for Microsoft’s flagship shooter franchise.
- We have been investigating the Sean W rumors for the past week and can tentatively corroborate some aspects.
Halo Infinite could be set for a big change of direction, according to new reports that we can tentatively at least partially corroborate.
Last year, we exclusively revealed that Halo Infinite was set to get its own Battle Royale-like codename, Tatanka, in development between 343i and partner team Certain Affinity. After the leak, CA released a statement confirming its deeper commitment to the Halo franchise, and just last week said the team was doing “major work” on Halo Infinite.
Halo Infinite has been a little hectic lately. The live service left a lot to be desired, and 343i struggled to get back to the necessary pace of updates that live service shooters typically enjoy from competitors like Fortnite, Valorant, and Apex Legends. Blizzard is also releasing Overwatch 2 this week, putting extra pressure on Halo Infinite to keep up.
The game’s long-awaited Forge mode is coming later this year, but its third season of content has been delayed to spring 2023, with season four naturally coming even later. In conversations with past and present 343i staff who wished to remain anonymous, Halo Infinite’s internal Slipspace Engine was blamed for most of the issues with the game’s ongoing development. Slipspace development tools as “non-existent”. The descriptions paint a grim picture for contractors and new 343i staff, who had to work with a “difficult” engine that was light on documentation and pipeline maturity. To that end, these recent rumors might not come as much of a surprise.
Report: A Change of Direction for Halo
Last week, YouTuber Sean W shared a video detailing some rumors he’s heard about Halo Infinite, as well as some speculation about what might happen in the future. Basically, Sean W reported that Halo’s Tatanka-like battle royale mode might be moving to the Unreal engine. If it wasn’t already there, it would potentially mean abandoning a lot of the work already done on Slipspace.
At first, I canceled the report. It didn’t make much sense to drop over 2 years of work on Tatanka to move everything to a new engine, but after talking with Sean W and doing some research on my own, it certainly seems more and more that Tatanka is either quitting Slipspace or has never been on Slipspace from the start.
Information I received during the original Tatanka leak earlier in the year suggested that the game was meant to incorporate user-generated content systems from Halo Infinite Forge, alongside progression from Halo Infinite itself. . On the face of it, switching it to a new engine would be potentially incongruous with the design intent of incorporating Halo Infinite content, which would continue to exist entirely on a separate engine. But the information we’ve received could suggest a broader shift in direction for the Halo franchise.
It seems that indeed Halo is gearing up for a broader move to the Unreal Engine, known for games like Gears of War, Fortnite and many more. Sean W’s report was also corroborated by CAG’s Jeremy Penter, as well as some of our own sources. I wanted to gather more details in an effort to paint a fuller picture of what’s going on with Halo right now before we do a report, but here’s what we know so far.
While some details on the concrete plan remain vague, we have tentative indications that this change potentially extends to the entire franchise, not just Tatanka, with 343i gearing up to explore the future of the franchise. With 343i founder Bonnie Ross and Slipspace architect David Berger no longer with the company, it seems the studio is eager to explore new ways to accommodate the rapid pace of development in the world of shooting games. Moving to a more popular engine with mature tools, and perhaps more importantly, a high level of experience from game developers, may be key in determining Halo’s future.
At this time, there doesn’t seem to be any real indication that Halo Infinite itself is ending, however. Development on Forge does not stop, nor does development on Season 3 or 4.
Speculation: why it might be a good thing
Halo Infinite’s live service just wasn’t ready when the game received critical acclaim from fans and the media last year. While there were reservations about the relatively anemic supply of maps, modes, and progression, everyone seemed keen to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt – the company that pioneered the idea of a service game on console would surely have nailed Halo Infinite? Right?
Fast forward to now, and we know Halo Infinite’s live service just wasn’t ready. Six-month seasons are an outlier in an industry where service games often do a month seasons, with new battle passes filled with cosmetics that provide a sense of progression and reward, while keeping the competitive balance intact. Halo Infinite’s seasonal updates have also been a bit lacking, adding minimal maps and new features compared to other competing games.
Locking in a singular narrative on why it was difficult is the least that can be said. Some of the people I’ve spoken to blame former game director Chris Lee, while others blame studio head Bonnie Ross. However, the one consistent area of irritation is with the Slipspace engine, which has become somewhat notorious in the reviews surrounding Halo Infinite for its difficult implementation.
I know from information and conversations I’ve had about Tatanka that the game was supposed to incorporate Halo Infinite, and Certain Affinity received the Halo Infinite source code to build their implementation. We know from the Halo API leaks a few snippets of how Tatanka is supposed to play, although if the game does indeed change engines as rumored it’s basically anyone’s guess at how well the original blueprint will be retained .
Instead of representing the continuation of Halo Infinite, it’s possible that Tatanka could eventually expand to represent the next phase of Halo itself as a completely separate, standalone experience. On a different engine, this could sabotage Microsoft’s original plan to integrate Forge mapping tools, but they could still surface Halo Infinite cosmetics by taking advantage of Halo’s social APIs.
Microsoft trademarked “The Endless” a few months ago, which seemed to indicate some sort of campaign DLC for Halo Infinite. There have been a few potential suggestions that The Endless could also move to Unreal Engine and become a standalone experience in its own right, though we’re unable to corroborate anything about The Endless at this time.
Unreal Engine is widely used in the games industry in general, and internal Microsoft teams from The Coalition to Undead Labs have huge experience with the tools. Both Microsoft and Certain Affinity also have in-house tools and pipelines for working with the Unreal engine already established, at a time when Slipspace is widely rumored to be problematic for working best. Microsoft’s use of contractors also potentially exacerbates problems with Slipspace, as training new staff to use tools used by literally no one else in the gaming industry undoubtedly creates a speed gap. – and speed is absolutely essential in today’s world of live service games.
Of course, I would caution against taking all of this with a grain of salt until we get some sort of official statement from Microsoft, or some form of concrete physical evidence. But as the saying goes, there’s no smoke without fire, and right now there’s a lot of smoke.
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