Brad Sams: A Closer Look at Halo Infinite’s Turbulent Journey

Article by Brad Sams

Last week, Microsoft announced that Halo Infinite would be delayed until 2021, but there have been challenges building the game that started long before this announcement. Starting prior to E3 2019, I have been hearing tidbits about the development process and when Phil Spencer validated my report that 343 said was not accurate from late July, it was time to put together the story of everything that I had heard leading up to that reveal.

Jumping into a time machine to 2015, 343 embarked on building the successor to Halo 5. Referred to initially as Halo 6, the company was going for a rebuild of nearly everything Halo. They were building a new game engine called Slip Space and the team was laying the foundation to build a launch title of the next-generation Xbox, the series X.

Building a new game for a console that has not been announced is quite the challenge and is often why launch titles are sometimes lacking in the graphics department because they aren’t quite sure where the final specs will land. Sure, they have a rough idea but it’s typically easier to scale up graphics than to cut down on quality if the new console doesn’t live up to the paper promise. Meaning, would you rather have reduced graphical fidelity at 90FPS or better quality graphics but at 25FPS?

On top of that, 343 was building a new game engine, for an unannounced console, for a game that would ship at the same time as the new Xbox. If you are trying to take the path of most resistance to launch a new game, this is the perfect route to take – and then you toss in COVID-19 for the cherry-on-top.

But the story of difficulties starts long before July of 2020 and as far as I’m aware, the difficulties started to surface before E3 2019.

One of the challenges of building Halo Infinite is that a significant portion of the game is being outsourced to third-party contractors. This is not all that unusual but the coordination between the many different companies contributing to Infinite has been rough, at best. One person familiar with the company’s plans indicated that they believed the out-sourcing for Infinite was at a ratio higher than a typical studio undertakes during development which has caused significant headaches for cross-development collaboration.

If you go back and watch the E3 trailer of Halo Infinite in 2019, that game looks remarkably better than what was shown in July of 2020. How can a game decline significantly in quality with an additional year of development time? It doesn’t make sense and if you go back to the 2018 announcement of the title and the demo of what the Slip Space engine is capable of creating, the July event looks even worse.

It’s my understanding that the 2019 trailer was again outsourced and at that time, the game was not in a state that was playable at that level of fidelity. Even though the trailer says “Game Engine Footage” – this is a nebulous term as we don’t know if this is an attempt to show what gameplay would look like (not plausible at this time based on what we have seen) or what cut-scenes would look like which is the more plausible explanation but this vastly over-sold expectation for Infinite’s later demos.

Multiple people familiar with the development efforts behind 343 have described the collaborative effort behind the development as challenging and significant disagreements internally have become public with Tim Longo, creative director for Halo Infinite, leaving the company in August of 2019.

Appointed to Tim’s role after he left was Mary Olsen, who left the company in October of that same year. At the time, 343 said “There’s no creative dilemma inside the studio” but clearly there was turmoil inside the walls about the development progress of the game.

One of the big questions that started to manifest late in 2019 was how could 343 change the path forward for Halo Infinite so that they could actually meet the holiday 2020 deadline. Phil Spencer has confirmed that splitting up the campaign and multiplayer was a serious consideration but this was not a recent discussion as many had assumed as this option started being considered in early 2020 or possibly late 2019.

The final decision to ship the game as either a complete title or separate parts may have been more recent but the idea of shipping two separate pieces has persisted for about a year or so.

One insider states that the production of the Halo TV series for ShowTime has been a significant distraction for 343 management. Often times taking their priority instead of focusing on making sure development progress is on the right path to reaching its targeted deadline.

One of the other disconnects I have been hearing about more recently is that engineering and marketing have been on two different planets. Engineering has been asking for delays and to hold material back but marketing has been plowing forward.

An example of this happened a couple of weeks ago with the Halo team announcing that multiplayer would be free and run at 120FPS. Why would the marketing team push this out and generate another wave of pre-release excitement for the game if management knew that the game was likely to be delayed? Marketing won the argument and those on the engineering side sat on the sidelines as marketing kept pushing more Halo news out the door with the reality being that the game was unlikely to ship anytime soon.

When you look at all of the issues facing 343 including a new engine, significant outsourced development, turnover in key positions, trailers that regressed in quality, and then sprinkle COIVD-19 on top, it’s not all that surprising that things have not been going as smooth as many had hoped. The question is how is 343 going to correct the course so that they can actually ship a game that lives up to the promises that have been made?

But the biggest challenge of all may be internal. Microsoft has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Halo Infinite with the end goal being a title that would elevate Xbox series X at launch but we all know that’s no longer going to happen.



I think that it is pretty obvious that their project management needs a shake up. I would have thought the 5yrs would have been and split. 2yrs for the engine and 3 for the game. But looking at what was shown and now adding an unspecified delay speaks volumes.

They have obviously been missing milestones, and have not been able to catch up.

Microsoft should never have let Rod Fergusson leave, and should have kept him to shore up projets when leadership was needed.

I mean you can’t really lock the guy up either. Rod left because it was a dream of his to work on Diablo his favorite game ever. Chance like that don’t come often.

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Lots of conjecture and speculation from Sams here.


If infinite was clearly stated as an xbox one game with a res patch for xsx I think there would be far less negetivity around it.

Also I dont think a lot of people understand game development most games look like absolute disasters a year or less before launch but everything comes together in the final push, and dont take my word for Cory Barlog the director of the acclaimed god of war said something to that effect.

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Shit it is a bit of a worry.

I’m not surprised reading up on development of previous games in the series im not surprised every halo game has had troubled development

I remember him saying that after the first cyberpunk2077 delay

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Damn, looks like a mess to me. How on earth, assuming this is true and Brad is, in fact, a good source they gave more attention to the series instead of the game! Hope this delay can get things straight, however, how much time they would need assuming the development is that turbulent indeed? Kind of worry.

MS needs really to shake up things on 343i. I get that Halo usually mess with ppl feelings, but 343i management on this franchise is nothing but a roller-coaster of emotions, had they sticked with their vision during Halo 4, I think we would be in a much better place. Halo 4 had the best storytelling of the entire franchise, touchy moments and scary moments like never seen on halo before (like the cientists being vaporized), probably the best gfx and a good MP. But the crying loud halo community nitpicking always acted a barrier for them, and also contributed to some frankstein experiences on Halo 5 (which is not a bad game imo)

Btw, imo the way both franchises, GOW and Halo, are being handled by MS and their respective studios is underwhelming to say the least.

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Interesting, Brad has heard that the ‘game engine footage’ trailer shown at E3 2019 was outsourced, it wasn’t built by 343. Apparently 343 are outsourcing a lot more then a typical studio would which has caused collaboration issues (and delays) down the line.

…Ok, watched all the video. Sounds like there was a disconnect between Marketing and Engineering. Add on the new engine, 2 creative directors leaving, COVID-19, outsourcing galore, the TV series being a distraction, a new console…Jesus, sounds like a mess.

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My thoughts based on Sams video -

  • Way too much outsourcing. Should always keep everything in house as much as possible. Doing this will always cause issues.

  • Starting development on the game and engine despite not having the specifications for what Series X was going to be makes no sense. How can you build a game engine when you don’t know what it needs to be capable of doing based on the console specifications?

  • Halo TV show. This should have nothing to do with 343 Industries and the development of Halo Infinite. I have never been a fan of taking a game and turning it into everything but just the game.

  • Xbox One version. This still makes no sense. The marketing for 5 years and plan is for the game to launch with Series X but what the hell, let’s develop it for Xbox One anyway. SMH. What really baffles me is the simple fact that they have X-Cloud so why would you waste time developing the game on inferior obsolete hardware? Plus, those who wouldn’t want to buy the next gen console would be able to stream the Series X version on their 2013 Xbox One via Game Pass via X-Cloud and that would have cut down the workload which obviously didn’t go smooth at all.

  • Executives, leadership, marketing, etc. Simply, none of this gelled or came together and seems to be one big clusterfuck.

If Microsoft rushes this out by June when it probably does in fact need an extra 12-15 months, then in that case, what would be the point in delaying it to begin with? I’m not a Halo fan and have no attachment whatsoever but holy hell, they’ve completely fucked up so many things in the last half decade and I just don’t see how this happens with their biggest franchise period. Even I know that Xbox is Halo and Halo is Xbox.

On the positive side, the gameplay and combat looked excellent and we know the soundtrack should be great so hopefully, they all can get Halo Infinite where it needs to be including Ray Tracing and launch it in November 2021 which could be a blessing in disguise because it’s the 20th Anniversary, the Series X will get a massive boost from Halo Infinite and they can do custom Halo Infinite consoles and controllers. It’s almost perfect. At this point, im just hoping it doesn’t get any worse.


If its something bad about xbox = its true.

Hope 343i can get its act together. I think Halo looks good and fun but if it fails critically, its time to put Chief to bed for awhile. Trying to fill the shoes of Bungie is an impossible task. I think they should just do their own IP next.

Obviously we are not talking like it would be an offer from Tony Soprano.They probably did try to keep him? Who knows? It is always a shame imo when companies let great people go. Fuck, where I work, they do it all the time

To be completely honest, so much of that sounds very typically Microsoft. So no issue believing basically all of it.

Phil needs to have a forensic look at 343. From top to bottom.


Yea definitely if its a mess at launch

They should definitely not release Halo Infinite until it’s ready. If that is 2022, so be it.


From what I’ve read the outsourcing issue seems to be a wider Microsoft problem. Hopefully the spotlight this game is under can change things. The repeated attempts to make Halo into a multi media franchise have always seemed to cause trouble. That said from what I’ve read it seems that pretty much every triple A game goes through some kind of development hell. I wonder how many people remember the half life 2 situation. It was delayed just a week before it was due to launch and didn’t come out until a year later.

I was curious how Halo’s epic five year Dev time measured up. All I could find was a top 30 list which started at 7 years in development and went up to the record holders at 12 years.

The whole situation is deeply unfortunate but I am still confident they can turn it round in time for a release next summer or autumn. I’ve watched that gameplay video quite a few times now and still the biggest takeaway for me is that I want to play it. It all looked fun. The music sounds fantastic. The story actually seems logical this time with clear stakes and motivations for the characters. The wacky forerunner stuff can be hidden around the map for those who want to seek it out. The open design is absolutely the right direction for halo. Despite the age of the series, there isn’t an fps that does vehicle combat better than halo. The more enclosed spaces of Halo 5 and especially Halo 4 limited the options of vehicle combat, but now we have a huge amount of exciting possibilities. All this is to say that aside from the technical graphical issues and the character designs of the brutes, it all looks very good. Another 9 months or year where 343 can focus all of their efforts on the engineering challenge will hopefully allow for some great changes especially as the feedback has been pretty unanimous on this regard.

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Nailed it my man absolutely agreed with you every game looks ugly until the final stretch of development cory barlog will tell you that