The play for attention in the live game space, let alone the competitive shooter space, has only gotten more competitive with each console release and gaming trend. With Halo Infinite, developer 343 Industries is attempting to make its multiplayer more attractive to stick with for the long haul while delivering what could be considered a consumer-first business model through its flexible battle pass system and emphasis on player feedback.
IGN sat down with Halo Infinite’s Head of Design Jerry Hook and Lead Progression Designer Chris Blohm to discuss how Halo Infinite’s approach to free-to-play is different from others on the market and how they hope to keep players of all kinds returning to the storied FPS.
Halo Infinite’s Battle Pass Plan
Hook and Blohm know we play other games — as Blohm said, it’d be “ludicrous to think otherwise.” With this and the understanding that some battle passes can encourage unhealthy player habits, they decided Halo Infinite’s battle passes should never expire. This was announced back in June, but Blohm said they’re doing this as they “don’t want people to burn out at the end of the season” and to “feel healthy and come back because they’re excited to” rather than because they have to rush and try to finish content they paid for.
“We wanted to be able to say, ‘Hey, look, when you put 10 bucks in, you keep that 10 bucks,'” Hook said. Halo Infinite won’t have loot boxes either, so once you drop your money on something you know exactly what you can get.
Hook and Blohm also discussed these key details about how battle passes will work:
- You can only have one battle pass active at a time, meaning your chosen battle pass is the one gaining experience you earn as you play.
- You can switch which battle pass is active whenever you want.
- The battle pass from the test flights is not representative of what we’ll see in the final battle pass.
- About every quarter of the battle pass will have a legendary cosmetic in it. Legendary-rated cosmetics will be character canon-related or a new type of customization object with special attributes or effects.
- Event rewards are separate from the battle pass.
Season 1: Heroes of Reach Battle Pass
Okay, but what’s actually in the first season’s battle pass? Halo Infinite’s first season is called “Heroes of Reach.” This was previously announced by 343 in an Inside Infinite June update, and though we didn’t get complete specifics on every item in the battle pass (though you can see a tease of some items we’ll see in the battle pass in the image below), Hook and Blohm did reveal more about rewards we can expect to see from the first battle pass.
“We know people like [Halo] Reach and we knew the story was going to have another Reach beat — in the paperback books, there’s a Reach beat [in Halo: Shadows of Reach] after Halo 5. The Infinity goes back to Reach. So we just started full speed ahead on the best of the Reach customization,” Blohm said.
As expected with a season title of Heroes of Reach, the first armor core will feature Halo: Reach customization options. Think of armor cores as the base of an armor in which all corresponding armor of that type fits. For instance, every player in Halo Infinite multiplayer will get the new Mk. VII armor core. This means all customization options — shoulders, helmets, visors, kneepads, and more — made for the Mk. VII model can be swapped onto their Spartan so long as that specific core is equipped. The battle pass is an opportunity to unlock the classic Mk. V and customization options for it.
“When we were looking at the Heroes of Reach and what [Blohm] and the team pulled together is a really great model of how we’re trying to tell a visual story with the battle pass of earning characters, basically through all the Reach characters with the battle pass,” Hook said. “For us, the system that’s been created with the [armor] core at the center, and then all of the attachments that players can choose to add. Do you want Emile’s knives? You want Jorge’s grenades? Mix and match how you want to create your own, or if you’re just like, ‘No, I want to look exactly like Jun’ then you can do that. And for the first time, you can look exactly like Kat with the prosthetic arm.”
To ensure proper representation of prostheses in Halo Infinite, Blohm said they worked closely with in-house veterans and the non-profit organization called Limbitless. “We want people to build Spartans that they either aspire to be or love to be or if they look cool or represent them,” Blohm said.
As for other rewards we can expect in the battle pass, Blohm said we’ll see Death Effects (another callback to Halo Reach customization) and other new armor effects. There will also be armor kits. While many of Noble Team’s cosmetics can be earned throughout the battle pass, you’ll need to unlock a specific kit to look almost exactly like a member of Noble Team. We may be playing Spartan-IVs where Noble Team was mostly made up of Spartan-IIIs, but Blohm said this is as close as we’ve ever gotten to looking like the Halo: Reach characters in Halo multiplayer.
There are certain things that for sure won’t be in the battle pass, though. Like, say, uncharacteristic emotes.
“We struggled a lot with dance moves for Spartans. We feel that more traditional players would reject Master Chief flossing. However, [Personal] AI can go crazy. AI can do what it wants to do. That way you can preserve the militaristic feel without having to break what you would consider canon. Unless of course Joseph [Staten] makes up a whole new story about dancing Master Chief, but until that happens, [we have Personal AI],” Hook said with a laugh.
Weekly Challenge and Event Rewards
New customization options aren’t solely earnable through the battle pass or purchasable in the store. Playing the campaign will also earn players new cosmetic items and players can also earn a weekly reward (called the capstone) by completing all weekly challenges.
The challenge system was available during the Halo Infinite test flight and has since undergone some changes based on player feedback. Hook said it was important for them to ensure that challenges are straightforward and are something players actually want to accomplish. The development team monitors stats regarding which daily and weekly challenges players don’t complete or opt to reroll. Then, those are phased out to make room for challenges for a trending weapon or tactic. Their goal, Hook said, is to make players feel like they’re able to earn constant XP for their battle passes or work toward their weekly capstone reward without forcing themselves to play in unfavorable ways.
“So at launch, we have the challenge system that fuels the battle pass and the event system. Events go live every few weeks,” Blohm said.
Hook and Blohm are keeping most event details quiet for now, but they did share that each event will have its own free event pass. This is one of the few timed reward systems in multiplayer and will not include a paid track.
“You get a special playlist and you get a new reward track for [each event],” Blohm said. “That’s two weeks for an event and one week for the Fracture, but the Fracture comes back every month and it saves your progress. Now that’s another case where we had a long talk. We said, ‘How much do we expect people to play?’ Right? And let’s balance it. So you know what, if they’re at their parents’ house for a week and they don’t have their Xbox they still can get everything that is on the reward track.”
Hook said they will monitor progression through events and, eventually, through more test flighting to see what players respond to in terms of rewards or progress and grow from there.
How to Get That Sweet Samurai Armor
Blohm acknowledged that while the more traditional Spartan armor and customizations look great, some of us crave more unique Spartan fashion options. This is where The Fracture event comes in. This recurring event is how we’re going to get unique cosmetics that don’t quite make sense with the Halo canon, like the teased Yoroi samurai armor. Hook said they watched what the Master Chief Collection is doing with its multiplayer cosmetics (the MCC multiplayer just got Viking and gladiator armor) and how its community is responding to inform their development on The Fracture event.
“Multiplayer Spartans aren’t Master Chief. Occasionally they have bright colors. Occasionally, you know in Reach, they have a flaming helmet. We want to be very careful about how we treat some of these things and that’s one of the reasons we brought The Fracture in as we brought it in. What we’re saying with a Fracture is very clearly, ‘Hey, this isn’t canon. This isn’t a Spartan that’s fighting the Banished,'” Blohm said.
There have been other unique cosmetics throughout Halo’s multiplayer history of course, like the Hayabusa armor. Everything still has to make sense within the Halo universe and they’re intending on leaning on the Halo Fractures story to assist in that. Hook said it’s their hope they’ll hear from the community on things they’d like to see, though keeping cosmetics consistent with Halo legends is crucial.
Community feedback is a constant focus for this team, and ultimately, they’re looking to us to see what we want, whether that’s changes to events or more support for a feature like Personal AI. Hook and Blohm made it clear, though, that they want to ensure each part of multiplayer feels rewarding rather than exhausting to keep us hopefully coming back to Halo Infinite’s multiplayer.
“The battle pass system is really just a small part of the overall ecosystem for a season,” Hook said. “When we take a look at our events or events structures, it’s not just about another place in which you’re selling things. It’s about taking that structure of a battle pass and layering it with each of the events structures that we have as well. What Chris says a lot, which is I think pretty critical to the success of it, is we want players anytime they engage in an activity to be able to feel rewarded. The battle pass sort of sits above all of that, which is whenever you’re playing, you’re feeling rewarded from the battle pass. That’s our goal.”
Halo Infinite is out on December 8, but IGN will keep you covered on brand new Halo Infinite announcements all November long. Be sure to check out the newly revealed Streets multiplayer map if you haven’t already.