It's no secret that Microsoft and 343 Industries have struggled to keep players interested in Halo Infinite's free-to-play live service multiplayer experience. The game didn't release with much content for players to enjoy to begin with, and so far, post-launch updates have only brought minimal additions. As a result, many gamers have put Infinite down to play other titles. The game only has a few thousand concurrent players at any given time on PC based on Steam Charts data, and while it's faring better on Xbox according to the official most played Xbox games list (opens in new tab), it's still nowhere near where Microsoft likely wants its flagship first-party live service experience to be.
However, there is one upcoming feature in Halo Infinite that has the potential to be its saving grace: Forge mode, Halo's beloved map editor and creation tool that players have been using to create custom gameplay experiences since Halo 3 in 2007. Everything we've seen of Halo Infinite's Forge so far looks incredible, and as long as the mode releases in a polished state, I believe it will help turn the game around.
Fine, I'll Forge it myself.
Halo Infinite Forge just keeps getting better 🛠 pic.twitter.com/REEGLpryWiAugust 2, 2022
To understand the potential of Forge in Halo Infinite, one only needs to check out the numerous Forge leaks that spilled online following Halo Infinite's co-op beta launch in July. With the work-in-progress version of the mode that was discovered, talented players used hundreds of different terrain pieces, objects, decorations, and visual effects to build full-sized, intricately detailed maps. For example, skilled mapmaker Infinite Forges recreated Stranger Things' hellish Upside Down dimension, as well as a one-to-one remake of the iconic Nacht der Untoten Call of Duty: Zombies stage. Others have used the mode's advanced scripting language to create functions and level triggers that call in devastating air strikes, deploy weapons and equipment for players to use, and automatically flip vehicles upright whenever they tip over. Other options include the ability to customize weather effects, scale objects up or down, change an item's color and texture, give one weapon the functionality of another, and more.
What we've seen of Halo Infinite's Forge calls the emergence of the creator economy to mind, in which million-dollar businesses have formed around the process of creating new maps, modes, and other types of content for games like Minecraft and Roblox. It also reminds me of some of the best Skyrim mods and the best Fallout 4 mods that have come out over the years — mods that offer players several fresh ways to interact with and experience the game they're used to, and that were only possible thanks to Bethesda's decision to release the Creation Kit tool.
To quote Microsoft's mission statement, Forge will "empower every person to do more," and for a playerbase that's starved for content, that will undoubtedly be a huge deal. There will obviously still be a desire for 343 Industries to develop more curated multiplayer experiences, but while fans are waiting for them to release, they'll have plenty of creative and exciting fan-made maps and modes to enjoy thanks to the Forge community. Even though none of it will be official, it will nevertheless provide players with alternatives to the game's meager vanilla offerings. These will hold many gamers over until the developers can get the ball rolling with larger and more frequent content updates.
Discoverability matters, and 343 is delivering
As incredible as Halo Infinite's Forge mode is, though, it won't mean anything if players don't have an intuitive way to search for and access content that made with it. This is what a File Browser — a tool that allows players to search for and save Forge creations — is perfect for. We haven't heard anything official about a Halo Infinite File Browser yet, but based on what the prominent Halo dataminer Surasia recently found in the co-op beta build, it looks like quite a robust one is coming to the game alongside Forge. In addition to being able to perform simple searches for developer-recommended creations, the most popular maps and modes, and useful custom-made prefab structures, the "Browse All" option will also allow fans to peruse a community-wide file share and narrow searches with filters and tags.
In addition to being a powerful tool for finding and bookmarking maps, the File Browser is also coming with some beneficial features for the Forgers creating them. This includes the ability to keep multiple iterations of your project saved and accessible so that you can rollback to an earlier version if necessary, as well as a copy protection safeguard that prevents other players from saving and publishing your map as if it was theirs. You can even list other players as collaborators when you upload, ensuring that everyone who contributed to the creation of your map is publicly credited.
Based on everything we've seen so far, it's clear that 343 Industries is going to great lengths to make Forge content as accessible as possible, while also protecting and supporting its creators in several ways. These are exactly the types of systems that the Forge community needs to maximize the tool's potential, and seeing the developers go above and beyond here is fantastic.
Will Forge save Halo Infinite?
With Halo Infinite's Forge shaping up to be a dream come true, it begs the question: Will its release truly be enough to get players interested in the game again? Ultimately, I think the answer to that is a definite "yes," though in the long term, Forge alone won't be enough to keep people around.
There's a limit to how much heavy lifting community creations can do for a live service experience like Halo Infinite. Wacky and unique game modes and player-made maps are awesome, but at the end of the day, these are side dishes meant to complement the main course — a suite of strong core content. Fans want official versions of classic Halo modes, professionally made maps to play them on, and a rewarding progression system to grind. Currently, Halo Infinite isn't delivering.
With that said, Forge creations do give players exciting new ways to enjoy the game, which should help them avoid getting burnt out on Halo Infinite's matchmade content. This will give Microsoft and 343 Industries some breathing room to develop a better live service model and create the high-quality experiences that fans expect from Xbox's flagship franchise. Because of this, there's no doubt in my mind that as long as Forge releases in a stable state with its accompanying File Browser, its arrival will mark the beginning of a Halo Infinite resurgence.
Halo Infinite's multiplayer is free-to-play and available now on Xbox and PC. Despite its issues, it's one of the best Xbox games to play if you like arena-style FPS combat. Don't overlook the campaign, either, as its phenomenal gameplay and well-told story make it one of the best in the series.
Halo Infinite promises fans the most ambitious Halo experience to date, featuring a fantastic campaign with a dynamic open world and an excellent story as well as a free-to-play multiplayer with strong core gameplay mechanics and plenty of cosmetic unlocks.
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