It took me a few minutes to wrap my head around just how big of a deal the upcoming Forge AI Toolkit is going to be for Halo Infinite when it launches with Season 05: Reckoning on October 17. The potential here is tremendous. Not only for the incredibly talented Halo Infinite community to get in there and start crafting, or would-be game designers to start building out their portfolio, but also for the non-creators (the consumers) to enjoy so many more unique experiences with Halo Infinite beyond its already great campaign and robust multiplayer modes.
Essentially what this means is, the new Forge AI Toolkit will allow Forge players to create and share experiences using Campaign AI in Forge. Creators will soon be able to enable such functions in Forge like spawning AI, control where the AI navigates, and use a node graph to control managing AI.
“Our North Star for the Forge AI Toolkit was wave-based PvE experiences. Firefight, Horde; things like that are what we expect players will lean into first when they create stuff, but it also has the capacity to do more linear experiences,” explains 343 Industries’ Forge Lead Designer Michael Schorr.
Moving Marines with a Node Graph
“You could make a twisting hallway and around every corner have AI spawn in front of you, and in order to progress you need to kill them. But there’s a lot of cool things you can do; MOBA things you can do. One of our engineers here prototyped a tower defense game with the AI. So, there’s a lot of flexibility in these tools.”
Schorr shared more about the significance of this tool and how it taps into the broader sense of what Halo’s PVE modes have been all about: fighting against AI enemies, whether they’re Elites, Grunts, Brutes – those have all been classic experiences we’ve had from Halo CE up to Infinite. Now 343 is letting players create their own versions of that experience — and that’s massive.
“To me that’s the significance (of the Forge AI Toolkit). It’s the other half of the equation. Forge has been around for a long time, and we’ve seen a lot of cool variations on multiplayer themes, but we’ve never seen what players can do with the AI. We’re going to see people remaking the intro battle when you first land on the Ring. We’re going to see that and that’s huge,” shares Schorr.
“Technically speaking, this is the first time we’ve had campaign AI enemies in multiplayer,” says 343 Industries’ Forge Technical Designer Connor Kennelly. “Which means whatever you make in Forge, they’ll show up in whatever game mode you want. That’s really cool for existing creations because you can go and add [AI enemies] to stuff you’ve already made, or you can create new stuff with them.”
The Forge AI Toolkit has been in the works for roughly 18 months, with more time dedicated to building it out at the start of the year as 343 brought in some Campaign engineers to help, building out an API wrapper (essentially a kit that makes complicated functions easy to use) to help interface with the various internal tools. Once that was in place, the rest of the feature development came together fairly quickly.
“Any time we saw something in the API that we thought would be great for players, we were like, ‘Can we add that to our node graph scripting?’ If the answer was yes, we would put it in there,” shares Kennelly. “I did a count last night and we’re adding over 100 nodes in Season 5. We had about 300 in the game beforehand, so it’s a huge chunk of AI functionality; about 75 just related to AI. We’re just like, ‘Could the players use this to build something wacky?’ If the answer was yes, we’d put it in there so those users could go crazy with all the surprises.”
“It’s not all the bells and whistles that the internal team would use in Campaign. We couldn’t do that. But it is still very powerful,” Schorr adds.
Some of the functionalities the Forge AI Toolkit will allow players to do are things like spawn AI, control where the AI navigates, and use a node graph to control managing AI. So, for example, you can have them come out of the spawner and assign them to run to a specific zone. Then assign that to a second or a third zone – you can start to see how these scripted events for the AI can lead to some greater things.
“If you want to make patrol routes, you can just link them up and you can just send your little squad of Elites around the outside of the base. Or send groups into the encampment before the marines kill them,” Kennelly elaborates. “You can also have them appear when the player crosses a trigger volume. Or if you wanted to get deeper into the scripting type of things, you can have a group of Grunts spawn after one of your players died. You have a ton of options via the scripting to really hook into any game event you want and then reassign the squads to different zones. We totally expect players to make those campaign scenarios where you’re taking a base or holding out a location. That’s one of the things we built the features around.”
Using a Trigger Spawner
The numbers of players participating in Forge thus far is significant: 27 million custom matches; 2 million user-generated creations; 40+ user-generated maps have even been added to public matchmaking playlists;. These numbers are telling in that the health of the Halo Infinite community — in particular the Forge community — is incredibly strong nearly two years after release, and nearly one year since Forge dropped.
“It seems like every day on Twitter I see something new. Or at least once a week I see a pretty major map release,” says Schorr. “People announcing it and tagging me in those. I see a lot of it. And it’s not just ‘Hey, I made a box with a ladder in it.’ These are dev-quality creations.”
“Those 40 [user-generated] maps we’ve added [through Forge], each one is on par with our dev-quality maps and that’s what we’re adding into matchmaking,” Kennelly adds. “That’s like a six-month project for a lot of people. The fact there’s so many… we’ve had 24 to 30 maps from just the studio. The point is, we’ve already seen the community in the last 11 months produce even more maps than we’ve produced to date and they’re incredible and it just keeps going.”
All this points to an obvious influence that Forge can have on not just players, but future game designers as well – if you know how to use Forge, you know how to use just about any internal level creation tool. And now, coupled with the Forge AI Toolkit, it’s easy to imagine how robust some portfolios might become in the coming months. In fact, many Forge level designers are now employed by 343 Industries, including Kennelly himself.
“I know a lot of folks who got their start Forging in older Halos and learned basic level design. That can help make an amateur portfolio,” shares Kennelly. “My big interview here was, ‘Here’s all the stuff I Forged, the professional skills I have…’ It’s really cool to see that pipeline. I know folks that work at other companies that got started [in Forge] as well. It’s a cool way to get your feet wet in the [game] industry. What I really love about Forge is, specifically, you have an existing player base. If you go and make your game and engine, you can get maybe five or ten play testers. With Forge you can just put it up in the custom browser, you can get players, find other Forgers, and then your content can get a lot better. I’m super passionate about that.”
Also with Season Five, players can now progress their Battle Pass and Operation Pass when playing eligible custom game matches (e.g. Forge creations). So, if multiplayer isn’t really your thing, you can go in and create a PVE experience, or join a custom game that has one, and earn XP.
“It’s a nice pairing that we’re super excited to get at the same time,” says Schorr. “Because some of our players probably don’t really like multiplayer, this is a good safety net for them to be like, ‘Oh I’m going to go do this and I can still do the Battle Pass thing.’”
Season 05: Reckoning is also going to introduce two new Arena multiplayer maps: Forbidden, which is a long-abandoned Forerunner structure with two distinct sides — a lush jungle and a dry barren side, and Prism, featuring caverns of an abandoned Blamite mine, which ties into a bit of Halo lore as being the source of ammo for the Needler. The Season will also launch with a new mode, Extraction, where two teams of four will compete to arm and defend extraction sites on the map. Check out Halo Waypoint for a full breakdown on Season 05: Reckoning and the Forge AI Toolkit.
It’s an incredibly exciting time for Halo Infinite and for Forge creators everywhere. What the Forge AI Toolkit is bringing to the table here for the player is frankly incredible. And knowing just how talented so many of its creators already are, it can be a little mind-boggling to think what fun creations we’ll get to experience here in the coming months. I think I speak for many fellow consumers of Forge content here – I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
“I think we’re just getting started.” – Master Chief, Halo: Combat Evolved.
Xbox Game Studios
Halo Infinite (Campaign)
Xbox Game Studios