Halo Infinite Winter Update: Forge Is Better Than Ever

Key Points

  • The Halo Infinite Winter Update is the best update for the game yet. 

  • Forge mode is a staple for the Halo franchise, and Infinite’s Forge is easily the most powerful iteration.

  • Walk through Forge’s creation tools to help you create maps and modes. 

  • Well-designed fan-made maps from the Halo Infinite Winter Update make it into the game through the Community Collection playlist.

Halo 3 first debuted Forge mode. As a mode initially conceptualized as a simple object layout editor, Forge’s full potential was quickly tapped into by passionate players. They used the mode’s features (and exploits) to create the maps and game modes they wanted to play. Nearly two decades later, they built the foundation for community creation tools and file sharing. The Halo Infinite Winter Update, released in November 2022, finally brought Forge mode to the latest entry in the franchise. After a whole year, the wait seems to have been worth it.

Forge mode in Halo Infinite Winter UpdatePhoto source: Halopedia.org

Clocking in at a sizable 10GB, the Halo Infinite Winter Update is the game’s most important yet and offers several needed additions. 

The Winter Update finally introduces what 343 is calling a “Match XP Beta” which seems to be a precursor to a proper progression system. The Christmas event Winter Contingency brought decent holiday-themed cosmetics through gameplay. Campaign co-op has finally arrived in the game – albeit without split-screen co-op which is difficult to forgive. 

Several sandbox tweaks made the weapons a bit more enjoyable, key among them being Plasma Pistol, Pulse Carbine, and Commando Rifle buffs, and nerfs (slightly – they still play great) for the BR75 and Frag Grenades. 

The patch notes also reveal several tweaks to skill-based matchmaking and the game’s anti-cheat methods, but how these work exactly is only known by the dev team. It’s pretty easy to spot a cheater in Infinite, so when you’re being tracked through walls, be sure to use the newly added Report feature. Game crashes are far less frequent for Xbox and PC after dedicated efforts. 

The stars of the Winter Update are the highly anticipated debut of Infinite’s Forge and the surprise addition of the Customs Games Browser (CGB). As these are the lifeblood of Halo’s creative fanbase, these will be covered in depth right here on Halo Hype

Under New Management: A Rundown of Forge Basics

There’s no point in keeping you in suspense: Halo Infinite’s Forge is the best and most realized it has ever been. As a complete suite of creation tools, Forge is used to build and publish your own maps, game modes, and objects (also called prefabs). It’s also considered an extension of the free-to-play multiplayer, so it’s easily accessible.

Man playing a video game

As popular Reddit posts might suggest, Forge and the CGB getting out the door sooner rather than later is likely 343 Industries’s multifaceted attempt at doing the community right and giving the dev team some breathing room to get upcoming seasonality back on track. The game’s first year was rough around the edges, but the Winter Update and subsequent Drop Pod updates in the months leading into Season 3 have been promising — especially Forge. 

A Guide to Forge in Halo Infinite

This creation suite is commonly intimidating to new Forgers, so consider this a quick guide to Forge and the basics of the mode. It’s hard to miss on the main menu after you’ve logged into the game. All you have to do is select the Forge tab underneath Custom Game. 

Under the Map tab, you select what map category you want to edit. These five options are:  

  • 343 Industries: These include the two newly added developer Forge-made maps Argyle and Detachment and six canvases for Forgers to start from scratch.

  • Popular: These are the most played custom game maps among other players.

  • My Bookmarks: This is a collection of maps you’ve previously bookmarked either in-game or via Halo Waypoint’s Content Browser. 

  • My Files: This tab is where whatever you decide to cook up will remain. All yours, all the time. 

  • Search: Using keywords, published maps are searchable by others based on modes, name, and user.

What Are Canvases?

Canvases are the base of every custom map published in the game. As mentioned earlier, Argyle and Detachment are entirely made by the dev team within Forge. Something like Recharge or Streets is created in-engine but not with Forge prefabs and requires more time to refine. Canvases are preset maps with themed ground textures and skyboxes for players to play around with.

The current canvases available to use are:

  • Arid: A desert-themed canvas on a Halo ringworld, this canvas takes place in the middle of the day in a sandy oasis.  

  • Ecliptic: The outer-space-themed Ecliptic is perfect for creating the starship and starlit battles deep within your imagination. 

  • Institute: Set against a Pacific Northwest backdrop, Institute has a UNSC Academy theme with grassy knolls and evergreen trees. 

  • Mires: Mires is a marshy wetlands canvas with plenty of water surfaces for interesting lighting dynamics. Swamp map enthusiasts get a kick out of this one, paving the way for recreations of Combat Evolved’s mission, 343 Guilty Spark. 

  • Seafloor: Deep in the abyss of the ocean lies Seafloor. Towering coral and ocean rock dwarf the playspace where the only limits are the depths of your own imagination. 

    Seafloor canvas in Halo Infinite Winter UpdatePhoto source: Halopedia.org

  • Void: As the name suggests, this canvas is the developers’ attempt at a “blank of a canvas as we could get,” and by popular request. 

It’s rumored that more canvases will arrive in the next year. For now, these six canvases and their absurd level of atmospheric and lighting manipulation are more than enough to get you started on your Forging journey.

Forge Modes and Object Placement

Once you select a canvas and load the map, you spend time between three modes: Monitor Mode, Test Mode, and Play Mode. These help you cultivate and mold the map to your vision. Each has key differences. 

In Monitor Mode, you float through the Canvas at will, place objects, and script events. Test Mode allows you to walk through the Forge map as your playable character to understand the scale and feel. Your objects, physics, and scripts are not active in this mode. In Play Mode, physics, objects, and scripts all are active, allowing you to interact in real time with weapon spawns, grav lifts, vehicle spawns, and more.

To place objects and build, you must be in Monitor Mode. The Object Browser tab has thousands of items for architecture, flora and fauna, terrain, weapon and vehicle spawns, and more. You enter Rotate Mode under the Object Browser tab along the three axes (Blue, Red, and Green spheres) to rotate the object to your desire.

Object Editing

Object editing is how you change an object’s texture, scaling, and colors. Be careful when doing this to avoid missteps. For instance, if you plan to adjust an item’s scale, ensure it’s set to Static and not Dynamic. It cannot scale as a Dynamic object because of the restrictive physics. 

Playing video games

Accents are preset “Lego pieces,” like UNSC and Forerunner architecture, designed to pair with other presets. When placed well, clever builds resemble something brand new. But one of the coolest features that Infinite offers is what the dev team calls “material swapping” — textures of certain objects are changeable. This Forge Fundamentals showcase goes into material swapping with examples of Forerunner metals, dirt, corrugated metal, brick, and more.

Now it’s possible for players to alter a placed object’s color. This coincides with the atmospherics and lighting of their map, but it’s important to note that individual items reflect their own light source through color. 

The Prefabs option allows a custom group of objects for quick copy-and-paste action elsewhere in maps, whether that’s the current map or a new one from scratch. This level of detail is necessary for any Forger worth their salt.

Scripting

In Halo Infinite’s Forge, a script program places assets in set behaviors. Some examples of scripting are a door that opens and closes, weapons that fire a specific type of ammunition (e.g., a Mangler programmed to fire hardlight fusion coils – isn’t that freaking cool?), and even an equipment shop.

Scripting happens through the Node Graph Mode. The Node Graph Mode is a visual representation of game mode logic where “events, things that happen you can hook up scripts to,” technical designer Connor Kennely said in the “Forge Fundamentals – Scripting and Bots” live stream. Based on player behavior or interactions, players create a Script Brain. The Script Brain allows you to add a Node where you script to your desire.

The popular game mode Infection is still missing from Infinite matchmaking. Infection is popular because it’s a zombie infection mode meaning the last man standing wins. After players are “infected” by a zombie (a player with an energy sword and sometimes heightened speeds), they join the horde of zombies and look to infect the survivors. This game mode has been made through Forge’s scripting and is among the fullest lobbies. It shows how powerful Infinite’s scripting capabilities are. 

Atmosphere, Lighting, Weather, and Audio

Arguably the most impressive batch of features in the latest iteration of Forge — light, atmosphere, weather, and audio — set the okay Forge maps apart from the ones that look dev-made. Sunlight, intensity, color, bounce, sky light, and direction take your map from clear, open air to a smoggy, dust-filled battlefield. Weather effects and audio add further layers of detail. A map instantly transforms with the skilled use of lightning and atmosphere.

A common criticism of Halo Infinite is its small offering in map environments and variety in both campaign and multiplayer. Luckily, when paired with atmospherics, weather, and audio, it’s possible to create your own immersive environmental experiences with audio and visual effects (VFX). 

Halo Infinite Master Chief

The crackle of a Forerunner energy source paired with any bright or dim VFX brings new and dynamic results. The only limit of Forge’s visual and audio capabilities is your own imagination. It might need some practice, but you’ll have plenty of motivation as the game is currently putting fan-made maps into the multiplayer rotation.   

The Community Collection Playlist

The surprise addition of the Custom Games Browser was great for the most passionate Halo players to find fun game modes and maps with their friends, but the common player who logs on once a month likely knew nothing about it. 

However, a month before the launch of Season 3: Echoes Within, 343 Industries uploaded its first fan-made Forge playlist as the Community Collection. This collection takes the best fan maps and puts them into the game in an official matchmaking playlist for all players everywhere to experience them. The first rendition of the Community Collection playlist includes two original creations and the other two remakes. These are the maps in the first Community Collection:

  • Absolution: Imagine a multiplayer map that plays like a combination of Halo 2’s Sanctuary and Halo 3’s Guardian. That’s Absolution, and it’s a hell of a time.  

  • Perilous: Designed by a former Halo and Splitgate developer, this map takes plenty of inspiration from the classic Halo 2 map Lockout but iterates to create something distinct. Giant mushrooms and swampland are welcome in this game’s household. 

  • Salvation: The Halo: Combat Evolved map Damnation gets a Banished rework here with brilliant use of the color red and Forerunner architecture. It plays like a classic Halo map and integrates Infinite’s sandbox perfectly.

  • Starboard: Another remake of a classic Halo map, Starboard is an octagonal rework of Midship. Instead of a Covenant aesthetic this time, it opts for a UNSC engineering-level feel with plenty of clamber spots and chances for flanks but also plummeting to your death going for Active Camo bottom-mid. Be on the lookout for this one to join the Halo Championship Series in an official capacity. 

The Community Collection is sure to grow as the game releases regular content updates. With the right ambition and talent, you could see your own maps make it into the rotation whether that’s a classic remake or an original work.

What You’ve Been Waiting For

Forge in Halo Infinite is the most powerful and dynamic version of the mode yet, and it’s not hard to see why. Maps are built from the ground up with easy-to-understand creation tools from object placement to weather and lighting. 

Playing Halo Infinite video game

A fan-made map can pass with dev-made quality with the right amount of practice and passion. The Halo Infinite Winter Update is a huge step forward for the game and remains well-reviewed for a game that needs as much good news as possible. Forge is the backbone and lifeblood of the most passionate Halo fans, and this might be the best version of it yet.

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