Earlier this year, perhaps the one element that threatened to put a dampener on the arrival of Halo 5: Guardians was the fact that developer 343 Industries had removed split-screen cooperative play, which had long been a feature of Microsoft’s prestigious shooter series.
According to Halo franchise development director Frank O’Connor, choosing to forego split-screen was a decision that wasn’t taken lightly during the throes of development, and its omittance largely comes down to the intensive nature of Guardians running at 60 frames-per-second.
“Realistically, for Halo 5, it’s not something we can just throw in a patch,” O’Connor said. “The simulation the game runs at is 60 frames per second; you’ve seen how big the vistas are; you’ve seen things like the kraken and so on and so on and so on. It’s just not feasible with the engine works. The blowback from it has been huge within reason.”
Technical constraints are nothing new in the AAA development space, and 343’s decision to ensure that Halo 5: Guardians ran at a buttery smooth 60 FPS naturally had ramifications for the remainder of the sci-fi sequel in terms of tech. That isn’t to say that split-screen has been cast out of the franchise entirely, though, with O’Connor noting that Halo 6 – which is undergoing “serious, real planning” – may include the beloved feature further down the line.
“It’s certainly a conversation we’ll have about the next game,” he said. “We haven’t said, ‘Split-screen is done and we’ve abandoned it.’ Making a game is about finding a schedule and a list of priorities and technical features that you can actually achieve. And the commitment to 60 frames per second, we knew was going to create some issues. And one of those, unfortunately–and we don’t feel good about this–one of those unfortunately is split-screen. So we’ll talk about it for the next game and we’ll talk about it for the future. But it really is a giant technical hurdle and not a trivial thing.”
Split-screen isn’t the only feature that won’t be making its way into Halo 5: Guardians anytime soon, after the studio ruled out any form of story-based DLC earlier this week, in fear that it would undermine or dilute the core story Locke and Master Chief.
Halo 5: Guardians is available now exclusively on Xbox One. For more on 343’s much-hyped sequel, check out our glowing review.