It’s entirely possible for 343 to create a campaign that encourages exploration. Reach is a good example of both how to do it, and how not to do it.
Reach’s terrain is very detailed and exploration-friendly. For example, the bars beneath Tip Of The Spear’s catwalks (at the BXR Mining facility) are all solid and walkable, allowing you to skip past all enemies at the catwalk and get straight to the dirt section with the staircase. You can also sequence-break by stacking a Warthog on top of a Wraith, and buddy-jumping onto the roof via the front of the building. Long Night Of Solace’s beachhead scene showed similar potential; it was possible, through clever use of a Drop Shield and Concussion Rifle, to climb up the side of the building (though not all the way to the top).
The problem with Reach wasn’t that you couldn’t explore it; it was that that exploration was usually worthless. When it comes to usefulness, Tip Of The Spear’s sequence-breaking jumps were the exception, not the rule. Reach’s missions didn’t cater to explorers; there were few to none alternate paths to take, or advantageous firing positions to find. In fact, most exploration ended in invisible walls, invisible ceilings, Soft Kill Boundaries, or large pits in the geometry from which the only escape was grenade-based suicide.
The environment design for Reach lends itself well to exploration, if little else. If 343 uses similar environment design while taking the resulting exploration into account when designing gameplay, then Halo 4 could be quite a bit better.
> There’s more that needs to be addressed than just invisible barriers. AI being removed from the level and AI movement restrictions. In CE, you could get multiple mass gatherings of Covies. In the other games, the AI are removed at certain points. Worst of all, they’re stuck to where they spawn. They can’t leave their birthplace like Zealots in CE could.
The technical limitations you describe have already been dealt with. The “fix” just isn’t applied to all AI, for performance reasons.
Some NPCs do still vanish when exiting their “home” loading points; Exodus’ Concussion Rifle Brute, for example. But several others will voluntarily cross from loading point to loading point, without vanishing or becoming non-functional. And if you force those NPCs into the “wrong” loading point, they remain in the level (though if they have no AI for the new location, they won’t do much).
As an example: in Halo 3’s “Floodgate”, I made it to the end with a few Elites surviving… So I pushed an Elite and the Arbiter into the crashed ship. I kept pushing them through the ship; eventually, Arby vanished, but the Elite remained present. He refused to move on his own, but if I popped a nearby Flood pod, he would fire on the Infection Forms (and sometimes move to dodge them). His AI was still active; he just had no scripted movement for the area.
The Halo series already has AI that are “free” to move wherever they choose. It’s just a matter of making they know where “wherever they choose” is.
> It would make encounters more interesting. Reinforcements, firefight scenarios, AI shooting at you from higher positions (for example, you jump off the ledge into a group of Covies, Covies from previous area hear firing shots/spotted you and are now coming your way. You’re trapped, back against the wall, and you have to fight your way out), etc. are much better than stragglers scattered throughout the level doing nothing except causing lag.
This would be quite interesting. Given what is already known about the Halo game engine, it would require that all AI squads have movement instructions, cover markers, etc., for their “home” loading points in addition to all nearby loading points to which they could travel.
The difficulties I can see arising have to do with memory limits… The game can only have so many active AI in a scene at a time. Allowing all AI to move freely between loading points would basically be allowing squads to combine. If a merged squad is too big, the game engine could get overburdened; each individual squad would have to be made smaller, to handle the possibility of them combining at some point during gameplay.