The past few days has been a mixed bag for long time Halo fans as news about Halo Infinite's character customization has started to be revealed. While there is come cool and exciting news, there was also some bad news, and the bad news was met with a wave of emotion from fans across the board, but here we will do our best to explain what the news is, why fans are upset, and what we can expect from the game.
What was announced?
In the Halo Blogpost, it was announced that players will be using a new coloring system referred to as the Coating System in order to customize their Spartans. According to Lead Player Investment Designer, Christopher Blohm, “coatings are a seven-layer shader that allows us to put any artist-authored color, material, or pattern into seven channels and apply it to in-game items like weapons, armor, and vehicles.”
Additionally it was revealed that Coatings will be taking the place of the Primary/Secondary color systems that we have come to know in prior Halo Games, which can be displayed above. In past games, players had the option to mix and match a variety of different colors to customize their spartans, however this feature is being removed and replaced with Coatings. As Christopher Blohm mentioned, coatings are a custom shader that gets applied onto a Spartan's armor, adding various visual effects.
To illustrate, the two armor coatings we are aware of at the moment are the Red Shift and Monarch Armor coatings. The Red Shift Armor Coating (Left) can be obtained by purchasing any Halo or Xbox merchandize from GameStop between November 9th and December 13, and the Monarch Armor Coating can be obtained by purchasing any Mondelez food product between October 15th and December 31st. At face value, the Red Shift coating appears to be red based armor with grey and black pieces thrown in while the Monarch coating appears to be a basic purple finish.
A closer look at the armor pieces reveals what coatings really do to armor pieces. It is most noticeable on the leg armor pieces, the Red Shift armor has some wear and tear throughout the piece, a rustic gun metal vibe with scuffs and a level of detail that makes the armor appear war-torn. The Monarch coating by contrast appears more clean, no scruffs or damage on any piece of the armor, even giving off a more plastic-like look to the inner parts of the suit. Coatings not only change the visual color the armor has, but also changes what the armor material looks like, adding detail in ways never before seen in a Halo game.
Unlike prior games, coatings can also be applied to weapons and vehicles. Above is an image of the classic Warthog, a fan favorite vehicle that's been in every installment of the franchise. The Warthog usually sports a classic army green color throughout the exterior of the vehicle, but with coatings players will be able to add their own flair into vehicles they control. Below is an example of coatings being applies to weapons, as Microsoft announced earlier in the month a partnership with Monster Energy Drink, where fan can purchase cans of Monster Energy to redeem double XP to bank for when Halo Infinite launches, as well as Banners, Emblems, and of course, Monster Energy Weapon Coatings.
Why are people upset?
Coatings, more or less, resemble shaders from Destiny 2, in that they are a specific skin that gets applied to either the armor, weapon, or vehicle and can change the color, material, or effects the item has. The downside here is that players no longer have the freedom to pick the color they desire, instead will have to choose from various predetermined coatings which can be obtained in a few different ways.
343 Industries was very quick to inform the fanbase that they will have access to multiple different coating options that are unlocked in the base game, with no need to purchase real world products such as Monster Energy, Mendelez cookies, or Halo Products at GameStop. Halo Community Manager, John Junyszek, took to twitter to clarify, stating, "There will be all kinds customization items (including coatings) that can be earned in-game and earned as special rewards. Will there be purchases? Sure. Is that the only way? Absolutely not." later continuing, "Although moving away from the old color system was a tough call, it has allowed us to go into greater detail and variation with Armor color, materials, patterns, etc. You are going to look great in Halo Infinite."
Coatings are now confirmed to be in-game rewards as well as real world rewards for various products, but that isn't the only way that players can get access to coatings. As Junyszek's comment suggests, they can also be purchased. With Halo Infinite's move to Free-To-Play in regards to it's multiplayer suite, it was always speculated by fans that we will soon see various forms of micro-transactions. These comments confirm that coatings are just one form of micro-transactions we can expect to see in Halo Infinite. This of course brought concern to many fans, but coatings only offer cosmetic changes and will not affect gameplay in any meaningful way, so it can be accepted to a degree. The concern with coatings as a micro-transaction is the price point. Thanks to twitter user @Seanwcyborg, a promotional image from the Mondelez promotion gave anticipating Halo fans a first glimpse on what the monetary value of a coating could be. Below is the promotional image in which gives details on how to unlock the Monarch Armor Coating, but the key sticking point is the final words in the image, "valued at $5"
While it is not confirmed by 343 Industries that the five dollar pricing is universal for all coatings, and it most likely will not be the case, it is a first look at what some coatings may end up costing, particularly the nicer coatings. Halo Infinite may offer players a wide assortment of coating options in-game without any additional purchases necessary, but it is this level of micro-transactions that sparks fear in the fan based, especially considering the abrupt change to what players have known armor customization to be.
What can we expect?
Right now Halo fans are slowly coming to terms with the change, many have tried to offer suggestions on how to balance both coating and primary/secondary changes to give players more options, which can be seen below as provided by twitter user @FireDragon04. John Junyszek even speaks to this in his twitter thread, stating, "We love this idea, but colors and materials are designed and built into each specific coating. I’m hoping to elaborate on the tech behind coatings in a future Community Update."
This confirms we will not see a form of hybrid system at launch, or at all, as the coatings run on an entirely different system than previous primary/secondary coloring. We will hopefully get a more in-depth explanation as to why in a future community update, but for now we must accept the facts as they are.
The coating system is very much like Destiny 2's shader system, which similarly to Halo Infinite's current coating announcement, was meet with a lot of criticism by fans during the initial reveal. Bungie worked with the community and evolved shaders to something that is currently enjoyed by the community, even though the system is not perfect, it is widely accepted. Halo Infinite's coating system will most likely be similar, in that it will be criticized by fans at first, but it will slowly evolve, adapt, and be accepted by fans. Right now fans are in the initial scare period, but this will pass and once we know more about shaders and what we can expect, it will most likely become a non-issue.
Halo Infinite is already set to allow players the most customization possible across all previous Halo titles, including Reach and 5. While fans are disappointed in the change from how color is determined, 343 still has much more to show in the regards of customization. With the love and care 343 has put into it's recent updates to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, fans should be excited to see how armor customization will evolve in Halo Infinite.