Every developer has a handful of game design pillars they focus on. In 343 Industries’ case with Halo 5: Guardians, one of these is player choice. Earlier this month, footage from Halo 5: Guardians’ story mode leaked. In it, there were several instances of this player choice in action.

Yesterday, 343 Industries posted a lengthy dev blog diving into this core design pillar. They also posted a new gameplay trailer showing the choices you will make as you play the game.

“We’ve embraced team-oriented, cooperative play and diversity of player choice by offering players more ways to play, alone and with friends. The introduction of Fireteam AI and the new Fireteam Orders system expands the opportunities available to players and changes the play experience in fundamental ways,” writes 343 Industries Studio Head Josh Holmes.

The gameplay footage above illustrates how the new Fireteam Orders system expands how we will play and how 343 designs each encounter.

You can see how the player orders Osiris Fireteam to the right while pushing to the left and crashing through the environment to flank (0:55 – 1:26 in the video). The maneuver isn’t necessary, but it shows how 343 Industries is approaching encounter design. It’s all about player choice. And with it, increased replayability.

Alternating paths and a squad order system aren’t groundbreaking new features. But it does show the design philosophy for Halo 5: Guardians.

Chris Haluke, Halo 5’s campaign lead designer, talks about how 343 set out to “have some of the most robust sandbox experiences in any Halo game to date.”

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“Throughout production, our team pushed one another to ensure that gameplay spaces were huge, highly populated and alive. We’ve expanded our environments to support large battle scenes while surrounding them with multi-layered skyboxes that showcase the larger conflict around the player,” Haluke added.

In previous Halo games, bigger gameplay spaces almost always meant vehicles played a major part in gameplay.

Haluke touched on how the large gameplay spaces and new mechanics come together for a variety of different gameplay options. “Do you want to play the mission with vehicles or on foot? Do you want to explore every nook and cranny of the environment to discover tactical options and other hidden goodies, or do you prefer to race ahead by taking the most direct path? Will you jump into battle and lead the way, or take a more careful approach by ordering your Fireteam to clear out the enemies ahead? Each of these options plays out differently as the game reacts to your choices; that’s the beauty of the Halo sandbox.”

While player choice is impressive, it presents its own unique set of challenges. Developers need to make sure each encounter holds up no matter how you approach it. The only way this works is if enemy and squad AI are top notch. If either falls apart, so does the encounter.

It’s not just the squad AI either. 343 Industries designed each mission with four player co-op in mind. The gameplay trailer above reflects this. Wide open spaces, alternate paths and verticality all come together to form what 343 is hoping is a fantastic Halo game. It looks great, that’s for sure.

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Check out the rest of the blog post for a bit more on player choice in Halo 5: Guardians and how Josh Lindquist, 343’s campaign lead engineer, describes one particular encounter.

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Head on over to NeoGAF to read about some possible new information about Halo 5: Guardians Requisition system.

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Halo 5: Guardians is one of my most anticipated games of the holiday season. It’s a must-buy for me based on last year’s beta alone. We’ve seen a good chunk of the multiplayer and pieces of the story mode – now where is Forge? I imagine that will be the next piece of Halo news we will receive.

So, what do you think of the gameplay trailer above? Do you like the open encounters, or are you a fan of a more linear approach?

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