D1008 T2310 Y2007A Kinder, Gentler Halo Nation?

Among the early adopters in the Civil War of the Halo Nation [that’s online multiplayer for Halo 3, if you didn’t catch my drift], the buzz is all about change. For some, the reengineered rigors of matchmaking via Xbox Live are still a mystery, as they toil to finish the great journey of the campaign in spoiler-proof bunkers of isolation. For others, the race is on to get reacquainted with the tools of the trade.

What is different? Everything. New game. New rules. New weapons. New vehicles. All bets are off. Even our old favorite elements have undergone tweaks in their migration to the new fighting construct. The Warthog and the Pistol are slower. The Needler and the Plasma Pistol are faster.

Even in-game chatter went under the knife. What was once an open party line has become an encoded battle network, with teams in ranked play segregated on the comm channel. There is no exchange of verbal barbs until they reach the post-game lobby together. To put it in more obvious terms, a lot of people have been stripped of the chance to abuse their favorite toy. To put it in unmistakably blunt terms, they took the kazoo away from the toddler in the restaurant. Sorry kids – your version of a prank call just got blocked.

On the flip side, ranked teams now have an open channel. Gone is the privacy of the dead-box as our unhappy place. Even the most polite of gamers have been revealing their darker side in moments of weakness – moments when they are used to being left alone with their seething rage.

There are a lot of reasons why this decision would have been made. Rather than second-guess them, this gamer-blogger wants to meditate on the impact that those decisions have had on our experience. Here are some thoughts on the issue, refracted through several conceptual prisms…

Financial: The reputation of the Xbox Live Community precedes itself. When I describe the experience of matchmaking to the uninitiated, it is often met with a shrug of the shoulders and a dismissal like “I would try that if I thought I wouldn’t be screamed at by obnoxious children for the whole game”. When I tell them “A lot of those problems have been solved in ranked play”, the eyebrow shoots up and is followed by a curious reply of “Really?” A more hospitable environment means more paying subscribers in our scene.

Social: For the die-hard fans, our chief complaints have been addressed. This very website has maintained a constant dialogue about in-game conduct. The articles in this open forum have been a parade of pleas that we might all get along. With our opponents having less opportunity to incite grief, we can spend more of our time enjoying the game, and conceiving new and more interesting ways of doing so. [see next article below]

Fictional: Aren’t we all supposed to be hermetically sealed into suits of power armor that can withstand the vacuum of deep space? Does it even make sense that we should expect proximity communication with our opponent? Correct me if I am wrong, but you would have to yell really loud inside a Mjolnir helmet to be heard on the outside. Impossibly loud, even.

Tactical: The game seems far more competitive with team-specific channels. Strike Teams can enter a base while exchanging a running commentary of the events for a second wave. Concern for giving up one’s position with tactical chatter is a thing of the past. Coordinated strikes arrive with terrible efficiency now, even among teams that just met. It was all too easy to guard a base on Terminal in Halo 2. Overhearing someone say “Let’s all form up under the tracks!” would be followed with “Hey guys, I think maybe we should all throw some grenades under those tracks.”

Personal: This blogger thinks he might just miss those vile, little bastards. Granted, I will still be hearing them from time to time. However, I always found it amusing when the other team would lose their shit and start trying to fight us with their mouth instead of their weapons. Proximity chat was always a good means of knowing thine enemy.

The TTL Gunslingers always tried to distinguish ourselves with how we conducted ourselves behind the Battle Rifle. Our mission to be the guys in the white hats on Xbox Live went a long way to swell our ranks. We still say “Good Game” in the post-lobby. They can’t take that away from us. Yet, anyone can be cool once the game is over. It’s those moments of running terror and smoking plight during the game that reveals the true nature of a gamer.

A measure of that interaction is gone now.

Of course, given the amount of times that we encountered opponents worth hearing – grossly offset by the amount of times we went scrambling for the mute button – this gamer will take the new structure for in-game chatter any day of the week.

And twice on Sundays, because I usually game twice on Sundays.

Sound off!
How has the chat revolution impacted your gaming experience?

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 19

  1. #LINK D1009 T0051
    a lurking duck wrote...

    personally, in ranked games i love having an open channel even after i’ve died. it further enhances our ability to communicate tactical chatter even after we’ve fallen to our opponents. i will, of course, miss the uber-fun tactic of sneaking into the other team’s base and saying over proximity chat “the bomb’s coming on the left” only to have our team come in from the right once they’ve exited. nothing beats misdirection.

  2. #LINK D1009 T0117
    Mr Conspiracy wrote...

    After player reviews/the jackass button, open channels are my second favorite change to matchmaking.
    The open channel is a lifesaver in team games. It lets the tactically chatty, like myself, call out enemies and work out plans without having to stand still or worse, stop aiming. Now, when I play BTB, I’m constantly aware of the difference.
    On the other hand, I have had to censor myself. I end up toggling the mike off as “reverse push-to-talk” after I’m dead.

  3. #LINK D1009 T0128
    TTL Stuicide wrote...

    I do miss the proxy chat because it was the best way to know when you were near someone else when you were sneaking into their base. I still hold my breath and stay quiet by habit when I’m about to steal a flag.

    The Open Chat in 4v4’s is great, and feels a lot more like a LAN does. The good teams will rise to the top much faster now.

  4. #LINK D1009 T0131
    El Burritoh, Frito Bandito wrote...

    I’m glad to see a blog piece on this.

    I for one am thrilled with the new chat dynamics of Halo 3. It would be great to offer more options, perhaps let people choose whether they want PTT for parties of more than 5 or not. On the other hand, open channels all around takes a toll on the bandwidth. I’ve been enjoying the lack of lag compared to Halo 2, so I’d vote against open channels if it caused the game to lag.

    As for the timmies, there’s a psychological effect in restricting the chat to Team and Party Only:

    ...if no one can hear your trash, then you’re just talking a big load of nothing, and you look like an idiot, if to no one else but yourself. And so why trash-talk at all?

    I would not be surprised to see an improvement of the gaming experience just because of this. If no one can hear you, you’ll talk less smack. The opponent’s ability to hear you is the whole point behind the trash anyway. Take it away, and you solve some real problems.

    In fact, I think that these behavioral problems trump the other concerns, valid though they may be. Timmies give XBL a bad name and ruin the experience for many of us. Halo is fun again now, and I think Bungie and MS made a great move by giving us the voice options currently in place.

    I really don’t care how they tweak it from here on out as long as two things hold true:

    1- That whatever tweaks they make would not hamper the connection any further.
    2- That we would always have some sort of Team and Party only option.

  5. #LINK D1009 T0312
    Dweezle wrote...

    From a bomb and flag obsessed person’s point of view, it does take away the risk of accidentally slipping some information to the other team, or even letting them know you are there.

    On the other side, from a defensive perspective, it is harder to defend if once you kill an attacker, he tells his team mate where you are at.

    I think it is equally challenging on both sides, and it definitely clears the airwaves of people talking trash. Then the only time they can talk to us is in post game, to which they hear a “good game.”

  6. #LINK D1009 T0715
    Bjorni wrote...

    I love it as well, the one thing that takes a while to get used to is the switching back and forth from PTT in BTB vs 4v4 games.
    Otherwise I really like what Bungie has done, also the ease of which I can now silence noise-vomiting people in pregame is greatly appreciated.

    I can’t decide which is better, Friends&Party vs All players. All players means at least you get the chance to run into the good guys, and gives you the satisfaction of manually muting the obnoxious ones. Team&Party means much less aggrevation over an evenings gaming.

    Good read,
    Bjorn

  7. #LINK D1009 T0820
    TTL Demag0gue wrote...

    I love being able to filter out the riff-raff. It’s so much more enjoyable to step into a pre-game lobby and hear only conversation that I enjoy instead of listening to Timmy scream in my ear. It’s fabulous.

  8. #LINK D1009 T0947
    Booster MPS wrote...

    Communication is everything. No surprise here coming from a former flight controller but it is very much the same on the battle field. My personal preference is to never hear nor speak to the other team pre game or post game other than sharing “Good Game” win or lose as any Gunslinger would do. That said, I don’t miss proximity chat at all. Sure it is nice to get a couple of nuggets of information from the other team, but I find myself always busy enough coordinating my own team with what I see in combat. Additionally the ability to set communication to team and party only is long over due.

  9. #LINK D1009 T1022
    TTL L askan wrote...

    I do wish I had team proxy, most often when I’m gunning a hog and 4 other people who aren’t in the truck have to hear me give ‘oclock callouts to my driver.

  10. #LINK D1009 T1056
    TTL Bunny wrote...

    I love the death screen chat as I like to stay on my dead body and make call outs to my team. I also miss the proxy chat as I like to sneak around a lot and listen to the other team’s call outs.

    I have been hearing a lot more Good Game comments at the end of games now. I think that has something to do with people not hearing each other during game. It’s making post-game lobbies more bearable.

  11. #LINK D1009 T1157
    testa killz wrote...

    I’m pretty satisfied with the new chat setup. At first, I was a bit annoyed by PTT, but now I don’t know what I’d do if I had to listen to my opponents annoying musak all game.

    Also, for any who haven’t tried it yet, “walkie talkie” button layout makes PTT quite easy, as well as keeping your fingers on your sticks for melee.

  12. #LINK D1009 T1317
    TTL zeuz patter wrote...

    I miss proxy chat a lot, specially while driving, I cant get callouts to my gunner anymore. Thats an oportunity to get better at it, but its a big deal. But at the end, not hearing Timmy and him not breaking my eardrum is, in fact, worth it. Getting less lag cause bandwith is best utilized, is a grat factor in that. And at least I can stll talke while dead, so that makes for it up a bit. Overall, Its defenitly a good choice and a good move. Will find the way around it eventually.

  13. #LINK D1009 T1405
    Alekat wrote...

    I do miss being able to use proximity chat with my teammates, but I’m over it. Not only have many of you probably heard me complain about this, but Bungie says any open channel stuff for a BTB game might jeopardize connection speeds.

  14. #LINK D1010 T0118
    Tortacular wrote...

    Well, I miss proximity just because it let me know when the enemy was coming in my base… because they were usually chatting all the while.

    However, if my choices are between Push to Talk and dedicated line, give me a dedicated line please. Push to talk with the new layout is just extremely inconvenient.

    I find myself having to hold my tongue on occasion in ranked play, but I’m not alone in that.

    I realize that it impacts the social aspect of the game, but you can still chatter at strangers in post-game.

  15. #LINK D1011 T0935
    anon wrote...

    This is a blessing for me. I played Halo 2 without a headset for over a year because of all the low life scum in the community. Now in team slayer I only have to mute, at max (on a bad day), 3 players instead of 7.

  16. #LINK D1011 T1028
    HELL4ME2U wrote...

    I love the new chat revolution. It impacted more then the norm. Like the reader above point out that instead of 7 you could max out only 3 now for muting. It has created a better team chatter and improve a new “friend’s invites” list. Out of the 150 games play so far about only 1% I have been annoyed by kids/adults cursing like a drunken sailor. It has created a better experience for xbox livers who enjoy team coordination. The weapons are distributely equally depending on each map (except sniper rifle). Overal it has become a positive welcome to the Halo series back again.

  17. #LINK D1011 T2049
    TTL Pheonix Sam wrote...

    I mist Prox talk, especially as a Road-Kill pilot.

    I did have a habit of muting and unmuting myself when in combat, however, and htis led to the accidental “muted myself all game” BS that would happen.

    I also miss some cross-team conversation, but it’s nice to not have to listen to the trash-talk. Tea-bagging seems more common as voice is gone in combat, but I’ve met no jerks yet… just a very high amount of people returning “good game.”

  18. #LINK D1019 T1427
    Quantifier wrote...

    I miss PTT, as it’s how I prefer to communicate with teammates – it’s just too difficult in the new button layout.

    That said, i reiterate others’ comments in preference for team channel and not having to listen to the idiots out there. I also love that I can now mark people as unpleasant so I never have to play with them again.

  19. #LINK D1024 T1450
    A cat whom agrees with the above. wrote...

    Meow meow. Meow!

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