Our last Panel Discussion among the TTL Community explored those pearls of gameplay that keep Halo Loyalists coming back to their ringworld again and again for their virtual combat needs. While discussions such as these have thrived on fan forums in the past, we found the relevance of the dialogue renewed by the wider variety of choices that are now made available to the Xbox Live gamer. The product of our round-table session ended up on the Bungie Blog, accompanied by a challenge from Bungieblogger Luke Smith, who said:
For our utility, it’d be neat to see them take the flip approach and what Bungie could improve on.
That’s a tough prospect. Constant Readers of this here blog can attest to the fact that TTL is for lovers [and fighters], but not haters. We rarely traffic in criticism. One of the longest running – and most heated – debates on this masthead was sparked when this gamerblogger fired a shot over the bow of people who thought that Halo 2 sucked and that they had the answers to save Bungie from themselves.
Lukems’ suggestions seemed to be an open invitation to the sort of whinning that permeates the forums that Bungie has to moderate in their domain. We stray from complaining in the vein of “Bring back the Halo 1 Pistol.” The games we hype are meant to be played, so we play them, leaving endless analysis and second guessing to the constituencies of other websites.
For the gamer, the notion of constructive criticism can be elusive. Playing a video game is such a visceral and personal experience. The things that occur in a game happen to all of us in real time. Gaming is a far more engaging pastime than the vicarious spoon-feeding of a soap opera or a sporting event. We are at the controls. It is difficult to render an objective analysis of a game without selfishly spouting items from a personal wish list that would make our individual experiences greater from a singular point of view.
Focus-grouping the gamer is a double-edged sword. One on side, the average gamer knows nothing of the punishment of production timelines, the limitations of hardware, or the complexity of corporate marketing strategies. On the other side, it stands to reason that the gamer who spends hours every night playing the game is more intimately acquainted with the gaming experience than the developers to crunched the code.
Providing criticism for a game like Halo 3 – which has been locked, launched, and sold millions of times over – is an even trickier undertaking. There are things that can be changed, and there are things that are bound to code. The game is what it is. Barring the massive undertaking of a patch, the physics are written into law. The maps are set in stone – or titanium. The pace is a permanent constant. The only variables that remain are the way we play the game. What playlists? What starting weapons? What gametypes?
In the effort of being truly constructive, the critic needs to focus on what would make the game best for all that played it, rather than just for them. That challenge was issued to our panel, as an experiment – and as an answer to a request from Bungie. Here is what they came up with…
TTL OboeCrazy: My main wish for a better Halo 3 experience is an option to keep parties together. I hate having to play roulette with social matchmaking, hoping we find a full team to play against, backing out when things are getting hairy, and still sometimes getting split up. I would play ranked all the time for that reason, but that’s not always possible. So that’s what I want: An option just like ‘Best Connection’ or ‘My Language’ ...except it says ‘Don’t Split Party’.
VVilly: Certain game types get play too much in a row. The other day, I played 3 team sniper games in social slayer in a row.
Smackafied: Put the Gauss Hog back in MatchMaking.
Slightly Good: In halo 2 it was a constant frantic pace (that I miss), your running around looking everywhere “going crazy”. Halo 3 just doesnt have that feel for me, I feel like an over weight person trying to run a mile. Like MLG is at 110% speed (I think), and that is almost perfect. If it werent for MLG I would not be back into halo 3 as much as I am now. of course my clan needs me. “clan”.... bringing me to my next topic. wich Willy just mentioned.
TTL Gilthanis: I think the number of playlists needs to be narrowed down to get the population.
ooCRIMoo: I would like to see a larger assortment of game types and map variants available in matchmaking – especially the latter. One of the things I’ve really liked about the recent Living Dead playlists (and I’m not a huge fan of infection) was the bizarre changes to all my favorite maps. Perhaps there could be a “Custom Spotlight” social play list where the highest rated custom maps/game types would be rotated in and out, that would be great for getting some weird and wacky action to mix things up. I know the Halo community has wanted some kind of custom game finder utility for a while, so a custom play list might be the next best thing.
TTL Jericho: What Halo lacks is a ‘gimmick’. CODs gimmick was to add in a huge assortment of weapon upgrades in multiplayer. It was great that Halo 3 offered amour permutations but they were only cosmetic, and it would have been neat to have more or more customizable features to play with. COD is ridiculous in this way. I think Halo is the finest shooter out there. I allows me to interact with my avatar seamlessly, and that’s the goal. But it seems like you need a gimmick these days to get the fans.
The dinh: I would wish for exactly what Oboe said, don’t split my party. Also, maybe add some single-objective to social BTB. And if VIP is going to stick around, give the VIP a better weapon start.
Flatlined: overhauling the matchmaking playlists – the online population is diluted by the fact there are so many playlists. They could easily condense things by changing a few things up. Make Social Slayer up to 5 v 5. Add SWAT and Sniper slayers and objective games into respective Slayer and Objective hoppers. Increase variety (which basically means adding more map variation and gametypes).
American Nightmare: The ability to veto means that, in open play lists, I will rarely get to play anything objective based. I love objective games, but they never get loaded. I’d like to see vetoed objective games replaced with a different objective game rather than a slayer gametype. The weighting of objective games is relatively lower to begin with. If this doesn’t seem to make sense then at least increase the number of objective games to increase when a game is vetoed. I’m sure that can fit into your formulas. The mass population is going to play no matter what, but they’ll pick slayer everyday because it involves less teamwork, if you’re in a team based hopper, you should be expected to play objective games, otherwise go play Team Slayer.
Testa killz: I don’t have much new to add regarding H3 that hasn’t been said, but I’d like to offer a suggestion towards Bungie’s future work. I think the one area that they could improve on would be the scale of their battles. Everything is great about Bungie games, from the action to the art all the way down to the UI (most other games have terrible menu/button layouts). I think their next big hurdle is scale. Huge battles.
TTL Monte: The one thing I would like to see in Matchmaking is simply more variety with BTB. It does get very frustrating to play multiflag and covies mixed with heavy amounts of slayer on only 2 maps. (Valhalla and Sandtrap) VIP gets vetoed 90% of the time. There are so many great gametypes you guys could add, as well as more maps. Last Resort is incredible, but only comes up as a slayer and VIP map. Bomb and flag games were epic on Zanzibar and with the improvements to Last Resort, this would only be better. Neutral bomb is very fun but rarely comes up. KOTH games might be really fun on the big maps, yet I’ve never seen one. I love Covies as a change of pace, but it is far too common in BTB. I’ve actually had a number of times where vetoing covies has led to covies.
TTL Nodak: I also was a die hard H2 player but have been bitten by COD 4 because of the achievements and constant moving forward/leveling up. Reaching certain levels which unlock other weapons over and over again keeps me playing over and over again. I have stopped leveling up in H3. I don’t feel like I am gaining anything. Sure I gain some experience but it is not adding anything to my game. (think “x” number of splatters let’s you unlock a golden warthog that only you can drive) H3 has nice armor customs but weapon achievements would go a long way to bringing me back or armor that adds better protection or has in-game meaning.
BSG Alekat: Covie map variants have been largely ridiculed in my experience. The main aspect of the covie variants that sticks out is the lack of a good passenger vehicle. The Mongoose is your only option for carrying a bomb or flag wielder, and it just can’t compare to the control and staying power that the Warthog offers in the default maps. The Prowler offers a lot in the way of filling that void. Sandtrap covies is especially imbalanced with the presence of so many ghosts. If one team gets a hold of five or six of them, they can watch the entire map and the missile pod is pretty ineffective against them. Replacing two of the Ghosts with a Prowler at each base would bring balance for slayer and objective types for that map variant. Valhallah covies is okay the way it is, but removing one Ghost for the Prowler on objective games, or for whoever is on offense, could make for some good sledding times.
Truth Pastor BSG: Stop splitting teams in social matches. Very frustrating and hard for the party leader to keep backing out when you get an even number of players matched in the party. I can’t tell you how many times we got split because the party leader was in a chat or checking messages or stats and didn’t see the problem.
Codemonkey: I really dislike spawning in the middle of a firefight, or even close to it. I want more gametypes/maps that make you work as a team and not where one good player can win the game for a team. Large maps promote team communication. On small maps you don’t have to wonder a lot where your teammates or the enemies are because, odds are, they’re only a room away and you can hear or see them already. On a large map, if you start heading off in the wrong direction, you likely won’t even see anyone, let alone shoot them.
TTL Max: I miss the symbols above teammates heads during gameplay. They seemed more personal and easy to identify than the callsigns. Of course, I understand that callsigns are useful because they enable us to call out to someone that we don’t know by name. Still, I miss seeing my friends’ familiar symbols above their heads. It would be nice if individual players had the option to either display callsigns or symbols in-game.
Flatlined: I’d actually like the chance to occasionally try out different weapons. For some twisted reason, I’d like the option of improving and working with a Carbine if we’re going to do Covies. Carbines are not found on many maps, and I dont think they turn up in any Covies gametype. Other weapons are on the map but some often remain unused. The Magnum spawns on a few maps but who is going to pick up a Magnum? The SMG is also on a couple maps too but its use is limited too. I don’t mind gametypes like Duals where the SMG gets its 5 minutes of fame, but its a waste of a weapon spawn location for most other matchmaking scenarios.
Rabbit Lettuce: a community playlist.. assign someone, even a council of someones, from the community.. tell them to bring bungie 10 new gametypes/maps twice a month that are made by the community with forge, custom games options, etc.. and just throw that into a “community hopper”.. try to keep the council anonymous so they aren’t flooded with custom maps, just let them go out and search for them.. most people would be glad to volunteer for bungie in this respect.