D0601 T1452 Y2008Panel Discussion: Room For Improvement?

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.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 15

D0512 T0045 Y2008Panel Discussion: Halo Loyalists

It took the gaming industry long enough, but they finally caught up with the rich interactive platform that Bungie Studios provides as a venue for social and competitive interaction. Halo is no longer the most widely played game on Xbox Live. This is no longer news. It’s been that way for months now. COD4 took us all by surprise as a remarkable team-based experience. GTA4 reasserted itself as a horseman of the apocalypse, and corrected every mistake that was made by its West Coast predecessor along the way.

What is newsworthy is that there is still a damn good game to be had wearing Mjolnir [or Elite] Armor on Xbox Live. Hundreds of thousands of gamers clash on the virtual battlefields wrought by developers every day. They are the faithful. With so many other relevant offerings competing for their attention, the Halo Loyalists insist on finishing the fight again and again and again. The Halo Nation is, perhaps for the first time, populated by citizens who play their game because it is their favorite – not because it is the only viable avenue upon which their gamertag can travel.

They are the panel for this discussion.

What keeps you coming back to Halo? What is your favorite part of the Halo Experience on Xbox Live? It could be a specific hero moment, like picking up a stranded flag carrier on a Mongoose while defenders close in like a swarm of natives chasing down an archaeologist with a golden totem stolen from the ancient temple. It could be the friends you have made along the way in building your rank.

What is the one unit of joy that has you sticking with Halo?

SN1PEZ: Has to be all the friends I’ve made over the years. Its one thing to get that one-shot or save that is an instant thrill, but the presence of your online friends after every win/loss is a much better feeling.

ooCRIMoo: One easily over-looked aspect is the way the online experience works. Setting up a multi-player game in GTA 4 made me long for Bungie’s simple party-based system. I like that when playing with a less than full team, it’s simple to pick up an extra random player if the chemistry’s right and the wins are rolling in.

BSG Alekat: If I really got to the reason why I sign onto Halo almost every day, it has more to do with the community and Bungie’s support. It’s not hard to fall in love with a game when you love games, but it’s the massive amount of content out there that keeps me coming back.

Whachamacalzmit: Community is key. Those great features of Halo 3 only brought us to this game, but the community is what kept us here. If all my friends migrated to another game and there was no community left for me, I’d probably leave.

AmericanNightmr: I keep coming back because I want to see who’s going to die from… What? Mongoose wheel across the map? You simply never know what is going to happen. Pretty much every time I play I see something that I have never seen before. I can’t say the same for the other titles, and if something unique happens, it still doesn’t compare. That and medals are addicting.

Cleanbeats: I really enjoy the competitive nature that the game offers. No other game has really been able to capture that for me. With playlists like Team Hardcore and the newer community offerings from MLG, the game has that competitive environment built right in.

OboeCrazy: I love the basic game mechanics, and then the matchmaking has such a wide variety of play styles to offer that I always have something I want to do. I can Lone Wolf if I just want to slay. I can BTB if I want the epic army vs army experience. I can play SWAT if I want something fast paced and twitchy. We can load up customs and play all manner of strange and wonderful games. Or go into Forge and make our own, or just play around with all the items. Other games, once finished, are simply finished. There’s always something new in Halo 3.

CodeMonkey: The one thing Halo offers that no other online multiplayer game has so far is the statistical reporting on their website. Bungie did a great job for all the fanboys out there when they built in game stats reporting and then setup a website to display those stats. Their online website community is the glue that holds the Halo community together. No other game studio tries to interact with gamers on a level that Bungie does.

Stuicide: It’s hard to think of just one amazing moment but my favorite would have to be the splatter with a ghost. There is no greater feeling than mowing down unsuspecting people with a ghost. The blasters on the ghost are only an effective tool if you use it to get people to jump so you can bust them open like a pinata on their way down.

Monte: When I play halo, not only do I get my friends by my side, but I get to be someone else, a bad ass BR wielding maniac or a pathetic driver trying to have some fun. It’s new, it’s fun, it’s unique. No other game has given this to me so I still play this one. I’m playing Mass Effect right now and it’s great. I crave the friends and the enemies that halo gives though.

Hard Boiled: The perfect gameplay moment is that well-executed flag cap. When everyone is doing their part and working together for a singular goal, it’s a sweet feeling. You have the sneaky people making moves on the flag. The vehicle teams rolling, giving the carrier that perfect path out, and the defensive team keeping your own base area clean for those last few crucial steps.

Maximobien: I play Halo because I LOVE STICKIES. Getting that stick and seeing the medal pop up never gets old. Of course, the more spectacular and long-distance the better, but every stick is sweet.

Mondo Jay: I think the resources for everlasting fun is what keeps me coming back. COD4 may be a great team game with great moments of FPS glory, but you can’t go back and watch clips of that game in a theater like Halo 3. GTA4 may have a wide open experience to explore and cause chaos, but you can’t customize the city/map to the way you’d like to play it ala Halo 3’s Forge. And a lot of games are great fun online, but the matchmaking system just doesn’t run as smoothly as Halo 3.

Tortacular: Moments like this:

Sunburned Goose: What is it about Halo that makes is special, my go-to game besides Gears, COD4, or GTA4? Realism, or the lack thereof. Mancannons, Shields, Plasma Weapons, and Energy Swords, all of these elements and many more add to a story that will never be an experience I will share in real life. Many of the other games I mentioned are variations of real life for me, each of them suffer from the Uncanny Valley hypothesis. Playing GTA 4 or COD 4 builds up a residual feeling, a resistance, because I’m killing Humans which prevents me from picking it up time after time unlike Halo. Shooting a Spartan doesn’t evoke the same emotion in me because the armor is like the pixel version of tanks in my Atari days. He’s human underneath but only part of him.

the dihn: To quote the dinh of the A-Team “I love it when a plan comes together.” A great feeling comes when that flag is planted or bomb planted or sniper is taken out due to some coordination. Nothing like it.

Zeuz Patter: For me, it is the lobby system. It is the only one that works right. It is so easy to get a game. And as hard as it seems to believe, every H3 game is different from the previous one. You could have 3 straight CTF games, and they are all different. Not many games can say that. H3 made a huge improvement on cheating and modding and that is the decisive point.

Fezzer: The Warthog is a beautiful machine. I’ve yet to see any other game EVER implement vehicular gameplay with the elegance and balance that Bungie has achieved. I’ll be completely happy when the Gauss appears in MM again.

[Editor’s Note: Amen, brother]

Milk: Friends, and Halo. They seem to go hand in hand. A lot of communities, and people would not be able to make this experience a memorable one if they were unable to meet online, and through LAN. I would say the one thing that kept me coming back were those two features. LAN, and than later Live.

Flatlined: As I tend to be a Bear style player on objective games, there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to steal a defended flag, or arm a bomb and keep defenders away long enough so it detonates. Even if I touch the flag and know I am going to die fast, just touching it and knowing the other team has to start all over to try to return the flag is a great feeling.

Vi Et Armis: I like the pacing of Halo combat. The style of combat in GTA4 and CoD4 is a little more of a swell and ebb for me, with action being offset by periods of tension while you try find the next foe/objective/sniper who shot you in the head. In Halo, the longest breaks you get are when you die and run straight back into the fray.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Loyalists 19

D0504 T1549 Y2008Panel Discussion: New or Improved?

Introducing a new feature at Tied the Leader: “Panel Discussions” will feature perceptions and opinions lifted from discussions held on our MidWorld Forum. The Tied the Leader Community is more than one blogger – more than one clan. This rogue column surveys many entities in the fan-driven system of gamer communities. Effective immediately, you can look forward to those gamers having more of a voice on the TTL masthead. Let’s kick things off with a question relative to DLC…

When it comes to new maps, do you prefer remakes? Or would you rather see something completely new and different?

Since the launch of their Xbox Live francise, Bungie Studios has gone to great lengths to keep the Halo Nation on its toes with downloadable content. Just when you knew the best objective route on Valhalla, you had to figure out where to take the flag on Rat’s Nest. Before you could master the laser dash on Standoff, we were introduced to the man-cannon shooting gallery that is Avalanche.

When the topic turns to new maps, fan feedback always turns to remakes. There are gamers who always want to “go home” to their preferred environs in Halo 2. Time-honored fan favorites like Wizard/Warlock or Midship are frequent entries on petitions to retro-fit Halo 3 to accommodate the old stomping grounds. The release of Heroic Map Pack saw enterprising gamers expressing their sentimentality by reForging sites of fond memories in Foundry. With the release of the Legendary Map Pack, legions of MLG-style competitors were silenced with the rebirth of Lockout/Blackout.

What is your preferred approach to DLC? Do you like seeing your favorite maps rebuilt for the fragging of a next generation? Or would you rather see your favorite game developers stretch the legs of their imaginations in the creation of never-before-seen battlegrounds like Ghost Town?

The dinh: I would prefer new maps. Variety is what makes me come back to Halo.

Stuicide: I love having new maps because they evolve in the way people play them and over the course of a few weeks, tactics advance and playing it stays exciting and unique. Compared to remakes, they lose a sense of “What do I need to do next?” Since people have battle tested them.

Gilthanis: While blackout is cool to have, it is not lockout. The little differences eat at me while I play it. However, I still would rather have a new map then a remake unless it was going to be an EXACT remake.

Fezzer: New. But a GOOD remake (like Avalanche) is nice once in awhile.

Sandman: While I enjoy new maps better, having the occasional remake/re-imagined map is fun too. Fighting on both familiar and new battlefields is what makes Halo great!

Quantifier: As I think back about maps like Relic, Terminal, Turf and Sanctuary; as much as part of me would be interested to see them ported to H3, I’d prefer to see brand new maps. Those were all new maps and I’m glad they made them rather than porting more H1 maps.

OboeCrazy: I want brand new. I never want a remake. Avalanche is an awesome map. However, I never played H1 multiplayer…so I never experienced Sidewinder the way many of you did.

Flatlined: In the past, [Bungie] used to answer that if you wanted to play Chill Out, or Midship, you can play Halo or Halo 2 etc. Well, Halo was never online, so the joy that was the Chill Out map, or Chiron, never was seen outside of LAN parties. As for Midship, Headlong etc, I am not sure I’d want to throw in an older title in when we wanna see the glorious Halo 3 graphics at work.

Tortacular: I want the developers to push themselves and let their imaginations rule. That’s how we get completely new experiences like Ghost Town’s vertical play.

Demagogue: It’s kind of fun to tread on familiar ground Halo 3-style as well stage battles in new territory where everyone is a ‘novice’.

BSG Gold: I would prefer new maps, but really anything off Halo:CE is like a new map, because it has never been exposed to Xbox Live before. What I really don’t want to see are any more Halo 2 remakes.

Fate: I love Ghost Town and would much rather spend my money on something new where everyone is figuring it out together. It’s much more fun to learn new ways to play a map from someone that beat you than rehashing the strategies that everyone used in H2.

BSG Alekat: You can’t put the remakes of Lockout and Sidewinder in the same category of course. I’m just going to say I like remakes like Sidewinder where the focus was on capturing the idea behind Sidewinder (epic flag battles), and perhaps holding onto a few familiar pieces like the bridge and snowy terrain.

Hard Boiled: I don’t want to see a developer stifled by public pressure to bring back old maps, because it will stifle gameplay. If I see Midship or Worlock mirrored in a map pack, I’ll play them the same way I played them in Halo 2. I don’t want to have to do that, I want fresh looks and fresh gameplay. That is what keeps me coming back.

Bunny: I love seeing what they do with the new graphics and abilities on the older maps. They never upset me because they really are a new map, they just happen to take a lot of features from the older maps.

CodeMonkey: I would like to see if the game developers can still ‘wow’ me. I want to see more of the game universe than before. I enjoy how Bungie tries to have a back story for each map as to where it is in the Halo universe. The storyline of Halo lends itself to many more possibilities for multiplayer maps and for DLC, I would rather see new visions of those places than remakes of old maps.

Jericho: You can never go home. To date (IMO) none of the remakes have lived up to my expectation with the exception of blood gultch/coagulation. Coag turns out to be better than the original.

Mondo Titan: The New maps have been way better than the remakes (with the exceptions of Coag and select others). i think that the reason for that is the game simply isn’t the same. no fall damage removed the danger/excitement from Hang ‘em High/ Tombstone. the slight changes in physics made memorable jumps/tricks harder, impossible, or nonexistent.

TruthPastor SBG: I am a vehicle guy so gaining Avalanche was great, but the other two maps don’t use vehicles (unless you count the mongoose) on Ghost Town. I feel that H3 is limited on its BTB game maps. I would much rather see big maps like Valhalla and Coagulation.

El Burritoh: I’ve played the old ones, and although I would love to play with the new gameplay on the old maps, I’d rather have new maps if it came right down to that kid of choice. Fortunately, Bungie graciously tries to please everyone! But… I would pay 400 points for a Midship remake alone. That map had a dynamic that is sorely missing from any of the H3 maps.

Mondo Jay: I’ve always liked to see the new and creative maps Bungie can come up with, and as much as I like re-imagined versions of old classics, they’ll never compare to that new car smell of maps like Ghost Town, Foundry, or Standoff… and honestly, if all the new DLC (Legendary & Heroic) had only been Remakes we’d never have newly formed classics like those…

Zeuz Patter: Halo3 is new. So should be the maps. New game-new maps. Hit me with your best shot! I want to fell in love again as I did with Valhalla in the Beta, as I did with Relic on its release.

VVilly: I think this is the best map pack for any Halo game ever, because you get a map from every game 1 from Halo CE, 1 from Halo 2, and a new one from Halo 3. Not everyone is going to like every single map but as a whole I think these 2 remakes were great choices.

Testa Killz: I think the biggest problem with remakes is that it puts unneeded constraints on the creators. Valhalla & Guardian are both great examples of why you interpret & honor the ideals of a map, rather than copy it’s text verbatim.

ooCRIMoo: we all have our different favorite old maps that we’d like to play in Halo 3. the developers could spend all their time remaking maps and STILL not satisfy everyone. It’s better for them to use their resources to make new favorite maps for us, so we have something to bitch about remaking in the next game – “Why won’t Bungie remake Ghost town? It’s my fav they must hate me”

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 4