343 : Pointers for a new game Studio

Part 2 of the campaign Analysis.
Please Note that this is purely advise to 343i and if you don’t agree with me then its cool but I would rather you left something constructive rather than defensive and insecure.

  • <mark>Everything in a game should tell a story.</mark>
    You know 343 when I heard that you were basing your forerunner buildings on Egyptian relics, I was quite intrigued.I was really interested to see what sort of things we would learn about the forerunners from the buildings however upon closer inspection I made a startling realization…The levels are quite bland, well designed but quite bland.

Why is it Bland? Well One of the greatest tools game developers have at telling stories is the architecture of the game.Games like Bioshock,Dead space and even Metro 2033 use their designs to tell a story about the society which inhabit their worlds.E.g In Bioshock you could tell that once upon a time Rupture was probably a haven, a technological marvel with a bustling society but now the city is a shell of its former self because of its own decadence. You see I could tell all of this from just looking at the level design,posters , Ai interactions and the hidden messages.
Now after saying all of that what can you tell me about forerunner culture from the level designs in halo 4?
I mean without looking at the terminals would people be able to guess what the planet was for? Would you be able to say why a bipedal species designed a room were random blocks floated randomly? Its these sort of things which might better a story.Halo CE and Halo 2’s level designs were by no means perfect but they suited the roles which the Forerunners intended.E.g Halo CE had large networks of caves and tunnels which might have hindered game play a bit but because Halo installations were more of weapons and research facilities rather than places of inhabitance,these design choices actually ended up complimenting the story.Halo 2’s designs were much more diverse.They had ancient not metallic ruins which hinted that perhaps another race lived on the ring which were observed and studied by the forerunners.

343 its great that you want show that the Forerunners were technologically adept by making every bit of their architecture metallic, floaty and shiny but your going for the obvious. If you really want to flesh out a culture you have to have purpose inyour design.Your have to really consider how Forerunner culture was structured ,how they moved,what they ate, how they lived and what they believed in.These are the sort of questions your level designers should be trying to answer in their designs and If you consider all of these questions then I promise you, you’re level designs will be far more interesting next time around.

  • <mark>Cutscenes aren’t always the answer</mark>
    Let me start of by saying the cutscenes in Halo 4 are gorgeous , the best in any Halo game to date and probably any game this year. But with all this attention on cutscenes, I cant shake the feeling that 343 doesnt really care about expanding the story in gameplay. 343i its great to see a studio put so much time and effort into making cuutscenes but this isnt 2001 anymore, games have evolved past just using cutscenes to tell the story .E.g Look up the part were you encounter the “Anomoly” in Metro2033. Thats one of the best examples of good ingame story telling without using cinematics.

  • <mark>Scifi gameplay elements and Modern gameplay elements dont marry well.Sooner or later Your gonna have to decide which way you want to go.</mark>
    I touched on this point many times in my other threads so I wont really explain it again.Besides I think everyone who dont like Halo 4 have been complaing about this so I’ll leave it at that.

In conclusion 343i while I enjoyed Halo 4 (well some bits anyway) ,you still have a lot of improving to do .I hope you will consider my advice.

Right, this will probably be my last analysis for a while as Im getting Far Cry 3 and Hitman so that will keep me busy for a while.
(Special mention-Destiny looks very promising)

Also can I just ask people , Do you think its fair that Spartan ops rquires you to have gold membership to play it while The previous Halo’s had longer campaigns and you could play firefight off-line.I dont Know this really smells like a cash grab more than anything else.

It’s nice to see someone paying attention to the narrative for once. I agree with all of your points. The architectural theme seemed to me to be “complexity for its own sake alone”. Nothing on Requiem appeared the least bit practical, and I can’t imagine anyone using any of the areas in which the campaign took place.

I especially agree with you regarding the superfluousness of many of the cutscenes. Games rely on this mechanic too heavily these days; the best stories are those that can be told entirely in-game. Considering that one of 343’s design tenets was increased immersion, they made some very confusing choices. For example, why do I become a passenger whenever the Master Chief has to press a button? You can argue that seeing his hand physically pressing it increases player immersion, but I don’t think it does.

And no, it isn’t right that Spartan Ops requires a gold subscription; it isn’t right at all.

> It’s nice to see someone paying attention to the narrative for once. I agree with all of your points. The architectural theme seemed to me to be “complexity for its own sake alone”. Nothing on Requiem appeared the least bit practical, and I can’t imagine anyone using any of the areas in which the campaign took place.

Precisely, the game looked beautiful but it looked like something a six year old would come up with if he was told to think of something futuristic and cool.Practicality is key. How cool would it have been to fight through a forerunner public district full of building and holograms.