AFK and Quitters - Game Design, Halo Reach (and 4), and You

So, this thread is getting pretty hot over at Bnet. Thought I’d bring it here for you all to see.
This was written by me (Taco033/FlamboyantBacon) about an hour ago.

Let me start with the following: this thread is not a “let’s bash Reach thread”. I’ve started enough of those and was smart enough to realize my voice, echoed by the likes of many others, will never be heard because the developers simply no longer care.

Thinly veiled hating aside, this thread focuses on two major aspects of Halo: AFKers and Quitters.

At this point, I’m sure we all understand what AFK is, but if you don’t know, that stands for Away from Keyboard. Naturally, consoles are controlled by well…controllers. AFC is the same thing.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I am an indie game developer and a “legit” computer programmer. Game design is not foreign to me. Bungie has been far longer in the business than myself, nonetheless, it’s worrisome to see the core FPS franchise for Xbox falling apart by their own hand.

So, let’s venture forth on the first of my two subjects and proposed solutions.

AFK

Naturally, the most ideal thing would be to simply have a server admin that could boot a AFK player. This is matchmaking, however, and that’s not a viable option.

To prevent a player from doing something, you need to understand why they do it in the first place.

AFKing in this game is essentially credit--Yoink!- (harloting, prostituting, call it what you will). Essentially, you sit there like a -Yoink- and win credits.

We’ve got a system that “catches” AFKers, but has a noted impact on low scoring players as well.

As a result, THIS SYSTEM IS FLAWED. Even if one player is wrongly accused, that’s far worse that none at all.

What I propose is so ungodly simple I don’t even understand how it wasn’t discussed at a meeting over in Kirkland.

PRESS X TO RESPAWN

“Hold it, Taco. I don’t want CoD in mah Halo!!!”

Well, thankfully, the press X to respawn system is not a trademark of CoD, you worried fanboys. Battlefield runs it to, as does most other class based games.

On respawn, you still get the three beeps, but it forces you to the loadout screen. You better select a loadout (by default, its already on your last loadout) or YOU DON’T RESPAWN. Nope. Not at all.

If you sit at that loadout screen to long, the game takes notice and boom, is_AFK = true. gain_Credits = false.

And you can’t just keep X pressed in, you need to lift the button and then press (think of how if you continuously press A, you don’t bunny hop everywhere).

Boom, players actively have to monitor their game for respawn. And if you actively monitor, why not just play and get the kills to.

Righto:

QUITTING

Second big problem in Reach. This could be quickly balanced by allowing a player to join in progress. That isn’t exactly Halo though, so not so much.

Why do players Quit? A couple of reasons: they’re pissed, they just got their challenge, a friend unplugged the xbox, power went out, fire alarm, the girlfriend wants to do it right now, your older brother tosses the xbox out the window, nuclear war…the list goes on.

Focusing on the more legitimate reasons - most importantly, they got that challenge they needed - the absolute most simple thing would be all challenge credits are forfeit on a quit. You get the challenge and leave, not only does the challenge count as completed but you also get nothing for it. That sounds extreme, yes, but it forces players to stay in game.

Quit to many times? Challenges are no longer available for the day. Keep pushing it, you lose challenges for the week, even the weekly. Ouch.

“But Taco, what if we have sucky internet and disconnect?”

Get better internet. Sorry. I know, but we CAN’T BUILD A GAME AROUND THE MINORITY.

Clever players may notice I haven’t played in the last couple months, apart from the occasional night. Why? My home internet sucks, I play largely at the university. And because I have friends and a social life, not playing Halo 24/7 isn’t a huge problem, I’ll get over it. Not calling anyone a no-lifer, that’s rude, but it’s no big deal. Seriously.

We’ll put the daily challenge sacrifice high enough the occasional disconnect wont hurt. But if you are playing in a lightning storm and you constantly lose power and hit that wall, that might be a problem with your brain power. Like, IDK, wait a bit.

Since Reach runs on credits, the best focus is yes, to go after those when players start screwing around. But a total credit ban? Meh, seems a little poorly implemented. Sounds like the lazy way out, one that may result in hurt feelings.

So, Bungie, you probably won’t read this. I don’t pretend to act like you will. But if there are 343 scouts on this forum right now, I hear Halo 4 sounds cool, amiright?

And I’m taking credit. Better put “Thank you, Taco033/FlamboyantBacon for insuring our game isn’t a matchmaking vacuum cleaner disguised as a church going harlot. As in it sucks, a lot.”

kthnxbai -
Taco033/FlamboyantBacon

TL;DR - Vacuum cleaners suck.

tl;dr version

Press X to respawn

Disable Stuff if people keep quitting

There is an easy solution to bypass your AFK filter: use a controller with a turbo function. You just need to set the controller to press X continuosly and you get away from all situations. These controllers aren’t even rare, you can get them from pretty much anywhere.

As for the quitting problem, players just simply need an incentive to win. Winning a game means you have to finish the game, which automatically means you can’t level up if you countinuosly quit. Quit ban is the worst kind of ban ever intended. I don’t claim anyone at Bungie to be an idiot, but no ban can keep player from quitting if they feel like it. Nothing can keep you from quitting in a situation like this. We all know it, it’s a rage quit. When you rage quit, you simply don’t think what the quit is going to cause, you would quit even if you got a permaban for that. This is exactly why there should be no punishing for quitting or awards for not quitting.

Quitting will always be a problem, some guy is having a bad day and gets killed in an annoying way, another guy is spending most of his match at the respawn screen, third guy gets sniped while getting a Perfection on a Warthog turret at the end of the match, fourth guy is getting a huge multikill only to get stopped by Armor Lock. These all have happened to me in one way or another, all of them have lead to a rage quit. This can’t be solved. Whatever we do, people will always quit when they feel like it, you can’t control free will.

“PRESS X TO RESPAWN”

It really sounds simple.

However, imagine this scenario: The score is 44-38 and the lower scored team just got rockets and sniper with 3 minutes left on the clock. What is the downside for having everyone on the upper team be willing to die and not respawn for the remaining 3 minutes?

AFCing can be easily solved if you drastically reduce or completely remove the amount of credits you get for simply being in a game from start to finish. I mean, that’s the only “source of income” for AFCers. They don’t get credits from performance bonuses and commendations, only for game completion and the slot machine (the slot machine is a different matter; see below). So if you remove the game completion credits and instead increase the performance bonuses and (maybe) commendations, AFCers will gain little to nothing from doing what they do.

The slot machine is another thorn in my side because it’s basically unfair. For example, a player in a Team Slayer match who got has twice as many deaths than kills, hardly any assists (which to some extend can make up for and justify having a bad K/D ratio), got two (accidental) betrayals, and fell to his death a couple of times, can still get way more credits than his team mate who performed well due to the slot machine. And you shouldn’t get a large amount of credits just for being lucky AFTER the game.

As for quitters, the only feasible way I see is to punish them with a cumulative credit penalty. And I don’t mean preventing them from earning credits, but taking credits away when you quit. Merely preventing someone from earning credits in the current game because he quit the last one is no incentive to keep playing. On the contrary; someone who can’t earn credits in the game he’s currently playing is more likely to quit out of this game again.

As for the cumulative credit penalty, I imagine something like this:

1st quit: -500 cR
2nd quit: -1,000 cR
3rd: -2,000 cR
4th: -4,000 cR
5th: -8,000 cR
6th: -16,000 cR
and so on

Starting out with a really low penalty makes sure that people don’t get punished too harshly who occasionally quit because of real-life stuff, because half or more of their team left, because the game lagged like mad and wasn’t playable anymore, or because they lagged out . Stuff like that does happen, so you have to take that into consideration.

Habitual quitters, however, will soon notice that they’re losing a lot of credits. It’s only 500 cR the first time you quit, and only 1,000 the next time. But that adds up to 1,500 cR already. Next time it’ll amount to a total of 3,500 cR, then 7,500 cR, then 15,500 cR, and then 31,500 cR total for quitting half a dozen times.

Gradually resetting these penalties is done depending on how much credits you earn in the games after you quit. Sounds confusing, so let me explain.

You played a few games and then had to quit in the middle of a match for whatever reason, so you get a -500 cR penalty. The next time you quit you would get a -1,000 cR penalty. So to avoid that and only get a penalty of -500 cR the next time you quit, you have to earn ten times as many credits in the next games without quitting; that’s 5,000 cR and easily acquired in two or three games. So once you’ve earned that amount and you quit again, you still will only get a -500 cR penalty.

Someone who quits a lot, however, will have a much harder time resetting his penalty:

You quit a game and now have to earn 5,000 cR for the penalty to go down a step. However, you quit again before you got those 5,000 cR and now you’re punished with another -1,000 cR penalty. This means that all the credits you’ve earned towards making your penalty go down a step are forfeit, and you now instead have to earn 10,000 cR. Yet for some reason you quit again before earning those 10,000 cR, and now you have to earn 20,000 cR for the penalty to go down a step. To make it go away completely you have to earn 5,000 + 10,000 + 20,000 = 35,000 credits. Without quitting in the meantime.

I know that this might sound really harsh, but that’s what we want after all. Stopping people from quitting all the time

scratches head

Seems like that if you reply with a long post, you can instantly kill a topic.

> AFCing can be easily solved if you drastically reduce or completely remove the amount of credits you get for simply being in a game from start to finish. I mean, that’s the only “source of income” for AFCers. They don’t get credits from performance bonuses and commendations, only for game completion and the slot machine (the slot machine is a different matter; see below). So if you remove the game completion credits and instead increase the performance bonuses and (maybe) commendations, AFCers will gain little to nothing from doing what they do.
>
> The slot machine is another thorn in my side because it’s basically unfair. For example, a player in a Team Slayer match who got has twice as many deaths than kills, hardly any assists (which to some extend can make up for and justify having a bad K/D ratio), got two (accidental) betrayals, and fell to his death a couple of times, can still get way more credits than his team mate who performed well due to the slot machine. And you shouldn’t get a large amount of credits just for being lucky AFTER the game.
>
> As for quitters, the only feasible way I see is to punish them with a cumulative credit penalty. And I don’t mean preventing them from earning credits, but taking credits away when you quit. Merely preventing someone from earning credits in the current game because he quit the last one is no incentive to keep playing. On the contrary; someone who can’t earn credits in the game he’s currently playing is more likely to quit out of this game again.
>
> As for the cumulative credit penalty, I imagine something like this:
>
> 1st quit: -500 cR
> 2nd quit: -1,000 cR
> 3rd: -2,000 cR
> 4th: -4,000 cR
> 5th: -8,000 cR
> 6th: -16,000 cR
> and so on
>
> Starting out with a really low penalty makes sure that people don’t get punished too harshly who occasionally quit because of real-life stuff, because half or more of their team left, because the game lagged like mad and wasn’t playable anymore, or because they lagged out . Stuff like that does happen, so you have to take that into consideration.
>
> Habitual quitters, however, will soon notice that they’re losing a lot of credits. It’s only 500 cR the first time you quit, and only 1,000 the next time. But that adds up to 1,500 cR already. Next time it’ll amount to a total of 3,500 cR, then 7,500 cR, then 15,500 cR, and then 31,500 cR total for quitting half a dozen times.
>
> Gradually resetting these penalties is done depending on how much credits you earn in the games after you quit. Sounds confusing, so let me explain.
>
> You played a few games and then had to quit in the middle of a match for whatever reason, so you get a -500 cR penalty. The next time you quit you would get a -1,000 cR penalty. So to avoid that and only get a penalty of -500 cR the next time you quit, you have to earn ten times as many credits in the next games without quitting; that’s 5,000 cR and easily acquired in two or three games. So once you’ve earned that amount and you quit again, you still will only get a -500 cR penalty.
>
> Someone who quits a lot, however, will have a much harder time resetting his penalty:
>
> You quit a game and now have to earn 5,000 cR for the penalty to go down a step. However, you quit again before you got those 5,000 cR and now you’re punished with another -1,000 cR penalty. This means that all the credits you’ve earned towards making your penalty go down a step are forfeit, and you now instead have to earn 10,000 cR. Yet for some reason you quit again before earning those 10,000 cR, and now you have to earn 20,000 cR for the penalty to go down a step. To make it go away completely you have to earn 5,000 + 10,000 + 20,000 = 35,000 credits. Without quitting in the meantime.
>
> I know that this might sound really harsh, but that’s what we want after all. Stopping people from quitting all the time

No this is not what “we” want. I could care less if my teammates quit. If quitters bother people that much get a party of friends. Don’t have friends? I’m sure it won’t be hard to find people to run games with out of the thousands that play Reach. The Team Classic population averages around 300 and I can find people to run games.

I agree that these are two very big issues with Matchmaking right now. I love Invasion, but it has been ruined for me due to almost always having a partner that quits. This game is no fun when you have to constantly respawn at one of the initial spawn points.

You give your own reasons why you believe these occur so frequently. AFK/AFC is most definitely an issue with people trying to boost cR. There is no denying that is the number 1 reason for that. I believe that people quit so often because the very general nature of the playlists. They’re just too broad in range for gametypes. People are often looking to play specific game types. Unfortunately they’re often forced to play gametypes they despise just for a chance to play the game type/map they really want.

Let me first say that I love the cR system. I think that ranking up should take time and effort. I’ve been playing legitimately since the beginning and it’s definitely frustrating ranking up… as it should be. My issue with this cR system is the way the payouts are done. Everyone gets a completion bonus and that is roughly 75% of the total cR payout. I think that is wrong and is the main reason why we have some many AFK/AFC players. They can earn as many cR as players that are actually playing… without putting in any effort. If anything, majority of the cR payout should be based on performance. I think kill/death should be part of the formula to calculate cR payouts.

Right now, Reach rewards players for playing like a bunch of -yoinks-. I get into so many games where players just mindlessly suicide grunt their way into battle by just running in and hoping to take someone else out while they spray weapon fire. If you tie performance in with better cR payouts, I think you’ll see other players play more strategically and not play as mindlessly. There should also be cR payouts tied to objectives. This is one thing sorely missing from Objective and Invasion game types.

I do like your idea of hitting x to respawn… otherwise be booted. That is a great way to single out idlers and get rid of the rubbish with no cR payout and a strike against their account.

As for the quitting issue. I know this isn’t a popular solution, but I feel this is the best solution. Drop in/drop out system is fine… if there wasn’t a cR payout tied to games. Problem with that system is that you have people always dropping in and dropping out. One minute you’re sitting with a full team, so you play offense… next minute everyone on defense quits and you’re forced to play only defense because you have new players constantly cycling in and out of your game. That’s happened on PC games and worked for the likes of Tribes, Duke Nukem, and Quake. It doesn’t work as well for a cR payout system.

I think there should be a separate playlist for every game type. To me, that’s the only logical system to use for a cR payout system. Yes we will have significantly lower populations in each playlist. The key is… the only reason people will have to quit a game is because they don’t like a map. Each playlist will have fewer players… but they’re players that want to play that game type. I know that playing against different players is something everyone wants… but I think we also want to feel more secure knowing that there is less likelihood of players quitting a game leaving you by yourself. I know I for one would feel more secure joining the Invasion playlist knowing that Invasion Slayer had it’s own playlist. A perfect example of this would be when Infection was given it’s own playlist.

First, OP I really do appreciate your brand of humor. I love it when people throw in some laughter – it reminds me that heart and soul forged the literature. To the point:

  1. AFK/AFC

It’s truly not a half bad idea, OP… but Jeffrys does point out a glaring flaw in your ‘perfect’ one-shot-goes-BOOM solution. Forced respawn has often been a hallmark of Halo. You die. You listen to the count down. And then you shoot, weave, grind, retreat, etc. – Even the pro players have crafted ‘spawn trapping’ schemes which aim to specifically control spawn points, relying on the fact that players WILL spawn eventually. But it’s funny because in the earlier iterations of Halo we never called this a ‘forced’ respawn. Instead it was a tortuous 10 seconds (or so) that you had to spend watching your team mates struggle to fight the ‘good fight’ without you.

What happened?

We took away incentives to play.

/mini rant/

  1. We took away a highly organized and simple skill-based system fine-tuned to VARIED types of competitive gameplay.
  2. We replaced such with a nearly worthless consolation-prize ‘cR’ system that tracks how long you’ve subjected yourself to the game. [one of those ‘nice to know’ features… not a CORE feature]
  3. We kicked the pants out of varied gameplay by requiring many gametypes to start with DMRs. This weapon in a long range, highly versatile, high ammo count, -Yoink!-… why bother picking up anything else (minus the occasional power weapon?). What happened to plasma pistols, needlers, rifles, spikers, etc.??
  4. You removed many of the teamwork aspects of the game. We used to all start from the same slate, the same original point (no AAs, no different weapons). You worked to obtain certain items like PWs and Power-Pick-Ups as a team. Yeah, remember those? Overshield anyone? Starting off with a ridiculous Arena Ranking based on selfish tendencies (thankfully gone), you’ve reverted to a cR mentality. Who CARES about winning the game? You still ‘win’ cR. sigh.
  5. Vehicles have extremely poor armor against the wrong types of weapons. Bullets -Yoink- and tink off plate armor. However it fizzles against plasma armor. DMRs should do VERY VERY little damage. Plasma pistols/rifles, etc. should be awesome however. And the banshee… haven’t we already said a thousand times that you need to eat the boost bar with the flippy-floppies? another sigh
  6. OBJ was fun and entertaining at one point. I believe this is more colateral damage than anything else. Between the crappy vehicles, long range starting weapons, and lack of weapon variety, you can’t really do crazy stuff anymore like you could in the old days. BTB was the playlist for beginners, one that was often focused on OBJ and that allowed players some free reign. Now it’s just slayer. Especially when 90% of games are voted slayer… “You can slay in objective. You can’t objective in slayer.”

To read a bit more well thought out series of additional arguments, check out this thread in a (now dead) 3rd party forum:

http://forums.forgineers.com/index.php?/topic/742-while-ive-been-away-critiquing-on-bnet/page__p__8924__hl__humble+calamity__fromsearch__1#entry8924

/end rant/

Sorry bout that. Basically, what I’m saying is that the best solution is to fix the game’s basic core mechanics. That aside, I think that we can create some complexity in your system to allot for ‘what if’ scenarios.

A. Axing the credit idea and creating win/loss games just like the old days / current Arena days.

B. Comboing it with a heavily biased performance based cR system that barely rewards game completion.

C. In-game require certain quotas to be met: [x number of meters run, x number of shots fired, etc] — or better, allow a SINGLE kill to really spike the cR reward. 5 cR for game completion… 300 cR for 1 kill or more game completion

  1. ‘Quitting’

Both Flamboyant & xGangster fail to recognize the wisdom in tsassi’s post concerning ‘Quitting Fixes’.

The only way to fix a problem like this is to work on incentivizing something else in order to draw you back in. You can never cut off a customer’s option to retreat/quit/give up/etc. You can simply entice them to continue going, whether they’re flying high in victory or trudging through despairing defeat.

By applying something like a ‘Quit Ban’, you’re basically saying that the system you’ve created is infallible for all possible types of possible gaming endeavors. You’re attacking the ‘moderate’ customer, aka the guy who buys lots of games, once they decide that some part of the game disagreed with them. It’s incredibly arrogant. It’s a power move. Similar to the way totalitarian regimes control their population through force. This seems far removed from the ‘gain the trust of your constituents’ Western way of life. The game should make you love it, addict you to a point, and give you a reason to keep playing.


The solution… sad as it is… remains with the developer. The devs have to ensure that people want to play their game. Forcing people to suffer through something will only make them hate you and give you less leniency. Instead of thinking ‘oh maybe this playlist just sucks’, they jump to ‘WTF quit bans?? FRACK this game!!’.

<3.

> No this is not what “we” want. I could care less if my teammates quit. If quitters bother people that much get a party of friends. Don’t have friends? I’m sure it won’t be hard to find people to run games with out of the thousands that play Reach. The Team Classic population averages around 300 and I can find people to run games.

I agree - stopping people from quitting is definitely the last thing you’d want. I mean, after checking your game history, you’re playing with a full party most of the time and have people quit on the other team; in every single game I check there were at least one or two players who quit. So, quitting helps you. Of course you wouldn’t want that to change.