Custom Content

So here’s how this is gonna work. I’m gonna type a really long post. I’m gonna split it up as best I can. There will be no TL;DR.

INTRODUCTION: A Brief Commentary on Custom Content

> Since Halo 2, the custom match option for online play as an alternative to matchmaking has been a critical success point for the series. Players don’t just want to play private matches, but they want to mix up the experience. Hell, custom gametype settings arguably helped fuel even the professional gaming sport, where MLG reached what some call its golden age by tuning up Halo 2’s competitive gameplay.
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> With the release of Halo 3, Bungie pushed the edge of what a console game could do in terms of player-created content. While other console games sought to offer the depth of what a similar PC game could conjure up, Bungie got wise and looked to making a versatile system, where editing could be performed in real-time alongside custom gameplay, allowing for both cooperative map-building and creative time-wasting fun with Forge. They also offered Theater mode, a provoking and successful idea for sharing game moments, recording clips, taking screenshots, analyzing instances frame-by-frame, and sharing all this experience with friends and other gamers.
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> Halo: Reach added to every one of these custom content categories, with the exception of Theater, which finds itself a bit less roomy these days. But the shortcomings can be overcome with Bungie Pro, which at least allows for rendering videos to be passed about and watched from the comfort of one’s PC. Forge is bigger and offers more precision, and custom games are alive and even more unique.

HALO 4: A Revival of Broad Halo Multiplayer

> Now that I’ve refreshed your immediate memory of the custom content world of Halo, let’s move on to how it applies to Halo 4. I am by no means implying that this is how Halo 4 is going to work or that I think this is the only way it will work, but I am offering my suggestions:

> Gametypes:
> You’ve seen what players can do when given access to a game’s settings. Don’t take that away - it’s half the beauty of Halo multiplayer. The only thing I can suggest for furthering the custom experience is to never offer an option that can’t be used in more than one setting. Remember how some weapons in Halo 3 couldn’t be chosen as starting weapons because some maps couldn’t load them? Don’t screw that one up. Be sure if something from the game fits into a category for custom gametypes, that it becomes an option. All weapons should be capable of being starting weapons, all objective games should have neutral, multi, and O/D variants where applicable, and the more options for tinkering the starting condition for each individual player, the better.
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> With Reach and Halo 3 “Minigame” variants on the rise, spurred heavily by the formation of fanbases such as Forge Hub, it would also be prudent to note that some game options may prove useful to players in ways you can’t predict. Give Custom Games the freedom of a few more options. The possibilities can’t be endless, as the fanbase would turn the game on its head, but they can be grand. Personally I’d love to see the return of CTF, Territories and Assault Variants allowing more than 2 teams, and the ability to have multiple objectives and objective points in a single match.
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> One last thing - add an automatic team setting system. A gametype author can choose which team colors are allowed and the maximum amount of players per team for the gametype to be played. If the user doesn’t want to have a max team player count, they can choose instead to pick “balanced teams”, where the max team player count is an amount that best balances each team. For instance, 10 players with a 2-team game means the max is 5 per team. 8 players in a 3-team game means that 3 is the max, with one slot open for the third team. If anyone else joins, then they’d be placed in that open slot. If more players joined, they’d be sorted as the fourth players for each team.

> Theater:
> If you really wanna take a shot at Theater, give players the ability to join and leave Theater games in progress and explore with their own cameras. If you can’t accomplish that in its entirety, shoot for it anyway. Try to get as many of those features working as possible.

> The Forge 3.0 and Custom Maps:
> We can’t expect you to provide a Forge World-sized palette on every single map, but we do want to be able to Forge more than two or three maps in the game with more than cinder blocks and cones. How about a few unique, environment-matching, USEFUL Forge items on each map that allow players to build on the original level. Halo 3’s Ghost Town, for instance, gave this a shot, and it gave the level at least a little more life. Players built platforms with what little they had. That’s all we want - a little.
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> Another thing players want, along with the obvious return of a huge Forge map, is more than one type of Forge palette. With Reach, we get UNSC and Covenant weapons and equipment, but everything the map is built out of is blue and gray Forerunner! Don’t get me wrong, the environments were beautiful, but if you want to one-up Bungie, give us more. Forerunner, Human, and Covenant structural item palettes, on an even larger Forge World that has environments that can accommodate all three.
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> Finally, give us more precision. We were given a new interface for Forge 2.0 that allowed for leaps and bounds in map-forging, but now we’re greedy. Now we want to edit in hundredths instead of tenths, and fractional degrees. But, honestly, the interface is already so close to perfect, that the only NEW option I think we need on top of all the expanded ones is surface priority. If two objects occupy the same space and their images glitch over one another in what FH calls “z fighting”, it looks tacky. Allow players to edit an object to have “top” surface priority and another to have “bottom”, in order to choose which object shows through.
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> Oh, and one more thing - let players take preview shots of their map. Not just screenshots, but a preview pic that can be viewed in pregame instead of just the image of the base map. Reach the problem of having so many Forge World maps in multiplayer that voting is a toss-up between Forge World, Forge World, and… more Forge World. It’s troubling, and I personally hate being -Yoinked!- to remember what’s what based on name alone.

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> The File Share:
> Steamline this sucker! I want to be able to quickly access a user’s file share in the time before a game (sometimes less 30 seconds). I may be curious. Also, if the game incorporates player previews like Reach does, where a screen displays their Spartan/Elite with quick information on name, rank, and other stuff, then include something that tells us how many file share slots they have filled. I spent a lot of time in Halo 3 checking out users’ file shares in matchmaking. In Reach? Zilch. I haven’t looked even once. There is something wrong with the content sharing system, but I can’t put my finger on it. Whatever it is, I for one have become disinterested. Please change that. /selfish
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> Allow file sets to be viewed together in the menus as well. If one item goes with another, make sure the game lets us know, and give us the option to download the entire fileset when we view any one of its individual items.

> Custom Game Search:
> Yes, I said it. You may tell me, “JC, you sultry-voiced one-man hair band you, how can you possibly expect there to be a custom game playlist that could please everyone and even begin to filter through the thousands or even millions of pieces of content?” I’m glad you asked, ladies. Please, have another glass of wine.
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> You see, a custom game playlist isn’t quite the right word for it. Sure, it can work like matchmaking, but it needs to be more in-depth. First, create a “like” system that works in the game menus. Then track how many times a file or file set has been liked, and those with a minimum amount of likes are found and put into a playlist-like hopper for Custom Searching. Content must still be played privately before it gets offered up publicly, but in both instances, players can go back and “like” an item(s). Simple and streamlined.
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> Now, for the search system. First, the Custom Game Search needs to use drop-in, drop out gameplay. Players can be placed in the middle of a game, even right before it ends. No biggie, cause the players can stick together and get new match options just like normal matchmaking. Obviously there should not be any exploitable reward for playing the Custom Game Search nor any penalty for quitting, and its stats should not be calculated alongside Matchmaking MP Stats.
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> During the game, a player should be given the option to “vote off” the game and map being played. Enough votes will end the game prematurely and give a slightly negative rep percent to the game and map variants. If this is done enough times, the variants can be removed from the game search. Default maps and gametypes are unaffected by this vote, but the game can still be ended if enough players vote during gameplay. Players should only be able to vote to end a game a limited number of times per day as well as a limited number of times in a row, in order to prevent abuse.
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> In the pregame, show the descriptions for the map and gametypes so people know what they’re picking to play. Allowing those preview picture shots from Forge would help greatly in this, and team-sorting can be done the same way matchmaking does, with help from the gametypes’ team settings to ensure balanced team counts. Allow team switching in the pregame, but players can only switch a limited number of times - and if the game is meant to be balanced, a full team could be off-limits to change to (Like skipping straight from Red to Green if Blue was full).
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> Players should be able to search with priorities on gametypes, such as Slayer, Objective, Arcade, Full Custom, Custom Game Variant Only, Custom Map Variants Only, etc. Searching Custom Games as a party also gives an advantage of choosing game size limits, within five settings of players: 6-8, 8-10, 10-12, 12-14, and 14-16. The reason 5 and below isn’t an options is because it’s rather easy to get five people together for customs. Searching alone means you may be put in a lobby with any amount of people the game throws you into.
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> Finally, and this is one of the most important features, is the ability to override the game’s picks for Custom Games and hand the party leader position to a particular person. The lobby will still be able to be found by the Custom Game Search, but only if players choose to search for led parties instead of public parties. The same effect can be achieved by simply starting a custom game lobby with at least 6 people and keeping it open to Custom Game Searchers.

Alright, admittedly I’m not the most succinct speaker in the world. I give a LOT of content and hope people don’t get lost in it. I invite anyone to simplify any of this wall of text into nice little bullet forms and other such things if it helps get the message across. I think the custom content world needs to move away from the “underground” Halo scene and become a bigger part of the multiplayer experience. I look forward to your feedback.

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