Everything wrong with Halo: Twitch Gameplay

Halo has always had some twitch gameplay, and 343i are NOT incompetent at designing twitch gameplay. Halo needs to be more tactical.
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The various “new” Spartan abilities present in the preview [Beta] to Halo 5: Guardians are often considered to be a radical departure from prior Halo games. This is an illusion. None of these Spartan abilities offer anything substantially new to the Halo experience. Unfortunately, the way these old abilities have been implemented has served to create a gameplay experience which is far too twitchy and is heavily reliant on visually spectacular gimmicks

Firstly, some useful definitions to consider:

  • Twitch gameplay is “a gameplay scenario which tests the player’s reaction time.” Halo games often exhibit twitch gameplay.- Tactical shooters emphasize tactics and caution over quick reflexes. Halo has historically been known as a tactical shooter.- Tactics are carefully planned actions during combat which are used to achieve a specific, typically short-term goal.- Strategies are plans of action which are designed to achieve a long-term objective, and are typically decided upon before the battle begins. Strategies can incorporate multiple tactics.- Arena gameplay is gameplay which takes place in an enclosed area–an arena. That’s all it means. Technically, any map with boundaries can fit this definition, no matter how large or small.- Sprinting—to move at full speed over a short distance. To move at maximum velocity for a brief period of time. Sprint speed can never be maintained infinitely due to physical limitations. Due to lactic acid build-up and oxygen deprivation, humans can only sprint for ~30 seconds, followed by a recovery period of several days for Olympic athletes. Sprint is completely different from the maximum sustained velocity obtained by a marathon runner—which would typically be considered “base movement speed” for Spartans. Infinite Sprint is physically impossible.- Velocity = distance / time. When travelling, it doesn’t matter what the distance to a destination is, or what their velocity is. The only thing that matters is the time it takes to get to that destination.In the Halo 5 Beta, seven “new” abilities were added: Ground pound, Charge, Slide, Smart-Scope, Thruster Pack, Clamber and “Run Faster”

Smart-Scope–every weapon has a camera which wirelessly displays a reticule or a video of where the weapon is pointing to your HUD [monitor]. If you point your weapon in the wrong direction and zoom in, canonically you would see your own helmet displayed in the HUD. This is why Spartans can fire from the hip with zero loss of accuracy and shouldn’t de-scope when fired upon and should always be capable of firing whilst running. If a Spartan is actually using ADS, then their helmet is busted. Nothing new has been added to gameplay here, just a canon error which previously was not present.

Another thing to note is the pointless automatic de-scope/re-scope ability. In prior Halo games, zooming in always came with drawbacks—whether it was as minor as losing all peripheral vision, to losing radar and shield indicators. Neither flinching nor de-scoping carries any logic canonically. Even if the head is bobbing up and down, as long as the weapon remains stable [due to power armour] and the wireless video link is not jammed, then flinching and de-scoping are canonically incorrect. In gameplay, flinching and de-scoping are supposed to “balance” a specific mechanic—that of zooming in. Whilst a player is moving, it also canonically feasible that a weapon like a sniper rifle could oscillate, making it more difficult to aim whilst moving, as the player is going up and down with each step. The point is, the de-scope/re-scope animation does nothing but distract the player for weapons which don’t have a zoom function, and players who try to manually re-scope will always be at a disadvantage, so this automatic process takes away from player-control.

Clamber–this is an interesting and fun animation which ultimately adds nothing new to the gameplay as it currently exists. Ultimately, it simply serves as an alternative to crouch-jumping for vertical movement, and thruster/jet pack for saving jumps in horizontal movement. In order for this to be a worthwhile addition to the game, map design must accommodate skill jumps which are only possible with a combination of clamber and thruster pack–this may allow for a double, or even triple jump, if implemented correctly.
Having the ability to grab on to edges may be very useful in the future if the Halo series plans on incorporating more platformer elements in gameplay. In particular, the introductory elevator shaft scene in Halo 4 springs to mind—wall-jumping and climbing vertical surfaces springs to mind.

Thruster Pack, Run Faster, Ground Pound, Stabilize/Hover, Spartan Charge–Despite having separate names, all of these abilities come down to one concept–the thruster pack.

Essentially the Halo 5 Thruster pack allows the player to temporarily hover or move at full speed over a short distance in any direction, even allowing the player to rapidly change that direction in mid-air. The HR/H4 jetpack also allowed the player to hover, and the HR Evade/ H4 Thruster Pack allowed for a rapid change in direction. These are not new game mechanics to the Halo series.

Ground pound and Spartan Charge make use of both thruster pack, and the logic that a 1,000 pound Spartan travelling at high velocities deals a substantial amount of impact damage. Previous games may or may not have had fall damage, in which 1,000 pound Spartans travelling at high velocities are also dealt a substantial amount of damage when they are hit by immovable objects–such as the ground.

On that note, these two abilities break Newton’s third law–if crashing into another Spartan damages their shields, it should also damage your shields. The ground also tends to hit back. This is why Spartans typically use their weapons to melee–the weapon takes the brunt of the force, not your shields. Ignoring the breach in Newtonian physics, these two abilities are simply using thruster pack, followed by melee.

These are not new concepts–however the fact that these abilities can provide instant-kills with a direct hit is somewhat interesting, as difficult to accomplish one-hit melee kills were previously known as “assassinations.”

Of far more interest is that ground pound is a melee ability which has an area of effect—akin to taking explosion damage, or the armour-lock’s EMP [which again, did not fry electronics/shields at the epicentre]. The logical extension of ground pound is that punching an object or slamming into a wall could produce explosive damage in a radius.
Another point to consider is that an object impacting a surface typically does NOT deal damage to anything but the surface and the impactor. The ground may crack, but mobile objects on the cracked ground are at worst, tossed around due to the vibrations.

Translated to gameplay, this means that ground pound should stagger enemy Spartans in the impact zone, or knock them to the ground, at the cost of the impactor’s shields, instead of being a damage-dealing ability.

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Slide is a concept which hasn’t been fully applied to Spartans before. It’s the principle of inertia. Objects in motion tend to resist changes in their motion. Vehicles, Man-cannons, falling and then using a jetpack, all of these use the principle of inertia in Halo.
Inertia is nothing new in the Halo series, however, now that it is a base property of Spartans it should be considered for whenever a Spartan is moving quickly. Going from running, sprinting, using thruster pack or an energy sword lunge to an instant stop is somewhat illogical–Spartans should need some room to slow down.
If implemented properly, slide and inertia could significantly alter the gameplay of Halo, once again bringing platformer elements to the series. Mirror’s Edge and Portal are two great examples of first-person platformers which use inertia and momentum.

As has been previously mentioned, these Spartan abilities not new concepts for Halo’s gameplay. The main difference is that all of these abilities, tweaked from previous incarnations, are now base player traits, and map design could be tweaked a bit more to take advantage of some of these abilities–a clear potential for triple jumps exists, for example. The abilities themselves need to be tweaked further, to ensure that they don’t break canon and so obviously break the laws of physics and gameplay.

A minor flaw in these Spartan abilities is that they are mostly gameplay mechanics and animations which take place automatically once fully activated and usually cannot be cancelled whilst in progress. This is once again, nothing new. Tossing a grenade, melee, and to some extent jumping, does exactly the same thing. Player control is taken away only briefly for all of these, so it’s rarely noticeable or even considered to be a problem. Even the long distance ground pound has ample time to cancel before the ability is fully charged and activated. This is a vast improvement over assassinations, which still take far too long and still cannot be cancelled once implemented, especially in Halo 5’s fast paced gameplay.

Player control is a major factor in a player’s immersion of the game, and player immersion is one of the most distinguishing features of a first-person game, so if there is an animation which removes player control, it should always be fast enough so the player doesn’t notice that fact.

On that note, a first-person game should always remain in first-person in gameplay. Having abilities like Halo 4’s thruster pack, or hard light shield, or Halo 5’s ground pound or Spartan Charge which switches the viewpoint of the player from first-person to third-person and back breaks the immersion. Just like getting into the passenger seat of a Warthog or a Tank in Halo CE, first-person looks far better and is far more immersive than third-person. Occupying vehicles, using turrets, and every single ability, including assassinations should always be in first-person in a first-person game whenever technically feasible.
Theatre mode exists solely for the purpose of viewing player gameplay from another angle—forcing the camera to switch from first to third-person in the middle of gameplay for a first-person shooter is nonsensical.

Infinite Sprint–this is the root cause of many issues with the Halo 5 gameplay. Considered in isolation, it is a useless ability whenever it is implemented as a base player trait. The fact that it can be chained with other abilities is a game breaker. The addition of infinite sprint and its ability combinations as base player traits has had a knock-on effect on gameplay, which has resulted in stretched-out maps, increased grenade damage, increased rate of fire for weapons, and has reduced the average time-to-kill. Additionally, the increased map sizes make it far more difficult for players to locate enemy combatants once they are out of sight.
At this point, the properties of Sprint in Halo 5 should be outlined. Sprint in Halo 5 is an ability which every player has as a base trait. This ability can be activated when the player is moving forwards on a solid surface and is not currently using any other gameplay mechanic. Sprint is disabled if the player is shot or otherwise suffers damage in the first few moments after activating the ability. Sprint is also automatically disabled whenever the player makes any excessive movement to the sides or moves backwards. When active, Sprint in Halo 5 resets the shield recharge timer and disables the ability to use weapons or throw grenades. Whilst using Sprint, the player has an excessively large turning circle, and moves at an increased forward velocity compared to base movement speed. There is no limit to the duration, or the number of times that Sprint can be used.

To reiterate, the knock-on effect of the so-called “sprint” [see the definitions list—infinite sprint is physically impossible] in Halo 5 is calamitous, but Halo 5’s sprint by itself is a useless gameplay mechanic. It provides no inherent advantage to the player in a tactical shooter. This can be proven through several scenarios.

Consider a hypothetical scenario—a custom Halo game in which there is a red player, and a blue player. Both players are equally skilled. The map is an enclosed, well-lit, perfectly flat, solid surface [such as a grid], has no cover, and aside from the two players, is empty. Neither player has radar. Both players cannot use weapons, grenades or any other equipment. Both players cannot jump. Both players have shields with equivalent recharge rates and strength. Both players can melee, and the melee strikes for each player have equal range, damage, and speed. Both players can freely move in any lateral direction, and have the same statistics for movement speed. Both players have the Halo 5 Sprint ability, and the round/match will end once at least one player is dead or the time limit is reached. Melee strikes are set to be instant, one-hit kills, negating the shields variables.

This scenario is basically Halo under laboratory conditions. The hypothesis is that sprint is a useless ability [providing no inherent advantage to the player] in Halo 5. In order to ascertain whether or not this is the case, all other variables which may affect the outcome must be eliminated. This experiment is to determine if Sprint can alter the outcome of a battle—not teammates, or cover, or the separate abilities of Spartan Charge or Slide, or any other variable. Having a normal match of Halo would ruin the experiment, as there would be far too many variables affecting the outcome.

Note: as the ability in Halo 5 is named “Sprint,” this experiment will call the ability by that name.

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For Round 1—the round starts, with Red and Blue facing off against one another. Red will use sprint for the entirety of the match. Blue refuses to use sprint for the entirety of the match. Red charges towards blue. Blue stands their ground—until the last second, when they neatly sidestep, rotate, and kill Red. Blue actually had an advantage over Red here, because constantly using Sprint means that Red has to have a large area in which to turn around in, whereas Blue can pretty much turn on the spot.

For Round 2, Blue used the suicidal tactic of turning away from Red without using Sprint. With no radar to determine the position of Red, Blue died.

For Round 3 Blue moved backwards whilst facing Red, thereby decreasing relative velocities which possibly could make Blue’s sidestepping a little easier.

For Round 4 both players charged towards each other using Sprint. The outcome was exactly the same as in Round 5 where both players charged towards each other without using Sprint. The first person who got an accurate melee strike in won. Blue could have won, Red could have won, or both players could have died—Sprint does not affect these encounters.

For Round 6 both players ran away from each other using Sprint. That didn’t accomplish too much, so after some external-to-gameplay communication, both players decided to turn and run away from each other without using Sprint. That didn’t accomplish too much, either. Eventually, the time limit runs out with no deaths on either side.

For Round 7, both players back away from each other without using Sprint. Without ranged weapons, this does not accomplish much, either.

For Round 8, Red Sprints away from Blue whilst Blue tries to catch Red using Sprint. As both players are travelling at the same speed, it is unlikely that Blue will ever catch Red, but Red will never get further away from Blue. If both players move at base speed, the same thing happens.

For Round 9, Red sprints away from Blue again, whilst Blue attempts to catch Red without using Sprint. Red gets further and further away from Blue.

Conclusion to the Sprint Experiment: In Rounds 1 and 3, using Sprint helped the enemy. In Round 2, Blue didn’t know where the enemy was and Sprint was not needed for Red to kill Blue. In Round 4 Sprint decreased the total battle time, compared to Round 5. In Round 6 and 7, both players chose to avoid combat. Sprint had no effect. In Round 8, Sprint had no effect. In Round 9, Blue was inhibited from using Sprint, and Red increased their distance from Blue.
Adding in other gameplay elements actually worsens the situation for Sprint.

If all nine rounds are repeated, with each player having a pistol, or some other ranged weapon, then in Rounds 1, 3 & 9 Blue wins, as they can fire their weapon, whilst Red cannot. All other rounds have the same result—except that typically both players can actually kill each other now, when not using Sprint.

If melee strikes are reduced to standard damage values—two strikes to kill, in order to examine shield recharging abilities, then the advantage still goes to the player who does not use Sprint—as their shields can actually recharge, whilst the sprinter’s shields cannot.
If Radar is added, then in Round 2 Blue is aware of Red’s position and does not die.

If grenades and other equipment or abilities are added, then the advantage still goes to the player who does not use Sprint, as they can actually use those other abilities.
Even when cover is added to the map, Sprint is not particularly useful. Sprint has a large turning circle, so in areas where the player’s direction needs to be changed suddenly, Sprint is disadvantageous to the player. If a player somehow loses a trailing enemy by hiding amongst cover, then that is due to effective utilization of cover, not Sprint.

An argument can be made that Sprint is useful for rescuing or avenging teammates which are too far away to reach without Sprint. This is true, however, prior to Halo Reach, maps were either smaller and a player typically kept closer to their teammates, or the maps had more vehicles, which typically allowed players to show up to the rescue with a BFG on said vehicles. If teammates are too far away to help without using a terrible gameplay mechanic, then that’s simply poor tactical planning and poor teamwork.
In short, using “Sprint” has no advantage in combat or in avoiding combat, and is usually detrimental to the player who uses it unless the enemy is inhibited from using Sprint.

This isn’t just applicable to Halo. When Sprint is a base player trait which can be sustained for prolonged or indefinite periods of time, it isn’t useful in any video game.
If melee damage values were increased whilst using Sprint, then it would be useful. Halo 5 already has an ability like that—it’s called “Spartan Charge.”
There is also another ability in Halo called “Speed Boost,”—otherwise known as the Sprint Power-Up which has been available in Halo games since Halo Custom Edition. Players who obtain this power-up can move faster than everyone else on the map for a certain period of time, without loss of lateral movement. This is an advantageous ability to acquire.

Another point in regards to Sprint. When Sprint is available as a base player trait, it is typically used to surprise someone—to close the distance with the enemy before they can react [like with the Sword Lunge], or to increase the distance from an enemy before the enemy can react and use their Sprint. Halo 5 already has an ability like that—it’s called “Thruster Pack,” and it’s far more versatile than Sprint. This is also where Halo 5’s twitch gameplay elements come in. More on that topic shortly.
So not only is the Halo 5 Sprint ability detrimental to the player, any positive attribute it may have had is already used in other abilities far more effectively. In terms of usefulness, Sprint is worse than the mongoose. At least the mongoose didn’t negatively affect other gameplay mechanics.

Regarding Sprint and map design, if map design in Halo has changed too little in response to the Thruster Pack and Jetpack, then it has changed far too much to accommodate Sprint. Maps in Halo Reach, Halo 4, and Halo 5 are far too large with extremely limited amounts of useful vehicles. There is no point in giving Spartans the option to move faster, and then designing maps which are so large that they take an incredibly long time to traverse whilst using that ability. Refer back to the definition of velocity. Spartans have always been giants running through maps where they are surrounded by more gigantic things—which is why they seemed slow in Halo 1-3, except when surrounded by the smaller, slower Marines. However, in Halo 1-3 it took less time to traverse a map, due to smaller map sizes and/or adequate transport. The games with Sprint have maps which take longer to traverse, making the entire concept of prolonged sprinting pointless.

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Speaking of map design, Halo has typically shied away from designing maps revolving around specific abilities. Poor visibility or night based maps or sections of maps would be perfect for implementing the ODST VISR mode, or the Promethean vision or the Master Chief’s Halo CE flashlight. Zero-gee or underwater maps would be perfect for Thruster Pack. Halo is space-based sci-fi—maps without gravity alterations and the lack of multiplayer spaceship battles are clear, inexcusable oversights in gameplay. Maps with environmental hazards which alter the geometry of the map at intervals are rarities in Halo—although H2A has some good examples. Parkour using jetpacks or jumping has been limited, as well. Halo has an expansive sandbox. Map design needs to take advantage of this fact, and the Halo 5 Beta showed no evidence of taking this into consideration.

By far the biggest problems with these new Spartan abilities is attempting to chain them. The philosophy that the Spartan abilities are “new” is a serious drawback when attempting to design controls, and attempting to balance these chained abilities makes Halo 5 a twitch shooter.

Smart-scope–In prior Halo games, players could press a button to activate or deactivate this, or map it so that holding down a button/trigger was required. As mentioned earlier, because of the ADS design, attempting to manually de-scope/re-scope in Halo 5 puts the player at a major disadvantage to anyone simply holding down the trigger. This has reduced player control.

• The whole point of putting ADS on weapons without zoom capabilities, like the pistol and the assault rifle, was to offer visual gratification to ADS fans without offering any advantage or disadvantage when in use. The de-scope/re-scope animation is distracting and punishes players who use it. In addition, ADS will always assist in aiming, even if it’s intended to be a purely visual effect. The combination of the weapon and the reticule provides a line or an arrow pointing straight to your target, which is always going to be far easier to aim with than a little circle or dot on the screen. That’s just how the human brain works.

Hover/ Stabilizer—this is essentially a double-jump ability. Jump once to increase height, jump again or hold down the jump button whilst in mid-air to hover. Mapping a double-jump ability to aiming restricts player control. Having to zoom or ADS in order to hover is simply nonsense. Having it as an infinite ability would also allow for some interesting gameplay. If the Jetpack is ever added in to Halo 5, then it definitely needs an upgrade—an infinite ability to indefinitely increase or decrease or maintain altitude would fit the bill nicely. Flying Spartans would allow for some interesting game types.

Clamber—this is another double-jump ability, which could be combined with a jetpack or a slightly modified hover for a triple-jump ability. Clamber could also be used in platforming or wall-to-wall jumping or other platforming abilities. At the moment it’s underutilized and simply replaces jumping vertically, or assists in jumping horizontally.
• Slide—to reiterate, is an underutilized form of inertia. It shouldn’t require Sprint at all—Spartans move fast enough to Slide anyway. If players wish to crouch, they should stop moving, then crouch. If players wish to slide, then they should 1) be in motion and then crouch, or 2) if already crouching, should use thruster pack to slide forwards, backwards, or laterally.

Spartan Charge—nothing new here, it’s just Thruster Pack + Melee. Actually, it’s Sprint + Thruster Pack + Melee at the moment, which is a problem. It’s supposed to surprise the enemy player, and allows for one hit kills. Slide isn’t so much of a problem, because it does not allow for one-hit melee kills, but Spartan Charge does—and there’s no way to predict if a player is going to use it or Slide, making it a twitch shooter mechanic. Perhaps it would be more useful if it was replaced with a Brute’s “Berserk” ability—dropping all weapons and charging straight for the enemy—very useful when stuck with a sticky grenade [another twitch mechanic].

Thruster Pack—is a very well implemented ability which allows for fluidity of motion in Halo 5’s combat system. It currently is an overarching ability encompassing Ground Pound, Run Faster and Die, Hover, Spartan Charge, and Evade.

• As previously mentioned, Hover is Aim Down Sights + Jump, but really should just be Double Jump.

Ground Pound currently is ADS + Jump + Hold down Crouch button. There’s nothing really wrong with that, except that it does inhibit the ability to crouch in mid-air to provide a smaller target or skill jump [jump, then crouch, remember?] and possibly jetting around in mid-air whilst crouched. Once again, player control is the key.
• Ground pound could also be described as Jump + Aim with Reticule + Descend with Thruster Pack + Melee. That sounds unwieldy control wise, but really, its jump, activate the hover ability, then carefully point your weapon reticule where you want to go, then activate the thruster pack.

The thruster pack by default sends the player in the direction they aim with their targeting reticule, but can be modified by using the movement controls at the same time. If the player slams into the wall or the ground or the ceiling whilst using the thruster pack, then the shockwave/vibrations should always knock objects away from the impact zone. Using the thruster pack by default should be a form of melee which simply has an additional shockwave effect and damages the shields of the impactor. This has already been discussed.

Descend control—a control button, like the one currently mapped to the utterly useless sprint ability, should instead be dedicated to descending—allowing clamber, hover and a jetpack to be used for descending, and having crouching be a separate ability, used for reducing the player’s profile, increasing weapon stability/accuracy, and/or decreasing movement speed. If hover is double-tap or hold jump to activate, then the descend control should simply be tap or hold to descend, and possibly double tap to deactivate hover.

The twitch elements to the Halo 5 Beta gameplay are a result of chaining together at least two of these gameplay mechanics—Thruster pack, Run Faster and Die, Lunge, Spartan Charge, Slide, close quarters and/or melee weaponry.

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Starting with the very basics of combat in Halo, if two players on opposing teams have the same ranged weapon, e.g. a Battle Rifle, and start firing at each other, then in a twitch shooter, the person who reacts fastest wins. If one player is caught unaware by facing away from the enemy, then in a twitch shooter, that player is dead before they have a chance to even turn around, or assess the area for cover, let alone fight back or hide.

The Halo 5 Beta is supposed to have kill times which are as fast as or faster than Halo 2’s. This is not a compliment. The slower the gameplay is, the more tactics take precedence. The faster the gameplay is, the more twitch mechanics take precedence. Halo 5 immediately has a problem if it does not wish to be considered a twitch shooter—because the Time to kill is short. It doesn’t have to be instant, just short enough that people have difficulty reacting in time.

In a tactical shooter, a player being fired upon always has time to turn around, fire back, and begin to strafe. Strafing from side to side is a tactic which increases the difficulty of shooting, but makes it very difficult for the enemy to predict a player’s moves, and thus fire on target. It is quite possible for a player to recover and kill an enemy that surprised them in a tactical shooter.

At this point, aim-assist and bullet magnetism come into play. Aim assist exists in console shooters simply because aiming with a thumb-stick—making extremely fine motor movements with the thumb–is far more difficult than aiming precisely with a mouse or joystick, which use the entire hand or arm to move. [Yep, you heard it correctly—using a controller requires far more fine motor skill than using a mouse or joystick.] Aim-assist actually assists in acquiring a target, and assists in keeping the targeting reticule on the enemy. However, when an enemy strafes in Halo, the targeting reticule will not follow the strafing player for more than a brief instant.

Bullet magnetism, on the other hand, is when the bullets home in on the enemy. Slower moving missiles or charged plasma pistol bursts do this, and they still allow an enemy to dodge. When hit-scan bullets, bullets which require only an instant to travel from the gun to the target, do the same thing then that negates the usefulness of strafing. If strafing—either by simply moving or using thruster pack—loses its effectiveness, then the player who shoots first wins. Bullet magnetism is a twitch-shooter mechanic and removes control of where the bullets land from the player. The Halo 5 Beta had severe problems with bullet magnetism—even to the extent that bullets would go through solid objects and hit players on the other side.

Thruster Pack is another form of strafing. A player can move faster and can confuse the enemy, whilst losing the ability to shoot. Even if the ability to shoot was retained, actually aiming whilst using Thruster Pack for lateral evasion would be…challenging. Whilst thruster pack is in use, it is impossible to change direction until the thruster pack stops. One of the more embarrassing scenarios would be for a player to use thruster pack and boost off the edge of a map, or into an oncoming vehicle. Considered in isolation, thruster pack is a very fun concept which increases Spartan mobility immensely. However, in combination with other Halo 5 gameplay mechanics, thruster pack does not work so well.

The bullet magnetism, the rate of fire of weapons, and grenade explosion radius, all significantly reduce the effectiveness of using thruster pack for evasive purposes—and by extension, make standard strafing tactics almost completely ineffective. The nuclear blast resulting from a standard fragmentation grenade, coupled with the short fuse time, means that a player has to react fast enough to use thruster pack directly away from the grenade—they cannot use standard evasive tactics. Once again, this is a twitch shooter mechanic or, more accurately, a Quick-time event where a player must use the one correct button combination in order to survive, and once again frag grenade explosion radius has been increased to compensate for the difficulty in accurately tossing a grenade in a map with huge spaces…which are a result of the cursed Sprint mechanic. As a side note, the sticky grenade had such a long fuse time that it was relatively useless in the Halo 5 Beta and even seemed to have lost its magnetic properties compared to prior Halo games. Interestingly enough, the Halo Reach Beta also had problems with grenade explosion damage.

Having fast rates of fire for weapons has the exact same problem as bullet magnetism and mini-nuke grenades with short fuses. The shorter the time to kill, the more the gameplay is dependent on reaction time and not tactics.

Once again, Sprint rears its ugly head. The sole advantage any form of Sprint has—whether in Halo Reach, Halo 4 or Halo 5—is to surprise the enemy. Sprint is fundamentally a twitch shooter mechanic.

In application, when Sprint is activated, it’s used for getting out of range of a close quarters weapon before the enemy can react, and then staying out of range until something happens to inhibit the enemy from following. The enemy has no way to close the gap created by the first second or so of sprinting, unless they reacted quickly enough to kill the enemy within that time, or some external event occurs that prevents the Sprinter from sprinting.

The other application of Sprint is to charge towards the enemy, with the intent to close the gap before the enemy can react—with the preferred outcome of killing that enemy in one hit. When Sprint is used effectively, the enemy has no time to counterattack and no time to turn around and run away—they are killed before that can happen. This is why weapon kill times were decreased in Halo 4, and decreased again in Halo 5—so that players can spam bullets and have the remote possibility of being able to react fast enough to kill enemies using Sprint at close range. To reiterate: Sprint is either dangerous or ineffective to the player who uses it for 95% of the time, and a twitch-gameplay mechanic for the remaining 5% of the time. Sprint has no place in a tactical, non-twitch shooter like Halo.

When Sprint is combined with other gameplay mechanics, the twitch gameplay fundamental to Sprint becomes readily apparent. Consider this scenario: a player has an Energy Sword. In Halo 5, that player can Sprint towards a player from a great distance away. That player can then temporarily move even faster by activating Slide or Spartan Charge. Spartan Charge doesn’t even have to hit anything—it can just be used to get closer to the enemy—close enough that that player can use the Energy Sword Lunge ability to strike, and then use Thruster Pack afterwards to cannon into the path of another enemy, and use the Energy Sword lunge ability again.
That Energy Sword could be replaced with a Shotgun or a Gravity Hammer or a Scattershot or a Mauler or a Bruteshot or a Rocket Launcher or an Incineration Cannon or a Fuel Rod Gun. It doesn’t matter which. This is twitch gameplay at its finest.

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A player cannot predict which abilities will be used by an enemy, when they will be used, in what order those abilities will be used, how those abilities will be used, or even if those abilities will be used. All the player can do is try and react, react, and react again, and if they don’t react in time, they are dead.

If Sprint and Spartan Charge are removed from Halo 5, then virtually all of the twitch gameplay mechanics present in the Halo 5 Beta will vanish. Grenade explosion radius can be decreased to normal levels. Maps can shrink back to normal size. Bullet magnetism can be removed. Weapon kill times can be increased. Most importantly of all, the mess of unpredictable outcomes outlined in the above scenario are reduced to manageable levels—players simply would need to know the range of the thruster pack, and the range of the enemy weapon, and be open to the possibility that any player can use thruster pack—which, as stated previously, is a form of strafing–at any time.

Currently, players have to know the speed of sprint, the speed and range of Spartan charge/slide, the range of thruster pack, and the range of the enemy weapons, and that is just too many variables to account for. There is a reason why Halo CE redefined fps games—and that was because players in each encounter only ever had to account for two weapons, grenades, and melee—as opposed to other games at the time like Half-Life 2 [2004], where Gordon Freeman carries no less than 14 weapons at once, or Quake 3 Arena [1999] where the player can carry 9 weapons at once. [Quake 3 Arena is a classic example of a twitch arena FPS.] Being able to predict what the enemy will do before the enemy actually does it is an integral part to tactical gameplay, and the Halo 5 Beta just has too many variables to anticipate.

It should be noted that there are methods of killing the enemy in one hit in Halo which are NOT twitch shooter mechanics. The Shotguns, Energy Sword, Gravity Hammer, Rocket Launchers, Sniper Rifles, assassinations, and Splatters cover the basics. Grenades, Equipment, Armour Abilities, and Loadouts will be covered later in this essay.

Essentially, one hit kills in Halo are almost always difficult to accomplish, foreseeable and preventable. Obtaining a headshot with a sniper weapon is a challenging feat, and whilst the first shot is a surprise, the bullet trail is highly visible and audible from across the map, communicating to everyone that the sniper rifle is in play, and revealing the sniper’s current location. For one-shot sniping weapons, like the Binary Rifle or the Spartan Laser, Halo has laser prediction lines for a warning system. Assassinations are extremely difficult to accomplish on a smart enemy, as every player has radar.

Splatters are also difficult to accomplish, as vehicles are typically quite conspicuous, visible on radar, and their properties are very well known. The banshee is the most complex vehicle available in Halo’s multiplayer. It has two modes of firing [fuel rod and plasma cannon], an ability to hover in place or move backwards in Halo CE, an ability to perform aerial evasive manoeuvers in every other game, a ramming ability and, depending on the game, a temporary or permanent speed boost, aka “Sprint” mechanic. In fact, the banshee could be considered the prototype Halo 5 Spartan. There is a good reason the banshee is known as the terror of the skies in Halo, and a good banshee flier can rack up an impressive number of kills. Part of that reason is the Banshee’s Speed Boost ability—Banshee dogfights are actually prone to the exact same “hypothetical scenarios” described earlier in the essay. All other vehicles in Halo MP are much simpler—relying on at most two gunners and a ramming ability.

Close quarters weapons like gravity hammers and brute shots [melee], as well as splash damage weapons like rocket launchers, incineration cannons, and fuel rod cannons are all extremely visible to other players even when holstered as the secondary weapon. A player can see the secondary weapon from quite some distance and anticipate its use ahead of time. All of these weapons are easily identifiable and easily distinguishable from one another. The Energy Sword may not be conspicuous on an enemy player when holstered, but there is a delay before it can be used, and once it is in use it is extremely visible.

Every weapon in the Halo franchise is designed to be easily identifiable from all other weapons. All weapons since Halo 2 are also designed to be visible from both the front and back when holstered. This transparency of gameplay, where all the weapons and tactics that an enemy player can use are known ahead of time, so that players can formulate their own countering strategies, is what sets Halo apart from twitch shooters, not the concept of equal starts. Many game modes in Halo don’t even have equal starts—Infection, Invasion, Campaign and Firefight being notable examples. Others provide special attributes to one player, like Juggernaut, Capture the Flag, Oddball, Grifball, or Assault. Being able to identify all properties of an enemy at a glance, predict that enemy’s tactics in advance, and have enough time to plan a strategy and implement countering tactics are the fundamentals of Halo’s gameplay as a tactical shooter. Any twitch mechanic detracts from the tactical gameplay of Halo.
Unfortunately, both Bungie and 343 industries seem to insist on forgetting this key aspect of tactical gameplay in at least one area in every Halo game. Beginning in Halo 3, more and more “twitchy” gameplay elements have been added to the Halo series with each successive installment.

In particular, grenades flout this rule of predictability No grenades are visible on Spartans, and depending on the game, Spartans can carry up to eight grenades—two of each type. Taken all together, grenades come in frag, sticky, spike, incendiary/napalm, promethean [Halo 4], and flash bang [Halo Wars] varieties. The fact that grenades magically appear out of nowhere when thrown is evident of twitch, or reaction based gameplay. In particular, a spike or plasma grenade is a one-hit kill if it sticks. Players cannot counter being stuck, so a player should at least be able to tell what types of grenades an enemy is currently carrying.

On the subject of grenades, introducing grenade indicators in Halo 4 was a terrible idea. Grenades in Halo have always been highly visible [bright blue, yellow trails, large and spiky, etc.], and thus a grenade indicator only serves to distract attention away from the highly visible grenade.

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On the subject of indicators—enemy hit markers are a redundant concept. In Halo, how much shielding the enemy has can be estimated based on shield flare. If hit-markers or death-markers must be shown, that’s the sort of thing radar is for—a simplified representation of all the enemies/allies within a radius of the player, and not as a distracting floating sign which breaks player immersion. However, it would be helpful to know the status of teammates in more detail on the HUD. Halo CE and Halo Reach had systems in place in campaign to track the health [and names] of Marine allies. This could be implemented in multiplayer and allow for better co-ordination amongst team-mates—something that Spartan chatter aims to do. [Why hasn’t an offline MP mode with bot allies/enemies been implemented in Halo yet?]

Even enemy ammunition levels are fairly obvious to figure out in Halo—all players [except in Halo 4] had the same maximum ammunition levels and clip size. Reloading is a fairly obvious animation, and when the enemy’s weapon suddenly stops firing for no apparent reason, they are most likely out of ammunition.

In Halo 3 equipment was added to gameplay. Equipment, like grenades, was not visible on the player or enemy AI before they were actively used, and provided a complex, unpredictable twitch variable into gameplay. In total, there were 11 different usable pieces of equipment in Halo 3, eight of which were available in multiplayer [Bubble Shield, Power Drain, Gravity Lift, Trip Mine, Regenerator, Flare, Deployable Cover and Radar Jammer]. Two power-ups were also available since Halo CE [Overshield and Active Camouflage, which were activated instantly after being equipped], three pieces of equipment were only available in campaign [Auto Turret, Cloaking, and Invincibility], and one Custom Power-up which is available in Forge mode.

Once again, in Halo multiplayer, all the player could do was react to the deployed equipment. Anticipating which piece of equipment the enemy had was nigh on impossible. This can be negatively compared to campaign mode, where Brutes are known to deploy Bubble Shields in predictable situations, and Brute Chieftains are known to deploy Invincibility and start charging at the player with a Gravity Hammer. Typically, Halo’s campaign has always been far more representative of tactical gameplay than the multiplayer modes [except for Spartan Ops, which constantly spawned the player in the middle of a bunch of enemies with fuel rods, energy swords and other one-shot weapons].

The only mitigating factor with Halo 3’s equipment was that the enemy could only ever have one surprise—once it was used, they were out of tricks. Halo Reach, Halo 4 and Spartan Assault had a completely different system.

Halo Reach introduced the twin concepts of Load-outs and Armour Abilities to Halo. There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing weapons and abilities before spawning—Halo is a tactical shooter and planning ahead before the battle even integrates strategy elements into Halo. However, one major oversight in Halo Reach was that, unlike in campaign, there were never any armour abilities on the multiplayer maps. Players had to die before they could obtain a different one—unlike weapons or power-ups, players never had to fight in specific locations to obtain or swap out their armour abilities—whereas in the Halo Reach and Halo 4 campaigns armour abilities were littered all over the ground.

Now, in Halo Reach armour abilities are visible and identifiable—from behind the enemy. Out of the seven armour abilities present in Halo Reach [Active Camouflage, Armour Lock, Drop Shield, Evade, Hologram, Jet Pack and Sprint], only one of them, Jet Pack, is visible, identifiable, and predictable in face to face combat with the enemy. There is no point in designing small, boxy pieces of equipment and even going to the trouble of showing them on armour if they can’t be viewed from any direction except from directly behind the enemy. Players need to see the equipment in combat, predict when it will be used, and counter it ahead of time. One more thing to note is that unlike Halo 3’s equipment, armour abilities recharge, so the enemy can pull out the same surprise again, and again, and again.

Halo 4 took the twitch gameplay elements present in Halo 3 and Reach and developed them further. Halo 4 had eight armour abilities–Promethean Vision, Autosentry, Regeneration Field, Hardlight Shield, Thruster Pack, Jet Pack, Hologram and Active Camouflage. Again, only the Jet Pack is visible from the front or side, but the first four of those abilities mentioned are identical in visual design—as in, all four Forerunner abilities look exactly the same on the back of a Spartan, so it’s impossible to predict which of those abilities will be deployed in the first place. Halo 4’s unpredictable, reactionary, twitch-based game mechanics didn’t end there—there were 10 Tactical Packages [Shielding, Firepower, Mobility, Fast-Track, Grenadier, Resupply, Requisition, Wheelman, AA Efficiency and Resistor] and 13 Support Upgrades [Ammo, Awareness, Dexterity, Drop Recon, Explosives, Gunner, Nemesis, Ordnance Priority, Sensor, Stability, Stealth, Recharge and Survivor]. These abilities can’t be seen on the player at all, and are only available in load-outs before spawning. Finally, as one more unpredictable element in gameplay—ordnance packages could drop down at anytime, anywhere, randomly splatter players, and provides a choice between three random weapons or power-ups.

Of minor interest at this point is Halo Wars, and the more recent tablet game Spartan Assault. Even though the Spartans and their enemies are tiny figures on the battlefield, players can still easily see the currently equipped weapon or grenade, and can also see the secondary weapon on the back of the player. The Jetpack is again, quite visible, but the other Armour Abilities [Sprint, Regen Field, Overshield, Autosentry, Hardlight Shield, Hologram, Stun Blast, Seeker Drone, Active Camouflage, Repel, and Teleport] are not visible. Abilities are not able to be deactivated by the player, they simply run out and then recharge. Players could also purchase the best abilities or weapons or support upgrades like ammo capacity through in-game credits or the reviled system of micro-transactions. Halo Wars, being an RTS, made sure that every upgrade and enemy was instantly visible and identifiable in gameplay. Halo Wars demonstrated clear usage of both tactical and strategic gameplay. It had to—it is an RTS after all.

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Both Bungie and 343 Industries are both fully capable of making and have made high quality, popular, fast-selling, well reviewed AAA games. Any statement that 343 Industries is incompetent at game design is NOT evidence based. This is how Bungie and 343 Industries –yoinked—up:

  • They failed to maintain Halo’s status as a tactical FPS.- They kept introducing twitch-based mechanics into gameplay.- They kept introducing third-person animations, and other mechanics which break the immersion of playing an FPS.- They don’t fully implement simple, qualitative physics concepts like inertia, and sometimes even break them entirely [Newton’s Third Law of Motion] in a physics-based engine.- They create a highly compelling, detailed and expansive universe in the books and games, and then break canon whenever something would ostensibly look cooler—then spend tons of time and effort trying to explain away their canonical screw-ups. [Halo Reach]- They don’t take full advantage of concepts and ideas in canon and gameplay which already exist in the Halo franchise.- **They failed to fully comprehend the fundamental concepts of Halo’s gameplay and why it was so successful—which is why we had the early Beta.**That last bullet point is an interesting one, and is quite simple to answer. Halo was successful because of only two basic things:

Firstly, Halo is a tactical game. In chess, all the pieces are on the board. Both players know how each of those pieces can move. Both players can see and have plenty of time to respond to how their opponent moves. Halo is a tactical game, so every piece of equipment that the enemy can use should be visible. Most video game series are not primarily tactical. The Halo and Team Fortress series are.

Strategy games like Halo Wars are a little different—they are won or lost depending on how much information can be acquired about the enemy, which is why scouting out the enemy base is so important. Poker, or other card games are dependent on this principle as well—the ability to determine when a player is bluffing is key to victory.

Reaction, or twitch-based games rely primarily on the player’s ability to react in time. If one player has a faster reaction time, that player wins. Twitch games typically have a small amount of strategy, in that weapons and equipment are decided upon before the match begins, but if the plan fails—a sniper encounters an enemy in close quarters, typically there is no time or very little time to implement alternative tactics, and the entire strategy fails. Halo 5 falls into this category.

For the second thing that made Halo successful—it wasn’t that the Master Chief was a particularly memorable or interesting character. It wasn’t that the story was particularly deep or complex—it was simple, and told in an engaging way. It wasn’t the intriguing backstory—although the Fall of Reach and Halo 2 certainly pinned that down. It wasn’t the multiplayer and the fallacy of “equal starts.” It was the sandbox.

Halo has an amazing sandbox. It has intelligent, diverse enemies which can even drive those vehicles in non-scripted paths [although allies such as Kat clearly failed their driver’s exam]. It has so many diverse weapons and vehicles and ways of moving around the map [man-cannons] or altering the gameplay [skulls, equipment] or editing the maps themselves [Forge], and even has a way to view prior gameplay from any angle or location [Theatre]. Even though the campaign is linear, it’s been filled with wide-open spaces where the player can do anything, use multiple avenues of movement or even choose not to use any vehicles in vehicular based missions. The level “Halo,” “The Silent Cartographer,” and “Two Betrayals/Assault on the Control Room” are perhaps the best examples of this type of gameplay from Halo CE.

Regarding the enemies, Halo CE had three enemy factions; Sentinels, Flood, and Covenant. The Covenant had four different species in gameplay. The Flood had three main types. So, in total, there were eight different types of enemies in Halo CE—nine if you killed Marines. The Elites, Jackals and Grunts also had two different ranks with slightly different health/shield stats—Minor and Major. Throughout the Halo series, there are currently about 20 different possible enemy types, each with their own ranking system: Marines/Spartans/ODSTs/Insurrectionists—remember why the Spartans where created?–Grunts, Jackals, Buggers, Elites, Brutes, Hunters, Prophets, Sentinels, Enforcers, Knights, Crawlers, Watchers, Engineers, Flood Combat forms, Flood Infection forms, Flood Carrier forms, Flood Pure forms [Ranged, Stalker, Tank, Juggernaut].

These enemies can be divided into four types for gameplay purposes.

  • Headshot enemies without shields. These enemies typically require one headshot only to kill. Human projectile weaponry is most effective. Pistols, Battle Rifles and DMRs are best to finish these enemies off.- Shielded enemies. Covenant plasma weaponry is most effective against shields. The most effective weapon to use against shields is the plasma pistol, however the Covenant Carbine does an effective job. Once the shield is removed, typically the enemy requires only one headshot to die.- The Flood—these enemies canonically cannot be sniped. In Halo CE, the Flood remain undamaged if sniped, and in Halo 2/3, sniping requires a headshot. Shotguns [in Halo CE], Energy Swords, and pistols with explosive rounds [Halo CE pistol], are the best weapons to use against the Flood. DMRs and BRs most likely wouldn’t actually work canonically. Assault Rifles and SMGs are also very effective against Infection Forms. Essentially, the Flood are Zombies. They can’t be killed unless their entire brain [infection form] is destroyed, and that requires either explosive ammunition [CE pistol] or enough bullets/shrapnel is fired that the Infection Form explodes. Precise weapons like the DMR/Carbine shouldn’t actually work effectively—the BR just might because it fires three bullets at once.- Hunters—enemies which have vulnerable points which require high amounts of explosive or sniper damage to kill the enemy [or destroy those points], and have basically invulnerable points everywhere else. These enemies typically cannot be killed in one shot—the Halo CE Hunter notwithstanding. Canonically, Scarabs are simply colonies of Hunter worms.Typically in the Halo series, a player is good for any situation if they have a headshot capable weapon and a plasma pistol. Hunters and the Flood change that—or are supposed to, anyway. Hunters and Flood are enemies which are designed to make the player try out other weapons aside from the noob combo.

Despite adding new enemies with new behaviours into Halo 4—the Prometheans, 343 industries failed to realize that these enemies still fall under the category of noob combo enemies. Fighting against the same three orange/grey enemy types got dull really quickly, especially when using the same old noob combinations, and especially because the Prometheans rarely fought against the Covenant, and rarely worked with the Covenant [why did the Watchers never shield the Covenant?] 343 industries also seemed to forget that Sentinels, Enforcers, and Engineers are also Forerunner constructs which can be used in combat.

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Another problem with the Prometheans was the lack of vehicles. Grunts, Elites, Humans, Flood Combat Forms [Halo 2], and Brutes can drive vehicles. Hunters are vehicles in their Scarab form. Prophets have their own hover-chairs with cannons on them. It’s a little odd that Jackals can’t drive or don’t have their own vehicles. But the point is that Prometheans don’t have their own vehicles. All Covenant technology [aside from the Brutes] is based on the more advanced Forerunner technology, including needlers, the plasma pistol, and vehicles, from Ghosts to Banshees to Phantoms to Scarabs to Gravity Lifts. There are no Forerunner vehicles in evidence in any Halo game, aside from the cut Halo 2 level “Forerunner Tank.” However, due to Hardlight bridges and gondolas, it is quite clear that Forerunners didn’t –yoinking—teleport all the time.

Concerning vehicles and the Plasma Pistol—in Halo CE and Halo 2 the Plasma Pistol was ineffective against vehicles. This was also to ensure that players wouldn’t use the noob combo all the time, and instead opt for hijacking or shooting players out of vehicles without significant damage so that the vehicles could be utilized by other players, or using Rocket Launchers and other heavy weaponry to blow it up. In Halo 3, that all began to change, because the Plasma Pistol suddenly had an illogical EMP ability, yet other plasma based weaponry didn’t. Instead of adding in EMP grenades, EMP mines, or other EMP weaponry, which would be effective at stalling vehicles or Spartans but not removing shields, the Plasma Pistol got an upgrade which effectively ensured that a player must always carry the Noob Combo at all times in Halo.
Another incredibly irritating thing about the Prometheans is that their weaponry is based on Hardlight. Hardlight weaponry should NOT be effective against shields, it should BYPASS shields completely, because shields are transparent to light—meaning that Halo probably needs the Halo Reach/CE Health system to come back. The best way to prevent Hardlight damage would be to use a mirror and reflect the Hardlight. Promethean enemies could then fall into several categories; those effective against fighting the Flood, those effective against fighting shielded enemies, and those effective against fighting other Forerunners—and pretty much all of them would be effective against Marines or Grunts.

Prometheans themselves are incredibly dull, twitchy enemies to fight against. Firstly, all three types can teleport into any location at any time. Teleportation is a twitch mechanic unless the destination is known ahead of time—like the actual teleporters in Halo’s multiplayer gameplay, or in the Portal series.
Secondly, most Promethean weaponry are of a one-shot, disintegration type. Incineration cannons, Scattershots, Binary Rifles, and even the Boltshot and the Promethean Blade Arm can kill the enemy in one shot. The fact that all of the weapons are grey and orange really doesn’t help in identifying the weapon that’s about to kill the player, most likely in one shot.

Finally, Watchers and Knights are too powerful and have too many abilities. The Halo 4 campaign is like playing a custom Firefight match which only spawns Hunters. It’s ridiculous. Knights can use one-shot weapons, grenades, abilities, teleport, charge whilst evading, leap high into the air and dive down onto the player [ground pound], spawn Watchers, always have shields and a ridiculously tiny head on a huge body. They can use any of these abilities at any time with minimal warning. Watchers can toss back grenades, shield Knights or Crawlers, fire weapons, revive dead Knights, spawn in turrets or more enemies, have shields, have a ridiculously tiny head, can fly and usually end up flying away from the player before they can kill them. Even Crawlers can use weaponry, leap high into the air, and melee the player. There is no way that a player can prepare for all of these abilities/variables. All they can do is react, react, and react again against enemies which only take one shot to kill the player. This is twitch gameplay. These are boss-type enemies. They should be in charge of lesser enemies which focus on specific abilities—Promethean variants which specialize in shooting, or shielding, or grenades, or spawning/reviving comrades. This is standard RPG stuff—Warrior, Archer, Mage, Healer. Specialization increases variety.

Another major blunder that 343 Industries and Bungie have both done is to reduce the sandbox of Halo. All anyone needs to do is compare Reach’s enemies, vehicles, and weaponry, to that of Halo 4’s. UNSC Hornets and Falcons are conspicuously absent, as are a lot of Covenant enemies, weapons, and vehicles. Now compare Halo 3 to Halo Reach. Most Brute weaponry and vehicles are absent even in multiplayer [yet the Gravity Hammer survives]. The Elephant also disappears. Dual-wielding also disappears. Now compare Halo 2 to Halo 3. The Spectre and the Shadow disappear. Now compare Halo CE to Halo 2. About the only thing to be completely removed was the assault rifle.

Many fans and the developers make the mistake of thinking that there cannot be redundancy in Halo, and that everything must be “balanced” and that all matches must have “equal starts.” This results in many interesting weapons, vehicles, and gameplay mechanics being removed entirely or replaced, thus limiting the sandbox, and limiting player choice. Equal starts in Halo is a fallacy—many game types don’t have it. The important thing here is that all the chess pieces must be visible on the board. Weapon/Vehicle redundancy is a silly argument. As long as a single glance is enough to identify the weapon and thus identify its gameplay properties, there is no problem. This is why weapon skins are so popular. There has never been a single weapon in Halo which had exactly the same properties as another weapon—even right down to the Brute and Elite Plasma rifles and the BR/DMR. As to “balancing”–there have been practically useless weapons and vehicles in Halo—the Mongoose, the dual-wielded pistol, etc., and even they have their uses. As long as weapons are specialized, and not suited for practically every role, then “balancing” takes care of itself. On that note, this is why the Plasma Pistol is always going to be overpowered now that it is effective against vehicles.

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Once a mechanic has been added to the sandbox, it should not be taken away. Dual-wielding just needed to be modified, not removed. For example, there should have been no problem with dual-wielding power weapons like Energy Swords or Rocket Launchers. The disadvantage of doing that in real life would be obvious—two weapons are much harder to control than one. In gameplay, this translates to 1) Most of the screen is being blocked by the weapons and thus enemy players cannot be seen except when directly ahead, and 2) heavy weapons like the rocket launchers would likely wobble all over the place. Keeping in mind how smart-scope is actually supposed to work, this means that a player’s targeting reticule would be wobbling all over the screen, and when zoomed in, the entire field of view would be wobbling. 3) Light weapons don’t necessarily always point in the same direction. Two weapons = two targeting reticules which may oscillate, and the player would have to line them up. Once dual-wielding was added, there was never any reason to remove it. Once vehicles or weapons are added, there is never a good reason to remove them entirely from the sandbox.

This same line of thinking extends to the Halo 5 Beta. 343 industries intended to fix their past mistakes, and the ones they inherited from Bungie, by simply removing Armour Abilities, Loadouts, and various other mechanics, and making the Thruster Pack and “Sprint” base player traits. This is because they are labouring under the mistaken belief that Halo is about “equal starts.” It seems apparent that they do not understand what makes tactical gameplay, and neither did Bungie. So their solution is to strip the gameplay back to the core fundamentals of Halo as they see it—“equal starts,” and “arena shooter,” thus limiting the variety of the sandbox and the majority of player options. It’s a very good strategy—keeping things simple reduces the amount of things that can go wrong, allowing for simple, fun gameplay that works. There is nothing inherently wrong with twitch gameplay for most people. That’s why twitch shooter franchises are so popular. But if the intent is for Halo to offer something different from the majority of the competition, and if the intent is for Halo to return to its roots as a tactical shooter, then 343 industries has a major problem; they kept Sprint as a base player trait, and Sprint is fundamentally a twitch-shooter mechanic.

As to other problems with the Halo 5 Beta:

  • Killcams—owing to the fact that Halo is a tactical shooter, players do not need a recap of how they died. Typically, they require the camera to switch to a teammate to see how they are doing, or the camera to switch to the enemy, in the hope that the enemy gets killed from beyond the grave. Re-watching the player’s own demise is what Theatre mode is for.- Post-game Spartan Victory Dance—there shouldn’t be an inherent problem in watching animated characters celebrate their victory—especially seeing as the customizable Spartan/Elite is supposed to represent the player. Their victory is the player’s victory. Seeing other people having fun is also no bad thing. However, human psychology typically runs along the lines of; if someone is told to be happy, then that person automatically becomes unhappy. This is what usually happens to the victors after viewing the victory dance. The losing team also has their noses rubbed in their own failure. This cements the notion that Spartan-IVs are sports players who have never been in a war and furthermore, demonstrate unsportsmanlike behaviour—they are kicking fellow sportsmen when they are down. Sports teams shake hands after a match. Refusing or forgetting to shake hands after a match is just not cricket.- Friendly Fire and the concept of War Games—the concept of War Games is a little ad hoc. Considering that AI holograms like Roland and Cortana, and holograms of the Prophets have visible scan lines, it seems implausible that even the UNSC Infinity could reproduce incredibly detailed environments holographic ally—after all, Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey was required to simply get the engines working.- If that is ignored and the concept of War Games is followed logically, then it is a training simulation so that soldiers can train for real battles. In that case, the simulator should be as close as possible to a real battle in the Halo universe. Which means that removing the friendly fire mechanic is a definite error. Even the Halo 1/2/3 MP could technically be scenarios on board the UNSC Infinity.- On the other hand, if War Games is simply a sporting competition, then anything goes—but the concept of a sporting competition in Halo removes a significant advertising strategy for Halo’s multiplayer—that of being a Spartan super soldier in a “real” battle. Having a single line stating that some War Games are simulations fulfils both requirements—that of integrating multiplayer into the canon, and leaving the possibility open that these battles really happened in the Halo Universe. Those familiar with the machinima series Red vs Blue should already be aware of this concept. Changing the gameplay—removing elements like friendly fire, or adding the Post-Game Victory Dance, removes any possibility that MP could be canonical battles. It forces players to accept the fact they are playing a video game inside of a video game, rather than simply hinting at it.- Spartan Chatter. Halo really needs some customizable sliders for sounds. Being able to mute or decrease/increase the volume of music, game sound, dialogue, chatter, and the announcer independently would be a great start. Visual sliders would be good, too. Spartan Chatter is a great addition to the gameplay, as members of teams are typically left out of parties or don’t have headsets to communicate. Spartan Chatter adds to the tactical gameplay and teamwork co-ordination. If one Spartan sees a sniper round being shot, all Spartans nearby know that a Sniper round has been shot. Calling out locations of enemies on a map is also great. If some people do not want Spartan Chatter, then having a volume slider for it would fix a lot of problems.- The announcer. The announcer seems to be paid by the word. He used to be a lot less verbose, and more like a soldier or even a general commending his troops. Now he sounds like a sports announcer and uses as many words as possible. Typically, game type titles like “Slayer,” “Team Slayer,” or “Capture the Flag” tell players all they need to know about the game-type. Having the announcer say “Control power weapons to dominate the enemy team” at the start of the match is pointless. The player already knows this. It’s a principle which isn’t unique to Halo, it is present in any FPS with weapon spawns.

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[Scroll down to latter half of post for summary, if you clicked the link]

  • The medal system. In Halo Combat Evolved the announcer would inform the player of Double Kills, Triple Kills, Killtaculars, Killing Sprees and Running Riots. That’s it. For every successive game, the medal system has gotten more confusing, more distracting, and less meaningful. Kill-cams show a player how they died when they already know how they died. Most medals after Halo 2 simply show how a player killed their opponent when they already know how they killed their opponent. Medals aren’t so much rewards for good gameplay, they are supposed to provide additional information about that gameplay, in any situation where the player reacts with “What just happened?” Spree medals, Consecutive kill medals, Beyond the Grave, Assist, Headshot [perfect aim] medals, and Splatter medals [the Warthog just hit something] are all examples of this. Assassinations no longer need medals, as it’s fairly obvious when an assassination is being performed. Too many medals confuse the player into what those medals are actually for, and the distraction medal…is celebrating the fact that one player ran away whilst the other killed the enemy. That’s a real accomplishment. Same with the close call medal. The player has survived. They don’t need a medal in order to figure that out. The next medal introduced into Halo’s gameplay may as well end up being the “You Died!” medal.- The lighting. Something is seriously wrong with the lighting of HCEA, H2A, Halo 4, and Halo 5. For a start, UNSC spacecraft, vehicles, or equipment never looked blueish grey. If anything, they always appeared somewhat green or brown, or even black, symbolizing colours of the Earth, as opposed to the Covenant, who were purple, blue, and red, likely symbolizing their home planet, or the fact that they are the aggressors and they are out for blood. Forerunner installations were bluish/grey—or orange for their warrior caste. Not the UNSC. The Infinity being predominately blue makes sense. The Forward unto Dawn interior being bluish doesn’t. UNSC Ship interiors look like the Pillar of Autumn’s. This seems to even extend to live-action series or trailers [The Commissioning] and terminals, where UNSC or even ancient human buildings and ships look fairly similar in design and colouration to that of the Forerunners. Compare this to the design and lighting in “We Are ODST,” “Deliver Hope” and Halo: Landfall, let alone the games prior to Halo 4. It’s understandable that 343 industries wishes to make their own mark on Halo, but there are definitely better ways to do this than to mess around and make human and Forerunner aesthetics identical.- Another oddity is that light sources are present from every single angle. When there is no direct light source, areas become pitch black, even when the area directly next to it is strongly illuminated—which is physically impossible. Light bounces. Light from the sun or any other source gets partially reflected and partially absorbed by surfaces, and the absorbed light gets re-emitted as coloured light. Both reflected light and re-emitted light is actually how most surfaces end up being illuminated, leading to more even lighting. It’s almost as if the lighting system—which is very beautiful, no doubt about that—in recent Halo games does not support reflected/re-emitted light which can illuminate other surfaces. This leads to a high contrast between light and dark areas, and far too many light sources which distract the player. Halo CE, 2, 3, ODST, and Reach never had this problem.- Seriously, the interior of the Pelicans are pitch black in Halo 4. They were clearly visible in Halo 3. What happened?In summary:
  • 343 industries are NOT incompetent game designers. They are very competent at creating fun, AAA, twitch-based games. Edit: however, they seem to be ignorant of how to make a tactical, non-twitch shooter, and they are certainly ignorant of how to fix the MCC–hence the beta for the patch.- The Halo series has become increasingly twitch-based, even back when Bungie was the developer. Edit: Human reaction time falls between 150 and 500 milliseconds. Source here. Add in input lag / screen lag / controller lag of ~150 milliseconds total, and any gameplay mechanic which does not give at least 650 milliseconds of advance notice is twitch-based gameplay.- The Halo series is successful because it is a tactical shooter–all the chess pieces are on the board—and because of the sandbox gameplay.- Halo needs to be more tactics-based, and it needs to remove as many twitch gameplay elements as possible. There are far too many FPS games with twitch gameplay, and far too few tactical games. If Halo wants to stand out from the competition, or crush the competition, then it needs to move back away from the endless throat-cutting competition of twitch games. Think about it. How was Halo CE successful? The Golden Triangle. How was Halo 2 successful? Console multiplayer and inventing playlists/parties. Both areas in which there was NO competition.- Halo 5 Spartan Abilities currently add nothing to Halo that was not already present in the series. [Note that new concepts are quite tricky to introduce to a series. Interesting ideas like momentum/inertia [Portal, 2007 vs. Halo’s Physics engine, 2001], Gravity Manipulation [Gravity Gun, Half-Life 2, 2004 VS Tartarus Gravity Hammer, 343 Guilty Spark & Gravity Lifts, Halo CE/ 2, 2001/2004] & Hardlight surfaces [Portal, 2007 vs Halo Light Bridge, 2001], are not exactly new concepts to Halo, let alone other video games. But most of the Halo 5 Spartan Abilities are simply Thruster Pack, which was present in Halo 4.]- Spartan abilities have streamlined other, pre-existing abilities. Thruster Pack has been combined with Evade/Hover, and given it to the player as a base player trait.- Many gameplay mechanics, including the Halo 5 Spartan Abilities, need to be modified to fit in with canon, Newtonian physics, and non-twitch gameplay. Game physics should always be internally consistent–they don’t have to accurately portray real-life.
  • The Halo 4/5 base player trait of Sprint is a twitch-shooter mechanic. Either it goes, or Halo can never regain the title of a tactical, non-twitch shooter—and likely will never be as successful as it was in the Halo CE/Halo 2/Halo 3 era, when there were far fewer obvious twitch gameplay mechanics present.[So…I didn’t expect to write this much. It was good practice. Let me know if I’ve made any factual or logical errors in this essay, and what your own opinion on any of these topics are. Thanks for reading!].

So is this book going to be published anytime soon? What bookstores will you be selling at? Or is this an only online deal?

> 2533274828579555;12:
> So is this book going to be published anytime soon? What bookstores will you be selling at? Or is this an only online deal?

It’s free and it’s online, which means that you have to go through some advertisements to get to it–namely the entire Halo site. Good enough deal?

Nobody willing to tell me that I’m wrong? Seriously, I won’t lose any sleep if I am wrong, so you may as well pick my arguments apart. Good luck :slight_smile:

Edit: Yay! People have told me I’m an egotistical, arrogant, condescending --yoink-- who wastes time writing essays on a series that I enjoy. Ye gods. I just got the definitions from googling and the dictionary, and I got Newtonian Physics from–what? Way back in Grade 6? And that means I must think I’m smarter than everyone else? Ok, people, whatever…

Edit 2: Look, if I’ve given you the impression that I am any of those things, please point me to the specific issue I need to address.

You wrote an essay, give us purists some time (but I do agree with most of your points in your last two posts)

> 2533274822366750;15:
> You wrote an essay, give us purists some time (but I do agree with most of your points in your last two posts)

Will do. Thanks for replying. :slight_smile:

Edit: To the poster below me, the fact that 14 people liked your post is just sad. Ctrl+F “hate Halo 5” brings me to what you have said. I liked the Beta.

> 11 friggen posts basically saying that you hate Halo 5 and everything implemented and whatever it stands for, gotcha.TL;DR, in spite of all of your ramblings, Halo 5 is way too far down the development cycle to make any significant changes in any of these sectors. Please get over it.

11 friggen posts basically saying that you hate Halo 5 and everything implemented and whatever it stands for, gotcha.

TL;DR, in spite of all of your ramblings, Halo 5 is way too far down the development cycle to make any significant changes in any of these sectors. Please get over it.

Well, that was an interesting read. I’m just afraid it will get overlooked and buried because of length.

I especially enjoyed some of the points that seem self-explanatory in hindsight, but that I didn’t notice in the first place. For example, you likening the new Spartans to Banshees, because the abilities and thereby the gameplay mechanics are essentially the same.

Also, I never noticed that hardlight should bypass shields or the violation of newtonian physics, even though I’m a physicist. It’s a shame, but it never occured to me. Thanks for the heads-up. However, I’ll have to correct you, that there have already been instances of Spartans punching with their fists instead of the weapon: For the Halo CE plasma pisotl, the Chief did not use the weapon itself for hitting.

Also, I don’t think that “infinite speed” (avoiding the word “sprint”) is illogical. See, the Spartans themselves aren’t running - it’s the Mjolnir with its hydraulics that’s doing it. The Spartans just happen to be inside and telling their armor what to do via neural interface. Even if not, while I don’t like sprint either way, I’d rather not have it being temporary, just because I cannot picture a highly trained, genetically modified supersoldier being exhausted after five seconds of running.

But regarding one of your last statements: “Once a mechanic has been added to the sandbox, it should not be taken away. Dual-wielding just needed to be modified, not removed.”
Why should this not be applied to sprint itself? Don’t get me wrong, I’m with you on this, I just thing your argumetation is a litte… inconsistent.

> 2533274824466008;17:
> 11 friggen posts basically saying that you hate Halo 5 and everything implemented and whatever it stands for, gotcha.
> TL;DR, in spite of all of your ramblings, Halo 5 is way too far down the development cycle to make any significant changes in any of these sectors. Please get over it.

Ctrl+F. “hate” “dislike” “hate Halo 5”

Sorry, my browser’s automatic search function did not find those words or phrases in any of those 11 posts I made. Could you please direct me to them? Secondly, most of my ramblings indicate easy enough changes to implement before Halo 5 comes out in November.

Seriously, though, I enjoyed the Beta. It wasn’t bad gameplay. But it was definitely twitch gameplay, and there’s far too many twitch shooters on the market for Halo to make much headway. Tactical shooters are much rarer, and very much in demand.

> 2533274801176260;18:
> Well, that was an interesting read. I’m just afraid it will get overlooked and buried because of length.
> I especially enjoyed some of the points that seem self-explanatory in hindsight, but that I didn’t notice in the first place. For example, you likening the new Spartans to Banshees, because the abilities and thereby the gameplay mechanics are essentially the same.
> Also, I never noticed that hardlight should bypass shields or the violation of newtonian physics, even though I’m a physicist. It’s a shame, but it never occured to me. Thanks for the heads-up. However, I’ll have to correct you, that there have already been instances of Spartans punching with their fists instead of the weapon: For the Halo CE plasma pisotl, the Chief did not use the weapon itself for hitting.
> Also, I don’t think that “infinite speed” (avoiding the word “sprint”) is illogical. See, the Spartans themselves aren’t running - it’s the Mjolnir with its hydraulics that’s doing it. The Spartans just happen to be inside and telling their armor what to do via neural interface. Even if not, while I don’t like sprint either way, I’d rather not have it being temporary, just because I cannot picture a highly trained, genetically modified supersoldier being exhausted after five seconds of running.
> But regarding one of your last statements: “Once a mechanic has been added to the sandbox, it should not be taken away. Dual-wielding just needed to be modified, not removed.”
> Why should this not be applied to sprint itself? Don’t get me wrong, I’m with you on this, I just thing your argumetation is a litte… inconsistent.

Some very good points. Here are my counter-arguments.

Firstly, I’m not worried about quantitative physics in science fiction [unless the writers were silly enough to put actual figures to mathematics into their books]–things like the Spartan’s jump height and acceleration due to gravity could never happen in real life under 1 Earth Gravity. That sort of thing doesn’t matter, and can be modified for fun gameplay It’s only the violation of qualitative concepts like Newtonian physics which frustrate me, because implementing them properly allows for an interesting physics engine. Every action should have an equal and opposite reaction is a simple enough concept to implement in gameplay.

So, in regards to the Plasma Pistol Fist Punch, yes, it is definitely a precedent in gameplay, along with the Skull Fist Punch. However, that precedent does violate Newton’s Third Law, and thus should either be ignored as incorrect, or the reason why it seems to violate that law should be explained away. I remember that shielding is supposed to be severely reduced around the hands and feet in order to facilitate holding a weapon in the first place, and for Spartans to actually be able to stand. Shielding is typically described as a frictionless surface, so standing would be difficult if that was not the case. It is possible that the shielding around the hands and feet could be deactivated seperately, without compromising the rest of the shields. Full body slamming into the ground or other Spartans is a completely different matter.

Now, the Spartans themselves may not be running, but mechanically forcing muscles to contract and relax can only be carried so far before the muscles will tear themselves apart–which is why Spartans had the augmentation procedure to actually reinforce their bones and muscles. A typical Spartan has a maximum sustained speed of 55 km/h. A Warthog has a maximum sustained speed of 125 km/h, or slightly more than twice the speed of a Spartan. Apparently in the 2010 edition of The Fall of Reach, John-117 was noted to have sprinted very briefly at 105 km/h, and he tore his Achilles tendon. Once again, there’s a maximum sustained velocity, and there’s a maximum sprinting velocity. Two different things. [Btw, the developers to Halo are silly enough to put actual figures to mechanics. It’s got to be a rule in science-fiction: don’t put numbers to anything].

As to my “inconsistent” argument–no, I don’t think that Sprint should be removed entirely from the sandbox. It was good enough as an armour ability in Halo Reach, and even had a canonical explanation in the game manual for it. But it should be removed from being a base player trait–we already have better forms of Sprint–Speed Boost and Thruster Pack, and on no account should it be able to be chained with other abilities. Infinite Sprint can even be mimicked in custom games in Halo 3, with custom power-ups. On that note, however, I would like an option for indestructible vehicles in custom games, to mimic Halo CE’s gameplay.

So, in short, the Halo Reach Sprint armour ability would be ok if the AA module was visible and identifiable from the front–this is tactical gameplay. The H4/H5 base player trait “Sprint” is twitch gameplay because it can be chained with other Sprint-like abilities with no warning whatsoever.

There are probably a few apparent inconsistencies in my argument due to wording errors–I tried my best, but there’s only so much time I’m willing to spend on a 12,100 word essay–and FYI, I couldn’t even begin to approach that word count if I didn’t find Halo a captivating series.