Yes this is a long read, but if you are at all concerned with tailoring Halo 4 to the best it can be, you’ll read through all of this.
An introduction to skulls
From Halo 2 to Halo: Reach, the skulls fit a role that specifically enhanced the gameplay experience of the player. Whether you just felt like jumping a mile with sputnik in H2 or really wanted to go flat-out with SLASO/Mythic in Halo 3/ODST/Reach, the skulls worked in such a way that could appease all players. However with Anniversary we were given a more ‘gimmicky’ and game-breaking set of skulls. Enter skulls such as Bandanna, Foreign, Eye Patch and so on.
I’m from the Mythic Difficulty community myself and although Anniversary’s skull set was an interesting twist on the skulls we were used to, it completely turned our little fan-made difficulty on its head. Mainly, with the inclusion of Bandanna; we could literally just shoot and blast our way through the levels mindlessly, completely eradicating the skillful techniques we employed, such as plasma peppering, assassination dances and so on. With a never ending supply of grenades what challenge is there in such a difficulty? I finished SLASO first in CEA and I received quite a bit of flak from my gratuitous grenade usage, an unfortunate crutch that was given to us with the ‘all skulls means ALL skulls’ mindset. None of us look at CEA with much fancy as there’s pretty much no real way to incorporate a balanced skull set into a theorised ‘Mythic’ setting, which brings me to my next point…
Balancing Skulls for Gameplay
Halo 2, even as old as it is now, got it right from the get-go. Skulls could suit numerous playstyles from the muckaround style (sputnik, envy, IWHBYD etc), the tricker/jumper (sputnik, black eye, catch (extra nades)), and to the thrill seekers (iron, mythic, thunderstorm etc). There truly was something for everybody and Halo 3/ODST/Reach each followed suit. Anniversary was the first change to this formula, and even though it’s important to note that certain skills were omitted due to trying to keep the game as faithful to the original as possible, it’s not an ideal route to go down. Skull balancing was poor as gimmick and game breaking skulls were used to fill the gaps.
What should and shouldn’t be in
Skulls and collection
People generally prefer the ‘hunt’ for skulls. When players found Blind in Halo 2, it spawned a massive interest in seeking out the game alterers.
People, contrary to what some will hear otherwise, do like a challenge when going for things like skulls. When a challenge is given (IWHBYD for example) people feel much more rewarded when getting the skull. Putting skulls in places where a player is inclined to search and will be rewarded somewhat effortlessly demeans the whole value of the hunting experience
Don’t include pre-order skulls if there’ll be no other way to access them later on. It’s a bad marketing move and many people can see that. Only do it if there are plans to release said skull on the marketplace later. Don’t segregate the community in any way, shape or form.
A return to, and revision of, Halo 2’s skulls would be one of the best options in my opinion. Return to the formula that got it right to begin with.
Gimmick skulls need to be just that, gimmicks. Grunt Birthday Party is a proper gimmick skull - a comical confetti effect occurs when headshotting grunts. Eye Patch is a poor gimmick skull - removing auto aim seriously detracts from the experience, not only by making it harder, but by making it frustrating. Frustrated gamers don’t play well in most circumstances, whereas challenged gamers still have incentive to continue and overcome the challenge.
Game breaking skulls are a big no-no. Although Bandanna is what you’d expect, Foreign is a much bigger culprit. Making it so that no covie weapons could be used absolutely ruined a major part of CEA’s core gameplay elements. Recession coupled with Famine ruins any chance you’d have at conserving ammo as well, and so on.
Need to tailor to many audiences and playstyles. If you alienate but one audience, whether it be trickers, thrillseekers or anyone else you’re obviously doing something wrong and the skull set is poor.
Continued in post 2