Halo 4 Dissection: An Analysis

Halo 4 Dissection: An Analysis of its Current Issues

A note before you begin:

This thread is essentially an in-depth analysis of why the game plays as it is, and why the issues we have exist. This thread isn’t necessarily to point out any new issues, but rather to really delve into why they exist. There’s three sections, with the list below, if you wish to start at, or return to, a specific one. This has taken several hours of writing, and days of time spent pouring over all the different threads and posts published by you, the community, online. If you don’t like long reads, I understand and accept that some of you are like that, but for those with time I encourage you take the time to read it and understand things as I have. As always, feel free to provide feedback on what you think, and I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

Sections:

  1. Why Halo 3 Succeeded, Halo Reach didn’t, and How Halo 4 is Following Reach
  2. Jet Pack, Sprint, Map Spacing, and the Reason why DMR is Overpowered
  3. The Game is still not complete (M$ and Map Packs)
  4. Discussion Start

Why Halo 3 Succeeded, Halo Reach didn’t, and How Halo 4 is Following Reach

For all the people out here on the forums, think back to 2007-2009. Remember looking at your friends list, hitting Y in the lobby, and having trouble picking just a few out of the vast amount of friends playing Halo 3? Remember how for a long time, the game couldn’t be beat? Sure, people would play COD4 (a revolutionary game, sure), but you could always count on people playing Halo 3. 16 player customs were not only possible among friends but the norm. Fast forward to 2010-2011, 6 months after the release of Halo Reach. Where did all the Reach players go? I spent the entire year of 2012 playing by myself against randoms since virtually nobody that I knew IRL, as a high school kid, played Reach anymore. I look on my friends list and everybody’s playing different games, a complete opposite of how it was just a few years prior.

In this section, I am going to explain why Halo 3 drew in such a crowd for the time it did, and why Halo Reach faltered in that regard. This involves two main points: The first a visible ranking system, and the second a custom game/file share system that worked.

To try and properly explain this, place yourself in a memory of long ago. One where you were dedicated to ranking up to that new Commander, Brigadier, or General ranking. You were sitting on a 44, desperate to hit that 45 and show off that eagle to your friends. The game is Lone Wolves oddball, a 6 man free-for-all on construct. You’re sitting between second and first, fighting for the top against someone who wants it just as badly as you do. As the game draws closer and closer to the end, with each kill that you get, the adrenaline pumps harder and harder; the stakes get higher and higher. Every second counts as you desperately make your way to the objective, fighting tooth and nail to get those extra points with the ball. To win first place guarantees a chance at that 45, something you’ve been dreaming of since you hit 40. The desire, the instinct, the ambition to be the dominant player, it all comes together for these final moments. You’re caught between the purple lifts up top, and you’re ghandi hopping into the center room. You kill the man with the oddball to notice the guy in first racing towards you. You Run behind the glass, drop down, and throw a frag grenade against the columns underneath the walkway. As he drops down, the grenade explodes. Shrapnel flies into the soldier’s body; his shields drop and his armor is left vulnerable. With the game literally on the line, you step out of cover for an instinct and shoot for the kill. The opponent desperately tries to fight back but to no avail; he fell into your desperate trap. You quickly jump above, run in and grab the oddball. With two successive points, you finally rally the points required to win, albeit only by a small margin.

Now, for those who have not played Halo 3, or 2 for that matter, you probably won’t understand the unbelievable euphoria that comes from winning a game as intensive as a high-ranked game such as the one described above. But for those who have, for those who crave that extra rank and strive for dominance in-game, then you can not only understand, but feel the words I speak. Ranked gameplay creates a contest for dominance, a desire to win which the majority of us are born with.

Flash forward to Halo Reach. The only visible ranking is one that is earned regardless of victory. Players play not to get the win, but to get commendations and rank up with XP. The euphoria, the adrenaline, the pressure: all gone. The only incentive to play is to grind out the XP process until the next ranked is reached. It doesn’t matter how many games you win or lose; only how many games you play. I sit back, tastelessly playing the game when I still get roughly the same xp regardless of the outcome. There’s no adrenaline, there’s no team-play or call-outs. Just boredom and experience grinding. I have actually fallen asleep during games; that’s how much I don’t care about the outcome. I can go 35 and 8 for my team, and I literally receive no more than maybe a 1/10th of the XP I earn from the game as a score bonus. And this is why so many left Reach to go play other games: it’s boring and tasteless.

Read this Time article about why people enjoy competitive games so much: Your Drive to Compete May Be Down To Dopamine. The study showed that the harder someone worked for an objective, even when the chance of winning was low, the more dopamine gets released. This is a biological proof of why competitive, ranked play is required to make a game not only fun, but borderline (enjoyably) addictive to play. It even goes to say that in contrast, people who tended to slack (i.e. current, unranked playlists) activates the part of the brain that focuses on costs, rather than benefits, as well as focusing on internal body states such as hunger, cold, pain, and thirst. The current matchmaking system is literally forcing people to think about why they shouldn’t play the game, and this shows in the drastic drop of online player populations.

And sure, you can always find people on the forums to play, but what about IRL friends and acquaintances? Halo Reach does not provide the rush that players depend upon to provide, and as a result they search for alternate means of attaining it. In this case, players buy new games for a fresh experience, only to get bored of it and search for another.

But wait! This is Reach, where does Halo 4 fit in?

Halo 4 has an even more tasteless ranking schematic than Halo Reach. Using Halo Reach’s failure to provide a competitive environment (outside of arena, which nearly nobody played), we can identify the results in player population; a drop after a few months of XP grinding. We can already see this in Halo 4, where player population has dropped to 25% of its launch playerbase See Here).
Not only that, but we’re forced to play on only 4/10 maps in the majority of the playlists, only to encounter 3 more in BTB. Three more maps are easily available, however 343 refuses to enter them into matchmaking. And out of those 4/10 maps, 60% of the time it’s Haven. Judging by some of the posts on the forums, I’m not the first person to notice this. I’ll get into this later on in the later sections.

But what about those who play Spartan Ops, or who have it offline?

My response to this is that you could say the same thing about the launch player counts.

But it’s still number 2 on the most played list!

Yeah, but for how long? Look at the drop matchmaking has seen already, do you notice the trend? It’s steadily decreasing each week, and it’s dropping by the thousands. Out of the 9 people I know in real life who bought Halo 4, only three still play it, and I’m the only really active one. I’m sure you guys can relate either through your IRL friends, or by looking at your friends list, and comparing the amount people playing Halo 4 at its launch, which was only 1 month ago. We need a visible, ranked system to help recreate that intensity which always had us coming back to our Xboxes.

But I played Halo 3 and never enjoyed the competitive aspect. I only played Customs!

Thank you, for leading me into my next point about this sub-topic of Halo 3, Reach, and Halo 4.

While the competitive among us competed for the ranks, there were always those players who played custom games from sun-up to sun-down. And why not? It was a refreshing, unique experience that differed vastly from standard matchmaking, as well as any other game currently in existence. In what other game could you play Duck Hunt, Halo (the version where a zombie fires rockets on humans racing around a track), or any number of the vast amount of racetracks available? [Pssst, these are nigh-impossible in Halo 4]. This refreshing experience is what helped cement the deal; when tired of the intense pressure, risk, and reward from ranked matchmaking, we could always depend on a large player base (that we personally know) to take a break and play custom games with. It was a great way to relieve the pressures of ranking, and helped take our minds off the jobs we hate so much during the day.

But Halo Reach had awesome custom games! And Halo 4 forge is more powerful than ever!

Sure, Halo Reach did have some great maps. But where was the player base? Almost non-existent, and because of my earlier points. By a 5-6 month span, I was virtually one out of 3 people on my 100 person friends list playing; the other two I literally had no idea where I added them from but kept them anyway. Again and again, I played with complete strangers in the non-ranked playlists offered by Bungie, grinding the XP to rank up and unlock the armor I desired. Only by spamming messages to recent players could I afford to host a custom lobby of more than 8 people, let alone 2-3 from my friends list. Yet it was still a below-average experience because it was always people I never knew personally, and were sometimes annoying to deal with. Sure, you meet a few people that are decent to play with, but ever since -Yoink!- introduced the party chat system, nobody has the incentive to talk in-game, and as a result the chances of meeting cool people is slim-to-none.

Halo 4 is even worse. There is no file share system to promote positive map distribution. The only way to receive good maps, or even hear of them, is virtually by point of mouth. I am positive that there are hundreds of amazing maps out there (I have maps myself I would love to share!), yet they are virtually hidden in the abyss of the failure that is the file sharing system. What is worse is that this technology has been available since 2007. That’s right, it’s been over 5 years! And over a month after the most recent release, it’s still not working!

Not only is the file share system completely broken, but the majority of the maps that provide an experience different than MM is completely lost to the abyss of code that 343 managed to delete on their porting of code from Reach to H4. Gone are the gametypes of Duck Hunt, Speed Halo, and racetracks; a fan-base completely obliterated by 343’s removal of the race and VIP gametypes. Virtually any gametype where a user desires to turn off sprint, set starting weapons for zombies, create custom powerups, or set a racing-style game, is impossible by normal means. Why is it that we’re told removing sprint is an extremely difficult task, and by a week later, people have successfully modified the gametypes to disallow sprint, and enable classic infection modes? For anyone looking to understand more about the custom-game dilemma, look here for a great source of what’s wrong with it.
Halo 4 is losing its player-base, and pretty fast by the current rate of unique players in matchmaking. How to fix this? The counter-measures must be to provide a clearly visible ranking system, roll-out the file sharing system we’ve been asking for, and fix custom games to their former glory. After that, we can start balancing the boltshot, the DMR, and add more maps to the lethargic selection that is available on Matchmaking.

My next section will discuss the reasoning behind sprint, map size, and the over-powered DMR.

Jet Pack, Sprint, Map Spacing, and the Reason why DMR is Overpowered

First off, I’d like to credit Eshcka for creating this thread, much of what I say comes from what he described there. I want this thread to cover as much of Halo 4 as I can, and this covers a decent part of the problems posted on these forums. I’ll generalize his main points, but I strongly encourage reading it for a full understanding of what’s going on, it’s pretty accurate and an excellent read with the custom game thread mentioned above.

Armor Abilities were introduced in Halo Reach and continued into Halo 4. They were designed to provide a new experience for the player, and it did. Players could now sprint, engage in camouflage, and fly into the skies above with a jetpack: something impossible in previous games. But why did we need this? It’s not like there was something wrong with Halo 1-3, in fact the maps there played extremely well without Armor Abilities. So lets remove them from matchmaking, and these maps will play so much better! The problem is, they won’t play better. Nor will remakes of popular maps such as lockout and the pit provide a better experience in matchmaking. This is because the maps in Halo Reach and Halo 4 are designed around AA’s, and the previous games weren’t. Let us use two AA’s to explain this.

The Jetpack: I think the map designers at 343 and Bungie can both agree that jetpacks provide a plethora of design issues to the table. Where before you could place walls and leave open skies, now to prevent player access one must either construct really tall walls, ceilings, or killzones (which defeat the purpose of a jetpack). On a majority of older maps, one could only easily flank other players with trick jumps, distractions, and luck. Now with the addition of the jetpack, you aren’t limited to the paths chosen by the designers; in fact they might as well not exist. The threat of falling is now void, and as a result, every map I can think of is built on the ground.

Sprint: Now take sprint. A seemingly novel idea to increase the pacing of the game; and reduce the time between conflicts. Now you aren’t stuck in BTB as the player without a vehicle; forced to spend half the game wandering Sandtrap wondering where you went wrong. However, the issue with this is now it’s easier for people to run to cover, and with shields it’s nearly impossible for the shooter to get the kill. Sprint works in games with instant-kill times, where the time to run to cover is made irrelevant by the low health. So here’s where things get interesting.

Map Spacing: As you all have seen, the size of maps has increased drastically. This is because as a way to counter this decrease in time between cover, map designers now have to increase the distance between said cover. The result? Maps in 4v4 slayer that play like BTB maps from earlier games. Ah, but that’s okay right? BTB is cool…

It is, if you disregard how the standard weapons, such as the AR, BR, Carbine, Magnum, are made worthless at these ranges. And since you’ve been patient, I now give you…

The DMR: The gun that can shoot not only at long-distances comparable to the full-length of sandtrap, but also compete at close ranges as well. This gun out-classes each of the previous mentioned weapons at these ranges, and without the horrendous bloom for it from Reach, it is now a strong competitor for medium ranges and even close-up.

> Wait… We just went in a circle! So, they add sprint, and have to make the maps bigger, and as a result of that had to make a new weapon to compensate for the bigger maps? Wouldn’t it have been a lot simpler to use better map designs in order to get players around the map faster? You would think.
>
> Map design is like government. The rules by which we live, or in map design, play. Without AAs, the rules are very simple, and if you try to break them, you usually die by falling off the map. You can do whatever you wish, play however you like as long as you stay inside the rules. AAs allow players to break the laws of map design, so in an attempt to keep players from breaking the laws to the point of the entire system collapsing, they make more laws. It’s like giving a child a gun and then making everyone in your house wear bulletproof vests! It’s flawed logic!
>
> So, to make matters even worse, they have to change the way maps are designed altogether. They have to dumb down the maps so there are less “laws” for AAs to possibly break. Just for kicks, compare Halo 2’s maps to the maps in Reach. In Reach, most of your maps are large, and mostly open, with little variation in elevation. In Halo 2, most of your maps are somewhat compact, yet there is considerable walking distance between different sides of the map due to much variation in elevation.

I couldn’t say it better, Eshcka. These three paragraphs sum up the majority of what I have been saying all along.

The only reasoning we can conclude is that AA’s make sub-par map designs ‘fun’ (used loosely) and new at the same time. So as a result of this small bonus, less time is spent perfecting the map design we saw that was so excellent in Halo 1, 2, and a part of 3.

And now for my final section, which covers an issue many posts on here describe as the game feeling incomplete.

The Game is still not complete (-Yoink!- and Map Packs)

I can’t begin to count the number of posts arguing that Halo 4 feels incomplete, and I agree, it does. However I can’t help but feel that this issue isn’t caused by 343, at least at launch. Rather, I feel like it’s a result of the DLC system that has spread throughout modern game sales.

Take inflation, and the cost of games over the last few years. As time progresses, the value of money decreases. This is why the cost of a pack of gum rises, and it’s the reason why we earn (or at least should earn) more money each year. Yet, the cost of games to consumers stays at $60. So by this conclusion, and as many VG publishing companies argue, they are actually losing money by keeping the price at that level (assuming the cost of production is the same). Now, I don’t know if it’s because they’re losing money, or they just want even more money, but the issue of Halo 4 feeling like ‘a beta,’ and ‘incomplete’ can easily be explained by the DLC system.

DLC was originally created for game developers to continue supporting the games they made while working on new ones for the future. It provided incentive for players to keep playing, and as people keep playing, it creates incentive for the friends of the player to buy the game as well (to play with said player).

However, it didn’t take long for companies such as -Yoink!- to realize it’s a darn quick way to earn an easy buck, and so, as I’m sure most of you have noticed, the dates between game release and its first major DLC is vastly decreasing. Take the Multiplayer Map Pack from Halo 2. The game released November of 2004. The first map pack was not released until July of 2005, eight months after the game’s release. Halo 3’s first map pack arrived 3 months after its release, and subsequent map packs, with the majority of the studio working on it then, ranging with a release gap from 3 months to a year. We can all agree that, for the most part, Halo 3 didn’t have this sense of “stuff missing.” At least, we know for sure the file share system isn’t screwed up like it is now, we had more than 4 maps in matchmaking rotations, and custom games were better than ever. Now, we have a map pack released only 1 month and 4 days after release, and the others are scheduled an estimated 2 months apart.

Now I strongly believe 343 wanted to spend as much time making the game as perfect as possible. However, what I believe (and this is all speculation, although I find it hard to refute) is that as soon as the core of the game was completed, -Yoink!- forced 343 to splinter off groups of its programmers, designers, and testers to go work on DLC. The more DLC you can pump out, the more $ the game companies make. However, this drastically reduces the amount of polish and extra features that can be placed on the main product, and to the majority of users on this forum, it shows.

Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to fix this issue but be patient. This section was meant to provide an understanding for everyone who thought 343 just didn’t put care into the game, or whatever else they believed caused the lack of polish and testing.

Wipes forehead

Phew, that was a lot of typing. -Yoink!- word has it at around 3,800 words, which is a lot to type and read. Thanks so much for reading this far, and I hope you liked it, or hopefully it at least it made you think more about the game than you already do. I encourage you guys to read the threads I linked to, as they provide a much more in-depth analysis of their specific topic.

You know I really enjoy seeing people post these kind of threads, and threads about Halo 4 blah blah. But what really bothers me is it feels like 343 is not giving a -BLAM!- about it! Oh they are fine, they are good on money, they don’t care about the community. Pft w/e.

The section about armor abilities and map design was spot on.

Too bad no one will ever read through it.

I’m just pissed no one seems to understand the philosophy behind map design.

> You know I really enjoy seeing people post these kind of threads, and threads about Halo 4 blah blah. But what really bothers me is it feels like 343 is not giving a -BLAM!- about it! Oh they are fine, they are good on money, they don’t care about the community. Pft w/e.

A lot of what 343 does is dictated by -Yoink!-, but I feel exactly the same way at this point. If you click on the link talking about how they destroyed customs, or click here, you’ll find a link at the top of the page that points to a podcast. After I think 117 pages on the thread about custom games, the guy from 343 had literally ‘no clue’ about any issues with customs right now. Since then, it’s increased to over 150 pages.

And what’s sad is all of it is stuff we had before, but they just chose to delete from the Halo Reach code.

> The section about armor abilities and map design was spot on.
>
> Too bad no one will ever read through it.
>
> I’m just pissed no one seems to understand the philosophy behind map design.

Thanks, although I have to give most of the credit to the guy who wrote the thread I linked to in that section. It’s actually what inspired me to write most of this, and I really encourage you to read the full thread here if you haven’t already.

And aha you’re right about this being super long, I just wanted to really get into the details of why this game is the way it is; okay at best, with potential to be great. I was going to put more in, but I was hitting 8 pages single spaced in MS Word, and didn’t want to scare people off anymore than I would already.

Good thread, Normally I dislike these threads but this is quite good,

Regarding the Dopamine from competitiveness part of it, I have no doubt that game companies are acutely aware of this, and suspect this will become the new norm for game developers to aim for.
Essentially for a game to be good, you have to get your players addicted to the game. Just like a pokies machine for problem gamblers, or perhaps a Rat in a cage with a lever that releases food. Its pure operant conditioning.

Now for this to be effective, (using the rat in a cage example) its ok to set it up so 1 lever press equals 1 food pellet. However if you randomise the food pellet so pressing the level will get food, however the rat does not know which push will get a pellet, will result in more overall presses.

This is why every second game seems to have some kind of random “loot drops” as well as unlocks, as a player progresses, rewards come, both in set quantities and also in random increments.

For a “pure” FPS as Halo its hard to see how that this could be implemented in a meaningful way so I do sympathise with 343.
As much as I disliked the Lone Wolves grind, in hindsight it was effective, if the social playlist had the XP system which we have now I think that would be quite effective however. Ranked = Increasing skill level Social = XP for unlocking things and leveling your overall rank.

> Good thread, Normally I dislike these threads but this is quite good

Thanks for reading!

> Regarding the Dopamine from competitiveness part of it, I have no doubt that game companies are acutely aware of this, and suspect this will become the new norm for game developers to aim for.
> Essentially for a game to be good, you have to get your players addicted to the game. Just like a pokies machine for problem gamblers, or perhaps a Rat in a cage with a lever that releases food. Its pure operant conditioning.

You’re right, game companies want this to happen. Quite frankly I would love for this to kick in with halo 4, and the best way to do that is to create a high risk/high reward scenario. A.K.A. ranked multiplayer.

When they introduce a tasteless, pointless ranking schematic for their online experience, it actually has the opposite effect. People will think of what playing costs them (i.e. I really ought to write this essay for English that’s due in two days), as well as internal status indicators (such as Hunger, thirst, cold/heat, etc). Both do a great job of getting the player to stop playing the game. I want a game that I can’t leave because it’s too much fun.

Unfortunately, it’s been quite some time since I felt that about a Halo game. You know it’s funny, I played LW ranked a month ago and it was actually a blast. I completely forgot how intense online ranked matches got. I was even able to rank back up to the 37 I had dropped from ^.^

> Now for this to be effective, (using the rat in a cage example) its ok to set it up so 1 lever press equals 1 food pellet. However if you randomise the food pellet so pressing the level will get food, however the rat does not know which push will get a pellet, will result in more overall presses.
>
> This is why every second game seems to have some kind of random “loot drops” as well as unlocks, as a player progresses, rewards come, both in set quantities and also in random increments.

Bingo. An easy way to provide the ‘reward’ dopamine release. Who doesn’t like Ordinance drops?

> For a “pure” FPS as Halo its hard to see how that this could be implemented in a meaningful way so I do sympathise with 343.
> As much as I disliked the Lone Wolves grind, in hindsight it was effective, if the social playlist had the XP system which we have now I think that would be quite effective however. Ranked = Increasing skill level Social = XP for unlocking things and leveling your overall rank.

Eh. I wouldn’t call Halo a “pure” FPS if you’re calling the current settings indicators of skill. Too many variables are presented by all the AA’s and loadout settings to determine who has the best aim, reflexes, instinct, map control, awareness, etc.

Best ranked playlist IMO would be to have AR/Magnum loadouts, preferably a loadout that automatically uses our unlocked weapon skins. Feel free to keep sprint in, although take out any other AA. Although now that removes what had originally made the game feel ‘fresh’ and we’re now looking at a map that’s, quite frankly, subpar-average quality. /sigh

I respect this. Not because I agree with all your points. For example… a number is not a major draw to a game… alot of games have numbers, that may keep a select few competitives playing… but it’s not going to draw the majority, because the majority aren’t competitives. That asides, although I disagree with many of your points and agree with some I have to offer your kudos for formulating your ideas in a respectable and constructive manner.

Whether I agree with you or not (which I do and don’t on various points) that deserves applause and is something alot of people on this forum can and should learn from.

Amazing thread. I don’t understand why the lead game developers of 343 who are getting paid a lot of money to make a great game can’t come up with these simplistic yet necessary elements noted in your posts.

I didn’t read your entire composition (will do later, however), but I just want to comment now. I think your argument is inherently flawed. I’ve had many friends who play Halo games - even back in Halo 3, when I was in a good number of clans - and very, very few of them came and stayed for the ranks. And even still, these friends were on Halo 3 every day, playing social playlists or custom games to their heart’s content.

The majority of the game’s population does not consist of the super-competitive community. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t. You’re looking at things subjectively - you played Halo 3 for that 45 rank, you felt the pressure, and it kept you playing, so surely everyone else shares your experience! False. There were many other reasons to keep playing Halo 3 - ranking was not as integral to that experience as most of the competitive community makes it out to be.

The bottom line for me is that I believe placing the blame for a declining population on any internal aspects of a game that isn’t truly broken is inherently flawed. Halo 4 is not an accepted failure just yet. Not everybody looks at the game and says “That’s broken”. The Halo old-timers sure do, but most of the people who have recently come on board find it a fine experience.

And besides, to place the blame for a decline purely on internal aspects of the game implies that people would not play the game, even if not offered a choice. If the lack of ranked playlists were really that large of a deciding factor, then people still would not play the game even if it was the only thing online. If the game’s flaws could be perceived as purely internal, then nobody would play the game, even if it was the only thing to play.

The point I’m making is that many of the people who I talk to don’t play Halo 4 as much as they played Halo 3 or Halo: Reach simply because they have better things to do; better games to play, even. That aspect - a wider market - has nothing to do with the quality of the game itself, but player preference, and people keep telling 343 Industries to stop trying to adhere to player preference. So do you see the irony there?

My overall point is that I do not believe that the decline of the competitive community has had as large an impact on the franchise as you think it does. I believe the game is “declining” because of shifts in player interests. It’s been eleven years, and two generations of gaming. Halo has stayed dominant. Developers tried and failed to mimic the Halo formula - craft “Halo killers”, which were actually bad copycats. People just appreciated the mechanics of Halo, and Bungie nailed them. But with the rise of Call of Duty and all of its copycats, it’s becoming abundantly clear that players are starting to appreciate that style of play even more. Call of Duty is the true “Halo killer”.

I wanted to add that for me the campaign difference between H3 and H4 is night and day. H3 campaign features a number of “epic” momements that are easily remembered. The Scarab battle for instance is one that all H3 players would remember.

H4 has none of that “epicness” and has very few memorable battles. Sure its nice enough in parts but it feels like a let down. Every bit in H4 that gives you a “new” feature in the campaign is bloody easy and forgetable. Ive done the campaign twice and barely remember any of its “set piece” moments. Like the Broadsword level, what was that about? I thought this was an FPS game not a bad arcade flight game. That level is just a case of flyfast and dodge a bit, not even challenging in the slightest. Now if we had to dogfight some covies, take on a cruiser, support a counter attack etc that would all be much better than the quite obvious and crappy homage to Star Wars.

343i need to massively rack up the pacing and epic scale of the campaign in future games or else they will flop, regardless if they have a Halo name on the box.

> I didn’t read your entire composition (will do later, however), but I just want to comment now. I think your argument is inherently flawed. I’ve had many friends who play Halo games - even back in Halo 3, when I was in a good number of clans - and very, very few of them came and stayed for the ranks. And even still, these friends were on Halo 3 every day, playing social playlists or custom games to their heart’s content.
>
> The majority of the game’s population does not consist of the super-competitive community…There were many other reasons to keep playing Halo 3

Thanks for the criticism on the first section.

I think I over-exaggerated the emphasis on “achieving the rank,” as I was trying to make the point about how good it feels to win a game you’re trying really hard in. However, click on “Halo 4,” next to Halo Waypoint (basically backtrack out of this thread and back into the forum) and count how many people are ‘begging’ (used loosely) for a new ranking system. The current one is horrible, and doesn’t promote competitive play. Note: Not ‘hyper-competitive,’ but still competitive. This game has no incentive for winning or losing besides ~500 extra XP, and as a result (using the dopamine proof), it’s not nearly as satisfying.

True, I did use some personalization for that section, as I was trying to create a mental image for the people who haven’t played it since 4 years ago. If you look further, I cite scientific reasoning for why competitive gameplay is necessary for enjoyment.

Also, I cite custom games, and how a majority of the games we loved are now literally impossible to remake in halo 4, without the use of modified gametypes. (See this thread for a full review on the flaws of the current custom game architecture). For those who don’t play ranked matches (which the large majority of this forum, and virtually 90% of the people I personally knew and played with in halo 3 do), this also presents a huge issue. While it doesn’t relate necessarily to why Halo Reach failed, I figured that someone, such as yourself, would mention that there are numerous amounts of people who play customs and not ranked, and so I placed that segment there.

Personally, I love a custom game lobby with people I know IRL much more than ranked matches. Unfortunately it’s been since Halo 3, circa 2009 that it’s been that way.

> The bottom line for me is that I believe placing the blame for a declining population on any internal aspects of a game that isn’t truly broken is inherently flawed. Halo 4 is not an accepted failure just yet. Not everybody looks at the game and says “That’s broken”. The Halo old-timers sure do, but most of the people who have recently come on board find it a fine experience.

Actually, I blame the declining population on the fact that game is extremely tasteless to play after a few weeks. Thus the “I’ve actually fallen asleep during games” phrase, which is actually true (and no, it wasn’t after midnight). Not to mention, just like Reach, I find myself once again as the only person playing Halo 4 online (excluding those I’ve met on these forums). It’s not just me that finds Halo 4 boring. You can’t conclude that people don’t play halo because they enjoy playing it. While that’s not what you’re saying, it seems close. It sounds like you think people play other games because its a preference, which is sort of true. I believe that people play other, new games, because they quickly bore of the older ones. This should not be happening to Halo 4 this early in its launch. Rather, if they address the issues I mention in section 1, which is helping cause said boredom, then people have more to play for than mindless XP.

The flaws are just…flaws, I’m explaining why they’re there, what’s causing them, etc. I encourage you to read section two (it’s my favorite part! :D) to read up on some of these flaws. Granted, great maps will always make a game more fun to play, but really ranked matchmaking should help a lot with that.

> And besides, to place the blame for a decline purely on internal aspects of the game implies that people would not play the game, even if not offered a choice. If the lack of ranked playlists were really that large of a deciding factor, then people still would not play the game even if it was the only thing online. If the game’s flaws could be perceived as purely internal, then nobody would play the game, even if it was the only thing to play.

I still play Halo because I’m a fan of the series. However, matchmaking bores me to death and the people I used to play with said the same thing. They moved onto other games simply because it wasn’t entertaining enough, and I don’t blame them.

Ranked matchmaking is a large source of the High Risk/Reward dopamine effect I was describing. Dopamine is what creates the feeling of joy, success, euphoria, etc. When you have low risk/reward offerings (as cited in the TIME research study), people actively look for the costs of doing said activity, and they think of internal status indicators such as hunger, thirst, (i.e. more reasons to stop what they’re doing).

I think that’s a pretty good explanation of why more people are switching to other games, and while I’m not exactly sure what you mean by ‘internal factors,’ but I really don’t believe this explanation is “inherently flawed” as you claim.

> The point I’m making is that many of the people who I talk to don’t play Halo 4 as much as they played Halo 3 or Halo: Reach simply because they have better things to do; better games to play, even. That aspect - a wider market - has nothing to do with the quality of the game itself, but player preference, and people keep telling 343 Industries to stop trying to adhere to player preference. So do you see the irony there?

Let’s use some social psychology here: We’ll use concepts of relationships, and apply it to this situation (it actually works out pretty well, most of it falls along cost/benefit anyway).

Social Exchange Theory is defined as “The idea that a person’s feelings on their relationship are reliant on perception of reward vs. cost, the kind of relationship they deserve, and the chances for finding better one.”

Now, lets apply this to Halo 4. People, when looking for a game to play, use this implicitly. Fun vs. Frustration, what game they deserve, and the alternative games available.

Take out fun b/c of low amounts of high risk/reward options, leave the frustration of DMR/Boltshot and maps that taste stale. The game we deserve? Well, halo 3 was pretty darn good, 0 complaints ever for that game from me. And finally, available alternatives? Well, compare the cost/reward of playing H4 vs. playing BO2. BO2 has killstreaks, which enables that competitive nature which releases dopamine. Lots of people play, enjoy with friends. Sure, xp ranks suck, but it doesn’t outweigh the pros for BO2. And the cost/reward ratio for them is better for BO2 than h4.

If H4 was more entertaining for people, the alternatives would have been less attractive.

Sure, some people always choose one game vs. another, I know and practice that. But people had a week to judge halo 4, and judging by that, I think the decision was clear.

Awesome thread. Not just the original post but the responses have actually been intelligent and contributed to the discussion (hard to come by these days). I think the longevity of the discussion scared away all of the forum trolls, thank god.

Now to give my two cents: I almost completely agree with everything you have said. We need to start big picture with the game here and then focus on the little things. I am sick of everyone complaining about OP weapons and AAs and little game tweaks. 343 needs to fix some much bigger aspects first. For example, a few major things that need to get fixed in my opinion which I think you would agree with:

-Eliminate Join in Progress

I am sure in their heads this played out a lot better than it did, but starting games unbalanced, and being placed in a game down by 30 kills simply is not fun and never will be fun. Not only is it not fun, but I am a person (along with many others) who enjoys going for wins having as high a win ratio as possible. Under the current system this is not possible, especially when you search alone, and just leaves another aspect of previous games out that kept me playing.

-Add a skill based ranking system

Not to beat a dead horse, but this is absolutely critical to the life of this game. All of my IRL friends who played halo 3 were obsessed with trying to get a 50, everyone wanted one and would grind just for one or two levels. I will never forget my first 50. It was in team snipers playlist and after I got my 49 I had to win 16 out of my next 18 games to get it. That was difficult and an amazing challenge. And what did I do once I got my 50? started another account to do it again. It was that rewarding. Competitive game play keeps the game entertaining and fresh. You don’t need to add AAs and loadouts, I don’t even care what game you are playing squeaking out a 50-49 win to get that next rank instead of ranking down is just too much fun.

-Separate Ranked and Social

Halo 3 did this perfectly. I loved playing competitively, but sometimes I wanted to play with less skilled friends and social was a great place to do that.

-Fix custom game settings

-Fix file browser

You already covered those two so I don’t need to talk about them

Honestly if 343 could just do those things I would be ecstatic. I can adapt or deal with all the annoying game mechanics I don’t like, or they can fix on fixing those things at a later date. But if they can just change those 5 things I will be a happy halo fan.

I like this thread, thanks for the insight OP!

> I think the longevity of the discussion scared away all of the forum trolls, thank god.

HAHA, I guess that’s one positive. :smiley:

Thanks for the support, I’m glad it’s getting positive looks.

Feel free to continue posting any sort of criticism/differences of opinions (heck, we wouldn’t be human if we all thought the same), and hopefully the length of the OP keeps the trolls in their caves.

A fantastic post. Just bravo!

Thank you for breaking down the need for ranked playlists. It wouldn’t be too much to ask for both a competitive and a participation rank, would it? Nor would it be unreasonable to have a social and ranked playlist (I heard that happened once lol). Not only does the competitive community need a place to snag dopamine shots, but also the casual community needs a place to game just for fun. Right now, the two worlds exist together and it is NOT a pretty thing to behold.

While I agree that AAs and sprint can make map design difficult, I don’t think it makes it impossible (with the exception of jet pack to some degree). I’m actually glad they added sprint to increase game pace. The fact that you can’t shoot while sprinting and that it takes some time to pull out of sprint before firing makes it balanced in risk/reward scenarios. Minus the jetpack, I feel that maps like Lockout, Guardian, The Pit, Construct, etc. should still play well, but I can see your point about Sprint->Open Maps->Precision Buffs.

As a note on the jetpack, some people say it makes you a bigger target, but I’ve rarely seen people use JP in the open. Mostly, they use it to hop between levels. On Adrift, Abandon, and Haven (the 3 best 4v4 maps IMO), the JP can dominate. It does make gameplay unpredictable. A solution may be adding more lifts. If it’s not gamebreaking for a player to move down a level, why should it be breaking for them to move up? Just a thought…

And yes, the game is not complete. We really did get the beta (there was no public beta). Limited maps, unbalanced sandbox, rehashed levels on Spartan Ops, wonkey forge saving (magnets vs. coordinate plane), reduced custom game options because of port, broken fileshare system, etc… I see no evidence pointing to the contrary. I just hope they can eventually fix it.

I’ve got my own theories on sandbox balancing: DMR and Boltshot redesign concepts.

It’s nice to see others thinking critically about the direction of Halo 4. Thank you for sharing; you definitely made the picture a little clearer for me!

I think the impact of a game ranked by visible trueskill is more complex than anyone who argues about it seems to realize.

I loved Halo 3, and I was good enough at it to feel accomplished but not so good that I would ever believe I had competitive potential. The thing people don’t understand is that most people weren’t, aren’t, and never will be good at every game. I’m nowhere near the “best” at anything, and I’m OK with this fact, but most people don’t realize the same about themselves.

I think Halo’s player base started going down before Reach came out. I didn’t like Reach, don’t get me wrong, but I think a lot of players got seriously burned out on Halo 3 because it almost transcended its role as a game. That competitive atmosphere has a lot of bonuses, but most of those aren’t apparent to MOST of the players who are only average at the game.

To this day in Halo 4 I play with guys who never were that good, and it still bothers them, even though no one on the team complains when they go negative. I think the competitive aspects probably drive away as many people as they draw in, and over time they actually drive more people away.

Eventually in Halo 3 you could only rarely find a game where everyone was on their original tags. It seemed everyone who was any good at the game loved climbing the ranks so much (even though that wasn’t the point) that they wanted to do it over and over again, and in the mean time all the average players got falsely matched against better players. I doubt that helped the game at all. Your largest bracket of players are average, not good or bad, so when you design a system that punishes them, you lose players.

Trueskill’s purpose is to provide challenging matches against players of similar skill level. That purpose is corrupted when people view their number as a reward system. That purpose was also corrupted in Reach where Bungie designed a system that literally lied to the Trueskill system by changing the definition of victory.

My point is only that people never look at ranks the right way. Even now people are competing for higher SR. I don’t think that visible Trueskill had the influence people think it did on Halo 3’s success. I think it’s much more likely that Halo 3 was just the best shooter available at the time, and it was the best by a very large margin, so there were no alternatives either. There was a market situation and a synergy there people didn’t notice, and I just don’t think it had anything to do with visible Trueskill.