Now that we’ve seen some footage from E3, I think it will be a lot easier to make opinions about the game. I know the multiplayer has most people worried, even angry. I’m going to try to explain my thoughts on each aspect of the multiplayer and show why 343 is actually making the right choices.
The biggest issue is the idea of loadout, Armor Abilities, and Specializations ruining balance. Everyone should start with the exact same weapons and abilities, otherwise it’s not balanced, right? I disagree. The reason people think this way is because they are comparing Halo 4 to Call Of Duty because of the changes being made. But what a lot of people forget is that the way Call Of Duty implements the features in its multiplayer, such as loadouts and perks, is given no consideration for balance whatsoever. 343 isn’t making these Specializations just to be awesome. They’re making them to be balanced. They’re making sure that, on average, players get the exact same number of points with each Specialization. For example, comparing two Specializations such as the one that allows you to move faster and the one that allows you to use your Armor Abilities for longer. They could easily have a very large group of players test these two Specializations and simply tweak the speed bonus and AA time bonus by tiny amounts until, on average, players get the exact same number of points with each one. This literally makes these two Specializations perfectly balanced. Then, when two people are fighting, one has the speed bonus, the other has the AA time bonus, it’s simply a matter of who is more skilled at utilizing their Specialization.
The same can be done to balance weapons and Armor Abilities, too. As a matter of fact, that’s what 343 has been doing with a system called the Cortana Web, which is a graph that records a ton of data from each match, and shows the effectiveness of each weapon, AA, and Specialization. They use this data to figure out how to weak each one of these features until the effectiveness is the exact same for every weapon, for every AA, for every Specialization.
This whole concept can be compared to StarCraft. There are three races that a player can use, each with vastly different strengths and weaknesses. However, not only is this game balanced, it’s the top competitive e-sport in the world. How could this be? It’s because Blizzard worked so hard to make sure that NOTHING was overpowered, everything was at the same level. The same can be done with Halo 4. Just because COD does it wrong doesn’t mean Halo will, too.
The other big issue is the leveling system. Competitive players were angry at the return of reach’s progression system, because it’s not a measure of skill, just of how long you’ve been playing. This gives no motivation to win, because even the losing team gets credits. It also created horribly unbalanced matches, because teams were not matched by skill, would led to embarrassing defeats in many matches. Competitive players wanted to see the return of a Trueskill formula to make sure that players were matched with other players of the same skill. A skill-based rank also gives a motivation to improve, because players would want to keep trying harder to get a better rank.
Both of these systems are necessary. The progression system is more casual-friendly. It doesn’t frustrate or punish anyone for losing, and it’s also essential for Spartan Ops, to fuel the creation of your own Spartan for that mode. The Trueskill ranking is for the competitive players who fiercely want to improve and dominate.
Both of these will be in Halo 4. We haven’t heard anything about the Trueskill system, but in one of the E3 videos, there was an in-game lobby screen where you could see the words “Frankie has reached the rank of A-7”. 343 has said before that they planned to implement a Trueskill system, and it seems they have. We will have to see exactly how it works, however.
And there will be plently of playlists that do not use Armor Abilities or loadouts, made to completely satisfy the competitive community.
I know some people will still not change their minds about the new features, and they have every right to think that way. But personally, I think 343 is doing exactly what needs to be done. They’re making a game that is perfectly suited to both casual gamers and competitive gamers.