TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ VERSION AT THE BOTTOM!
The concept of a multiplayer rank was foreign to the Halo Series until 2007 when Halo 3 debuted. Even here, the concept was still fairly uncommon in the console FPS world. Previously, most players played simply for the sake of playing, and the only ranked or rated matches were entirely optional and only had an effect within those voluntary playlists.
The first popular game to make use of a Rating system was Call of Duty 3, which released a year prior to Halo 3. In Call of Duty 3 players would earn Achievements for gaining and maintaining a multiplayer rating, but no player was forced or asked to compete. To earn a good rating players needed two very distinct elements: skill and motivation. If you lacked either or both of these qualities, there was no feasible way to get a rank. As video games have progressed, those that hold both of these qualities have been labeled the term ‘Hardcore’, while the rest of the population gets the somewhat lowly and demeaning status of ‘Core’ or ‘Softcore’ gamers.
As the voices of the Hardcore gamers grew, their domain grew to encompass both the core and hardcore realms, forever fusing the two very distinct arenas into one convoluted crowd of confused gamers.
To more appropriately illustrate the point. . .
As a “hardcore” gamer, have you ever found yourself carrying your entire team? Have you ever become enraged when a less-skilled player has grabbed and subsequently wasted a power weapon or key vehicle due to their simple lack of experience or skill?
As a “core” gamer, have you ever found yourself wondering how a game could end without you ever seeing an enemy? Do you get frustrated when you’re chastised by other players for making a seemingly simple mistake? Do you ever feel pressured to try far harder and do far better than you could ever care to?
If you can answer any of these questions with a yes, it’s because you’ve been playing in a broken multiplayer system. A multiplayer system that has lost its roots and mixed together two very divergent matchmaking demographics.
How does this relate to Halo: 4 and the Halo series in general?
Well, in Halo 3 we saw the introduction of a rank system to Multiplayer matchmaking. A rank system that made some effort to engage both the motivated and skilled ‘Hardcore’ players and the general population. The rank, though it was still flawed, did a good enough job of separating games into players of similar skill levels and allowing for bragging rights among the most competitive gamers. We saw the introduction of true skill, where players would simply get XP for participating in a winning match, and would unlock interesting and rare armor permutations based on their campaign dedication and in some cases their multiplayer skill. Again, there were things centered on the casual gamer as well as the hardcore gamer.
For instance, you could unlock the - in my opinion - amazing Hayabusa armor permutations by taking the time to explore the campaign missions and discover the hidden skulls, something a casual player could do with some effort. Meanwhile, we saw many types of Spartan and Elite armor permutations for feats in ranked playlists like Lone Wolves, where they took an above average skill level or a lot of luck to achieve.
Disregarding ODST, we move on to Halo: Reach.
The Ranks system in Reach followed the seemingly sound dynamics set in place by gaming powerhouses like the Call of Duty and Battlefield series. Bungie studios implemented a global ranks system where both hardcore and casual gamers were mixed together, with nothing exclusive for either group. For the Hardcore gamer, this was annoying and made the game seem shallow. The Arena playlist, tested in the beta, seemed to be the only refuge for the hardcore gamer.
Due to certain limitations and general annoyances in Arena, many hardcore gamers were forced to play with in the other playlists or leave Halo: Reach altogether. As hardcore gamers played normal games, once again were the two very different demographics merged, leaving both sides angered and confused. The Halo matchmaking experience was supposed to be fun, yet many players found it intolerable.
Now we’re left at a crossroads. Do we learn from the mistakes of the past and push for a matchmaking system that works to the true nature of the gaming community?
All I’m asking is to keep the vinegar and baking soda separate. Give the hardcore players a hardcore ranking system that rewards them for skill, and a place to be hardcore in. Give the casual gamers a casual ranking system that rewards them for the ENTIRE Halo experience and for their dedication to the game, their experience with weapons, vehicles and maps, and their ability to work as a team.
If you want to void a total matchmaking failure, 343, I suggest that you seriously consider going against the status quo and working to make a more perfect gaming experience. Deep down, most online gamers have been completely dissatisfied with the online experiences of most games that have come out over the last few years. In an effort to be cutting edge, game developers have lost the critical past of multiplayer and have tried to make a “One Size Fits All” experience.
Allow Hardcore gamers to have a larger variety of hardcore environments where they’ll be ranked and rated for their hardcore achievements. Make being hardcore valuable! A pretty gold arena badge pales in comparison to a set of temporarily unlocked armor permutations. Recon for a month?
Allow casual and softcore gamers to get a rank that fits their casual goals! Give out meaningful ranks and rewards for their Achievements not only in multiplayer, but throughout all facets of the game! Allow them to gain customization through dedication, hard work and team skills.
Keep us mixed together, and we’ll fizzle out faster than you can say, “Call of Duty”. Give us our own separate spaces, and take into consideration that a player might switch between the two, and we’ll down your matchmaking servers on a weekly basis as hordes of satisfied players flock to the game for some great, meaningful fun!