What Halo 5 multiplayer needs to succeed – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my series of articles on how 343 can make sure Halo 5 multiplayer is the kick ass game it should be! If you missed my last article go ahead and click here to check it out!

As a long time competitive Halo fan I’ve written these articles to highlight the best and worst multiplayer aspects of the previous Halo titles and what features 343 should include into Halo 5 to make Halo 5 multiplayer the best in the series!

Spectator Mode

Spectator mode is no longer “optional” in the current age of Twitch.TV, video streaming and increased eSports popularity. In fact, spectator mode has been standard since the dawn of online FPS. Why 343 decided Halo 4 didn’t need a spectator mode after the disappointment in Halo Reach is bewildering.

The Halo 3 beta included a spectator mode (that didn’t make it into the final game), yet for some reason we’ve been missing such a basic feature through the entire Halo series, something ID pulled off with Quake back in 1996. As someone who has helped setup the mainstage including capture equipment for streaming LAN tournaments I’ll just say that Halo made this unnecessarily convoluted and refereeing an online tournament was impossible.

How can 343 improve Halo 5 multiplayer?

Spectator mode is a must for Halo 5. No excuses.

Dedicated Servers

The problem with discussing dedicated servers is most gamers don’t even know what a dedicated server actually is. Dedicated servers don’t always have to be servers setup by a developer/publisher on an extremely powerful server in some data centre.

A dedicated server can be some average Joe with a spare Xbox running a map rotation all day or it could be an ISP with plenty of bandwidth to spare. Most console gamers don’t even realise that when Xbox live was first released it was completely normal for games to include the option to setup their Xbox as a dedicated server.

The previous Halo games were all a huge pain in the ass to get a custom game running efficiently. In Halo 3 and Halo Reach, the inability to pick a host meant most team scrims ended up with both teams trying to get the host right because for some reason the game would pick the person who was data-capped for the month and could barely even load their email let alone host an online game with 8 players.

Halo 3 multiplayer custom game lobby

What you were likely to stare at most of the night when trying to get a team scrim going due to not being able to manually choose a host for the game.

I understand why Bungie implemented the feature to auto-pick host as plenty of gamers have no idea just how good their internet connection is, but Bungie’s algorithms to pick host were absolutely horrendous. They could not have been worse if they had tried. Hell, sometimes the game would even choose a player with closed ports on their routers forcing other players to be kicked from the game. On many occasions this basically frustrated us to the point where we simply gave up and either played a different team or just gave up playing for the night.

A simple manual override to choose host would have eliminated all this frustration, or even if the person who create the room had been given host like in Halo 2.

How can 343 improve Halo 5 multiplayer?

It seems that 343 already plans on including dedicated servers into Halo 5 – These will be hosted in Microsoft data centres. My guess is these will be setup purely for matchmaking to eliminate cheating, which I’m perfectly ok with, as long as the servers are distributed to regions around the world, not just North America so players around the world can enjoy playing with minimal latency.

What I’m unsure of is how will custom games work? Will they work (I’d prefer to say not work) like previous Halo games where the host is randomly picked, frustrating many Halo players in the process? Or will custom games also be hosted on the Microsoft dedicated servers? If this is the case, how will LAN work?

Personally I’d love the ability to setup a custom game on a dedicated server to run tournaments smoothly which would eliminate host advantage and network manipulation. LAN games must be hosted on LAN to eliminate all latency from the game.

At the very least give the party leader the option to manually set a host for the game.

Frame Rate

Lowering the frame rate in an FPS is unacceptable. I don’t care if the hardware cannot handle 60FPS because of the advanced lighting, anti-aliasing and shadows. Game developers are supposed to optimise a game to run on the hardware it’s being written for, that’s just part of the challenge in making a game. This is made a hundred times easier when a developer is making a game for a single platform rather than making it for 3 different consoles and the millions of different computer configurations.

Why then, have previous Halo games on Xbox 360 had such horrible frame rates? The advanced lighting means the game can only run at 30FPS? Cut the lighting then. Focusing on graphics over gameplay has never been a good idea.

call of duty halo 4 frame rate graphics comparison

One of these games chugs along at 30FPS, the other plays smoothly at 60FPS. Both the games look good graphically but Call of Duty feels far nicer thanks to the better frame rate.

After being spoiled by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s 60FPS and then going back to play Halo 3 it felt like I was watching a slideshow presentation. The difference was extreme. If you haven’t played an extended session of CoD and then immediately tried playing Halo after you should try it yourself so you know what I’m talking about. The funny thing was Call of Duty on 360 actually looked better than Halo in many regards yet still ran at a far superior frame rate.

Trying to play 2 player splitscreen on Halo 4 was so unbearable that I quickly gave up because of the massive dips in frame rate which made the game unplayable. I don’t even want to imagine how bad 4 player splitscreen would have been.

To be fair the original Halo wasn’t a whole let better in terms of frame rate, but at least they had the excuse of a brand new IP on a brand new console. Halo 4 had no excuse to suffer such bad frame rates.

How can 343 improve Halo 5 multiplayer?

343 has confirmed Halo 5 will indeed run at 60FPS. I’m hoping this promise also applies to splitscreen so LAN parties don’t suffer but I’ll happily settle for full screen if it’s not possible.

Auto Aim

By far, my biggest gripe with Halo 2 was the introduction of an extreme amount of auto aim.

Fortunately the other Halo titles have mostly improved on this point, however it’s not at the sweet spot which I think Bungie got right the first time in Halo 1.

Using the rocket launcher in Halo 3 was incredibly frustrating. When you shoot a rocket towards a target you want the rocket to hit the ground/wall next to the player to hit the player with splash damage, right? Why then, did the rocket launcher have so much autoaim on it, that having a rocket fly past it’s mark was a common occurrence thanks to the rocket attempting to hit a player directly rather than the floor under the player where it was being aimed by the player?

How can 343 improve Halo 5 multiplayer?

Auto aim in a console FPS is mandatory. Console shooters that have attempted no aim assist have felt clumsy and awkward. Aiming with a joystick is never going to be as precise as a mouse, but there’s definitely a small sweet spot for auto aimthat Halo nailed on their first attempt. My hope for Halo 5 is the auto aim is nerfed down to how it was in Halo 1 to create a higher skill cap, but not so much that it slows the game down.

Ordnance Drops

I’ll be brutally honest here: Every person that had anything to do with ordnance drops in Halo 4 should just leave the gaming industry forever. Ordnance Drops have to be the most confusing and ridiculous design choices I’ve ever seen in a game. Ever. That’s not an exaggeration.

Seriously, just the basic theory of ordnance drops fails on paper before it’s even play tested. Who the hell was responsible for this?

halo 4 multiplayer ordnance drop

Pictured above: The dumbest game design choice in history.

Can we just quickly list some reasons why ordnance drops are a terrible design choice for a competitive FPS?

  1. Removes all incentive to move around the map. Why move out from a power position on the map if you can just spawn weapons under you?
  2. Removes map knowledge and awareness from the game. No spawn locations to learn. No spawn timers to remember.
  3. Gives players with a point advantage an even larger advantage making it harder for a comeback.
  4. Rewards camping
  5. Randomly give players an advantage by giving them a rocket launcher while another player gets rewarded for their kills… with a needler…

This is just obvious stuff I’ve thought of in less than a minute. You know the difference between me and the people that introduced this crap to Halo? I don’t make a living creating video games.

How can 343 improve Halo 5 multiplayer?

Short of going back in time and purging ordnance drops from existence… Get rid of ordnance drops for Halo 5 multiplayer and any other similar feature. Weapons and powerups should be placed around the map to encourage map movement and eliminate stalemates. Better players should be rewarded for their map knowledge and ability to time weapons and powerups.

Every time the OS comes up their should be a fight over it, not one player getting lucky by being in the right place at the right time when a pod decides to drop down from the sky loaded with goodies.

Thanks for reading!

If you didn’t read part 1 already click here to check it out. If you have any suggestions for part 3 on How 343 can improve Halo 5 multiplayer let me know in the comments below!

  • Phoyled

    Was a good read and I have to say I agree with everything, its just the plan facts that are needed for a balanced halo which is good for pros and non pros.

    One feature iv always thought they needed was to simply allow the timing of power weapons spawning on screen, so that fight for a power weapon would be promoted and lesser skilled players gain access to basic “pro” knowledge. Its simple information that thats gives non pros crucial infomation without disadvantaging other players, as timing weapons is hardly a “skill” just common competitive sence.

    • Pyroteq

      I’d argue that awareness is just as important of a skill as shooting ability. The modern Halo games already have game timers so I don’t see a point in cluttering the HUD with a second/third timer for powerups when simple maths will tell you when the weapons are spawning.

      Also, part of the power up control involves DENYING the enemy team information. For example, in Halo 3 you could purposely delay the weapon spawns to give your team an advantage.

      • How about the timers can only be called up on the HUD using controller combo for different weapons? That way it is skilled based and it takes time to call up where pro players can do it quicker other ways.

        • Pyroteq

          I think it’s just unnecessary. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If your team has control over a particular weapon it’s up to your team to remember to time it and it’s up to the opposing team to either find out or make an estimated guess on when something was picked up.

          I’ve seen the same argument made for LoL: “It takes no skill to type the time in chat, there should just be a timer for Dragon, etc”…

          Well if it takes no skill to time Dragon, Baron, etc, then how come teams miss them sometimes? Awareness is a learned skill that separates good players from bad players.

          I don’t think bad players should be given information they have not earned through practice and experience.