If 343 wants Halo 5 to be the next big eSports title they need to make Halo 5 competitive out of the box. According to Frank O’Connor on the Giant Bomb E3 panel, 343 aims to take Halo 5 back to its roots and make the game more competitive.
Simply having a game that can be competitive isn’t enough though. For a game to be a successful eSports title it must also have a large spectator following that may not be interested in competing. What this means is that the game should be competitive without needing to make adjustments to the movement speed, power up placement, starting weapons, etc.
Competitive Match Making
There shouldn’t be an MLG Playlist. All playlists should be “competitive” by default (With obvious exceptions of course, such as Griffball).
An excellent example of this is League of Legends. The only difference between the game type the pros play compared to the game type most casuals play is draft pick vs blind pick, which is just the method of choosing your champion before the game begins.
Once the game starts everything is the same. You start with the same amount of gold, the champions have the same abilities and the map is the same. All the skills you’ve learned climbing the ranks from 1-30 carry over to your first ranked game.
Starcraft does the same thing. There is no difference in game types and rules for different leagues. Newbie Bronze league players are playing the exact same game as pro Diamond players. Sure, the meta game may change at different leagues, with certain build orders being more popular and players trying different strategies, but the game itself hasn’t changed at all, it’s the players who are changing the meta game through their play styles and decision making.
If 343 wants Halo 5 to be a successful eSports title they need to make sure the game types in match making are worthy of being used in a tournament.
One of the reasons Halo Reach failed as an MLG title is because the game that was being played at a competitive level was completely different than what most Halo Reach players were playing, and that extends to Halo 3 as well. The community was divided.
The biggest hurdle for introducing casual Halo players to competitive play was the Forge maps. While Forge was a great concept it meant that new players were playing on maps that were completely unfamiliar and once they were familiar the maps were then updated and changed. Areas of the maps weren’t instantly obvious because of the lack of colour on the maps. Even worse, it looked unprofessional for spectators to be viewing a game that looks like it was being played on a bunch of ugly grey boxes. Spectators that hadn’t played the maps before had no idea what was going on.
Compare that to say, Halo 2, where any Halo 2 player would have played Lockout before and had at least a basic understanding of the maps structure, where weapons spawned and where the power positions were even if they had only played the game casually.
Competitive Game Types
Introducing a player to MLG rules in Halo 2 was pretty simple. The main difference was the starting weapon and everything else could be learned pretty quickly, for example, in later MLG settings the sword was replaced by a shotgun, but it was still in the same position.
In Halo 3 all this changed. The movement speed by default felt incredibly slow so MLG changed the movement speed to 110%. It sounds like a minor change but going from Match Making to a custom MLG game straight after felt incredibly different and this is the sort of thing that prevents more casual gamers from entering a more competitive environment. On top of that the weapons on the map have changed, spawn positions changed, damage was increased by 10%, the starting weapon has changed, the weapon placements have changed, there are extra shortcuts on the map made with crates and the equipment has been completely removed from the map.
You’ve gone from adjusting the starting weapon in Halo 2 to changing the multiplayer in Halo 3 in almost every single way possible, alienating all but the minority of Halo players that played with MLG settings.
This was the beginning of the end of competitive Halo and would only get worse when Halo Reach was released.
How can 343 fix Halo 5?
Some people may read this and say, “Well this is MLG’s fault, they should have just left the game alone”… Well their hands were tied. It was either create their own game settings which could be used at a competitive level or simply drop the game altogether due to the default settings being completely broken.
Put yourself in the shoes of a casual player tuning into MLG to spectate a game on a Forged map they’ve never seen before… Boring, right? Well now imagine watching Ogre 2 sniping players armed only with assault rifles being spawn killed over and over for 10 minutes… Not exactly exciting is it? – This is the problem, the default settings aren’t competitive.
Halo’s default settings have been garbage ever since Halo 2. I can tell you first hand what happened at local tournaments when my team picked up a sniper rifle and the opposing team was spawning with SMG’s. Let’s just say a score of 50-4 wasn’t uncommon… This isn’t fun for either team and it’s provides bad counter play.
343 needs to make sure that the starting weapon is a good utility weapon that is able to defend itself from all threats. If you’re spawned out in the open with a battle rifle a player with a sniper rifle still has an advantage over you, but at least you’re able to defend yourself and knock the opposing player out of scope so you can run to cover.
Weapons and powerups shouldn’t need to be moved around in Forge to encourage map movement, they should already be placed appropriately already so that players can’t camp up the top of the map with a sniper rifle spawning at their feet every 2 minutes.
A well designed ranking system using familiar maps and game types would allow casual gamers to get a feel for the game in a casual environment instead of being thrown into competitive ranked games with completely different rule sets. This would get more casual gamers hooked into playing competitively and attending LAN tournaments which in turn gets more interest in the game, increases the games longevity and results in more sales of Halo 5.
If the game is released with good competitive settings on launch then the match making system can take care of the rest. Players will be matched up against players of a similar skill level and it means players of all skill levels can enjoy playing a fun, well balanced game.