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[Locked] HaloWC Local Server Update

OP Official HCS

We want to extend another round of thanks to our partners at MLG and Gfinity, all players, and of course the entire competitive Halo community for two awesome events in Orlando and London. While we were thrilled with the energy, excitement and experience offered in-venue and on-stream, we unfortunately weren’t without a few technical challenges.

With London specifically, we encountered two key issues – one, that you may have seen or heard about on Sunday, was network related and caused some players to “rubber band” on the map. This issue was resolved on-site with some hardware and cable changes, and no further networking issues were experienced. The second issue in London (and Orlando) was with Halo 5 Local Server – which was being used for the first time in an official capacity at a large competitive event. The Halo 5 Local Server app is a game changer in terms of the lowest latency, least downtime, and best experience possible for players, but we quickly came to realize there were some problems as we saw crashes and interruptions of play over the course of both tournaments.

Ensuring we have a fair and stable gameplay experience for players is our top priority, and we’re taking this issue very seriously. With Australia, Mexico, and Columbus events rapidly approaching, we’d like to explain what happened, what we’ve found during our internal local server investigations, and how we plan to address the issue.

First off, it’s important to note that the issues with Halo 5 Local Server were specific to the app itself – it had nothing to do with the Surface Book hardware or any other equipment component for the events. During our internal investigations, we found a crash in our network encryption protocols used by the Local Server app. Prior to Orlando, this wasn’t something we were aware of for two reasons – first, the nature of this crash is such that it only really manifests in scenarios where the app is repeatedly opened, closed, and suspended over extended periods of time (which happens over the course of a busy tournament day). Second, during this investigation we also discovered an issue with our crash handling that meant that if this issue were occurring in the wild, no crash reports were being received by our engineering teams. It was only after seeing this crash first hand in-person did we become aware of the problem.

In the two weeks since Orlando, the team has been working fast and furiously to resolve this issue. Earlier this week, they identified a fix which requires a title update to Halo 5. As the team continues to do some final testing, we’re readying a ‘release candidate’ that will go through the Xbox certification process as quickly as possible, with the target goal of shipping next Wednesday, 3/7. As long as we don’t run into any unforeseen issues or blockers, we expect to have this update and fix in place for the start of HaloWC 2018 Sydney Finals next weekend. We’ll have a better sense of the cert submission progress early next week and will provide an update if we anticipate any deviations from the current plan.

Weapon Tuning Update
One important side effect of accelerating the release of this Halo 5 title update is that it means the next round of weapon tuning adjustments (which we’ve been talking about for the past few weeks) will go live as well. For context, the Halo 5 code base here at the studio was ‘branched’ a while back as work was underway on what would be the next title update. Originally we were holding off on that release so as to avoid HaloWC, but in light of this Local Server issue fix, plans have changed. Separating the local sever crash fix from the existing title update branch would create significant delays; so, given the scope of the weapon tuning changes, we feel it’s an acceptable situation given the high-priority nature of the server crash.

In case you missed it, a few of Halo 5’s weapons are undergoing some additional fine tuning based on player feedback. Of the five weapons being tweaked, the only minor impact to HaloWC is the DMR and Carbine adjustments, which are only accessible on a fraction of the available map/modes being played on during the HaloWC. The full details can be found in the last Community Update blog, but here’s a recap of the specific DMR and Carbine changes:

Carbine
  • Goal: Address player feedback that the weapon still feels a bit too inconsistent, particularly at longer ranges.
  • Tuning changes: Greatly decreased spread in hip fire, slightly decreased red reticle range in hip fire, greatly decreased spread while zoomed, slight increase to red reticle range in zoom.
  • Takeaway: Decreasing the spread will reduce player frustration around a feeling of inconsistency while the reduction of RRR keeps the Carbine within its desired effective range. This update should provide more depth to the weapon, increasing consistency while also keeping viable range intact.

DMR
  • Goal: Address feedback that the DMR isn’t adequately filling its intended role following the last round of tuning changes. The role of the DMR is intended to shine in long-range combat while being less effective at mid-range and then even less so at close-range.
  • Tuning changes: Increase red reticle range in hip fire, increase 'stickiness' of weapon at closer ranges, slight increase to base damage (still 5 shots to kill a fully shielded opponent, and still a 2-shot melee).
  • Takeaway: The RRR increase will further distance the DMR from the Magnum in range effectiveness and bring it closer to compete against Sniper/Beam Rifles. The change in 'stickiness' will make the DMR a little more viable in closer ranges by making it feel a little tighter while the damage increase will better clean up opponents who have taken damage already.
Looking Ahead
It was unfortunate to see match interruptions in Orlando and London, and we’re doing all we can to make sure this won’t be a problem for the remaining HaloWC tournaments. As a reminder, we do have rules in place in the HaloWC 2018 Handbook to ensure a fair continuation of play in these scenarios. We appreciate your support - especially the patience of players and viewers who were impacted by the interruptions.

We look forward to seeing you next weekend in Sydney, Australia!
Update: The Halo 5: Guardians update is on track for release on Wednesday, 3/7. You can check out the official patch notes HERE.