Since release, many teams have been watching, reading, and planning work based on community feedback for MCC both on PC and Xbox One. Sometimes this feedback aligns with ongoing work, but sometimes it doesn’t and has to be prioritized into the team’s backlog. Depending on the scope and nature of the request, making these changes a reality sometimes requires little work when it doesn’t require changes to game code and a patch. A great example of this is the recent adjustments to Social Matchmaking settings to make AR starts more prevalent. Because that content already existed in the game (maps and game types), a full patch was not needed, and player-requested changes were made to the game relatively quickly.
Quite often however, the requests from the community for changes are much larger in scope, involve core design changes, require multiple disciplines to create, and take significant amounts of time to bring to life. Making games is complex.
Regardless of what is required to develop such features, we talk internally about them and work hard to ensure we talk openly with you, our community. If you have missed previous posts, you can take a look last month’s December Development Blog, the Looking Ahead section in our January 15 Playlist Update, and even last week’s Modding Halo: A Community Tradition blog. Our goal is to remain transparent and discuss why we will or will not be making changes based on the feedback we receive.
Now that the philosophy and reminders are out of the way, we are going to dive into some hot topics among the community and discuss the team’s view on the future of the most requested features.
Below, we have insights from both Max Szlagor (Design Director) and Dana Jerpbak (Technical Designer) from the Publishing Team to talk about feature work. We will hear first from Max on Map selection, updates to the new progression system for MCC, and what might soon be headed to flighting. Then to close out this section of the blog, Dana will speak to future matchmaking updates and some info relating to Forge for Halo: Reach.
Let’s get started by talking about Map Selection in MCC Matchmaking with Max.
Matchmaking Map Selection
One of the areas we have received a fair amount of feedback on is whether we plan to include a map veto or voting system for matchmade multiplayer games. Back when Halo: The Master Chief Collection launched in 2014, we included a map voting system that allowed players to vote on a game and map combination for each matchmade hopper.
Throughout the years, Halo: MCC has evolved and been updated quite a bit, and we have added significantly more choice in the way players matchmake via the Social Games Match Composer. In addition, we have continually reviewed a lot of data and feedback from players. One of our consistent top asks is how we can get people into games faster. As a result, we made the decision to remove map voting from the matchmaking process in our fall 2018 update (and our surveys still tell us people want to get into matches faster).
While working on Halo: Reach, members of the community and 343 team brought the idea of map voting/veto up once more. We reviewed feedback via forums and surveys and cross-checked our data to better understand player behaviors and desires on map selection. Voting systems tended to limit the map and game type pool and could result in increased user frustration when players see the same options voted on or vetoed from one game to another, which could lead to additional quits and lopsided team starts. We did observe similar side-effects with the original vote/veto system for MCC which eventually became a source of frustration amongst players.
For the time being, we plan to keep the matchmaking flow streamlined, though we will continue to evaluate options over time. That said, we hear the desire for greater options in map and match choices, and we are making proactive changes to the match composer settings and looking into a plan to include a custom game browser later this year (and you probably thought we gave up on that J). Thank you for your continued feedback (Xbox & PC) on all these areas.
Progression System Update
Another area we have gotten a lot of feedback on is the updated progression system that rolled out with Halo: Reach. To date, we have seen lots of players earning and unlocking items that were previously locked behind a variety of apps and requirements and we have hosted multiple double XP weekends since launch. We continue to hear feedback that players want more balanced medal values across games, faster progress, and to have more choice in how and when they can unlock items. We are looking at both short- and medium-term ways to address this feedback:
- We have expanded the ways in which our service configuration files can organize medal XP on a game mode and per game basis. In the near term, we will be increasing the medal XP values for Halo 3 and adjusting Firefight medals and caps to better align with the expected match length.
- We will also look at bumping the performance and teamwork XP caps and the XP awarded for teamwork medals.
- We are investigating a way to offer unlocks in any order within a page of tiers of the Halo: Reach season system. A full store is out of scope for us at this time, but this seems like a short-term way to offer more options in unlock order going forward.
- Challenges are coming in the medium term. Adding challenges will allow flexibility for earning XP and rewards in scenarios that are not currently supported – campaign games and custom games, in addition to matchmade games.
In addition, we will be continually monitoring player behaviors and aggressively issuing bans for players who do not actively participate in games or attempt to manipulate the rewards systems in place. For those who are actively looking to participate and play, we will also have some special events and bonus XP weekends coming up. Keep an eye on Waypoint and the Halo social channels for more details in the future.
Additional Features Coming to a Flight Near You
We have continued developing a variety of features since launch and expect to flight several changes soon. Specifically, we have a crouch move behavior in place for mouse and keyboard on Halo: Reach that feels promising. In addition, we have added the ability to remap text chat and added the ability to toggle push to talk with a remappable key. Look for more details on these features in future flighting updates!
Thanks Max! Now it’s time to pass the reigns over to our favorite Duck, Dana Jerpbak.
If you read our 1/15 matchmaking update Looking Ahead section, you’ve already gotten a taste of what to expect in the realm of upcoming matchmaking improvements. I wanted to take this opportunity to expand on our plans in this area. First, here’s a quick recap of featured categories.
“Our next big step in improving and evolving the matchmaking experience is with an upcoming feature called featured game categories. In the near future, this feature will be rolled out with a game update. This feature will allow us to rotate in specific game categories in the social Match Composer alongside the existing categories. These featured categories will typically be limited to a specific game size and rotate on a weekly cadence. This will offer a new destination to come check out some great content each week. These featured offerings will be used in two main ways.
The first use for featured categories is to surface and highlight new content. Some of this content will exist entirely apart from the existing game categories while other content will fold into one of the standard categories after its featured rotation. Just a few examples of featured categories you can look forward to in the near term are CE Anniversary game types, Power Slayer, and Shotty Snipers. This same format will be used to host new events as well.
The second use for featured categories is to experiment with new settings which may or may not then fold into the core categories. These experimental offerings will be much more case-by-case, but the first one we're planning is AR start BTB game types. This content will exist side-by-side with the standard categories so players will be able to compare and contrast your experiences and tell us what your preferences are.”
In addition to rotational categories, we’re splitting our Slayer category for social 4v4 into a precision Slayer category and an auto Slayer category. In Reach, this will make AR starts and DMR starts separately selectable. The same will be applied to AR and BR starts in H3 as well. In H4, this will split loadout-enabled variants from Legendary BR start variants. This will afford players complete control over which starting weapon(s) are offered in the Slayer matches you play. Based on the outcome of the introduction of experimental 8v8 AR starts, we will consider expanding this permanent category split to that player count as well. We’re also splitting Heavies and Action Sack into separate category selections in 8v8. These changes further allow players to customize what they play without needing to compromise with their selections.
We’re excited about these changes which are really a direct result of the player feedback we’ve received from the community. These new updates to the Match Composer will allow us greater flexibility and ability to test and implement matchmaking feedback from the community. We’ll be sharing a schedule of our first month of rotational offerings in our update notes below. We have some exciting content in the pipe which will deliver fresh experiences to a variety of players week over week.
Additionally, we wanted to share a heads-up that Grifball will be moving to a rotational slot in Social Games. As of today, Grifball is still active in the Match Composer but on February 5th it will rotate out. From there, it will rotate into the featured slot for one week each month.
Another area we’re really excited about is the work for Forge. This work is centered around bringing the feature to PC, but we’re also making improvements which Xbox players will benefit from, both directly and indirectly. First, if you don’t know, the ecosystem for user generated content (UGC) like custom map and game variants is shared across platforms. This means that content created on any platform can be enjoyed by everyone. We aren’t ready to go into full detail on our PC implementation of this feature just yet. However, we’ve been experimenting with early versions of that implementation internally. The screenshot below is something we threw together with the new PC controls and object additions.
Note that the available budget in the screenshot is from the legacy budget. The forge budget will be increased on Forge World and Tempest from their legacy values.
We look forward to sharing more Forge info soon! But before that happens, let’s give the reigns back to Postums and learn about some upcoming Events coming to MCC.