My online beginnings were a long time ago, in the land of Halo 2 and primitive Xbox Live. I have grown since then. I have conquered the world of the PSN and Steam. Truly, I am a learned man of all forms of gaming...Except the ones I suck at. Of which there are many.
I'm mainly into FPSs. They seem to be the games I'm best at, so I generally enjoy them more =P. However, I'm not entirely foreign to fighters, RPGs and RTSs. In fact, some of my favorite games of all time have included many RPGs, like Mass Effect and Oblivion.
I wish I had more time for gaming these days...But college is important, and someday I want to work on games.
Can't get enough of me on a daily basis? I'm on Twitter! I post about gaming, and my life. It's like a mini-blog!...Oh right that's the entire point of Twitter...
Oh man am I tired of hearing about fucking dickwolves.
I actually got into an argument with my wife about this whole thing today. I basically tried to argue the issue as "both sides need to take a chill pill", but I see where she was coming from. Any kind of rape joke is generally in bad taste, and admittedly I probably looked like I was defending it.
Upon later examination, however, I found that I am less on anybody's side as I am entirely fucking donewith this dickwolves thing.
And you know who's to blame for this entire thing?
Dude just couldn't keep his mouth shut about it. Whether or not you think the dickwolves comic was offensive or not, the wound was nearing closure. Most people had forgotten about it, and at best it was used as a reference to an unfortunate event in gaming culture. It was slowly sinking into the murky depths of history.
Look, I get that Mike was wanting to be honest up on stage... But you do not just blurt out the first thing that comes to your head up there, especially when it relates to the biggest controversy of your career. And even if he DID want to comment on the dickwolves thing? Think before you talk, dude. He could have just as easily said something along the lines of "I wish we would have never antagonized our critics, I wish we had never engaged, and I wish that we had apologized and let it be."
"We never should have pulled the dickwolves merchandise"
*throws up hands*
I get what he meant behind it. He meant that he should have just left well enough alone, months after the fact, and been done with it. Instead of that, he re-engaged what was even at the time, an old issue. But it sure didn't sound like that. It sure sounded like "FUCK THE HATERS! RAPE IS AWESOME! SELL RAPE SHIRTS!"
And here we are.
Talking about the fucking dickwolves.
I learned something really fucking important today after the argument with my wife: Just let it be. Just ignore it. Do what Mike should have done in the first place and just not engage. There will be people who would want to hash this thing out until the end of time. But what's done is done. A person made a very off-color joke that upset some people. People have a right to be upset if they want to be, and I see and understand their reasoning.
But I am done. I am done thinking about, talking about, referencing to, or even idly mentioning fucking goddamn dickwolves.
When I think back on the time I spent at Destructoid's 2011 PAX panel, only one word can describe it: Glorious.
This was, of course, the infamous panel where Jim ground cake into the floor with his dancing jigs, Dtoid staff threw burgers at the audience, and Jordan Devore and Conrad Zimmerman volunteered to have their faces painted by us, the community. This was an experience never to be repeated, as the sheer power of that panel caused permanent damage to the convention center.
But god damn if it wasn't one of the best memories I will ever have.
I was pretty new to the whole Destructoid thing, but I'd been a Podtoid listener and Destructoid Show watcher for a while and I really wanted to see these folks in person. What I got was so much more than that. There were two events that really made my day, and I'm here to tell you all about them.
So I think the first in this series of events was the face painting part. The panel asked for volunteers to pretty up Jordan and Conrad. I was feeling feisty, so I raised my hand. I was selected. I was given one of them, and a pile of makeup. See, this was one of those memories where I honestly can't remember WHO I was doing this to. It could have been Jordan, or it could have been Conrad. I honestly have no idea. Anyway...Keep in mind, I am male. I had no idea at all what makeup did or why. But, I saw green and I saw red. I think there was some white stuff in there.
I decided I was to make him a Christmas elf.
I prefaced my extensive makeover by promising Jordan or Conrad that despite me drawing something on his face, it would in fact NOT be any kind of genitalia or otherwise NSFW material. He thanked me for this kindness. I proceeded to give him the rosiest of cheeks, and literally draw a Christmas tree on his forehead. I might have done something else. Honestly it was a bit of a blur. In the end, they strutted in front of the audience to determine the winner.
To my surprise, I won the contest and got a copy of Two Worlds II along with some other 2k swag. Pretty happy about that I was.
This leads to memory 2. But this might have happened before this incident. Again, this panel was a gigantic blur, but the kind of blur you remember fondly in its chaotic nature. Incident two occurred during the Q&A session, and is one of my only memories that I am simultaneously embarrassed and fond of.
Basically, I had heard that Max Scoville was a tall man. I too was a tall man. 6' 5''. I had heard he was 6' 7'', but I didn't think he looked it. So, I boldly raised my hand. They tried to get a mic to me. I was too excited. I then shouted out "I DON'T NEED A MIC. MAX SCOVILLE, I THINK YOU'RE A LIAR. I THINK I'M TALLER THAN YOU."
Why I said this, I don't think I'll ever know. Then again, this was 3 years ago when I was still 18. There's an excuse in there somewhere.
But, to my surprise, Max accepted my challenge. And the second I came up to the front of the room... I knew I was in deep shit. Let me tell you guys, Max is a tall dude. It was one of the few times I have ever felt truly towered over. In fact, to make the spaghetti literally FLY out of my pockets at the fastest possible speeds, I said in surprise "Oh SHIT you're tall..." as I tried not to laugh out of sheer embarrassment. Max was the best of sports about the whole thing, we even took off our shoes and went back to back. He was taller, but not by as much as I was expecting. He won the tall-off.
I then went back to my seat, ashamed of myself and my genetics.
I tweeted max later about the incident and thanked him profusely for putting up with my spaghetti-fueled attempt at comedy.
Anywho, those are my Dtoid memories. They're short and sweet, but dare I say I don't think many other people have done what I've done to and with the Dtoid staff.
I really told myself I wouldn't do this. If talking about sexism is stepping on coals, then responding to this video is pretty much voluntarily submerging yourself in molten lava.
I was ready to give Ms. Sarkeesian's video series a fair shake. After all the controversy surrounding this, I figured that I at least had to see what all the fuss was about. To preface this entire thing, I applaud her motives and I sincerely wish we had more social studies done about video games and their themes. In fact, I really liked her idea, and obviously all of the horrendous hate thrown her way was incredibly unjustified and sickening for the times we live in.
Nobody should have to be threatened with rape and death because they want to perform a gender study.
So let's get right into the meat of it, shall we?
In a nutshell, for the first video in her series focusing on probably the most classically sexist trope in modern media... She did not make her point all that well. At least, not for it being 2013. Had she made this video back in the 1980s or 90s, then she may have held a much stronger position. But, as it stands, the world is not the same place it was back then, and neither is modern media. All you have to do is go watch any 80s flick to notice that.
My main issue with the content Anita chose to make her point with is that most if not all of it is almost 30 years old. When Mario and Zelda started out their adventures, the world was a very different place to live in, and the entertainment we got was in a very different place. In 1980, it had only been 20 years since women had been given the right to fair wages. In 1980, we were only 30 years out from the stereotype of the 50s, where women were merely housewives and baby-makers. Keep in mind, this is not all that long. People who were born in the 50s were now in their 30s and 40s, and those people were the ones in charge of making modern entertainment.
This is not to say that ANY of that is somehow justification for the type of roles women played in those days, but that was the reality of the situation: In 1980, sexism was tolerated much, much more than it is in today's world. And as a result of that, tropes like the "Damsel in Distress" were commonly used and accepted.
But wait! She does point out that the trend continues throughout these long-running games, and that the more modern iterations of these franchises contain the same tropes as their predecessors in the 1980s. And to her credit, she has a point. Why didn't Peach start stepping up and trying to save herself while Mario was trying to rescue her? After all, this is 2013.
To this, I do not provide an excuse, but rather an explanation. Throughout these long-running franchises, Nintendo has built up a reputation of "Use the same formula, put a different twist on it, and make something new from that." And so, Mario rescues Peach, Link rescues Zelda, and Kirby is still a magical gravitational singularity contained in an impossibly structurally-sound pink...Thing. Nintendo's games have this certain charm to them, in that you're essentially doing the same thing that you've been doing since 1980, but in a different way with a different look. It provides a structure that Nintendo is known for, and to break that structure would probably piss a lot of people off.
Again... That is absolutely no excuse to continue the trope. But it is a good educated guess as to why it has continued. And as such, I don't think that the Mario and Zelda games are really good examples to base a modern video series around. They're reliant on very old structure that is simply not going to change due to business reasons. If you're going to do a modern series about women in video games, I would challenge Ms. Sarkeesian to use modern games... Which by the way are chocked to the brim with sexist tropes and behavior. You don't have to look much farther than Duke Nukem Forever to find that...
As a final note, I'd like to say that I'd love to see a modern Mario or Zelda where the princesses were not so helpless. To get a Legend of Zelda game where you actually played as Zelda would be pretty badass, and I think that fans of the series would be willing to accept that... If it's done with the same level of care and attention as the other iterations in the series. And a Mario game where Peach was constantly getting out of Bowser's clutches would make for a interesting shake-up in the series. Maybe the reason she's always in another castle is because she keeps breaking out of them!
My point is that while Anita's video series has a great idea behind it, her first offering is just a little lacking in the relevancy department. Had she used examples from more modern video game IPs that were not so well-entrenched, her video would strike a different chord, and have more of an impact. And I really don't think she'd have to look very hard to find a modern example to back up her claims.
Oh god. Guys, I got something serious to tell you. I really want a Wii U. Like, bad man. Every time I see something on the Wii U, it looks pretty and awesome and I just want to braid her hair and take her out on a date and...
But for some reason, I haven't worked enough street corners for the required 300 greenbacks, and therefore do not actually own a Wii U. And I have to ask myself, "If I think the Wii U is so great, why have I not enthralled myself to sex trade to earn myself enough of the almighty dollar to afford the next generation of Nintendo Entertainment Products? What on god's green earth is stopping me!?"
I can tell you this much: It is most definitely not the sexual debauchery. That might as well be par for the course.
All joking aside, I really do want a Wii U. Well, I think I do.
I think what got me thinking about it again was finally taking a good hard look at Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition. The game looks, to be honest, incredible. I know I could get the game on my 3DS, but those sweet HD visuals with all that remixed music and... Well let's just say that if I'm going to play this game, I really want to play THAT version of it.
I mean come on, this OPUS OF THE GODS was composed for a handheld game. How can you not want this pleasuring your ears through the 5.1 surround system you payed far too much for?
And I feel this way about a lot of games that I see on the Wii U. See, Nintendo has always had this unique set of games on their consoles that you just aren't going to find anywhere else. Aside from the obvious long-standing first-party titles, you have all kinds of interesting stuff like Aliens: Infestation, Rhythm Heaven, and Lego City Undercover that simply doesn't exist on other platforms. Nintendo really has a knack for the unique, and the experimental and wide-eyed gamer in me gets all kinds of excited whenever I smell Nintendo's unique aroma.
I get to this point in my thought process, and am almost pumped up enough to go put on my mesh tank top (Or borrow one from our good friend Holmes) and high heels... But then I stop. I stop and look over at my modest Wii collection and unplugged Wii console and hesitate.
As hot and bothered I tend to get over Nintendo's man-musk... I don't actually end up playing the unique experiences that I buy from them. I scan my games collection and see a started but not finished Super Mario Galaxy 2 and NSMB Wii, a barely-touched Twilight Princess and Metroid Prime 3, and a completely un-opened Kirby's Epic Yarn. Any other Wii games I may own are stuffed away somewhere where I can feel less shame for never playing them.
This is my biggest problem with Nintendo stuffs: I'm super excited to play with all these new toys for a while, but then something happens along the way, and I go back to playing the stuff I normally play. I fall right back into those old ruts and end up not touching the Wii for months at a time.
So as much as I want games like Mighty Switch Force HD, Lego City Undercover, Pikmin 3, Epic Mikey: Power of Two, Rayman Legends, ZombiU, and Scribblenauts Unlimited... I have to ask myself if I will ever actually play any of this stuff for longer than a few weeks, tops. I have to really look at what I've done this generation and honestly wonder if my gaming habits are going to change enough to warrant the purchase of a 300 dollar console.
Will that 300 go towards a revolution of my gaming world, or will it just be another expensive dust collector?
Something really strange always happens when Call of Duty is free for a weekend on Steam: I usually end up playing it for the majority of the weekend, but I never end up buying it. You'd think that a game that I clearly enjoy playing I would purchase, but Call of Duty and I have always had a really strange relationship; A real will-they-won't-they love story.
See, I really don't think that CoD deserves all the hate it gets. I know, I know, it's incredibly unpopular both here and on Reddit to actually enjoy playing CAWADOOTY, but I do. And yet, I haven't actually bought and regularly played any CoD game since Black Ops 1, and even that I didn't play for long. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the game itself... Which is why I actually feel a little bad for the series.
I think it's best to start from the beginning of what I call the "CoD Cycle", and that'd be when I first start playing a new entry into the series. From the first moments I fire the default AR and get my first 100 points, I'm instantly remembering why I enjoy CoD's gameplay. It's quick, snappy, and has a really laid-back arcade feel to it that has been refined and polished to a shine. Whether you think that shine is a good or bad thing is entirely subjective, but you'll have to admit that if Call of Duty is anything, it's consistent. I'll do well in a few games, get some unlocks, and really begin to wonder why I don't play more Call of Duty.
Then the first pebble hits the windshield.
I wasn't having a great game. Some assbag on my team will pipe up about it, complaining about the "Free weekend noobs" and "I'm so poor I can't buy the game". Admittedly, this was probably my fault for going into the Hardcore playlists with only a pistol and a bunch of perks, but I was having a whale of a time anyway and I gave zero fucks if we won or lost, or how good my K/D ratio was. I'M JAMES BOND YOU UNCULTURED SWINE. (By the end of the weekend I had unlocked a silencer and a red dot sight as well as a blue camo for my pistol of choice... Named that sweet-ass class "Nightfire")
Anywho, someone else decides to also chime in, but he's on my side. However, he chooses to use similarly unfavorable language to berate the original antagonizing individual. They start fighting, tossing favored four-letter language back and forth, insulting mothers as they go. Then, as if on cue, a third man adds his voice to the mix, telling everyone to shut up and just play the game. Then it's just a circlejerk of insults and teamkilling and... Well I left shortly after that.
Like I said, this was only step one.
I decided to get out of Hardcore land and try some of the lower-populated lists like Mercenary Moshpit. I always like when games provide moshpit playlists because above all things, I appreciate variety in my shooters. But, this being the PC version, there weren't many people in it. "No problem!", I thought, "Games like Halo 4 have 300 people in playlists all the time, and I still get games." So I queue up, hoping to get a lobby. I wait for a bit, and since there are no matches to join, it stuffs me in an empty lobby. I think you can guess what's coming next.
I waited for almost 10 minutes, watching people enter and within 10 seconds leave because there was nobody else in the lobby. There's not a more impatient gamer than a Call of Duty player, and I felt the full brunt of it. While I don't like the webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del anymore, I do remember one particular comic from the old days that really rings true in today's gaming world as much as it did then. I tried finding it, but it's buried somewhere in those archives and a quick google search didn't turn up anything.
The comic depicts a man coming into a gamer party, but he's the first to arrive. He immediately spins on his heel, gives the bird to the one guy in the room, and claims that the whole game sucks and exits. That's pretty much what those gamers were doing to me. The funny thing is, I was seeing the same gamertags popping in and out of those lobbies. These people were so desperate to get into a game, they couldn't be bothered to wait around and try to build a party. Even though they knew they weren't finding openings, they were still just mashing buttons hoping that their impatience would win the day.
I really bet you're wondering by now why I'm even bothering going over all of this. What does this have to do with anything? Well, here's the crux of it: Call of Duty is ruined not by its gameplay, but by its people.
Let that sink in for a moment.
"But wait! Call of Duty's gameplay is homogenized and repeated every time! There's no change! It's terrible and bad for the industry!". My answer to this is: So? You already know that. You know what Call of Duty's gameplay is like and you know if you'll like it or not. So if you already know you won't like the game, then you're not going to purchase it... And no harm no foul! The problem is if you're someone like me, who really does enjoy what Call of Duty has to offer gameplay wise, but really can't get into it because of some external reason.
That's not even touching the numerous issues I have with Activision's business practices, what with creating a useless Elite service, giving the shaft to PS3 and PC users on numerous occasions, and having the gall to release constant DLC at $15 bucks a pop. If Activision had their way, you'd be spending upwards of $100 a year on Call of Duty, and that's a little ridiculous if you ask me.
And I suppose that in this way, the people in charge of Call of Duty also taint my experience. One of the biggest reasons I can't support buying the next CoD title is because I feel like my purchase will be worthless in only a year's time... Especially if my purchase is on PC. There's already only 40k or so people playing on a free weekend, so I expect that to at least halve when it's back to its normal userbase. Say I do purchase, and then Modern Warfare 4 comes out this November or whatever. My guess is that 90% of that userbase will move on. So now I'm stuck with a campaign I've already played and a completely dead multiplayer...10 months after I purchased the game; 12 if I actually got it on release day.
That sure doesn't sound worth it when you really think about it. And I do think about it...
As the free weekend was drawing to a close, I sat there looking at Blops 2, discounted for this weekend only. It's 40 dollars. But what does that 40 dollars get me? A game that full to the brim with the absolute worst kinds of gamers imaginable, is pretty much shoving DLC down my throat, and will be dead in a year unless I pony up 60 more dollars to buy the same thing I'm already playing.
But I really like the gameplay!
Logic wins in the end, and I end up closing the store tab. It's a shame is what it is. I haven't found another game that really scratches the CoD itch. I've tried, but it just isn't quite the same. So I'm stuck in limbo, occasionally getting to play the game for a while whenever it's free, and sincerely hoping that in some alternate reality out there, Call of Duty is just a good game without any of the fuss.
When you've spent as much time with a game series as I have with Halo, it's very hard for you not to immediately think of it when a topic like Improvement comes up. Initially, I tried to think of something else to write about, but I just kept coming back to Halo. This series has been with me for half of my life, and is easily my most treasured and well-versed video game franchise. I've been participating in Halo related discussion just about as long as I've been playing video games, and my "never-gonna-happen" dream is to oversee development on a Halo game.
That's why, against all of my better judgement, I am sitting down with you today to tell you exactly how I would build Halo 4. This is, by all definitions, a terrible idea. I have far too much to say and I love to be wordy about it =)
(This is a very lengthy read. You've been warned)
LET'S GET STARTED.
The most basic thing to start with is how the game feels in your hands. Halo has always had this down pretty well. In fact, Halo 1 was the first console FPS to do it right! As the series evolved, the formula became more refined. Halo began to be known for it's quick and responsive movement, along with snappy aiming. Halo is an Arena FPS at its core, and it does what it does very well. However, Bungie took a giant step backwards in regards to movement mechanics in Halo: Reach.
In Reach, movement speed has acceleration. This means that when you click the stick in a direction, it takes a moment for your character to reach their full running speed. This was not present in past Halo games, and we're still not sure on why they added this. The net result is that strafing has been almost totally nerfed. You can't properly dodge a headshot with a strafe in Reach because your character takes too long to change direction. In addition to this mechanic, the overall movement speed is very slow compared to Halos 2 and 3. Coupled together, these two elements make strafing a practically useless tactic in Reach.
Long and the short of it, Halo 4 should return to a Halo 2-3 style of movement: Fast and snappy. A game that responds quickly to input naturally flows better.
In addition to a return to form, I see absolutely no reason why Halo 4 can't have extended controller options like Button mapping. Lots of PC games have it, and even some console games do. Halo has always had a wide variety of control options, but I feel that giving players the option to just use whatever buttons they want would be a big plus. Also, many players have asked for the option to toggle on and off aim assist. I see no reason not to include this as well. If players want to intentionally handicap themselves, let them.
The last issue to cover under gameplay is the feeling of power and ability. The Master Chief is one of the last of his kind. The SPARTAN II program created the most powerful soldiers humanity has ever seen. They are walking tanks of utter destruction and lethality, and the Chief was their leader. Reach chose to place you in the shoes of a Spartan III, a downgraded "Budget" Spartan. It's time to return the player to a powerful killing machine. The increased movement speed and snappier controls will help with this feeling, but elements like shield and melee strength, along with jump height have a lot to do with this as well. Again, more Halo 2-3 than Reach on this one.
In Summary: You are the Master Chief. You should handle like a super-soldier; Quick, precise, deadly.
I'd like to preface this section by saying that I am not taking into consideration any previously established information we have on Halo 4. This is exactly how I would put it together, not how I would put it together based on pre-existing information. Don't worry, I'm not about to write you a fan-fiction of my perfect Halo 4. There are just some elements I feel it needs to be successful in starting a new trilogy.
The most powerful storytelling element of Halo 1 was just how alone you felt in the fight. You had marine support for backup on some of the earlier missions, but as things got more and more dire, it seemed you had less and less allies to count on. You were the backup. The moments in the series when you are fighting alone are probably the most powerful, and Halo 4 needs to re-capture that feeling. I want Master Chief not to see a familiar face (Besides Cortana) throughout most of the campaign. It brings that sense of being alone in an utterly alien environment to the forefront. Which brings me to my next point...
Something Halo also excelled in is taking the fight to a galactic and epic scale. It threw you into an unfamiliar alien universe filled with mystery. I think this is again where Reach failed to hit home. You were fighting on a very human planet. You were participating in a very familiar military-campaign-styled mission structure. It all felt very "been there". That is not what a Halo game is about. Halo is about unraveling an ancient secret, or thwarting a threat to the entire galaxy. It's about experiencing something new and wondrous. Not running point to point playing "soldier".
I'd like to go back to the gameplay section for a moment. I said that I wanted the Chief to feel powerful again, like a super soldier. I didn't say that I wanted him to feel overpowered. I want the enemies in Halo 4 to be as lethal and dangerous as the Chief. Grunts were fun and all, but we've had our fun with them. I want intimidating, even scary enemies. I want to feel like I'm fighting something that might even be above and beyond my capability. I want that feeling of fighting the Covenant for the first time, but with a totally different set of enemies.
These enemies should also play absolutely nothing like the Covenant. For five games now, we've been fighting this exact same setup: Leader unit with Shields, lesser units without shields that support them. The strategy to take out a group of Covenant has largely been the same throughout every Halo game: Pick off the un-shielded ones at a distance, then take out your plasma weapon for the shielded leaders. Rinse. Repeat. It's been a great formula that I still love playing to this day. That was then. That was the Covenant. These new enemies need to look, move, attack, coordinate, and be fought differently in Halo 4. I want to re-learn what it means to fight in a Halo game. All the basic elements must be retained (Weak-point instant-kill areas, manual aiming, etc.). I would never want Halo to turn into Metroid Prime or Unreal Tournament, or really anything that doesn't retain that "Halo" feel.
I just don't want the player to be pulling out their plasma pistol yet again for whatever leader units Halo 4 has.
In Summary: Halo is about ancient mysteries and galactic-scale threats. It is not about fighting a military campaign. But just because it's familiar, does not mean it can be the same. The enemy formula must change, while the combat remains grounded in a "Halo" feel.
And we've hit the meat of it. The really juicy, nitty-gritty, spittle-flying part of all this. There is nothing Halo fans will get more worked up over than Multiplayer and the details therein. I have been on the forums and participated in this almost violent debate that happens between users every day. It is a touchy subject to say the least, so tackling this bit of development is particularly challenging (And is the meat of this article!)
The very first thing to decide on may well be the most important: Which direction do you take the basic mechanics? Do you take them back to Halos 1-3, or do you push forward along the lines of Halo: Reach. Most will tell you that this is an absolute decision. No compromise. It can either be Trilogy or Reach. No exceptions. I'm here to challenge that expectation.
Reach made a lot of mistakes, but there were a lot of really good concepts hidden beneath the muck and grime that coated the surface. It's almost like Bungie came up with a lot of really interesting ideas, but they did not translate well into gameplay. So let's take some bad gameplay elements that Reach had and try to find the underlying ideas:
==Fixing Armor Abilities==
Essentially, these were supposed to be re-usable equipment. While this is a great idea, the implementation went all kinds of wrong. On one end of the spectrum, we have what I like to call "Mobility Abilities", which are things like Jetpack, Sprint, and Evade. The on the other side, you pretty much have powerups that you spawn with, Active Camo and Armor Lock. Then you have the odd men out: Hologram and Drop Shield. Of all of these, only Jetpack, Drop Shield, and Hologram can really be considered "Equipment". This is where the original idea broke down. Most of these "re-usable equipment" items are in fact basic gameplay mechanics or powerups.
So let's take a look at what was really going on with Reach: We had Mobility Abilities, Re-usable Equipment, and Powerups. Now that we've broken it all down, it becomes much more clear what we can allow the user to spawn with and use regularly, and what we want to encourage the user to pick up and fight over. Let's define them as Mobility Modifiers (Mods), Armor Mods, and Equipment. Keep in mind that every one of these occupies the same slot. You cannot have a Mobility Mod with Equipment, for example. Let's tackle these one at a time.
Mobility Mods are very basic Armor Abilities, are re-usable, and (mostly) quick to recharge. Are available on spawn.
-Sprint is the one that needs the least changing. You move faster, you recharge. Done.
-Evade needs to be toned down, as it's current iteration allows the user to bound effortlessly in a single direction, twice, and cover an unrealistic amount of ground. Evade should be for getting quickly out of the way of a grenade, or getting back into cover. One use, reduced range. Done.
-Jetpack needs the most tweaking. It broke maps because of the sheer versatility it gave the user. I propose turning the Jetpack into a Jump pack. Give your spartan a Double Jump. It could be used to clear small gaps, but not entire maps. It could be used to go up one level, but not three. It also requires much more coordination and skill to use effectively. One double jump, then requires a slow full recharge. Done.
Armor Mods are Re-usable Equipment, and have a variable recharge time. They are available on the map as pickups.The idea here would be more powerful abilities with a trade-off. A few ideas I've had:
-Remodulate: The ability to shift all your shield strength to your front, doubling your shields towards incoming fire, but leaving you completely vulnerable from behind.
-Phalanx: Share shield strength with nearby teammates for a short period. The more teammates, the stronger your collective shields. The more you (The wielder) take damage, the weaker the boost is. Once the ability is over, your shields drain completely.
-EMP Pulse: Drains your shields and sends out a short-range pulse that drains anyone's shields caught within the radius. Cannot shoot or move while activating the ability.
-Advanced Hologram: Take control of a hologram for a short time. You are able to shoot, but do no real damage. You abandon your actual body while using this ability.
-Passive Camouflage: You activate Active Camouflage for a very short time, but cannot use your weapon or melee while doing so. There is a recovery time where you cannot melee or shoot shortly after deactivation of the ability.
-Shield Repel: Using your shield as an energy source, you send out a field to repel any incoming projectiles in front of you, such as a Grenade, Rocket, or Tank Shell. Can be held down until shields are drained. Cannot use weapons or move while activating the ability.
Those are just a few ideas I've had floating around in my head for a while, and should give you a very clear picture of the kind of things Armor Mods would be.
Equipment is a one-time-use item with no recharge time. They will also spawn as pickups, but will be treated exactly like what they are: Very valuable absolute advantages. Long spawn times at very key positions. Keep in mind that once these are used, they will be gone. You will have to find another Ability to pick up. These will also have very obvious visible changes to your armor configuration, so others may identify what Equipment you have. A few ideas:
-Overshields: Exactly the same as the Overshield in previous Halos, except you can choose when to activate it.
-Active Camouflage: Exactly the same as Active Camouflage has been in previous Halos, except you can choose when to activate it.
-Bubble Shield: Exactly as it was in Halo 3.
-Charge: When activated, you surge forward very quickly, instantly killing anything in your path (Imagine Skyrim's Whirlwind Sprint, but with killing).
-Overdrive: For 20 seconds, you move faster, melee faster, reload faster, and jump higher.
-EMP Grenade: Tosses out a specialty grenade that will drain shields within the radius. Much like the Energy Drain from Halo 3. However, it will not affect you!
-Armor Shutdown: You can lock up an enemy's armor for 4 seconds. They are invincible to melee during this period, but vulnerable to any gunfire or explosives.
-Recharge: Instantly recharges your shields if you are not in direct fire. Has 3 uses per equipment.
These basically take the place of powerups, and some could even be considered power weapons. These are the big dogs to fight over.
In Summary: My goal with breaking all of this down was not to scrap the idea of Armor Abilities, but simply apply them better to the core tenets of Halo. Mobility Mods give variety, but not advantage. Armor Mods give the user some kind of benefit, but with a negative tradeoff. Equipment is an outright advantage, but is very rare and can only be used once, and then leaves the user without an ability. This adheres to the core idea of Halo that everyone starts equal, and that advantages must be earned, not given.
I can't believe that was all just for covering Armor Abilities. But I feel like in this system, I've turned a very badly implemented idea into a good one that innovates and pushes the game forward.
Bloom also started out with noble intentions; To add an extra layer to the skill gap, and discourage trigger spam. What it did in practice was throw the skill gap out the window. The "pacing" speed of headshot-capable weapons was so much slower than the "spam" speed, that even MLG pros knew that the better tactic was to spam, and give no care at all to Bloom unless you were very far away from your opponent.
I propose only using Bloom on weapons that actually benefit from it. This class of weapon is Automatics. Automatics benefit from bloom by being able to be burst fired while maintaining real accuracy. They can be used at mid-range instead of just close-range spray weapons.
As for the precision weapons (In regards to bloom), they don't need it. It only makes them more spammable at close ranges, and slows down their effectiveness at their intended ranges. Simple RoF caps suit these weapons fine. However, even with RoF caps and a limited clip, precision weapons still tend to dominate Halo's sandbox. Pistol, BR, DMR; It's been the same story for a long time.
So let's change that.
==Defining the Weapons Sandbox==
(I can't take total credit for this idea, as I've seen it proposed in different ways by some different members of the Halo community)
Here's what I'm proposing: An automatic/precision hybrid, by way of a Burst/Full Auto switch. Keeping with Halo's simple and obvious nomenclature, I dub it the "Combat Rifle".
The Combat Rifle is actually a very simple concept: Throw a Burst Fire/Full Auto switch on an Assault Rifle, give it bloom, and make it headshot capable in Burst Fire mode. I bet that some of you hardcore Halo fans choked on your drink a little at that last part. An automatic? With Headshots?! I know, it sounds crazy! But hear me out.
The Combat Rifle would have a 40 round clip. To switch firing modes, one would press a button on the D-Pad. In Full Auto mode, the rifle would fire quickly, and have a large, quickly-expanding bloom. The bullets would not be headshot capable, as it is a spray weapon. It would be your standard Assault Rifle, for all intensive purposes. However, in Burst Fire mode, things get tricky. First thing is that the reticule changes, and now has added crosshairs. It fires a 4 shot burst, with a small amount of bloom per shot. It's a "5 shot kill". I put this in quotes for a reason. If every bullet from the first 4 shots hit the enemy's body, their shields will break. The fifth shot (If a headshot), will kill them. If not, two more bursts to the body. So it's a 5-shot headshot, 7-shot-bodyshot kill weapon.
You might be asking what makes this any different from a Battle Rifle. Let's take a closer look at the mechanics. While the very first shot of every round hits dead center, the other 3 rounds will go a little bit wild. This ensures that at long range, the only shots that will hit will be the first shot of each burst, and maybe another if they're lucky. However, at mid range, the shots have about 90% chance to all hit. At close range, this goes to 100%, or you can just switch to full auto and start spraying. This effectively limits the range of the Combat rifle to a mid/close-range, headshot-capable rifle. Even then, it's a very slow kill (5 perfect shots). This makes the weapon just effective enough to work as a capable starting weapon that isn't totally underpowered or overpowered.
Since you've been given a weapon that performs both as an adequate headshot weapon and as a spray weapon, we can start to refine what's needed in the sandbox as a whole. Remember: Bloom for the automatics, no bloom for the precision weapons.
-SMG: A more powerful close-quarter spray weapon with 80 rounds per clip and high RoF. Better than the Combat Rifle at close range.
-Pistol: Single-shot 5-shot-kill weapon with 15 rounds per clip, enough for 3 perfect headshot kills. Slightly faster RoF than the Combat Rifle's burst fire.
-Battle Rifle: Combat Rifle's big brother. 3-round-burst a 4 shot kill with 48 rounds per clip, enough for 4 perfect headshot kills. Slightly slower RoF than the Combat Rifle.
We've now defined our expanded core weapon set. All these weapons fit a niche, with each being able to compete with each other in their intended ranges. All are better than the Combat Rifle in some way, yet the Combat Rifle could also compete with any of them given a lapse or lack of skill on the part of the SMG/Pistol/BR user.
Next comes power weapons and specialty weapons. These don't really need to be defined at all, as this is where the game can get really creative and crazy. I'd like to see some form of plasma weapons return, as I have an idea for them that goes back to Halo 1. Those who did play Halo 1 know that way back then, plasma weapons had a unique "Freeze" effect on opponents. This made them deadly weapons because you could slow down your opponents movement speed. It was a really unique idea that never took hold in any future Halo titles, and I'd have it return in Halo 4.
The most important part about the rest of the sandbox is to keep it simple. Don't double up on weapons. It creates redundancy and un-needed sandbox elements.
In Summary: I can't really summarize this without losing detail. You gotta read it for the full explanation. I'll go over key points: Taking bloom and applying it to weapons that benefit from it: Automatics. Then, create a hybrid auto/headshot weapon: The Combat Rifle. Burst/Auto switch, Burst is headshot capable. This gives us a singular starting weapon to base the rest of the sandbox on.
==So How Does it Play?==
This will be short, but it's a very important point. Combining our Gameplay elements (Waaay up there) and what we've just defined in Multiplayer leaves us with a fast-paced skill-oriented shooter. The RoF on burst and single-shot weapons may be slower or faster in comparison to each other, but they would all be able to down an opponent within 3-4 seconds. I'm aiming to create a much faster pace than Halo: Reach, but not quite as fast as Halo 1 or Halo 2.
But just because it's fast doesn't mean it'll be un-approachable to new players. Something that everyone seems to have forgotten is that if you make a skill-oriented game, you can still have it be played casually. Professional sports are like this: 5 year olds can play them, but so can professional athletes. In regards to Halo 4, what I've done here is give new players the tools they need to both get a few kills and start learning how to get good on their own. However, if they get slaughtered every match, then how are they to get any better?
That's where the second forgotten element of a competitive/casual game comes in: A good ranking system. Random matchmaking is the "easy way out", because while you'll get matched up with some bad players, you'll also get matched up with some unbelievably good ones. The best thing for everyone is to actually create a very competitive ranking structure. Yes, new or unskilled players will get stomped on early on, but then the good players will move up, and new players will stay down, and fight each other. A good ranking system separates the crowds in ways that benefit all parties: Pros play with pros, and newbs play with newbs.
In Summary: The game is faster-paced, with core weapons being able to down opponents in 3-4 seconds on average. Snappy controls with quick kill times result in a skill-based game. A good ranking system makes the game accessible to both new and experienced players.
==Getting your Classic Fix==
As much as I'd want everyone to enjoy these changes, I know not everyone would. I've done my best to present a balance between new and old, but there will always be people that hate Armor Abilities and Bloom. But I would not shun these people. Rather, I would give them a haven. I think that a Classic playlist is an absolute must for Halo 4.
This playlist would literally be stripped down to a classic weapons set (No Combat Rifle or New Weapons), no Armor Abilities, disabled bloom, and classic powerups. That's it. The Classic Halo formula stays in tact alongside all the new features, and it just takes a little extra elbow grease to set up.
In Summary: Read 2 paragraphs!
And, my readers, we are out of Multiplayer land! Woohoo! If you've read this far, I commend you. But we have more to go from here, though these will not be nearly as long as the Multiplayer section was.
First order of business when talking about Firefight is to mention just how dismal Firefight is right now. While the original mode was a difficult survival scenario, our current "Firefight" playlist is called "Firefight Arcade". And it's just a shooting gallery. There is no option for a skill-based Firefighter in Matchmaking. It's disgusting and insults the design work put into the game mode.
Therefore, there will be no Arcadefight in Halo 4. If you play Firefight in Matchmaking, you play survival. And you'll like it.
The rest of the improvements I want to make to Firefight are really quick, so let's just list this out:
-Bring back the Covenant and the Flood as enemies in Firefight. Nostalgia!
-Ability to customize squads on a per-unit basis. Want a Zealot, a grunt, a Flood combat form, a Hunter, and a Brute in one enemy squad? Go for it!
-More options for custom AI behavior, and more custom skull slots.
-Have default firefight maps expand and allow more access as players progress.
-Purchasable upgrades in the form of new Armor Abilities and such.
-In Forge (We'll discuss this soon!), allow custom Firefight maps to be built with a custom AI path scripting tool.
There, see? That wasn't so bad.
I'll cut to the chase: Halo 4 needs a full on map creation tool. Terrain editor. Texture painter. All of it. What I want to do with it, is create a cross-platform creation kit. Build your maps on PC, then bring them over to the Xbox to play. In this editor, I also want to give the player options to create their own custom geometry from basic shapes, then give them the ability to paint textures over it. BAM! Custom buildings and scenery.
With this toolset, we'll see a crazy amount of original maps.
I realize that this is definitely on the better side of crazy. But hey! You never know.
WE. ARE. DONE.
I know this was a long journey, folks, but to anyone that read this entire thing, I thank you SO much for reading, and honestly hope that even if you aren't a Halo fan, you at least enjoyed the read. If you are a Halo fan, and agree or disagree with me on something, be sure to leave a comment. Just thank you all for reading!
If, by any chance, this were to get into the eyes of a 343 Studios employee, I honestly hope you'll consider some of these ideas. I truly believe that this design strategy is a wonderful marriage of old and new, and really would breathe some very needed life back into the Halo series. If not Halo 4, maybe Halo 5?