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The Henery
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(04-02-2013, 06:02 PM)
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Originally Posted by op_ivy

ok, serious question. do you all really think halo 4's population numbers have anything to do with infinity, gameplay unlocks, spawning pp's, or no visible ranks?

Oh yes, absolutely, 100 percent, without question. The other day I was going to make a quick post: "Every time I hop on Halo 4, I'm repeatedly astonished at the continuing success of Infinity Big Team Slayer". Once I thought about it however, I realised that iBTB's success makes complete sense. Its continued success, population-wise, is the residual effect of Halo 4's launch physique.

There are vast, vast, numerous amounts of videogamers who enjoyed the original Halo trilogy. The PS2 dominated that console generation but had it not been for Halo CE's foundational pillar in the Xbox's lauch, and Xbox Live's perfect launch partner in Halo 2 then the Xbox would have gone the way of the Sega Saturn or Jaguar, forgotton and completely stomped into anonymity by the PS2. Halo 3's years at the top of the Live charts and respectable (for a years old game) subsequent tussle with COD releases bore out that there were still many, many gamers who enjoyed normal Halo gameplay.

Then Halo Reach happened and a lot of gamers who had nine years worth of gameplay muscle memory invested in Halo are thrown by having to stop shooting in the middle of a battle in order for their shots to be accurate. They have moments of dizzying frustration when a player they would have killed in a given situation in the previous three titles suddenly activates an invincibility button. They are killed by players who can suddenly fly over their heads from spawn and the game doesn't offer them a Y axis sensitivity to accomodate these new features. They enter Team Slayer, a safe bet of a playlist in the previous two titles and half of the maps are a turgid, mono-grey eyesore that are all visually alike and don't play particularly well. They go to BTB, a favourite for so many in H2 and H3 and there is not a single, non-forge map custom built for the mode, instead playing on built-for-an-entirely-different-mode horror shows like Spire and Boneyard. They actually get put into BTB SWAT on Boneyard, spawn Red stairs, and are repeatedly spawn killed in the open by a 3x zoom, single shot precision rifle.

These players think Halo Reach is not a very fun Halo game. They don't like the changes, they don't like the poor selection of maps, amongst other things. They look around for other places to put their gaming time; Black Op's releases on the back of three successful predecessors and, crucially, doesn't mess around with what made those games popular in the first place. It identify's a rivals strength of meta-features (Halo's theatre and social file sharing capabilities) and implements its own theatre which in many ways improves upon Halo's version and then offers players the social sharing side of it, not on a dev website or by jumping through hoops in game but through free rendered uploads to probably the most visited website on Earth in Youtube. Many of the gamers put off by Halo's strange new direction (no 1-50 wtf? Timing shots and no BR wtf? You can spawn with camo now wtf?) decide to go where a lot of their friends went, a safe, you know what you're getting deal in COD. Lots of them also get into Battlefield 3, a game that knows what it does best, very large scale military battles, is somewhat unique in the FPS landscape and sticks to it.

Fast forward to October 2012 and these players who loved the original trilogy but checked out with Reach, they see the Halo 4 PR train in full swing. "Oh hey, look, the Master Chief's back" they say. They remember paying the same price for ODST as they did for Halo 3 but ODST didn't have proper multiplayer nor the Chief. They remember paying full price the following year for Reach, which again didn't have the Chief, and being put off by the weird, unexpected things in the multiplayer. So they see the Chief and they associate him with the last game he was in, Halo 3, that game that they and their friends had lots of awesome times with. So they look forward to Halo 4's release because hey, Chief's back, so Halo will be normal again right?

This is where one goes back to the point about Halo 4's launch 'physique'. The launch state of a game is arguably its most important. It is where the vast majority of players who don't read forums and gaming press etc get their idea of a games identity and the game developers intent for the series. Many of those players that Reach lost are back for Halo 4 in launch week, eager to give the franchise another shot.

They load up the game and tentatively enter War Games ("I think this is the multi, guys"). The party lead and their buddies look for a playlist they remember loving, Team Slayer, but there is no sign of it. "Just pick the top one, come on party leader!". So they enter Infinity Slayer. They play five hypothetical games. The voting for these five games goes 'Adrift, Complex, Complex, Adrift, Abandon'. The maps quality don't seem very high and now it appears everyone has a power weapon at some point, and that guy they just killed pressed X to spawn without punishment and cleaned them up while they waited for their shields to recharge, completely unfairly. Weapons are confusingly spawning at random, with no explanation as to why that is happening (it didn't happen in the ten years they played Halo before). They play another bunch of Infinity Slayer and soon come to realise that there's only four 4v4 maps and two of them are objectively poor for Slayer. So they venture over to Infinity BTB and, while the gameplay problems remain from their 4v4 experience, at least there are more maps on offer.

So what happens to this hypothetical party of four a week after Halo 4's release? Three of them go to Black Op's 2 or back to Battlefield 3 (COD does weapon unlocks and instant respawn far better than Halo ever will and BF3 is built around large scale combat and, crucially, let's you drive a vehicle more than five meters without getting stunned by a spawn weapon). One stays (the opening populations were around 400, 000 and then dropped to a quarter of that). The one who stays motivation for doing so is as multitudinous as Halo's confused identities. It might be a love of heavy BTB gameplay, it might be because that player is one of those who is an absolute sucker for levelling systems no matter what the gameplay and wishes to reach SR 130. It might be that they fucking love the party gametype Regicide. But the question isn't why so few stayed it's why so many chose to leave...

Halo 4 sold so many copies because it it had an 11 year established base of users and previous customers right? For 9 of those years Halo was about equal starts, checks, balances and largely reasonable design. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that many of that established user base came to Halo 4 expecting a direct, regular Master Chief sequel to Halo 3, Reach being the equivalent of an experimental off-shoot branch, not the foundation for Halo 4. Those players came to Halo, experienced instant respawn, random weapon drops, camo sniping, camo boltshotting, their favourite Warthog being stunned every three seconds by an unlocked spawn weapon, no ranked/social choice and realised they had to play for hours in order to unlock a perk so they didn't frequently run out of ammo (weapons vanishing every 12 seconds as they do). They probably realised at that point that all these things that were making Halo not feel like the game they'd enjoyed for a decade were being done better in other games in which they made sense. And so, they went to those other games.

So, COD does unlock systems and fast, one shot kill, 60fps gameplay best. Battlefield 3 cornered the big battle market. What was always Halo's core strength? FOUR VERSUS FOUR, arena based slayer and objective gametypes. 343 launches with four smallish maps, and a shit load of BTB content. 6 of its subsequent 9 DLC maps are BTB. Halo no longer has a grip on thaepopular area of the 4v4 market. People who bought or rented Halo 4 to see if it was normal again have disappeared. They won't be back five months from launch when it's announced in a corner of an internet forum that Team Throwdown, a normal-ish Halo playlist is coming to Halo 4! After that opening week they've made their mind up and you've lost them forever. Well, at least until Halo 5 rolls around but even then they might not bother. See, next time, Halo won't have the 'Master Chief wasn't in those games so it doesn't count' excuse. Master Chief, along with the Halo name, is now tainted.