When you think of Halo, I bet the first though that comes to mind is the multiplayer. While the Halo games have always had a good campaign mode (personal interpretation, here), it’s the online chaos that have drawn people to the games, and Bungie’s up-coming Halo: Reach looks to improve on what has come before. In a recent sit-down with Shacknews, Bungie Studios gave an in-depth look at the ranking system for the sci-fi FPS.
A lot of changes have been made under the hood for Reach, and the plan is to make it more accessible than Halo 3’s system was. While the friend’s list in Halo 3 was obtuse at best, Reach’s new friends interface, called Active Roster, is being made to fix some of the problems inherit with the previous model. It’s omnipresent throughout all of Reach’s menus, and it provides you with real-time updates on all of your friends and what they’re currently doing in Reach. Part of the overhaul is the “queue” option, where you can wait to join your friends automatically once they leave their current game, instead of having to do the complicated rigmarole of repeated invites and lobby joining.
Besides re-vamping the user interface (UI) and making it look gorgeous, Bungie is also changing around the set-up for matchmaking. Halo 3 divided the player base by separating the matchmaking system into two categories: Ranked and Social. What Halo: Reach is aiming to do is take the good matches that were synonymous with the Ranked playlist and combine them with the fun of the Social playlist. Just to ensure that Bungie isn’t lumping all the players who don’t care for Arena in with each other, gamers can refine what they’re looking but changing four unique values that will filter what type of games you’re placed into: Teamwork, Motivation, Chattiness and Tone. If you’re a talkative team player, then Reach will try and place you with like-minded people. I’m sure it won’t be a perfect system, but it’s better to have the option to try and define your preferences than just be thrown in with the rest of matchmaking and hope for decent games.
While this new set-up sounds good, you may (or may not) be wondering about what happens to the Major League Gaming-wannabees who would be jilted by this change. Bungie’s answer to that is the Arena, which essentially functions like a month-long tournament. When you enter an Arena match, Bungie’s back-end stats tracking system keeps tabs on your performance and places you in different competitive brackets based on your skill. If you aren’t up to snuff in your current ranking, then the system bumps you back down accordingly. The same thing is true if you’re too good for your opponents. It’s a way to keep the matches fresh and challenging, and Bungie is trying to make a lot of improvement’s to Microsoft’s sometimes flaky “True Skill” system so the Arena functions properly. At the end of every month the competition ends, and your previous achievements are placed onto your Reach profile via a baseball card-like interface.
Hopefully all these new improvements work as well as Bungie hopes they will, and will benefit the Halo community as a whole. One of the major goals of the Arena playlist is to remove “smurfing”, which is the creation of new LIVE accounts by people who have maxed out their Halo 3 rank. Seems to me that if you have time to level your rank to that degree in Halo 3, you should be putting your time into better mutliplayer games like Bad Company 2. Just saying.
Anyways, what do you guys think of the proposed changes? Are you excited to see them for yourself when the public beta for Reach hits on May 3rd?