Bungie Weekly Update: 03.26.10
Posted by urk at 3/26/2010 3:31 PM PDT
Right now I’m immersed in the auditory experience that should become the final mix of the March Podcast. Well, not right now. Right now I’m typing. You’ll likely read this at some undefined moment in the not so distant future. Which will momentarily become your present. And is now subsequently the past.

Anyway, I just need to make sure that we didn’t spout off and say anything too revealing (or offensive). We gotta keep some things to ourselves even though Brian did let me snap the spotlight back on last week to dispel some of the darkness we were shrouding ourselves in. (The night is always darkest....)

To help keep me dialed in, I’ve slipped into a pair of Gunnars. I need to be in the zone and on the top of my game. There’s some pro caliber discussion being delivered in this particular Podcast, the details driven by a pair of veteran designers.

In real time:

Multiplayer Design Lead, Christopher P. Carney’s just checked out after laying down some delicious details covering Reach’s multiplayer design direction. Now Sage is slipping into the hot seat, ready to dissect a wealth of sandbox details, including specifics covering the differences between Spartan and Elite player models, the updated shield and health mechanics, intricate weapon characteristics, and tons more.

Sage seems pretty comfortable, too. He’s systematically targeting each and every question Brian, Luke, and I fire his way with uncanny precision. We set him up, he knocks ‘em down. Pretty sure he has some kind of superhuman Auto-Aim switched on.

“We do a little bit to aim towards your center vector based on your pitch…”

Whoa. I’d love to dig into all of the finer points we’re putting up for discussion, but I know you’d rather dip right into all the topical information we’ve just recently revealed. The Podcast can and will wait. Don’t worry, though, we’ll deliver the audio goods real soon. Like, maybe next week soon. Like maybe early next week soon. No promises.

Right now, let’s talk Player Investment.

The first question on the docket is so simple even I can answer it.

Q. What’s Luke Smith been up to these days?


Credits Will Do Fine
If you missed the straight dope as delivered by the illustrious L. M. Smith over the past year and change, you’re gonna fall madly in love the question and answer section he’s painstakingly constructed for you below. Yup, Lukems is back, albeit with fancy new title and a completely different role at Bungie.

But even though he’s not fielding questions about the Battle Rifle spread any longer, he just couldn’t up and quit you completely. You have questions and concerns about Halo: Reach’s Player Investment System and Luke, well, he’s got all the answers.

Let’s go deep.

Q. Whoa, whoa, whoa…I’m confused. What are Credits, what are Ranks, what are Commendations, and what in the hell do they have to do with my Arena Rating?

A. Credits, Rank, and Commendations are all part of something new to Halo: Reach - Player Investment. The role and goal of Player Investment is to reward all types of Halo players, regardless of their preferred playstyle.

Let's roll through those terms one at a time:

Rank - Rank as you knew it in Halo 3, is dead. The concept of Rank has been revamped and divorced entirely from Trueskill (more on that in a few paragraphs) and the concept of EXP (at both the Global and Playlist levels) has also been discarded.

In Halo: Reach, Rank is a global, cross-gameplay-mode-encompassing representation of the time you've spent in the game. So whether you're a Campaign-only guy, or a Matchmaking-only girl, or you swing both ways, you're going to be seeing that Rank advance as you keep playing.

Rank will increase over time as players earn more Credits. Credits are the lifeblood of the Player Investment system and they can be earned in all of Reach's gameplay modes, through a number of systems.

  • Finishing games and Winning Games in Matchmaking - For the purposes of the upcoming Public Beta, this is going to be a significant source of earning Credits. There are very clear constants in the ways that Credits are earned in Reach across game modes and at the heart of those constants is Time. In the long run, the majority of Credits will be earned from this bucket.
  • Commendations - Commendations are persistent, aggregating awards that will advance through gameplay. When players are progressing Commendations, they're going to be earning Credits - and when Commendations reach milestones, players will earn a bunch of additional Credits. Most importantly, Commendations serve as virtual scouting reports with information on what type of a player someone is, what weapons they use and what tricks they bring to the table. Commendations in matchmaking won't aggregate specific actions - like say, a Sniper Headshot - but instead, a Headshot. The Beta will have a small subset of Commendations at very limited levels of completion.
  • Challenges also contribute to Credit earn (among other things), but there's a question coming up about those later, so I'll save it.
  • Achievements - Spoilers! There will be Achievements in Reach and completing an Achievement will give you some small amount of Credits.
  • And more...

This new Rank has jack and squat to do with your Arena rating. The two are wholly unrelated and having an amazing Arena rating won't directly correlate to how many Credits you earn per hour, per day or per minute.

Indirectly, however, we fully anticipate an acceptable delta in Credit earn moment to moment between good players who win regularly against a guy whose never played Halo before.

Editor's Note: You might notice that some pieces of armor, like the above, are listed as "Prerequisites Not Met." Likely, that means the player still needs to meet a minimum rank requirement before they can purchase a particular item. Cumulative Credits inform a players overall rank and spending them will never result in a rank being downgraded.

Q. So do Ranks or Commendations impact Trueskill and affect who I’m being matched up with?

A. Nope. Rank and Commendations are user-facing elements of Reach's Player Investment System. Trueskill is the quiet machine humming under matchmaking's hood, churning to find you the most competitive match possible.

Q. Do they grant access to better weapons or gate my ability to enter Playlists?

A. Credits don't give access to better weapons. If we were going to use them to gate Playlist entry, it'd probably be akin to the newbie Hopper in Halo 3.

Done right, earning Credits won't alter the core gameplay at all - we don't want to incentivize behaviors in our sandbox that are at odds with our gameplay philosophies. We don't want to introduce rewards and awards for behaviors that disrupt other's playstyles.

Editor's Note - The stuff you earn with Credits is purely cosmetic. You can use the right analog stick to move the camera's position so you can check out your gear from all the right angles.

Q. Why didn’t you just stick with the established model? I really enjoyed the race to 50!

A. A race implies a conclusion, by mapping Trueskill to Military Rank in Halo 3, we created a race that the vast majority of the population couldn't finish. It was fun seeing the number next to your name climb, and keep climbing - we recognize that. The unfun part, is when that number stops changing and players are mostly powerless to change it.

There are other measuring sticks in Halo: Reach - like the aforementioned Arena, with its Daily Ratings, Season models, resetting Leaderboards. Among other things, the Arena will introduce our competitive population to something they haven't really had before in Halo, the hope that "next month, I can do better."

Q. Where do Daily Challenges fit into all of this?

A. They probably fit further up in the question about Credits, but instead we're all the way down here.

While we're not including Challenges in the Public Beta, they are a suite of activities that will help keep the Reach experience fresh by offering new content every day, and targeted, challenging Content each week.

When players log into Reach each day, we want them to check out the Challenges menu and see if anything piques their interest. Challenges will arrive in a few different forms:

Daily Challenges:

Short-session tasks, analogous to Double Double from Halo 3's DLC Achievements, or Kill X players in Matchmaking, or Kill Y Enemies in Campaign, or Help Kill Z enemies in any game mode today.

Weekly Challenges:

These can be harder, take more time, maybe it will take you a week to accomplish a Weekly Challenge. Maybe sometimes it'll remind you of an Achievement like Annual from Halo 3 - where you and three of your friends will get together for something. Maybe we'll ask you to play a Mission like few have dared...

Q. Man, I can see it now. I’m going to run into players who want to do nothing but farm for Credits, Challenges, and Commendations. How are you going to stop people from boosting and ruining games for other people?

A. It's admittedly dangerous to introduce lists of suggested activities to a playerbase, or offer particular rewards that will net them more value for their time. We're being extremely careful in selecting actions that can result in Credits.

For example: A "bad" Commendation, would be one that requires a player to use a single weapon.
  • Pea Shootin' - Kill a player with the Plasma Pistol in Matchmaking [requires Plasma Pistol]

The outcome of a Commendation like this should be apparent - a bunch of folks running around Matchmaking betraying each other for the Plasma pistol.

A more appropriate Commendation would be one that buckets multiple relevant sandbox weapons into a category and increments each time a kill is registered with any weapon in that bucket.

  • Precision - Kill a Player with a Precision-class weapon [requires DMR, Needle Rifle or Sniper Rifle]

Another way we're going to be addressing "boosting" is by throttling the amount of Credits that can be earned for incrementing Commendations. Players will earn Credits for every headshot, up until a certain point, at which they'll no longer receive per-action Credits for that Commendation. This will hopefully allow the true purpose of Commendations - to accurately reflect player archetypes to shine through.

Many players will end up min/maxing their Commendation Credits trying to get all of the available Credits out of a given Commendation before moving on to the next one. We expect this. We also expect that only a true Wheelman will reach the Onyx Milestone - because at a certain point, he's driving because he loves it, because it's the part of Halo he enjoys, not because it's the best way to farm Credits.

Q. Man, I can see it now: Part Two. People are just going to sit on their pile of Credits until they have enough to buy the top tier in every category. What are you gonna do to stop players from saving instead of investing?

A. Saving is an Investment in your future.

Also, that player is going to look hysterical, default armor everywhere except for the REDACTED.

Q. It looks like my customization options are limited to the same set I had in Halo 3. It’s just helmets, shoulders, and chest pieces again?

A. In the Public Beta players will customize Helmets, Left Shoulder, Right Shoulder and Chest (alongside Emblems and Colors, of course!) - in the retail game, it's a pretty safe bet that there will be other things on your Spartan to customize.

Q. I am not putting anything on my Helmet, I don't want to increase the hitbox, I'm afraid of conflict!

A. Just like Halo 3, whose curiously sized helmets didn't change the geometry, we're applying the same rules to Reach's vastly expanded customization. If your preferred Helmet has a camera on the side, that helmet camera won't increase your hitbox. Relax.

Q. Cool. There's only three variants in each category, though. I’ll have everything in the first week, right?

A. The beta offerings of Player Investment are but a taste of what will be included in the final game.

It won't be possible to unlock everything in the first week. In addition to systemic measures that will keep this in check, there will be some pretty neat gating factors that will require a collective effort to open.

Q. Why do you hate Elites? You’re just saving the big Elite customization reveal for later, aren’t you?

A. It's not hate, it's a different kind of love. Elites will be customizable, but not in the same way as the Spartans. Spartans have their own dedicated massive part of the UI, you'll be able to customize your Elite, but it won't be the same as decking out your Spartan. Your Spartan is your identity in Reach.

Q. What about Bungie.net? Will I be able to see stuff like Daily Challenges, Credits, and Commendations online or is this all in game stuff only?

A. Oh, it's a more than fair bet that these systems will translate to Bungie.net. Chris, Tom, Stosh, M-Dub and The Wolf are definitely cooking in the kitchen.

Q. Why did you leave us, Luke Smith?

A. Uh, to work on Player Investment in Reach. Urk flirts with you guys better than I did, anyway.

Oh, you just play hard to get, Luke.

Well, we hope your questions about the Player Investment system have been answered. If not, we're probably either saving something for later or acting on a personal vendetta we have against you or your loved ones.

Oh, and in case you haven’t caught on, the plan of record is to keep dumping out truckloads of Reach multiplayer information from here on out. The closer we get to the public release of the Beta in May, the more information you’ll find yourself armed with in the form of articles, podcasts, and yup, videos. We couldn’t bear the thought of sending you out into the wild and woolly new multiplayer world without arming you with the information you need. We don’t want to see you get hurt!

Much of it, including today's multimedia and information, will end up with a permanent home in our Halo: Reach project page.
Rhythm of the Business
If you fancy yourself a student of Halo’s design philosophy, you’re in luck. Griesemer made his GDC exegesis covering the cadence of the Halo 3 Sniper Rifle publicly available earlier today. There are some pretty pictures packed in, but unless you’re looking to incorporate Griesemer’s pillars of design into your own approach to building kick ass games, this all might go whizzing right by your head.

Bungie.net Publications – Design In Detail
Blame Stosh

Q. After I earn a pile of Credits and Commendations and hit the Armory to make my Spartan look sweet, will I be able to head over to Bungie.net to survey my righteous works?

A. Stosh is way too busy to be worrying about digging up silly images for everybody this week. Sorry, there isn’t gonna be a Blame Stosh today. For those keeping track, yup, that’s two weeks running, You should know good and well who’s responsible.

More on the way next week. Stay Tuned.
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