Well it’s Friday and here we are again, gathered around our collective monitors ready to dive into a heaping dose of information and insights in another Bungie Weekly Update. Urk is out of the office this week so it’s up to me to carry the torch and satiate our hungry fan community.
I’ll admit right now that this won’t live up to my previous tradition of mega-ton dropping, Urk-crushing super-updates. "Mega-tons" are far and few between these days as we find ourselves nestled squarely in the middle of an already released game and the dark shroud of mystery for what’s yet to come. I do have it on good authority though that something is stirring in the darkness, something dealing not with our future but with something much more familiar. Dare I say that next weeks’ forecast currently shows the fog clearing and the information you’ve been clamoring for is poised to burn through like the midday sun.
So, what to discuss in the meantime? If you’re interested in hearing more about the current level cap in Reach, matchmaking news, some information about Legendary, a breakdown of some achievements and a few other odds and ends, read on. If this doesn’t interest you, skip to the bottom for some funny Reach "Blame Stosh" clips for the week and pray that Urk can dig up more next week. (Spoiler: He has forces already at work to aide him in that quest)
Oh, and before I forget, allow me to clarify something - No, you won't get banned or punished for playing loads of Gruntpocalypse online to earn credits. Anything you do to legitimately earn credits is fine and dandy. The river of tears last Friday came from people we targeted due to overtly, blatantly and specifically manipulating and cheating the game challenges to earn illegitmate credits. The hammer only swings on people who undeniably deserve it.
By now you’re all aware that there’s a limit on the level you can currently achieve in Reach. Based on the amount of noise and concern coming from the community I figured that the vast majority of you have already run face first into this virtual ceiling. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As it turns out, over 70% of the entire population is still at Warrant Officer or below. In fact, the amount of active players who are currently sitting at the level cap is less than 1% of everyone playing Reach.
I figured many of you would like to see how your current rank stacks up against the entire community at large so Jacob Miner, one of our infrastructure engineers and stats gurus, whipped up this quick chart for me:
Note that “Private A” is what’s known in-game as “Private Grade 1”, “Warrant Officer A” is “Warrant Officer Grade 1” and so on.
I just personally hit Major yesterday so I’m sitting in the upper echelons of the top 97% of our player base for virtual-ranks-with-no-tangible-real-value! I feel… special. This chart also shows what most of you already know – climbing the Warrant Officer Mountain is a monumental feat!
Luke Smith, the player investment designer for Reach, noticed this too, “Yes, Warrant Officer is a long stretch of gameplay so it’s not much of a surprise that there are a lot of folks still making their way to Captain.” There’s hope though. As Luke explains, “as some of you have found out – once you get to Captain it speeds up again.” Yes I can personally attest to this – once you finally get past WO Grade 3, its smooth sailing and downhill (mostly) from there.
So, what about that level cap then? I asked Luke to shed some light on the issue.
I’m at or near the current rank cap. Please say it’s being raised soon?
Luke: “We definitely have a plan for raising the cap and when those details can be shared, they’ll happily be conveyed here on Bungie.net. As far as “soon” goes, that’s a term that is pretty vague, so I guess your mileage may vary depending on what “soon” means to you.”
Once I hit the level cap, what’s going to happen to the credits that I continue to earn?
Luke: “Nothing, you’re still earning credits once you hit the cap and they are still counting towards your next rank. So, once the level cap is lifted, some players will shoot off into other ranks and get access to new stuff.”
Ok, so why is there a level cap in the first place?
Luke: “There’s a level cap in place for a number of reasons.
First, security: We’ve seen a bunch of games come and go where investment systems got exploited and broken early, completely throwing off the game economy (even though Reach progression is aesthetic only, it’s still important to us to preserve the ecosystem to the best of our ability) so one reason was certainly security. To use a hyperbolic example: If it turned out that teabagging players was giving mountains of Credits (try it, it gives nothing!), we’d have a failsafe in place to make a fix and continue the progression path
Second: We had some ideas on cool ways to lift it via communal effort.”
We should hopefully have more news to share on those “cool communal efforts” very soon and if I were a betting man I’d say that the current cap will be lifted in the next month or two, give or take. In the meantime that gives 99% of you plenty of time to continue playing, ranking up and banking credits while of course, most importantly, just continuing to have fun.
As you already know, earlier this week marked the first playlist update for Halo: Reach matchmaking. You can see the full details here
. Our team continues to work on improving the online experience and reviewing not only game data and statistics but also feedback from all of you in our Optimatch forums. We know there are a lot of requests still pending and we are already working on the foundation for future updates. Reach will continue to improve and evolve with each passing month. Hang in there.
Generally our playlist updates fall on a monthly cycle but sometimes there are exceptions. Take this month, October, for example. We just did an update this past Tuesday and we’ve got another one teed up for approximately 10/19 (pending final testing and review). This next mid-month update will include the addition of the Campaign Matchmaking playlist along with quite a few other tweaks and improvements to existing playlists. The final changes are subject to change and pending final test review but it’s our hope to roll out a dedicated Infection and Snipers playlist amidst a slew of other changes.
As soon as we have a final changelist that we can verify and commit to, we’ll share the details here on Bungie.net. Expect Urk to drop the info on you in next Friday’s update. In the meantime, keep playing, keep voting and keep sharing your feedback with us. We really do appreciate it and it does help make the Reach online experience even better down the road.
Lars is also cooking up some new hotness for Firefight down the road, he’ll have details to share in the next update, promise.
In addition to general housekeeping and improvements, many of you are also eager to know more about plans for an official MLG playlist and/or a Grifball playlist. Right now I can tell you that we’re in contact with each of those groups and once they’ve got maps and gametypes baked and ready for deployment we’ll be working with them to get them into matchmaking. At this rate it doesn’t seem like it will happen for November but it’s something we all hope to have implemented before the holiday break. That said, you can’t rush greatness and ultimately it’s up to the MLG and Grifball organizations to iterate and perfect their own content before we can add it to matchmaking. It’ll happen, just give it a bit more time.
I know you’re also eager to find out when/how/where the first Forge community maps will appear in matchmaking. We’re working on it. And thankfully, so are many of you. We’ve already seen some great maps turning up out there with countless more already in development. As soon as we have a formal pipeline and policy implemented we’ll be happy to share those details. For now our initial plan is to work closely with some of the major Reach community groups as the front line for finding, testing and submitting Forge variants for matchmaking. It’s our goal to roll out a community Forge World playlist that’s a staging ground for all sorts of sweet Forge content before the best of the best gets rolled out into proper matchmaking as appropriate. This community playlist will function a lot like the old “Bungie vs. the World” of Halo 3 and it’s our hope to make it a fun battleground that’s exclusively populated with a steady stream of maps created by you. We’ll have more details to share soon. In the interim, current plans are to release "one or more" Forge variants into Matchmaking in our next update (pending final testing).
Quite a few of you have been vocal about lamenting the loss of the Halo 3 rank # and what you perceive to be the removal of skill based gaming for anything outside of the Arena. While it’s true that we did remove the global rank number that used to be displayed in the game lobby that doesn’t mean we’ve thrown True Skill or skill-based matchmaking out the window. It’s still there, driving and influencing every match you play regardless of whether you’re in the Arena or “Competitive” playlists.
I asked David Aldridge & Luke Timmins, Network Engineers on Reach, to clarify a few of these misconceptions. Here’s a few of the more pertinent takeaways:
• Trueskill is running behind the scenes for both teammate and opponent matching at all times.
• Trueskill is always assessed per-playlist.
• Skill is not quite as heavily weighted for finding teammates as it is for opponents because of the weight given to the Psych preferences.
• The Arena has the least flexible, hard limit on the allowable skill differential between matched parties.
Even though you may sometimes feel like your random teammates are the worst players on the planet or your random opponents are unstoppable killing machines, know that behind the scenes, skill is being factored. In all likelihood, these extreme examples are usually the result of players not accumulating enough history to earn a skill rating in a given playlist.
A Monument to all My Sins
Two weeks ago today I finally earned the most coveted of all Reach achievements by beating the campaign on Legendary, alone. I initially tackled the campaign on Heroic so I could more thoroughly enjoy myself but eventually I mustered up the fortitude to face the ultimate challenge. (I'd recommend a similar approach for all but the most die-hard Spartans)
If you’ve earned this achievement as well, consider yourself part of an elite club. As of October 2nd (the most recent report I have), barely 5% of the entire Reach (online-aware) population has earned the “A Monument to All Your Sins” achievement.
I was going to turn my experience into a high level guide for Bungie.net in hopes of sharing some tips and tricks to make your Legendary play-through a little less painful. I may still get to that, but in lieu of Sketch’s not-so-expert advice, I did manage to get some interesting insights from the team on what makes Legendary, Legendary. Sure, it’s “harder”, but what else is going on behind the scenes? Here’s a rundown of the major aspects that separate Legendary from the lesser difficulties:
*Warning – there are a few spoilers down below!*
- Damage – THE most challenging trait for Legendary is the increase in damage that ALL of the Covenant will do. For perspective, playing on “Easy” results in enemies doing a measly 22% of the damage done on “Normal” difficulty. On Legendary, prepare to get blasted by projectiles, explosions and melees that do 77% more damage than Normal difficulty. OUCH.
- Projectiles – Not only do those plasma bolts hurt more but they’re also harder to avoid. On Legendary difficulty, the projectile speed is anywhere from 50% to 100% faster than Normal difficulty (it varies depending on the projectile/weapon). In general you’ll also find that the number of projectiles per burst is greater, the length of each burst is longer and the time between bursts is shorter on Legendary than the lesser settings.
- Upgrades – The higher the difficulty setting, the greater the chance that an enemy in an encounter will get upgraded to a higher version. On Legendary there is a 50% chance that any enemy will be upgraded to the next highest version – so that Minor Elite you fought on Normal or Heroic now has a 50% chance to become a Major (or a 25% of becoming an Ultra). Enemies will also have more health on average than the same enemy would have on a lower difficulty.
- AI Behavior – I was surprised to learn that the AI actually does NOT evade more or have a greater awareness on Legendary compared to the other difficulties (with the exception of a greater likelihood to see Active Camo or less likelihood of falling for Hologram). However, the AI does behave differently by generally having a better aim, a greater chance to fire plasma pistol overcharge shots and a shorter time between melee strikes.
- Customized Encounters – In addition to everything listed above, which applies to every single enemy in the game, sometimes the designers have done extra, specific things to beef up an encounter solely on Legendary play-throughs. Jerks! For example, in “New Alexandria”, Dan Miller will throw more Banshee patrols at your Falcon as you fly around the city and on “The Package”, he added a fourth Hunter Wave that appears before the final wave. On “Nightfall” you’ll have to contend with four Hunters instead of two. And so on.
So there you have it. Legendary is much more challenging and it’s all “by design.”
My final stats: 14 hours, 1 minute to complete. 2,038 kills, 259 deaths.
Are you part of the 5% of players who shares this honor with me? If so, how’d it go for you? If you have tips and tricks to share please sound off and maybe it will make its way into my future helpful Legendary guide.
So, barely 5% of players have earned the “A Monument to all Your Sins” achievement. What about the rest of ‘em? Is assassinating an Elite in mid-fall as challenging for everyone else as it is for you? Here are a few more stats taken from the 10/2 Xbox LIVE report:
And finally, we wrap up this week on a funny note with not one but TWO different “Blame Stosh” entries. Stosh scoured the Reach file shares to find these gems depicting a Warthog jack gone wrong and bad timing for a drop pod arrival in Firefight.
Enjoy and see you next week!