After almost two years of play, we often are told by angry players, that our weapons balance and bad matchmaking decisions are to blame for the rapid fall-off of Halo 2 players on Xbox Live. Apparently play has dwindled down to almost nothing. Empty matchmaking lobbies echo in the gloom, and tumbleweeds blow across barren, lifeless Coagulation Canyons. Matchmaking has almost ground to a halt.
Or has it? Roger, our numbers guy pointed out that in the heyday of Halo 2, just after launch, we were seeing about 20 million games per month. Well, guess what? We're seeing about 20 million games per month still, almost two years down the line.
That's a testament to our game, of which we are very fond. It's also a testament to the skill, patience and dedication of our gamers who've put up with cheating, network out time, matchmaking playlist shenanigans and more. To you, we give our thanks. Thanks for supporting us and thanks for sticking with or game.
But we also have to thank the behind the scenes guys who make matchmaking fun and fresh as the years pass. Brian Jarrard, Max Hoberman, and of course, the Mixmaster himself, Jeremiah (Ninja on Fire).
Recent changes to the playlist have been a mixed bunch. We put in Rumble Hardcore after months of resisting it, because we knew that it would get little use, frustrate players and eventually die, like a rose throttled and smothered by kudzu. And then the kudzu burned and ploughed over. And then that earth salted. Even the folks who asked for it didn't like it. But hey, what do we know?
Anyway, Team SWAT on the other hand, is a raging success, running almost neck and neck with Team Slayer for the number one most popular slot. You can see how the matchmaking playlists fare against each other in the diagram below.
We'll continue to tweak playlists and keep matchmaking fresh for the foreseeable future and as you can imagine, tracking the results of all this data is a fantastic way to find out what people do and don't like about Halo and incorporate some of that data in Halo 3 for a lovely matchmaking experience there too. And Lockout of course, remains the favorite map.
Jaime has been working on tuning the vehicles from Halo 2, for their reappearance in Halo 3. The new engine, new graphics and so on require of course that our "old" vehicles be rebuilt from the ground up to take advantage of all the extra horsepower we have. New vehicles, were there any in Halo 3, would have been created from scratch and need less re-imagining. Jaime also promises some new gameplay related features for vehicles that you might not expect.
The design, engineering, art, test, tools and audio teams, have all been working hard on a major internal milestone. Nothing you guys would be interested in but still an important and significant step. Thanks to everyone who worked late and hard to reach that goal, and they should all have a beer this afternoon to celebrate.
Multiplayer test sessions are proceeding apace and I already have stumbled into one of the perils of Halo 3 development - playing a two hour multiplayer game of Halo 3 and then playing Halo 2 at night, only to discover I have forgotten the layout of Burial Mounds and the cool new weapon I just got used to, isn't in Halo 2…
We now look forward to MP sessions when Lars instigates 'em about 4pm. He stands behind you like a stern teacher and says things like, "Why would you even play that way? You're like Mr. Magoo trying to find his way around an oil rig."
Lars is looking at how smoothly these new multiplayer maps play, and what tweaks can be applied to make a level more fun. Of course, he also has to note what kind of technical bugs there are. One match had a bunch of glowing, smoky explosions that didn't delete themselves after a blast, and simply hung there, burning in the air. It was surreal and to be honest, very pretty.
Lots of folks have asked about the weird glitch that mysteriously appeared in the HD version of the Halo 3 trailer seen on marketplace. We can assure you this is not some kind of time-released Easter egg, but rather a plain old codec encoding bug that appeared after the recent Xbox 360 dashboard update. Don't worry. Men are on it. TOP men. And in other video news, the HD QuickTime we had of our Behind the Scenes documentary is also in the land of codec hell. If we get the thing fixed, we'll repost, but in the meantime, we have an excellent WMV HD version available right now, which is actually smaller and more streamlined. So you should just use that.
Marty's visit to the Play! Concert a couple of weeks ago resulted in a couple of interviews, including this one over at 1Up.com's excellent video site - watch it for a look at what your state of mind will be when you're a nonagenarian.
Mini Bonus Waaahmbulance
Folks loved the Banhammer appeal emails so much, we might drip feed you a few on a semi regular basis. Here's a few gems from this week's Waaahmbulance. As ever, spellings and profanities are their own.
this is the only email address about xbl, so im gonna email you. I was banned form xbl, and i dont know why, i was doing more stuff on my other account that was against the rules rather than the account that got banned.
Wow. Short, sweet, to the point and with laser-precise self-incrimination.
Should Have Sent a Poet…
hey bungie itz (Gamertag removed to preserve shred of dignity) on xboxlive
Im a fan of your game
But wait my gamertag is banned from halo 2 matchmaking
I didnt cheat this time
I got suspended 1once for cheating
i stopped cause itz useless to cheat just to see a number that is a high lvl
It makes no sience
Can u unban me plz im, very unpleasd
I stopped cheating cause i want to play
If u can plkz do so
At first, I thought this was a poem. Then I realized that in a way, it was. Which if you think about it, makes no sience .
The Five Stages of Waaahmbulance
I Dont know why i am god damn banned i network bridge witch is giving host so that i dont get cheated against cause most modders need bridgers to win games, so i want you to unbann me and i sware i wont do it again honistly becuase i just got this acocunt and i want to play matchmaking so bad you can reset my stats if u want to i dont care just please unbann my account the account name is (Gamertag removed to preserve fruits) please please please please please please please please unbann him.
The five stages of Waaahmbulance are: Denial, profanity, apology, acceptance, begging. Note that by the end, he is so unhinged that he has started to refer to himself in the third person.
Brother from Another Planet
hey yeah I want to know how I got suspended on my brand new account when I just started playing it today?! this is bull-blam!-. I know I have a brother who started it up not too long ago and played around on it but what the hell?! ********* is the gamertag and I would like it to be un-suspended please. thanks
Obviously the lesson to be learned here is that you should eliminate your siblings, one by one. They used to give you wedgies, but now they chip-mod your Xbox while you're out, download and install modified maps, log onto Xbox Live and get you banned. A mild butt-flossing was so much easier to deal with.
Finally, although I started working on a Mister Chief Pie Chart, I was waylaid and ended up imagining what it would look like if Mister Chief came for us at the end of days.