It isn’t as if the developers of Halo 4 need to bring sweeping changes to the existing multiplayer formula to get people playing, but that’s exactly what they’re up to. They’re turning a competitive online component into a standalone War Games continuity, complete with persistent progression, special armor abilities and loadouts, and levels of intricacy and customization that the most seasoned pros approve of.
343 Industries‘ Lead multiplayer Designer, Kevin Franklin, has opened up about the conception and refinement of the new systems. Sstory and fiction may have been the point of origin for War Games, but statistical fine-tuning and balancing soon took over, resulting in a multiplayer that will be addictive for everyone.
According to Franklin, the fiction of Halo 4 and the UNSC Infinity War Games laid the ground for a multiplayer programmer’s dream. In an interview with Xbox 360 Magazine UK (alongside new details on 343’s hopes for Spartan Ops) Franklin discussed the new setting, and a few of his favorite additions:
“Can you imagine as a designer being told, ‘There’s a space ship that’s all new and futuristic, filled with super soldiers’? The whole premise just blew our minds. How can we make this into an awesome multiplayer experience? At first we were very sensitive about putting in too much narrative to a competitive experience.
“We’ve merged gameplay and narrative, without cut-scenes, and it was a huge challenge, but I’m really happy with what we’ve got.”
It’s always a bold claim when developers promise to make both the experienced and newcomers happy, and more often than not, statements like those are usually hailed by the hardcore fans as a sign the developer will be watering-down the experience to appeal to the widest audience. When 343 first released details about Halo 4‘s multiplayer loadouts and perks there was no shortage of skeptics claiming that Call of Duty‘s approach to persistent progression had been adopted, and all was lost.
But as the developers start talking more and more about the ways Halo 4 will be classic Halo multiplayer made new, that comparison is becoming less and less fruitful. The Armor Abilities alone look to craft startlingly inspired gameplay experiences unavailable elsewhere, all player progression and perks considered.
Franklin isn’t vague about the relationship between the two franchises:
“There are definitely similarities between the games and we do reward players for in-game progression, but Call of Duty wasn’t the first game to do that and we have made it our own. We started early by saying it’s different because it’s Halo and we need to make a real distinction for ourselves, but I think you’ll find that with the Infinity War Games system. The way it rewards you, it’s not just five kills in a row; it’s so much deeper than that. It’s ‘How did I help my team-mate?’ or ‘How many points did I get recently?’. Even ‘Did I save the flag carrier?’
“We really want players to keep their experience going with both War Games and Spartan Ops. As you can go between both, we really wanted a long progression arc that’ll give you plenty of time to enjoy all the content coming for both. When we built the ordnance system, we knew we were giving players a lot more power right away. The weapons and boosts are more powerful, even players’ loadouts let them bring in more combinations, so by their nature, players are finding all these ways to mix things up. So we balanced that with the ordnance. your first one is a fixed amount of points to get, but everyone after that is a little harder.”
Franklin went on to emphasize that crafting a multiplayer experience that would “entice new players” was the team’s top priority. By expanding the tasks and actions that earn a player points beyond simply killing an opponent, even amateurs can play a role that not only helps win matches, but improve their skills and unlocks along the way.
That’s a wise design direction, and the changes it brings to even the most familiar forms of Halo Multiplayer have already been shown. And that’s without taking into account the addition of enormous Mantis Mechs, or the insanity that the new, ‘official’ Flood Infection Mode seems poised to introduce.
If all the pieces come together, and if Franklin’s predictions of success are accurate, then Call of Duty may have another persistent multiplayer system to worry about. Think 343 has a chance, or are at least headed in the right direction? Sound off in the comments.
And for those who may have missed them, be sure to check out the video walkthroughs previously released:
- Ragnarok Multiplayer Map Walkthrough
- Abandon Multiplayer Map Walkthrough
- Meltdown Multiplayer Map Walkthrough
- Flood Mode Multiplayer Walkthrough
Halo 4 will be released on November 6, 2012, exclusively for the Xbox 360.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
Source: Xbox 360 Magazine UK (via Reddit)