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Subject:And then, "Fun With Dirt!"
Time:08:04 pm
I've always had trouble figuring out how to respond to detractors of Halo (and now Halo 2). On the one hand, it's sold a crapload of copies. On the other hand, it's hard to find a post on any forum about Halo that does not have its share of anti-fans.

Anti-halo folk tend to have a PC gaming background, usually hardcore. Debating the value of Halo is akin to arguing about the validity of Wicca to an evangelical Christian. There's just no common frame of reference to have a meaningful discussion.

One thing Halo does better than most PC games is optimize the user experience for the average player: the kind of player that has a limited in-game lifetime (i.e., they die every so often). Hey, that's just like me!

Firstly, the checkpoint system encourages all levels of skill to keep playing. It takes only 4-6 seconds to restore the last checkpoint;.5-1.5 if you invoke the pause screen and restore explicitly. That means you do not have to switch mental modes in order to continue playing after dying; it just happens. Even if you die every 5 seconds, you're still always back in action right away. (Personally, I'd much rather play a game than manage a game; that's just me.)

Secondly, we made sure to optimize the single player experience for a straight playthrough. If you play Halo 2 all the way through, you should never see a long interruptive loading screen. (You will see the Loading... done text, but that's unavoidable for the size and complexity of levels.) Even Halo 1 only had 9 significant loading screens, and those were at appropriate points in the game (i.e., at the end of a level), not in the midst of gameplay. That directly translates into a minimal amount of dead time waiting for the game to start, and a maximal amount of time available to play the game. If you happen to die a lot, who cares? You'll never have to wait for the game to reload your checkpoint; you can get right back into the game.

The immediacy of gameplay is one aspect many just don't understand. Or rather, many that disagree with the success of Halo don't understand. (In my opinion.) My theory is the combination of PC gamer and hardcore gamer results in a type of gamer that doesn't experience what I consider to be the least polished areas of most games: player death. And as such, they don't experience the excruciating experience of restarting gameplay.

Then again, maybe it's all the marketing hype. No, probably not. :)
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Time:2004-11-11 06:18 am (UTC)
1. Checkpoints.
I love the checkpoint system in Halo, for the reasons identified by Noguchi. It continues to stagger me that this sort of thing is not dealt with in other games in the play test stage. If you have developed a game with a 'save, die, reload' loop that gamers are likely to have to go through multiple times why on earth would you force them to go through a bunch of menus to reload each time ? Similarly, I think this kind of repetition in GTAIII where you die, then reload/come out of the hospital then have to drive to start a mission again is horrible. And sometimes sets you up for silly 'paradoxes' in the game world, for example when your NPC buddy dies but you don't, then you drive around the block restart the mission and he is alive again. Frustrations are something you should never endure in a game.

2. Cross-platform hate.
Sure there are multiple reasons for this, but I think looking at it from a marketing (I know it's a dirty word) point of view provides some intuitive and easy to understand reasons.
Anyone familiar with any kind of basic 'Buyer Behaviour' model will know of various models of consumer decision making. Need arousal, information search, etc. The step that is often ignored by marketers in practice is the final one of post-purchase evaluation. (Once they've got your money who cares ?) In post-purchase evaluation there is usually a certain amount of 'dissonance' ('Did I make the right decision ? What could I have got instead of this ?'), and consumers act in a number of ways to reduce this. e.g. 'Honey, don't you like my new shoes/hair/handbag etc. ?', or you actively go and seek out the opinion of others that affirms your decision.
It's fairly natural for owners of different platforms to therefore defend theirs as the best. Likewise to rubbish other platforms to affirm their decision.
I used to be a fervent PC FPS gamer and would argue with my room mate and his N64 all the time about how Half-Life was so much better than GoldenEye. In hindsight... well I'd blown go knows how much on my PC with video cards etc. I wanted to be right ! Having now converted to Xbox gaming, mainly due to opting out of the upgrade cycle, I can now see that a console game can be every bit as enjoyable as a PC one even if it is inferior from a technical point of view. That was always my main argument against N64 GoldenEye - the controller and resolution was horrible compared with a mouse/keyboard PC monitor setup. I would love to play Half-Life 2 but in some weird way I want it to suck because I can't actually play it on my Xbox. I want to be right in turning my back on the PC for the console !
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