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donquixote123

donquixote123

10/15/2012 9:15:02 AM
(Excuse the cross-posting; your rules for segregating content between forums is not exactly clear on this sort of thread.) As the countdown reaches the final weeks before launch of 343 Studio's new Halo, I can't help but turn my thoughts back to the developer who created this whole franchise. And as I see that Bungie has for the greater part become very quiet as of late (not unlike a parent whose only child has grown and left home), I wonder what the feeling is here about this game and the job 343 is doing. I understand that the squabbles with the publisher may have entailed a gag order of some sort on any commentary from Bungie, as such could no doubt undermine the success of the new Halo. Indeed, it would have very much the same effect as Cervantes' withering rebuttal of the many authors who attempted to continue his Don Quixote while he was still in the process of finishing the work himself. But the more I look at this game, Halo 4 seems to me to be very much a work appropriate to the 'Covenant' school of thought, which is to say, more an effort of imitation than innovation. The manifold pressures on 343 have to be great, about that there can be no doubt. They are under extreme duress to deliver a title that will not only match the success of its predecessor, but also effectively compete in a marketplace that is dominated by essentially similar FTS games. Their solution, from what I can gather watching videos such as this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmOoGucyMNg&feature=g-u-u is apparently to adopt the style of another hugely popular franchise, which for the sake of dignity will not be named here, and blend it with the basic formula of classic Halo. Now this foundation has always revolved around several key components: one will recall the formula of Weapon+Grenade+Melee as the cornerstone of this foundation. The arena style gameplay, which drops players in at equal strength and leaves them to compete for better weapons on the map, is also paramount. This is now being changed, more to match the style of the other franchise which we declined to name. What concerns me is that, on the one hand, I do not believe a true 'Halo' multiplayer experience can be carried off with this hybrid formula; and on the other, 343 is seemingly adamant about having 'brought something new and fresh' to the experience, when in fact they have done nothing more than taken two solid franchises and made from them a very strange centaur. This creature, it may be said, has too many limbs, and it remains to be seen whether it will not move clumsily and haphazardly, even laying balancing issues aside. As someone who is a writer of stories and philosophy, I cannot imagine the importunity of another person or party taking over control of a 'work' which I have been meticulously crafting for nearly a decade, and moreover mishandling it, or what is worse, borrowing only the title and prestige which is rightly mine and applying it to the fruit of their tyronism. And when the chief concern seems not to have been contributing a quality product, but rather the beginning of a new chapter in a series which, like Cervantes, I had firmly set in the ground as finished, and that this is furthermore being done to serve crude material ends---I say, this is a worthy outrage. There is so much cause for annoyance and exasperation at the incredulity of this new developer. They have demonstrated that they are competent for menial tasks, such as remastering a finished game to current generation standards (and this is indeed a fine project for a burgeoning studio); but the distance that exists between creating a work and merely amending a work is truly vast, and really of two different species altogether. When I then hear that they already have pretension to announce a trilogy before the leading title has even been completed, I cannot repress indignation at the arrogance and upstart flamboyancy of this studio. Here they are planning to develop three games across a lustrum or thereabouts, and yet they cannot set aside adequate time and resources to bring out a Beta version for the inaugural title. It is not so much that the game is being mishandled, but that it is being taken so far out of the spirit of the originals which concerns me. Whatever they have carried over from earlier games is not their property: they 'inherited' it from Bungie, and whatever superficial embellishments they may make here and there does not change that fact. The supposed 'new' content is, in the face and in the heart, borrowed or adapted from other franchises, the convenience of this being that Halo has steadfastly avoided these conventions and kept to their own formula. Nor is this all. The importance of this formula cannot be underrated; in attempting to capture a 'new audience' (which is only to say, the audience held by other franchises) they will necessarily have to dilute the idiosyncratic features and create a product that has mass appeal among the foremost of its virtues. Again the dedicated player will find himself more and more in the minority. For all its accessibility and wild variation, order has always been at the core of Halo, down to the respawn timers of weapons and vehicles and the equal strength of all players. The goal of this, I believe, is to force gameplay to revolve around real talent acquired through careful practice and learning, rather than simply awarding those players who spend the most time idling away at an achievement bar. This idea of rewarding players who do nothing in the game is entirely misguided: it makes the inept lazy and the skilled apathetic. In Halo Reach I noticed and continue to observe a real disinterest in winning, in contributing to the team effort, in favor of excelling individually and earning as many credits as possible for oneself. This behavior is reinforced by the fact that winning confers only a miniscule addition to the final tally of credits, and losing only a small deduction. With unlockable features which actually give a benefit to gameplay (whereas, hitherto, all 'unlockables' have been strictly decorative), this 'me first' behavior can only get worse. Already in Halo Reach things are bad: everyone confines himself to a party of a few players, rather than interfacing with the team as a whole; in every game there is fighting and fratricide for the best weapons; teams do not choose to keep together even after winning, and so on. Again, this selfish style of play can only preponderate with the new inclusion of rewards which cater to playing for oneself first and the team last. --Is Bungie bitter? It certainly has every reason to be: I have touched on several multiplayer issues, but the alterations to the narrative in the campaign must be intolerable. I do not understand why 343 thought it wise to bring in a second race of 'forerunners' for the sake of combat alone, and why every contrivance is being made to keep the Covenant in the game, when there is no good reason for the war to still be on. Here again we are perhaps seeing the limits to the creativity of a new developer who is struggling to strike a balance between what is known to work and what ought to work in theory. I thought Ensemble handled the Halo RTS very well; yet I am sure that, at the time, Bungie was quite displeased to have another studio take over production of a marquee title. So what, in a word, is the general feeling? I understand if courtesy and ligation do not allow Bungie to speak freely on the issue of their franchise being handled or mishandled;--they have certainly kept quiet the indignation at having their property confiscated by the very publisher whose foray into the domain of console gaming they carried single-handedly. Will Bungie ever pass judgment on the new Halo? And is there any favorable opinion about all this questionable change? I am not one to speak from ignorance: I will be playing Halo 4 myself before I deliver my verdict. But there can be no doubt, with things being as they are, that Bungie has cause to be bitter and more than bitter. As hopeful as I am that this new game will be worthy of its predecessors, the nearer we draw to release, the less promising it seems. --Quixote [Edited on 10.15.2012 1:15 AM PDT]

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