Halo 5 Undergoing Major Changes After Beta Feedback
343 Industries outlines plans to tweak weapon balance, Spartan Abilities, general presentation, and tons more.
Skip to the bottom of this post to see all the Halo 5 beta stats and tweaks.
343 Industries on Thursday released a mountain of stats and other details about the Halo 5: Guardians beta, which ran for three weeks at the end of December and into the New Year.
The beta arrived about a year in front of the game's scheduled release date this fall, making it the earliest Microsoft had ever launched a beta for a Halo game. It was a big, nerve-wracking experiment, but one that 343 executive producer Josh Holmes says paid off.
The short version? 343 was blown away by the response to the beta, which saw around 1 million gamers play 20 million matches over its duration. Those millions of matches--well beyond the developer's internal expectations--provided 343 invaluable feedback for how it plans to tweak and adjust the overall multiplayer experience before Halo 5 launch later this year, Holmes explained.
"With Halo 5 being such a big evolution of the combat experience for Halo, we wanted to be able to take these new mechanics, the new Spartan Abilities, and put them in the hands of the community and use that feedback to hone the experience," he said.
"I think everybody was nervous and excited to see how fans would react to a lot of the new mechanics, the new ideas, the new modes" - Holmes
There were some doubts, internally at 343, about whether releasing the Halo 5 beta so early was even a good idea. However, Holmes says developers now understand and recognize just how important the beta was to making a great game.
"Some people [said], 'Should we really be doing it this early?' And now, coming out the other side and having all that great feedback and data we can use to inform our development; those same people are like, 'Yeah, really, really glad that we did this.'"
"I think everybody was nervous and excited to see how fans would react to a lot of the new mechanics, the new ideas, the new modes," he added. "A combination of excitement and nervous energy, and maybe a little bit of exhaustion as well because there's just so much work that goes into packaging something up, getting it ready for release, releasing it, and then supporting that throughout the process of the beta."
As you'll see below, 343 has a laundry list of changes it's planning to make to Halo 5 based on feedback from the community, as well as internal testing. I wondered, however, how 343 goes about balancing community feedback vs. the developer's vision for the project.
"We have a vision for the game that we're trying to build; we need to stay true to that vision," Holmes said. "We have designers who have been working on this game now for years, and kind of understand the game at a very deep level. But at the same time, you have the community that is very passionate about the experience, and is very diverse in their perspectives and viewpoints. So you want to take that feedback and make sure you're remaining objective to the experience that you're building, understanding what your goals are, and seeing how that feedback aligns to, 'Are we actually achieving the goals that we set out to achieve?'
"There more information we have, the more input we have, the equipped we are to make decisions as designers."
One element from the Halo 5 beta that was wildly different than past Halo titles was the game's intro and victory sequences, which saw Spartans giving high-fives and chest-bumps. As it turns out, while "Halo bros" like myself enjoyed this feature, it wasn't universally popular. Holmes said 343 plans to dial back this "dude-bro flair" in favor of a more serious, military-style tone.
"When we started on the Arena experience, we were really focused on that spirit of competition, and we drew a lot of inspiration from sporting events and pageantry around that," Holmes said. "And you saw some of that reflected in those match intros and victory sequences. But, going into beta, as a team we didn't feel like the tone was quite there. And in some cases, it felt like the performances were a little too over-the-top and silly and maybe unbecoming of a Spartan."
"In some cases, it felt like the performances were a little too over-the-top and silly and maybe unbecoming of a Spartan" - Holmes
"We're going to try and find the right balance that fits with the presentation style that we imagine for the game."
Alongside the launch of the Halo 5 beta, 343 also pushed out the Halo Community Feedback Program (HCFP) in an effort to speak directly with Halo super-fans. Over 19,000 people have already signed up for this program, which 343 plans to expand with more surveys and feedback measurement systems in the coming future.
Holmes adds that 343 has spent the past few weeks looking over Halo 5 player feedback to build a list of improvements it hopes to implement for the final version of the game. Below you'll find a summation of these changes, while you can head here to see them all.
Also, be aware that the list of changes 343 announced today is in no way meant to be exhaustive. There will be a "massive list" of additional improvements and bug fixes to be announced later. But for now, check out the Halo 5 beta stats and changes below, descriptions courtesy of 343.
HALO 5 BETA STATS AND CHANGES
- Total Number of Player: About 1 million
- Total matches played: nearly 20 million
- Total gameplay hours: 2,539,847
- Total Kills: 181,389,366
- Total Assists: 92,245,468
- Total Ground Pound Kills: 565,902
- Total Spartan Charge Kills: 1,286,085
- Frag Grenade Kills: 11,529,664
- Plasma Grenade Kills: 1,104,218
- Total Shots Fired: 6,492,761,794
- Battle Rifles were carried for: the equivalent of 207 days
- Most popular power weapon: Sniper Rifle – 6,606,200 kills
- Most Medals Earned: 24,998 (SSlCK)
- Killpocalypse Medals Earned: 1 (Omnipression)
- Total hours watched on Twitch: 44,693,800
- Most minutes watched on Twitch of a single gamer: 7,852,300 (Ninja)
- Gamers with the most unique viewers on Twitch:
- Ninja: 437,960
- Walshy: 348,460
- Red vs Blue Win Percentage: Red: 47.45%, Blue: 52.55%
- Don't like Sprint in your Halo? You're in luck, as 343 will allow you to toggle off Sprint and all other Spartan Abilities in custom games.
- Increase base speed (faster base movement)
- Increase strafe acceleration (faster, more responsive strafing)
- Reduce top sprint speed (narrow the delta between base movement and sprint)
- Modify Ground Pound controls to prevent conflicts w/ crouch jumping
- General tuning & bug fixes for all Spartan Abilities (Thrusters, Clamber, Ground Pound, etc.)
- Goal is to balance all weapons to be equally effective both in and out of zoom while continuing to respect the function of each mode.
- 343 is changing the Hydra weapon to make it more effective when not zoomed so that it feels like a true power weapon.
- Sniper Rifle: improve scope experience to making it less “clunky” and faster to scope in
- DMR: adjust position of the scope to improve visibility
- Bring back the SPNKr Rocket Launcher as a legendary version of the weapon
- Reduce bonuses for automatic weapons in Smart-Link & w/ headshots
- Remove grenade detonation in mid-air based on weapon fire
- Ability to turn on/off vibration feedback for weapons
- General tuning and bug fixing for all weapons
- Remember those intro and victory sequences, when Spartans would chest-bump and high-five? 343 now thinks that doesn't quite fit with the game's tone. As a result, you can expect the final sequences to feature considerably fewer chest bumps and high fives.
- Post-death replay: this will become an opt-in feature. After death, players will see a traditional follow-cam and have the option to view a replay of their death from the killer’s perspective (as long as the feature is enabled within the playlist)
- Medals: decrease frequency and number of medals displayed in the medal feed
- Spartan chatter: players will have the option to turn this on or off in the settings menu
- Adding highlights to placed/dropped weapons to make them easier to see
- General tuning for announcer and Spartan chatter to reduce the frequency of events and focus on the information that matters most to players
"Our skill rating system is one of the pillars for competitive play of Halo 5: Guardians and we’ll be continuing to refine it throughout development. The focus for our team coming out of the beta includes:"
- Improved skill detection during placement phase
- Improved skill matching
- Improved team balancing
- Prevent skill boosting
- General bug fixing & tuning
Thought Halo 5's matchmaking system failed to match you with players of similar skill? You're in luck, as 343 said it is tweaking the matchmaking system to not only get you into games faster, but also to place you in more competitive matches more regularly.
Coming out of the beta, 343 plans to focus on the following area:
- Much faster matches
- Better skill matching
- Better feedback to players in the lobby and matchmaking experiences
- Allow players to set desired datacenter for matchmaking (may impact matchmaking speed and skill balance)
- Improved party vs party matchmaking
- Hide CSR ranks until in match to de-incentivize quitting
- Punish quitters with CSR penalties and matchmaking bans
Expect to see many, many more changes and improvements for Halo 5 at launch.
"Everything from weapon placements on maps, to lighting improvements, to rule tweaks in game modes and modifications to the motion tracker to encourage more movement at higher levels of play. Our team constantly looks for ways to improve the game and we’ll continue to do so until launch later this year and beyond."