Microsoft On Why Halo: Master Chief Collection Struggled And What's Being Done To Fix It

Halo franchise director Frank O'Connor shares his thoughts.

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Halo: The Master Chief Collection had a very rocky launch in November 2014. An ambitious game that packages together four Halo games and their multiplayer modes, the game struggled mightily out of the gate, with matchmaking times proving extremely lengthy and in some cases not working at all. Microsoft was quick to address the issues and the experience has improved dramatically. Still, Microsoft sees the issues as a "black eye" for the franchise. Last week, developer 343 announced yet another way it's making it up to fans and sticking with the game. The Master Chief Collection will receive significant updates and improvements over the next year or longer, including an Xbox One X update and a wider update that will "help bring it forward and modernize many of the game's systems to take advantage of Xbox platform advancements since its original launch." It's nice to see Microsoft's commitment to the game, but why did things go so badly at the start? Halo franchise director Frank O'Connor recently addressed that in a lengthy and thorough blog post on Halo Waypoint (via Polygon).

Starting off by saying he's no engineer and is making no excuses for what happened, O'Connor said, "in terms of chicken/egg scenarios, fixing the existing 'vanilla' Xbox One MCC was the Chicken that laid the Xbox One X enhanced version egg." O'Connor suggested that it wasn't always Microsoft's plan to revisit The Master Chief Collection, but there have been a "series of changes to the Xbox architecture," including the OS and back-end networking systems, that have "cracked open an opportunity we've wanted to seize for many, many months now."

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O'Connor said the launch of The Master Chief Collection was "one of my lowest ebbs, professionally." He added: "Every angry mail I received, I took to heart. I felt like I had personally let our fans down. I have not spent a single day since the night the game fell down in matchmaking where I didn't think about it."

O'Connor added that one piece of resounding feedback was, "How could you not know that matchmaking was going to break?" The director explained that Microsoft tested the game's matchmaking systems "incorrectly and with some (as we discovered later) faulty assumptions." He added that the testing processes for the game differed from the norm because the games in the package were already tested for balance. Additionally, O'Connor acknowledged that 343 "we made mistakes in some of the scenarios we asked for."

"We had, with the best intentions, created a massive and ambitious project that almost read like a Halo fan's wishlist. As a player, I was incredibly excited. And as an employee, I was proud of the work and effort the team had poured into making this thing so big," O'Connor said.

He added that The Master Chief Collection began as an idea to make Halo 2 HD, and leave it at that, but the idea came later to expand the scope to include the entire Master Chief saga in one package. "And so the project ballooned in scope and scale and ambition. We threw a ton of resources behind it internally and worked with some trusted partners," O'Connor said.

But at launch, the game's matchmaking systems struggled significantly. O'Connor acknowledged that its own multiplayer testing sessions "never got to the kind of scale" that could reflect a live environment.

"So we genuinely didn't know until the day it released, how bad the matchmaking in particular was going to get," he said. "I'm not going to ignore the other bugs, they were real, and important, but the way the UI and matchmaking protocols interacted with each other exacerbated many of the smaller items and amplified a couple of them in unpredictable ways.

"The short version was that for Xbox One we built some of the underlying systems to work on a brand-new platform, which was fundamentally, quite different to both the original consoles the games were designed for. We also had some very new (and frankly these have evolved since then and are now much better) online systems on a new console and made some educated, but (with hindsight) ultimately faulty, assumptions we made during development and testing."

He also offered up an easy-to-understand metaphor for why the matchmaking struggled.

"Each potential player was assigned a kind of 'ticket' which would then grant them entry into a match or session--picture a virtual waiting room at a train station--when the train arrives (a match)--everyone has to board--or the train can't leave," he said. "Issues arose when folks left sessions before games had started that would cause the initial ticket distributions to fail, and that sometimes meant very long wait times for matches as tickets were issued and reissued--especially in countries with lower populations."

O'Connor added that Microsoft made assumptions about how things would work. This was a mistake, and he said Microsoft wants to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"Frankly, we don't assume anything anymore. While we had some valid reasons to believe the game would function properly in the retail environment, we've shifted our development philosophy to basically assume nothing anymore," he said.

Part of this effort going forward is the previously discussed "flighting" program, which is 343's way of enlisting the community to help test updates in a live environment before they are rolled out to everyone. In addition to this, 343's own testing will get "much more rigid."

O'Connor added that he wants people to know how committed 343 has been and continues to be in the area of listening to and responding to feedback.

"Everyone here puts their heart and soul and sweat and tears into building our games," he said. "I can tell you without hesitation that I have never heard someone here dismiss or ignore or belittle complaints. We always take them to heart. It's the internet of course, so sometimes folks take it too far, with threats or other inappropriate reactions, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't understand the anger or disappointment those came from."

You can read O'Connor's full blog post here. If it doesn't answer all of your questions, O'Connor said he plans to write another post in 2018 that will cover an "even more detailed technical breakdown" of what happened, why, and how 343 addressed it. "That's what we owe you--that and a game we can both finally be satisfied with," he said.

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Avatar image for novaprime1985
NovaPrime1985

still waiting for reasonable matchmaking times as well as functioning achievements 343.

Avatar image for PSYCHOV3N0M
PSYCHOV3N0M

@novaprime1985: Achievements have issues unlocking in the MCC???

Avatar image for novaprime1985
NovaPrime1985

@PSYCHOV3N0M: nah, i finished Halo CE on leg, only to realize that the achievements stopped unlocking from the Silent Cartographer, needless to say i was really thrilled from that so I left it alone for the past year and some change

Avatar image for deactivated-5a60f921620ed

MCC was a cluster effffffff when it released, and took 6 months before any head way was made to fix it. What MS, and 343i need to do is make this a free game with gold through out the holiday season. Then some how make it where MCC uses halo 5 graphical assets so it up dates visuals beyond what is there now. I can wait for Halo 6 tell 2019/2020. Halo 5 showed that rushing a game equals to poor sales, and a crap game.

Avatar image for Dark_Matters
Dark_Matters

The fact that it still hasn't been released on PC is the biggest black eye of them all.

Avatar image for PStrife
PStrife

The 343 guys are inept and can't just admit their inferiorities in game design compared to those Bungie guys. Doesn't help when they have equally inferior guys above them pushing deadlines over quality control. Microsoft simply is a poorly run company from top to bottom these days with this division.

Avatar image for fraga500
fraga500

because halo sucks?

Avatar image for Aleperez75
Aleperez75

@fraga500: your post sucks.

Avatar image for khanwashere
KhanWasHere

There are two sides to the Halo universe, the multiplayer and the campaign. There's a huge percentage of online gamers that either never touched the campaigns or only loaded them up out of brief curiosity. I'm a campaign guy and the MCC to me was great. It was remarkable seeing and playing all the games in 1080p for the first time. I hate that I have to wait for the X version next year but I anticipate some remarkable visual updates that will further the experience. Too bad the online kids (mentality wise mostly) are the vocal majority on all matters in the gaming world.

Avatar image for Fartman7998
Fartman7998

The problems in the MCC were so bad, it made my friends who were Halo fanatics swear off Halo forever. I still loved Halo 5, but they never bought it and don't plan on playing Halo ever again. They were bigger fans than me!

But to be fair, I also think they are stuck in the past a little. Couldn't adapt to the new Halo multiplayer, were too hung up on Halo 3.

Avatar image for spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@Fartman7998: On Halowaypoint, there were often debates on how good Halo 5 was and if the spartan abilities should be there or not. I played H5 for a little over a year. I grew to despise the spartan charge and jetpack boost. For casual players its just too much to deal with. Look at the success of Overwatch and COD (excluding infinite warfare). The larger player population which is casuals like simple to learn games. Something you can just hop in play a few rounds with little to know thought or practice. Prior Halos were like this (H1 thru H4). H5 that is definitely not the case. To be decent you have to play every week. That combined with the other mistakes with H5 its no wonder it has not done the sales that prior game have done. the real question is what direction will they take H6. there seems to be a real interest in classical style gameplay in games. Look at the interest in COD WW2 as one example and the slower play in Battlefield 1 as another. I have a feeling H6 will be the make it or break it game for the series. To bring casuals back to the series they really need to forget spartan charge and jetpack boost.

Avatar image for PStrife
PStrife

@spartanx169x: They already blew it as you stated. Their will be no return since 343 and Microsoft have basically trashed the property all by themselves. Rushing a sequel out the door is also a dumb idea, since that is just asking for poor sales.

Everyone needs to collectively get their crap together for a change if you want it to return to it's once highly regarded brand status. Halo has become an over saturated joke these days with less interest then ever. SJWing it and somehow literally repeating history lessons doesn't create confidence in a property clearly no longer catering to it's very audience.

Avatar image for spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@PStrife: Sadly, I think you are right. For any chance at bringing the series back they will have to knock it out of the park so to speak with Halo 6. In my opinion the way to do that would get getting rid of spartan charge and jetpack boost for starters. But more importantly, Content. Lots of content. Lets look at Halo 5's Warzone for example. This was their Premier gametype that was promoted. Yet in total the gametype has just 6 maps. 6!!! It should have had a minimum of 15. Not only that, for the first year they let parties of 12 match against solo randoms. I think this alone caused most of the casual players that did buy halo 5 to almost immediately stop playing. It only takes about 3 blowouts where the entire team literally spawn camps the entire losing team for people to stop playing the game. What did 343 do? they restricted it to 6? Did that help? HECK NO. Organized parties destroyed Warzone and Big Team Battle. And that just one single thing. The lack of content with 5 at launch later and even now is down right sad. It took months, MONTHS for them to implement Big Team Battle. I could go on and on but you get my point. For H6 to be successful it would need the quantity of content that H3 had as well as restricts on parties. Such as parties only matching parties. Additionally, If they are going to keep the same game mechanics as 5, they should at least have AT LAUNCH a gametype that has the traditional game mechanics of H2 and H3 with the same maps as the other gametypes.

Avatar image for xrizz1066
xrizz1066

Simples.

Not enough resorusrces were put in, as they were mo intrested in big profit margin, than getting the flagship Xbox game ready for launch of their lastest machine.

But guess they know, they can screw over customers and players as often as they like. There will awasy be those who have more money than sense.

Avatar image for Terminator95
Terminator95

Because it's crap and its on Crap Box.

Coming up on Crap Box X: Halo 7 ,8, 9, 10

Halo Wars 3,4,5,6,7,8

Avatar image for khanwashere
KhanWasHere

@Terminator95: You act as if it's 2014 or something...

Avatar image for lorddaggeroff
lorddaggeroff

Just make halo collection like project spark, let people build their own maps and slowly introduce halo into a new universe.

Or just turn halo into a huge mmo, you can fly the USMC space ship only if under attack, and if so it turns into turn based, if destroyed while you were on it(you receive a medal for trying, similar to call of duty infinite warewares single player, but you can explore the ship in mmo (depending where you walk) or join type PvP when joining a server that allows you to either join PvP, story mode or intergalactic warfare in a seemless environment where the ship opens up and notifies you were attacks are and where you should be.)

You can join the USMC lounge room play a few games, and yes the ship can blow up if a enemy boards the ship and activates the self destruct.(but the enemy will be announced of intruders.)

The halo rings will have PvP battles, the planets will be story driven, and the ship's will be navel warefare.

Each month a planet will turn into mmo style warfare where the ship will ask people into bays and choose their play cards (or vehicles before launch.)

64vs64 warfare or 32vs32 total planetary warfare.

Each month if all 12 planets are captured and those people who were there winning on each planet will win a free copy of a new game unannounced or special avatar prop or points.

No it's not that game okay, that games third person.

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sakaiXx

One thing I respect for microsoft is their dedication for updating their games to work for xbone x. Probably because they dont have many exclusive unlike other competitors but its nice to see.

Avatar image for sladakrobot
sladakrobot

If they are planning revisiting MCC in 2018( welcome) and put also some serious time with Halo 5 also in 2018 i feel that there will be no Halo 6 in the year 2018

Avatar image for PSYCHOV3N0M
PSYCHOV3N0M

@sladakrobot: IF that's the case, this'll be the very first time that MORE than 3 years will pass between Halo FPS game launches.

2001- Halo CE

2004- Halo 2

2007- Halo 3

2010- Halo Reach

2012- Halo 4

2015- Halo 5

2018- NO Halo 6???

Avatar image for davillain-
DaVillain-

@sladakrobot: And I'm fine with that. I don't mind if Halo 6 arrives by the time MS release there next-gen console (not X1X) and I be cool if Halo 6 doesn't show up on the Xbox One at all. I feel like Halo 6 should be as a launch title game for next-gen Xbox console if you ask me.

Avatar image for PSYCHOV3N0M
PSYCHOV3N0M

@davillain-: That would be interesting as long as they make a kick-ass campaign and online MP mode.

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FreeRyu

Should have got it right the first time.

Avatar image for catsimboy
catsimboy

I just remember playing the campaign of 4 and I was in the level with the giant truck and halfway through the level it didn't load and when the truck reached the edge of the loaded zone it would just disappear. Thank god the MCC was just a freebie with the console with the bundle I got.

Avatar image for deactivated-5afeea4d8be41

@catsimboy: The campaigns on the whole had very few bugs though, I never encountered that bug when I played through Halo 4 - that is likely a one off. The multiplayer was an absolute mess though.

Avatar image for CagedOkami
CagedOkami

"Every angry mail I received, I took to heart. I felt like I had personally let our fans down." i wonder how he feels for what he did to halos 4 and 5.

Avatar image for spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@CagedOkami: the biggest problem/mistake the did with 4 was the DLC debacle and overall lack of maps. But overall the game played very well. There were no issues with the MP or the game mechanics. Aim was spot on, especially compared to the garbage in H5.

Avatar image for juiceair
juiceair

In a nutshell...we f#$%d up.

Avatar image for spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@juiceair: Admitting the problem is what you have to do first before fixing it can take place which includes fixing the damage done to their reputation. I'm pretty sure EA never apologized for the disastrous launch of BF4 even though they did eventually fix all the problems(but I may be wrong in knowing about their apology).

Avatar image for clay544888
clay544888

Uh how about a freaking PC version you wankers? You don't wanna let your fans down but you have no problem letting the PC fan base down.

Avatar image for Jarten
Jarten

@clay544888: Agreed. If they were ALL made available on pc like 1 and 2 had been, then I would have been more willing to play the rest of them. I also prefer using mouse and keyboard for 1st person games because I get better response times.

Avatar image for freeryu
FreeRyu

@clay544888: Gonna be letdown anyways by putting it on the Windows store. Broken ports every release.

Avatar image for biggamerdude
BigGamerDude

wow, it's actually great that they fully acknowledge these problems. A big step in the direction.

People flame xbox for the lack of exclusives and some other problems but they really are trying to make the system and experience better for people playing on X1

Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

They really should have just stuck with Halo 2 HD. They probably would have charged the same and the game would sell just as well. Then they could have done Halo 3 HD for the next gen which is fast approaching.

Anyway, the real problem was not that they had the issues but that it took them YEARS to...well, I can't really say they ever truly ironed them out if they're still promising to fix it.

Avatar image for spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@Barighm: A lot of the MP problems were never fixed including the looping issue where you are in a lobby the game gets a full lobby or close to it , then it kicks everybody outback to the MP menu screen. they made it playable. But it was never fixed. It only was somewhat fixed because most of the players left.

Avatar image for clay544888
clay544888

@Barighm: No way, Halo 1 is a masterpiece and can't be ignored. This Halo 2 hype train as the "best halo" is ridiculous. I believe the best Halo was part 1. All it needed was proper online play and not LAN.

Avatar image for restatbonfire
RestatBonfire

The servers were garbo. Waited 30-40 mins for each match.

Avatar image for spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@restatbonfire: It wasn't the servers. It was the entire matchmaking coding that was utterly screwed up. including the fact they made too many false assumptions in testing before launch.they said this. Obviously, If they had simply done a public free beta a lot of the issues would have been identified.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Because you slapped it together to try and sell the flagging Xbox One since Halo 5 wasn't ready yet and didn't test it.

Saying "we're not going to assume anything anymore" is kind of a lie too. Development always includes assumptions. Like the assumption that a player will leave a game at any time, for any reason. Gotta develop with that assumption in mind. Gotta assume that a player's internet connection could be unreliable. Gotta assume that some players will be playing with pirated copies.

You always have to make assumptions. What you really mean is "We need to research and test our assumptions more thoroughly"

Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

@Thanatos2k: I think they also assumed the game would sell regardless, so they didn't think they really needed to test it.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Barighm: I think they underestimated how much people were let down by Halo 4.

Avatar image for PSYCHOV3N0M
PSYCHOV3N0M

@Thanatos2k: Halo 4's MP was decent at best.

#RememberReach

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