A Simple Change, A Better Halo

It’s no secret that Halo 5 has been a wild success, and an excellent return to form for a series that has seen a bumpy road for the last few years, but nothing’s perfect. Many fans have weighed in on Halo 5, offering suggestions, making requests and identifying flaws, some of which have already been addressed through updates. We’ve seen gametypes added, REQs introduced, bugs fixed, UI changes, and much more – but I think something simple’s been largely overlooked by many.

With difficulties in prior games, the remaining community’s concerns have mostly been targeted at population numbers and more specifically, player retention. As we all know, this is a simple concept – the higher replay value a game has, the better the player retention. Halo 5 possesses many things which have maximized replay value in prior games, and introduced a couple of new features, these include monthly REQ & content updates, weekend playlists and simply having a multiplayer component (fortunately one of the best in the series, arguably). Those paying attention may notice that these replay-vaule features favour the multiplayer fans over anyone else, effectively resulting in a drop-off of campaign fans once they’re done with the story mode.

Now, this is nothing out of the ordinary, a normal FPS’s cycle often starts with players enjoying both main components, then the campaign population drifts away whilst the remainder either migrates to multiplayer or dabbles in both. So, really, in the grand scheme of things, focusing the replay value toward the multiplayer component is a smart move. For the most part, it’s working – Halo 5’s multiplayer has been well received and it’s retaining players better than prior games of late.

That doesn’t mean, however, more can’t be done. Sadly, the multiplayer offering is being held back by a limited number of gametypes and what can sometimes feel like overspread content. This results in a somewhat repetitive experience which despite being an inevitable fate for multiplayer modes, is happening all too soon, causing less engaged players to drop off quicker. A lot of players are kept engaged with multiplayer games because they are focused on achieving goals within the game – for some this is a skill rank, an armour set, or commendations. The latter two may not engage players all too much, being potentially simple or “plain” goals, and a skill rank can be attained rather early or become frustrating to the player if it becomes too hard to achieve, resulting in the feeling of a “grind”. There is, however, a very simple set of goals that have been tried-and-tested successes in both the Halo series and other AAA games like Destiny – daily/weekly challenges.

 

Those on the “grind” for a particular armour set or other REQs are currently limited to a small handful of options in order to gain REQ points – play as many matches as possible (see my earlier point on repetitiveness), spend real money (not ideal), or focus on commendations (not all that effective). Adding daily REQ victory packs was a great step in the right direction, however adding daily/weekly challenges, and perhaps challenges with much longer timescales like the behemoth challenges in Reach, with REQ point/pack rewards would be an excellent way to supplement players’ REQ earnings and engage players further in all aspects of the game.

Campaign players have a limited set of challenges in the game as it currently stands, with multiple difficulties and Skulls, as well as the more ambitious challenges like pacifist runs. Now, factor in daily/weekly challenges with a potentially endless variety of tasks like “Kill X of a particular enemy”, “Beat Y mission without any member of your Fireteam being downed” and so on, and you have a much more captive campaign audience, with the chance of drawing multiplayer fans into the story mode. Hardcore campaign fans will relish the chance to complete the hardest of challenges for REQ rewards or even just bragging rights.

Let’s also not forget about Forge, why not set a super-simple challenge one day to complete a task in Forge, potentially drawing players into a mode they may not have had much interest in? How about some silly challenges to lighten the mood in Arena, like a goal of getting Z amounts of Ground Pound kills? Some players may even see it as an opportunity to hone skills with features or weapons they’ve shied from in the past. Challenges have been an excellent feature in previous Halo games, and as mentioned earlier, other games like Destiny. Reach’s monthly challenges and Destiny’s weekly Nightfall Strikes not only acted as a great player-retainer, but actually pulled players together and created “water-cooler moments” with friends banding together to spend hours repeating missions on high difficulties to attain a certain level score or run-time.

It sounds really simple because it is. Do your worst, 343. Challenge us. Set us the most ridiculous goals you can think of with awesome rewards – I promise there’s some lunatic out there who’ll try to beat Blue Team solo on LASO in 4 minutes using nothing more than a Sangheili’s bad breath. Give us more reasons to keep playing the games we love. What’s the worst that can happen?