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Halo’s Secret to Success

Bungie made a great series with Halo. That isn’t a secret, and it’s ultimately why you’re here reading this article on a fansite for their biggest series. Each Halo built upon the entries before it, and by the time we got to Halo 3 we had a massive toolbox that allowed for immense player expression. Whether you enjoyed competition, cooperative play, building, or just goofing around with your friends, Halo 3 had it. So has Reach. So has Halo 4. As well as Halo 5. And soon, Infinite, as well. But if you talk to any Halo player, they’ll tell you the peak of the franchise was somewhere around Halo 3 or Reach. But why?

I was nervous going into Halo 4. It wasn’t until the guys at Rooster Teeth put together this trailer for 343 that I realized Halo 4 would be more familiar than I had realized. Despite all the criticism that game gets, it still doesn’t feel all that different to me. (More consistent on PC, but that’s for another time). It wouldn’t be until well after the game released that I realized the problem was… well, us.

You see, the Halo community is special. If you’ve been a part of it as long as I have, this isn’t news. As competitive as Halo is, it’s equally as creative. Halo CE wasn’t supported by Xbox LIVE, but that didn’t stop it’s players from using programs like XBconnect or Xlink Kai to use the integrated LAN features in an online environment. We had made online play ours before Microsoft and Bungie brought it to us. In Halo 2, we took it a step further by adding our own special versions of multiplayer modes. If you’ve played Infection or SWAT, you’re playing a mode that had it’s roots in Halo 2 custom game lobbies. Back then, however, we had to use team change mechanics to become a zombie. You can only imagine how chaotic things would be without official support, but as Halo players, we made our own experiences, no matter how hard it was. Sometimes it’d take hours to get a Tower of Power lobby going, but seeing a stack of eight players charging the tower on Ascension was always worth it.

That desire to create only grew stronger with the addition of the Forge in Halo 3. You wouldn’t know it playing the MCC version, but back then our community cartographers had to reset the round in-game to merge objects. Upwards of 10-15 seconds at a time just to hope they got their placement right without any magnets, coordinate systems or even a simple means of freezing an object. To say these creators were skilled is an understatement. It wouldn’t be until Reach that these creators got the tools they deserved.

I share this with you to demonstrate the scale of our community’s creativity. Halo’s secret was never just the game, or the “classic gameplay” of the old games. It was our creativity, so great that I’m nervous to even word this article in a way that would suggest I’m anywhere as skilled as the players that made my experiences on Halo so timeless.

Of course, after a peak, comes the fall. And with Halo 4 a frustration would build that never seemed to leave our community. Players became critical of 343 and their decisions with the franchise and Halo’s players would leave to play other games. These days, being critical of 343 is treated almost like proof you’re actually a fan of the series. Sprint still somehow manages to be a divide in the community with some fools even taking pride in being blocked by developers on Twitter over it. I’d say the fact that this is even tolerated by our fair community is a sign of how the times have changed. To this end, even if you aren’t a fan of Halo 4, I absolutely recommend giving it another shot on the MCC. You’ll be surprised what a little bit of time does to a game. I’d say it’s aged well.

Infinite launches later this year, and with it we’ll have a whole new generation of Halo players. If it isn’t clear by now, Halo’s secret was it’s players and their limitless creativity. If 343 can bring those that have created nearly two decades of memories back into the fold… Then their plan of 10 year platform will be one of great success.

This Spartan believes in them. Both 343, and the community they seek to reconnect with.

A Halo player since the early Halo 2 days, Agoat is the founder of Anchor 9, and is always happy to help new players.