Why Halo: Online is a Terrible Idea
As a PC gamer who has both of the original Halo titles not only still in his possession, but still installed and occasionally booted up on PC... it's been a really long time waiting for the threequel to "finish the fight" for us.
Some of us, shockingly enough, didn't want to get an Xbox 360. We just wanted to play Bungie's excellent series on PC. Why do I mention this?
A F2P Game... Exclusive to Russia...
Wait, what? This is a joke, right? You're punking us. You can't be serious!
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Apparently Microsoft's first attempt at bringing Halo back to PC gamers is a Russian-only F2P game. I keep saying that, tossing the words around in my mouth, and for the life of me I still can't tell you how anyone could have thought that particular combination made sense.
"Let's take an arcade-y, fast-paced, Quake-y shooter to a market known for favoring hardcore games like Stalker, Death to Spies, Cryostasis, and Metro 2033" is the kind of suggestion a crazy person would give. I'm sure there is some overlap in demographics, don't get me wrong, but not -that- big an overlap.
Let's face it, anyone tech-savvy enough will just use a proxy server to play this if they aren't in Russia. This will be even easier seeing as the game is apparently being built for low-end PCs, so even fairly old RIGs will be able to run this game.
The game will be based on a heavily modified version of Halo 3's competitive multiplayer.
Let that last detail sink in.
So on top of being released to a market that Halo doesn't normally cater to, Halo: Online will be using a game from 2007 as its base. Is this some elaborate joke, Microsoft? Fans asked for Halo 3 back in the day, half a decade later you gave us a port of a mobile game. Fans ask for the Master Chief Collection, you give us a Russian-only F2P game.
What happens if we ask for Halo: Online in North America? Will you port it to Xbox 360 just to spite us? I normally wouldn't be this candid and blunt but speaking as a fan... this is getting absolutely ridiculous.
Seen here, Master Chief, missing since 2007
That's not to say a F2P Halo game isn't out of the question.
In fact, it would make a lot of sense. Except you'd aim for an international release, and use it as a test bed for cross-platform play for PC and Xbox One in a Halo game, in advance of a possible Halo: The Master Chief Collection PC port. This would be 100% legitimate. Star Wars: Battlefront 3 almost used a similar approach back when Lucas Arts was finally going to take over developer duties for their game.
Instead, this is being exclusively built for PC, and Microsoft is already shooting down notions of it coming to Xbox One. Because it's apparently better to try and stand out in a niche of a niche market that isn't all that interested in your genre, than offer a free version of a critically acclaimed multiplayer on your console that is not selling great.
This is like not knowing how to swim, and jumping into the deepest end of the pool. I want to see Halo: Online succeed -- truly I do -- but it is basically being built for failure at this rate. If it actually manages to pull out a win, it will either be due to serious changes in the game's playstyle, or by some sudden untapped niche popping up in response.
What scares me is, I far more likely expect Microsoft is betting on the latter case. They've made claims they are aiming to bend the game to Russian gamers' tastes, but this is Microsoft we're talking about. Anyone who has endured Windows 8 understands just how bad they can be at handling requested changes and features.
Let's Hope Russia is the Beta for International Release
In the best case, we'll find out this is basically an elaborate public beta for Halo 3 coming to PC. That would be fantastic, but that is also just the dreams of a sad fan who just wishes he hadn't had to get an Xbox merely to play more Halo. The excuses given for holding the series hostage for a decade have worn thin. At this point, I'm just starting to feel bitter, and I am not alone.
While Microsoft continually fails at giving more than an occasional glance at PC gamers, Halo PC gamers are actually pulling off some impressive things on their own:
PC is Ready for More Halo
Silent Cartographer Evolved (above) just released for the original game, which completely reworks and updates the famous level to a degree further than even Halo: Anniversary can speak to. New enemy types, new scripted sequences, new weapons, and even exclusive events only available on Legendary difficulty. Made by fans, for fans.
On top of that, fans have made a workaround to get Halo 2's multiplayer working on PC, with a new ranking system to boot. Now, it does require a torrented version of Halo 2 so it's a bit ambiguous, but the workaround has proven to be successful and there's a matchmaking list of potential players you can reach out to and pair up with.
That's not even counting the guy remaking the first level of Halo 3, in Halo: Custom Edition. Yes, seriously, it has gotten to the point that we ourselves are basically making our own Halo: The Master Chief Collection. We want it that badly, but still we're waiting. With such a fever pitch of Halo PC gaming activity, why Microsoft isn't jumping on this powder keg is beyond me.
Halo: Online in of itself is not a bad idea, but at the current direction Microsoft is taking it, it is a terrible way to do it. I sincerely hope I'm wrong, and that they have something magic up their sleeve. But from where I am standing, this is just a bad move that could have been a great step forward.
What do you think? Is Microsoft's plan sound? Or do you think they should port the Xbox 360 entries in the franchise? Let us know in the comments below.