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Halo director spells out what went wrong in Master Chief Collection, why it can be fixed

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Improvements to Xbox One’s network and OS will be a big help

Halo The Master Chief Collection 343 Industries/Microsoft Studios

Halo’s franchise development director has elaborated on what is in store for Halo: The Master Chief Collection, whose multiplayer 343 Industries will attempt to fix — three years after its launch — following the Xbox One X’s upcoming launch.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection will be getting enhancements for the Xbox One X edition, but Frank O’Connor stressed that the real reason that 343 was revisiting the beleaguered game is because three years of changes to the Xbox operating system and networking provided that opening. “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,” he wrote in a blog post.

“So to be super clear, these fixes will apply to both regular Xbox One version and the Xbox One X enhancements,” he added.

O’Connor then gave an accounting for the Master Chief Collection’s manifold problems, particularly the broken matchmaking. The Master Chief Collection won early praise for how it compiled the singleplayer campaigns of the first four numbered games in the Halo series. But that goodwill was soon overwhelmed by a deeply broken multiplayer suite.

O’Connor called it “one of my lowest ebbs, professionally.

“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,” he wrote.

“[F]undamentally it was because we were testing [the Master Chief Collection’s multiplayer] in an environment that we had set up incorrectly and with some (as we discovered later) faulty assumptions,” he wrote. “And unlike some of our other normal testing cycles, we weren’t testing for gameplay balance and stuff that the original releases already contained so our test process was radically different, and we made mistakes in some of the scenarios we asked for.”

O’Connor said Halo: The Master Chief Collection began with the intention of making a Halo Anniversary 2 — a follow-on that Halo fans had been asking about since Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary’s launch on Xbox 360 in 2011.

However, the development team realized they were dealing with technologies now spread across three hardware generations, and if they were going to take that on “why not finally put the whole Chief saga on one console?” Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a remastered anthology comprising the first four numbered games in the franchise.

But the matchmaking testing environment 343 had set up spit out “results that ultimately weren’t reflective of the real retail environment, and our test sessions never got to the kind of scale where we’d see some of the looping issues,” that haunted the anthology’s launch. O’Connor said that other bugs were just as disappointing, but the matchmaking exacerbated them.

O’Connor goes into more detail about those problems, why they happened and why they couldn’t be overcome, but the upshot is 343 Industries has a different development attitude in light of what went down with Master Chief Collection in 2014. “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.

He then mentioned the flighting program 343 will introduced to QA the update, which will rely on players in the public to test iterative patches and updates. That’s to begin in spring 2018.

On Wednesday, 343 Industries announced the enhancements coming to the Xbox One X and the fixes coming to the original for those who own that. Bonnie Ross, the head of 343 Industries, also expressed confidence that improvements to Xbox One networking overall in the intervening years should will get the Master Chief Collection back on track.