Ramblings of a Tampa engineer
Splash Screen for Halo MCC, copyright 343

Nearly 4 years ago, I started a blog post called "Ship Broken. Patch Later", it was a draft that never went public describing the frustration of the video game industry back then. Major AAA title games launched with serious problems that took months to years to resolve.

In the extreme case of Halo MCC (Master Chief Collection), I could not even get into a match for 7 days straight after purchasing the game on day zero. It was a bleak time for the game, but patches kept coming in hopes to fix the bleeding pig.

The list above shows that 343 tried to fix things. A patch basically weekly for 6 straight weeks. These patches did fix some of the most crazy bugs this game suffered.

  • Matchmaking would no longer split your party. (11/14/2014)
  • Communiticating the status of matchmaking to stop people in an endless loop of joining/leaving matchmaking (11/20/2014)
  • Fixed the issue that allowed players to "boot" others from matchmaking (11/20/2014)
  • Allowed games to start once minimum players found (12/3/2014)
  • Fixed parties being broken after a matchmaking game ended (12/7/2014)

Releases kept coming, including some patches that had features! Halo 3: ODST launched in the May 30, 2015 update. This was an apology to the world for the absolute mess that was Halo MCC. Personally though, I didn't want new content. I wanted a game that worked.

Last month, I promised the Halo and Xbox community that addressing the matchmaking issues and other bugs impacting players’ experience with Halo: The Master Chief Collection was our #1 priority.  We’ve been working around the clock deploying weekly content updates and numerous server-side adjustments that have shown good results and we’re encouraged by the feedback we’re hearing from you.  

Bonnie Ross (12/19/2014)

Regardless of the patches made, things didn't really work. I imagine this was a by-product of weekly releases on such a large game. While games did start now, they sometimes started uneven, so a group of 7v7 might start 9v5 or something strange.

The game was still filled with bugs and queue times for most playlists took 20-30 minutes. There was only a few playlists even possible to get a game in under 5 minutes and even then the bugs started. The game might just crash during load, freeze for no reason, end at some random kill value (IE 30, instead of 50) and filled with network issues.

Custom games were an entirely different beast of bugs, you couldn't join a game in progress! This meant that if you started a game with 4 friends and another got online, you would have to end the game and go back to the lobby. This meant balancing the mess that was joining friends just to start the game.

As months went on, new games came out and the population in Halo MCC suffered. Months became years and while the collection of Halo campaigns was still working, multiplayer in Halo MCC was a complete failure.

The Hope

Rumors in September of 2017 started hinting that 343 was looking into MCC again. These were of course just rumors until Frankie (Frank O'Connor), the Franchise Development Director released a post with lots of information.

I’d also like to be clear, up front about what’s not contained here – there’s no excuses. We’re explaining some of the issues in more depth than we have before, in part because we now have the resources, OS and capability to make meaningful changes. So please don’t mistake explanations for excuses – we’re trying to be as transparent as possible, but there are loads of proprietary things we can’t talk about at a granular level.

Frank O'Connor (10/20/2017)

This post explained lots of things, including why 343 just stopped doing updates. After this there wasn't a real official update until January 31, 2018 when the first of five development update posts went live.

Frankie did not lie, these posts were highly technical and dove down into the nitty gritty of the problems at hands and the solution they planned to take. These posts showed things I never expected 343 to disclose.

diff for elite_stealth.character from H2V vs MCC

The developer updates even included screenshots of the internal of game development. I used to mod the earlier Halo's, so it was great to read an official source of things we used to change.

The 5th developer update even had a shout out to us modders.

The problem with adding or removing assets to Halo 3 is that you run the very high risk of breaking map variants. Since the 360 days, and up until my fixes go live, Halo 3 map variants embedded content IDs for the things which are placed in them. Content IDs are dependent on the order in which content is linearly added to a map file. Modders know these as “tag indicies”. To ship MCC originally, a hard coded table was made to map a 360 content ID to the content ID which it is assigned to in MCC. That lets you ship, but that doesn’t solve the problem. If you add or remove content those IDs shift. Here, I’m trying to add back content to make Halo 3 be Halo 3 again. So we have to be more…indirect.

The Scoop (5th Development Update)

A company now unafraid to discuss problems, solutions and attempted solutions was something you rarely see. 343 even posted blooper videos of attempts to fix MCC!

The Test

On August 27, 2018 the update launched at a massive 73 gigabytes. It was basically a new release of the game. Impossible to download 73gb on my connection in reasonable time. I went to bed then work, looking forward to playing on August 28.

Game after game I played without error. I couldn't believe it. The nostalgia of playing Halo CE, Halo 2, Halo 3 & Halo 4 was back. I had zero crashes, one game with a toxic teammate and loved every bit of game. It took basically 4 years after paying $60, but the game was fixed.

The days of Nintendo 64 games are gone, where a company would have to spend years perfecting a game because they had no ability to push OTA (Over the Air) updates. We have DLC, updates, patches and more now to bridge the gap between a released game and a completed game.

343 is not the only company to seriously mess up a release of a game and won't be the last. I'm glad they did the right thing and fixed what was needed at $0 to the consumer.

You are earned my business back 343.

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