Halo: The Master Chief Collection's struggles have been well documented. And while it looked like the game was on the back burner of both Xbox and 343's plans, it comes as a great relief that with Xbox One X, The Master Chief Collection will be getting some much-needed fixes and upgrades. With the extended silence surrounding the game, Frank O'Connor took to the opportunity to address what went wrong behind the scenes on Reddit and what is coming next.
O'Connor was upfront about his feelings on what happened, calling The Master Chief Collection's launch "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 continued.
He described the development team having "the best intentions" with The Master Chief Collection, knowing that they had "a massive and ambitious project that almost read like a Halo fan’s wishlist" on their plate. O'Connor attributes a flawed internal testing structure and the fact that they were putting together a single package using games that were built across systems that were "fundamentally, quite different" from each other. They were taking games from two different console generations, and trying to make them work with a third, essentially.
"To be clear here, the platform networking model was working as intended, but we made errors and ultimately approached it with the wrong strategy," O'Connor says. The online system that 343 was working with on what was still a new console forced the development team to make "some educated, but (with hindsight) ultimately faulty, assumptions" during development he explained.
O'Connor uses a ticketing system in a train station as a metaphor for why matchmaking times were so high.
"Picture a virtual waiting room at a train station – when the train arrives (a match) – everyone has to board – or the train can’t leave."
When players left sessions that were taking too long, the matchmaking times went up, further exacerbating the issue. O'Connor explains that while that isn't unusual, "the systems were less resilient in terms of churn" so lobbies could get caught in a sort of limbo where they weren't able to fill up.
O'Connor also explains that a big reason why 343 hasn't continued to update The Master Chief Collection, was that they were able to get to a point where "most users were (by this time) able to play properly and find matches and further tinkering might put that at risk."
However, that's not to say that O'Connor or 343 didn't care, though they were undoubtedly accused of being. "But that didn’t stop us being concerned about it anymore. On the contrary, in some ways leaving it was worse," he said.
"Everyone here puts their heart and soul and sweat and tears into building our games. I can tell you without hesitation that I have never heard someone here dismiss or ignore or belittle complaints. We always take them to heart. It’s the internet of course, so sometimes folks take it too far, with threats or other inappropriate reactions, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand the anger or disappointment those came from."
Fortunately, with Xbox One X on the way, O'Connor and the team at 343 have some new opportunities coming to improve The Master Chief Collection.
O'Connor said, "With Xbox One X on the horizon, it was obvious that we could simultaneously update the game to take advantage of the new hardware for folks that have it and use that as an opportunity to finally rearchitect and update some of the foundational issues and networking/matchmaking methods."
He says that the solutions that have emerged were "simply not possible until quite recently," but at the very least it sounds like The Master Chief Collection will finally be the game we were all hoping it would be. Also, it's worth reiterating that the incoming fixes for The Master Chief Collection will apply to both the standard and Xbox One X versions of the game.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is available now on Xbox One.