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3 April 2013
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The Halo Bulletin: 4.3.13

04.03.2013 18:00
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The Castle Map Pack, which is the third of three Map Packs from the War Games Map Pass, is scheduled for release on April 8th. If you don't have a calendar handy, that just so happens to be Monday. To make sure you're properly prepared for this particular trio of maps, we have several days' worth of Castle-related content planned for your viewing pleasure. We shared the 9 relevant Achievements yesterday, and we have three new videos along with a live stream coming out later this week. Check out our schedule, so you can adjust yours accordingly.

Castle Map Pack Coverage

While we're excited for you to get your hands on the Castle Map Pack, that's actually just the start of a full week of exclusive offers, updates and challenges. For those that enjoy Multiplayer, Monday will feature the release of the new maps, CSR and a Halo 4 matchmaking update - the latter two of which we'll discuss in-depth later in this Bulletin. Should ranking up be on your list of things to do, daily and weekly challenges offering extra XP will be active in both War Games and Spartan Ops for the entirety of the week. We have a few other things up our sleeve as well, including a CSR challenge where playing the Castle DLC playlist and reaching level 35 or higher between April 8 and April 22 will award you with an exclusive Avatar t-shirt, so stay tuned to Halo Waypoint and our Twitter account for more giveaways and surprises.

For now, let's chat about the soon-to-be-released CSR feature, shall we?

Competitive Skill Rank
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CSR, or Competitive Skill Rank, launches on all screens of Halo Waypoint (web, console and mobile) next Monday. You will be given a unique rank for each playlist within Halo 4, and the system will use the familiar 1-50 scale. We have been closely monitoring the match results and progression of players behind the scenes to ensure that this new system presents a challenge while still providing an optimal Matchmaking experience. As this is a brand new feature, everyone's CSR will be set to 0 when it launches. This will allow all players to start on equal footing and enjoy the progression of the 1-50 system.

There are two different ways we calculate your CSR. CSR is closely based on your TrueSkill rank, which ensures that you'll be ranked - and matched - against opponents of comparable skill. Your CSR is dependent upon your personal performance as well as the rank of those you play with. While several playlists will use a win/loss system to determine whether or not you rank up, others will use individual scoring, which will rank you based on your performance against everyone in the match, teammates included. In some playlists, you'll rank up faster than others - these vary in order to create the most optimal experience for each playlist.

The following playlists will use individual scoring and measure your performance against all others in the game. This ensures that the players who play the best in each match will have their CSR adjusted accordingly. Players who win consistently in these playlists will rank up faster than they will in the playlists that use team scoring.

Playlists that use individual scoring:

  • Infinity Slayer
  • Big Team Infinity Slayer
  • Rumble Pit
  • Multi-Team
  • Team Action Sack
  • Flood
  • Team Snipers
  • Regicide
  • SWAT

The following playlists will use team scoring, and your CSR will be based off wins and losses. This system rewards players who work towards the objective and win the match. It will take longer to rank up in these playlists.

Playlists that will use team scoring:

  • Castle Team DLC
  • Team Objective
  • Capture the Flag
  • Dominion
  • Team Throwdown
  • Team Doubles
  • Grifball

Here is additional information about these two systems:

In the mainstream playlists, we sort players by their performance (score) after every match, regardless of whether their team won or lost. The system will expect the players with the highest CSR values to rank consistently higher in the match. So if you bring all your awesome friends into those playlists and they dominate while you end up at the bottom of the scoreboard, your rating will NOT be carried by them; it will decrease instead. Your friends' CSRs won't change much since the system already expects them to do well. For these playlists, it will be very hard for friends to carry another player without bringing down their own CSRs and risking losing a lot of matches.

We use this in the mainstream playlists because it is incomparably faster at finding the skill of the players and making sure better players get into challenging matches in a timely fashion (and newer players get into fun matches in a reasonable timeframe as well). Our priority on these main playlists is on fast, fair Matchmaking instead of having a pure skill measure. It is also for this reason that we would not consider these playlists as competitive, and the resulting CSRs more of a fun, skill-related value than a pure skill measure.

In select playlists, instead of updating CSR based on the rank of every player, we will update based on the total skill in each team and who won the match. This makes teamwork as important as your solo play. The CSR on these playlists will be technically more pure from a competitive point of view. It will also take longer for these CSRs to converge but when they do, they will more accurately represent a player's ability to help their team win. To get a 50 in the more prestigious playlists will require players skilled enough to consistently bring the win to their entire team so that they can be matched against better and better players.

Now, can you then carry a worse player? In a sense, yes, but only as high as the average skill of the group. Two 40s won't bring a 10 up to a 40, but instead they will all end up around 30. Does that accurately represent that 10's skill? Well, if that 10 plays alone, then no, it is grossly overestimating that player's skill. However, if that player ALWAYS plays with two 40 CSR friends, then 20 of that player's skill is playing with the right friends.

If you leave early once a match has started, it treats it as if you were the lowest rank in the match for the individual-scored playlists and as a loss on the team-scored playlists. Players that join in progress are currently treated as if they had played the entire match. That said, in our selected, more competitive playlists, there will be rules in place to mitigate the effect. Namely:

  1. You can only join in progress during a small window of time in the beginning of the match, so those players will still have time to contribute meaningfully to the match.
  2. Friends are not allowed to join a game in progress. Only random players searching through Matchmaking can join during that 60-second window.

The rules for these playlists restrict the amount of noise from Join-in-Progress since that feature is only possible during the first few moments of the match. They also help improve the purity of CSR in these playlists. We plan on putting in these Join-in-Progress parameters as close to CSR launch as possible.

We are actively investigating occasional CSR resets, both globally and for certain playlists. Reasons for resetting ranks include overhauls to CSR calculation, Halo 4 game updates, and events and promotions centered on CSR. Resetting CSR is not something we're taking lightly so when we do reset it, we'll be sure to provide ample messaging describing the reasons for doing so.

When we listed the playlists above, you might have noticed a few of them are not currently available in Matchmaking. Here to talk about their impending arrival, along with a few other changes that are coming on Monday, is Bravo.

Next Week's Matchmaking Playlist Update
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Bravo here with the Matchmaking update! If you're reading this, you're likely aware that this upcoming week is a pretty busy week for Halo fans - let's get started.

Episode 1 of Spartan Ops will be available on Monday, as we begin an encore of Season 1 - the rest of the season will follow with the next episode each week. In War Games, the Castle Map Pack will be available for download. This map pack is included in the War Games Map Pass or can be purchased individually from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. With the Castle Map Pack comes a brand new playlist: Castle Team DLC. This 6 vs. 6 playlist will feature the following:

Map Game Type
  Infinity Slayer
  Capture the Flag
  King of the Hill
  Extraction - 1 Plot
  Infinity Slayer
  Capture the Flag
  King of the Hill
  Team Regicide
  Infinity Slayer
  Capture the Flag
  King of the Hill
  Extraction - 1 Plot

Also, these maps will be integrated into many of our existing playlists. DLC maps will appear in a playlist if all players in the match have downloaded the content.

Playlist Map
Capture the Flag
Infinity Slayer
Action Sack

If the words "Multi-Team" got your attention, read on. Monday will also feature the premiere of the aforementioned popular playlist, which pits 6 teams of 2 against one another. We are still finalizing the specific maps and game types that will be offered in this playlist at launch - be on the lookout for Monday's Matchmaking update for the full details of this playlist.

Also, as if the above wasn't enough to keep you busy for the next two weeks, Rumble Pit will be replacing the temporary Community Forge FFA playlist on Monday and will premiere with both Infinity Rumble and Rumble Pro in the voting options. Here are the maps that the playlist will launch with:

  • Skyline
  • Landfall
  • Monolith
  • Haven
  • Solace
  • Adrift
  • Abandon
  • Shutout
  • Simplex
  • Dispatch

Team Objective will be transitioning to a 6 vs. 6 playlist come Monday, mainly in part to address the community's desire for objective game types with larger team sizes and also to accommodate the Castle Maps, which are built for these team sizes. We'll continue to monitor your feedback regarding Team Objective in the future as we look to optimize the experience it offers by possibly changing the team maps, team sizes and game types that are offered. The playlist will feature on-disc maps, as well as Crimson and Castle maps, and Extraction will transition from being its own playlist to being included in this one. The map/game type selection will be posted in Monday's Matchmaking update, as we are still finalizing the layout of the new Team Objective.

Next week will offer a ton of new Halo 4 Matchmaking experiences. After you play in these new playlists and game modes, we encourage you to head to the War Games Feedback section and let us know what you think about the map selection, game modes, settings and more. We look forward to hearing your feedback.

To close, we'd like to announce the winners of the latest Halo 4 Forge Contest. These 3 maps were shown off in the Community Forge FFA playlist and are still available to play (and save) until Monday's update - if you haven't played them yet, head into the playlist to check 'em out.

FIRST PLACE: Edifice by Redemption1272
THIRD PLACE: Plaza by Smexi Bilzo

Congrats to the winners and a big thank you to everyone who made this contest possible: Certain Affinity, the talented Forgers, the Community Cartographers and everyone who played Community Forge FFA!

If there's no Matchmaking update next week, it's because I'm staying home and chasing the dream of getting a level 50 CSR in every playlist.

But seriously, that's what I'll be doing.

GDC Feedback
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We had numerous 343ers in attendance at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) last week. While there, we presented a total of six different panels. "Halo Reborn: A Postmortem on the Creation of Halo 4" sparked a significant amount of feedback on our forums. I'll let you check out what Josh has to say in his own words:

The goal of my presentation was to discuss the many challenges that we faced when building a new team and taking on such a massive and high profile project, specifically for an audience of developers and creators going through similar situations. In preparing my talk, I was trying to encapsulate three years of development into a 45-minute presentation.

One of the things that I talked about was the desire to make Halo more accessible to players of all skill levels. What I did a poor job of articulating because of the nature of the intended audience is the importance of balancing the needs and desires of a hardcore Halo population that was born, bred and breathes prior Multiplayer philosophies, with an approachable and open-to-all design style. It's been a delicate balance and one that we haven't necessarily succeeded with but continue to work on. CSR, our partnership with top competitive players to build and refine Team Throwdown, adding pro options and arena-style maps to select playlists and our upcoming sandbox balances are a few of the things that we are working on for that particular part of our community on this title.

Since my GDC talk, I've received a ton of feedback from the competitive community. I want you to know that we hear you, we value you and we are going to continue to listen to your feedback and suggestions. We won't be able to implement all of them; it's just not possible with the given resources and time. But we are in this for the long haul, and you'll see our continued commitment to this aspect of our experience reflected in future projects as well as in our sustain efforts for Halo 4.


Halo 4 Screenshot Spotlight - Vehicular Love
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Last week we shined the spotlight on the color red. This week we decided to go with vehicles. Take a gander at the self-propelled conveyances below, then capture your own for your shot at being featured in next week's Bulletin.

For your chance at being in the next spotlight, take a space-themed screenshot. Then tag it with "Space" and "Halo Waypoint", and maybe, just maybe, yours will be featured in the next Halo Bulletin!

And with that, this week's Bulletin comes to close. See you next week, when it will be all Halo, all the time. Until then...

bs angel

P.S. Discuss.