The title of this article tells all. It’s pretty easy to see how the standardizing of game settings is happening in Halo 2 (and also perhaps why large movements to get the settings changed may be important): Xbox Live has a competitive ranking system and, as such, players want to thrive in the particular game settings that will consequently improve their rankings. Practicing with non-XBL settings begins to seem pointless and players are not feeling out the game setting system for themselves.
One problem this creates is that custom games become practice sessions for officially ranked games and preferred settings become meaningless. Xbox Live is standardizing game settings because it is the forum to play multi-player Halo 2 and therefore determines the game types in which players must excel.
The fact that the default game types in Halo 2 are largely the games that Bungie uses on XBL, players are discouraged from exploring their ability to tweak settings. If a player from Live plays with his/her friends it is natural to use the default settings because all the players will want to play what they are accustomed to. The set up used right now is, above all else, convenient. Bungie could encourage players to discover the best settings on their own by creating more tweaked game types on XBL.
Bungie has the capacity to change “the standard”. Just as XBL serves to standardize game settings, particularly through the ranking system, Bungie.net could serve as a stable engine of change. There are many ways that Bungie could encourage more feedback and consequently change the “standards”. Massive player initiatives are very possible for two reasons. First, Bungie is open to player opinions and could easily conduct multiple-choice polls from the Halo 2 menu. Secondly, the very nature of the XBL-Bungie.net relationship makes players active in the community. Each time a player goes to check his or her rankings they have to go to the developer’s homepage. A few questions on the main site, or as an intermediary page between logging in and checking your stats would create massive feedback.
The fact that XBL is standardizing game settings is obvious, but the way in which this issue should be treated is the true question raised by this fact. Online games are adaptable and that is part of their appeal. There is no reason to believe that Bungie got it perfect the first time or that the current settings reflect the desire of a majority of the gaming community. All sorts of “hotly debated issues” are centered on the fact that XBL game settings determine the importance of so much in the game: weapon and vehicle dynamics, team strategies, individual tactics etc… The list goes on to include just about any changeable game setting. It is important to encourage Bungie to tweak settings in order to reflect the wants of the Halo 2 community. Xbox Live is standardizing game settings, but we haven’t forgotten about the way that we would prefer to play. And we shouldn’t.
Broderick (Brick) Shoemaker
You can contact Brick at Brick@mlgpro.com. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Major League Gaming or its affiliates.