April 14, 2010 was supposed to be the end. By midnight of that day, Microsoft planned to shut down the original Xbox Live servers, and Halo 2 fans would be forced to play their very last matches. An online era would come to a close, and everybody involved would finally move on.
Never underestimate the passion or determination of gamers. On the morning of April 15, a handful of players realized they could keep playing Halo 2 as long as they left their Xbox consoles powered on, and for another three and a half weeks – until system errors and power failures finally dwindled their number to zero on May 11 – that's exactly what they did. Not even the temptation of early access to the Reach beta could distract them.
Who were these Halo 2 mega fans? Why did they choose to play so long, and what was the experience like? I interviewed five of the few to find out.
GamesRadar: When did you realize you could keep playing Halo 2 after Microsoft’s cutoff?
HiredN00bs: Well, the cutoff didn't happen exactly at the end of the day of the 14th. People were still able to sign on for some time on the 15th. I left my (original) Xbox on that night, and the next day I saw posts from people who said that they couldn't sign on anymore. I turned on my monitor and I was still goin'! I did not plan to stay on past the cutoff; in fact, I figured the system would automatically boot us at some point.
GamesRadar: Why did you decide to hold out for as long as you did?
xxBooker Dxx: I loved Halo 2. It was the game that got me on XBL. I just wanted to play until I could not.
HiredN00bs: It was a combination of novelty, curiosity and nostalgia.
Agent Windex: For the memories, for the love of the game and just because Halo 2 is so much fun.
T0 BE CONTINUED: I had not planned on it whatsoever. The first few days, I stayed on because I had logged in with two of my friends, and each night we talked and always decided, "Let's play again one more time tomorrow." I also had decided to start streaming so I could share the experience.
Every day in my stream, I was asked if I'd keep going, and when it came to calling it a night, I couldn't bring it to an end. Eventually it transitioned into, "Okay, I'm going to keep playing and keeping this alive for however as long as I can."
It also helped a lot since I'm deaf and wasn't privy to the in-game voice chat, so that some of the final few players started coming into my stream and talking to me. Players were thanking me. It gave me an even stronger appreciation of the game and the community.
GamesRadar: How difficult was it to keep your consoles on and connected for all that time?
Agent Windex: It was really difficult to stay online. I had to survive two storms. I have no idea how the electricity didn't go out.
T0 BE CONTINUED: Since I hadn't planned on this at all, I had shutdown enabled, so every night I'd have to rubber band my controller to keep it from going idle while I slept. Weather was really cool in my area so I'd have the windows open and my ceiling fan going, keeping my room at a constant 70 degrees.
GamesRadar: What did you guys do in Halo 2 for all of those extra weeks?
Agent Windex: For the first week, we mainly played Big Team Battle, but when the numbers got too small to play that, we did customs mainly.
T0 BE CONTINUED: If we had 6-8 players, we'd play Team Training and/or Rumble Pit. If we had more (12-16), we always wanted to play Big Team Battles. Occasionally we'd play custom games like Zombies, MLG, Hide and Seek, Tower of Power, Tremors, Troy and glitch our way out of the maps.
HiredN00bs: An interesting thing to note: the Halo 2 matchmaking system continued to work, even after Bungie's statistic-collecting servers were unplugged.
GamesRadar: How were you finally kicked off?
xxBooker Dxx: I was kicked due to a power failure.
xxMAKDADYxx: Ethernet turned off due to home remodeling.
HiredN00bs: Stupidity. I was carrying my gamertag on a USB stick, took it to a friend's house to show him the Reach Beta and instinctively logged into my account. I clicked the guide button to abort, but it had already booted me off Halo 2.
T0 BE CONTINUED: On April 23, 2010 at 2:24 am, my 360 decided that it could not continue any longer and froze. I had knew it was coming since I could smell the metal smoldering earlier that day. People in my stream cried when they saw it happen live, which really touched me, that a game could bring us to a point where we became so emotionally invested in it.
Above: T0 BE CONTINUED's final moments before her Xbox crashed
GamesRadar: What did this experience mean to you?
xxMAKDADYxx: It was special to be able to give Halo 2 a proper send-off and show Bungie and Microsoft how much we love it.
T0 BE CONTINUED: I am really fortunate to have met and made friends out of the players/fans who have came and supported us in our dedication. If it wasn't for my stream, I would have honestly never became close to the players/fans due to communication barriers.
HiredN00bs: I'm honestly surprised at all the media attention it got. I met a friend of mine who lives in New York for brunch last Sunday, and he told me he read about it on CNET. There was a point where I felt like I was done, ready to log off, but then all of the messages started to pour in from all over Xbox Live encouraging me to keep going.
GamesRadar: What does Halo 2 mean to you?
T0 BE CONTINUED: College years memories. My deaf friends and I started with CE and about 10-15 of us got the midnight release of H2. There were LANs, MLG events, parties, jokes, friendships, epic games and so much more.
HiredN00bs: From a game play perspective, it's my least favorite of the franchise (albeit, that's kinda like saying vanilla ice cream is your least favorite in Neapolitan; it's still delicious ice cream). It was the online play, and the smooth online interface the game incorporated that really sucked me in. I mean it many ways, Halo 2 made Xbox Live what it is today.
GamesRadar: Will you stay in touch with your fellow Halo 2 holdouts?
Agent Windex: Of course, I've played with them in the Beta multiple times.
xxMAKDADYxx: Definitely - the final group was very close and had a lot of fun. We are currently playing Reach together.
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