What Halo did: Bungie understands that finishing and shipping a game is only the first step. If you want to build an empire, you also have to give the fans tools to extend the experience. This began with multiplayer, of course – more on that soon – but eventually spread much farther. Bungie gave the fans Custom Games, allowing them to create their own modes. Bungie gave the fans Forge, allowing them to create their own maps. Bungie gave the fans Saved Films and Halo Waypoint, allowing them to create their own movies and screenshots, then share them with their friends. And when someone does a particularly good job, like the folks behind Red vs Blue? Bungie incorporates them into official ads and announcements, often on "Bungie Day," which is – what else? – an annual celebration of the community.
What the industry has done since: Although we can't think of many other companies that engage their fans with the same degree of respect and appreciation as Bungie, the rest of the industry is definitely attempting to catch up. This November, Call of Duty: Black Ops will include a Theater mode to encourage machinima like Red vs Blue, and in 2011, the fate of the third Carmine brother in Gears 3 will have been decided by a public vote. Meanwhile, most all major franchises have now hired a community liaison similar to Brian Jarrard at Bungie – someone whose sole job is to ensure that the fans feel involved and informed.
What Halo did: Like we said in the intro, Halo obviously didn't invent multiplayer. But the first console game to incorporate local system-link in addition to split screen competition? Yeah, Halo did that. The first console game to inspire friends to lug their monitors and rigs to each other's houses for nightly LAN parties? Yeah, Halo did that. The first console game to make online matchmaking a breeze? Yeah, Halo (well, technically Halo 2) did that. And the first game to introduce us to foul-mouthed, trash-talking, teabagging 12 year-olds? Hey, we never promised every influence would be good. Just important.
What the industry has done since: That last paragraph probably wasn't the most interesting or surprising to read, but there's simply no denying Halo's role in pioneering and popularizing modern console multiplayer – the kind that enables you to compete with people across the globe, not merely across your living room carpet. Call of Duty, Gears of War, Killzone, Battlefield: Bad Company, Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell and many more online shooters are indebted to Bungie for blazing the way… even if the teams behind those other series would have done so eventually anyway. The trend Halo ignited has reached outside the basic shooter, too. Would games such as Dead Space 2, BioShock 2 and Uncharted 2 still feel the need to add multiplayer? If not for Master Chief and his copycats, who knows.
Sep 13, 2010
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