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whistlelock
04-09-2009, 11:47 AM
Zoombie brought this up in another thread- Why all the fuss over Halo?

The game is mediocre. You're a super solider taking on super badass aliens. Wow, like that hasn't been done a lot. Not that it's a poorly designed game, no. As shooters go, it's competent.

But, it's not great.

I have a theory on why Halo has done so well- it all comes down to what I call "The Big Fat Greek Effect".

Consider this: My Big Fat Greek Wedding came out in October of 02. Right after the first anniversary of 9-11 and at the beginning of the buildup in Iraq and during the height of our Afghanistan activities. The world is in a bad way. We were practically glued to our tv sets, buying duck tape and plastic sheets.

And, along comes this movie. It's cute. Funny, but not side-splitting funny. And the heroine's biggest worry? That Mr. Right won't like her odd ball family, and run away. Compared to the real world, that's hardly anything at all.

And we all flocked to it. Because for 90 minutes you could forget about the real, terrible world and watch an average rom/com about weird relatives.

Now, think about Halo. It's a super solider shooter game, where you take on a whole mess of aliens that want to wipe out humanity 'cause their religion says we need to go.

Release date: November 15, 2001.

Now, you're a kid. The adults are all worked up over the events of two months ago. You don't quite get it, but you're still scared it might happen again. You've been told religious crazies want to kill you for being you.

And, along comes this game. You're a super soldier. they're religious nuts out to murderize the human race. Halo was the right game at the right time.

Like I said, Big Fat Greek effect.

jst5150
04-09-2009, 11:53 AM
Halo has a brilliant story line, fantastic graphics and, and this may be lost on some, it was the first game that you could be first-person shooter, AND go hop into a vehicle to drive around AND fly something. Innovative and cool at the time. Plus you get to shoot things, drive dune buggies and fly personal jets. Never a moment of suck.

And did I mention it had a brilliant storyline? One that had me and a friend playing 19 hours straight ... once ... maybe twice ... or 27 times ... or ... more.

MBFGW is a fantastic example of great marketing, insider baseball and absolutely SLAM DUNKING a target audience.

Halo is Bungee and Bungee at its core is a great company that does great work.

It's the New York Yankees of video games right now and largely ubiquitous, esp. with the wealth of sequels (I'm waiting for My Big Fat Master Chief Wedding). So, it's going to get hate mail regardless. But at its core ...

Great story. Well written. Innovative gameplay.

Prozyan
04-09-2009, 12:22 PM
Halo was also the launch title for the XBOX. Got into lots of homes that way, and as was said, the storyline and gameplay were strong enough for it to develop a console following from there. In 2001, on consoles, it was incredibly ground breaking.

For PC's, since it wasn't ported until 2003, it was rather lackluster by that time and was destroyed by buggy gameplay and far superior products on that platform.

Zoombie
04-09-2009, 12:44 PM
Now, to destroy everything that Jst said.

Firstly, the plotline in Halo sucked. Okay, it didn't SUCK, but it was very...average.

We're writers here, we should know a good story when we see one, and Halo's story? Not. Awesome.

The set up is a tired one that we've heard a zillion times before: Evil aliens are attacking Earth and we can't stop them except for a few super heroes in awesome power armor. It is competently handled in the first game, but it is not going to light the world on fire.

The gameplay? Fairly standard shooter fare. Yeah, the guns are kinda neat, but I had already played a game by this point that had a gun that fired worms that burrowed into people's skulls and ate their BRAINS.

Sure, the vehicles were neat, but ahem, Tribes 2 anyone? That game had BETTER, more CREATIVE vehicles and it HAD THEM FIRST!

Also the power armor in Tribes was cooler. They had jetpacks!

The first game was entertaining, but I'll never replay it. The second game was just entirely meh. The third game was made of fail. Halo Wars is a dumbed down, bastardized RTS (And consoles already HAVE a good RTS, its called Red Alert 3...and that one is actually GOOD and creative and original!)


And what's really sad?

Halo was originally going to be a tactical shooter, a la Ghost Recon or Rambo Six, set in space.

And it was going to be on the PC.

Rather than playing an overdone genetically engineered space marine (scoff) you were a squad leader commanding normal infantry in a futuristic war against the Covenant.

But then Microsoft bought out Bungee and I think the gaming community has been the poorer for it.

My dream, though, is that Microsoft will let Bungee take some of the money they made and let them make a revamp of Pathways Into Darkness.

Now THAT was an awesome FPS with amazing plot, gameplay, and action!


So, really, I don't hate Halo for sucking. I hate it for doing so well...while being so little.

SPMiller
04-09-2009, 01:31 PM
Yeah, it still amuses me that Halo was initially marketed as a potentially groundbreaking PC game, yet became a mediocre console game using ideas that had appeared in PC games years earlier. Meh.

My guess as to why Halo became popular is that it: 1) offered multiplayer competitive gameplay, 2) was a launch title for its console, and 3) could be played while drinking beer on a couch in the living room. Some of these are reasons that earlier console shooters became popular (e.g., #1 and #3 apply to Goldeneye).

jst5150
04-09-2009, 01:34 PM
Now, to destroy everything that Jst said.
You didn't, but (and, G-d, do I hate to be pedantic ...) let's do this line by line. :) In a friendly, but candid and fact-filled way.

Firstly, the plotline in Halo sucked. Okay, it didn't SUCK, but it was very...average.
So, define above average AND show me sales numbers that mean above average plotlines somehow drive sales and "average" plotlines don't. The point is: the plot was fine. Besides plot lines don't sell video games to gamers. Blood, shooting, explosions and difficulty obtain all those things usually do. Speaking of plot and story ...

We're writers here, we should know a good story when we see one, and Halo's story? Not. Awesome.
We should? If we did, we'd all be reaping the benefits of being editors, agents or writing the next great novel. That's a fallacy my friend. By coming to this board, in many ways, you're saying you're LEARNING to be a writer. Greatness is usually foisted by great sales, great marketing and when great people think you're stuff is great. Beyond that, you hope for the best. I disgres ...

That YOU didn't like the story does not a tear down make. I'll again point to the ultimate scoreboard: sales. All those people liked the story enough to pay 49 bucks for the game. Halo also sells oodles of behind-the-scenes art books, novel spin offs and more. To me, that's more than awesome. That's a new car, new house and family vacation filled with royalties awesome. I'm fairly confident Bungee didn't intend to write "Memento" or "Usual Suspects" but Halo's story was good enough that people are buying the collateral products by the thousands.

How specifically is that bad story or plot? That's it's been done before? EVERYTHING has been done before! :) Or are you wanting to discuss plot points, story arcs, and so on? I don't *think* you are. My point really: art (and I'm using that term loosely) usually inspires more art, challenges or blah blah blah. You get the idea. There's plenty of fan fiction and fan illustration out there for Halo. So, I'd have to go with the notion that the story and plot are fine. ;)

The set up is a tired one that we've heard a zillion times before: Evil aliens are attacking Earth and we can't stop them except for a few super heroes in awesome power armor. It is competently handled in the first game, but it is not going to light the world on fire.
And yet, with wallets in hand, "we" fall for it. Independence Day (film) - $811 million (imdb); The War of the Worlds (film, Cruise-Speilberg) - $591 million; Transformers (film) - $700 million. And when Peter Jackson directing Halo: The Movie comes out? Puh-leeze. Again, you're providing personal anecdotal examples that fail to support the numbers, the overall reviews and the majority opinion. If you want to dissent, I'm all for it. Just bring more juice than this -- numbers, specific exmaples of artistic suckdom and why, and maybe a review link or two that supports your opinion.

The gameplay? Fairly standard shooter fare. Yeah, the guns are kinda neat, but I had already played a game by this point that had a gun that fired worms that burrowed into people's skulls and ate their BRAINS.
And I agree with you here. But the gameplay is one element of the entire piece. You can pull facets off the Hope Diamond and expect the same sort of beauty. Not that I'm comparing the Hope Diamond to Halo. I'm not. But it's an apt analogy. Again, I agree -- it's a a shooter at it's core. Let's press on.

Sure, the vehicles were neat, but ahem, Tribes 2 anyone? That game had BETTER, more CREATIVE vehicles and it HAD THEM FIRST! Also the power armor in Tribes was cooler. They had jetpacks!
Again, I should just link to something that shows Halo sales figures here and in every example, that shows dollars, number of people who bought the game, number of people constantly online playing and so on. Tribes WAS cool. Tribes 2 tried too hard and failed. But both were niché. And didn't sell well. And couldn't get an audience big enough to sustain it. And Tribes died the same death as many great games that could have been WAY better (I mention Hyperblade as a personal favorite here ... sigh) Halo is just better than almost any game you're going to mention because it was managed, marketed and nurtured better than your games. Sorry. That's just the way it is. But I do miss Tribes. And Hyperblade. :)

The first game was entertaining, but I'll never replay it. The second game was just entirely meh. The third game was made of fail. Halo Wars is a dumbed down, bastardized RTS (And consoles already HAVE a good RTS, its called Red Alert 3...and that one is actually GOOD and creative and original!)
This graf says what almost EVERY SINGLE REVIEW I've ever read about Halo says. Congrats. You are of the hive mind. :) But, again, scoreboard to Halo. The game is so immensely popular AND good that the company went on to make three sequels and dozens of spinoffs. I'd bet there's Halo cookware and a Play-Doh set somewhere in our future. :)

And what's really sad?
Children dying of cancer? Homeless residents of New Orleans who still have nowhere to live? People who cannot feed themselves every night? I'm guessing that's not what you have coming next ...

Halo was originally going to be a tactical shooter, a la Ghost Recon or Rambo Six, set in space.
And Tom Selleck was originally slated to play Indiana Jones. So what? Coulda/Woulda/Shoulda/Didn't. Scoreboard; Halo AGAIN. As Eddie Izzard once said, "Leonardo Da Vinci once made a helicopter that NEVER worked ... and so did I!"

And it was going to be on the PC.
Mmm, no. Originally, it was going to be on Mac. Only Mac. And that what really started the fervor -- the cult of Mac getting the biggest, baddest new game on the block. With the Mac zealots starting the crazy wave, that tsunami barrelled the rest of the way into the marketing effort.

Rather than playing an overdone genetically engineered space marine (scoff) you were a squad leader commanding normal infantry in a futuristic war against the Covenant. But then Microsoft bought out Bungee and I think the gaming community has been the poorer for it.
Really? How many people have been inspired by Halo? How many people will want to emulate that success? There are dozens of AUTHORS and ILLUSTRATORS who have jobs because of the success of Halo. The "gaming community," which is about as organized and loyal as a band of thieves, is about (and I'll just spitball here) 85 percent Halo players. You almost HAVE to have some form of Halo in your collection to be considered a gamer. Otherwise, you get a big WTF from gamer comrades.

Let me footstomp the "number of jobs created by Halo for authors and illustrators" thing. Admittedly, it's not THAT many, but the jobs were created because the game became immensely successful. Never look a gift horse in the mouth when it comes time to enter the creative world or getting OUT of the unemployment line. ;)

To close this point, there seems to be a large, fanatical following of people who like overdone genetically engineered space marines. That's because, as a rule, plenty of people like big, strong, quiet heroes. It's an archetype. The Dark Knight. Maximus from Gladiator. Rambo. Patrick Swayze from Roadhouse. On and on from there.

My dream, though, is that Microsoft will let Bungee take some of the money they made and let them make a revamp of Pathways Into Darkness. Now THAT was an awesome FPS with amazing plot, gameplay, and action!
But who's heard of it? And would it make MS money? Would it make MS Halo money? If Hollywood has taught video games anything (and Clockwork will tell you that the two industries are VERY similarly connected and run), it's that your ride a horse until it drops dead, the carcass rots and the bones are ground to dust by age (a la Friday the 13th sequels, Rambo sequels, letting M. Night Shamalamadingdong keep making movies). So, I share your enthusiasm about wanting dead titles resurrected and redone (Hyperblade! Several squad mercenary type games and more), expect that that won't happen because a sleeping on a King-sized mattress filled with consumer money is comfortable and difficult to refill.

So, really, I don't hate Halo for sucking. I hate it for doing so well...while being so little.
Aw, you almost came clean with your intentions here. :) Nice try. And while I am, too, an idealogue about playing games that are rich with plot, well acted and have all the dimensions to make a great video game experience, Halo has all that. It was also a multiplayer breakthrough in some ways. And I'm not a Halo apologist. I rarely play. Rather, I just offer to you to look at facts + anecdotal and realize that, while sometimes video games can be art, at other times, they can be art and commercial success. It's rare, but it happens.

SPMiller
04-09-2009, 01:42 PM
So, really, I don't hate Halo for sucking. I hate it for doing so well...while being so little.Now, let's be honest. Where have we seen this happening elsewhere?

Hmm. Recent examples. Do the names Meyer, Paolini, and Brown ring a bell?


The "gaming community," which is about as organized and loyal as a band of thieves, is about (and I'll just spitball here) 85 percent Halo players. You almost HAVE to have some form of Halo in your collection to be considered a gamer. Otherwise, you get a big WTF from gamer comrades.Let's also stress the "almost" there. Otherwise, I'd get a lot of big WTFs for not currently owning any copies of any Halo-related game. And that'd be silly, because if anyone's a gamer, I am.

Zoombie
04-09-2009, 02:17 PM
Well, it all depends on what kind of gamer you are.

I'm a pretentious, stuck up PC snob who thinks consoles are for jerks, and so are all of my friends.

They don't blink twice when I don't have HALO.

jst5150
04-09-2009, 02:20 PM
Let's also stress the "almost" there. Otherwise, I'd get a lot of big WTFs for not currently owning any copies of any Halo-related game. And that'd be silly, because if anyone's a gamer, I am.
Which is, indeed, why I used the word "almost." ;)

Zoombie
04-09-2009, 02:22 PM
I was thinking of writing a response to your post...but then I realized that a huge problem is...

I'm a stuck up PC elitist snob.

Really, no matter what either of us say, we're not going to change one another's minds.

Sooo, lets just agree to enjoy our own gameospheres.

Though I still think Bungee should make a new Pathways into Darkness, damn it!

jst5150
04-09-2009, 02:26 PM
Really, no matter what either of us say, we're not going to change one another's minds.
I'm not trying to change your mind. I respect your opinion. I really do. Just making the case that Halo is not necessarily crass commercial pandering.

I game mostly on PC, I owned an Xbox until 2 months ago because I never played it. I only owned Halo 3 (and played it sparingly) and only played the original Halo extensively. To be fair, I played City of Heroes for a very long time, I did a LOT of simulation racing and other sports, and a few other games.

We're not so far apart in our thinking, I'd guess. ;)

Zoombie
04-09-2009, 02:33 PM
I suppose the first game wasn't completely crass commercial pandering :P

But, still, imagine this: An ancient alien creature crashed into the Mexican jungled 60,000 years ago and has been slumbering there. His dreams have created a massive maze populated by his nightmares. And here's the bad part: He's gonna wake up in 48 hours!

So you have to go into the bottom of the maze with a nuclear weapon, set the timer, and get out...all in 48 hours.

Its like Prince of Persia meets Doom meets System Shock meets a puzzle game.

Now imagine that, with modern graphics and presentation, using all the money Bungee has made with Halo.

It'd be awesome.

jst5150
04-09-2009, 02:37 PM
It would. I just don't think anyone would buy it.

But your one deluxe box edition would be a collector's item to behold. ;)

I suppose the first game wasn't completely crass commercial pandering :P

But, still, imagine this: An ancient alien creature crashed into the Mexican jungled 60,000 years ago and has been slumbering there. His dreams have created a massive maze populated by his nightmares. And here's the bad part: He's gonna wake up in 48 hours!

So you have to go into the bottom of the maze with a nuclear weapon, set the timer, and get out...all in 48 hours.

Its like Prince of Persia meets Doom meets System Shock meets a puzzle game.

Now imagine that, with modern graphics and presentation, using all the money Bungee has made with Halo.

It'd be awesome.

Zoombie
04-09-2009, 02:42 PM
The original Pathways Into Darkness was a mac only game.

Oh, and I almot forgot all the Nazi ghosts you had to talk too.

And they all spoke in German, so you had to use the German to English dictionary that came with the manual.


Awesome.

jst5150
04-09-2009, 02:45 PM
And they all spoke in German, so you had to use the German to English dictionary that came with the manual.
As I now live in Germany (a US employee), this would be VERY helpful so the stock of this game is already rising. :D

Higgins
04-09-2009, 04:49 PM
Well, it all depends on what kind of gamer you are.

I'm a pretentious, stuck up PC snob who thinks consoles are for jerks, and so are all of my friends.

They don't blink twice when I don't have HALO.

I've never blinked once about HALO. If I feel like getting in an simulated armored car or helicopter, I go without the spaceman armor and play:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArmA:_Armed_Assault

It's got realistic terrain and constellations in the sky and mods from all over and one shot kills you.

Eric San Juan
04-15-2009, 05:23 PM
Like I said, Big Fat Greek effect.
Your theory is, with all due respect, absolutely absurd in every way.

Halo is well-regarded and popular for many reasons, none of which include 9-11 or escaping from real world terrorism.

Interest was there from the start. No need to take my word for it, though. History bears me out.

Halo was a highly anticipated well before 9-11. Heck, even before it made the transition to the Xbox gamers were waiting on Bungie's science fiction game. It made PC magazine covers. Had extensive previews, including 10-minute video previews, magazine spreads, and lots of online buzz -- all when it was still a PC game.

And then when it was moved to an Xbox exclusive, well, loads and loads of buzz. People mad. People eager. People wondering how it would turn out. Glowing previews well before it was ever releases and well before 9-11.

Once it hit the public ...

The game itself won people over in part because it was one of the only decent offerings in the Xbox's early life cycle, and in part because it was just a damn polished game. The controls were fluid and smooth as butter, easily the best FPS controls on a console to date and still among the most intuitive out there. You could pick up, play, and it was never awkward. The FPS genre finally seemed viable on consoles. (Previously the only one worth a damn was GoldenEye on the N64.) Scores of console shooters since have taken a lead from what Halo did on this front, and no wonder. It's wasn't about forgetting the real, it was about highly polished gameplay and f.u.n.

Halo also provided the kind of social gaming experience that had fallen by the wayside for a few years. It's fine-tuned multiplayer was, and remains, very popular. Fast-paced and fun, people built parties around it.

People liked the stellar production values. The great music and presentation, the semi-decent story (nothing to write home about, but still better than most of what the genre had seen on consoles to date), the polished look and feel. It looked impressive for its time, it played well, it showed console gamers something they hadn't much experienced to that point, plus it threw in raucus vehicle levels everyone loved, featured battles on a more epic scale than the usually claustrophobic corridor-shoots we usually saw from the genre, and, you know, was good fun.

Fact is, Halo made great strides for the genre on consoles and help popularize FPS games there, and it did so by doing what it did -- regardless of how ambitious it may or may not have been -- very well.

And I say this as a longtime PC gamer who has played and continues to play dozens and dozens of FPS games.

Zoombie
04-16-2009, 12:35 AM
And then Bioshock came and gave consoles an intelligent FPS to be snobbish about.