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Halo Sandbox Balance


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#1   Three Six Xero

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 03:04 AM

It's been a while since I've done something like this, but the posts I have made for it are either too old or simply no longer exist. As such, I will try my hand at summarizing what I consider good design for Halo's weapon sandbox, and how it balances and relates to the game at large. This is not meant to get particularly specific, although I will be using specific examples to better explain my case.

 

Before I get started, I feel it is necessary to define a few terms. These terms are generally well understood by this community, so I admit it being merely a formality. Nevertheless:

 

Utility weapon: a weapon designed to be a jack of all trades, made to be the perfect starting weapon

 

Power weapon: a weapon designed to be powerful, made to be desired and thus promote map movement and control the flow of a match

 

Sandbox weapon: a weapon designed to neither be a utility weapon or a power weapon, but somewhere in the middle, ideally a weapon that one would pick up to gain a slight advantage of some sort

 

 

With that out of the way, I will describe the desired harmony between these three categories of weapons and how weapons should fit within their molds. 

First and foremost, a utility weapon must be skill based, able to engage targets at multiple ranges (and thus fill a mid ranged role), and must be the starting weapon for any standard competitive match. Power weapons must be powerful enough and scarce to be sought out by players in order to satisfy their role in promoting map movement and in order to provide a dynamic element to a match which will improve the gameplay's depth, while being limited, whether by ammunition, ease of use, or a particular circumstance, in order to allow the utility weapon a fighting chance. Sandbox weapons must also be desirable to pick up by way of supplementing the utility weapon's faults (ex. an AR is better for close range than the BR), with a delicate balance between it and the utility weapon in that neither should ultimately dominate the other by default (ex. a sword is not a sandbox weapon by virtue of practically dominating close range encounters in comparison to a BR, so it is treated as a power weapon).

This is obviously a very general set of "musts," so I will elaborate on a more specific basis with each category.

 

The concept of a utility weapon is there to solve the problem of off the spawn disadvantage a player will face after having died and respawned for the first time and on. Players who survive an initial encounter by default have the advantage in positioning and possibly in weaponry. The utility weapon, therefore, gives a respawned player a fighting chance by giving the player a weapon that can compete with every other weapon on the map. Such a powerful weapon is balanced out by being skill based, traditionally in the form of headshots: maintain accuracy, land all rounds, and score a headshot for the kill and you maximize the weapon's potential. The differential time to kill between headshots and body shots should be significant enough to warrant killing a target with the least amount of rounds used. The time to kill, related to the other weapons on the map, should be relatively close to that of sandbox weapons, but longer than that of power weapons. 

When there are multiple utility weapons that exist in a game's sandbox, it is ideal to have subtle differences between them that make them all viable starting weapons, but perhaps more suited to different styles of play for different game modes or even different players (ex. a Magnum is better suited to smaller maps while a BR is better suited to bigger maps). This is not to say that a utility weapon should be better than another, but merely better in one respect. Effective range, magazine size, Rate of fire, and scope magnification all play a part in these differences. Whether or not the choice of starting with these weapons is static or a player made choice, a utility weapon must be a starting weapon 100% of the time in a standard competitive match.

 

Power weapons exist to add interesting elements to a match. They allow for comebacks, position breaking, and map flow. They also control where players are likely to remain around so that maps can be designed around this idea as well as giving players an ulterior objective within any match that concentrates the action, which serves to make the game more fun. They must be balanced in such a way that their ability to generate kills for your team is worth picking up in almost any circumstance, if not to use it against the enemy team then to merely keep out of the enemy's control. They also must be limited by respawn time, availability, among other ways (ex. the Sniper has more ammunition than most power weapons but requires headshots in order to maximize the weapon's potential, while the each Rocket is at least one potential kill but it only comes with two or four rockets at a time).

Power weapons should be easily understood and rewarding, while, at the same time, being able to be outshot and outplayed by utility weapons and sandbox weapons. They should be designed to be good, not dominating. They need to be able to drive momentum shifts while not being the tools used for maintaining that momentum by themselves. Assuming proper design, they also need to be placed on maps well enough in order to complement map design and player environmental interaction.

 

Sandbox weapons are not technically required for a proper Halo match. In theory, a Halo game can subsist on a good utility weapon with good map design and proper placement of power weapons. This doesn't mean that sandbox weapons should not be included. They are designed to be interesting and useful within certain niches. They increase the depth of a standard competitive match by augmenting the faults that the utility weapon may have (ex. the AR simply allows a player to put a continuous stream of rounds on a target while the BR has a time delay between each burst). Mechanics like plasma stun, automatic fire, cooldown, tracking, EMP, and other things serve to make these weapons worth picking up and should honestly be the developer's chance to show creativity. Mechanics such as those previously listed may also work (or even belong more to) power weapons as well, but given that sandbox weapons should have times to kill (within their niche) similar to that of the utility weapons, these mechanics are what serve to differentiate them.

Ultimately, it is up to the player whether or not they want to pick up these weapons. I myself and generally only comfortable with maintaining the utility weapon and grabbing power weapons as needed in more modern Halo, although I admit to picking up plasma rifles in CE because of their plasma stun, a game which demonstrates how well sandbox weapons can work.

 

 

It is important to maintain this balance in a Halo game, because ultimately a Halo game should be simple and easy to understand. The weapon and map selection are what make the game dynamic, and thus are almost directly responsible for making each match interesting. i would go as far to say that a failure in sandbox design is a bigger problem than a failure in map design, because Forge can ultimately be used to fix map design, whereas weapon design is purely in the developer. And part of sandbox balance is actually making sure the weapons feel good and are fun to use, because the feel should match what is happening. Players should feel empowered for landing a 4 shot, or getting a multikill with a single Rocket, or causing a Banshee to fall because of a Plasma Pistol EMP. Such is the reason why sandbox balance is so important, and such is, no matter who is working on Halo, something the developer needs to understand.


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#2   TBCT

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 03:07 AM

Holy shit, thank you!

 

That r/halo balance thread for Halo 5 atm is making my head spin. Apparently more weapons = better balance or some shit.


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#3   Three Six Xero

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 03:13 AM

Holy shit, thank you!

 

That r/halo balance thread for Halo 5 atm is making my head spin. Apparently more weapons = better balance or some shit.

I would argue that as long as weapons are unique, worthwhile, and are balanced with the rest of the sandbox, you could theoretically have as many as you want. But redundancy has often been a problem in Halo, so I can't support having more weapons in the game without reason. It's simply unacceptable for game design.


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#4   Gobias

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 02:06 PM

"A fighting chance" is the exact phrase I used in a long post about classic Halo that I may or may not finish. It's the balance between the very structured imbalance of Quake and the chaos of squad shooters, a balance that defined Halo in the beginning. Many instances of bad gameplay in the series correspond to a violation of the fighting chance principle, whether it be Halo 2's snowballing weapon respawn system, Halo 5's abundance of "niche weapons" that kill faster than the "utility weapon," or the dominance of teamshooting for more than a decade.

I'm not sure if it's possible to have more than one utility weapon, though, unless only one of this archetype exists on any given map so they can't interact with each other. Then it might make sense that the "ideal starting weapon" be different for different modes, although personally I think only one is necessary. If you had multiple of these mid-range precision weapons on any map, I think they would automatically become sandbox weapons by virtue of not being spawned with, but they would fail in that regard because no sandbox weapon should be utilitarian.
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#5   Three Six Xero

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 03:18 PM

"A fighting chance" is the exact phrase I used in a long post about classic Halo that I may or may not finish. It's the balance between the very structured imbalance of Quake and the chaos of squad shooters, a balance that defined Halo in the beginning. Many instances of bad gameplay in the series correspond to a violation of the fighting chance principle, whether it be Halo 2's snowballing weapon respawn system, Halo 5's abundance of "niche weapons" that kill faster than the "utility weapon," or the dominance of teamshooting for more than a decade.

I'm not sure if it's possible to have more than one utility weapon, though, unless only one of this archetype exists on any given map so they can't interact with each other. Then it might make sense that the "ideal starting weapon" be different for different modes, although personally I think only one is necessary. If you had multiple of these mid-range precision weapons on any map, I think they would automatically become sandbox weapons by virtue of not being spawned with, but they would fail in that regard because no sandbox weapon should be utilitarian.

Ideally the difference you would see between utility weapons should be very minute. A lot of factors contribute to that, but the easiest way to differentiate one from another is "effective" range. While they're all mid range weapons, a Magnum might be more close range oriented due to the size of it's reticule. A DMR would be more long ranged oriented because of its scope, and a BR would be more in the middle by design (I would suggest making the TTK of said three weapons relatively close to each other, but perhaps the Magnum's is slightly faster, the DMR's is slightly slower, and the BR's is in the middle). Ultimately the differences should be enough to be noticeable while being minute enough to still warrant picking up a sandbox weapon, as opposed to just walking around with two utility weapons.


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#6   Boyo

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 04:13 PM

What is your ideal utility weapon?

Does including multiple utility type weapons create rock-paper-scissors scenarios where the Magnum wins at short range, the BR wins at mid range, and the DMR wins at long range? Is this a good thing?
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#7   Three Six Xero

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 04:38 PM

What is your ideal utility weapon?

If you're asking for an example, I'd have to go with the CE Magnum. It fit its sandbox well, and I'd argue that perhaps a slight buff to the sandbox weaponry would have made CE's sandbox balance perfect.

 

Does including multiple utility type weapons create rock-paper-scissors scenarios where the Magnum wins at short range, the BR wins at mid range, and the DMR wins at long range? Is this a good thing?

Not necessarily. The goal is to make it so that whatever advantages they may have over another are relatively minute. I would say that a DMR should do better than a Magnum at longer ranges because of its 3x scope, but this is balanced out by the Magnum's slightly faster TTK. A player's ability with each weapon should make it so that, while a utility weapon may be more inclined to certain ranges, it's still feasible to use any of them against each other at any range. It's not rock paper scissors when the differences in viability are small enough, and because Halo is simply more complex than rock paper scissors. 


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#8   Ramirez77

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 04:42 PM

@

 

A utility weapon is a weapon that can contest (just about) every other weapon.

 

If strong rock-paper-scissors relationships exist then by definition it's not a utility weapon.

 

Strong rock-paper-scissors relationships are not desirable.  It means fights come down 90% to who has the better weapon.  Your weapon choice should give an advantage (multiple advantageous weapons instead of just one weapon allows for strategy to be present) but it shouldn't straight up determine the victor in itself (as then strategy becomes all-important over any other kind of skill), as otherwise user aiming skill is mostly meaningless and we might as well be playing a turn based RPG instead of a shooter.

 

In Halo Ce CQC:

-A perfect 3sk from the Magnum defeats an imperfect 2sk from the Shotgun.

-An imperfect 2sk from the Shotgun defeats an imperfect 5sk from the Magnum.

-Imperfect 5sk's are far more likely in CQC, yet the potential still exists for the user to beat a Shotgun through superior aim.

-The Shotgun serves as a viable sidegrade but doesn't straight up win in every instance.

-Since the Shotgun isn't just a straight upgrade it can spawn on shorter timers and be in play more often


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#9   Boyo

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 05:20 PM

The Plasma Pistol is a counter to the Overshield. Are there any other sandbox weapons that act as counters to other gameplay elements?

Should any sandbox weapons enhance the user's mobility ala translocator or grappling gun?
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#10   Ramirez77

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 05:34 PM

On the topic of weapons countering or associating with gameplay elements besides killing:

 

In Ce, certain weapons like the AR let you go back into camo faster after firing.  Conversely, at least in theory, spraying bullets all about a room would help you find an invisible enemy too.  This has been used to justify how deficient it is in actual killing power, though I still think it needs something more in order to find a proper place in the sandbox.

 

Vehicles in Ce were invincible but fairly easy to knock over with grenades and other explosives, which was the main way to deal with them.  Adding the concussion rifle would be desirable for BTB even if it ended up being lackluster in arena.  The PC version had the Fuel Rod Cannon, which unlike other Halo games functioned as a fast firing, very fast traveling, severely arcing projectile with moderate damage (it would take two shots to kill enemy players, not one).  This made it an extremely effective weapon against land-vehicles if aimed properly.

 

The Gravity Hammer can push projectiles and enemies around and even potentially deflect Rockets.  Not to any great effect though.

 

I think there's room for mobility enhancing weapons in Halo's sandbox, I'm not decided on whether they should have actual killing power or not.  I also think that's pretty low priority at the moment given how fucked the sandbox is in several other aspects.  I'd rather get it right for once before experimenting.


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#11   The Tyco

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 06:30 PM

@


http://teambeyond.net/forum/topic/12937-the-4sk-pistol-debate/"%20title="Previous%20page"%20rel=

http://teambeyond.ne...l-times-matter/

http://teambeyond.ne...710#entry639495

http://teambeyond.ne...ious page" rel=
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#12   Three Six Xero

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 01:18 PM

I think there's room for mobility enhancing weapons in Halo's sandbox, I'm not decided on whether they should have actual killing power or not.  I also think that's pretty low priority at the moment given how fucked the sandbox is in several other aspects.  I'd rather get it right for once before experimenting.

I feel like the Sword and Hammer (assuming a perfect, sprint and thrust free environment) should retain some movement enhancement when you wield them just to make them more offensively capable, while also making it so bulltrues are actually a thing again and you don't just trade. Obviously, if this were to happen, their use would need to be very map specific and built around such concepts, but that's really something that should be thought of in the initial design of a map anyway.


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#13   Boyo

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 02:37 PM

Are "vitality enhancements" viable on sandbox weapons? A weapon that can emit a Jackal Shield for example.

What about vision enhancements? VISR, night vision, promethean vision. Do these enhanced traits have any place on sandbox weapons? Tracking the bloody footprints of a wounded enemy perhaps?
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#14   Botheredhat360

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 03:33 AM

I remember making a reddit thread on r/halo on how halo ce wasn't a crap game in terms of balance, (people on that sub thinks, 3 shot pistol = game is broken).

And I remember reading Kell Of Scots take on halo 3's balance, and it was an amazing read.

 

 

Here

 

 

 

Here's the thing most people are going to tell you on R/Halo: Halo 3 balancing is awful because weapons like the spiker, plasma rifle, and smg etc (basically the duel wield sandbox) are not worth picking up (which isn't even true really, they just have a niche counterpart role to your BR but spawn more rapidly than the power weapons)

The genuinly unique weapons in the sandbox (Ie Power Weapons) are absolutely worth picking up (shotgun, rockets, sniper sword, plasma pistol, brute shot etc) and these weapons SHOULD be the only major pick ups, because they offer strong niche counterparts to the BR in that game not better BRs, while the BR is on par with these weapons in its utility, hence it's role as a utility weapon

Automatic/Precision weapon clones are still there for the casuals to mess around with and have fun with, but at a competitive level the functional clones aren't creating balance issues by having functional upgrades as some of the main map picks like the Precision Rifles/SMGS/Storm Rifles are in Halo 5.

In Halo 5 Utility Rifles/Automatics are filling the faster spawning/lower tier power weapon role that were filled by Brute Shots/Maulers/Plasma Pistols/Grenade Launchers/Focus Rifle etc in previous Halo Games

And this is a balance issue because, unlike the Brute Shot etc, the Utility Rifles/SMGs/Storm Rifles are actual upgrades to the Magnum or AR, while something like the Brute Shot, Plasma Pistol or Grenade Launcher offer a weapon that is good in a niche situation, allowing the BR/DMR to have real situations in which they are better.

When you have a Magnum and your opponent has a BR/DMR/Carbine/H2BR and even the light rifle to a lesser extent, they have a Precision Utility weapon that has more aim assist, magnetism, range, Faster body TTK etc. These weapons do not have a downside vs a Magnum. They are literally just a better, easier to use Magnum, which defeats the purpose of having the utility spawn weapon in the first place by removing the comeptitive benefits of having single, strong utilitarian weapon as seen in CE and to a lesser extent in 2-Reach, those benefits including ensuring respawning players spawn with a weapon as good as everything else in play, and having a weapon that allows for consistent, equal fights (Ie pistol vs pistol, BR vs BR etc). When a fight can be won or lost because the winner had more aim assist and/or magnetism on their utility weapon rather than winning by using a using a skilful niche weapon in the right way then the key difference is that skill had much less to do with the winner of engagements.

Ideally there should be ONE utility weapon, two at most (BR/Carbine or DMR/Needle Rifle for example) and there should not be any better automatics and precision weapons across the maps.


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#15   Snipe Three

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 01:03 PM

It seems like the ever present failing of modern Halo is that they don't distinguish and build weapons to a specific purpose. Take Halo 5 for example where the pistol is an exceptional utility weapon by comparison to most Halo titles and yet you also have the Carbine, BR, DMR, Lightrifle, and a million variations of all 5 of those weapons where outside of some of the more exotic warzone reqs the only real game changing difference is aim assist and zoom in range. This is just needless bloat and quantity over quality. So in reality you could probably just have the pistol and one of the other four and have covered all of the really interesting bases. You could even just have the pistol and silenced pistol. Outside of that in a more overall context most weapons are differentiated through sheer range and damage. They could easily remove the vast majority of the sandbox and nothing would really change. They need to explore more options such as movement speed boosts on weapons that aren't one hit kills up close, plasma stuns, perhaps even some type of player displacement weapon that doesn't do any damage at all. Anything that isn't just range and damage and they would immediately bring forth really different styles of gameplay and potentially a really different meta game given time and proper balancing. What they do now by comparison is extremely low effort. The only real attempts they made were the plasma caster and the hydra. Out of all of the years of development and balancing and further patches we got two weapons that were sort of different.


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#16   Ramirez77

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 01:22 PM

Are "vitality enhancements" viable on sandbox weapons? A weapon that can emit a Jackal Shield for example.

What about vision enhancements? VISR, night vision, promethean vision. Do these enhanced traits have any place on sandbox weapons? Tracking the bloody footprints of a wounded enemy perhaps?

 

To reword your question (should weapons impact base traits), I'm iffy on that as well.  Seems more like something you'd have to determine through actual gameplay than through theorycraft.  Comparing the stat differences of weapons and coming up with balance statements there is pretty easy.  Deciding whether a weapon's utility applications make it more powerful or not is far more vague.  On the topic of a jackal shield specifically I don't really like the idea, it's basically another form of armor lock.

 

Nightvision shouldn't exist simply because it should never be required to exist.  Enemies should never be hard to see in a competitive FPS (obvious exceptions like camo aside).  Okay, okay, maybe you have an entire map that is equally dark and you're using nightvision for atmosphere, in that case it's something that should just be applied to / available to your spartan by default, not tied to specific weapons.

 

A weapon that can track footprints is an interesting concept.  Not sure how to feel about it.  It's giving away information but at the same time you actually have to follow the tracks and work for that information, you're not just pushing a button and seeing people through walls.


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#17   MATCLAN

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 01:55 PM

snip

 

This is why I'm fairly hopeful about the upcoming sandbox adjustments. They've specifically mentioned wanting to reduce redundancy, so my fingers are crossed in the hope that the game comes out of the other end feeling a bit more interesting with more situationally viable and exciting pickups and fewer that feel like straight upgrades.


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#18   Lickmyb4c0n

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 02:47 PM

I'd like to see custom options for aim-assist and bullet-mag tuning, especially with the classic playlist coming out... values are way too high for classic Halo.
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#19   Boyo

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 03:29 PM

I think "passive projectile traits" are one of the best ways to spice up weapons. You don't have to do anything to activate Plasma Stun. It just happens when you shoot an enemy with a certain weapon. What are some other passive projectile traits that could make weapons more unique?

How about a weapon that can momentarily wash the color out of the target's vision with headshots. He can still see, it's just in black and white for a second.
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#20   WARGOD

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 11:43 PM

Cliffs version is:

 

Halo balance?  See halo CE... it's what all halos should have been.


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#21   Hard Way

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 05:22 AM

Carbine should have high TTK but do damage over time and keep shields down longer.
BR should have lower TTK but have its range limited by fierce recoil and vertical spread.
Recon DMR should be the starting weapon with reduced sticky aim and bullet mag.
LR should have 3x scope.
Magnum shouldn't exist bc it's redundant.
Gunfighter and TacMag can stay bc they serve a unique purpose.

AR just needs longer TTK because it's otherwise fine.
SMG shouldn't exist.
Storm Rifle shouldn't exist.
BPR needs slower projectiles, longer TTK and plasma stun.
Suppressor needs knockback.

Hydra needs longer time to lock and faster unlock when descoped.
Snipers need way less bullet magnetism.

Grav Hammer needs a unique movement trait like a boost when you swing it at the floor/wall.
Scattershot should just replace Shotgun, but do more consistent damage at close range.
Get rid of ADS on Sword and split the difference on lunge range.
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#22   Boyo

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 05:37 AM

@Hard Way

Even if you made the Magnum behave exactly like the DMR, wouldn't you rather have a smaller weapon that allows you to see more of your surroundings as the utility weapon?
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#23   Hard Way

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 06:09 AM

@

Even if you made the Magnum behave exactly like the DMR, wouldn't you rather have a smaller weapon that allows you to see more of your surroundings as the utility weapon?


If it means kids stop crying about the utility weapon being OP "because it's a pistol", then I'm okay with giving up a few pixels of screen space. I've always wanted the utility weapon to be skinned as a rifle. People just take it more seriously. The extra space it takes up doesn't bother me.
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#24   Boyo

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 06:25 AM

If it means kids stop crying about the utility weapon being OP "because it's a pistol", then I'm okay with giving up a few pixels of screen space. I've always wanted the utility weapon to be skinned as a rifle. People just take it more seriously. The extra space it takes up doesn't bother me.

So basically, #immersion?

I think it would be better for gameplay reasons: to have more situational awareness while wielding the utility weapon.

Additionally, I think Halo's play spaces should be smaller than most other games. A pistol, rather than a rifle, as the utility weapon reinforces that ideal. You aren't setting up on one of many rooftops to go prone and pick off enemies who don't even know you are there. Halo is more "in your face" fighting, or should be imo.
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#25   Hard Way

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 06:46 AM

So basically, #immersion?

I think it would be better for gameplay reasons: to have more situational awareness while wielding the utility weapon.

Additionally, I think Halo's play spaces should be smaller than most other games. A pistol, rather than a rifle, as the utility weapon reinforces that ideal. You aren't setting up on one of many rooftops to go prone and pick off enemies who don't even know you are there. Halo is more "in your face" fighting, or should be imo.

Ive spent too many years hearing kids cry about the H1 pistol being OP. Just make the rifle take up less screen space if it's that big of a problem. DMR makes for a more versatile look that suits bigger maps better but doesn't seem out of place on Arena maps imo. Plus it seems odd that a pistol would be pinpoint accurate out to the farthest ranges of the Recon DMR. It's just one of those entirely avoidable lore arguments. Plus, and maybe it's just me, but I don't feel like I'm losing much awareness when I'm holding a Recon DMR. I've never felt like it was a cumbersome weapon.

We're probably gonna have to agree to disagree here.
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