Halo MCC Xbox One X Patch & Update Moving Along Well; Incremental Downloads, Higher Fidelity, Matchmaking Improvements & More
The upcoming update for Halo: The Master Chief Collection and the game’s Xbox One X patch is coming along well with progress being made on visual XB1X enhancements, matchmaking, incremental downloads through Intelligent Delivery, and more.
343 Industries’ community manager, Ske7ch, posted a status update on the game’s update project on the official Halo Waypoint, which provided an insight on the progress of the upcoming update. We’ve included the biggest part from Ske7ch's post down below:
The Master Chief Collection update project (perhaps we need a cooler official code name?) is moving right along with bugs being resolved regularly and parallel work progressing on things like visual enhancements, UI refresh concepts, flighting planning, and numerous networking improvements to name but a few.
Currently the team is working on “milestone 4”, which doesn’t really mean anything out of context to you or me, but refers to the aggregate list of specific deliverables and fixes that need to be delivered by a specific date. What kind of work is included? Here’s a bit more insight from the production team:
Milestone 4 continues a series of optimizations across the MCC experience. One of the small but interesting things we've enabled is an update to the overall game package structure, allowing for incremental download of specific game content (internally we’ve referred to this as “Intelligent Delivery”). This means that rather than having to download the entire MCC game package under various scenarios, players can download an initial install, and then select other games, languages, and content areas they want to download from there. With regards to language specifically, this will allow players to select languages in MCC independent of their console language, location settings, or the SKU they originally purchased.
It's a less obvious improvement but we're hopeful it makes life better for people that are sensitive to bandwidth constraints, download speeds, or would just prefer to prioritize their MCC download.
Progress also continues on the visual enhancements for Xbox One X:
Our work on Xbox One X enhancements continues, and the team has been growing as we focus ourselves around qualitative results. There tends to be excitement around things we can do that celebrate these amazing games and deliver great benefit for our community, so it's fun to watch the team pursue these enhancements and the enthusiasm they're bringing to it. Plus, if you love game art, it's just plain heaven to participate in the science and artistry of the how this gets approached.
Jeremy Cook, Art Director on the project, had this to add regarding the visual enhancements:
“We look forward to higher fidelity and making use of the increased capabilities and opportunities that affords us. This will better enable clarity and screen economy in handling the vast amount of information we need to get across to the player.”
I’m as eager as you are to see what some of these enhancements entail and I hope to share comps and more details as soon as the team is ready to pull back the curtain.
As we discussed in our last update, a lot of work has already been done to improve the network and platform foundation that MCC was built on years ago. In order to validate these changes, daily testing is well underway along with regular play tests in one of our studio's labs.
Recently I was invited to participate in a small local playtest with members of the team here in our studio along with some offsite testers. We all spent our time in the “Duos” playlist with the goal of churning through as many games as possible to help stress and test the updated matchmaking APIs and improvements.
One cool thing I immediately noticed in this playtest is the early work on “continuous matchmaking” that’s been implemented. This means that once a match ends, I’m taken to the Post Game Carnage Report (PGCR) and then I’m automatically put into my next game session rather than being dropped back to the matchmaking lobby. It’s a subtle change but personally I found it very welcome in a world where all I wanted to do was keep playing and having fun. Naturally, the team is continuing to tinker, test, and assess all the subtle tweaks and changes a continuous matchmaking model will require in MCC.
I also noticed that the “Vote” function was removed from the build, which is in line with the team’s plans to adjust how playlists work and address one of the frustrations many players report today when the population generally only votes for Halo 3.
For the record, let it also be know that I managed to take down the one and only Dersky several times during these playtests. (Naturally he slayed me plenty of times as well but that’s hardly surprising or newsworthy)
Last time we talked a bit about our goals for public flighting and how we plan to roll out early builds and partner with our community to help test various facets of the game. “Flighting” is the process of releasing a separate, standalone game build for the purpose of testing with a targeted external audience. Think of this as a type of rolling alpha/beta that allows us to iterate and make changes for our community to help test without affecting the current retail version of MCC. The Xbox Insider program offers numerous examples of this today and they “flight” various platform updates to the Insider ring before they roll out to the broader public. For example, Rare’s upcoming title, Sea of Thieves, used flighting extensively to test their game during development and relied heavily on their community.
Flighting MCC with our community is very much still the plan but the specifics regarding when the first external folks will get access and what they’ll be testing is still a bit in flux. The team is navigating a few key things that will drive the overall flighting plan:
MCC is a large game and we want to keep the download size as manageable as possible to reduce barriers to entry (the recent work on “Intelligent Delivery” will help here, too!)
MCC has a tremendous breadth of content that we want to ensure receives public testing while many of the specific changes we need to focus on have complex schedule dependencies
A lot of the specific areas that our test team needs to focus on and validate during flighting require special telemetry and data that MCC doesn’t currently provide. 343’s business intelligence team is working closely with the MCC team to assess what’s needed and get these reporting tools added to the game.
Several parts of the project are taking “one step backwards” before they can take “two steps forwards.” We are being conscious of making sure we can release flighting builds that are at an appropriate bar for test purposes but also provide an acceptable player experience to ensure we can drive engagement with a large enough player base to achieve the goals for each flight. However, rest assured, there will be bugs in during flighting, some of which will be known and communicated while others will be discovered via this process. But hey, that's the point of flighting!
All of this boils down to what will likely result in some shifts to the initial schedule for our flighting kickoff. Even though we’ve yet to officially share a date, suffice it to say things will probably push slightly. The moral here is that the team is going to take the time needed to do this right. The project overall is quality driven, not schedule driven.
Overall, we still plan to start small and grow the flighting scope over time. The earliest flights will actually only involve internal team members and then a broader test team and then possibly a group of Microsoft folks and so on. Each flight release will have specific things it seeks to test and validate, and we’ll likely look at a specially curated audience to align with those specific goals.
We know there are many people eager and excited to jump in and help us out – which is awesome! However, we also know that we will not be able to get everyone in the door on day one. Please know that we ultimately will make sure anyone and everyone who wants to participate is given the opportunity to join the MCC flighting program.
In the meantime, there are still two important things we’d love for you to do:
Please join the Halo Community Feedback Program if you haven’t already – not only will we use this as a means of gathering periodic feedback during MCC’s public testing, we’ll also likely use some of our HCFP community as part of our early flighting participant pool. Plus, the HCFP offers regular chances to share input on numerous facets of present and future Halo games and the overall franchise!
Go ahead and join the Xbox Insider Program now so you’re ready to go when things get rolling. This is what we’ll be using to deliver flighting builds to community participants.
We’ll have more info on MCC flighting as soon as plans are firmed up. Stay tuned!
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is available now for Xbox One.