Challenges, Deconstructed

Firefight Daily Challenges

Similar in structure to Multiplayer Challenges, the goals for Firefight break down into a small handful of top-level objectives, to which a number of secondary completion criteria can be attached. Their breakdown is below.

From this summary, we can see how Firefight Challenges begin to leverage some of the gameplay systems unique to the mode, with the scoring and round completion goals. What jumps out from this breakdown is the high proportion of Challenges devoted to straight up kills, at 71%. In Multiplayer, kill Challenges took up 53%. I had expected Firefight to be a bit more playful, requiring more sprees and other medals. There are some omissions relative to Multiplayer that would have been fun to keep, namely First Strikes and Assassinations; a Challenge to get say, 10 Assassinations in a single Round could be quite fun. Their absence is surprising, and it makes me wonder whether they exist but have just not been used yet.

Below is a more detailed breakdown of all but the kill-oriented Challenges, which we’ll dive into separately.

This breakdown is a disappointment, as there is even more caution around influencing player behavior than in Multiplayer. None of the spree or Multi kill Challenges are specific, but rather just require any variety, while MP featured some Double and Triple Kill Challenges, as well as requiring specific killing spree medals. Goals for Invincible medals (100 kill sprees) for instance would add some variety and actual challenge to them. Nothing as interesting as a Correction (15 plasma stick kills), or any of the other weapon-based sprees, are used. Nothing for Assassinations, or assist sprees, or even specific multikills (a meta-game most players already play is piling up the largest number they can – why not entice them further?).

The most interesting category are those for completing games and rounds with limited deaths, as that introduces the first fail condition to the set of Challenges, meaning they can be failed by player behavior mid-game. They’re also the only of these Challenges that significantly alter player behavior, to be more cautious. But it’s also where the limitations in the Challenge structure start to become clear, because of how clean the categories are. The death limitation is never applied to a specific context, such as in a Legendary game, or while earning certain medals or kills. This limitation puts a crimp in the already sparse variety on offer.

To the kill based Challenges, Firefight adds secondary criteria for maps, enemies and specific weapons. Let’s take a look at these each in turn.

The addition of kills on a specific map is an interesting one. There’s only one reason I can think of that Firefight would include the category while Multiplayer would not: Multiplayer was to receive the bulk of DLC maps, and can have new map variants built from the shipping set (in particular, Forge World). Because the Challenge templates are baked into Reach, Multiplayer ones could only be crafted for the base shipping maps and not for future DLC. But with just one DLC Firefight map and no map variants possible, there is less to leave out in Firefight. (It’s telling that no Unearthed-specific Firefight Challenge has been used.)

There are no secondary criteria attached to any of the map based Challenges, just general kills, making each one a grind, rather than something to alter play to accommodate; they only alter matchmaking voting. The exception is a pair of Challenges to land 1,000 kills on a single map over the course of the day, both on Courtyard (we’ve since seen the same on Glacier). That’s…a lot of kills for a single map, and requires eight games of Score Attack, or a whole lotta Limited and Arcade.

Turning to the kill method Challenges:

Unlike Multiplayer, Firefight does encourage some specific weapons to be used, which can be fun and provides incentives for a different play style. As with the map-specific Challenges, these do not feature any secondary criteria, just general kills using weapons or weapon classes. You can imagine some fun combinations, such as killing 15 enemies in one game with an Energy Sword, or earning a certain number of plasma sticks in one game. The inclusion of specific weapons raises the question of whether a template exists for each, such as Plasma Rifles? Maybe the Spiker? Why no Challenges encouraging players to use vehicles? Unlike Multiplayer, no Challenge has required these be completed in a single game, reducing all of them to daily grinds rather than in-game goals.

Finally, some Challenges just require kills in any setting or method, or of a specific target:

As with the other Firefight Challenges, what stands out is how few of the possible variants have been used, which raises questions. Challenges are on tap to kill Elites, Grunts and vehicles, but not Skirmishers, Jackals, Hunters or Brutes. Do they exist, and just haven’t been used?

The three Challenges that require they be completed in the span of a single game are interesting: they required 88, 111 and 188 kills, respectively. The first two fit comfortably inside a game of Score Attack, but the last is a truly difficult challenge; that’s over half of an entire Set worth of foes, before the bonus round, a tall order in a four player game. (Note: vehicle kills do not count as enemy kills; I killed 192 enemies in my effort to snag that particular Challenge, but failed as 10 were vehicles, courtesy of Beachhead.)

As with Multiplayer, some Challenges are better to complete in certain playlists. Vehicles don’t appear in Firefight Arcade (yet), and so Limited is the best option for them (and Beachhead the best option from there). There have been 16 Challenges to require 120 kills in any context – the same number as in a base Round of Score Attack. Hint, hint.

In the end, the Firefight Challenges are disappointing. While they take limited advantage of Firefight’s unique properties with scoring and no-death goals, they do so only rarely. There are even fewer types of spree or multi kill Challenges compared to Multplayer, when Firefight’s nature would welcome many more. And while there are some interesting additions in the form of weapon-specific kills or certain foes to target which expand the variety on offer, only a small subset have been utilized; and without secondary criteria, none are actually challenging to achieve.

It is that last point that stands out for most of the Firefight Challenges: they are very easy to get. All but three of the kill Challenges were just daily grinds, while eight of the 19 spree Challenges just require one to complete – shoot ten enemies, and that’s it. But there is one additional criteria that I haven’t broken down separately. Fully 40 of the Firefight Challenges specify they need to be completed on Heroic difficulty.

The only reason to specify a certain difficulty level for some Challenges is to differentiate them from those with a different difficulty level. Heroic is used in Firefight matchmaking for every playlist and gametype except one, Legendary Firefight Limited. This raises the possibility that there may be some Challenges that require other difficulties, such as Legendary, but they have yet to be used. The Challenges for a long time horizon were probably set in place around Reach’s launch, and since Firefight Limited was added several months after, it’s possible that the launch Challenges simply excluded them. Now that a Legendary option is included in matchmaking, here’s hoping someone adjusts them to incorporate a few Legendary Challenges and introduce some Firefight goals that are truly difficult – and rewarding – to snag.

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6 Comments

  1. May 27, 2011
    Reply

    Brilliantly written. There were many points brought up I felt like you were reading my mind. I won’t spend a lot of time breaking down my personal wishes for the challenge system as you have touched on most and I agree that this is a system that Bungie will likely expand upon in future games and will be one of the main draws. I would like to comment on the cR payouts section as it is such a huge factor in motivation for players.

    As a more casual gamer, I love challenges and often check the dailies in the morning before work thinking how fun/difficult some of them will be when I attempt them later in the day… and that’s fun for me. Thinking about different strategies and ideas on how to complete them efficiently. As I’ve climbed the ranks and time has passed since launch, I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to see 4 daily challenges worth 1000 cR or so apiece. Like you mentioned, higher ranking players can earn well above the grand total here in a single match of matchmaking (depending on length). So, unless it’s something truly unique and fun, where is the motivation? Today’s dailies are a perfect example. Used to I wanted to nail em all… but now, I think “Why bother?”

    If you look what increased weekend cR payouts (and super jackpots) do to otherwise low numbered playlists, you can see how easily players are motivated by cR payouts. Team Arena went from a couple hundred to several thousand players in the playlist with the introduction of these super jackpots. Players are heavily motivated by cR so why not extend these to challenges? As you noted, we are seeing the opposite trend occur than you would expect at this point in the games lifespan. I understand Reach will still get some new players and you don’t want them jumping 3 ranks with one challenge completion, but to take challenges that once paid out 4000 cR and drop it to 1/4 of that now doesn’t seem sensible.

    I really hope Bungie (or 343i) takes note of what you’ve done here and has intentions of expanding on (and correcting) this system. It has huge potential as it is now even with it’s limitations.

    Excellent work.

  2. RC Master
    May 27, 2011
    Reply

    Good stuff. I’ve been wanting to see an analysis like this for some time and have considered doing it myself at some points!

    How did you actually collate the data and made tables? In an excel file? Database or some other method? Would you be willing to share that file? I’d love to be able to just plug in some queries and get some stats back out.

    On the article, you made a lot of valid points that I agree with wholeheartedly, and a couple of points that I think weren’t stressed enough. Overall you could have been much more critical (I certainly am :P)

    Multiplayer has a much higher susceptibility for play to being skewed in a negative way by external rewards. The kill, assist and other challenges still do this. You’re playing slayer and theres a kill challenge on? Gung-ho!
    Playing flag? Screw the flag lets just dong on the enemy team!
    Playing Grifball? Spawn-camping multi-kills ftw!

    The inherent per-action credits for kills does this already but offering challenges on top of this doesn’t help.

    I find myself consciously reaching this conclusion when a ‘get X amount of kills in MM’ comes up: “Hmmm. Multi-Team or Grifball – ignore the objective and kill dudes!”

    Challenges (and the credit system in general) should take into account the specific requirements of each game mode. At the very basic level by having one requirement for slayer and a different one for objective (as a parrallel to how kills in COD:MW1/2 were worth half as much in non-deathmatch.

    The feeling of kills > all else is so pervasive in Reach that many people literally do not realise that you get 20% bonus of your game complete when you win!

    I think its safe to argue that while multiplayer has a fair amount of replayability in the opponents, campaign practically demands that you should try wildly different, new and obscure things within its set framework since the encounters and enemies will not change.

    As noted there are a couple of examples of good challenges like this but they are too few and far between.

    The notion that there shouldn’t or couldn’t be any weapon or medal specific challenges in campaign is plainly ridiculous when you consider how most kill challenges in the mode would be got: by grinding on the same enemy or few enemies.

    Perfect example: http://halo.bungie.org/news.html?item=31730

    At the very least a challenge that was ‘assassinations’ or ‘super-combies’ would mix things up a bit.

    The point about challenge payouts failing to scale well is spot on and I love that I can point to that graphic now. If they’re not tracking the average population rank (mean, mode, median – something!!) they damn well should be. Or if they are I can’t believe that the population has ended up so static over the last several months!

    The no-death challenges for 5K are a good example : when that challenge first came up I could afford to spend a fair amount of time on it and still feel like it was a good reward. Now if I’m going to spend more than 20mins on it there is no point as I could either be earning more elsewhere or doing something that’s actually awesome for its own sake (like trying to land a no-death single segment or improve a speed run).

    Of course, possibly the best solution would be to simply scale all challenge rewards by a player’s current level. So they can at least retain the same relevance to all players even if the reward/difficulty is still wildly off.

    Finally, don’t be shy about posting stuff like this; I enjoyed reading it. You can count on at least one reader for any further articles like this. 🙂

    Woah, ok, thats pretty long now.

  3. May 27, 2011
    Reply

    Thanks for the feedback guys, you both make great points.

    RC Master, you’re right about the MP Challenges. At one point I started to mention some of those issues – using Grifball or other game types to work on kills; Multi-Team King of the Hill on a day when there is Challenge for getting X kills in a single game is amazing. I pity the fools that actually wander into the hill. In the end I scaled back some of that stuff because it was turning into a list of complaints. I settled on using one or two examples to try and speak to the overall isues. But yeah, there are many more.

    For the analysis I copied the tables into Excel, and added some columns to tag them. From the website I got the Challenge date, name and description and cR payout. From there I tagged them by day of the week, game mode, and then objective (kill, assits, etc), three fields for secondary criteria (in one game, etc.). Then spent a lot of time playing with filters and pivot tables.

    I’ll see if I can put the file up into something like Google Docs so it’s available for all. I work in finance and play with spreadsheets all day, and probably get way too much enjoyment out of it.

  4. Lawnmower172
    May 27, 2011
    Reply

    Wonderful article and analysis, thanks for taking the time to do this! I would like to slightly change topic and add on another aspect of the cr system. I love the campaign, it’s my favorite game mode. But since I’ve moved my commendations up to silver and beyond, I don’t earn jack squat for the time invested (currently around 260 cr per mission). This makes it almost impossible to rank up or buy anything in the armory through campaign.

    I understand there was a very good reason Bungie capped the commendation cr in campaign. But how about fixing the mission complete payout to reward players who continue to play campaign, instead of the occasional daily ‘mission complete’ or weekly LASO challenges? This would give players who want to immerse themselves in the campaign story more reward to doing so, rather than just rewarding them for the occasional challenge.

    P.S. Thanks to HBO for linking to this article!

  5. May 30, 2011
    Reply

    Thank you for a well written article.

    I was new to Halo when I bought Reach, and the Challenge System made me want more!

    You’ve covered the points about game play, mode, count and type distribution very well. I feel that I will reference this article whenever I am asked about it to newer player who are seeing the light.

  6. Homeboyd903
    May 31, 2011
    Reply

    Hey, I was just wondering… as sort of a ‘wish list’ can you touch a bit on how you would like to see this system expanded upon in future Halo (or any shooter) titles? I know you’ve explained in some detail about how you’d like to see the current system expanded upon (within it’s current limitations), but I just wondered if you had some things in your head that would be brand new to this type of system that you personally would like to see added. I know I’m asking a mouthful but you never know where these guys can draw their inspiration from.

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