Halo 3 – The Website (AAA Game meets Social Network)

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So I (and apparently a few million other people) picked up my copy of Halo 3 on Tuesday (about 11am if you must know). I beat the campaign last, and although it does start off a little slow I can say that it is by far the best Halo of the three.

Something has surprised me more than the twists and turns of the plot though, and that is Bungie’s Halo 3 website. It is a whole new level of game and interweb integration. Dare I say it, it is almost a social network.

The Old

Halo 2 already had quite a bit of interesting integration into the web. You could check your all-time stats, look at where each of your deaths took place, and even check out where the person was standing who killed you. But that was pretty much where it stopped.

The New

Stats: Halo 3 ups the ante on the stats, offering far more comprehensive stats. I especially like that they have added emphasis to the kill to death ratio for those players who make you lose the game by 3 kills when they get 25 kills, 35 deaths, and still feel they had a good game. You can look at your stats for each map, for each game type, and for each weapon you use even. So far my weapon of choice (in one multiplayer game) is the Heavy Machine Gun (turret).

Forge: There are two new modes in Halo 3 that are quite unique: Forge and Theater. The Forge allows you to customize all of the multi-player maps. Weapons, spawn points, vehicles, teleports, and more can all be altered. It will be incredibly interesting to see what the Halo community comes up with in the Forge.

Theater: The Theater lets you watch recent games from anywhere in the game, Forge, Multiplayer, or even Campaign; and when I say recent, that is a relative term. The Theater will keep the most recent “25 films, or about 400MB worth, whichever comes first.” My 360 still has every minute of my entire campaign. You can also save films to your library if you don’t want them deleted. Obviously you probably wouldn’t want to relive an entire campaign (unless that is your thing) so the Theater is about more than just replaying games. You can make brief clips or take screenshots (the picture above is actually one of mine, click on it for full screen) of any of your video.

Sharing is Caring: What good would all these custom maps and screenshots of major pwnage be without a way to share them with the world? That’s where the Halo 3 file sharing comes into play. It isn’t the illegal P2P type of file sharing most people associate with that name. It is the place you can put up any content, maps, videos, screenshots, gametypes, etc, you create in Halo 3 for anyone to download. Friends can find content through the game, but you can even download stuff via your web browser onto your Xbox 360. Just find the content you want on the site, click download, and next time you play the game… Violá, it downloads it.

The Social Network: As you may have noticed above, I was initially going to say it was almost a social network, but looking into it further I realized it is really a full-blown social network…for a game. Think about it, you have your profile, a message center, a friends list, a people finder (to find other friends on Halo 3), a forum, and even groups (formerly Clans). That sounded like a social network to me, but it was when I saw what clans had become that it pushed me over the top.

Groups: Clans (now called groups) have moved far beyond just a bunch of people to game with. Each group now has its own homepage (see below), forum, articles and FAQ sections, news, announcements, links, and of course an RSS feed. This is going to build a whole new level of community in many groups, particularly competitive ones. It will be really interesting to see if Bungie expands the feature list to allow group file share. I can envision groups just for machinima with episodes on their homepage.

Finding new groups has been expanded too. It used to be that if you played with someone on Xbox Live and had a good time, you might ask them for an invite into their clan, or maybe you had some friends at school that had a clan. Now you can search for groups based on location, the founder, or even just the name of the clan. I have already found one in my zip code and one dedicated to my university.

The Finale: So needless to say, I’m feeling pretty good about the return on my gaming dollar for Halo 3. I think Bungie has created something that will be mimicked by a lot of other studios, and that it has the potential to revolutionize the community aspect of gaming. If you have an Xbox, you owe it to yourself to get this game. With the solid campaign and multi-player, along with innovative features like the Forge and Theater, I’m giving this game a 10/10. Ask anyone who knows me, I don’t give out tens easily; I can nitpick with the best of ‘em.

In addition to the comments below, if you are on Xbox Live, drop me a message or game invite. My gamertag is peskyNOSPAMpescado. Just take the nospam out. Don’t ask about the name, it is a long story.

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