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News - Research lessons from the making (and near-breaking) of Halo 2

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Research lessons from the making (and near-breaking) of Halo 2

Halo 2 set a new standard for online multiplayer for the masses with the use of a (now ubiquitous) automated ‘playlist’ matchmaking system that replaced the player-curated lobbies of Halo 1.

Although the system has become the norm in the years since, at the time the notion of removing a player’s ability to choose their map, gametype, and opponents seemed farcical. In fact, it seemed downright insane to the point where one UX researcher called John Hopson went and told Bungie to rethink their approach.

Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. Looking back, we know Bungie was absolutely right to stick to its guns, and Hopson isn’t ashamed to admit he was dead wrong.

Writing about the time he ‘tried to ruin’ Halo 2 on Polgyon, the veteran researcher has detailed the entire saga from start to finish in the hope that researchers and developers might learn from what would’ve been a rather costly mistake. The first lesson? Researchers should absolutely lose the big arguments sometimes.

“UX researchers tend to get into the habit of thinking that we are discovering capital T Truth. This can lead to a lot of frustration when other parties in the development process don’t accept our findings. Now, we’re usually right, but false positives, false negatives, and outright mistakes are always possible,” he wrote.

“Games user research is a vital voice in the development process even though we’re no more perfect than anyone else involved. We’re supposed to advocate passionately for our understanding of the player experience, but we’re not always meant to win.

“In fact, I’d argue that, just like for the players in our games, there is an ideal level of failure for researchers. If every study is equally successful, it just means that we aren’t innovating enough or taking on challenging research topics. We need to take risks, and that means we have to lose sometimes.

For more tidbits from Hopson, and to learn more about the development of Halo 2, be sure to check out the full article over on Polygon.

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