I have been thinking for the past few weeks about CE and what sets it apart from the other, more successful games and modding communities. Why did CE never take off? Why were we left high and dry when the community showed the most promise? Why is it impossible to play a game on anything except Blood Gulch, when the entire POINT of CE is to play custom maps?
For starters, Halo CE was doomed from the start. Halo PC was nothing but a cash cow from the beginning. The name was exceptionally well-known, and after Halo sales slowed on the Xbox, the logical step for Microsoft was to hand it over to their other market: the PC. So, it was, and Gearbox was charged with the port, since they had made a number of excellent ports in the past, as well as the two Half-Life expansion packs. So it was released, and Gearbox started work on the HEK. That turned out to be more difficult than it was worth, so they released what they had and moved on to independent development, which was a longterm goal for them. They gave the CE community until September to increase its user base enough to just get 1,000 players online simultaneously, just once. We couldn't do it, and they moved on. It wasn't until 2005 or 2006 that we started churning out the advanced maps, and Gearbox was long gone by that point. So was most of our community, and who can honestly blame them?
Now, we are down to people who were around during the beginning, people who joined late because their friends who were around for the beginning talked about it a lot, and people who found it by accident, probably when they saw a random YouTube video while watching Halo Reach trailers.
So, imagine you downloaded CE because your older brother had a copy of Halo PC and you saw a YouTube video of people flying a longsword around Hugeass and that looks pretty cool. So you download Halo CE, and hop online. You play a few games on the stock maps, and have a great time. Then you see a server on ANOTHER map that wasn't a stock map. Something called Extinction. So you google "Halo Custom Edition Extinction" and come to Halomaps.org. You check the maps. Over 2,000. So you check the most popular and download the first five. You should be good to go. So you hop into Extinction and get your head blown off by a sniper. You respawn, and get nuked five seconds later. That wasn't very fun. That was pretty much the most popular map, so the rest of them must be not very fun too, right? So you play some more blood gulch and uninstall the game a few months later.
So, what can we do to prevent this? First off, there are three camps of players here:
1. The people who want competitive multiplayer gaming. These are the people who are in the 24/7 Blood Gulch servers.
2. The people who want non-competitive gaming. These are the people who joined stunt servers back in the day, and are responsible for Hugeass-type maps becoming so popular. They care about roleplaying, fun vehicles, big explosions, and outlandish weapons.
3. The people who want the single player experience. These people are mostly invisible to us, except when the downloads for singleplayer maps skyrocket.
None of these are wrong ways to play Halo CE, but we currently have no way to cater to one specific group, except for separating single player and miltiplayer maps on Halomaps. I was playing CE back when there were dozens of competing Halo map sites, and there were only 16 maps out there, all of which were the tutorial map filled with crap and clutter (Elite Mass Death anyone?). I have never been more than a year without checking up on CE, and even I have a hard time finding out which maps I missed while I was gone. So what if you were a newcomer and had never heard of H2CE, CMT, or Lumoria?
The best way I can think of to get around this is to put our heads together and figure out which maps are our crowning achievements, and put together a compact, user-friendly, and clear list of what you need to get started to fully enjoy CE.
Second, and most importantly, we need to unify the players we have, and draw in as many more as we possibly can.
Now, this was discussed before, and the main issue is: most of our very valuable players are pirates playing on version 1.00. I am not advocating piracy, but here is the thing: Halo PC was a cash cow. It existed for the sole reason of making money, and it did that. But that ship sailed years ago. Halo PC is a 9 year old game. No retail stores carry it. Microsoft doesn't sell it on their website. Amazon is down to 15 copies. Every copy of Halo PC that will ever make profit for Microsoft/Gearbox has been sold. Except for CE, it is a dead and unsupported product that has reached the end of its useful life as a revenue-earner. And CE was always free provided that you could provide a valid CD key, which is getting harder and harder to do legally. So, a very large number of people simply pirated the product. And if it is almost impossible to obtain a legal copy of a game, what is the harm in piracy anyway? So what am I saying here?
We should write to Microsoft and/or Gearbox and get them to release (or let us do it) a free version of CE. Unsupported, no CD or key required.
After all, CE had zero earning potential to begin with. Servers are set up and maintained by the end users, so there would be no long-term costs to either company. Worst case scenario, nobody new joins. Best case scenario, we get a substantial boost to our community base, and they get free publicity.
Well, I am going to end this here, since I am on my lunch break and typing all this in on my phone. I will follow up later, but what are your thoughts in the meantime?
TL;DR: Here are the main things we can do to help keep CE alive:
1. Create a centralized, user-friendly guide for new players to get set up in CE - Best maps, info about the versions, info about OpenSauce, tips and tricks for mapmakers, etc.
2. Petition Microsoft and Gearbox to cut CE loose and make it free to play without having to hunt down an elusive legal CD key. Let the community have and maintain CE for the future.
With Lumoria's release tomorrow, this may be the critical time for us. We have an impressive enough portfolio to draw in new players and developers alike. Our best hope at reviving CE is growing our visibility and removing the obstacles keeping newcomers from easily transitioning into our tight-knit community.