Here at HaloCustoms, we like to do cool stuff. So, join us (Auburn, Jesus in Malibu, adderrson, Master Debaytes, and Psychoduck) as we look back upon some of that cool stuff that we've done over the course of the last year. Sure, it wasn't our best year. By many accounts, it was actually the hardest year for the site. The slump towards the end of Halo 4 appeared to be looking up in late 2014 with the Master Chief Collection on the horizon and then, well, we all know how that turned out. Still, despite MCC's best efforts, we soldiered on and remained a tight-knit, laid-back community which continued to do cool stuff. Welcome, then, to HaloCustoms' 2015: a Year in Review.
Halo Memories (Duck)
In late 2014, I was approached to join in on a project to, alongside other YouTubers, share what I loved most about Halo. "The community" would have been the obvious choice for a topic but, seeing as that would be redundant, I instead opted to speak about Halo's roots as a competitive arena game with fair starts and such. The finished video turned out to be a pretty bright spark in what were becoming rather dark times for the community.
Best of Forge '14 (Aub)
With 2015 around the corner, three staff members (REMkings, Psychoduck, and Flying Shoe) thought it appropriate to host another Best of Forge competition. Best of Forge, for those that are unaware, is a yearly competition in which users vote for their favorites maps that were posted on the forum within the year. After the [REDACTED] that was Best of Forge 2013, we knew that this was our opportunity to revitalize a classic event. We chose to not only host it entirely in-house, but also to allow the community to choose the winners explicitly. The format was set, and the competition progressed without a hitch. That is, until it came time to tally the results. Unfortunately, a mistake was made and thus, the initial results of the competition were inaccurate. This was rectified later, however, in a joint thread between Psychoduck and Flying Shoe. Among other things, this was a learning experience for us. We found a beauty in planning events well before hosting them and were reminded of how talented of a forge community we have here.
1nth Annual Polished Turd Forge-a-thon (Addy)
Back in April of this year we actually had no plans for April Fools, but naturally we've always done something fun and silly over the course of the day. The idea for the "Polished Turd Forge-A-Thon" came to me in a dream out of nowhere the day before April 1th (for which it will forever be known #justMCCthings). The idea wasn't just thrown straight up onto the site however: most of the staff team got behind it with enthusiasm (to build the crappiest creation) and joined the discussion of how to best execute it. In case you weren't with us then, let me recap on how the event worked. Essentially you had the entire of April Fools day (in your own local time) to produce a functioning map that could play Team Slayer and Multi-Flag CTF from start to finish. The maps naturally being rushed and bad but a successful polished turd makes sure to parody common map tropes. The whole Midship/Tesla debacle was the platform for many maps entered last year. After the creations were built, custom game lobbies were hosted to play and share these disastrous creations and a lot of fun was had; laughter was certainly commonplace in the session I participated in.
This map wasn't created for the event itself but out of all the gameplay to watch recorded that evening, this one is probably the funniest. You can check out the recap of last year's event along with gameplay of all the maps played, right here. I'm also proud to confirm that the 2nth Polished Turd Forge-A-Thon will be returning this year. Just like last time I'm looking forward to checking out your 'Turdriffic' creations later this year.
HaloCustoms vs the World (Duck)
With custom games in MCC still largely unplayable by April, we decided that we must still press on with site-wide events. Our solution was HaloCustoms vs the World. Rather than pitting the innocent staff against the furious onslaught of the community in a series of custom games, we decided to combine our efforts to do battle against the rest of the world in matchmaking. My lobby went undefeated, and also spawned the joys of Team Fronk, praise be unto him. We recorded the event and placed the mostly hilarious highlights in a recap video on our YouTube partner TheHaloForgeEpidemic.
When Halo: The Master Chief Collection was revealed with all of our jaws hitting the floor; we thought it was too good to be true and we were right. As we all know, the game launched with many issues: customs games and forge being no exception. For months, we patiently waited for the game to become stable but, up until March, patience wore thin. With the help of many community members, we created a universal list of issues related to custom games and forge. This list was a prelude to a bigger movement I started titled '#FixMccCustoms' with the goal to get 343 Industries to shift their focus towards fixing custom games and forge in MCC. In the end, the movement was somewhat successful as many of the issues related to lobby stability, map loading stability, Halo 3 forge gametypes, and more were fixed or mended prior to the release of Halo 5: Guardians.
Meet Your Maker: Squad CTF Forge Contest (Duck)
In mid-summer, and with customs in MCC relatively stable at long last, it was time to do something big. I had recently released a video describing some of my design theory as it pertains to squad experiences in Halo. The squad formula involves a streamlined BTB experience which builds off the competitive foundations of core arena Halo while maximizing the interaction between infantry and vehicles. This style of design was something Flying Shoe, MockKnizzle, and myself had been exploring for years, but it had never really caught on with other forgers. Upon releasing the video, several other designers began trying their hand at squad maps, however. The time was right to revive the Meet Your Maker contest series: the cross-community forge contest which Absolute Dog started in Halo 4 and left under my stewardship upon stepping away from the Halo community. We partnered with ForgeHub and almost with THFE to make the contest happen and were able to offer some pretty neat prizes. We worked with numerous forgers to test, provide feedback, and refine said maps over the summer. It was a real pleasure to see so many designers branch out and try their hand at a more niche, experimental type of map.
MCC Infection Playlist (Debbie)
It was a glorious day when Infection finally found it's way into MCC's matchmaking. When the Master Chief Collection was put together in the first place, one of the main goals was to take all of the main series Halo games from Halo 2 and beyond, and combine then into one fun, nostalgic bundle. No other playlist in matchmaking did this quite like the Infection playlist. It incorporated Infection variants in matchmaking from the original rotational playlist, Living Dead, in Halo 3, to the community-submitted and play-tested lineup from Halo 4, much of which originated on this site, all the way to Halo 2 Anniversary with new variants on the remade Halo 2 maps. The playlist really showed how Infection has evolved as a gametype over the Halo titles, and how the standard for the gametype has changed over the course of Halo's lifespan. It also really made you appreciate how the community has gotten better at balancing out their Infection maps since Halo 3... but that's a discussion for another day.
The End of THFE (Duck)
Since the site's inception, HaloCustoms' biggest partner was TheHaloForgeEpidemic on YouTube, Much of our community was built from the channel's subscriber base. We worked together to host numerous custom game events and contests over the years. HC provided the community and THFE provided the content. HC and THFE went together like peanut butter and chocolate. Unfortunately, THFE had a dark secret: a parasite with no loyalty to the Halo community who constantly tried to push the channel in a more commercial direction and undermined every community-centric decision I made at its helm. Eventually the nagging to sacrifice quality and values for the sake of attaining more viewers and the threat to force an unqualified individual onto my respectable team forced me to follow in the footsteps of Bevans Law and Oakley HiDef and to leave the channel. This was a decision I had contemplated numerous times over the years and one which I did not take lightly. In the end, corruption and greed won out. The community lost an incredible piece of history and HaloCustoms lost its dearest partner.
The Community Forge Visit (Duck)
In mid August, I received an e-mail from 343 community manager Andy Dudynsky, asking if I would be available to fly out to Kirkland for a week in September to be among the first from outside of the studio to see Halo 5's forge mode. I had always been quite skeptical of 343i and was still rather concerned about the design decisions made regarding Halo 5, but I couldn't pass up such an opportunity. My trip ended up being one of the most enjoyable and eye-opening experiences of my life. I was amazed by the passion of 343's forge and multiplayer teams and truly blown away by the direction they'd taken Halo 5's forge mode. Over the course of the week and in the company of friends old and new, I was privileged with constructing a remake of a classic Halo 2 map which can now be enjoyed in Halo 5's Big Team Battle playlist. The mutual respect between developer and community member made for an exciting symbiotic relationship, and this relationship continues to benefit this site behind the scenes. Our gametype request thread, forge bug thread, and others are all ways of helping the developers to help us which are a direct result of that new relationship. It was truly a pleasure to consult the team as an advocate for the forge community and help them to make the new forge tools even better than they otherwise would have been. Seeing what this community is doing with forge today only reinforces that. I am sorry, HaloCustoms community, that your representative is not quite as handsome as ducain23 or WARHOLIC. On the bright side, "we have... round objects."
HaloCustoms 2.0 (Aub)
The lobby system here at Halo Customs has been our staple from the beginning. For the first time, members could create detailed lobby threads, RSVP for games, and rate their hosts. However, as functionality changed over the years, so too did the lobby system. Host ratings were lost amongst a number of changes and our users began to show a preference toward "LFG" lobby formats, as opposed to scheduled ones. Knowing this, our tech administrators (Insane54, BigStack, and TACTICS) began developing what would be an all-new custom game experience in October. The new system, coined HaloCustoms 2.0, would not only support the previous functionality but also incorporate a series of new features. It's still evolving with help from the community and our staff team, so as we shift into 2016, you can expect plenty of fun custom game experiences!
Well, there you have it! A lot of (mostly) cool stuff happened this year, even despite its shaky start with MCC. We're working on plans to make 2016 a much better year with new features, new contests, and new events which we can't wait to talk about. We also look forward to celebrating the site's three year anniversary with you in just a few days!
Before we go, we'd like to leave you with some site statistics. 2015 saw 12,337 new posts with only 1,703 of them being likable, it seems. 2,360 new threads were created and 343 (lol) new maps were added to our database. 4,509 new plebeians users joined our community. Throughout the year, we published 90 articles to the front page and hosted six different events. Thank you, the community, for being a part of this site over the past year. We can't wait to see what the new year brings!
What are some of your memories from the past year on HaloCustoms? What are you looking forward to or expecting in 2016?