With Halo 4, Microsoft and developer 343 Industries hope to create the multiplayer shooter of 2012. This would be exceedingly simple if every player was at the same skill level, but since the Halo 4 audience includes people of all stripes, 343 has created a system to make sure that skilled veterans are matched up online with other skilled veterans, and that new, inexperienced players are free to learn the game’s quirks with other players of similar skill.
Dubbed the “Competitive Skill Rank” system (henceforth CSR), this feature is similar to the matchmaking systems seen in modern fighting games. From the moment you start playing Halo 4, the game’s servers will be tracking your exploits and assigning you a rank based on how efficiently you’re able to wipe out other players, capture arbitrary flags, and so on. Though the CSR system will be accumulating data from the day Halo 4 launches, the ranks it assigns won’t become public until the system launches in earnest, and that won’t happen until some nebulous point in 2013.
The short version is CSR will launch early next year when it’s ready. We have an extensive post-launch plan for Halo 4, including DLC, playlist updates, and title updates. As soon as we have a confirmed launch date for the Waypoint update that includes CSR, we’ll make an announcement. Set your expectations for release timing appropriately since this will require delicate tuning, testing and implementation for Waypoint Web, Waypoint Console and Smartglass integration and is a feature designed specifically for the competitive community.
Alright, that makes sense, but 343 has had years to complete Halo 4. Why isn’t this system ready to go in time for the Halo 4 launch? According to 343’s run-down, the studio is utterly dedicated to creating the most entertaining, thrilling, and even more crucially, fair multiplayer experience for Halo 4, and to do so it needs time to test the CSR system. All the data gleaned by the system between the Halo 4 launch and the CSR system’s official launch both serves as a baseline for the ranks that will eventually be assigned to players and as a makeshift beta test, designed to weed out any flaws in the CSR system before it becomes a vital component of the Halo 4 online multiplayer experience.
“We know how important skill rank is, and we take skill integrity very seriously – we want to make sure we’ve taken the time to test, tune, and balance the CSR system in a live environment, and identify problems and potential exploits before launching the system publically,” the studio claims.
Gripe about the content delay if you’d like, but in the end the CSR system (or lack thereof) will have little notable effect for most players. The hardcore competitive set will be slightly inconvenienced by the delayed rollout, but that’s a small minority of players, and they’ll likely get over their disappointment after a short period of moping. We’ll keep you all up to date on 343’s plans with regards to this CSR system as they emerge.