One of my earliest memories in PC gaming is when my friend and I, wee lads at the time, desperately attempted to launch Doom on good ol’ DOS. The process was a lot more complicated back then than it was today: We had to restart the computer, wait for a certain screen to show up, time it just right, then press and hold F5 until it let us input lines of code where we ordinarily weren’t supposed to type.
Then we’d go plead in unison to our parents to launch Doom for us until one of them caved.
Nowadays, provided that games don’t crash, things have become so much easier (thank the Lord) when it came to launching video games. Heck, the new Doom you can just as easily buy on Steam as you can launch it. It’s sort of ironic how Doom, with with its bloody hellscapes, manages to be very pristine and orderly with modern bells and whistles like matchmaking, progression systems, loadouts, and season passes.
Meanwhile, Halo 5's PC multiplayer, with its shiny and sleek visuals and map designs, is an absolute mess.
And I love it for that.
A lot of that has to do with the Forge editor which, while certainly impressive, isn’t a real SDK and has a real knack of looking unpolished even if it lets one create some truly impressive structures. Like an actual, bona fide waterpark.
More importantly, that mess extends to the nature of the Forge editor’s multiplayer mode, which is void of a regular server browser or matchmaking altogether. Players are required to go jump through hoops to get a match going, from going on forums and Discord chatrooms, to adding friends and begging people to join their match. More often than not one finds a modified version of the game going, with different jump heights and speed settings, rules, and weapon behaviour. There’s no loadouts or progression system to speak of, as the PC version is exclusivity meant to be a level editor and testing grounds; not the actual game. Heck, even installing the darn thing is a chore, what with some players needing to find it on Google just to get the Microsoft store page link. The XBox version has official servers, matchmaking and rules. But on PC, this is the only way to play. Somehow, though, the PC version is all the better for it.
There’s something about stripping the bells and whistles of something and looking at the thing raw that makes it a lot easier to appreciate for what it is. The lack of organized structure, too, makes Halo 5: Forge’s community so much better than most games on the PC. All the people here are in the same boat as you; they’re playing the game not because of leaderboards, or K:D ratios, or loot, because those don’t exist. They’re playing the game because they want to play Halo. They need to actively talk to each other and agree on a set of rules. They just want to have fun, and nothing more, and they’re willing to go through great lengths just to do it.
That’s what PC gaming used to be all about. It’s kind of ironic that a shoddy port of a console game stays closer to the roots of PC gaming than most PC titles out there.
Because of the need to go through these hurdles, especially the constant friend requests just to start a match, in a way it’s as if you’re constantly playing with people you already know, even if they’re just total strangers. As a result, losing to these people is also a lot more bearable than losing to the countless other people who tell you of their relations with your mother.
To be honest, I’m going to be a bit sad when Microsoft adds a server browser (and I consider myself something a preacher of the benefits of a server browser over matchmaking) to the experience because of this. That little bit of order they add into all this chaos might end up removing that strong sense of community the game currently has.