Halo 3: ODST features a new multiplayer mode called Firefight. It's kinda like the Horde mode from Gears of War 2. For some reason though, it doesn't support matchmaking.
When I spoke with Bungie producer Curtis Creamer last week, I asked him why they don't support matchmaking in Firefight. He explained how it comes down to a technical issue.
Firefight is based on the cooperative campaign mode from Halo 3. It uses that as a base technology with all the same gameplay mechanics, including AI. Matchmaking was simply not part of that Halo 3 campaign.
"With this game we wanted to make sure everyone knew this was built off the Halo 3 engine, which is why we left Halo 3 in the title of it," says Creamer. "That was basically one of the limitations we had, that we couldn't just add matchmaking for Firefight because it was based upon the cooperative Campaign gameplay.
"It would've been a massive technical rewrite of code, and we didn't think it would have been the right thing to invest in anyway because it's meant to be a cooperative experience you have with friends."
Of course, when playing Firefight, just as when playing the cooperative campaigns from Halo 3 and ODST, you can party up with your friends. Creamer says the idea behind Firefight is not to play with a bunch of strangers online, but to enjoy a more intimate experience that harks back to the early days of Halo.
"It's really trying to get back to that same sort of experience we had in Halo 1 multiplayer," says Creamer. "Since there was no Live then and no matchmaking, you really had to get together with your friends, you know, have LAN parties at your house and have that cool social experience with your buddies all sitting together. Firefight is really all about getting together with your friends online and playing that way.
"So in a way matchmaking is not something that makes a lot of sense in that kind of system, even though in reality it's not something we would have been able to pull off anyway."
I'm not a competitive multiplayer gamer. Co-op is more my style, having played through Halo 3, Gears 2, Resident Evil 5, Left 4 Dead and others recently. Personally I wouldn't want to play those co-op games with strangers, preferring instead to schedule sessions with people I know.
But maybe I'm just weird. Do you play co-op games with strangers? Or do you stick with your friends? Is the lack of matchmaking here really a big deal?