2007 - 2012 was an amazing time for Halo. There was something special, almost undefinable about the introduction of Forge and the File Share in Halo 3 and their expansion in Halo Reach. One of the many things that inspired the creation of this website was the camaraderie found in the exploration of those new tools, both of which have led to more than a handful of amateur-to-professional transitions.
However, when Halo 3 was released as part of the Master Chief Collection in 2014, this key element was missing - and has remained missing until this day. Yes, there is now an approximation of the original File Share function within the MCC, but it has floundered and fumbled for 6 years, unsupported by 343i's internal sustain teams. It still does not provide a smooth user experience.
That's where today's NLD Feature comes in - in keeping with the purpose of this site, I "sat down" with two French (eh, oui!) Halo fans behind the creation of a fully-functional, third-party File Browser for the MCC Halo 3 port - as well as the rest of the MCC! A truly Next-Level feature, if you ask me. 😉
I hope you enjoy our little chat and remember to take a moment to go check out their site.
icyhot: First off, welcome to the Next Level DesignFeaturedpage! Could you two introduce yourselves?
TekTek: Hi, thanks for the feature! I'm TekTek, co-founder of Halo Creation and a professional Level Designer.
Tepec: Thank you for this! So I'm Tepec, have been admin of the French community Halo Creation for something like 11 years now - am I an old fart already?
icyhot: Very cool, and welcome again! OK, everyone knows that Halo has a global appeal, but many of us in the English-speaking world don't really have a concrete grasp of that - so, what is Halo Creation, and what do you do?
TekTek: Halo Creation is a French community meant to share and promote creative fanmade content for the Halo franchise. We cover anything from tricks to Forge, fan arts or crafts. We started up with a forum promoting a series of tricking videos called "Projet Alpha" and have been writing down hundreds of tutorials for tricks on every Halo game.
Tepec: To answer about "how Halo has a global appeal" and to put it into context, back in the late 2000s Halo was quite a big thing here in France; several communities were striving on the web with forums and all, we even had this "IloveBTB" 8v8 championship and LAN which was kind of avant-garde and unique for console Esports in there (we had nothing remotely close to MLG and such). I remember the old "Projet Alpha" videos, which were just about tricking, easily quickly hitting like 20k or 30k views on DailyMotion (which was at the time a serious alternative to YouTube here, and that feels weird to even just say it nowadays!), and that was incredible for a console exclusive game at the time and on such a "niche" subject. So yeah, the French Halo community was pretty big on Halo, and there were a lot of initiatives, hence Halo Creation came into play.
from late 2009
from summer 2011
icyhot: Why did you choose to design your platform around Creation specifically and not, say, competitive play? And why Halo?
TekTek: The reason this site was based on Halo is because we all met on Halo (through communities or meeting in game). I personally started playing Halo with Halo2and fell in love with it when I discovered out of bounds, superbounces and all those creative, emergent ways of playing it. The first idea for this forum was from Cox, he wanted to build a Halo community outside of news-sharing while working on "Projet Alpha" for Halo 3. At this time, the French Halo sites were mainly focused on news and/or Esports - tricks, Forge maps or art were only a [minor focus for these sites]. We thought they deserved more space and, tada!
Tepec: I am not a founding member of Halo Creation, but I think it always revolved around the players and creators just as much as the games themselves, it's not like the "creation" part came after the "Halo" one! But why Halo then? I think Halo 3 started it all because, well, we loved that game, but it also gave us such great tools to be creative, and players kept bringing new content to the game, keeping it fresh. Also I joined the staff of Halo Creation because at that time there was a huge demand for help and advices on tricks, on Forge, on video editing.
Our forum (which is still around in a 'dormant' state) became known because we had so many tutorials for everything, and we had passionate and helpful Forgers like TekTek, always welcoming newcomers and providing insights on how to improve their creations. I have always been curious about various things in Halo games, whether it be Forge, tricks, machinimas, montages or even Esports, and that's why Halo Creation was so appealing when I started to play on XBL and joined the online community.
I don't know exactly why the 'creative' aspects of Halo grew into me so much, I guess that's partly because back in 2002, Halo: CE struck me with its wide environment that made me dream, and I had so much fun playing multiplayer with my friends [in] stupid 'mini-games' we were imagining, and from there it never got away - to the contrary, it became even better with the online community doing stuff I'd never imagined, and all the features like theater and forge that came into play later. I also happen to run a small web agency, which is always helpful for the kind of projects we'll talk about in a few moments. 😄
icyhot: Now, the reason why we're here. The two of you have developed and released a 3rd-party File Browser for the MCC, which functions like a dream. You can search by Map Name, Base Map, Tags, Gametype, Gamertag... It even looks better than 343i's current Waypoint File Browser!
A time capsule in a time capsule - how appropriate!
But as we all know, this functionality does not exist native to the MCC. How long has this been in the works? Was the release of Halo 3 on PC a big part of your motivation for developing this File Browser?
TekTek: TBH I wasn't involved with this tool! Tepec and Zeny are the real men when going for tools and bot creation, I stepped out of the admin part of Halo Creation some years ago and I'm now only involved in the community as a content lover.
Tepec: Actually Zeny (from another French community called Halo Destiny) and I made this. The idea for this website really grew probably a few months after the content migration, so around Fall 2019. I was really frustrated I couldn't find maps or modes, because the MCC does not provide any search feature for the files, and people all around were asking for maps and modes just like me. I mean, there's an entire category just for that on the r/Halo Discord server, so it's not like it's something only 1 or 2 players want!
Around the same time, I started to talk a lot with Zeny, founder of Halo Destiny and a website called xboxreplay.net, who happens to be really skilled at reverse-engineering the sh!t out of everything (like the Xbox Live API).
About two months ago, he told me that he was messing around with the MCC PC port, and that's when I decided I should ask him for help on this project. He generously jumped in with enthusiasm and showed me how to do it, so we dug into it together until we found the proper endpoint for file shares. From there we just worked on that until we could get what we needed to make the search and filter features to work.
The reverse-engineering part took probably like half a day, and then I developed the website pretty quickly (like 2 days), but I had to pause the development due to IRL work. Last week though, as they announced the release date for Halo 3 MCC PC, I decided that I had to finish this and make it public at that point because I was fairly sure that, like for the release of Reach, many players would be returning to the franchise after a few years of inactivity and would probably be looking for old maps and modes (and be frustrated or disappointed not being able to find them). Luckily I was able to take a few hours to complete things and bring the website online!
So yeah, Halo 3 has been a big part of motivating me moving things forward and not keep that to myself. 😛
Well, there you have it! A big thank you to @Tepec Fett (Halo Création) and TekTek for taking the time to answer my very probing questions, and most importantly for proving once more that, in the case of Halo, the fans really do know what the fans like. 😎