Bungie.net has been hosting an excellent stat tracking service for all Halo players for use, and with their recent announcement that 343 Industries would be taking over all forms of Halo: Reach stat tracking beginning March 31st, we were curious; what will become of the multitude of apps and websites that utilize these stats?
When reached for comment, Jessica Shea of 343 Industries gave us this answer as to what will become of the stat tracking API that many developers rely on:
“Unfortunately we do not have plans to develop a similar feature at this time. Adding new features, even ones that seem small, take a significant amount of time and resources. Our main priorities at this time are supporting Reach, building out Halo Waypoint, and making Halo 4.
I know it’s hard to see the positives right now, but because we’re prioritizing those things, you get new Halo: Reach game types and regular playlist updates, you get File Share access on Halo Waypoint this summer, and you get an amazing new game in Holiday 2012.”
We sat down with Kirk Smith – better known online as HaLo2FrEeEk – creator of the Halo: Reach Challenge Initiative as to what this means for his website.
[Italic Text is Kirk.]
Hi Kirk, how are you today?
Spectacular, and yourself?
I’m great, thanks. So, tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m 22 years old, been an avid Halo player since the original 10 years ago. I started a fan site about 6 years ago, it never really went anywhere. A little over a year ago I hatched another site revolving around challenges in Halo: Reach, called it the Halo: Reach Challenge Initiative…HRCI for short.
Interesting, so tell us a little bit about HRCI.
The idea started as a response to one of my favorite Halo fan sites, High Impact Halo, going away. One of the members there started a Challenges thread which he kept updated daily with each challenge and a tip describing an easy way to complete it. I liked this idea, but I wanted to make it a little more community driven, allowing everyone the ability to share their own tips, and for other users to vote and comment on those tips.
That seems like it’d be quite a lot of work, continually updating challenges and whatnot. How did you manage that?
I used the Stats API provided by Bungie. The API allowed me to access the new challenges every morning, minutes after they were updated in-game. This made it so that I was able to automate the process of pulling down new challenge data.
That doesn’t sound like something very basic. How long did you spend actually developing and building this website?
I actually spent a decent chunk of time in development. I pulled down my first set of challenges on February 4th 2011 using a simplified version of the current code. I also had two testing stages, the first on April 10th and the second on April 15th. I finally opened the site to the public on June 23rd. Just under 5 months might not seem like a long time, but I’m a one-man development team.
That sounds like quite the investment, who’s paying you to do all this?
No one pays me. This is a personal project; I did it for the community. Apart from a few (very much appreciated) donations, it’s been an out-of-pocket expense from the start.
On January 31st, Bungie announced that they will be finalizing the transfer of all Halo services to 343 Industries. With 343 announcing they no longer plan to offer the API, what does this mean for the Halo: Reach Challenge Initiative?
Unfortunately it means that I’m faced with a difficult decision. Building and running HRCI has been a wild and fantastic ride for me, but the loss of the API means a loss of the driving force behind the site. There are a few alternatives that I’m exploring, but unfortunately none of them will be as reliable as the API.
The decision is whether the community finds HRCI useful enough for me to spend the time to implement these changes, or if I should just simply take it down and call it a success for the time it was up.
I’m sure there are other websites and applications that use this API, what will become of them?
They’ll likely face a similar decision. Unfortunately 343 hasn’t really left us a choice in this matter. There are actually quite a few other sites and applications that make use of the API, one of the largest of which is Halo Charts. These sites will have to come up with an alternative, same as me, or close their doors. [Editors Note: It appears Halo Charts has in fact shut down.]
Is there any way to operate these sites without the API?
There are several potential alternatives, but like I said before, none of them will have the simplicity of the API. One of these alternatives is called scraping, wherein the developer writes a script to download the HTML from the public Halo Waypoint site and literally scrape the relevant data bits from it. This method is not foolproof by any stretch, as a simple layout change on Waypoint could break the whole operation.
So yours and countless other developers work will potentially be going down the drain on March 31st. Is there anything the users of these sites can do to help the situation?
I think there is. 343 claims that implementing “new” features like this consumes a large amount of developer time which could be better allocated toward future titles like Halo 4. Now, don’t get me wrong, I want Halo 4 to be absolutely epic, but I think they’re over-exaggerating things a little. At the very least they could ask Bungie for the code behind the existing API, since their systems must be decently similar (in order for them to enact the large-scale data transfer for Halo: Reach) and I don’t think it would be too difficult for them to make the necessary changes. Of course that depends on whether or not Bungie would be willing to hand over that code; it’s totally feasible that they wouldn’t.
Without any knowledge of 343/Waypoint’s systems, I can’t make any estimates as far as how difficult a task implementing some form of data sharing would be, but I can’t imagine that even a very simple system would be too much to ask.
Users of these sites, most of whom I assume don’t want them to go away, can petition 343 to do something. Send them a message on Twitter (@bsangel and @HaloWaypoint), post a message to their forums, and contact them any way you know how, using whatever medium you fancy. Basically bug them to the point where they do this just to shut us up. Strength in numbers and all that.
Well, it looks like that’s all the time we have. Hopefully you’ve inspired some readers to voice their opinions and help the cause. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The only thing I have to add is that while you might not feel like your voice counts, it does. The more people that speak up, the more likely it is that these sites won’t have to go away.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us; we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
A big thanks to Kirk for taking the time to speak with us, we look forward to hearing more about the future of the Halo: Reach Challenge Intitiave and will keep you updated as more information becomes available.
[The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the interviewee and are in not necessarily the views or opinions of LevelSave.com or its staff.]