Tech Life A free service is kicking the snot out of the paid service

XBox Live, Sort’f…

Yeah yeah yeah, I’m supposed to be telling you How to Lose Your Job, Pt. 2… but that column is turning into an opus and while it will rock, I’m also doing other stuff. Like… say… playing Halo 2?

I’m new to the Xbox platform, so I’m certain the following rant has already been heard in the weblog-o-sphere, but I do need to know whether the rant is relevant or not. See, I’m currently in a two month free subscription for Xbox Live and given my current experience, there is no way in hell I’ll be extending my subscription… AND I LIKE THE SERVICE.

Here’s my experience… night after night. I flip the switch, login in as ctrlAltDeath, and proceed to wait anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to actually get into a game. Halo 2’s matchmaking system does a fine job of simplify the process of finding a game, but it’s record is crap. I’ve got a post-it next to my XBox and I’m keeping track of the number of times I say “Find me a game” and Halo 2 responds with “Sorry, couldn’t find you a match… try again later”. You braced for this? 60% percent of the time.

A majority of the time — Halo 2’s matchmaking does not find me a game. 30% of the time, I get ungraciously booted out of a game that I’m participating in. NETWORK TROUBLESHOOTER.

This is bad enough that I originally thought it was a screw-up on my side. Poor network configuration… packet loss, so I did my network sleuthing… nope… we’re in a good shape. Check. Check. Check. More head scratching.

The other shoe fell when I started playing XBConnect with friends and I had zero problem connecting to games and only a single instance of a game actually giving me the boot over the course of several nights This tells me three things: really, my network set-up is solid and, most troubling, a free service is kicking the snot out of the paid service. Wow.

I have a comment and a reminder:

Comment: The XBConnect model reminds me of the multiplayer experience I’m used to from my Quake days. HERE’S 10,000 SERVERS — YOU FIGURE IT OUT. While I have to engage my brain to find a low ping server, it seems that brain at work is doing a better job that Halo 2’s matchmaking in terms of actually finding an appropriate game. I get what the matchmaking is going for… I like the concept… I really like the community building aspects… but the world’s best feature is crap if it does not work.

Reminder: This is a rant… or a cry for help. Is anyone else experiencing this high degree of frustration with this fine game? I’m still hoping there is a some change I can make on my side to improve game acquisition inside of XBox Live. Thoughts? Fixes? Stick with XBConnect?

[12/28/04 Update]: Was playing with Arpanet tonight and he suggested to plug straight into my DSL modem rather than going through MODEM–>AIRPORT–>HUB. Once I made that switch, I had zero problems connecting to games quickly… and not dropping out of games 50% of the time. No clue what the hardware issue is w/ the basestation… or hub.

14 Responses

  1. I, too, miss the days where I could log on to Kali and it would present me with a 10,000 server list for Jedi Knight or Counter-Strike.

    I’ve run into similar problems with Halo 2 and what it really comes down to is “playing through it.” Aggravation outside of the game is just as important as playing the game. I think the whole thing is over simplified for the benefit of instant gratification of the mass audience.

    The provided friends list isn’t nearly as useful as seeing a massive server list, either.

  2. I’ve never had the problems with finding a game on XBLive, one usually comes up within like ten or fifteen seconds… if I’m waiting to thirty seconds I get pissed. Is this an east coast / west coast difference?

    Bungie really needs to make a custom game list like in*. Here’s my work-around: I usually add people who are fun to play with in public games to my friends list, and then we create our own parties which bypass the stupid matchmaking altogether. There are a group of us who play regularly now… this also allows us to play more esoteric gametypes rather than just the stock ones you get from the XBLive ladders. Of couse, if you’re one of these people who’s like level 19 and cares deeply about your “ranking” that won’t work for you.


  3. Daniel Roberts 20 years ago

    Does Halo2 allow you to see a list of servers and filter for a certain type of game? I play online shooters on PC and never use the auto matching services or whatever they are called. I usually know the type of game I’m looking for and just filter the list down then choose one that has a good connection and number of players. Then I can spend hours on the same server if its good. It is worth spending a few minutes to look for a server. Heck with most online games I play it takes just maybe 10 seconds to download, filter and sort the server list before connecting to a game.

  4. Yeah, I think Daniel has the right idea with the friends list, there. The ladder (rumble pit) games often take quite a while to match for me too. But keeping a list of friends around lets me jump into games with them when we’re online at the same time. I’ve found that to be a nice thing.

    Heck, if you want, add me to your friends list, my gamertag is mkin, and I’d be happy to play.


  5. Rands I have had exactly the opposite experience.

    I have never waited more than a minute or two to connect to a game. When the game was first released in November the wait times were a bit longer but they released a patch that made things better.

    I love the way matchmaking works. I have played upwards of 150+ games since release day and have only experienced lag in a handful of them. I appreciate the ranking system as well. While every once in a while I find a game where I totally get owned, but I am usually in a game where both sides are pretty even, I play a lot of team skirmish and team slayer. It should be noted that Bungie actually says that you shouldn’t care too much about your rank, as the primary purpose of the ranking system is not for bragging rights but for balancing teams and creating games with players of similar skill levels.

    The party system and xbox live’s friends list makes it really easy for my friends to find me and always end up on my team.

    It’s too bad that you are having such bad luck with the matchmaking. It really is a great system.

    Also, you need to checkout the stats on, they are keeping stats for every game. And you can go and look at a map of the level and see where all the kills occured. I had a holy shit moment. Have a look at my blog entry from November 11th for a better description, it’s still on the front page.


  6. Jerkass 20 years ago

    I have a problem with giving voicechat to anyone who just happens to have a headset, instead of involving a third-party such as TeamSpeak.

    Listening to a 14 year old scream “OH FUCK I GOT YOU WITH MY NEEDLER” gets old fast.

  7. brasten 20 years ago

    I had the exact same problem for probably about a week or two… eventually the game prompted to download some updates, and after the updates everything has worked great. I get into a game within 15 seconds… I’m west-coast, standard Comcast cable internet.

    MY biggest complaint are your teammates who yell at you the entire game because you haven’t memorized the quickest way to the rocket launcher on that particular map. It IS just a game, after all. ๐Ÿ™‚

    After that, gamertag is “brasten” is anyone wants to play. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. jerkcity reader 20 years ago

    t rands i totally saw you in vegas this weekend

  9. Andy Waschick 20 years ago

    I have to agree with Sam, above, the Xbox Live system with Halo 2 has worked very well for me. I think the record time for getting into a game for me is somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 minutes.

    I hate to sound like a jive-ass turkey shill for Microsoft, but this is something which has worked without a hitch, from day 1. I might even pay them real, live money in January to continue the service. Just maybe!

    There’s nothing special about my internet connection, either– Southwestern Bell ADSL in Metro St. Louis, NAT through a LinkSys WRT54G with a stock config, and an ethernet cable to a stock, unmodified Xbox console. Bada bing.

    If I had any gripes at all, it would be with the rating system in respect to how it handles new players.

    Once players begin to accumulate experience points, matchmaking makes most games very enjoyable and challenging- there’s a mix of better and worse players but never by too much… the system seems to be subtle enough that it will alternate between putting me in a match as a high-rated player and matching me against much better players, on-off-on.

    But, before new players gain an adequate dataset of experience point data, they are a wildcard and will sweep through matches blazing a trail of dead spartans. That’s not so much fun.

    It would be nice if there had been a way to gauge player skills in the single-player campaign before the got online so they would overstep all of the lesser players and eliminate the unpleasantness which their ascention to the proper rating causes.

    But obviously I have been able to connect and play well enough to form this opinion. I’m sorry you’re having trouble. You can link up with my gamertag “El Cloaca” if you want and see if you have better luck with a larger party. Maybe that would help.

  10. Sorry to hear you are having problems. I never have any problems connecting to a game in Halo 2 and have had great connectivity. I’d estimate that I get the “no game found” message less than 5% of the time…probably much less. XBOX Live is great if you ask me. It connects people with a load of different types of games easily.

  11. David 20 years ago

    u should be grateful that u can even sign in 2 xbl. I cant even network my computer to work with xbl!!!!!

  12. well when you go from modem to airport to hub – you are puting a couple hurdles in the connection to the network – you might want to spring for this:

    or this:

    that way you can go from your airport which runs the 11g standard right to the xbox. If you use an encryption code on your airport the code may have to be entered in its 128bit long version on the adapter setup – thats because apple’s 128bit encryption of passwords is different than pcs. I would probably just setup access restriction on the airport and leave the encryption off to avoid this. have fun!

  13. andrew 19 years ago

    I have been having problems connecting with one of my friends on xbox live. No matter what game we play, we can’t connect. And it is only with one person. Why is this? We used to be able to play with each other but not over the last like 4 months? Please someone help me fix this problem its getting to be really annoying.

  14. caboos 19 years ago

    ok here is my proplem please answer if you can this is the seconde time this happend i cant find a matchmaking game and it says:faild to find match making game please try agin later well seconde time this has happend and i got to wait all day to play it i didnt buy xbox live so it sits there and its not played at all this is making me mad so if you can please answer this question