Gears of War Title Update #6 has been released today and with it comes a horde of changes to the game. We've detailed some of these already - most notably drop-in/drop-out support for Horde mode matches. No longer will you have to wait for a group to die or will the group be forced to restart their Horde mode session. So why wasn't this included from the beginning with Gears 2?
Simply put, Epic was surprised by just how popular the co-op mode was, not only amongst friends - but amongst strangers.
With Horde being a co-op method of playing, we expected that Horde would be played mostly by people with friends on their Friends List and so we put the majority of our effort into the Private mode. We were caught by surprise by how many Public Horde matches (basically playing with strangers) were being played and we've been trying to make that experience better whenever possible. Also at the time of release, we didn't have a good way of scoring a partial session so you had to be part of the session from the very beginning. We've since come up with a better scoring system that allows for partial sessions, which enabled us to put in the join-in-progress feature. As well, with TU6 you can now join a Public Horde match in progress, and if you're playing a Public Social match, you can even restart from the wave that you failed instead of back to level 1 as you would with Ranked.
This is somewhat similar to the complete lack of matchmaking in ODST's firefight mode. Perhaps now that two of the most high profile series on the Xbox 360 have gotten co-op specific modes where the popularity surprised the developer, we won't see this mistake happen again.
In addition to the drop-in and drop-out features of the new Social Horde mode, Epic has added bots to take over for players the drop out mid-game as to not handi-cap our brothers in arms.
One thing to note on this update - to get the full benefit of Social matches you're going to need to purchase the All Front content pack. This is the 14 map pack that originally cost $20 - but Epic has since dropped it to $10 to not only celebrate this release, but as a permanent price drop.
- You can join Social Matches in progress and can quit any time without penalty, although players who quit early don’t receive earned experience (XP).
- Social matchmaking lets your party join a match in progress. If a match is not found, your party hosts a new match, filling any empty player slots with bots.
- Social Matches automatically cycle to the next map without further matchmaking.
- Teams are rebalanced between matches based on XP level without splitting parties.
- If you quit, your spot is taken by a bot until a new player joins the match. That new player can join while the match is in progress.
- If you join a match in progress, you are assigned a team based on XP level and party size.
- If you join a match in progress, you replace a bot at the earliest opportunity: at the first bot’s death for respawning game types (for example, Annex) and at round completion for Warzone, Execution, and Wingman.
- Social leaderboards become part of the War Journal.