Teabagging Returns in Halo 4S

Master Chief is back in Halo 4. So is the needler. And so is teabagging.

The most famous and notorious act in Halo multiplayer, the crouching of one player onto a defeated player to simulate a simulated sex act, is back.

But the people at 343 Industries who are making Halo 4 don't call it "teabagging". They call the move a "victory crouch." But there's a twist!

Yes, 343's David Ellis told me, players can still crouch and therefore can still teabag, "if they so choose it.

"However if you're the other player, you now have the option of not seeing them do it."

If you teabag me in Halo 4 but I don't see it, did you really teabag me? I say no.

This is what's changed: In some Halo 4 multiplayer modes, including the game's points-driven competitive multiuplayer mode called Infinity Slayer, players can just press X to respawn. No waiting. No watching their corpse being victory-crouched-upon.

"If you're playing with your friends on your couch you can definitely customize this stuff to, say, extend the victory crouch window," one of the game's lead multiplayer designers, Kevin Franklin told me.

Halo 4 is 343's big re-think of the Halo franchise, a many-years-in-the-making gambit to restore the Halo series' slightly-faded glory. With a re-think comes the opportunity to add and subtract. As I talked to the 343 guys last week at the Halo 4 booth at E3, I realized that 343 couldn't just take crouching out of the game and therefore they couldn't remove tea-bagging (I mean, victory crouching) even if they wanted to. Right, guys?

In case you don't know, here's a montage of Halo 3 teabagging

"It's an important part of the combat experience," Ellis said. I think he was referring to regular crouching, not victory crouching. But who knows?

"The Halo sandbox lets players do so much," Franklin said, "And that's just one of the things people have found."

Ok, he was definitely talking about victory crouching.

Sure, people love the victory crouch, I told Franklin and Ellis. But some people think it's the kind of thing that encourages the immaturity that can spoil online gaming.

"That's one of the reasons you can do the instant-spawn stuff," Ellis said. "You don't actually have to see it."

"If you're playing with your friends on your couch you can definitely customize this stuff to, say, extend the victory crouch window."

But even that instant-respawn option, Ellis and Franklin maintained, was first and foremost a gameplay thing. "It was to get people back in action fast," Ellis said. They didn't want people lying dead in the map for too long. It's just not fun that way.

The pacing, the spawning, the map flow all fits together to define the experience, Franklin added. Plus, 343 has been crunching data and realized that he wanted to keep more players alive at any onetime in a match. "It gets asked a lot: ‘Is this 8 on 8? 4 on 4? How many players are in a match? But when you really look at the data, what really matters is how many people are living at any time? So in a 10-player game is that 7.2? 8.3? How can we change our spawn-times?" The goal isn't always to have the number as high as possible, but 343 doesn't want you running around the map solo or dying as soon as you re-spawn.

Ellis said he now finds himself strategically waiting to respawn in the game's new Regicide mode, to give himself a breather and to wait out the spawn time to reduce the chance that other people can score kills on him during the time of the match.

"But I'm a crazy person," he acknowledged.

While he's waiting, victory crouches may be occurring. It's just part of the game.

Halo 4 will be released for the Xbox 360 on November 6.