Some Thoughts on Destiny

 

Bungie… :sigh: Bungie!
They’re one of those rare companies that might actually be too responsive to feedback, and too willing to experiment with new ways of doing things. And as I’ve said before, I feel like they hit every nail with a 12lb sledge when a household hammer would do the job.
A quick note. I’m one of those “Day 1 alpha” players who spent the first year putting in an average of around 4+ hours of time every day. I started a clan that got enough active members to run multiple raids a week, Iron Banner events, and find someone to run a daily with at just about any hour. At this point, though, I don’t play much and most of that clan has moved to other games for a variety of reasons. By no means do I hate the game or am I “butthurt”. As a cash-for-entertainment investment Destiny had a great return. This is merely me looking back at some (what I feel to be) missteps Bungie made. It’s entirely from memory, so if I noted something being added/removed at the wrong time feel free to correct me, but please don’t be a dick about it.

In the Beginning
The leveling progression using ascendant materials made sense. A special material was used to upgrade legendary tier items. But, it sucked when you pulled ONLY materials (especially the wrong ones) from the VoG or a nightfall. Even so, you knew they’d be useful when you eventually got that legendary drop. However, the gear to reach cap being locked in a single activity that was rated at a difficulty higher than you could reach without completing it was something of a questionable decision. I was a member of the Forever 29 club.

The Dark Below comes out. New raid. They introduce a new material to upgrade the kewl new loot. This is a Bad Idea, because it drops just like ascendant did in the Vault, but can ONLY be used on gear dropped in the new raid. This makes it REALLY suck for players with full raid sets since the majority of the loot dropped was absolutely useless to them after about a month.

At the same time, power players (ie  me) were complaining about the low drop rate for legendary gear. We were hungry for more of it and a certain percentage of players (usually those with fewer hours) didn’t like needing to grind for upgrade materials in activities that were difficult. At the same time, there’s a degree of concern and backlash regarding gear dropped from previous endgame activities. We worked hard for it and wanted to keep it, but the vast majority was absolutely useless to us.

House of Wolves drops. Bungie tries to address everything. Special upgrade materials for legendaries go away (almost) completely. Legendary drop rates increase. There’s a way to bring old gear up to the new max, but it’s tied to the new endgame activity, which can vary WILDLY in difficulty based on modifiers controlled by RNG. But! The old raid gear still requires the old materials, and they still drop in raids. So, if you want a piece of gear from a raid, you must grind to both get that item and ALSO to be able to upgrade it, and only in that activity. There’s also a reforging system that allows players to “reroll” the perks on a legendary weapon. This proves to be disastrous to the meta, as players settle in to grind until they’ve gotten the perfect perks on a few weapons and then have no reason to run PVE activities. They become the bane of the Crucible.

It should be remembered that a lot of us still ran raids at this point because they had an increased chance of dropping exotic-level loot, which was virtually unobtainable elsewhere outside of nightfalls.

A lot of players are frustrated. They’re locked into grinding a few particular activities to get the loot they want to get, effectively just hitting the same feeder bar in hopes of being rewarded. But, because of how the game has progressed, what once would have been useful, if far less desirable, rewards are now useless. This has also exacerbated what Bungie sees as a major issue; a few pieces of powerful gear are being overused, stagnating the meta and limiting accessibility by new players.

At the same time, there are a ton of complaints about the cost of the game from the core audience of console FPS gamers. They’re used to paying the price of a game and then possibly extra for additional PVP maps and some gear. Destiny has recurring online PVE activities that are dynamic, requiring a lot more bandwidth, server capacity, and human support than a traditional FPS, being more inline with an MMO. Most MMOs use a subscription model to make a profit, but Bungie/Activision decides to make their money by bundling all these costs into the price of each expansion.

Enter The Taken King! The devs attempt to address everyone’s issues. Legendary drops increase again. Exotic items now have an alternative way to be gained through non-endgame activities. Gear progression is fixed, with everything requiring the same materials available during standard activities (except exotics). Old gear is useless in the new endgame to allow the devs to make an attempt at balancing the meta.

And what do we wind up with? Frustrated old players with inventories filled with stuff that’s either junk or feels like wasted effort. New players who are reaching the cap, or near the cap, at an accelerated rate. A grind to get usable gear AND a good roll on said gear. New gear that often feels underpowered when compared to some of the old “holy grail” items(I miss you Fatebringer). A new release strategy funded by cosmetic microtransactions instead of large content releases. A far more fluid meta, as gear is released incrementally, but one that feels unstable (though this is largely due to patches). An exotic upgrade system that has us feeling like we’re grinding all over to get the same old gear.

What Do They Do Now?

I don’t know what the best next step should be. Part of me would welcome the nuclear option and taking the entire system back to something more akin to the original. Use a single special material for all legendary upgrades. Go back to endgame weapons rewards having static perks. Don’t allow all gear to be leveled to the new maximum when caps are raised, but perhaps give each player (or perhaps each toon) a token that can be used to carry ONE legendary weapon forward. Allow exotics to be increased in level, so instead of adding new perks to existing exotic items Bungie can create more entirely new items. Increase max level on legacy raids to keep them challenging to old players with improved versions of raid gear to make them worth running.

Whatever the next change is, it’ll be a big deal to the player base with a ton of fallout that Bungie will need to clean up and unknowable repurcussions. There needs to be a change, though, if Bungie wants to retain their community and possibly entice back some of those who lost interest.

One thing’s for sure. Bungie, if you decide to release another material, please first think about how players will feel when it drops for them 6 weeks after it’s introduced and if they’ll still have a use for it.

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