My Destiny Beta Impessions – Can We Please Stop Calling Destiny a MMO?

As the Destiny beta weekend came and went, many players were able to experience the vast and desolate lands of the title, whether for the first time or for second helpings. The Earth and Moon have been explored, exhilarating gun fights came to pass and there were many sexy dance parties to be had.

Most importantly, it seems that plenty of players came together and bonded as they slowly learned to love the world of Destiny.

However, I also noticed a trend that needs to be addressed, one that has served to misled players on the kind of experience Destiny was meant to offer. Bungie has always advertised Destiny as a first-person shooter (FPS) experience with action elements thrown in the mix and has been quite adamant about it not being a MMO experience. In fact, the devs have referred to it themselves as a “shared-world shooter.” However, because certain mechanics do overlap (which was an absolutely intentional design choice), many players seem to be judging the title as a MMO shooter.

Let’s clear this up: Destiny is not a MMO and to continue to compare it to such adds on expectations that this title could never hope to live up to. In order to clear up this misunderstanding, let us delve into Destiny‘s many gameplay features.

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In Destiny, you’re character is newly revived by one of the avatars of the Traveler, called a Ghost. After escaping from a Fallen stronghold you’re taken to the Tower, which is humanity’s last great city and fucntions as the game’s hub world. Using the concept of a hub world, as well as having the game completely online, was done as a way to create a sense of community and alliance between the player — in other words, to stimulate the feeling that does come from a MMO experience in order to attract players that would normally skip over a FPS title.

However, it’s imperative that we consider how close this title is to an actual MMO experience, or even to a open world first person shooter such as the Borderlands series. In those two examples, the player conducts missions that are pertinent to forwarding the plot, but they are also free to explore a vast and living world as they please. Conversely, Destiny‘s experience (much like plenty of other FPS) encourages players to stay on the rails — even Ghost will bark at you to keep moving at times. There are also plenty of invisible walls strewn about, making any independent exploration on your part limited at best.

Although Destiny does have a few choice worlds to explore (Earth, Moon, Venus, Mars and possibly Jupiter), each world will only have one explorable area as confirmed by┬áBungie community manager David “DeeJ” Dague (skip to about 1:49:30). In fact, his exact words during the livestream was “We’ve revealed everything you’re going to explore in the first version of the game.” For those that insist Destiny will have additional areas to explore within each world, this is a rude awakening.

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Referring to the hub world community, it’s the only place (other than the Crucible) that you actually get a sense of comradery. Even though it’s absolutely possible to co-op with others during missions, that rarely seems to actually happen. Just as in a FPS, you’re pretty much alone and forced to battle entire hordes without aid.

It goes without saying that in most MMOs, one of the best features is the fact that other players constantly interact and even help each other in and out of battle. Even in titles like Borderlands, the instant drop-in co-op style is closer to this sort of meaningful interaction. The most I’ve gotten was a few players scattered around, occasionally phasing in and out. Needless to say, that would never happen in a MMO.

And while there was a mission that forced players to work together, there seems to be a severe lack of cohesion further exacerbated by a lack of an open world chat (a standard feature in any MMO). You simply shoot things next to each other and then part ways — no interaction and no attachments to your fellow fighters.

These points may be delved into once Destiny releases, but being that the beta community was so vast (4.6 million players vast) and yet the game barely had anyone in the maps, I doubt this would be magically fixed by release day.

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Looking at enemy types, non-enemy entities on the field map and how that contributes to a living, breathing world in reference to Destiny can help paint a clearer picture of its true genre. In the beta, participants battled against the Fallen — which consisted of a few foe types — and nothing else. Other titles such as Borderlands and even Halo boosts many different enemy types; MMOs having by far the largest selection of foes to face.

There’s also the fact that there are no non-enemy units to speak off, which creates a rather un-MMO like world. Meanwhile, many MMOs feature non-aggressive monsters, NPCs wandering around, and a variety of wildlife littering the fields. While these particular points may sound nitpicky, it all contributes to a living and immersive landscape that interacts with the player. If Destiny is supposedly an MMO, then it must offer this kind of experience in its gameplay, which it doesn’t in the least.

The beta was scant of any other mechanics that resembled MMO content, such as dungeons and raids. For example, an area such as the Moon in the beta could hardly count as an instance dungeon since it played exactly like normal field missions. Instance dungeons provide MMO players with a very different experience from normal play but the Moon section literally plays just as any other mission in the game.

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Strikes, which is the game’s version of “raids,” don’t truly represent an actual raid. In a MMO, raids normally require careful planning and party makeups depending on class needs, something Destiny really has no well-developed interface for. The raid boss may be difficult and require many characters to take it down but if everyone is simply just shooting the enemy without any sort of cohesion, then it hardly fits the bill.

Furthermore, it has been recently announced that Destiny‘s version of raids will not allow for online matchmaking between strangers. In other words, only friends can team together for longer missions, which is a limit that MMOs would never place, since it’s not always possible to gather proper party diversity from friends alone or simply that friends may not be available when you need them.

Fire Teams don’t count as guilds either. Fire Teams are groups that allows players to use lobbies to coordinate before a Strike. Now allow me to ask: since when has an MMO ever used lobbies? Open world chat is always the preferred method of communication in that genre, and it’s literally available anywhere. Conversely, FPS titles use lobbies to allow teams to chat before online missions. In other words, Strikes are merely a type of multiplayer, nothing more.

Furthermore, there’s absolutely nothing else to do other than shoot enemies in side missions; no in-depth crafting, no side quests with unique objectives, no economy to speak of, etc. That sort of content would be readily available in any MMO but is sorely lacking in Destiny. Crafting could possibly get more depth in future expansions since the framework is there, but right now it’s a completely bare bones mechanic.

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Even the Crucible, which on the surface seems like a co-op PvP mode, is just a multiplayer team-based mode. It’s certainly not a bad thing in the least but it’s much closer to your standard team-based multiplayer found in nearly any FPS. However, it’s worth noting Bungie has definitely worked to make the Crucible more accessible and appealing to both MMO and FPS players, most likely contributing to the false attribution.

We must also consider that at present there are only 32 story missions and 23 Strike missions, which is far below the amount that most MMOs receive (usually between 50 to well over 100 story and side missions at launch). Not to mention the fact that the PS3 and PS4 versions will have unique missions and content inaccessible to other versions; this kind of “exclusive content” is unheard of in any MMO as developers want all players to have the same experience, regardless of platform.

I’m aware that the content I discussed might be delivered in later DLC packs, which would be excellent, but what worries me is the rumor that there will be no free patches. An MMO updates content on a massive scale with no charge by use of patches; even free-to-play titles do this. However, Bungie has already announced DLC that will include expansions to the game’s content. This means that most likely only stability issues and the like will receive updates, while any new content will probably be paid for.

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Bungie combined elements of several gaming genres mainly as a bid to attract a much wider audience. MMO players who would normally never play an FPS were able to identify with the hub world and online community, FPS players can bypass those features and dive straight into the familiar missions and Crucible, and novices to both genres can experience something brand new altogether.

Despite all this Destiny is still a FPS through and through, which is made apparent by the core of each feature and mode, as well as by Bungie’s own admissions. Players ignoring the evidence and the wishes of the very developers while prematurely applying labels do nothing but foster disappointment, disappointment already felt by many who came expecting an experience Bungie never promised in the first place.

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