Destiny and Loot: Bungie Is Treading Dangerous Ground by Making Fun of Players’ Frustration

on September 26, 2014 7:07 PM

Bungie has done a great job with many aspects of Destiny, but they botched endgame loot. Developers said many times that its game isn’t a MMO, but they definitely barged into the MMO realm with its loot system, radically based on grinding and tragically reliant on random number generation.

By doing that, they opened a big can of worms they probably weren’t ready to sort out.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Destiny. I can’t have enough of its beautiful skies and exhilarating strikes, but I’m also an avid MMO player (which is probably why I’m less sensitive to its grind than the average), and it’s easy for me to recognize that for what concerns high level loot Bungie blundered.

Due to the enormous amount of time and dedication necessary to grind the best loot in MMOs, gamers tend to consider it serious business. In games like Diablo and Borderlands you walk out of your adventures with wagonloads of shiny trinkets and a big smile on your face. You feel the progression and there’s a sensation of instant gratification.

In MMOs it takes a long time to see that bump in your stats, pretty much like with Destiny’s Light value. You often go to bed after a night of grinding without seeing any tangible progress, and unless you’re used to that kind of gameplay, you’ll often feel frustrated, like you accomplished nothing.

Heavy reliance on random number generators (IE: randomized loot that may or may not lead to what you’re looking for, and random rewards at the end of an activity) tends to exacerbate the problem, because if you’re unlucky there will be a lot of cases in which you will go to bed with no progress under your belt, tangible or intangible, simply because you rolled low on that d20.

A clear and extreme example is Atma farming in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, which is one of the worst flaws of what’s otherwise a great game. I know many that quit due to it. In order to evolve your Zenith weapon to the Atma level you have to farm twelve item drops from public events all over the game’s world. The drop rate is very low, and getting one is completely random. It can take minutes or days.

ffxiv 2014-09-27 01-08-58-51

Personally, I’ve never been very lucky with random number generators, so it took me 64 days of mind numbing grinding. I love the game, so I buckled up, loaded up on anime to watch while I was mindlessly killing endless mobs that posed no challenge whatsoever, and endured. Of course frustration reached epic levels as I saw others achieving their Atma weapons in just a few days, or even hours. Many decided not to endure, and either gave up or simply quit the game.

The biggest problem with random number generators is that they have absolutely nothing to do with ability. Sure, you have to be able to complete the task to even roll the dice, but after that it’s just a matter of luck and time. Only, the time requirement isn’t fairly distributed between players, and statistical aberrations in which players are required an unreasonable grinding time are just as common as the average.

Now, luckily Bungie is being fairly fast in trying to address the problem with Patch 1.0.2, scheduled for next week:

Cryptarch Changes 

  • Cayde-6 took the Cryptarch aside and showed him a sack of doorknobs. He decoded that mystery pretty quickly.
  • Legendary Engrams will always produce Legendary or better quality items, including Materials or Exotics
  • Rare Engrams will always produce Rare or better quality items
  • Rare engrams will have an increased chance to produce Legendary quality items

Activity Changes

  • Daily Heroics, Weekly Heroics, and Vanguard: Tiger Playlist activities will include Rare and Legendary Engrams in addition to their existing rewards

Item Changes

  • Ascendant materials have been promoted to Legendary to closer associate them with the gear they are used to upgrade
  • Legendary Engram items that exist in your inventory will be demoted to Rare quality when the patch goes live, so decode them while you can. But let’s be honest–even if you don’t, we all know they were blues already…

Increasing the chances is a step in the right direction, even if removing the reliance on randomization altogether would be a lot better. Yet, this will have to do.

That last line in the patch notes, though, is problematic:

Legendary Engram items that exist in your inventory will be demoted to Rare quality when the patch goes live, so decode them while you can. But let’s be honest–even if you don’t, we all know they were blues already

The good folks at Bungie are jolly people, and it’s definitely not the first time they try to divert players’ frustrations in jest, throwing funny jokes on what their customers see as a problem. That’s not a good idea, especially when loot is concerned.

Destiny_20140926130244

Destiny requires a long time and dedication to see that Light value bumped up a notch, exactly like MMOs, and MMO communities have demonstrated again and again that they don’t really appreciate the tens of hours they have to spend repeating the same task again and again turned into jokes. MMO developers often learn to their own expense that the time of their customers is precious and should be respected.

This is even worse because Destiny doesn’t cater mainly to MMO gamers, but to shooter fans, which most definitely aren’t used to MMO-like grinds and to the random number generator, which multiplies their frustration (and at times anger) tenfold.

This is why, my good folks at Bungie, I encourage you to keep the jokes out of the patch notes. I understand the intent to lighten the mood, but this kind of problem that already sparked frustration and negativity aplenty is lightened by solutions, while jokes only invite further negativity, which could overshadow the fact that solutions are indeed being attempted.

Destiny is a game which, like every MMO (because, surprise surprise, it is a MMO, whatever Bungie says about it), requires a lively community not only to thrive, but even to survive. Let’s not waste goodwill with irony that can easily be misjudged as mockery.

We really don’t need it.

cad-20140915-bcc17Comic by Tim Buckley at CTRL-ALT-DEL.

 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.