Illustration for article titled Destiny 2 Developer Blog Post Review: A Diagram Of A U-Turn

So I’ve decided to start putting out some quicker, more regular much easier to produce videos and articles focusing on news that comes out of the games I’m interested in. I’m almost finished with my Dead Cells analysis video but in the meantime we have to talk about Destiny 2 again.

Destiny 2 finally put up their anticipated blog post explaining where they intend to take the game in the coming months. I debated how best to structure this before deciding on just riffing on the stuff I thought particularly noteworthy.

First off the blog post was, indeed, more communicative than Bungie has been before. And considering most of the blog post is made up of vague promises with vague timelines about vague fixes, that really shows just how terrible the developer has been at managing their game. One blog post doesn’t make up for the 3 and ½ years of failure and crisis that Destiny 1 and now 2 have gone through but it’s better than nothing and if playing 1500+ hours of Destiny 1 and 2 has tought me anything is to lower my expectations.

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Thanks Bungie. I was a little unclear about the differences between DLC and Updates and I’d never heard of microtransactions before. Thanks for clearing that up.
Thanks Bungie. I was a little unclear about the differences between DLC and Updates and I’d never heard of microtransactions before. Thanks for clearing that up.

First off the team at Bungie provided this helpful graphic that explains, visually, the difference between DLC, Updates and microtransactions. I don’t think anybody actually needed this explained and in fact I don’t think locking people out of endgame activities was even the main problem. The problem was locking people out of end game activities THREE MONTHS after launch and in the case of PC players only forty something days.

Destiny 2 is a much smaller game than year 3 Destiny 1, which is why I thought a sequel was a terrible idea in the first place by the way. This is a value proposition. There was an outcry not because people aren’t used to DLC locking people out of activities but rather because doing that only 3 months after launch ,in a game that’s struggling mightily with not having enough content brought just how little there is to do in the game into painfully stark relief. On top of that it’s impossible to develop content in 3 months. It’s completely obvious the Curse Of Osiris was finished by the time D2 launched and held back to sell later. This is made even worse because the DLC itself was absolutely not worth $20.

The “campaign” was short, boring and repetitive and a large chunk of it is spent running through procedurally generated platforms fighting the same enemies you’ve been fighting for 3 years. If Bungie wants to address the lack of confidence fans have and the anger they feel after DLC releases they need to greatly increase the value they are providing. The Curse Of Osiris felt like a free update in scope and size. Instead it cost $20 and locked players out of some of the only interesting content left for them to do.

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I guess DLC won’t lock people out of stuff anymore. Truth is the entire reason for those lockouts was the Destiny DLC’s (not the actual expansions) provide almost no value. Bungie had to extort people to buy them because what they’re selling isn’t a good value.
I guess DLC won’t lock people out of stuff anymore. Truth is the entire reason for those lockouts was the Destiny DLC’s (not the actual expansions) provide almost no value. Bungie had to extort people to buy them because what they’re selling isn’t a good value.

Going forward Iron Banner, Trial of The Nine and end game playlists will not lock out people who don’t buy the DLC. I’m thinking this means that no DLC strikes can be the nightfall or in the heroic playlist but we’ll see. Extorting your players to purchase DLC or have their already purchased game shrink was always shitty and unnecessary. Bunige would be better off just making DLC content that people want to buy rather than trying to force people to buy it or have their original purchase lose value. And speaking of value next up is the section on microtransactions.

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Games are meticulously designed. Especially a huge, polished, massively expensive game like Destiny 2. Because games like D2 are carefully crafted by hundreds of people with oversight from executives with decades of experience in the business we can rest assured that nothing in these games was done by accident. Are there going to be problems that slipped through development? Of course. Every game, no matter how polished, will have it’s share of bugs and balance issues. That’s to be expected. But something as important to the financial health of Bungie as the Eververse microtransaction store has been meticulously and thoughtfully designed.

But Bungie has a habit of responding to harsh criticism of their design by saying things like “We hear you and this was never our intention.” This bothers me.

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Never their intention. That’s a load of shit.
Never their intention. That’s a load of shit.

“We recognize that the scales are tipped too far towards Tess at the moment, and Eververse was never intended to be a substitute for end game content and rewards. So, we’ll be making three changes for upcoming Seasons: We recognize that the scales are tipped too far towards Tess at the moment, and Eververse was never intended to be a substitute for end game content and rewards.”

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The Eververse was clearly and obviously designed to be just that. It’s not an accident that more than half of the loot added to the Curse of Osiris was not available in the game but only through the microtransaction store. That’s a design decision. And this design decision hasn’t only had a negative effect on loot drops and the reward system. In order to have enough content to sell Bungie had to radically alter aspects of D2's design for the worse. Shaders were made consumable for only one reason. To have more things to sell in the store. Armor was made almost entirely cosmetic further diluting what little build diversity existed only to avoid having to deal with a pay to win scandal.


This is exactly what Bungie intended. Know how I can say that with total confidence? Because this is the game BUNIGIE CREATED. Trust is a funny thing. You have it until you lose it and the only way to get it back isn’t just transparency it’s honesty. What I really wanted to see in this section was something like this:

“Bungie is a publicly traded company and while we love our players and are committed to providing a fun, engaging ongoing experience we also have a duty to our investors and partners and ourselves to be as successful a company as we can be. With the industry moving towards an ongoing monetization model we owed it to ourselves and our publisher and investors to investigate how best to balance the needs of our players with the needs of our business. We did a really bad job at that and we apologize. Many of the issues you’ve had with Destiny 2 are indeed the result of us doing a bad job integrating our MTX model and many of the changes we made in the name of revenue are baked into the game at core levels and will take time to fix. But understand we realize we’ve gone too far to fast and plan on fixing it. We’re sorry and going forward we’ll do a better job selling you stuff you want that doesn’t break the game in other places.”

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That’s not what that says up there. What Bungie said is, “We realize you don’t like the way microtransactions are handled in the game. We don’t know how that happened! Somebody must have broke in at night and messed with our code. But don’t worry we’re going to find that person and get them fired from wherever they work. In the meantime we’re going to start making it less obviously odious. Thanks for the heads up. We might never have realized this happened lol!”

Pictured: Bungie’s PR team.
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Anyway. The solutions on offer are...fine I guess? Not nearly enough and with only vague statements. Adding ghosts, sparrows and ships to regular loot pools is so obvious they don’t get credit for that. This isn’t a free to play game. This is a $60 game that wants to sell me $40 of DLC a year. Miro-transactions are EXTRA money for Destiny and having a huge percentage of loot in your loot game not drop as loot but rather from buying shitty lootboxes is insulting and game breaking and adding things back is a must.

They’ve got a real problem with loot not dropping in the game anymore. Engrams have always been a thing but in Destiny 1 actual gear often dropped from enemies and activities. In Destiny 2 almost everything comes from vendors or tokens or engrams or loot boxes. It’s extremely unfun and needs to be changed. That’s not on offer apparently.

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Still investingating. This is the stuff that bothers me. It’s mealy mouthed weasely bullshit. Investigating? YOU impemented the system specifically to slow down engram earn rates to push sales. Admit it, fix it, move on.
Still investingating. This is the stuff that bothers me. It’s mealy mouthed weasely bullshit. Investigating? YOU impemented the system specifically to slow down engram earn rates to push sales. Admit it, fix it, move on.

It blows my fucking mind that 4 years into a fucking game they are still investigating XP gains. This is unacceptable.

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This guy has it right.
This guy has it right.

Finally this doesn’t address one of the major core problems with Destiny 2. As I’ve said before the inclusion of armor in the microtransaction store all but assured that armor would be changed to be almost entirely cosmetic as the original Taken King Eververse armor set had to deal with a pay to win controversy (it really wasn’t pay to win but it was still shitty). Sensitive to those issues Bungie decided to just make armor purely cosmetic this time further watering down the game.

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I can think of dozens of better ways to monetize armor that don’t include making the game actively less fun to play. One that players have asked for forever. Transmogrification. Have the Eververse store sell SKINS that change the appearance of your armor to any other armor set in the game as long as you’ve acquired one piece somewhere in the game itself. This allows everything to drop in the game, gives players a reason to actually go hunting for specific armor pieces or armor “blueprints” in the world, doesn’t require you to nerf armor into uselessness and provides the Eververse store with something of actual value that players would want to buy.

You can then sell the transmog skins directly for silver and have loot boxes that contain a random blueprint for people who actually enjoy the loot box thing (I’m sure those people exist somewhere.)

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And now to the important stuff. Let me just say the Masterwork weapons and armor aren’t even close to enough. Basically these pieces are like grinding to get armor and weapons that still aren’t as good as average legendaries from Destiny 1. I’ll save my thoughts on this for the section where they actually belong which is the section on that absolutely terrible, useless, pointless and bungled mod system in Destiny.

Masterwork Armor and weapons=Crappier versions of Destiny 1 regular weapons and armor.
Masterwork Armor and weapons=Crappier versions of Destiny 1 regular weapons and armor.
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Now we get into the section where Bungie promises to spend the next year slowly turning Destiny 2 into the most faithful reskin of Destiny 1 that they can make it before the sequel hits.

So.....basically everything then?
So.....basically everything then?
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They will spend time making sure the items that drop from the raid actually drop FROM THE RAID again. This change was so fucking stupid I’m just at a total loss for how even one person thought this was a better system. Nobody wants to do a mechanically complex raid, finally succeed and then have to wait until the raid is over, go through two loading screens and run across the whole fucking tower to turn in tokens.

They will make raid gear actually be decent again and have mods that do things in the fucking raid. Like....Destiny 1.

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Strike scoring like Destiny 1 except with way less strikes that are mostly much less interesting and well designed than Destiny 1 strikes. I promise you they are. Play the D2 strike playlist for an hour. Then boot up Destiny 1 and play that strike playlist. They are so much better it’s depressing.

They will go back to the Destiny 1 Nightfall instead of the terrible timed Nightfall.

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I remember a game that had this. What was it.....OH YEAH! Destiny!
I remember a game that had this. What was it.....OH YEAH! Destiny!

It will apparently take until SPRING of this year to add back interesting modifiers to the Heroic strike playlist.

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We’ll get 6v6 crucible, more than one fucking Crucible playlist, private matches.... it goes on and on. This blogpost is a defacto admission that a huge percentage of the Destiny 2 development was spent on things that were worse in evey way than the game they already had. It’s going to take almost a full year for Bungie to make Destiny 2 into a Destiny game. This entire list is basically a roadmap back to Destiny 1 which is amazing and sad and not nearly fast enough if they intend to keep trying to sell me DLC.

They say they’ll be looking at ways to make exotic armor not suck so badly. They say it’ll take several months to not have duplicate exotics constantly drop (btw the solution for that? The loot pool is way way way too fucking small for a game that is built around loot.)

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Under FALL OF 2018!!!

It....goes on to list every aspect of the game with the word improvements next to them. Including Weapon Slot and Archetype improvements which I can only take to mean trying to get back to the Destiny 1 weapon system. But you’ll have to purchase the $40 Taken King style expansion for that. So in about one year and $100 dollars from now you’ll have a game almost as good but much smaller than the game it replaced.

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In my opion the most important thing in this blog post is this.

Mods. The only thing that can save this game.
Mods. The only thing that can save this game.
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They say they are reworking mods. This will either make or break the game. Bungie is lucky they have this mod system in the game because it’s the easiest way to finally get some interesting gameplay back into D2. If they stay true to form the rework will be a %6 increase in mod effectiveness. But if they want to actually give people a reason to play? They’ll start making powerful and interesting mods. Things like %25 increased damage against Hive Knights and significatly increased movement speed or jump height.

They need to put 4 mod slots on each piece of gear and give players hundreds of mods to choose from. Everything from burn, to increased range, to increased reload speed, Super and grenade cooldown improvements, get creative. Don’t approach this as something that needs to be tweaked to alter the way it rewards players and interacts with D2's gameplay. Approach this as finally ADDING something truly significant to the way the game is PLAYED. They can actually use the mod system to save this game. But only if they actually make it fun and give players the ability to have diverse and intersting builds. Bungies flirtation with the casual fan has failed. You can’t get casual players to stick with a game for 1000 hours. Games should be accessible to all of course, but even an MMO Lite needs to focus on it’s core audience and not the audience who was only going to pop in to see what all the fuss was about.

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If they are so terrified of ruining the balance in their second rate PvP game then they can deactivate all mods in certain PvP modes. Mods are the only thing that have a chance to bring me back to this game. I have very little faith that will happen because frankly nowhere in this document does Mr. Barrett acknowledge the main problem with Destiny 2 is it’s LESS FUN than Destiny 1. All the other stuff wouldn’t be nearly as big a problem if the game was fun. They need to use the mod system to take the gameplay further than Destiny 1. They need to inject depth, strategy and build diversity into the gameplay. If they do that I might be making a video about Destiny 2's amazing comeback. If they announce in February that they are making existing mods slightly more powerful then I think I’ve probably played Destiny 2 for the last time already.

So am I satisfied with this? Not really. It’s just a list of things that players have been complain about, some of them (like ranked play and multi emotes) for years. It gives a timeline of solutions but only very vague explanations of those solutions. This is being “reworked” that is being “rebalanced” the other thing is being “explored”. None of that really gives me any confidence. They’ve been using language like that forever. And coming from a team who just recently wrapped up developing this total mess of a game they haven’t earned any confidence at all.

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For instance there was nothing in there about fixing the terrible progression tree for dummies they’ve built.

Bungie grand plan to save us all.
Bungie grand plan to save us all.
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I still have hope that someone at Bungie will realize what can be done. But the main problems of the game are that there isn’t enough to do, the gameplay and build diversity are too shallow and bland, the gear and strikes are too few and not fun enough. And none of those things can be fixed by anything in this document unless I’m wrong and Bungie actually does what I would want them to do with the mod system.

That being said in one way this really is an amazing document. It’s at least finally a tepid admission that everything that was changed in D2 was a mistake. It’s not so much a roadmap for the future as it is a diagram of a U-Turn. But it shouldn’t take one full year to pull off even the trickiest 3 point turn. And I shouldn’t have to pay them $60 more for them to back their van off of my mailbox.

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Pliny The Welder works in a field completely unrelated to games. His field deals with the real life problems of people at the very edges of society. While this work is immensely satisfying, criminally underpaid and emotionally draining he finds much of his mental capactiy being used analyzing games. He has a twitter account but no followers and, indeed, isn’t even clear on how one goes about getting followers outside of starting a religious cult and he shuttered his own religious cult after the ATF really brought the heat down on him.


Below are some links. He’d be thrilled if you watch his videos, read his articles or simply yell at him on the street. His Xbox gamertag is PlinyDaWelder his steam ID (btw he literally has ZERO steam friends...just throwing that out there) is Pliny The Welder. He doesn’t remember his PS name but that’s his single player game box anyway and it’s all the way in the bedroom and shit and who has time for a walk like that?

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