Destination: PAX East 2015

PAX East is a wonderful event put on by the guys at Penny Arcade. I hesitate to call it a convention or an exhibition because, at least in my experiences, such things are more about spending one’s money and getting sold things rather than having fun. PAX to me is best considered a celebration. People from all over converge on Boston to celebrate being gaming nerds. Sure, there is plenty to buy and lots of people there to do business, but it never feels that way. It’s awesome. I’ve gone twice before, and I’m going next year. Tickets went on sale earlier today and the 3-day passes sold out in minutes, but we (my best friend, myself and our girlfriends) managed to snag some for ourselves.

While Bungie has not said they will be at PAX East next year, I think they will be. While I don’t have the media credentials I used to, I will do my best to cover Destiny at PAX East 2015 for you. If we’re all lucky, perhaps they’ll be giving away item codes as devs tend to do and I’ll share them with my readers! Everyone loves free stuff, right?

Tell me about your convention experiences and if there are any other games you’d like me to check out for you at PAX East 2015!

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Fiction Update #1

In my first post, I mentioned that I’ll be using this blog to publish a work of fiction set in the Destiny universe that I am/will be writing. I just wanted to give a quick update on how that is shaping up and what you can expect. I’ll be dropping these updates every so often.

Firstly, I just finished getting all the dead ghosts in-game, so I’m now as up on the lore as one could possibly be. I spent some time last night reviewing cards and trying to draw lines between them as best I could. I’d absolutely hate to get a detail wrong if it can be at all avoided.

The story will centre around a fireteam of three unique guardians: A male Exo warlock, a female Human titan and a male Awoken hunter. I’ve almost got these characters fleshed out to the point where I can start playing with them in public and not just in my own head. There will be other characters as well, some new and some recognizable from the game.

I’m refocusing my efforts on mapping out a larger story arc. At present each story will inhabit its own volume consisting of several chapters or one-shot stories, but crafting the larger journey is challenging. There’s also the question of a major nemesis to coincide, which is giving me quite a bit of pause.

I’m not quite ready to promise when the first chapter will be out, nor can I promise a steady stream of content once I’ve started. I’m writing this for myself first and foremost and while I’m eager to have you along for the ride, I need to be happy with it above all else. There’s also the fact that this is being done on my spare time, of which there is precious little. At present I’m managing almost one post a day, but who knows if that will continue.

I look forward to letting you into this thing I’m creating. Destiny: Frontier will debut soon!

Destiny Is Not Done Yet!

One of Bungie’s biggest hurdles since its inception has been communicating what Destiny is. There are several facets to this issue.

First and perhaps most obviously, Bungie doesn’t want to vomit all sorts of far-flung promises and half-considered details all over the internet. Inevitably people will be disappointed with the final product, how long that product takes to get to them, or both. Gamers are a notoriously fickle culture (to put it as kindly as possible) so its usually best to just not tell us things. This was far less of an issue with the Destiny pre-alpha because once a fragment of the experience was out in the wild, the gestalt opinion of the people communicated concepts better than Bungie ever could on their own.

The second problem is now as people play Destiny, all the promises that Bungie made about the content don’t seem to be quite realized. This however is still an issue because…

DESTINY IS NOT COMPLETE YET.

Destiny is an MMO. Let’s call a spade a spade here, regardless of how much Bungie attempted to distance themselves from it. Everything one would consider as a trope of the MMO experience is present in Destiny. As a longtime player of MMOs, knowing how MMOs work has given me a leg up on understanding Destiny‘s mechanics. More importantly, as MMOs are constantly being iterated on, so is Destiny. That is a key difference between this game and almost all others you’ll find on consoles. No MMO is truly complete until the day the developer decides not to work on it anymore, and such is very true with Destiny.

What we have currently is what I’ve taken to calling a “skeleton” of a game. We’re playing the bones of it, banging away on it in a million different ways while Bungie learns in the background. They learn how to balance and fix and tweak. Months before Destiny’s release, Activision mapped out how the Destiny IP would be built for the market. Over the next 10 years, we’d be getting 3 Destiny games, each with 2 major pieces of DLC (called “comets”). For the first Destiny game (which we are playing now) we already know of our DLC future. The Dark Below expansion will be released in December and House of Wolves is set to be released sometime next year. One can also easily assume that even though a Destiny 2 and 3 will be released, they’ll be tantamount to mega-expansions, continuing to build and iterate on the core product.

Yesterday (Nov.7th, 2014… Happy N7 Day!) Bungie released their weekly update over social media. Bungie gave us a glimpse of how they’re digesting all the data and feedback we’re sending them and turning it into a gameplan. Destiny is still being built, and the voice of the playerbase is a major driving force, it seems. Our cacophony became a chorus around serveral issues, and lo and behold Bungie lays out many of them as im-progress.

Here are some things we’ve mentioned:
  • Channels for talking to matchmade teammates, if you so wish
  • Exotic weapons that are stronger and more interesting to upgrade
  • New gear to let you slip into something a little more Legendary
  • That which waits in The Dark Below
Here are some things we’ve kept secret, until now:
  • New shaders for your gear
  • Ways to preview items before you spend your Glimmer
  • Greater chances of “showers” in public spaces
  • Adjustments to some arenas that needed better traffic flow
  • New economies to equip you with upgrade materials
  • Fixes, patches, and other invisible technical evolutions
  • Some other tricks up our sleeve
  • Maybe even a more generous Cryptarch
    • (he’ll still be sort of a bastard)

While Bungie is quick to temper expectations about whats and whens, it’s clear they’re acting with all due haste and skill on building this game up. We can also assume that a number of ideas have already been slated for Destiny 2 and perhaps even 3 due to various reasons.

Where do we go from here? Play the game, try to break it if you can, and be active with constructive comments on the feeback forums.

What would you like to see added or fixed in Destiny? I’ll certainly be writing about what I want, but I’d love to know what you crave when battling in the frontier.

An App Applicable To Appetites

While the core game gets almost all the attention from the Destiny fanbase, very little is said about the phone app. This is a fairly interesting change from the time when Bungie released their first Destiny video documentary detailing their work on the game, in which they showed a companion app of some sort for a few seconds and people became pretty excited about it. Around that time, app interfaces for other games garnered a lot of attention themselves, as well as apps for then-next-now-current-gen systems. As time passed and many if not all of these apps failed to meet expectations (surprise, surprise), eyes turned away from the Destiny app.

Currently, the Destiny companion app is a fairly solid piece of programming and performs the role Bungie designed it to. It acts as a rudimentary interface to Bungie.net, allows players to view their details and is arguably the best way (of few) to view your grimoire cards. I’ll post about the issues with how the cards are presented in my next post. The deepest the app goes into useful territory is giving the user the ability to swap out inventory items. In a way, that single ability opened up a Pandora’s Box in Bungie’s unsuspecting face. Guardians now ask if inventory manipulation is doable, why not other things? Why not:

  • Moving items between different inventories and the vault
  • Upgrading weapons and armor
  • Buying items from Tower vendors
  • Accepting and submitting bounties
  • Being useful during gameplay
  • Easier connections to other players
  • More…

First and foremost would be security issues. Bungie has to be sure the app’s security is uncrackable. They also may be uncomfortable with the thought of someone accessing an account through a stolen mobile device.

The app’s current design and interface at present probably is the biggest hurdle Bungie has to tackle. At present it’s properly organized for its functions but would not scale well to meet many new tasks. A complete redesign would be required. There is a bit of a silver lining here though. There is as of yet no tablet version of the app. A tablet’s larger screen and more robust processing power, on top of the slightly smaller chance of a tablet being stolen (a significant percentage of tablet users rarely take them out of the home) would be ideal for expanded capabilities. Some might be a little cheesed that the phone app would be left a bit in the dust, but it could be shored up in the meanwhile to take on at least some more functions that at present it could easily handle.

Given that the game is requiring so much attention right now, it would be a little unrealistic to expect any big moves on this side of things. Still, I think it’s important to further separate Destiny from the pack and giving the entire project some serious longevity.

What would you like to see the companion app do?