Meritocracies Regarding The Melting Of Faces

As we approach the launch of Destiny‘s first expansion and the allure of a new raid draws us in, it might be prudent to examine the reward systems in place.

There has been a lot of hullabaloo about how actual performance in strikes, raids and the crucible has no effect on the kinds of rewards players are given. The simplistic argument of “it’s RNGs, stupid!” hold little water, as almost every game of a certain complexity uses RNGs. The issue isn’t the existence of RNGs in the equation, but how the equations are weighted. A random number generator is rarely purely random in an RPG, and such RNG-weighting is incredibly important when you’re trying to reward players for hard-won victories.

The only thing is hard to understand is why Bungie has failed so spectacularly in this regard. Surely the creators of Halo could understand how killstreaks and other medal-worthy accomplishments in the crucible should be rewarded more heavily than someone who simply participated. Surely the big brains in Bellvue could understand how galling it is to have the player who hides in the hall while the other two guardians kill Phogoth rewarded with a legendary weapon while the others get a shader if they’re lucky. Bungie has shined a bright light on all the stats and numbers they’ve been collecting, yet none of that brilliance is brought to bare for the benefit of those who applied boot to butt.

This is very much fixable, but at this point it’ll take a lot of determination on Bungie’s part. There is some indication that they’ll attempting new weighted RNG algorithms with Crota’s End, but time will tell.

Without being alarmist, this oversight could very well spell an early end to any interest in Destiny as it pushes forward with its 10-year plan. If players are not rewarded well and fairly, they’ll simply move on to a game that will.

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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.