Friday, April 3, 2015

What's Wrong with Destiny




I’m a giant Bungie fan. I own almost every Halo game and I’ve read most of the books. I’ve played over ten thousand Halo multiplayer matches online. Since Destiny’s announcement, I soaked up every bit of information I could find. I waited years for it with bated breath. Now Destiny has been out for over six months. And… meh.

I mean, it’s a good game, even a great game. I’m sure I’ve put over a hundred hours into it. The mechanics are tight and nuanced. There’s a lot to enjoy, but something’s holding it back. If you take the formula for a hit like Halo, then add persistent player progression, open-world exploration, upgradeable loot, and friggin’ raids, you’d think that would make for an even better game. And you’d be right, it totally would.

But that’s not what happened. You see, there are lots of things that could improve destiny – more loot, varied quests, raid matchmaking, better chat option, etc… – but the major problem is a fundamental flaw in the design philosophy that Bungie’s using. The problem is CONTROL.

My junior year of high school was my first year at a new school after moving into the mountains of Colorado. The kids there weren’t very friendly to new arrivals, so all of my best friends were over Xbox Live. I played with them nearly every day for a year. That whole time, we played primarily custom games. Instead of jumping into the standard matchmaking gametypes, we played our own: psychoslayer (only shotguns, no shields), Valerorama (*named after a friend* snipers only, no shields), classic zombies (where you actually had to switch teams after death). We did everything you could imagine in that game. We experimented and explored. Later, when Forge was introduced to the series, you could customize maps, or even create your own from scratch. Possibilities exploded. Every subsequent Halo game since Combat Evolved has added more options and customization into the mix.

In Destiny, custom games don’t exist. You either play PvP in one of the few Bungie-created playlists, or not at all. They’ve taken years of developed customization which fostered experimentation and community, and thrown it out the window. The feeling of micromanagement pervades the PvE, as well. Playing Destiny is like being dropped into a beautiful theme park with all the coolest new rides but you’re strapped into a straightjacket and led around on a leash. Bungie is paranoid you’ll break something if you’re allowed to really play with it. And to be fair, we absolutely will, but that’s the fun of it! The most exciting thing you’ll do Destiny is trying to glitch the raids. Thriving communities are born from freedom of choice, not restrictions. Minecraft wouldn’t have been such a success if you were limited to breaking 50 blocks a day.

I haven’t played Destiny in about a month now, and neither have most of my friends. We were all diehard at the start. Now the only real way to progress our high level characters is to play the second raid, which we can only get rewards from twice a week. The more you progress, the narrower your path gets.

A new expansion comes out in a few months, and there are even more after that. I’ll play them all. But if Destiny doesn’t change in a fundamental way, it’ll never reach its full potential. *Sad face*