Much blood has been spilled over Destiny’s empty campaign, removed content sold as DLC, and numerous promised features that are absent from the game. I think, however, there is a deeper and more foundational problem that will continue to frustrate both the efforts of Bungie as well as the community. The game, at its core, has a split identity. Now, to be fair, many games have two identities and do quite well. Both Call of Duty and Battlefield have a campaign identity and a multiplayer identity. The problem for Destiny is that the two identities are incredibly distinct and yet are largely pitted against each other. The reason for this is because Bungie has attempted to meld the two, with significant overlap between them, allowing players to take weapons and gear found and upgraded in the PVE portion of the game into the player versus player arena. This is why, I believe, both the game and the community are on a path to an inevitable and potentially irreversible dissipation.
You’re wrong, and so am I
If you spend anytime on forums, blogs, or video channels, you will quickly find that nobody agrees about Destiny. I’ve received pretty regular criticism and feedback that is basically, “You don’t like PVP because you suck, get good scrub.” While I would thoroughly enjoy proving these simpletons wrong in any of the litany of PVP shooters where I tend to do very well, I’d rather let their silly response stand as evidence of the larger problem here. The fans of the PVP portion of the game are commonly these trollish brutes who think they are gods because they can master a few small maps and simplistic weapons. And many of these gamers play PVE, by their own admission, only out of necessity to level up and farm for weapons. Now, if you’re a fan of PVP, don’t feel bad, because many do the same thing on the other side of the coin. I’ve seen numerous players bragging about how many maxed out exotics they have (good for you? you can grind bounties?) and that they similarly, only play PVP for bounties and experience. So the identity crisis of Destiny has created two factions within the game, both loathing the other. And here’s the rub: The game will struggle to survive by making efforts to appeal to these two very different groups of people that grow in hatred for each other with every update and content drop. Both sides of the community will continually dwindle as they both perceive their interests being ignored or minimally met.
Destiny has attempted to appeal to everyone, and in doing so has diluted both sides of their game. Is anyone actually going to argue the PVP element of Destiny is groundbreaking or has enough breadth to survive a few major releases from games like Battlefield, Battleborn, or Overwatch? It’s a simple, boring, wash-rinse-repeat PVP experience with small maps and tired game modes. And it’s no secret that the PVE portion of the game is repetitive, empty, and incredibly bland. Just the remastered port of Borderlands stands to drain a significant portion of the PVE community, as well as stout titles like Elder Scrolls Online on the horizon. So is there any hope of recovery?
Robbing Peter to pay Paul
The path forward for Destiny is going to keep feeling like a sea-saw of attention and improvements. Whenever they release a new PVP challenge or an Iron Banner the fans of PVE gripe about the lack of new content for them. And since the nature of PVP games create a repetitious and quickly discarded environment, those gamers will never be satisfied no matter how much new content and events they get. The other significant issue that I’ve already made some video posts about is the continuous weapon tweaking that invalidates player decisions in an effort to balance PVP. Bungie is de-incentivizing fans of PVE from investing in weapons because they could, at any moment, be nerfed because enough PVP players have “over-used” or whined about them. Again, the underlying issue here is the split identity of the game that overlaps just enough to cause conflict. And the real problem with the weapons in Destiny is that a dynamic and vibrant weapon system like the one in Borderlands works because the enemies are so varied that you can’t just pick one strong weapon and roll with it. But in PVP the enemies are always the same, meaning the weapons get broken down into an almost mathematical equation where you’re just trying to find the one super effective weapon. So the inevitable flattening of the weapons will dilute PVE and continue to make players feel like their decisions matter very little.
Since they already let the cat out of the bag, and I called them on the fact that the community barely plays PVP, I think it’s time to leave it be and focus on the future of what the title was original sold on: a massive customizable RPG experience. Gamers play games like Skyrim and Borderlands for long periods of time, scooping up extra DLC and new content in droves. It’s time to admit that PVP is splitting the game in half as well as the community. There are far too many PVP shooters and MOBAs coming to consoles to expect the sub-par and simplistic PVP portion of Destiny to standout in any sense. But if the PVE portion became incredibly content heavy, more customizable, and created an element of re-playability, that would help make Destiny stand out and draw many disenfranchised guardians back in.
How to do it?
The easiest and quickest way to create almost immediate depth in this game is to add extra playthroughs. Nobody goes back through the story because there is basically no reason to, and the bounties and strikes are ran through with utilitarian ease as many play purely to check off a box. Periodically I stumble into areas that are barely recognizable because I haven’t touched them since the campaign. Imagine if there was a second and third playthrough that offered the ability to customize your ships, shaders, armor, and guns. Each completed story mission could drop custom ship pieces or shader color packs that could be used once the playthrough is completed. You could be awarded access to new emblems as a “Seasoned Guardian”, standing out as different both with your custom built ship from random parts and custom colors for your armor. The third playthrough could place on your the title “Veteran Guardian” with a similar feature to Diablo 3’s transmogrify as you can now make any piece of armor look the way you want, as well as all of your guns. In one paragraph I just created hours of replayability and customization with minimal development and new content needed. And this is just the first step.
Next, trading and gambling. Yes, I know, it will “break and ruin the game”, but hear me out. Rather than just being able to hand your buddy a gjallarhorn because he still hasn’t gotten one, each exotic item item could be assigned a shard amount that someone must have in order to trade for an exotic item. So let’s say the gjallarhorn is worth 25 exotic shards. This means someone would have to be regularly playing the game and gathering enough exotics to have a stockpile of a now very valuable currency. And the same would work for gambling. You could only gamble for big ticket items by risking big amounts of exotic shards. This would increase the need of farming for exotics even if you already have them, raising the value of all exotic items across the board. Again, in one paragraph, I’ve created depth, incentivization, and value without any extra content or lots of development. It would also have little impact on the current RNG system because exotics would still be rare and drop randomly, while now having more value within the game’s economy. This sort of trading would also make duping impossible because the transaction could save after the trade is confirmed and then again after it is completed. So even the quickest dashboard or shutdown wouldn’t matter. It would also be incredibly risky as both persons trading are risking items that are now very valuable.
Death by Devaluation
Those are just two ways they could add significant depth and value to their game with almost no new content or lengthy development. This is the only way the game can hope to survive as the split identity won’t just fix itself with time, in fact the opposite will probably happen. The focus of new content will always be split, making the offerings seem suspect to people on both sides of the game. It will be hard to not to ask, “Couldn’t we have gotten more missions and content had they not wasted time on new PVP stuff?” And the fans of PVP can ask a similar question. The identity crisis of Destiny sets the future content of the game on a path of perpetually decreased value as the community can always claim their side didn’t get enough. So this problem doesn’t just divide the focus of developers, but creates a community of cynics who continually feel their portion of the game doesn’t get enough attention. To be honest, I actually care far less than I ever have about the future of Destiny. After the two recent gaming conferences and the laundry list of announced games, the future is bright for gamers. The question is, will Destiny shrink to the shadows by consuming itself or stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest?
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