Destiny year 1 – Was it a beta?

destiny year 1The marketing campaign for Destiny’s incoming expansion, The Taken King, is in full swing and players are weighing in about the updates and changes. Something I have continually heard is that the first year of Destiny was basically just a beta and that The Taken King with all the other content is the complete game we all should have received. Now I’ve continually said that the incessant and bothersome weapon balancing has made the game feel like a paid beta with the moving weapon goal posts. I cannot, however, align myself with the idea that the entire first year of the game was a beta and that the game is only just now becoming a complete $60 game.

The glass is half empty

I think the most interesting thing in all my videos, blog posts, and forum discussions about Destiny is how many people hate this game, have sworn it off, and yet spend an incredible amount of time combing over YouTube videos and Bungie forums to rail against how terrible the game is. My YouTube is full of videos where I have criticized the game, but I’ve always come from a place of hope for the franchise and I’ve consistently mentioned how much time I’ve put into the game. As a comparison, I absolutely hated how bad Advanced Warfare was, and as gamer who has played Call of Duty since the first title on PC it was incredibly frustrating to see one of my favorite franchises slowly devolve into madness. But I have not written a single post about Advanced Warfare and I’ve certainly never ventured onto the forums or YouTube to discuss how bad the game is. I just stopped playing it and walked away. So what’s happening with the portion of the community that seems unable to see the glass as anything but half empty?

My theory is that the initial disappointment with the game turned into ravenous hatred when the conspiracies and info leaks came out about content removed from the game. We will never know for sure what happened or how much was removed, so to a point I’ve given up caring about something we can’t change or ever fully understand. It is because of this that many have become unable to talk about the game without using conversation-ending hyperbole and overstatements. You’ll be told that Bungie is just money hungry and ripped entire portions of the game out to resell as DLC. You will hear that Bungie has committed fraud and that they are evil and just want to troll the players. In general, the problem with radical positions is that they can grasp onto true things and leverage them to prove their position. So was content removed? Probably. Do we know how much? No. But that small nugget of truth gets turned into hotly worded accusations about Bungie and how corrupt they are. But the real issue I want to address is how all the incoming changes are being spun into negatives. I believe many are taking the fact that Bungie is making lots of changes and leveraging that fact to prove a false conclusion that Destiny year 1 was just a beta.


While I can resonate and even agree with the frustration over content and promised features that were removed, I simply cannot agree with the argument that because Bungie has been and is making significant changes and improvements that the game has just been a beta. Maybe I was just significantly different in my outlook, but before I shot a single bullet in Destiny I anticipated my ten years spent in the game would be one where they made lots of changes and improvements. And honestly, I’m somewhat baffled at the thought process that changes and improvements are retroactively harmful to the first year we have spent in the game. The nature of a game like Destiny should be, in my opinion, organic and symbiotic, where the community continues to provide feedback and they see said feedback influencing the quality and trajectory of the game. To a point, Bungie doesn’t get a ton of credit for this because the game simply wouldn’t survive if they just dug their heels in and refused to make many of the requested changes from the community. Now I know what most people reading this will think if they disagree with me. “It should have been in there to begin with!”

Hindsight is 20/20

To a point I want to agree that certain updates and changes seem pretty basic and should have been in the game in the beginning. But most of those features aren’t earth shattering changes. The ability to turn in missions and bounties without returning the tower is one that comes to mind. The doubling of the vault size is another. These are things that just seem pretty obvious, and yes, it was frustrating to deal with this in the first year, but that doesn’t make the game a beta. What Bungie is doing with Faction allegiances, Exotics, infusing weapons, leveling up, legendary marks, weapon and armor materials, and creating what they called “more deterministic ways to get stuff” are massive shifts in the world of Destiny that are the direct result of a year of feedback from the community. To me, none of this would have been achieved by a beta because the scope of the year 1 version of the game and the time investment needed to arrive at these conclusions simply could not have been contained inside an internal or closed beta. You have to consider the massive amount of information and feedback that comes from millions of players engaging with your content. Some of it is almost impossible to predict, as many year 1 players ignored simple routes to legendary gear through vanguard rank and bounties and chose instead to shoot at a loot cave (I was guilty of this). Again, I think this argument is largely the result of a deep-seated negativity and disdain for the game that shades everything with a cynical and overly critical brush.

My closing question to those who think this has just been a beta is this… What would you have preferred? Wait 1-2 years for Bungie to test the game internally with closed betas and then finally launch what you think is the complete game? Or would you rather them make no changes at all and ignore the community like many other game companies? Or would you rather have been part of the organic process of shaping and improving a game that could, if The Taken King does well, last for many years to come?

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