Destiny is my favourite game … but …
To give you an idea, I have spent over $1000 on destiny, simply through purchasing copies of the game, purchasing silver, and other store merchandise (clothing, etc). So to me, Destiny is a game I have invested myself in heavily, both financially and emotionally.
However, I have stopped playing it. It’s no longer fun, it’s no longer engaging, and I’m not the only one.
I won’t focus on what’s wrong with the game, I will instead write this out as if I was the newly appointed Senior Producer at Bungie and the Lead of Destiny.
My first call would be to scrap old generation consoles. They’re a small market, and not worth the money to keep around at the expense of player experience on new generation hardware. It’s time, it really is time.
This seriously needs improvement. There’s nothing “worthwhile” to do in Destiny in the end game now that Y1 content is obsolete. The Live Team does a great job of invigorating content (Crimson/SRL) however that’s severely restricted in its scope and appeal (time limited, etc). It’s as though Year 1 never happened. We have Kings Fall and Crucible (which isn’t fun in it’s own right for various well known reasons).
Let’s get to the core of the problem. Destiny is comprised of two elements, initial levelling up, and then end game progression (loot collection). At the moment, the end game progression is where it’s broken, and it’s broken because there’s no engagement, there’s no need to play the end game any more like there was in Year 1.
How would I fix it?
- Reinvigorate Year 1, reintroduce the year 1 raids, and year 1 loot. Bring up the levels of Crotas End and Vault of Glass to Y2 levels, simply add new buttons in the director that introduce a L280 and L310 version of the raids which drop 280–320 loot. Yes, this means Fatebringer will come back, and I feel it should. So should Fang, Vision, Word, etc. I would also reintroduce Hard Mode elemental primaries, including The Kings Fall elementals. Some smart cookie in Bungie decided “You know, these elemental primaries made the game too easy, let’s get rid of them” without giving thought to the community. The community enjoyed elemental primaries, they made the game FUN. The game doesn’t always have to be about being difficult, or a challenge, sometimes it’s a blast to go through a strike one shotting things, this fun was taken away from the players.
- Hard Mode Raids drop 320 loot guaranteed. At some point a choice was made that to keep players chasing the carrot, make the top level difficult to reach, and only achievable via RNG. In Year 1 a few runs through the raids netted you all the loot, and you were top level, now after many runs, many players are losing sight of the goal because RNG isn’t rewarding. So, Hard Mode equals Guaranteed 320 loot. What about Challenge Mode? It simply guarantees an exotic loot drop now. I would love to replay Vault and Crota for 320 armour all over again, some of that gear looked so awesome (and still does), it’s a shame it’s pointless to wear in the end game because it penalises us … it shouldn’t.
- “Player Ownership” this is a big issue, at the moment I feel. I’m no longer invested in my character. The same shaders, the same armour, the same tower, the same weapons … I’m not a beautiful and unique snowflake. On top of that, Bungie is ultimately dictatorial about what gear you *should* be wearing because of level progression (once again, Y1 is obsolete, I can’t run around in my VoG armour looking awesome). I would like to introduce a few things here.
i) Custom shaders created via the web portal
ii) Player “owned” space in the tower that can be customised, other players request access via a panel outside.
iii) Ability to shade weapons separately from armour.
Those are my big ticket items, reinvigorate Year 1 end game content (raids/strikes), reintroduce elemental primaries, including the old Year 1 primaries. Hard Mode loot should be “top level” guaranteed. Introduce player ownership aspects, the ability to customise both the character, and a personal space in the tower to give the player more investment in the game.
This should be short and sweet, and I will be blunt, the age of secrecy is over Bungie. You should no longer have teams kept in the dark from each other, and most importantly you should no longer keep the players in the dark about the games ongoing development. Rumours are more powerful than facts in the modern connected world, and having periodical “We’ll tell you more next week” posts don’t cut it any more. It’s better to have a goal that slips, than no visible goal at all, so develop a road map with clear, achievable goals, and publish that road map with periodical (once a month?) updates on the status of the roadmap.
DLC due for February? Great, let us know. Has it slipped? Oh that’s unfortunate, let us know why and don’t lie, we’re a forgiving bunch as long as we don’t feel like we’re being lied to or having the wool pulled over our eyes.
Have a plan, make it public, keep the players informed, and if things slip for various reasons, keep everyone updated. Lying, making clandestine changes, doing things without at least informing players what’s going on nurtures an us vs them mentality which leads to alienation. If the player feels invested, they will keep returning to maintain that investment, and this extends beyond simply playing the game.
I should stress, this isn’t a consultation process, the developers shouldn’t feel like they can’t make a move without player approval, it shouldn’t be a “What do you think?” type of involvement. It should be a clear cut “We’re making these changes, for these reasons, let us know how you feel about them once they’re done, and if it’s not well received we will look at it further”. At the moment, we’re not even getting that, though with Iron Banner, we saw a small backpedal in this process with regards to matchmaking information which was well received.
My Golden Wishlist
If I were given the keys to the kingdom with unlimited funding, I would introduce the following changes to the fundamental operation of the game. These changes would most likely require a total engine redesign, and also likely development tool redesign as well, so they are wishlist items, not “You guys can do this easily” items.
- Mission Scripting: Give players the ability to create their own missions, including setting a mission level requirement, enemy placements, spawn rates, end bosses, and goals (no Raid bosses though). Let us share these missions online, the scripts should be small XML/JSON style files with triggers and position details, small and simple to deal with.
- Scrap the entire loot/level system as it stands: You simply have a player level cap (reached through experience) and weapons or armour have base designs, with mods/crafting forming the core of levelling gear. I will expand on this at the end.
- Private matchmaking in Crucible: This is long overdue, and essential for progressing the end game scope of Destiny, potentially propelling it into MLG arenas if dedicated servers were introduced (purely for MLG rated matches). This includes map selection/rotation, mission type, and player invitation/control for the organisers.
- Custom Strike Playlists, I would love to go to a “Custom Playlist” option and set which strikes I want to play, and the modifiers on that playlist. If I want to play Devils Lair over and over with Void Burn, Small Arms and Brawler, then let me, I would enjoy that, and I will be engaged in the game much longer than without.
- Many other various customisation tools for the players, from custom raid levels/modifiers to the ability to redesign your character (within the same gender/race). There’s a lot that can be done here, and customisation is key to player investment.
Scrapping the Loot/Level System:
I touched on this in the Golden Wishlist, however I feel that if the core of Destiny were to be redeveloped, I would scrap it entirely and introduce the following system.
- Your player level (the level the dictates damage received) is purely XP based. This forms the “base” level of your character, and the influence of damage received from enemies.
- Weapons and armour (gear) drop with blank modification slots, instead of gear dropping with random rolls, they’re now in a basic form. XP is expended into the gear to unlock slots, where mods can be chosen.
- Mods and Crafting introduced. Loot is now no longer about weapon/armour drops, but also mod drops, and crafting tools drops. You might get a weapon, or armour, but also a barrel upgrade, or a sight upgrade, or a magazine upgrade, or an armour panel, etc.
- Crafting would involve augmenting mods, for example, a barrel upgrade for a scout rifle could be imbued with a void element “gem” turning that scour rifle upgrade into a void scout rifle. I could then have one barrel of each element (over time). Similarly, a stock upgrade for my sniper rifle, could be crafted with a stability upgrade. Armour could have crafting slots for elemental resistance, ammo capacity, etc. So much scope for customisation.
- Raid drops would be fixed in certain aspects, allowing one or two slots to be modded to alter them away from “core” designs. For example, Fatebringer would have fixed barrel choices (and arc damage) but could have a custom slot for the stock/grip allowing you to increase its stability. Same for armour, “core” feel of armour is fixed with minor augmentations being customisable.
- Mods/Crafting tools will be broad and specific, for example, barrels/stocks/scopes/bodies will be archetype specific (scout/sniper/fusion/rocket/etc) so you can’t use a scout barrel on a sniper.
- Mod augmentation figures will be published on the mod, and how it affects the weapon being applied to will also be clearly indicated allowing players to quickly equip/compare mods on the fly.
- Mods can be removed and re-used on other weapons in the same archetype. Mods will have levels associated to them (a higher level mod can’t be used on a lower level gear)
- Mods will increase your gear base stats (attack/damage/etc) augmenting your players base stats.
The end result I would like to achieve is a move away from the current fixed RNG loot drops in game, to a far more fluid (and arguably) complex modding/crafting system where players will have the opportunity to upgrade and craft their weapons to a very specific personal play style. The leading cause of the “meta” system in Destiny is due to the current RNG system. Reforging made this worse by allowing players to re-roll to “meta accepted” rolls. By introducing mods and crafting, the metas will be fractured, weapon balance will become much easier because Bungie will only need to focus on the base weapon frame balance, which is much easier than factoring in all the permutations of the current systems.
Will this result in players being able to form OP weapons? Arguably, but this is already happening, and the meta is the result. Similarly, OP will become much more varied in its scope, and will be much easier for players to build against.
The ultimate goal of a mods plus crafting shift in Destiny would be to provide players with a fully invested and personalised character development. This will lead to deeper player engagement, and longer term investment and player game time.
There you have it, how I would change/improve Destiny if I had the opportunity and the money.