Destiny 2 — Guided Games: the blind leading the blind?

Destiny 2’s unique take on endgame activity matchmaking has come in for criticism, with some suggesting that it’s an inferior replacement for the many third-party LFG (“looking for group”) sites players were forced to use during Destiny 1’s three-year tenure.

However, Bungie’s Guided Games experiment is a commendable attempt to innovate traditional matchmaking, with the goal of forming stable groups and growing clan communities, and should be given a chance to grow and evolve before the system is written off as a failure.

What it is

Bungie’s reluctance to add matchmaking to Destiny 1’s endgame activities was built on the simple premise that those activities required communication and teamwork — and throwing 3 or 6 random players of differing ages, personalities and play styles was a recipe for disaster.

And anyone that has used those third-party websites to find fellow Guardians to take on a 6–player raid can surely sympathise with that fear; it is not uncommon for an LFG group to capitulate and collapse, as players fall out with each other, become frustrated at the groups (lack of) progress, or simply leave to do something else.

It can lead to hostility, toxic behaviour, and bullying. Bungie’s fear, understandably, is that this is a turn-off for players new to that scene, and shows their game (and the community that has built up around it) in a bad light.

On the flip side, despite being a system that sat almost entirely outside of the game, Destiny 1’s “Clans” allowed groups of friends and acquaintances to play Destiny under a shared banner, and represent their clan in PvP or PvE alike. Some notable clans stood out; The Legend Himself were at the forefront of astonishing PvE accomplishment; Maths Class were leaders in uncovering raid secrets; Tier 1 and BombSquadKittens were frequently seen dominating in the Crucible.

Twitch streamers used the clan system to build in-game communities for their viewers and subscribers, often helping fellow clan members with first time raid clears or beating challenging content.

And smaller groups of friends created clans as a fun (if largely pointless outside of a couple of achievements) way to enjoy the game together.

Image courtesy of @Deej_BNG // @TTL_Gunslingers

In Bungie’s eyes, clans represent some of the best aspects of the Destiny community. Friends, playing together, invested in the success of the game and the reputation of their clan.

If you’re going to matchmake with 5 other people, wouldn’t it be great if they already got along? Already had some semblance of organisation? Were committed to stick around and fight with their friends rather than flee and look for another group?

This is Guided Games.

Guided Games joins solo players with established groups (in the form of clans) with the aspiration that these groups will be the glue that holds the matchmade fireteam together. There will invariably be a member of that group calling the shots. They will have the clans reputation at stake and will — with any luck — keep things friendly.

And who knows: off the back of an encounter they may extend an invite to the solo player(s) to play again or even join their clan; growing their community and taking one more person out of the solo-player wilderness.

What it isn’t

What Guided Games is not — and unashamedly so — is traditional matchmaking for raids. It is very clear about it’s group+solo makeup.

It is not intended as a one-stop-shop for raid completions. You’ll not (necessarily) be matched up with 5 raid heroes who know the encounters like the back of their hand and can carry you through with little effort. In fact, there is a real possibility that the group you join have never completed the activity themselves — but players should then embrace the opportunity to teach what they know, or learn alongside their temporary team mates.

Perhaps the term ‘guided' is at fault here; implying your guides are Sherpas. It’s arguably a clumsy choice of words from Bungie, who have at no point set a requirement that a clan who wishes to guide needs to know the encounters.

But Bungie’s goal with this system is to get more people into their endgame content — people who would normally be put off by the idea of having to use external tools to find a team.

Room for improvement

Despite all of the above, there are some issues with this system that need to be addressed.

  • Matchmaking times are too high to force players to wait in orbit. The seekers outweigh the guides, and some have reported waiting over an hour to find a group. Worst of all, you cannot continue to play other activities while queued, making those sort of matchmaking times unacceptable. While shortening the queue may be a challenge, allowing players to patrol a zone would go a long way to ensuring people don’t quit the queue.
  • When a match is found, the clans banner and motto are displayed. However, no information about the members of the group (such as light levels) or the number of times they’ve completed the activity or acted as guides is available. These statistics would be useful to help inform the seekers choice about the group they are going to play with for (at least) the next 45 minutes. That said, this level of choice is largely irrelevant if the hour long queues are not addressed, as you’re unlikely to turn down a clan in favour of another long wait.
  • Despite Bungie’s best intentions, the groups can indeed be toxic. Some way to rate or report a bad guide (or toxic seekers) would perhaps help referee the system.

Ultimately it is the guides who will determine the success of Guided Games. Destiny needs more of them, and a way to ensure they get value through participation. Bungie have to make clans want to pick up a seeker, rather than need to because they have had a last minute drop out. They could start by adding rewards or recognition to drive clans into participation.

But Bungie should be given time to review and iterate the system before it is written off as a poor mans LFG. It’s anything but.