Destiny Dispatches From the Tower

Dispatches From The Tower: Gear Progression and the Great Destiny Lie.

Hello and welcome to another edition of Dispatches from the tower, which is actually a column this week because our beloved editor ‘politely’ pointed out to me that a 3 hour let’s play of me playing Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 5 by Hideo Kojima did not in any way, shape or form constitute a Destiny column. Spoil Sport.

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*Something mean about Konami*

Last week, 2.0 arrived and Destiny is about to stumble into it’s next great adventure somewhat battered and bruised after having a year that could be cheerfully described as a rough time and more accurately described as a good kicking from fans and critics alike. Year one is soon to be a thing of the past and with it goes everyone’s favorite non-dragon member of Game of Thrones, Gjallerhorn being good and assault rifles being shiny looking paper Weights. Year two will bring change, out with the old and in with the new, but one thing that is being laid by the wayside is causing some amount of controversy with a selection of destiny players, Our year one Weapons and armour.

This, especially on a site such as ours, may come as a shock to some and a source of amusement to some and outright confusion to others. When most major MMO expantion packs launch the very first thing done by most players is wait for the servers not to be dead, followed shortly by replacing all of your top shelf gear with green quality items that make you look like you’ve been dragged through a clown supply warehouse. And so it was that when the Destiny community leaned than their legendary items were being made redundant in  year two, a small portion of it reacted badly, angry about having wasted their time grinding and leveling there rare sets. The rest of the community reacted the way the internet reacts to anything these days, condescension, sarcasm and name calling. And I’m ashamed to say that I myself was at times part of the latter group.

“This is an MMO, of COURSE we have to replace our gear! why be so Stumb (Copyright DanRyyu 2015)” went the shouts, anger to battle anger. But while on the surface this is an easy assumption to make, the problem with it, after actually reading people’s well made points rather than setting my phasers to snark, lies at the feet of the developer and publisher itself. The problem dear reader, lies in what kind of game Destiny is, versus what kind of game they want you to think it is.

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Gjallerhorn, a bit like Immortan Joe, but as a Rocket Launcher

 

Why are people upset about the Gear reset? And why are they right to be.

Destiny is not an MMO, Well Ok it IS an MMO, but before launch and in the eyes of much of Bungie’s PR the game wasn’t. Destiny was the spiritual successor to Halo, which is to say an FPS shooter with most of its focus being on team Deathmatch style PVP and a story driven Single player. From day one Bungie has sold Destiny as a new fast paced co-op Shooter with RPG elements, constantly refuting anyone who calls it an MMO. This is more than likely a marketing decision as the game is clearly an MMO. It is a massive online game with dungeons, PVP and raids wherein you take one character though the lower level story before reaching max level and  grinding better gear to get into the high end raids to get even better gear. It’s an MMO.

The problem and reason for Bungie’s denial lies in what markets they wanted to buy the game, while the MMO market looking for an FPS MMO would make up a chunk of their player base, the majority needed to come from the same group that played Halo 3 for countless hours on end, The FPS player. To the FPS audience, Destiny was an intriguing concept, the return of Bungie from Microsoft, gone the shackles of that past company. Halo Reach was a swansong that demanded instant respect and attention to whatever came next, if they could mix their frantic PVP and excellent story with some new minor MMO aspects of open world gameplay and group combat. This game was a great step forward from the corridor shooters of yore and with the Bungie brand behind it, it couldn’t fail! Well we all know how that went, in the end many of these players found themselves instead of being in a mix of Fallout and Halo, in a mix of World of Warcraft and Halo, albeit a lot shallower.

To many of these players they were, on some level lied to. Bungie’s game went from a rich new FPS to a shallow MMO in a matter of hours. Some of us knew it was coming, but to be fair, only because we saw enough of the tropes from the games we are used to. To an outsider, it just looked like more Halo.

The anger at the resetting of gear comes in part from the fact that for a portion the FPS mind set remains. In most modern FPS games the idea of resetting you gear mid game is non existent. In Halo and the Call of Duty games, the idea is to unlock your prefered Gun then master it over the course of the game. This is different in the single player campaign when you mostly just pick up something that fires rockets/lasers and murder the very concept of life itself, but in PVP it’s more about learning the ins and outs of your prefered weapon set up than about leveling up a stat stick. Even when a new game comes out, chances are the player can simply unlock/Find that same weapon or an extremely close proximation and carry on as normal. In promising an FPS game that was not an MMO, Bungie promised a system similar to this. When Bungie delivered an MMO, gamers suddenly had to learn the ins and outs of MMO style gearing.

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The new 2.0 World map, missing only the Dreadnought

Players who have mastered their preferred weapons, suddenly have to abandon what they know and relevel something a new. The time in year one spend grinding, learning and upgrading their weapon of choice is suddenly abandoned as a new wave and style of weapons promises to out do the old favorites. To MMO fans, this is a normal day in expansion land, to FPS Players, it’s something altogether different. So this is the cause of the anger, guns in Destiny are not the stat sticks that weapons in most other MMO’s are. A new Sword in Rift or Warcraft plays the same as a the old one, A gray level one item swings the same way as the very best legendary with only some proc items and timings ever really changing. But in Destiny and most other shooters, the guns are different, an AK47 is not an MP5 is not a Last word is not a Bad JuJu. Different guns demand to be played differently. For many, abandoning their old weapons means not just missing a cool texture on an item, but also learning an entire new way to play.

This is the source of the anger, the reason for the disappointment, MMO gaming is new to many who play Destiny, and Bungie have done little to help by hiding the game’s true nature in so much of its marketing. But with that being said, as much as it seems bad, upgrading and changing are the best things that can happen in these games.

 

The 10 years of Fatebringer Problem

As I just went off on some of the sneering and or confused (thankfully mostly the latter) MMO gamers, this will be aimed at some of the people who are concerned about the changes. Ignoring everything that Activision seems to want you to think, Destiny is definitely an MMO, a shallow one, but still an MMO. One of the cornerstones of MMO progression comes from character progression and loot. You start a character weak, you grind to make it strong, getting the best weapons and gear you can. I know there is something in there about friendship and teamwork (I did also meet my wife playing an MMO) but let’s be honest, Sod all that, it’s about the loot.

In MMOs there is a constant stream of new content with better weapons to upgrade your items with. This is the main lynch pin of the addictive nature of these types of game, rather than perfect a weapon type, the idea is to perfect the class you play first and then achieve the highest possible stats via gear upgrades and stat management. This also helps with burn out. to keep this system working a stream of new content is needed to stop the players from getting bored and wondering off, a thing Blizzard seems to have forgotten in recent years and bungie never seemed to grasp in the first place. Change is an integral part of all MMOs. Stagnation is the death of nearly all of these kinds of games with only idiotic change being as dangerous (Google Star Wars Galaxies for a lesson in this).

In PVE, being able to keep gear for years is a recipe for disaster. Players need a reason to raid more than once, a well designed and fun raid will have a certain amount of appeal, but for many past the first few runs, the reasons for continued play comes from the chance to progress the character though upgrades. It is the same on nearly every level of the PVP, as much as I enjoyed Dust Palace, you cannot for a moment not tell me that one of the main reasons you ran your 3rd nightfall for the week, the chance of a new shiney Gjallerhorn wasn’t at the foremost in your mind when having to deal with the Nexus and its bullet sponges for the 70th time.

On top of that, for most PVEers, being confined for the same weapons for what is looking to be a 10 year game would be maddening. I call this the 10 Years of Fatebringer Problem. Fatebringer is one of the, if not THE best Legendary primary in the game. There is a chance, however small that if year to year upgrading was added, people would still, 5 to 6 years into the apparent game’s life cycle, be forced to run Heroic Vault of Glass well into your level 80s in order to stand a chance in the new game would grate on people almost instantly. A similar scenario occurred in World of Warcraft during the Burning Crusade expansion when it was discovered that Thunderfury, a legendary item from the classic raid Molten Core, was still top of the charts when it came to tanking weapons. Rather than do the new and exciting content, players of high end guilds were forced back in time to an instance with gear the first zone greens could outmatch. Not fun.

I have used my Super Vox Plo since week two of the game, it has survived in me for 2 entire expansions and will likely remain in my bank until I quit this game to play Half Life 3 full time. But I do want to move on. The new guns, or at least the small sampling of them the arms week has shown us seem to be diversing  the choice of gameplay options your weapons give you more and more.  Who wants to be stuck with the same gun forever?

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This gun has seen some things…

In the PVP Realm of course this is a different story, while Destiny still is an MMO as of the last time i called it so, the PVP in the game is very much ripped straight from Halo. To balance this Bungie normalise all the weapons and armour, making it so even a level 1 hand cannon can go toe to toe with a level 32 one in damage. Even if it will be close to useless in PVE, guns like Thorn and Fatebringer will still be just as powerful as any new item.  Being that they made such a big point about this fact when announcing the aforementioned gear exodus, it would seem that the plan for the time being at least is to let PVPers either keep the old style they were used too, or move on to the newer guns without punishing anyone. Since as I have taken most of this page describing the differing play styles between most PVP and PVE players, this is a smart move and the silver lining to this particular mushroom cloud in some players minds. Iron Banner and Trials of Osiris and their systems of taking gear statistics into account… well, we will have to wait and see.

In the end, regardless of what side you happen to play on, Being able to keep the exact same weapons and armours for the full span of the destiny life cycle would be a massive mistake. Bungie’s plans for Destiny are long term, 10 years long. And while some people still don’t want this to be an MMO at the end of the day it still kind of is. If anyone really plans to play this game for an extended period of time Gear resets are a must to stop the doldrums that would almost instantly affect a game with that structure. New weapons and armours are a must to keep the collectors mind interested. But in the same aspect, Bungie needs to make sure that the PVP side of the game remains an open area for nearly every weapon in the game, players should be able to simply pick the best possible set up and keep it for as long as they deem fit, This might seem hard coming from the months of thorn and Last Word domination that has plagued the last few months of PVP, if they can get around to balancing weapons at a faster rate than 3-4 months. It will likely be the future of PVP in the game.

The problem of gear progression in Destiny is still a strained topic. Only time will tell how it works, but for now, The great Destiny lie seems to have already reared its head and is causing problems. But if you ask me? This is an MMO.

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