It’s been a long road for Bungie. In 1993, the gaming industry saw the birth of a giant. In the decades since, gamers have been graced with award-winning Science Fiction and Fantasy titles. Pathways into Darkness, released in August of that year, brought us to the heard of a monster infested pyramid where we were to kill a sleeping god. The Marathon series, released a year later, saw players kidnapped by a maniacal AI onboard a massive starship and taken on a quest across the universe to aid him in becoming one himself. The Myth franchise had them lead massive armies in an epic war against the supernatural. Finally, there was Halo, the game series they are most known for and their Magnum Opus. With a studio full of developers keen on dominating the world (as stated on their old website), and a proven track record of effort put into each of their games, it would seem like they were ready to.
Flash forward to 2018, and we can see that the company is in turmoil. The old guard, the original coders and writers that made Bungie what it was, have come and gone. Replacing them is a new cast of faces, a host developers and story creators confident in their abilities to bring new blood and fire to the company. However, with them they sow confusion, and reap the salt from their once die-hard fan base. The salt I am referring to of course comes from just about every single online discussion about their latest franchise, Destiny. With the release of Destiny 2, Bungie implemented a number of changes to the formula, many of which have greatly divided their fans. To add more to the fire, numerous controversies have sprang up in the past few months regarding their implementation of the Eververse, Destiny 2’s in-game microtransaction store. In many cases, these changes have left the fate of the franchise, and Bungie as a whole, up in the air.
To waylay these fears, Bungie’s community management team released a major development update on Friday the 12th. In it, they addressed the concerns that fans have had since release, and they laid out a roadmap of where they plan to take the game in the future.
Things look good with the opening, written by Game Director Christopher Barrett, stating that “we’re not just listening, we are doing.” Indeed, by the looks of things, Bungie has taken the first steps in responding to many of the criticisms garnered from the launch. Among the changes, the most important one is their stance on Eververse, which they admit has been the focus of too much of their attention. In future updates of the game, Bungie will be adding more exclusive equipment and weapons, as well as new gameplay paths to make this new gear easier (and fun) to earn. This change will be implemented by the time the Crimson Days event rolls around in February.
Six against six multiplayer will also be coming back, which will feel like a breath of fresh air to those who loathed their focus on smaller, four on four battles. In addition to this multiplayer update, private matches will make their return, offering players more features and opportunities to hone their skills in custom battle modes with just their friends.
Destiny 2’s roster of armor will also be expanded upon, with more rewards for players who participate in the raids. In addition, Masterworks—variations of legendary weapons that can be upgraded—will be getting an armor expansion, allowing players more options for fine-tuning how they play.
The rest of February will see additional improvements, such as the reworking of weapon and armor mods, new features like Tower text chat for the PC release, and removal of the timer during Nightfall strikes in place of a similar Strike scoring method seen in the first Destiny (my personal favorite). Finally, you will be able to see other members of your fire team on the over world map, which I am sure will be a welcome addition to the game.
While to many, these updates are welcome news, to others, they highlight two critical flaws in the game’s overall design philosophy. For one thing, it won’t be until Fall 2018 that these changes are in place. Bungie must have a lot of faith in their community to think that they would be able to recuperate their player count by the end of the year, especially after all of the controversy that has happened.
Even as I write this, turmoil continues to grow within the community as players react to changes made during the game’s Faction Rally event. Evidently, Bungie placed a cool down on Lost Sector rewards (D2’s dungeons) to limit the amount of faction reputation that one can acquire in one sitting. This isn’t the first time that this has happened either. Previously, Bungie was caught throttling experience points in order to slow down player progress from unlocking Engrams, their answer to lootboxes, which can be bought from their store with real money.
This brings me to another negative that I must point out. Eververse. When it was first introduced in Destiny 1, it was merely a store to buy optional cosmetics and emotes that the player can use. Now, although the rewards are entirely cosmetic ones in Destiny 2, the number of items available through Eververse seemingly eclipse the number of items available to the player through normal gameplay. Granted, they intend to address this problem according to the developer update, but the fact that they put so much effort into designing items for the store and less effort into items that you can earn the normal way leads me to believe that Bungie, the developer with the once outstanding reputation amongst its fans, have gotten greedy. I can say with absolute certainty that the complete removal of Eververse is what players were hoping for with this update. It is an unrealistic change, given the current state of microtransactions in gaming, but it’s one that gamers will always hope for.
The changes being implemented are indeed helpful, but they are designed to roll the game back to what the first Destiny was, and what Destiny 2 should have been from the very beginning. While this change will definitely be a positive because the first game was arguably better, it is going to take a year to implement, perhaps longer, as the update does point out that the further out the update is, the more that update is subject to change.
On the topic of the update itself, the team was vague in a lot of areas as to how they planned to implement these changes. They state what they are doing, but never how. This is representative of a growing trend in their communications with the fans. They have this “we are looking into it” mentality. Players will notice a flaw in the game, they issue an update stating that they are “investigating” the problem without stating how, they will apologize and promise to clarify things in future updates, and the whole cycle will repeat again the next time their players find a problem. It is an endless cycle that the game has suffered under, which has left the community as a whole completely estranged and alienated from the once-respected developer.
Many of the points I have made have been said time and time again about previous updates from Bungie. If they don’t figure out what they are doing with their game, and if they can’t even recapture the magic that they had during their glory days, we could be witnessing the end of a once promising franchise and the fall of one of the greatest and most respected gaming studios in the industry.