Destiny 2

D2’s current design actively disincentivizes its best content

destiny2 10 - D2's current design actively disincentivizes its best content

I try really hard not to make complaint posts. Time Wasted on Destiny suggests I'm just shy of 1200 hours in game on D2, the top 4% of players, so I can't say I haven't gotten my money's worth, anyway.

But there are parts of this game I really enjoy. Stuff other games aren't coming close to. So, why am I constantly asked not to play that content?

I know I did a lot of ranting, so tl;dr: bounties need to incentivize doing non-patrol, higher-effort content, and Bungie should bring up some old content to fill that gap.

Season of the Worthy

I'd like to diagram the seasonal content, briefly. You clear bunkers, talk to RSPN, and do bounties. There are three types of bounties. The first is the Legendary Lost Sector weekly, the second is the PE weekly, and the third is dailies and repeatables, which have different goals but are structurally the same.

Guardian Games is broadly a very similar structure, and the last two seasons were as well.

I'm actually fine with this structure in theory, since Bounties are just diegetic game objectives, and they give reasons to shake up your play style or incentivize picking up content you haven't seen in a while. I like D2's content, even when I have to repeat it (occasionally). A game like Destiny really can't just have aspirational goals like "go to the Lighthouse," or "get Divinity," I think most players want a little grind time (though they may balk when it's mandatory).


Daily Bounties

…I think it's reasonable to say if you offer players a narrative goal – fix Rasputin! save the Last City! – or an aspirational goal – new title! time-limited weapon rolls! – you're obviously incentivizing players to complete that goal, but you're also incentivizing them to do it efficiently.

It's a timed goal, meaning you want to get progress done when you can. It's a story goal, meaning the most important thing you can do the moment you log on (from a narrative sense) is complete these bounties. The fact that it's aspirational means it has to compete with other aspirations – get max power, go to the Lighthouse, get Unbroken. It's a goal in a video game – people both have other hobbies, other games, and IRL aspirational stuff that they have to balance with these goals.

This all may seem obvious, but if it's so obvious then why are the bounties structured to reward you for doing the most boring thing possible?

RSPN has three categories of bounties. The first two are weekly – Legendary Lost Sectors and the special Public Event. I don't want to dig too deeply into these because they're really a small part of the weekly SotW grind. There are also his 'regular' bounties.

All of RSPN's regular bounties come in one of two forms – dailies are typically "do specific task or play Crucible" and repeatables are generally "get kills with X". If you're doing these efficiently then the obvious choice to do them is whatever location / activity allows you to complete your goal with the lowest level enemies and the least downtime.

This means patrol, generally. It might also mean Strikes, Nightmare Hunts, or Gambit, but typically it means doing them at the lowest level available.

Incentivizing patrol content is terrible. In a game like WoW or Runescape, there's some value to extremely low-effort gameplay, something that just fills time while you listen to podcasts. Destiny is a shooter. I can't simp on Twitter while also playing Destiny. Low-effort gameplay, where enemies are weak and stakes are low, is fucking boring. There's no upside to it!

Bounties and Endgame

So why don't we just do bounties in the most engaging content already?

The first reason is that the real 'endgame' of D2 is two activities – Grandmaster and Master Nightfalls, and Trials – and both are poorly suited to doing bounties.

Both of these activities are repeatable, offer consistent high-level progress, and restrict access to new content (fully modded armor sets / builds, and new items in the case of Trials). Bounties are very frustrating to work on here because build really matters in these activities, and bounties generally push you to use specific loadouts.

So now you've created two disjoint sets of content – hard, aspirational content for very invested players, and many, many hours of patrol content for everyone. These two conflict if you're a player that might be interested in the former – you only have so many hours in the day. If you fall somewhere in the middle engagement- or skill-wise – e.g., you like Master Nightfall but GM is too miserable to grind out the title – then either you can do the same Nightfalls you were grinding for mats last season, or the new content, which is patrol-level.

But are Trials and Nightfall the only endgame content? That list is obviously missing at least two things.

The first is Raids. Only one Raid even counts as endgame content anymore – only one will reliably reward you with level progress – and all the others are just Shitty Nightfalls. Why shitty? Because they take a lot longer and don't reward you mats. (Maybe the armor rolls are much better on the whole, I haven't seen good statistics, but anecdotally I don't think so. If you know better, I'd love to see your data.)

None of the raids are repeatable content right now because of the way they drop items, not to mention how grouping works and the relative mechanical burden.

The second is Dungeons. Unless you're doing specific aspirational content – DC title or Moon title – only Pit matters at all, and you have no incentive whatsoever to do it more than once a week.

And neither of these activities are efficient ways to do bounties.

Missing Content

Here's a short list of things Bungie has quietly refused to support in its recent Seasons.

  1. The Whisper / Zero Hour – these are the biggest ones for me. There is no reason to do these once your catalyst is done. Which is absolutely insane to me, given they're beautiful, before the bug they were relatively challenging for midlevel players, and as the game ages fewer and fewer endgame players will want to sherpa people in them at all, making it more and more challenging to get their associated weapons. This has been a problem since they were released. I would much rather do my weekly Whisper than my Master Nightfall. I have done so many Nightfalls.
  2. Dungeons – I know Pit is still technically a pinnacle source, but Shattered Throne is completely unsupported. Pit at least drops one unique weapon, Throne drops nothing of significance. It's beautiful and engaging content, fills a gap in terms of pace and coordination between NFs and Raids.
  3. The Menagerie – Still a good source of drops, kind of okay for bounties except that the encounters are random, and many of us have grinded the Menagerie drops we care about already. Some of D2's most engaging content right here.
  4. Old Raids – They're good! Even when they're obnoxious (SoS) they're still beautiful, high-effort, and engage you in camaraderie with other Guardians.
  5. Story missions – a huge amount of patrol environs, including some of the most beautiful parts of Nessus, Titan, and EDZ, are completely unused except when we (rarely) have a quest send us there. I mean, I'm sure the community isn't jazzed by the idea of repeating low level story missions, but remember Year 1 Solstice of Heroes, when there were hard-mode story missions? Those were pretty engaging! (RIP matroishka-servitor)
    1. Exotic Missions – I'm going to make this a subcategory of the former specifically because of the way Ace in the Hole is currently treated. I know not all of the Exotic missions are that fun, but Risk/Reward, the Draw, and the Wish-Ender mission were. Are they all built-out enough to be Strike-level content? Maybe not, but these could get the Y1 Solstice treatment too.
    2. Saving Saint-14 – These are really just story missions, but I want to call them out specifically. This includes the Perfect Paradox quest from way back. Saint-14 is now a major vendor and lore character, and the whole context of him, Osiris, and Trials is inaccessible now. I understand Bungie has problems adding more to the game's filesize, but I think this bit of history is worth preserving. More worth preserving than Ace in the Hole, anyway.
    3. Adventures – Adventures were, at one point in Y1, an important branch of content. They're now doable as part of weekly flashpoints, which are not pinnacle and it's almost certainly faster to just do publics. Yes, some of them are not fun and in fact very boring. But some (Mercury heroics and Baron hunts) are definitely engaging. If Bungie is looking to streamline content, why not give these a pass and keep the most interesting and engaging ones?
  6. Nightmare Hunts – Technically a pinnacle source, techncially grindable but again, the game actively incentivizes getting Nightmare Essences from lower level activities – Altars and lower level Hunts, specifically. These are like mini-strikes, the Moon environs are beautiful, and killing Crota or Taniks always feels good.
  7. Horde Modes – EP and Shattered Throne. These are actually pretty good for some bounties, but they're also extremely not engaging. Both are very challenging to solo because of timers, but also very easy in a group.

Bounty Burnout

Here's my quick, off-the-cuff fix for bounties and season progress. I think this would hugely improve peoples' complaints about Season of Bounties. Yes, it involves make some design passes on old content. But I think there's a ton of stuff here that people have no reason to play (because what Bungie is telling us via design is to avoid this content and do patrols) which a quick pass could invigorate.

Make a new tier of midgame/endgame content, and make seasonal bounties progress faster there. This tier should challenge player skill but give enough room for very skilled players to experiment with builds and maybe goof around a little. This tier should minimize or remove Champions. This could always be the prior max level of deprecated items when retirement is implemented, so you get to use your best tools for a little longer while working up to end-endgame.

And bring back the absolute shitload of deprecated content. In a game with so much story and so much high-fidelity artistic enviornments why is Bungie engaging in

Players will indeed get sick of things like Shattered Throne and Gambit if you refuse to support them, but even small updates like adding mobs or pushing the level up would make them more exciting, because a lot of the excitement of a shooter is in the, uh, shooting.

You don't have to touch the floor, so the game remains very accessible if that's what you want. You don't have to touch the ceiling, so Trials and GM and whatever else can be tuned for ridiculous elite players. You don't have to make tons and tons of new content. Support some of what's already here. Give people some challenge, something to bridge this gap and make the seasonal content suck somewhat less.

I don't think bounties, even in their current implementation, are the primary problem. The problem is what they communicate to us – that we should be doing patrol content to the exclusion of other things. Bungie, it seems like you're at an impasse – seasons can come with lots of new content, which people might absolutely hate or at least get bored of, or you can support content that already exists by giving it additional challenge and polish.

I'm not sure of all of this, you all tell me what you think. But I've been thinking of this for a long time, and I think this would be a good chance to get some low-hanging fruit off the D2 design tree right now.

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