Destiny 2

Stop the convolution

destiny2 5 - Stop the convolution

Destiny content is trending towards needlessly complicated engagement systems. Progression steps are increasing, but without any substance. When the community asked for content to be less reliant on bounties, I don’t believe what we’ve been seeing this season is what anyone had in mind.

The Hammer

When the season started, players were excited that the Prismatic Recaster and Umbral Decoder were making a return. During Season of Arrivals, these represented a unique and refreshing way for players to earn and target loot, something that is a recurring ask, and which stokes player engagement when it is delivered well. This is true not just in Destiny, but in any loot-centric game.

The Hammer of Proving was introduced alongside. It is this season’s tool for content engagement. The content in this case being the Battlegrounds playlist. You can play Battlegrounds as much as you like, but unless you keep your Hammer well-fed, you’re not fully leveraging your opportunities for rewards.

  1. Feeding the hammer requires Cabal Gold, a new currency exclusive to the Hammer.
  2. Gold is acquired from activities other than Battlegrounds, and has a cap.
  3. Spending gold earns you a Rune on the Hammer.
  4. Completing a Battleground with a Rune earns a Charge in the Hammer, which has a cap.
  5. You spend Hammer Charges at the Prismatic Recaster to target loot which you then receive at the Umbral Decoder.
  6. Every step in this process can be upgraded in some manner through the War Table using Reputation (a seasonal progression currency).

Essentially, earning a targeted reward requires the following gameplay flow: 1. Earn Gold 2. Socket Rune 3. Charge Hammer in Battlegrounds 4. Repeat until Hammer has sufficient charges 5. Spend charges at Prismatic Recaster on desired reward

Let’s compare to Season of Arrivals: 1. Earn Altered Element 2. Spend at Prismatic Recaster on desired reward

In the interest of fairness, Altered Element was not earned the same way as Cabal Gold. You could only earn Element through daily Prismatic Recaster bounties and seasonal Triumphs, effectively establishing a daily limit. There is no daily limit for the Hammer (though there is a weekly limit for some of its rewards).

The community wanted less bounty reliance, and Bungie delivered. No part of this season’s rewards system involves bounties at all. But in its place there are now intermediary steps, each of which earns the player nothing directly; they act only as gates for the proceeding steps and to artificially inflate the sense of content.

Time as a Currency

What these intermediary steps as well as bounties both act as stand-ins for is player time. In order to acquire the currency that earns the reward, players must spend time. From that perspective, the currencies themselves are representative of player time.

This is true for virtually any gameplay currency, of which Destiny already has numerous. Glimmer, Legendary Shards, Bright Dust, and the myriad varieties of materials are all stand-ins for player time. The amount of any of these in player inventories, or the number of rewards that a player has earned with them, is directly proportional to the player’s time invested in the game. So why then has seasonal content and other new gameplay systems begun introducing new, exclusive currencies alongside?

The effect of this strategy on the player is continual time reinvestment. So it can be assumed that this is also the reason for it. It is not enough that players have invested prior time into the game, as represented by existing currencies. In order to continue to engage with the game season-over-season, system-over-system, the player must reinvest their time continually.

This is, of course, what any game designer wants. It is never desirable for a player base to be capable of immediately receiving the rewards of new content simply because they already have a sizable stash of time-currency. This isn’t healthy for the game, and it’s also not engaging for the players. But time investment is not itself engaging content. This is why bounties were maligned as the primary vehicle for engagement. And it’s why this new post-bounty pattern that is emerging will inevitably follow suit if not improved.

The prior paragraph is speaking only in regards to actual content, not systems by themselves. When introducing a new system, there is no such requirement for player reinvestment, especially when the rewards delivered by the system are not new. Enter: Armor Synthesis, which is perhaps the most gross example of player time disrespect in the history of the game, requiring new currencies for armor that players have already earned.


Season of Opulence

It is worth pausing and reflecting on what is likely the most well received season in Destiny 2 thus far, not just in retrospect, but also in the moment. The Menagerie and its Chalice system has been routinely praised by the community for being both engaging and rewarding. It is likely not a coincidence that it required neither bounties nor any superfluous steps to soak up player time.

Like the Hammer, the Chalice was the tool for content engagement in this season, and the content was The Menagerie, a 6-player match-made activity that could be described as a series of public events through which players progress in order to receive a seasonal reward, provided they have fed their Chalice.

  1. Feeding the Chalice requires Runes
  2. Runes could be earned randomly through non-Menagerie activity completion, chests found by players via the seasonal vendor weekly bounties, and from a weekly barge of chests that could be opened with Glimmer.
  3. Socketing certain combinations of Runes into the Chalice determined the reward received at the end of The Menagerie.
  4. These steps could be upgraded through the Chalice using the Imperials seasonal progression currency.

This boiled down to: 1. Earn Runes 2. Socket Runes for a targeted reward 3. Complete The Menagerie

Why did this system land better better than that of Season of Arrivals and the current season? It delivered everything that players want:

  1. Player agency
  2. Time respected + rewarded
  3. Engaging content

Players had a choice in how they invested their time. They could engage with the bounties, but those were only weekly. After that, they could play any content in the game to earn Runes for the Chalice. And if they had a stockpile of Glimmer, they could dump it for bonus runes each week. This respected the time of the already most invested players that regularly maxed their Glimmer.

Once they had Runes, they could combine them in various ways to target the specific loot they were interested in. This made the content highly rewarding. But The Menagerie was also itself a fun activity to play and not simply the final time sink to earn the reward. Players enjoyed running The Menagerie, which responded directly to player proficiency; the more efficiently a round was completed, the faster the group could reach the final reward, represented by a meter that would continually fill each round. It was engaging.

Back on track

When the Content Vault was announced, players decried the inclusion of The Menagerie. The community wanted it to stay and simply be refreshed each season with new rewards. No seasonal content had matched it, and still none has since. But that doesn’t need to be the case. It followed a simple formula that could be continually adapted and reapplied.

  1. Allow for player agency
  2. Respect and reward player time
  3. Provide engaging content

The third point of course relies heavily on the creative team, but the Menagerie itself had a formula that was the basis of its success. There is a clay from which new content could be molded. The wheel does not need completely reinvented to satisfy some false sense of requirement for continued originality. Destiny players just want to shoot things and get loot. Bungie, do not overcomplicate it.

If this season, the Guardian Games and the upcoming Armor Synthesis system are an indication of what’s to come, we are headed down another path of dark engagement patterns. Progression is being convoluted and treated as content. Player time is being disrespected. New earn-anywhere currencies are being conflated with player agency.

We will dump hours into the game, Bungie. We’ve shown that we will, even when we’re unsatisfied with it, time and time again. We love it too much to stop. But please, let’s skip the next 9-12 months of waiting for the “we heard your feedback” post the announces changes to these new time sink stand-ins for bounties. Neither you nor we want another bummer year to reflect on.

Start by reflecting now on the good instead. Build from what worked, even if it’s a carbon copy. Then iterate from there. No one will be mad at The Menagerie 2: Arc Conductor Boogaloo.

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