Destiny 2

The community doesn’t understand game development – A very long post from a game designer

destiny2 6 - The community doesn’t understand game development - A very long post from a game designer

I’ve been playing Destiny for quite some time and I’ve enjoyed the community around it a lot, but the one thing that frustrates me the most about Destiny is how little the community actually knows about game development. It’s driving me crazy, so I wrote this whole thing down. I’m a game designer/producer myself, I’ve never worked on a project as massive as Destiny (not many people ever do), but I have worked on several gaming projects, some of them big in large companies, some of them small gaming apps. I know enough to explain the basics here, but I’m definitely not the ultimate authority on videogames and I’m not representing Bungie whatsoever, everything here is only from my experience. My goal here is to give you some useful info and calm my mind about this.

The Destiny community is incredibly vocal, especially this sub, which is generally a good thing, but the lack of understanding really damages not only the enjoyment of the community members but also the game itself IMO. I’ll explain some of the basics I think any hardcore fan should know here with an example and then I’ll outline some specific problems.

How Games Are Made

A videogame pipeline can be simplified into this flow: Demand from the top/the market -> top management decision -> design and prototyping -> development and feedbacks -> in house testing -> public testing -> marketing and publishing -> data collecting and analysis -> feedback implementation. It’s a circle that applies to everything from the big picture like the main campaign, to the smallest details like colors of shaders or proofreading of even the smallest posts. Every decision made in this system, even the tiniest ones, has to be debated, supported by data and expertise, approved in multiple places based on the priority, and checked multiple times after it’s implemented.

Game developers, especially in a powerhouse like Bungie, are very skilled, talented, experienced, and passionate people who always do their best to navigate that flow to satisfy the demands with a quality product delivered on time. I can’t stress this enough, developers (including QA testers, designers, artists, marketing, publishing, the whole team) are pretty much always incredibly hard-working people with a love for video games, because otherwise, they would never stay in this scummy business. They’re underpaid, overworked, and most likely overqualified for what they have to do. Some of them know almost everything there is to know about their field and they’re always improving as well.

Because video games, especially gargantuan living games with real-time action combat like Destiny, are insanely complicated, you need sometimes hundreds of experts to put them together. The pipeline needs to be perfectly planned, flexible so you can adapt to problems, and also easy enough to implement so you can deliver the product on time. All of these factors result in a tight-rope walk that never ends.

Now it’s time for an example. Let’s say during Season of the Worthy you get an assignment to create a catalyst for Thorn that would make it more popular in PVE, but doesn’t make it overpowered in PVP. Seems simple enough, right? There are dozens of posts about this topic on this subreddit, how hard can it be. The answer is, very, very hard.

You start working on your designs. You analyze all other exotic catalysts and hand cannon perks in the game – how they were made, their philosophy, psychological effects, and how they influence gameplay, you discuss everything in your team. When you create your first version, your design lead tells your whole team that hand cannons are getting a range buff and Thorn is now a 140 RPM and you have to adjust your design. After that, your priorities get shifted to helping with Beyond Light and the DSC weapons so it’s finished on time, so you put Thorn on hold. You don’t want to waste time though, so you give the art team an assignment to create the catalyst icon.

After two months of work on Beyond Light, you come back to Thorn, but now you basically have to start over because the future meta has changed so much. You create new designs and this time they’re approved by management, so you move onto prototyping. Developers are way too busy debugging and QA testing Beyond Light, so they have no time for Thorn and that task gets put into their To-Do list. You have no choice but to move onto your other tasks and start working on weapons for seasons 13 and 14.

When development starts finally working on Thorn, they find an exploit in your design that would allow it to two tap in PVP, you have to rework it again and hope they’ll have time to implement it this time. They don’t and the Thorn catalyst now officially misses its deadline and is pushed from Beyond Light. The marketing team doesn’t hear about it though, so they publish the icon you had made four months ago, leaking the catalyst coming out. This is of course your fault, but these things happen during all the chaos and there was almost nothing you could have done.

When you finally push this task through and it’s checked and approved dozens of times in different places (weapon design team, design lead, writing, sandbox team, development, QA, studio director, etc.) you have to make sure it’s published correctly in the right build, it has all necessary descriptions and marketing texts done and translated into all languages and the community managers know about it so they can get ready to collect data.


This single task took you a year to complete even when you did your best to do it fast and well and I left out about 90% of problems you would normally encounter. THIS is game development.

Community Attitude and Feedback

Now we get to why the uninformed community hurts the game so much. This sub would only see Thorn getting a catalyst and it would immediately be flooded with posts like “The catalyst sucks in PVE, buff pls”, “Bungo doesn’t care, the catalyst sucks for Warlocks” and a few “Why catalyst for Thorn, but not for Skyburner’s Oath”, completely missing the point of the catalyst and adding nothing to the discussion.

Bungie devs are way more informed, skilled, and experienced than us, the community. The only feedback they are interested in from us is quantitative – basically what we like and what we don’t like about the game. Any posts giving them ideas, elaborate reworks, or straight up negative outrage will accomplish nothing, because they already know everything about the game and discuss it daily in way more detail than we could ever imagine. The only qualitative feedback they should collect and measure is from content creators and the top 1% of the player base because those people actually know some aspects of the game Bungie doesn’t. I know it may sound like the hated “Bungo only listens to sweats and Youtubers”, but that’s kinda the point, they should be listening.

It doesn’t mean that our voices are ignored or not listened to. I would bet all of my money that all forums are constantly monitored and analyzed. The truth is, however, that the only valid opinion we can give that Bungie should consider is what aspects of the game we like, and what aspects we don’t. Anything beyond that we already tell them through data they collect from our play sessions.

As I wrote above, any change within this massive game is complicated and could take months or years to be implemented, so being upset we don’t have everything now is just useless. Bungie is hard at work to make good stuff, we should respect them more and not bring out the pitchforks every time a season slows down a bit and we can’t play for four hours a day every day for the whole year. There will always be problems in a live game and they are doing a fantastic job, I can’t even imagine how much work must go into it. So before you post about something in the future, take a moment to think about the process and figure out what exactly you can provide to the devs with your feedback, because otherwise, you’re fanning the flames on something that probably isn’t actually burning. It’s just taking its time as it should.

With all of the above said, it isn't the community's fault that we're not informed. The fault lies entirely with Bungie not educating people enough and this problem could be avoided.

Reasons Why Things Suck

I’ll close by giving my two cents on why the game isn’t perfect and never will be, just so you know where the community's frustrations should go.

  1. The biggest reason that influences everything – Bungie is a company owned by a group of shareholders that will always force the studio to grow and provide more profit. With every extra dollar, the value of the company grows and the board of directors gets richer and because of the super predatory capitalism we live in now, Bungie has to justify every single decision with a monetary value. It's not the fault of the devs, they don't make much money themselves.
  2. The game is massive and always online. I’m pretty confident that no other studio would be able to support Destiny for so long without the game completely crashing down. Technology always evolves and it’s almost impossible to keep a living game up to date, so some parts of the front end of the game will always suck because Bungie has to upkeep the back end we will never get to see.
  3. The project has been going on for a decade, which leads to people wanting to naturally move on. Replacing team members on a living game is very difficult, which leads to problems and delays.
  4. The community is not educated about the game enough, which is why I ended up writing this. The continuous cycle of negative outrage that comes from a lack of understanding damages the game because the devs are forced to deal with it without disclosing information. If people knew more, they could help Bungie, but no company that wants to make big profits will ever open up its communication because it would show just how many decisions are influenced by the search for profit.

That’s it, sorry for the length of this essay. I hope you learned something and let me know if you’d be interested in more stuff like this (takes on sunsetting, sandbox, etc.). I would like to give people more info so they don’t waste their precious time on stuff completely outside of their control and maybe educate people about the industry. I love the game and I hope you’ll appreciate it a bit more now.

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