It is a new year and the Destiny Community finds itself in another content lull. I use the word ‘lull’ here instead of ‘draught,’ because the game has more content than ever. Nostalgic players have year one raids. Many year two events are now at year three levels, and the latest expansion, Rise of Iron, provides the largest number of paths towards maximum level than ever before. Despite all the updates and changes to Destiny, the game is seeing a general decline in active community weeks after the release of Rise of Iron. Why is this, and how do we work towards bringing players back and making Destiny “great” again?
First, let us go over several opinions on why players have left the game. One popular opinion is the generous leveling system currently in place makes the game feel unrewarding due to the high frequency of maximum light-level rewards players can receive through a multitude of activities. Simply put, there is too much loot now, and as a result none of it feels special. In Destiny’s early days, players had a rather painful grind to gather the game’s best gear and hit maximum character light levels. The stingy RNG left even the most dedicated players wanting for the game’s storied rare loot, such as the Praetorian Foil (Legendary Fusion Rifle, a possible reward in the ‘Vault of Glass’ raid), The Vex Mythoclast (Exotic Fusion Rifle, a potential reward by completing the ‘Vault of Glass’ raid on heroic difficulty), or the Crux of Crota (Exotic material used to upgrade the ‘Eidolon Ally’ Legendary Auto Rifle into the Exotic Nechrochasm Auto Rifle, a possible reward in the ‘Crota’s End’ raid).
To this day, I still know players who have not gotten these items. In fact, I never got a Crux of Crota, and may never unless I decide to run Crota’s End again for a chance at the exotic reward. And the praetorian foil will NEVER leave my vault/inventory (seriously, don’t touch it). Legendary armor that could get you to the maximum light level could be just as difficult to get in the early days as well. Players often ran three characters of the same class to hasten their progression towards the game’s maximum character level.
Now, the slow grind towards maximum light is but a distant memory for Destiny’s long-time players. Replaced with the infusion system which allows year two and three Legendary or Exotic items to be infused. Infusion involves sacrificing a similar type of gear or weapon that has a higher light level to the equipment or weapon you want to power up. This sacrifice brings the infused gear up to the light level of the item used as “infusion fuel”. Coupled with the multitude of activities which can award maximum level gear & weapons, the grind became less about hitting maximum level, and more about perfecting armor stats and finding that perfect roll on your favorite weapon. While this sounds like an improvement, the sudden change has left those used to the grind hitting the finish line of content completion far too quickly, thus resulting in players finding other games to play while they wait for what’s next in Destiny.
Is this a bad thing though? I argue no, and even rationalize that Bungie is, or should be, happy that this is the case. For the long-time player, taking a break due to a lull in content is a necessary evil, and in my opinion, the best way to make any new material feel fresh. Personally, if I continue to grind away at Destiny 1 I will likely not be nearly as excited to play Destiny 2, compared to if I take a good break and experience other games regularly. Taking a break now can potentially avoid Destiny burnout, and ensure a return for Destiny 2, in the long-run maintaining or increasing the number of active players in Destiny.
For those players new to Destiny, the current loot and leveling system works in their favor. They can hit maximum level quickly, which means they can enter Destiny’s end-game activities sooner, and enjoy the full breadth of Destiny 1 content while the game is still alive and kicking. As a bonus, these new players that are checking the game out become a draw for the game’s veteran players to act as Sherpas, teaching and guiding fresh guardians — ultimately increasing the number of experienced players in the Tower (pool of active players). Personally, that is the current draw for me, helping players through raids and activities so they can complete their goals in the game. It feels good, and it keeps me active in the game I love without burning out from it.
With all that in mind, how do we make Destiny “great” again? In my opinion, the easy answer is this: we wait for Destiny 2. Destiny 1 may still be alive and kicking, but for many reasons including the ones stated in this article, it will never be “great” again for many players. The Destiny Universe needs something new, different, and fresh, and the current Destiny engine is not the platform to build on any longer. Destiny 1 was originally built for last-gen consoles (PS3/XB360), has a less-than-stellar matchmaking system for PvP activities, lacks a coherent in-game story, and due to plans with Destiny 2, is already relying on recycled content to stay alive and relevant. With some patience on our part as players and the right moves by Bungie, Destiny 2 can be on target to be an even bigger game than Destiny 1.
And now it is time to spend some time at the speculation station, where we will take a ride on the theory train to wishland. Here are some things I’d like to see implemented in Destiny 2:
A more robust social space. Imagine that instead of the Tower, Reef, or Iron Temple, you instead were able to roam through the last city below the traveler in a mixed social space/open world environment. I wouldn’t necessarily get rid of the old social space model, but if the story were steered in the right direction, opening up the last city could provide for outstanding narrative and gameplay.
In-game grimoire/lore. I am stealing this idea from a friend because I think it is great (Thanks, Jorge!). Aside from adding more story elements and lore in-game, what if gaining Grimoire score unlocked in-game achievements or rewards, similar to the books we are getting now? It could be tied-in with the books, or a separate “book”. Give us another reason to go ghost-hunting!
Ability to fly our jump-ships. I know this is trivial to some, but I just think it would be cool if we had some in-space missions with our jump-ships. Another way to open up the game and diversify the content.
Improved PvP Matchmaking with dedicated servers.
Quirky fun easter eggs and hidden items. I love it when you discover something random in a game you love playing that makes you chuckle. Remember the jukebox discovery in the tower lounge? I want more funny items, even small ones, to add to the player experience and immerse you in the Destiny experience.
I don’t want to go too into detail on my ideas here. Otherwise, this article will get even LONGER (ugh…), so I will save that for a special episode of the In Orbit podcast (shameless plug). In the meantime, I hope the Destiny community will take it upon themselves to make & keep the Destiny we currently have great, and if that doesn’t sound appealing, take the time to play and enjoy other games! Hopefully, you’ll feel refreshed after doing so, and when you jump back in the Tower you have the same excitement and intrigue you had when Destiny 1 launched.