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5 Easy Ways Destiny Could be Improved
If you haven't already heard, there's this game called Destiny that swept the video gaming nation about a month ago. Piloted by Bungie, the company that brought us the ever-popular Halo series, among others, the game pits the player, a 'Guardian' of the last remaining city on Earth, against many nefarious forces trying to eradicate mankind once and for all and destroy the Traveler, a floating, omniscient orb sent from the heavens. Whether you dig the story or not is up to personal taste, but there's no denying the game set a new standard for first-person shooters with its crisp, responsive controls and intuitive weapon upgrade system.
As time rolls on, however, more and more once-loyal gamers are crying fowl against Bungie, claiming that the game isn't as substantial as once touted. Indeed, the story itself takes fewer than ten hours to complete, and though replayability is one of Destiny's claims to fame, players currently find themselves grinding the same areas on higher-but-still-not-that-challenging levels hoping to get that next best legendary drop to finally reach that next character level.
Bungie has, in its own way, combated some of the criticism with promises of "huge" future DLC offerings and new events, but this has done little to sway gamers already turned off by the repetition of it all. Bungie could do themselves a huge favor by including these five fixes into a future patch or DLC to streamline the game and regain some ground in the next-gen race.
Make Changes to the Tower
Ah, the Tower. The hub of The City, where Guardians flock to purchase new weapons, armor, and ships, pick up a few bounties, or meet up to tackle intense challenges. The average Destiny player will find him/herself visiting the Tower multiple times during any given gaming session, often to decrypt a new engram or turn in a bounty. And while the scenery is very aesthetically pleasing, especially the first hundred-some-odd times you see it, it eventually begins to lose its charm as it becomes a cycle of senseless walking, disappointing rewards, and endless load times. In fact, it might seem that the sole purpose of the Tower is to allow the player to interact with other Guardians-- after all, you'll likely pass a group or two kicking around the ol' soccer ball on your way to the Cryptarch--, but even this aspect is handicapped by Destiny's limited interaction options. But more on that later.
So how could the Tower be improved, then? Step one: make it bigger. If there's one thing Destiny seems to try to be, with limited success, it's an MMO(RPG/FPS). Compare the Tower to any of the towns in any MMO you can think of and it's downright tiny by comparison. Granted, consoles are limited by technical specs and different online play and all that, but this is the last stronghold for the entirety of humanity: are we supposed to believe it's essentially the size of a medieval castle?
Along with the increase in size should come an increased number of vendors. As it stands, there's one non-faction weaponsmith in the entire stronghold (and his stuff is junk after level fourteen or so). There's one class-specific armorer. There's one ship salesman. Want to make the Tower more interesting? Give me capitalism! Give me options! I want the ability to say, "Man, this guy has nothing but junk. Let me check out the guy across town and see what he's got today."
Along this same line, it'd be nice to see the various factions each get their own areas as well. Why should the Vanguards get a nice, shiny tower (basement?) while the other factions-- even the New Monarchy, who seem to have some cash-- reside in alleys and sub-basements of shipyards? Give the Tower some character to cover up the greyness.
Give Context to the Story
About two years ago, while looking for jobs in the video game industry, I came upon a job posted on the Bungie website calling for a "Deep Story Writer." The position, from what I remember, asked for an individual who demonstrated a love of deep lore-- think The Silmarillion-levels of backstory and lineage. Flash to the present, and my only thought is, "Man, did whoever got hired to that position get screwed."
Destiny contains almost no backstory; hell, it barely contains a story. Aside from a (admittedly beautiful) opening cinematic and a few bits and pieces of exposition from your Peter Dinklage-voiced companion, a floating "ghost" robot, you're never really given an explanation as to how things ever ended up this way, why they're changing now, or why you should care.
Now, it's highly possible that Bungie put more effort into their gameplay than their story, and that's fine; it's a legitimate strategy, albeit a very Call of Duty one, but one they've pulled off fairly successfully. However, this is an RPG, and with that genre comes great responsibility: they owe it to their audience to give them all the facts they'd ever want to know about the world they're stepping into. That isn't to say they should bog gamers down in seas of useless factoids and feats of glory from unrelated characters, but some (fictional) history is essential to make players care about the (fictional) present.
For an example of games that handle this problem well, look no further than the Mass Effect series. A player could spend literally hundreds of hours reading codex entries, talking to minor characters, and exploring dialogue options to reveal a history nearly as rich and detailed as our own. On the other hand, another player could choose to ignore all of these options, barely even knowing the name of the race they've just eradicated, much less their breeding habits, and still get as much from the game as the other player.
Am I saying Bungie should straight-up copy the whole "codex" thing? Maybe, but given Bungie's history of "revolutionizing" gaming, I'd hope they could come up with something original. A good start would be to include historical tidbits during those god-awful, ship-hovering loading screens. But while we're on that subject...
Cut Some of the Loading Screens/Non-Playing Time
You put in the Destiny disc. You wait. You see the Destiny title screen. You press (X/A) to start the game. You wait. You see a list of your created characters pop up, select the one you want, and press (X/A) again to actually start the game. You go to your available locations, select the Tower (for any of the reasons listed above), and you wait as your ship flies through some wormhole, finally dropping you off at the Tower so you can actually, actually start the game.
That, right there, is three to five minutes of time gone. Starting. The. Game. If Bungie's latest estimate that players spend an average of three hours per session is correct, that's about 2% of your gaming time spent simply arriving at your first intended destination. That's ridiculous when you consider that a good portion of your remaining time will be spent flying through more wormholes, dealing with vendors, screaming at the Cryptarch, or dismantling useless items. For a game that prides itself on gameplay, Destiny seems hellbent on keeping you from experiencing it.
One solution would be to simply eliminate a majority of these seemingly useless wait times. I'm no programming expert, so I can't say whether or not it's technically possible, but it would be widely appreciated. An alternative would be to give us something to do/read/experience during these wait times instead. Display some lore details during the flight sequences, or make the ships user-controlled and allow the player to pick up loose glimmer floating in the wormhole (in this way, there could even be a benefit to upgrading ships: faster turning, stronger glimmer magnets, etc.). Hell, you've got Peter Dinklage, one of the greatest acting voices of this era: have him read us a story. Anything to break up the boring.
Rework the Rewards System
More times than I can count (but not enough that it sounds like gloating), I've absolutely dominated a Crucible match. I awaited my reward with bated breath, sure that I'd finally get the reward to help me overcome the dreaded level 24 hump. When the victory screen finally disappeared (another irritating wait time, by the way), I watched as the lowest-scoring member of the team, a player who went a paltry 3-13, got not one, but two rare-or-better pieces of armor, while I (often with a K/D well above 2.0-- again, not gloating) got absolutely nothing for my efforts.
This is such an easy problem to fix that I'm legitimately baffled by its continued neglect. I can understand including randomized rewards in the hopes of giving inexperienced or simply outgunned players a chance to improve, but Bungie is taking away any incentive for players to be... good. I've literally watched players enter a match, not touch their controller once through the entire firefight, and receive a rare reward for their "effort." It needs to stop.
One very easy fix would be to have set rewards for certain statistics: things like reaching a certain number of kills, finishing without any deaths, reaching a specified K/D ratio, etc. These could be either on a match-by-match basis or cumulative throughout a player's service record, on a sort of "milestone" system. Another fix could be to simply do away with rewards altogether and instead revamp the Crucible store: the points earned in Crucible matches could be converted to a new type of currency, which could then be spent in the store at various tiers based on player level or Crucible rank.
Which of these would you rather see brought to Destiny?
Enhance Communication and Community Options
As I mentioned earlier, Destiny plays like a game that's thiiiiis close to identifying itself as an MMO, but it just can't get those final touches right. Case in point, the "clan" system: you can form clans of your friends or like-minded gamers through the Bungie website, and once you have a large enough clan you can start planning raid attempts, discussing strategies, and sharing tips and tricks with other members.
The key phrase to that statement is "through the Bungie website." Destiny's interface gives painfully few options for interacting with current clan members and gives zero potential to recruit new members through the game itself. Instead, clan members find themselves turning away from the game, logging into the website, organizing a raid, then finally going back onto the game to bring the fight. It's unintuitive, and it's especially painful when so many of the game's features-- raids, strikes, heroic missions-- require, or at least recommend, a party of friends to attempt. There's even a trophy/achievement to be had for joining up with a party of clan members, so clearly Bungie wants you to get involved.
But let's say you don't want to join a clan (because let's be honest: once you go clan, you've gone nerd). You want to focus on a casual gaming experience, but you still need to team up with some people to take on some of these harder missions. So you go to the tower, and you spy some players around your level, so you... dance with them. Wave at them. Point to them. Because aside from these options, communication is nigh-impossible. You could hope they're some of those people who would accept a random party or chat invite, then hope they'd be up for the same mission you're trying to complete, then hope they're not some of "those guys" who sit and watch as you futilely try to complete the mission solo, hoping to reap what you sow, but that's an awfully large number of variables just to complete one event.
This isn't necessarily an "easy" fix, at least on consoles; PC gamers have never experienced this problem, as keyboards, group chats, and server yells tend to make communication more streamlined, if a bit convoluted. Console communication will never be perfect, but at the very least, Bungie needs to enhance its clan-management options; another submenu with various clan features would be a welcome addition. Additionally, Bungie could at least attempt to enhance communication by including a quick-select function with a set of prewritten phrases and responses: things like "Anyone up for a raid?" or "Level 24 Strike?" or "L0L, n00bz."
...Then again, maybe silence really is golden.
Do you have more ideas to make Destiny a better game? Have a bone to pick with one of my ideas? Let me know in the comments!