WEAPONS IN DESTINY’S THE TAKEN KING: QUICK THOUGHTS
Watching the circus that’s surrounding the launch of Bungie’s latest addition to Destiny, (The Taken King launches on September 15th, for those of you who have spent the last few months on some sort of sojourn through the Sahara), has been pretty entertaining. What you’re seeing is the education of an audience in real-time; not something that we get to see all that often in the video game industry. In many ways, the battle lines were drawn years ago. You have your console loyalists, your PC gamers, and then we divide into subgroups. The RPG fans, the MMO geeks, the FPS fanatics, and so on. Destiny is now the rare game, frankly the only game, that has drawn in an audience from pretty much every subculture within the broader gaming community. This can lead to some truly dynamic, interesting and fascinating dialogue. It can also lead to what is essentially the equivalent of C-SPAN if you gave all of congress an unlimited supply of PCP, moonshine and chainsaws. Which, incidentally, would be the best thing on TV ever. See? I’m an idea guy!
WELCOME TO THE MMO PART OF FPSMMORPG
Because Destiny is an original in the sense that it’s chosen platform/audience, (consoles and the console audience), and flavor of genre mash-up, (FPSMMORPG), has never been done before, we’ve now got something of a fustercluck on our hands, and Bungie is getting some flack from the community around the way they’re treating gear in The Taken King. Actually, they’re not getting some flack. They’re getting, like, all the flack. Seriously. Go to your nearest flack store and check the shelves; totally empty. Aside from the Exotic tier of weapons and gear, all the year one legendary weapons and armor (and nobody really cares about armor, it’s the guns that people are fixated on), are being left in the dust. No more upgrades. I won’t lie, I do think it kind of sucks. Based on everything we know as of this writing, community favorites like Fatebringer and Word of Crota will be relegated to the confines of the vault when it comes to new content.
One might ask what exactly the big deal is, and it’s kind of a fair question. Let me present you with a scenario: You’re playing a game and you have some awesome weapons and gear that you really like. The developer then releases a new patch with a new tier of gear that’s better than pretty much everything you’ve got. So you have to go out and get all the new stuff. So you do. Well, now you’re set, god damn it! Right?! You’ve got all the new stuff and you’re a powerhouse! Well, not so fast, buddy. Four months later they do it again. And then again four months after that. And this goes on for eleven freaking years. How pissed would you be? How infuriating must that be to grapple with? Surely no community would put up with such a tactic! Or it could be a core element in one of the most successful games in the history of ever, seeing that what I described above is exactly what World of Warcraft has been doing since the game launched in 2004. Most MMOs, not just WoW, do this to one degree or another, and for those players what Bungie is doing is par for the course. Are Halo players/FPS traditionalists used to this? Hell no, and a lot of people are pissed just because this is a curve ball for them and that’s understandable. The real problem, though, is that Bungie has done something very well and it’s (somewhat unfairly) biting them in the ass.
YOU CAN HAVE MY RAY GUN WHEN YOU PRY IT FROM MY COLD DEAD 18-FINGERED HAND
Destiny has it’s issues. As a fan of the game, I would be the first one to admit that. But while it may have some glaring problems (::cough:: STORY ::cough::), Bungie has accomplished something truly astonishing in the sense that they’ve created weapons that have distinct personalities. That may sound kind of weird, but if you’ve invested some time in Destiny you know exactly what I’m talking about. The weapons design is, frankly, astounding. They’ve actually created digital items that the players feel genuine affection for, which is almost impossible. Oh sure, plenty of games have created cool gear, but I challenge you to find me an item that has the mythos of Gjallahorn in another game. This isn’t like most games where you simply stat check a piece of gear against the new thing that just dropped, and toss the old one if the new one is better. I’m going to swap out my Fatebringer or my painstakingly reforged High Road Soldier for something new? Not bloody likely. That’s my knee jerk reaction, at any rate. And a lot of players are in the same boat.
There isn’t an easy answer to this problem. In a certain sense, it’s a problem that doesn’t need to be addressed. From a progression standpoint and a design standpoint, it makes perfect sense to draw a line in the sand and say “Ok, things change here.” Games like Destiny need to evolve to get better and to keep their players invested, and replacing old gear with new gear is a huge part of that. Bungie is well within their right as developers and designers to make what they feel is the best call for their game. However, dismissing what their fans are saying about this would be an extremely silly thing to do, and there’s no reason that there can’t be a compromise. Most players don’t have ten or fifteen legendaries that they want to keep; they’ve got one or two. That’s certainly true in my case. And remember, this doesn’t apply to Exotic weapons. Those are going to keep on trucking. Sure, Thorn and G-Horn are getting nerfed but it’s not like they’re disappearing. If I’m Bungie, I’m giving each player the ability to ascend one or two favorite legendaries as a token of appreciation. Everything else goes on the scrap heap. Not only would this make every character feel more unique, (“You lucky bastard, with your ascended year one Word of Crota!”), it would be a fair bit of fan-service without unbalancing the game. Will they do this? Who knows. Historically, Bungie has done a pretty good job of listening to their community. Hopefully they’re listening this time.