Thursday, 31 July 2014

Why people are worried about Destiny, and why Bungie's response doesn't ease my concerns

With the alpha and beta test of Destiny behind us, those anticipating Bungie’s next big thing now have over a month to wonder what’s in store for them when the final game comes along. On forums and social media, that discussion has partially turned to concern, with some wondering just how much content they’ll be getting on September 9th.
Those who’ve played the Moon and Old Russia zones in Destiny’s beta test have seen almost 40% of the game’s explorable world, if the estimates of five zones are accurate. They’ve seen a handful of story missions, one strike mission, free roam, and the game’s competitive multiplayer. They’ve seen a lot, and it has some, including myself, wondering if Destiny is really the massive adventure we’re all hoping for.
Okay, so first things first -- yes, it is kind of dumb to get all worked up about the amount of content in an unreleased game. I’ve read of people cancelling their pre-orders because they heard there are only 4 or 5 explorable zones in the game. It’s like we’re getting back to the days where a game lived and died by its hour-count, where a 50-hour game was objectively better than a 10-hour one. I DO think that’s dumb, but I also think there’s good reason people are worried. Destiny is shaping up to be something special, and a lot of people don’t want that experience to be short-lived.
Destiny Old Russia
The structure of the alpha and beta tests didn’t do Bungie many favors in this regard. The “story” content could be blown through in less than an hour, the strike mission in another 20-30 minutes, leaving gamers with Free Roam or PvP. A lot of players put 10, 15, even 20 hours into this small sampling of content, wringing every last bit of enjoyment out of what was given; I know I did.
Now you’re probably thinking: “If these people spent that much time playing a sample of the game, won’t they get many, many more hours out of the final game?” It’s a pretty logical argument, and it makes a lot of the worriers seem like hypocrites.
The reason for their concerns is two-fold, though. Firstly, once you’ve exhausted the good stuff, the remaining content gets into grindy, MMO territory. Kill the same respawning enemies over and over, do the same infinite side missions, and collect loot chests that spawn in the same general areas again and again. Secondly, with the entire zone available whether you’re in a story mission or free roam, complete with a high-speed vehicle that spawns at will, it’s all-too-easy to explore the entire world in a short time.
When the Moon was made available, my friends and I burned through the story mission in about 15 minutes. From there, we spent the next 90 minutes avoiding the mission goal and exploring the entirety of the moon zone. We ventured into the caves beneath the moon’s surface and we found some really cool things. It was a great time, and some of the most awe-inspiring level design I’ve seen in a game in some time. But before the end of the brief, two-hour window, we’d explored just about every corner available to us. We’d seen two out of five of Destiny’s zones, and we didn’t even have the final game yet.
Destiny The Moon
I don’t think the worry is whether there will be enough to do in Destiny -- the beta already showed how someone can get obsessed with grinding away for hours on end. The concern is about a broader sense of exploration. In a game like Skyrim, a player could go on quests for dozens of hours and barely scratch the surface in terms of seeing new landmarks. In Destiny, players can hop into Free Roam and explore entire zones in an hour or two. When we finally play the moon story in the final game, the cutscenes will be a surprise, but we’ll have already seen the environment.
Bungie’s community manager Eric "Urk" Osborne attempted to assuage fears in a post on NeoGAF, claiming that the moon is the game’s smallest zone, this is their biggest game ever, and that level 8 is just scratching the surface. It’s nice to hear, and I don’t mean to belittle a genuine attempt to relieve an eager community, but I can’t help thinking that means recycled missions in the same areas you can burn through with a Sparrow in a couple hours.
Either way I’m going to be there playing Destiny on day one, because it’s a blast to play. I hope we’re wrong about the world size and the sense of exploration, and there’s a good chance we’ll be eating our words on September 9th. Is it worth worrying about? Are we just getting all worked up because Destiny is so fun? Or is this a serious issue? Let us know what you think.

Posted by: Joe Donato
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