There have been countless articles that point out how broken Destiny is in its current and former states (and rightfully, so), so why not talk about how Bungie can find a way out of that giant hole they've dug themselves into?
If you aren't familiar with how leveling and upgrading works in Destiny, go give Jason's recent article a read. Polygon also has a good article that presents some of the same issues, just in case you need proof that Kotaku writers aren't the only ones in a love/hate relationship with Bungie's latest game.
Good to go? Great!
Leveling a character via gear isn't exactly a new concept, but it certainly isn't a popular one. The most obvious solution to the level cap issue is to allow players to increase the level of their existing gear with every new level update. Bungie is doing this... kind of.
Currently, Destiny only allows you to upgrade exotic weapons and armor via an over-priced and overly-tedious system involving a vendor that only shows up on weekends. This means that any armor and weapons that you acquired from Destiny's Vault of Glass raid are now obsolete. In fact, if Bungie continues with their current system, every hard-earned piece of gear you obtain from the latest Crota raid will be useless in a few months when the House of Wolves expansion is released. Knowing that the gear you've put countless hours into earning and upgrading will be superseded by vendor-bought gear in a couple months isn't exactly great for player morale.
Even if you are completely OK with Destiny's exotic upgrade system, what are you to do with the rest of your non-exotic gear? Well, at the moment the only option is to destroy it for shards/energy or store it in your vault (if you have room), only to be put back on when no one is looking. If you want to preserve a piece of gear or a weapon that isn't exotic, you're out of luck. None-exotic items that aren't level 31 or 32 have no use for players who want to experience new content.
Oh, and don't even get me started on the fact that exotic gear often looks like crap since it doesn't adhere to shader colors like standard armor does. It's functionality over form when it comes to exotic armor. Is your chest plate green? You had better hope you have a green shader or else that hunk of junk is going to look pretty crappy with practically every other shader you own. But that chest also gives an extra grenade and bonus to heavy and special weapon ammo, so you'll just have to suck it up and wear that gaudy monstrosity, grenade nipples and all! (Pic below related.)
*With a bonus, armor-style solution!
The fix for Destiny's leveling/gear conundrum is best explained in a step-by-step scenario:
- You finished Destiny's latest raid and got a chest piece. Your friends hate you. Congrats!
- You like the abilities of the new armor, and obviously want its higher light level, but don't like how it looks. You prefer that slick chest piece from the Vault of Glass raid, but you need to get to the current level cap so you can play the latest raid on the hardest difficulty! What do you do!?
- Swing by the item upgrade vendor. You know, the one who hangs around at the Tower every single day instead of just on the weekends. Wow, is she great or what?
- After tossing her a few marks/strange coins/glimmer/not-a-new-made-up-currency she asks you if you would like to apply the stats from the new chest piece to your old Vault of Glass chest piece. You hold X or square to confirm and BOOM - your old gear has taken on the light level, stats, and abilities of the new armor. The new chest piece is obviously destroyed in the process, but it was ugly anyways, so who cares?
- Here's where things get cool. After the transaction, the vendor provides you with a "style blueprint" that allows you to change the look of your current chest piece to that of the chest piece you just destroyed. Is your mind blown yet? It shouldn't be. This kind of thing has been done in countless modern MMORPGs.
- But wait, there's more! Because you already spent the time and materials to max out your old chest plate, the new item is already half-way upgraded. Only the three remaining nodes need to be upgraded in order for you to max out the defense, but the armor abilities and buffs are already unlocked. Sweet!
This same concept could also be applied to weapons, exotic or not. In fact, Bungie is already part of the way there with the existing exotic upgrade system, as bad as it may be. Before the Dark Below DLC, the beloved Ice Breaker sniper rifle capped at 300 damage. If you use the existing exotic upgrade system, you end up with an un-upgraded Ice Breaker that starts at 302 damage. This is good, as it means you aren't going to lose damage when you upgrade exotic weapons. However, you still have to go back and grind marks/mats/glimmer to upgrade every aspect of the Ice Breaker, both abilities and damage, from scratch.
With this proposed upgrade system, your freshly upgraded Ice Breaker would have all of its abilities intact and the damage cap from previous version. You would only have to upgrade the damage to get it to the new cap. This way you lose absolutely nothing from the work you put into upgrading the weapon prior to the DLC content release. It shouldn't be a big deal to put in a bit more work to increase the damage to the new cap.
Whenever new content is released, the vendor will receive an update that allows her to upgrade any of your existing weapons to their respective higher-leveled versions for a price. In addition, any new armor that drops from new content can have their stats applied to old armor if you wish. If you want to stick with the new piece of armor because you like how it looks, you can simply level it from scratch.
Now I know I only mentioned the idea of a "style blueprint" in passing, but I think this could be huge in a future version of Destiny. Being able to retrieve a blueprint whenever you discard an old piece of armor, with the ability to apply it to your existing armor at will, would be amazing, right?
One of Destiny's most controversial features is its randomized loot distribution system. The complaints about it only got stronger after Bungie released the Vault of Glass raid, where players could spend hours battling difficult enemies without a single weapon or piece of armor to show for it. There are probably tens of thousands (or more) of players who's inventories are full of various upgrade materials without any weapons or armor to spend them on.
Bungie has somewhat addressed this issue by improving the Cryptarch's decrypting skills and boosting the chance of getting better items from Crucible, Vanguard, and Cryptarch packages, but the issue still remains that there is no reliable way to obtain new gear that isn't available from vendors. All players are still subject to the will of "RNGesus" (Random Number Generator) to get the gear they need to progress.
*With a bonus, story-telling solution!
There are a few ways that Bungie can approach the disappointing inconsistency of drops in Destiny raids:
- When a new raid is released, the DLC vendor offers a quest that activates after you beat the raid for the first time. This quest guarantees that you get a piece of raid armor when you return to the vendor with the quest completed. Before you receive the reward, there could be a cutscene or section of dialogue explaining the consequences of your actions in the raid, and how they effect the Destiny universe. At the moment, all you get for defeating Crota in the latest raid is a "good job" from Eris when you talk to her. It's pretty damn anti-climactic, and not nearly as cool as the bonus mission that appears at the end of the Urn quests (which are actually pretty cool).
Don't get me wrong, defeating Crota is an exhilarating feat, but simply jumping back to orbit after such an epic moment just feels... lame. When you arrive back at the Tower, there is no fanfare, no map indicator asking you to approach the Speaker to be congratulated, no care package waiting for you at the courier kiosk... nothing. You just spent 8 hours triumphantly defeating the most difficult enemy in Destiny, but it sure doesn't feel like your efforts had an impact on anything. This is an issue with most MMORPGs, and I was truly hoping Destiny would be different. Tossing in extra cut scenes or conversations with primary characters sure wouldn't hurt! Hell, maybe have some sort of new mission unlock that takes place in the raid area where you're picking off stragglers! (Anyone else want to rocket the crap out of those Gorgons? BRING IT!)
- Add a loot selection screen to the end of each raid. Show two or three items, and let the player choose which one they want. Sure, there's a chance that someone could have all three items already, but at least they could then choose which item would be the most beneficial to destroy for crafting materials.
- If the game already detects that you have received the raid's shader, speeder, or ship, don't drop it again. Instead, swap what would be a completely useless duplicate item for a weapon or piece of armor. Even if the weapon or armor is a duplicate, it still has value when it is destroyed. Shaders, speeders, and ships literally give nothing (not even glimmer) when you discard them. Providing energy or shards when these items are destroyed could also help solve this issue.
- Any time a player doesn't receive an item from completing a raid, increase the chances of a drop the next time they start the raid. If the drop rate starts at 20%, increase it to 50% for the next raid, and then to 100% if they made it through two raids without getting anything. (I would much prefer the above three ideas to this one, but it's something, at least.)
Now that level 31 items are available to purchase from vendors, the level 30 armor and weapons that drop during the VoG raid aren't nearly as appealing as they were. In fact, the armor is downright obsolete if you want to tackle the new Crota's End raid or maintain a high level in the Iron Banner events.
All of the weapons that drop during the VoG are level 30 weapons, with the exception of the exotic Mythoclast, which is around 31/32. So at this point, if you have a legendary (purple) weapon that you enjoy using from the Vault, chances are it won't be so hot when the Crota's End hard raid is released in January. Even now, level 30 weapons don't do a hell of a lot of damage to the level 32 enemies in Crota's End. So while they will still work for repeating lower-leveled missions, legendary raid weapons and armor will fade away as higher and higher-leveled content is released, and the VoG raid itself may become obsolete in the future if changes aren't made.
At the moment, the only reason to run the Vault of Glass is to farm ascendant shards and energy, or the off-chance that you get an exotic weapon you want. Exotics and ascendant materials can both be obtained by other means, of course.
There is a good chance that Bungie is already taking steps to ensure that the Vault of Glass is still played in the near future, but it can't hurt to offer a few simple suggestions in the meantime:
- Implement the aforementioned armor upgrade/style method. This way people would have an aesthetic reason to run the Vault of Glass, as they may want the "style blueprints" from the armor pieces to use with their newer armor.
- Implement the aforementioned weapon upgrade method. This ensures that lower-leveled legendary weapons remain effective in high-level content.
- Continue to upgrade the Vault and Crota's End raids, along with other forthcoming raids, to include a mode that matches the current level cap. For instance, a level 32 mode could be added to the Vault of Glass that drops the exact same armor and weapons, but at level 32 instead of 30. To me, this is the quickest and most logical solution, and something that should be done with each raid whenever the level cap is raised. Granted, being able to upgrade existing weapons makes the raid less appealing to hardcore players, but new players will be able to enjoy the new content without feeling like the non-exotic drops are pointless.
If Bungie decides to implement all or some of the above improvements, I'm sure no one would complain. Well, the internet can always find reasons to complain, but it sure as hell would be a step in the right direction!
Do you have any solutions to the constant Destiny issues that overshadow what is otherwise a solid social shooting game? Let's hear 'em!