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Opinion – What Destiny Can Do Better

by Daniel Tack on Sep 28, 2015 at 12:35 PM

We’re a few weeks into Destiny's The Taken King, which has been a lovely transition and a massive improvement from the core game (check out our review); there’s tons to do, and many of the systems in place have experienced significant upgrades. With a plan to keep the sci-fi trek going for many years to come, there’s still a lot I’d love to see the game try to do. While many of the new aspects of The Taken King are a lot of fun, Bungie could do even more. Here are some of the ways I’d love to see one of my favorite current titles move in the future.

Keep improving public content

One of the best parts of Destiny is coming together as a group to take on challenges as they crop up in zones, adding a lot of life to “patrol” or casual farming. Several of the new content offerings in The Taken King play up this aspect, whether you’re hunting down Taken lieutenants to punch out a quest or better yet, exploring the Dreadnaught, picking up all kinds of keys and runes and triggering events that are best experienced with a small group. The culmination of this pick-up party and current best implementation of this idea in the game is the Court of Oryx, a “boss-battle on-demand” suited for groups small and large, and for players like me that consider strike farming a doldrum, a welcome breath of fresh air. 

The only issue with the Court is that sometimes you’ll be stuck in an instance of the Dreadnaught by yourself or with players who are off doing other things, leaving you looking longingly at the Court, hoping someone will wander by for a spawn or two. There are lots of players looking for public quest action, let’s find ways to bring them together!

In my opinion, an even larger zone that plays off both aspects at the same time – the interesting “kill enemies until a big enemy spawns” and Court of Oryx would be an awesome patrol or “public zone” in the future; the trick is making sure people are in the right place at the right time, so that these big fights have participants when they pop. In addition to this, the Court – for all its majesty – can get fairly old after a while, with only a limited number of fights available. 

Something cool for the next iteration of this idea would be to use this arena-style event to continually roll out new content every month to keep things fresh and the zone active, and tying it to a single area would ensure that folks would only have to head to a single destination instead of splitting up players. The “dream” public group content in the future would be something like a dedicated zone chock full of random encounters, probably involving some element of procedural generation, that would essentially replace the activity of patrol farming, because even though the Dreadnaught is the best patrol zone ever, it can still sometimes just be popping beacons and collecting glass – and Destiny has proven at this point that it can do much better than that, even for casual semi-solo content. Maybe something that even takes the best of both worlds of what Destiny has to offer, a full-fledged PVP zone with all kinds of rewards that would pit players against enemies – and each other. On that note, how about galaxy call outs for big world bosses that would show up in a player’s feed as they cruise in orbit, alerts of new threats landing in patrol zones within the hour that would take multiple players to take down?

Clans and groups

Yep, some of the best Destiny available comes at the group level with your friends. But if you’re like me, your friends list is probably fairly large, and you’re never quite sure what everyone is up to when you log on. Are they prepping for a strike? Are they away from the console? Are they getting ready to log off? Who knows? And randomly joining a friend’s fireteam is an odd way to go about things. It’s not terribly efficient to try and send messages to each friend and ask them what’s going on anytime you log on.

Without trying to turn this whole thing into a PC MMORPG with dedicated clan/guild chat, how about something like a clan “message” system where you could select predetermined queries from a quick menu in orbit that would shoot the message to your clan list? Allow for basic requests and we wouldn’t have to worry about people using the system to troll or spam inappropriate content – essentially, the Hearthstone approach. Things like “Anyone want to do a heroic strike?” or “Looking for one more for raid?.” These messages would come with easy join options and for the sake of ease you could even add optional light level requirements so your fledgling clanmates don’t start joining up for raids. This would be a welcome accessibility option that would take much of the work behind forming groups and make grouping a lot less painful. As long as we’re out here in dreamland, making some sort of in-game public area to form groups for content that doesn’t have matchmaking would be great too – a sort of space tavern where you could find yourself a party.

Yes, I realize that out-of-game options exist for these things, but there’s really no reason we should be forced to use them when viable methods could be added inside the client. And hey, since we’re dreaming anyway, here’s something that could happen to add some extra love for clans – clan housing in the form of huge clan ships or something. Clans could stack achievements, trophies, and other such things that would carry over from year-to-year, game-to-game, and use it as a viable alternative to “orbit” for planning their next activities. Along with the obvious, there could be clan bounties and unique rewards tied to this take on player-housing, with facilities that grow and unlock as your clan progresses.

Even more things Destiny can do better on page two...

Reward long-term players

The Taken King’s new level cap and itemization really came as no surprise to me, with green gear topping old legendaries and exotics. Expect that to happen again and again for the larger expansions and new games; there’s really no need to keep new/returning players behind and have to play a ton of catchup for new content. Your awesome exotic that sprouts crystal trees that drop void bombs is going to be replaced by a middling green hand cannon that only holds three bullets. 

That’s reality, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. While this sort of “start-everyone-back-at-the-beginning” expansion thing is hardly a new concept, there are cool ways to reward your vets without alienating the returning thralls. I mean obviously there are shaders, bikes, and other things of that nature that can be handed out without an issue to gameplay balance, but there should be some other things that reward players that have pushed through content when it was relevant. Pets or something, maybe, perhaps in the form of tiny robotic helper droids? We already have ghosts, but maybe the addition of a pet slot wouldn’t be terrible; they could pick up stuff that falls on the ground. How about weapon-skin cosmetics? Unique player skins? (Yes, skins, not shaders). 

It sounds generic and I’m sure Bungie can do more with the idea, but tapping into stuff like Halloween themes or big-ass wings from MMOs for inspiration in this area could go far. There’s actually a ton of ways to do this without causing a big problem for new and/or returning players, and Bungie would do well to investigate a few more options in this arena to help reduce the sting of “losing” your best stuff every six months or year.

Content rollout and discovery

One of the cool things that’s already been discovered in The Taken King is the inclusion of special exotics tied to exploration and challenge, as some found with a special sniper rifle mission roped into a daily heroic. That’s awesome, and I’m sure there are other gems like this to be discovered over the course of the expansion. Let’s keep that concept going. We all know how voracious players can be for content when a new expansion hits, and they can plow through things so fast and burn out on things, eventually finding themselves waiting for the next giant content push. What if things changed over the course of the expansion? New areas, new things pop up over the course of the content – I don’t mean weekly events or Iron Banner or things like that, I mean a few major new areas or shifts over the course of the expansion.  This sort of thing could expand on the notions that Bungie toyed with in Queen’s Wrath.

Maybe a zone gets completely taken over by Taken and becomes a massive battlefield playground for high-level players, if you want to do things without creating any new areas. Obviously new players could opt into a standard instance of the zone for story purposes, but everyone else would be forced into the big warzone events. Maybe a month into release, Rasputin wakes up and starts laying siege to the Dreadnaught or something. There are a lot of cool opportunities here that could keep things fresh over a longer duration. Essentially, the goal to making Destiny a more dynamic, living world where new things are happening all the time would go a long way toward making things interesting, instead of just finding new ways to make “the grind” more palatable.

Keep improving structured PVE

Strikes get boring when you’re rolling them over and over. The stacking loot buff introduced in this expansion and the Three of Coins both make killing bullet-sponge tanks and the same encounters over and over slightly more interesting, but there’s problems there too, especially when you’re a solo Guardian just trying to make ends meet. Strikes can be pretty boring outside of the boss encounter, so I’d love to see something like that in the future – maybe just a strike featuring rapid boss encounters, light on the trash. People often leave strikes right at the beginning or even halfway through, and if you’ve been spending your entire afternoon trying to work up that strike bonus, it can be a pretty big letdown to have to give up your stacks just because your pick-ups bailed on you. Obviously this can be corrected by playing with friends, which is why I discussed ways to improve that earlier, but solo players shouldn’t be penalized when other people bail on groups. 

There’s got to be a way to fix this, and hopefully we don’t even need to wait for another large content block to take care of it. Also, with so few strikes on the playlist, I’d love to see some sort of “alternate” paths appear once in a while at random – things that take the players to different areas of the strike and maybe alternate bosses (like the “secret” sniper rifle mission) and add just a bit more variety to things. As much as I do find the new strikes more interesting than year one fare, even battling Alak-Hul in the dark is going to lose its luster in a month or so. I’m aware that there are indeed already some encounters and varying things that can happen on some of the strikes now, but I feel like there’s an opportunity to take this aspect further. In addition to that, let players know what strike they’re going to next so they can bail out early if it’s something they don’t want to do!

Destiny has come a long way in a year, but even as great as it is now, it’s still only realizing a glimmer of its full potential. After The Taken King, I’m confident that the next big Destiny content launch will continue to keep the game moving toward an even more enthralling and engaging experience.