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One Other Thing... (Destiny)

by CruelLEGACEY @, Toronto, Friday, January 06, 2017, 19:16 (960 days ago) @ Ragashingo

For Destiny era Bungie, I feel that they in some ways did us a disservice by barely saying anything about their new game before launch. I made my preorder not understanding the concept of Destinations vs missions. Not understading the process of leveling up and getting loot. Dreading ADS. Not understanding how Supers charged and having barely understanding of how any individual Super worked or what it did. Etc. Etc. Maybe part of what made my perception of all this worse was I had convinced myself that they would finally have to actually reveal their game a lot more since it was a new engine, new universe, new gameplay, etc. So when they didn't, it felt a bit extra bad, I guess.

The lead up to Destiny was certainly a different animal than the pre-release days leading up to Halo 3, ODST, Reach, etc. Halo in those days was very much a known quantity, which opened up a certain level of conversation about each new game as they approached. Before Halo 3 shipped, we were getting fairly detailed breakdowns of the early missions in the campaign (via the Podcast). Nothing in terms of story spoilers, but we were told things like "the first mission introduces the basic mechanics and combat, the 3rd mission introduces vehicles, etc". In Frank's own words, "the 2nd mission is where you're gonna get gang-banged by Brutes". (<- man, do I miss those old podcasts lol). Between what we already knew about Halo, plus these kinds of details, plus the gameplay demo footage coming out of E3 2007, I feel like I had a very clear idea of the kind of game I was going to be buying and playing.

Destiny was obviously a different story. New IP, new setting, new story and characters, new gameplay systems... we didn't really know what to expect. And that was exciting! I enjoyed being a bit more "in the dark" than I had been for the past few Bungie releases. It wasn't really until the Alpha came along that we had any real idea of how the game was going to play. There was that 1 E3 demo with Jason and Joe where they showed 3 full fireteams all converging to destroy a single Fallen walker (has anyone ever actually experienced that while playing Destiny?). The Alpha was very promising, because it left enough space for us to fill in the blanks with our own expectations. I know how dangerous that term is (expectations), but I think it is totally fair for Bungie fans who have been playing Bungie games for years to have expected a decently fleshed-out story in Destiny. I came away from the Alpha thinking

- "those story missions were pretty plain and simple, but that's to be expected from the early missions... they'll surely get more complex and diverse!" (wrong)

- "patrol gets old fast but this is just the alpha so I'm sure there will be way more to do on patrol in the final game, right?" (wrong)

- "I don't really know much about what's going on here, but I'm sure everything will make sense in the final game" (wrong)

- "Earth is amazing! I hope the other patrol zones are as diverse and fun to explore and full of interconnecting paths and secret caves!" (nope)

So while the Alpha and Beta gave us this amazing hands-on time with the game, we weren't given enough context to understand the scope of what we were playing. My friends and I were having a blast with it, in no small part because we were imagining all the amazing stuff that must be coming with the full game (because the alpha must obviously be just a tiny little slice, right?) In hindsight, I can look at that alpha and see that it was a very honest representation of what vanilla Destiny was, strengths and weaknesses. But we weren't told at the time "earth is 1 of 4 patrol zones, and it is the biggest of the bunch". Nor were we told "the story and patrol missions and the strike are most of the content that will be available on earth in the shipping game".

And that's where I do hold Bungie somewhat accountable for their communication about/marketing of Destiny. They have continually lied via omission. The reason they didn't tell us much about the story or characters is because there wasn't anything to tell. Same goes for lack of information about how the end-game would work, how long the campaign was, how many multiplayer modes would be included, forge/theater/custom games... Bungie stayed silent on all of these issues as long as they possibly could because they knew that the answers were disappointing. And that trend continued long past the release of Vanilla Destiny.

I do realize that at a certain point, the marketing team needs to play with the cards they are dealt. The studio has produced a game, and the marketing team (including the community team) needs to get everyone excited to buy it, whatever it is. It's an incredible tricky line to walk, and I don't envy them one bit. Unfortunately, the state of Destiny as a game put the public-facing portion of Bungie in the position where they simply couldn't talk openly about the game, because there were too many pr landmines they needed to avoid.

As I've said before, I think a lot of the continued contention over this issue of "communication" comes down to the quality of the final product and the "customer satisfaction" levels of the player base. Back in 2008, Bungie had Mat Noguchi on the podcast to talk about the horror story that was creating Halo 3's caching system in order to get the game to run on a console that didn't have a harddrive. But in the context of Halo 3, that story comes across as a tale of victory because it was this huge challenge that almost crippled the entire game, but Bungie managed to pull it off at the last minute and make it work. That's not the kind of story that people are interested in hearing about Destiny (although I'm sure there are similar stories to be told). People want to hear about what happened during the making of Destiny because they want to know why their favorite developer released a game with so many glaring flaws. They want to hear that it was because of some isolated catastrophe, because that makes it easy to believe that it won't happen again. It's largely an emotional issue, not a logical one.


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