With the first gameplay reveal for Destiny 2 and subsequent info dump we now finally have a clearer picture on how Bungie is developing the highly anticipated sequel. It’s clear when you run down the list of features that a lot of attention has been given to player feedback, particularly the more highly criticized aspects of Destiny. While those are several, there is one element in particular that the developer is now addressing which is drawing attention and that is the increased accessibility and accommodations made for new and casual players. While there has been grumbling over what that means for the game and community, a close look at how Bungie is making this happen should actually put concerned players at ease. Here are a few reasons why this is a good move for the franchise, and why ultimately, every player wins.
First let’s look at some of the improvements being made to accessibility. The new Crucible Hud has more info about other players, to make it easier to get into and understand for new players. This improvement to communicating the game’s mechanics is going to extend everywhere in the game giving players much more info on how to play the game and what everything means. The big change for accessibility is Guided Games which connects clans and solo players for a session of strikes or a raid. This is an alternative to solo matchmaking and will connect solo players to an active clan. Furthermore, you can open up parties if a player drops out to find a new player looking for a team. After a session is done you can go your separate ways, or follow this new path of potential friendship and see about joining up with the clan. This addresses one of the major gripes of the first game: that players without dedicated teams couldn’t experience raids, which were a big selling point for the game.
Let’s address the big dreaded casual elephant in the room right away. Time for some adult gamers is short, especially when it comes to raids. Schedules are almost impossible to align amongst several individuals with full time jobs, commitments and kids. These players may have a hardcore heart, but not hardcore availability which places them in an odd casual territory. They can only commit to sneaking time for gaming in short bursts. But because of this, why should their tastes change? They need not be relegated to the land of Candy Crush and Clash of Clans and other stripped down experiences. These are gamers who put in the time during young adulthood and college, and they grew up with hardcore mechanics, experiences and expectations. Being pressed for time certainly isn’t a reason for marginalization, especially when their hearts still beat in solidarity for rich gaming.
These concessions towards broader accessibility are also the right thing to do if you’re going to market to the solo player. It would be fine to close the door on more integrated and matchmaking features if you’re pushing a group only MMO. But the loner type player who likes what they hear and are told they can play solo should not be locked out of content for lack of friends or a preference to experience content at their own pace. Furthermore, the toxic nature of some online communities, especially as it relates to the way a drop-in newcomer is treated, often discourages more shy players from reaching out. The Guided Games feature in my opinion is the best yet solution to this problem as it allows the solo player to feel like they can experience the entirety of the content without the cross-your-fingers-and-hope LFG methods or the worry about landing in a group of people who’s preferred method of communication are belittling insults. Pairing solo players with Clans, which often take on roles of leadership and role modeling in communities allows for more quality interactions (in theory) and an opportunity to challenge stigmas and misconceptions about online gaming.
Making the hud, mechanics and game modes more easily understandable removes another barrier to entry and doesn’t give new people any advantage. PvP will still be skill based. It’s demoralizing to launch in and get demolished all because you’re finding your way around what all the icons and alerts mean. Let’s be honest, modern gaming is getting more confusing and with the increase in technological capabilities in today’s high powered hardware comes an increase in options, especially in big, open(ish) settings that allow you a wide range of activities. More options are good, but the more you add, the more real world-like games get. For many of us, it’s taken us decades to master our own real worlds, and for many I’d argue the word “master” is a quite loose term. Bringing people along by demystifying the information and eliminating hours spent in tedious learning is good for everyone and creates a positive attachment to the game experience. The only reason for advocating the opposite would come from a competitive desire to keep the opposition in the dark, which is juvenile. Train them all and let skill perform the bifurcation between can and can not.
If all of these are implemented well the benefits are twofold: Increased sales and an increased player base that also hangs around longer, which is vital to the health of an online focused game. A robust player base and engaged health improves the game’s future prospects and Bungie’s ability to provide it quality ongoing support. When the money is there, future content updates should be high quality. This also welcomes a whole new previously silent group of solo and casual but most importantly active players who can continue to offer opinions from their perspectives to ensure future content is broadly appealing. These are win-wins. Right now gaming development is in a weird space; with the prevalance of online communities, vocal gamers have definite impacts on content, updates and patches but how many of those voices are from the less active or more demure gamers? Destiny’s reddit community has 330,000+ subscribers. That’s a lot right? With 25 million+ registered players that’s less than 2% of the playerbase. It’s safe to say there are more people playing the game and staying quiet than are shouting their demands in countless threads. As such I’d argue developers should be doing even more to capture the thoughts from these players. But, making them feel like a wanted part of the player base is a great start.
Overall, none of the concessions and modifications mentioned in this article cheapen the experience for any hardcore gamer. If you’re playing hours a day, 7 days a week, this accessibility will not impact you one bit, besides the knowledge that the game you love is healthy and supported. Yes you may see a few more players out and about, and yes you might find your crucible matches a little more competitive than before but these can hardly be called negatives. Having a think about different ways Bungie could have made the game more accessible turns up much more nightmarish concessions, such as handing out loot like candy or no longer having the best rewards only drop from end game activities like raids. By making some interface and social changes Bungie is able to reasonably offer enjoyment to the hardcore clan, solo or casual player without futzing around with progression and rewards. That’s just Good Game Design 101.
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