An open letter to Bungie, Inc.
A little backstory
For the past 29 years, ever since I played my first games on an old IBM 80/86 at the ripe old age of four, I have been a gamer in one way or another, but even though I’d owned consoles throughout the years, I always considered myself to be a PC gamer. That is, until I’d played the beta for a game called “Destiny” at a friend’s house. Fast forward a few weeks to September 8th, 2014 and I found myself standing outdoors waiting in line for the midnight release of Destiny where I would proceed to buy a Playstation 4, a Playstation Gold Wireless Headset, a one year subscription to Playstation Plus and a copy of Destiny. I spent $650 for one game.
Fifteen short minutes later, I was home. My brand new PS4 was plugged in, I was logged into my new profile, the disc was in and Destiny was installing. As soon as the install finished, I immediately joined a party chat with my friends and we started working our way through the campaign in our quest to become legend.
Over the years, there were good times and there were bad times. We faced frustrating challenges together; feeling like we were perpetually stuck at level 29, never seeing a Crux of Crota drop, fighting Skolas that first week and realizing the extreme reality of Solar Burn working both ways. We rescued time from Atheon and the Vex. We traveled into his realm and defeated Crota on his terms. We stood up to Oryx, the Taken and all the challenges of the Dreadnaught. We destroyed SIVA and we became Iron Lords.
We also suffered through everything from our hard earned legendary engrams decrypting into blues and having to farm planetary materials for days on end, to massive content droughts and pay-to-win seasonal events. But we suffered through everything because Destiny was an amazing game.
Three years and 1,500 hours of playtime after that night of waiting in line, Destiny 2 was released.
I’d pre-ordered sometime around March of this year, and played both the Open and Closed Betas. Like a lot of Veteran Destiny 1 players, I’d hoped that the slow ability recharge rates, noticeably underpowered weapons and missing Quality of Life features were just because it was a beta. “They need a limited sandbox to detect the bugs”, I told myself. My friends provided rationalizations of their own– “It’s going to be great. It has to be great, right?”– and we patiently waited for launch day with immense anticipation of the game that we believed would carry us through the next three years of our collective gaming together.
Oh, how wrong we were.
Whether you, Bungie, want to admit it or not, expectations were set with Destiny. You set the expectation that the game would continue to improve, because it did, year after year. You set the expectation that you wouldn’t forget about the loyal players who stuck with you through the years. You introduced microtransactions, and we bought them, because you told us we were funding more improvements. We gave you feedback and sometimes you listened. Most times you didn’t, but you always worked to make the game better for the players who saw it through.
We stuck by you through The Dark Below’s horribly rated content [63 Metacritic Score, 3.1 User Score]. We stuck by you through– the only slightly better rated— House of Wolves, despite the lack of a raid, because you went out on a limb and tried something new with the Prison of Elders. We finally felt like you understood what we wanted from Destiny when you released The Taken King. You took away all of our hard earned weapons and armor, but we were okay with that because we had content to fill the void. The Taken King had it’s flaws, but for every flaw, there were a handful of improvements. It was a huge step in the right direction. Then came the content drought.
For a full year, we struggled to find reasons to play. But we played. You strung us along with minor updates here and there. You gave us the Sparrow Racing League and, because we wanted something new so badly, we loved you for it, but we were barely holding on. We did though. We held on until September of 2016 when you gave us Rise of Iron and we entered into the Age of Triumph. We felt triumphant. Destiny had finally become the game that we all knew it could be. We had new content. Old content was relevant once again. We could grind, or we could play casually. We could fill out entries in our record books and feel like we had progressed every day. Our exotics felt exotic. We were powerful immortal warriors filled with space magic.
You set the expectation that we could only go up from there. We believed that you finally knew what you were doing, and that Destiny had finally become the amazing game that we knew it could be. We believed in you, and you made us proud. So when Destiny 2 was announced, we told our friends. We told our family members. We explained to ex-players, who left early on in Destiny’s life, that the game had gotten so much better. We vouched for you and we put our own reputations on the line by recommending this game to new players. We reposted trailers and talked about our excitement. We believed that Destiny 2 had to be amazing, because it was the sequel to a game that had become amazing. Oh, how wrong we were.
We’re not mad, we’re disappointed.
We played the Beta for Destiny 2 and it gave us cause for concern, but we hoped for the best. We noticed that we felt slower, but we rationalized that it must have been because we didn’t have our powerful gear, after all, it was just the beta. We noticed that our abilities didn’t seem very impactful, but that must have been because we were such a low level and, after all, it was just the beta. We noticed that the skill trees were far more limited, but thought that must have been done just for the beta. We noticed that armor no longer had perks, but that must have been because they were all low-level blues and greens for the beta. We noticed that Crucible only had a handful of randomized modes, and that there was no way to select specific match types, but that must have been just for the beta. Slowly but surely as we played through, the enormous expectations that you had built up in us over the prior three years were being chipped away, brick by brick, but we pretended it wasn’t happening, and we turned a blind eye to to it, because after all, it must have been just for the beta.
So we waited for launch day. As soon as we could, we fired up our consoles, opened Destiny 2 and waited patiently in queue, eagerly waiting to become legend again. We watched as all of our prior achievements scrolled by on the screen, reminding us of all the tedious, frustrating and challenging, but ultimately rewarding activities we had played through. We stuck by you through everything and you remembered all of it. Our guardian would live on, or so we thought.
We watched the opening cinematic. The same cinematic we had previously seen during the beta. The tower was under attack, the Red Legion had slipped past our early detection systems and were now throwing their full military might behind eliminating the Vanguard, destroying the Traveler and stealing the Light for their own use. So there we were, dropped into the burning wreckage of our home for the past three years, all of our weapons gone. The armor we were wearing was gone. Our ship was gone. Our sparrow was gone, and somehow, all of our abilities were gone. We looked the same, but we weren’t the same. It was as though you had replaced each one of us with the cheap knockoff versions of ourselves, all the while reassuring us that this new guardian was somehow still us. But, we soldiered on. We convinced ourselves that, maybe our Guardians had simply been away. Maybe all of our gear was in the– now utterly destroyed– vault because we had secured some level of peace.
We watched as Ghaul stripped us of our light and threw us toward the ground hundreds, maybe thousands, of feet below. We walked, dazed, slow, confused, to find our Ghost. We wondered how we could have survived the fall if our Ghost was unable to revive us… maybe it was a really soft landing? Either way, we continued on. We fought our way through the front lines, side lines and back lines of the Red Legion. We stole a ship. We destroyed The Almighty. We boarded his command ship and we defeated Ghaul, or did we?. We watched as the Traveler– who we had been told was dead– came back to life to strip away the ill-gotten Light that Ghaul now tried to use against us. This was supposedly the greatest threat we have ever faced, and instead of regaining our powers, building up our gear, strategically defeating the enemy and ultimately saving the world, we were saved by the Traveler.
That alone should have told us what to expect from you this time around. We should have taken it as a hint. You’re not going to let us be the most powerful anymore. You’re not going to let us be the heroes. We’re no longer the powerful, immortal, space magic-wielding warriors and saviors of Humanity that we were before. No, instead, anyone that wants it badly enough can take our Light. Put simply, we’re not special.
You’ve claimed that your goal was to “unlock the fun” in Destiny because, as you said, you wanted to make sure that no one was left out. But you’ve already failed in that when you further divided the social aspects of the game by lowering team sizes in PvP, guaranteeing that someone is going to get left out when a full fireteam decides to blow off some post-raid steam in the Crucible. You wanted to let everyone feel powerful, but by trying to reward everyone equally and with minimal effort, you’ve completely eliminated the merits of Destiny. You reward players simply for being in a clan with other guardians that are willing to put in the effort. You made sure that no one feels underpowered by eliminating the ability for anyone to feel powerful. You eliminated the potential for pickup groups to require specific exotics to join, by making sure that no exotic was worth using. You allowed everyone to reach max power level without having to complete end-game challenges, which in hand, has eliminated the desire to complete the end-game challenges.
How can we continue to believe the narrative that you’re all players of Destiny, when so mind-bogglingly-many of the best elements of Destiny were removed in Destiny 2? How do you expect us to give you another three years of our support when you’ve clearly shown that you would rather trade your loyal, long-term fans, for a few new casual players that will be gone in a few months? At what point do you admit that you made mistakes? At what point do you simply say, “we were wrong, but here’s how we’re going to fix it” and actually speak to your players? At what point do you realize that, if you don’t, it’s going to be your loyal players that turn around and say, “we were wrong this whole time” as they walk away?
You have a lot of unhappy players on your hands Bungie, and a lot of tough decisions to make in the future. We’re willing to give you some time, as long as you’re willing to communicate with us about your intentions moving forward, but we’re not going to stick around for another three years without some assurance that the wait will be worth it. We’re not mad, we’re disappointed.
A disappointed Guardian