Last night, Bungie announced plans to address Destiny 2 players’ grievance that the game was deceiving them into thinking they were sometimes earning more experience points than they actually have been. The developer already turned off the scaling mechanism previously causing players doing a lot of grinding over a short period of time to face diminishing experience point returns and it’s now working on rebalancing the entire XP system, but it didn’t explain how or why that system was put in place.
In a follow-up podcast covering a wide range of Destiny 2 topics, Bungie Marketing Director Erik Osborne spoke at length about the controversy’s optics. Osborne understands that players are angry Bungie didn’t make clear up front that this system was in place as an attempt to make slower-paced activities feel as rewarding as intense grinding without making the system too complicated, and he explained why the studio kept quiet.
“In PR terms you could classify this as ‘breaking into jail,'” he said, “meaning that if we address it we will get coverage and people will make headlines out of it, people will try and stoke the conversation, which may be antithetical to a business strategy [laughs] — but it’s probably valuable to talk about because in the absence of information people will move themselves to believe we implemented this system to fuck them. To be shitty, greedy jerks.
“So we got into the war room and said, ‘This doesn’t look great. This is not the intent of the system,’ [and then asked] ‘we understand no one is going to believe us, but can we turn this off?’ We got people in the room who could look at it, and they said, ‘Yep, it’s just a flag [on the server]. We can.’ We asked what would happen when we turned it off, and they said, ‘Well, we’ve never done that, so if we do it, we’ll find out.'”
Project Lead Mark Noseworthy responded by saying he understands that many fans aren’t going to be satisfied with Osborne’s explanation. Noseworthy is fine with that, believing that the fixes announced last night are more effective make-whole measures for players than any explanation could be.
“I know a lot of players are going to say, ‘You’re full of rich creamy shit. You’re only acting because your hand got caught in the cookie jar,'” Noseworthy said. “I’m okay with that. Our actions speak louder than words, and in the long-term it’s on us to make sure those who play the game feel rewarded, that their time is well spent. We’re going to deliver on that, but I don’t think people need to take us at our words — the proof is in the pudding.”
Osborne and Noseworthy also touched on why Bungie was able to turn off the XP scaling so quickly despite other updates to the game taking much longer. Noseworthy said whenever a potential problem with the game is identified the team meets to ask how severe it is, how fast it can be fixed, and when the fix can be tested and ultimately deployed.
“Some things can be fixed really easily,” he explained. “Sometimes they are server-side — like matchmaking things and the XP issue from last week. We can just change one number, and that’s it. Something like the host migration issue in the [raid boss] Calus fight doesn’t work that way — it’s on the client. Then even if it is just data, if it’s something like ‘how much damage does this weapon do?’ it still requires a patch because that data is on your Xbox.
“And just because it’s easy to fix it does not mean it’s easy to deploy. One precise example is the Bureaucratic Walk. It was totally fucking up PVP. Trials was about to come out. And you could just sit in a wall and shoot people. So, severity is pretty high. A top tier activity is boned. How easy is it to fix? It’s pretty easy, we think. Medium difficulty to fix — it’s not hard code, although we couldn’t just pull the emote from the game as it’s not server-side.
“But even if we checked all those boxes — when do we deploy that thing? Well, it was a window in development where we were just about ready to ship on PC, so we were trying not to change anything. When you’re about to ship a game for millions of people, you want it to work. So we were entering into a blackout period for maybe a couple of weeks, maybe seven to 10 days, where we couldn’t — we didn’t — want to patch the game unless it was just tragic, just horrible.”
Bungie has not offered a timeframe for when the XP system rebalancing will be deployed, but the other changes announced last night will begin rolling out on December 5 and continue deploying into 2018.