The response to Destiny 2 from its community has been divisive, to say the least. A tidal wave of positivity accompanied the game's launch, with it attracting praise from critics and players alike. However, as more hours were invested into the game, a backlash began brewing. After those initial 15 - 20 hours, players began to notice a considerable lack of things to do in Destiny 2's endgame, a complaint that unravelled into a full-blown controversy in the game's community.
At the center of this community backlash is Reddit's r/DestinyTheGame, a subreddit which has become known to outsiders for its relentless criticisms of the game it has formed around. The vast majority of the site's top posts consist of complaints, with some of its highest rated posts for the past year being "Do not spend a SINGLE CENT on micro transactions until shaders become unlimited use", "Bungie, DDOSing is not just game breaking, it is also illegal", and "D2 is a good case study of why there was never a World of Warcraft 2." Among all of these top posts, the only ones that could be perceived as "positive" are those detailing Destiny 2's announcement and reveal.
While it's not exactly uncommon for players of a particular game to simultaneously spend a lot of time complaining about it, in Destiny 2's case the sheer volume of these criticisms poses the question — why do these people continue to play a game that, judging from the posts and comments that inundate its public forms, they seem to hate?
Trying to get an answer to this question, I reached out to the people who would be most in tune with this community — the Destiny subreddit's moderation team. Consisting of over 30 people who each voluntarily give up their time to monitor and moderate r/DestinyTheGame, it seemed like this team would be the best way to get a handle on why the Destiny community remains so inexplicably devoted to a game they have so many problems with.
The mod team, as you'd expect from a set of individuals giving up their time to manage a community for no financial gain, did so out of a love for the original Destiny. This eventually grew into a passion for the community itself: "[The Destiny subreddit] is ingrained as part of my life and this modteam is something like another family to me," MetalGilSolid told me.
I explained how I was surprised that Destiny has attracted such a devout audience when you consider that, for all its MMO aspirations, both the original game and its sequel can be lonely experiences when not playing alongside friends. Voice chat is limited, text chat is non-existent, and most players seem to either play solo or alongside a pre-arranged Fireteam — considering it boasts a persistent world, you'll rarely interact with those within it, instead zooming past them on your way to your next mission. "The community is this way because of the players, not the game," MisterWoodhouse explained, with The--Marf adding: "The community imo is better than the game is or ever will be."
Others disagree. Ruley said that the pull of Destiny is that it allows players to feel "welcome to settle down in a game that feels like home." RiseofBacon added that the game encouraging players to complete tasks cooperatively imbued them with a "sense of belonging and warmth." He added: "You then pass that on to others and the positivity spreads."
But this positivity is not reflected by the subreddit itself. Though not a toxic environment, and each member of the mod team is very proud of the work they've put in to help encourage such a bustling community, a dive into its highest rated posts mostly reveals little more than negativity. "I think many of the problems are primarily experienced by a certain category of players, not necessarily a vocal minority, but rather the group who would prefer for Destiny to be not only their primary game played, but primary hobby as well," K_Lobstah told me. "Many people lament the fact that they have been spending less time on the subreddit, less time consuming content, etc. as much as they lament spending less time playing."
The Destiny subreddit is treating today's dev blog post like the rapture. pic.twitter.com/ZaxYUbLijR
— Matt Pascual (@MattPascual) November 29, 2017
So is that the reason for the high level of complaints Destiny 2 has received from its community? Is it due to them being upset that them not enjoying the game means that they will therefore spend less time with its community? I explain how I personally spent around 15 hours with Destiny 2 before moving onto something else, and that while its endgame was lacking, I still felt I had enjoyed my time with the game and that I'd got my money's worth. Some of the mods agreed that coming off the back of the original Destiny, which by the end of its life cycle was jam-packed with content as a result of its various expansions and updates, Destiny 2's base game was disappointing.
"Having spent 3 years with end game content, reward systems, subclasses, various activities, only to get to the next step along the way in the Destiny experience and see it all stripped back [was disappointing]," Ruley said. "Your routine of grinding for that perfect shotgun or diving back into the raid to get that last gun you needed from The Templar was replaced by a different experience. And its that failure for D2 to meet peoples' expectations that drives their dislike of the game and their remaining support for the game is an investment in its potential for the future."
Speaking of investment, I ask for their thoughts on the recent controversy surrounding Destiny 2's hidden XP scaling, which saw the game inform players that they were receiving more XP than they actually were, with it therefore taking them more time to level up. It was suggested that this system was put in place to lengthen the grind between levels, thus encouraging players to purchase more Bright Engrams — Destiny 2's cosmetic loot boxes — which are distributed after every level up. With Destiny 2's consumable shaders having been one of the major controversies emerging from the game at launch, did they feel that this and Destiny 2's perceived lack of endgame content was an example of Bungie perhaps taking advantage of its community? Did they feel that the studio and its publisher Activision were capitalizing upon this devoted audience with microtransactions?
"There is nothing in a Bright Engram that gives any advantage over other players whatsover," K_Lobstah replied. "The nature of microtransactions, as the others have mentioned, is a different conversation in my opinion."
"I don't think anything malicious was intended with the XP issue. It was designed as a way to balance XP gains over different activities," MetalGilSolid added. "Was it balanced well? Not really. The community brought it up, and Bungie changed it. As I mentioned, they listen and adapt."
However, Aaron Il Mentor believed that the XP scaling wasn't simply an API/UI issue, as the other mods suggested, and that Bungie hadn't acted appropriately. "It certainly was dishonest for Bungie to hide this scaling method from the community," he said, though concluded: "Bungie has since changed it though, and that's all we can ask for."
"Honestly, I don't think it's even appropriate to say they "hid" it from the community," K_Lobstah continued. "That was just the kneejerk reaction people had, and it's a great headline for media outlets to run with."
I explained that while I understood that Destiny 2's microtransactions weren't as insidious as, say, Battlefront 2's, I did believe that the game routinely pointed players in the direction of where to spend more money, from Bright Engrams only being obtainable from the store that sells them, through to the XP scaling. Did they not feel that these were questionable practises?
"I spent about $100 on bright engrams. You know why? Because it was fun and I wanted to support the game I love," Spaghetticatt replied. "Exactly, some people look at it as supporting the game. Ala "donation" or "tips" on twitch," The--Marf added. "It’s definitely forgotten about too easily that people enjoy giving more to the game they enjoy to support it," RiseofBacon replied.
I was surprised by this reaction. Bungie has the financial backing of Activision, a publisher worth $18.9 billion. The original Destiny is famously the most expensive game ever made, with it boasting a substantial budget of $500 million. The suggestion that they'd want to provide extra support to such a bank-rolling company in the same way they'd make donations to a Twitch streamer was a little shocking. "Gambling to me is entertainment just like Destiny. If I lose money at a casino but I had fun then I chalk it up to an entertainment fee," The--Marf explained. "If I'm enjoying a game and spend further money. Then I chalk up said money to an entertainment fee."
Wrapping things up, I asked why they and the rest of the Destiny community remain so invested in the series, in spite of their heavily discussed issues with the games. "Destiny is the local bar, people's place for hanging out," Ruley replied. "They’re used to having their favourite beer on tap, a warm fire and comfy chairs to spend time on with friends. People have invested a lot of time in it with their friends and they want to continue doing so, despite how much it may feel like the game doesn’t want them to."
For all its faults, towards the end of its lifespan Destiny had accumulated such a strong community made up of players who knew what to expect from their favorite game. With Destiny 2, that comfort has been replaced with the foundations of a new game, and the ample reasons Destiny eventually provided to encourage players to keep returning to it are no longer there.
Destiny 2 now has an expiration date that's not dissimilar to other first-person shooters, which is fine for someone like me who is content with plugging 20 hours into it before moving on, but not for those who treated the original Destiny as their hobby rather than a game. Bungie built up this almost incomprehensibly dedicated following for Destiny, but by creating a sequel that shifts the series back to square one, many in the community feel like they've lost their hobby as a result.