Destiny & Evolution

Over the last year, I've played a lot of Destiny, which is sort of an massively multiplayer online first person shooter. Sort of. One of the things that's been incredibly compelling about it is that your character levels up, gets new gear, and becomes a sort of expression of who you are as they develop. There's a genuine rarity to a lot of the gear in-game, and as a result, when you find something like an Exotic weapon or piece of armor, it stands out.

It's something that both makes your character stronger, and it's a signal to other players of your status. But at the same time, if I get a piece of Exotic gear like a Fusion Rifle, which is a gun that I just don't like, I won't use it, because it's not a reflection of how I play, and doesn't make me better. I, and I think most players, won't trade "performance" purely for status.

I think part of the appeal of Destiny is that your character is basically you. And not just for the duration of a 10 hour experience, after which you'll never see them again - or even a 100 hour Mass Effect Trilogy kind of experience - but that as far as anyone's really aware, your Destiny character is more like your World of Warcraft character - they can be with you for a decade (at least, that's sort of the general outline for what Bungie's supposedly got planned for Destiny).

I always find that I've got an interesting choice when sitting down to play a game. Do I play Destiny, where I've seen every level in the game dozens, if not hundreds of times? Do I play the same multiplayer I've been playing for a year, now? Or do I pick up the latest & greatest narrative game, that once it's over any investment I've made in it is only relegated to that game, and then, is largely ephemeral? The answer, 9/10 times, is that I'll play Destiny instead.

Part of that is that it's a social game as well - there's a chance (however small) that I'll run into some friends online & get to play with them. A chance that's effectively zero in almost any other game (except Rocket League, which is AMAZING). Part of it is whether there are any friends or not, the fact that you're playing the vast majority of the time with people (either against them, or at least peripherally near them) makes the experience feel constantly fresh.

So the things I really enjoy about Destiny:

  • Persistent character
  • A character that actually reflects me in some significant way
  • A way to socialize with other people
  • Other people are the "dynamic content" in the game
  • Rarity that makes things feel significant
  • Gameplay that I can come back to again and again over the span of hundreds of hours

The weird thing is that that's all stuff that we intend to get into our game. Not all of it (or even most of it) will be there at launch, but our plans include all of those things.

One thing that's been neat about playing Destiny for the last year, though, has been watching them release a number of expansions, and now on the cusp of the third update, they've made dramatic, sweeping revisions to how the game works. I won't bother to explain them here, because they've been written about extensively all over the place, but they're changing really fundamental, major things to address certain complaints that have come up over the course of the last year.

And I think that's just awesome. I love that they're willing to make really fundamental changes to the experience and update the experience for *everyone*, not just the folks who pony up for the expansions. I know that's part of the MMO experience, but it's rare to see in an FPS. I love that the game feels like it's constantly evolving - even if that pace is weekly (with events and sometimes patches) or quarterly (with the 1st two expansions) or yearly (with the major 2.0 overhaul). 

But I think one of the fascinating things about how we develop is that we're not on the same kind of schedule. It's not just that our game is much smaller, but fundamentally, our entire development philosophy is about evolving quickly. We're not waiting months to update. Our game will be evolving constantly. Part of the fun of making micro-transaction based games is that you have to experiment a lot, and figure out what players like. You have to keep things fresh & interesting, not just over the span of an hour or two that someone might play, but over three or four years. If your game isn't capable of that kind of evolution, you're doing it wrong.

So I'm excited about what we're up to. It's got a lot of the things that draw me to much more complex games, but it's way more accessible, both in terms of how the mechanics work, and how much time you need to invest. Our whole goal has been to try to maximize fun-per-time, and to provide a lot of the things people love about games they grew up with, but without the ever-increasing need to invest dozens, if not hundreds of hours both to achieve mastery, and to grind.

I'm excited to see how Destiny continues to evolve and grow over the years - but I can't wait to see how our game evolves over the coming days and weeks.