Patch Controversy and Destiny’s Future

Published on: Dec 10, 2015 @ 20:22

It’s been an interesting week. We’ve gone from begging for the patch, to rejoicing over the patch, to grumbling about the patch, to ranting about the patch – and so much more! In fact, with all the controversy over the past two days, did you forget about Sparrow Racing? If you did, check out our guide to get you back on the racetrack and well on your way to 310+ gear.

If you’re just here to get our impressions on the outlook for the near-future following the Weekly Update, then look no further. While things are never black and white, we’ll separate it into positives and negatives, and take a look at why certain actions bode well for Bungie and Destiny, and why others paint a disquieting picture of habitual error.

Positives

Transparency

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way first. Arguably, Bungie did the most important thing right with this weekly update: they were transparent…ish. While the community has been understandably upset about the practical outcome of the minimal changes to Auto Rifles, the real ire was reserved for what was seen as retconning, backpedaling, and shady revisionist PR work on the part of Bungie’s employees.

When the patch notes were suddenly, magically changed to match the observed effects in the field, the natural conclusion was to say “Well, they modified their data to match what’s actually happening.” It was extremely hard to believe that patch notes that have been slated for the past three weeks could somehow avoid the corrective scrutiny of a single developer, and the nonsensically low number changes to ARs only further exacerbated this mistrust. How many “misplaced a decimal” jokes have you seen in the past 24 hours? Bungie’s feet are perpetually held to the fire.

As is often the trend with big companies, individual employees can’t just go out saying whatever they want, so we had to wait for the officially sanctioned message with the Weekly Update today. For the most part, Urk, DeeJ, and Jon Weisnewski did an admirable job defusing the tension. Newsk admitted that they made a colossal mistake preparing us for changes that would never come. However, they only copped to misreporting the weapon balances three weeks ago; the actual outcome was correct, says Bungie – it’s just the patch notes that were wrong. And a disconnect in the data the Sandbox team sees and the data Newsk sees was great enough that neither team noticed the error until it was too late.

With the low, low, low – so very low – buffs to Auto Rifles, we really don’t blame you if you’re skeptical of this admission. However, absent a smoking gun, we’ll never know. At any rate, Bungie was contrite, apologetic, and bereft of fluff in the weekly update. We couldn’t ask for more.

DLC Roadmap

We got to hear from Urk, who elaborated word-by-word on a teasing tweet about the Live Team’s plans. We invite you to go read it in its entirety, but we’ll sum up the positives here.

  1. DLC will not just be in the form of timed events for all of Y2.

While not explicitly saying this, Urk all but confirmed it by posing the concern as a rhetorical question that he then rebutted.

  1. There will be a smaller event soon, on the size of Festival of the Lost

This will be the next installment from the Live Team in “early 2016”. If you liked the Festival of the Lost as a little excursion away from the meat of Destiny’s experience, then it’s probably a safe bet that this next event will appeal to you, too.

  1. The next will be “far larger” than anything we’ve seen since TTK released.

That’s right. It’ll be much bigger than SRL, Festival of the Lost, and whatever upcoming event arrives first. It’s hardly specific, but it’s good news to anyone who feared the binary choice of ambitious and unpolished DLC packs or light-hearted, meaningless fluff like Festival of the Lost.

  1. We’ll get a sandbox and “world” update about the same time

The sandbox team is responsible for balances. If you were worried we’d have to wait 6 months before the next balance path “World” is a little less clear, but definitely exciting. Does Urk mean a new location? Encounters like prowling Wolves or Hive rituals? No doubt we’ll learn more when Bungie is ready to reveal it.

  1. Everything above will occur in either the Winter or Spring of 2016

Straight from the man himself. Whether this means February and May or January and March is anyone’s guess. You can hold Bungie to this one.

Negatives

Even with all of the goodies, there are a myriad of concerns that emerge considering what Bungie addressed and what they did not.

Hand-Waving Away the Numbers

Newsk was keen to zero in on the issue of prompt and clear communication – and truly, the apology and explanation were appreciated – but he stopped short of fully remedying the problem. His problem? Hypotheticals.

In Jon’s explanation for the Auto Rifle changes, we were treated to some rhetoric on even small changes having an impact over time.

 A small adjustment to an Auto Rifle may not be enough to change the displayed number, but (THIS IS A HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE) if your base damage changed from 20 to 20.2, and then you fired that damage value every other frame (at 30 fps) over the duration of a 50 round magazine, you’re actually getting a change in DPS even though the base number still reports as 20 in the UI.”

With all due respect to Mr. Weisnewski, this sort of example is pointless. A hypothetical scenario is a useful tool for elaborating on the concept behind a change – but not the sort of thing you want out in an update, where the numbers stick and can be evaluated by anyone. Even a cursory glance at his example reveals that damage increase to be 1%, and over the duration of a 50 round magazine, not one Guardian in a million would call that anything more than a negligible increase in damage.

No one even uses Glass Half Full to any noticeable benefit these days. Now consider an increase in damage of 0.04%, which is 4% of 1%, and the explanation begins to fall flat on its face. He is framing the argument poorly for the point he wishes to make. When it quickly became apparent Auto Rifles were effectively unchanged, Jon should have focused on framing the lack of action as being cautious with the balance of the meta, rather than doubling down on the changes as working as intended. The frustration continues:

“Specifically for PVP, add precision damage scaling and the barrel upgrades that scale up Impact available on Exotic and King’s Fall Auto Rifles, and you’ll start to feel the new change a bit more.”

What does the community know about precision damage scaling? What specifics have been made clear about the tiny green sliver of damage a barrel upgrade adds? How do we know how these changes propagate into overall damage?

This is sleight of hand to further obfuscate the fact that nothing is really changing. And the funny thing is: the community would probably be fine if Bungie just admitted they wanted to play it safe with Auto Rifles for now. To present these miniscule numbers as a meaningful step towards their design goals for the weapon variant is to willfully insult the intelligence of the playerbase.

“Will that be enough to properly buff Auto Rifles?”

Come on.

The Other Bugs

There’s currently a giant list of reported issues (both confirmed and hearsay) with the rollout of the newest patch in r/DestinyTheGame. In a recent hotfix, Bungie caught and remedied an exploit that had Guardians who shelled out $10 for the SRL book up-in-arms, and made sure our Exotic Boot Engrams would decrypt properly again, but there’s a ton of minor bugs and anecdotal testimony that tell the story of a patch whose rollout could be considered bumpy at best. While the Twitter Help team continues to confirm their awareness of oft-reported problems, some of the most disconcerting ones remain unacknowledged.

Fusion Rifles, for example, were hit incredibly hard with this update. The nerf to hipfire stability was draconian, and the supposed buff to ADS stability has been consistently reported to be non-existent; in fact, many Guardians are saying their favorite Fusion Rifles fire with less ADS stability than they did before. This was not an intended goal from the patch notes, and it’s understandable that Guardians would be afraid any sort of fix would be months away.

And if Bungie was able to overlook numbers on a page in their own update, then who is to say they would ever catch and fix something like Fusion Rifles not behaving as they’re supposed to, or Firefly crashing the game client, or Bounties and Quests being stuck at a certain stage? Obviously they possess the tools to fix these problems – but do they have the time or inclination to do so? Newsk asserts that the team already had their nose to the proverbial grindstone to work on the next release, but Destiny needs constant care and attention if it wants to keep its polish. A backlog of bugs is a black mark for developer reputation.

Year 2

If there hasn’t ever been a game like Destiny, then there hasn’t ever been a struggle like Year 2. We are already seeing how hard it is to navigate uncharted waters, and the community and Bungie still have plenty of growing pains to weather. The uneasy transition away from standard DLC packs will be more sustainable. There certainly has to be sacrifice, but this is all the more reason for Bungie to prioritize clarity and accuracy in everything they communicate to the playerbase. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to have patches a little more often. You know, so that when the inevitable screw-up happens, we don’t have to go through this roller coaster ride every time.

Joel
I'm aWrySharK, your resident Exotic guru and lover of all things min/max. At PlanetDestiny, my perfectionism is no longer simply a matter of form over function.

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