Crucible Radio Interviews Jon Weisnewski

Published on: Oct 5, 2015 @ 15:42

This week on Crucible Radio, Sandbox Designer Jon Weisnewski got a chance to provide an insider look at what goes down during the weapon balancing process and answers some of our biggest questions.

Recap

Jumping right ahead, Crucible Radio asks Jon about the journey of 2.0, and what it took to roll out the largest patch in Destiny’s history. He noted that in the beginning, Bungie had been a bit overzealous in rolling out smaller patches, which ended up causing a few problems. 2.0 was a good chance to slow down, re-evaluate the game from all angles, and unleash a drastic improvement to every aspect of the game.

One of the issues with 2.0 was the time it took to release it. Due to circumstances out of his control, 2.0 had to be delayed for the release of the House of Wolves expansion to come on time. He wishes the weapon balances in 2.0 could have happened sooner, but there’s only so much a studio can do.

The goal of the 2.0 weapon balance was to continue to follow the design intuition Bungie had at the beginning. Certain targeted changes were made (specifically to overpowered Exotics and underpowered perks) while other changes were wider and overarching adjustments to archetypes and gameplay. The current meta played a large part in balance decisions. He pulls some inspiration from other games when considering his own method of balancing, particularly Blizzard’s Starcraft – a hugely competitive game that has fine-tuned its balancing strategy.

The Testing Process

Next, Jon highlights some of the elements that go into testing and experimenting with different changes. The “test” division at Bungie is highly revered, and testers are empowered to have their voices heard and make an impact on the game. He orchestrates a lot of test plays in which the testers don’t actually know what’s been changed – he gauges their reaction, and looks for clues as to what’s working and what’s not.

Often, an adjustment to one weapon might create an imbalance in another, and then changing that weapon effects a different one, and so on and so forth. Balancing weapons is a lot like whack-a-mole at times.

A listener asks if the test weapons from Banshee provide any data – Jon explains that they do not provide information, but offer a great opportunity to showcase new weapons that Guardians might choose.

What is “Balance” Really?

Luke Smith recently explained in an interview that sometimes, a certain weapon type “might have its day.” He was referring to exotic hand cannons, which dominated the Crucible during the House of Wolves. Though the balance was largely out of whack, it’s not unlikely that we might see certain weapons dominate for a time in the future. Jon agreed with this concept, explaining that a theoretical “perfect balance” would get stale, and developing eras or seasons would keep the Crucible exciting.

“If pulse rifles are king for a season… I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that’s cool.”

Crucible Radio agreed with that sentiment, pointing out that causing players to adapt kept things interesting, especially considering adapting is a required skill if one wishes to be competitive.

Issues in the Crucible

In the second half of the episode, Crucible Radio gets right into addressing some of the bigger mysteries in the Crucible.

CR: Are shotguns overpowered?

Jon: Yes. “That’s something we’re going to be looking at closely. Really soon, actually.”

Bungie is well aware of the strength shotguns still have, and they continue to work on balancing the weapon type.

A big thing Jon focuses on is the “contracts” players expect in First Person Shooters. For example, players expect to get a kill from a precision hit with a sniper rifle in FPSs. Shotguns should kill if pointed in someone’s gut. Bungie wants to stick to these contracts, and will continue to keep them in mind.

  • Trials of Osiris provided an immense amount of information when it came to the metagame and balance. The highly competitive game mode will continue be referenced when considering changes.
  • There was a conscious effort to slow Time to Kill in the 2.0 balance patch.
  • The higher amount of flinch is intentional. Jon sees flinch as a good tool for someone to keep a pesky sniper at bay at least for long enough to escape.
    • “I’m happy with where it is, but it’s not perfect.”

Getting Technical

Destiny is often technical and complicated, and there’s an immense amount of information that cannot be viewed from within the game. Destiny has received criticism for being vague, especially when it comes to weapon stats and perks. Jon explains that some information is purposefully withheld, and other info simply cannot be included in the game due to technical limitations.

Despite all that, he divulges some very interesting information regarding target acquisition, range, and accuracy, three statistics that have left many Crucible scientists puzzled for quite awhile. At this point the conversation gets pretty technical, so if you’re interested, please tune in (1 hour and 4 minutes)!

“Target acquisition” and “aim assist” are complicated terms that are sometimes considered taboo for a company to actually mention or display to players. According to Jon, this is Bungie’s “secret sauce”, the key to making Bungie’s shooters feel so good.

Guns have two stages to accuracy. Initial accuracy, when the first bullet comes out, and final accuracy – after continuous fire, a “cone” expands as the bullets travel farther. The longer you fire, the larger than cone gets, causing bullets to be less accurate. Accuracy plays into gunplay most heavily when aiming down sights, which is why hip-firing can be a risky move most times.
In 2.0, the “range” stat means more than ever. Range directly applies to accuracy and target acquisition. Jon says, “if your range is higher, your aim assist is gonna be better.”

Jon Weisnewski wrapped up his appearance by acknowledging his incredibly hardworking team, and the many people who pour their lives into making Destiny a better game. It’s a great moment to realize the sheer amount of people who are so passionate about the game from both the player and developer side. The future of the Crucible is looking bright.

Bones
A Crucible warrior trying to fight my way up the rankings and host of the Crucible Radio podcast under my better-known pseudonym “Bones.” But don’t let the show fool you – I’m obsessed with everything Destiny has to offer, and I’ll talk about it until you tell me to stop.