What’s wRNG with Destiny’s Loot?

Hey there, Monstermister here. I’m a game designer who plays a lot of Destiny. Working in the industry for about twenty years now, I wanted to share a few thoughts about Destiny, examine flaws, and offer up some designery ideas about how to solve them.

Thankfully we’ll hear more about how Bungie plans to improve the Crucible on the final April reveal stream!

bungie crucible stream

I thought I’d start with the most obvious, most egregious gameplay issue facing Destiny: RNG, and the way in which Bungie approaches player rewards.

Like many of you, I was up late last night playing my final few Iron Banner matches, still hopeful up to the very last moment, praying to the inscrutable RNG god that the ungrateful bastard would finally deign to smile upon me. Crom, is that you?

Many of us wondered if there would even be an Iron Banner this month, since even the most generous reward stats were certain to fall short of the upcoming April content update. But I played anyway, berating myself for a fool in between bouts, rationalizing that maybe, all evidence contrariwise, just maybe a few new bits of sexy loot would land in my lap and give me a leg up when the new content drops.

I maxed out all three of my characters, as usual, and still continued playing for days afterward, looking for some new item that would finally raise my light level. If the needle had jumped up even by one silly point, I’d have chalked up the week’s efforts as a success. But once again, the RNG god did NOT smile. Am I that unlucky?

Some community members have drawn a comparison between RNG and casino incentives, which is valid in one way, and insufficient in another.

RNG does have a great deal in common with the rewards casinos use (referred to as “comps” for “complementary”) to keep customers returning. Bungie should want players to come back, and loot is the simplest way to do that.

lighthouse chest loot

Casinos have designed comps to be incremental, and you can be sure that regular gamblers understand when certain comps will be offered and what they must do to obtain them. It can be a dangerous system, locking you in a constant leveling-up mentality. But it’s that mentality that will keep us coming back!

Make Crucible Fruitful

Merit

Nothing kills the joy of victory like the reward screen. That’s bad.

If our team wins, we should be much more likely to earn rewards, and the quality of the rewards we earn should greatly increase. Most of the time we see blues dropping, or nothing at all. Also, if we place in the top three on a winning team, an even higher chance at better rewards.

Cojones

In Iron Banner, we are often dropped into matches that are already in progress, and the reason there was a slot open is because someone else quit, and the reason they quit is because our new team of poor squishy blueberries is losing. Badly.

Incentivize players to stick with it and hold the line. Reward us for NOT quitting.  Greatly increase the quality and chance of earning rewards if we come to a session late. This will actually make us happy when matchmaking throws us a curve.

Personal Achievement

Maybe our team lost. Maybe we didn’t even score in the top three. But we just had an amazing game, one of our best k/ds ever. Shouldn’t Crom take steps to recognize that moment of personal victory?

Diversify

A large collection of 310+ IB Ghosts are sitting in my Vault because the game is not very intelligent about diversification. Also, someone placed a much higher drop rate percentage on ghosts three months ago, which should really be toned down.

This issue could be improved by checking against our current inventory and Vault, then increase the likelihood of dropping what we lack.

Presentation

When they’re not on the leaderboard, such as bounty loot, they appear on the screen for such a brief time that we don’t have a chance to register what we got.

Bounties can be improved with more protracted displays at the moment the reward is given, followed by a UI indicator that the item in our inventory is new. Not new to the inventory, but actually new-new. Worse yet, if we have no inventory space for the item, we don’t get to check it out until we go back and visit the post office. It’s intuitive to want to view our rewards the moment we get them. Lookin’ at you, Engrams.
destiny loot cave casino

Parting Shots

Comparatively speaking, RNG is a relatively simple “shell” system. Most of our PVP experience is filled with the relational orchestra of weapon balance, subclass skills, damage scaling, matchmaking, etc. But it’s an important system that needs focus.

There are many other factors that have contributed to the current state of the game, but if even a few of these suggestions were implemented, we’d see more happy dances.

That’s what’s on my mind. The podium is yours.

PlanetDestiny

Check out forums.planetdestiny.com if you’d like to talk to others about Destiny in a friendly and welcoming community! :)