Facepalm Design Decision: September Edition

[Author’s note – I wrote this one night after a long day. When I reread it in the morning it is far more “ranty” than I normally write. I thought about editing and taming it a bit, but in the end, decided to keep it intact. This is how I felt about it when I discovered it and the frustration I share here in the style recorded is the result of having a great day of playing the game, and then stumbling upon this design decision.]

Oh Destiny. Thank you for all the blog posts you have provided me (and the 20+ hours of gameplay). Unfortunately, we need to have a little talk. This talk is about levelling! And no, I am not going to complain about grinding the same 6 strike missions because hey, you actually give more to do than that. We need to talk about your subclass system. I know that you are known for FPS games and this trek down MMO lane is a new thing for you. It’s fresh after all those Halo games you made and hey, why not? MMOs can charge sub fees and while you haven’t been brave enough to try that yet, you still have levels and exciting things for players to do at and on their way to the level cap. One of them, is a class specialization. Here you need to take your FPS hat off and put on your MMO hat. Actually, I have a hat for you!

I know, that’s mean. That poor Halo designer looks sad. Here is the thing – when I hit level 15, which is technically 75% of the level cap (unless you count your light levels, which also changes things up) and I get my specialization here is the one tip I give to you as a gamer. Don’t make me start at level 1. It’s a specialization! If I wanted to start at level 1 I would make a new character. A specialization is a way for me to advance my character, not go backwards.

For those who aren’t playing, haven’t gotten there yet or are confused at my dripping sarcasm and condemnation here – once you click on your specialization you have to start levelling all the basic skills of it from scratch AND you lose your current skills. Somehow, at level 15, you forget how to throw a grenade, or even jump! So you have level 15 (19 in my case) armor and guns, blues, rares, high level items. You have done some shit and seen the evils of war. But you aren’t allowed to throw grenades anymore and you can’t even jump like you could in that epic battle on Venus.

C’mon Man! Bungie!

To be clear you can swap back and forth between the specializations but not simply midfight or anything. You don’t actually “lose” your skills you just can’t use ANY of them while you level up the “subclass”.  That includes jumping over three feet and throwing grenades.

The best way to put it for those who haven’t played Destiny is that if this was WoW, when you swapped into your healing spec in dual specialization, you would have to start at level one and earn all of your healing spells again. Grind 1-90 before you can heal. Swap back to your main spec and you are max level, swap to secondary and you are level 1. Does that sound like fun to you? How does this make sense?

Here is a tip – if you wanted 6 classes then have 6 classes. If you want 3 classes with sub-specs then have 3 classes with sub-specs. RIght now you have a bastardization of a class system that doesn’t really fit either. This is pretty good evidence (as anecdotal as it may be!) that you:

[List brought to you by the hot and cold game – remember that?]

  1. Want players to take a step back and not enjoy the game, because you want them to stop playing [cold]
  2. Have no clue how to design a levelling system [getting warmer]
  3. Knew that your content was so thin that you really had to reach for new and creative ways to grind out players [warmer still]
  4. Have something sinister up your sleeve like introducing pay to level packs, or monetary XP boosts [warning! hot!]
  5. Were drinking Mai-Tais in the Caribbean counting your cash while you had junior programmers put this together [colder. but fun to write]

To me this is a face palming design decision. Grinds are ok when done correctly. You don’t even have to hide them. This just completely makes no sense and is a real shock to me. I was ready to start levelling my sub-class but not ready to start over. If you don’t value my time – my personal entertainment time – then I won’t value your expansion packs and other things you want me to buy.

Bungie – Remember when you were the cool, hip Halo designers who made awesome FPS and story based games? You should go back there. You can still keep the money.

8 comments / Add your comment below

    1. Hi Jasyla! First off – getting to 20 is fun and Destiny does a good job of making the gear and abilities get better as you go. So its great if you like the class you are playing (and the class you are playing is meant to go endgame.)

      I had my heart set on a Defender Titan so its frustrating that I had to level a Striker Titan first to just be able to relevel a Defender Titan.

      They should have made us choose at the beginning a single class, instead of leveling one and then having to level again. Or, have a skill tree that you can mix and match. Or level to 5 and then choose your path (striker or defender, for example).

      Out of all of the ways I could imaging a designer thinking it would be a good idea, this is the worst way possible.

      That being said, if you like leveling two classes and/or love the class you are currently playing, I suggest getting to 20 before making the decision to abandon. They do a lot right!

  1. It’s a problematic system. For starters, you are already a specialization when you start, but it takes a level 15 character to unlock the other three specializations across all three classes.

    This is confusing. The game isn’t difficult enough to gate the arguably more difficult specializations (since they have less damage-focused specials). Worse, as you point out, switching specialization means relearning jump, grenade, and special attack which are quick but probably not quick enough.

    That said, I don’t really agree with your agitation, though it is your’s so that’s not really the point of ranting about it. It would be a truly horrible system if leveling in Destiny wasn’t fairly quick, but those first few skills come relative quick and you can start over with a fresh character and level whatever specialization you choose now that you have a 15+.

    I think the lack of depth or the way in which the classes and subspecs overlap (or don’t differentiate themselves well enough) is a much larger issue. We’re still playing with layouts that are roughly equivalent in depth to Halo: Reach or Modern Warfare 2, which is a shame for a so-called RPG.

    Don’t get me started on the poor interplay amongst the various roles.

    1. I learned last night that you don’t have to go through it with all classes, just have do it once. Once you have 1 level 15 it unlocks all the subclasses from the start – which means, that there should just be 6 classes to begin with. That artificial 15 barrier serves no point. That was the bad design decision. My son has a 7 hunter and he unlocked the bladedancer.

      My agitation was very personal (which is why I “noted” it at the beginning) I disagree somewhat that levelling is fast – ESPECIALLY with the lack of real activities to do. I am guessing I am 30 hours in on strikes and the story and not even level 21 yet. Of course yes, that time is short lived to get the modern conveniences (grenade, jump, super) but honestly I can’t go back to those levels – I’ll just stop playing. Grinding out the 20+ game is one thing, going back to grind the 1-20 game on that character isn’t fun for me. Starting a new Titan also seems silly (since I have one).

      It was a bad decision. Should have had six classes. They don’t and I’m really whining about it now =) but I really want to support games and companies that respect and value my entertainment time. I’ll reward those with my entertainment dollars =)

      1. Oh, your great point about the interplay – don’t want to leave that standing. There would have been some great opportunities there for some synergies for sure. I kind of understand why they left it without so you aren’t left needing a good class mix, but it is a missed opportunity.

      2. I like the three classes, but yes, specs should of have been open at the start or a few levels in. Agreed there.

        It’s not exactly like you are redoing the levels though. At 15, I switched over to Defender and kept doing what I was doing after a few strikes/stories got me my basics. So while most other games would have you redo it, Destiny seems really forgiving in that sense. I just switched spec and kept going.

        And now, I almost have both maxed out!

        1. Maybe I am just bad at the game =) – I’d feel like I was handicapped without the advanced bonuses and skills and some of that content is tough!(Vanguard Strikes, heroics, etc.).

          Rightly or wrongly it feels like a step back in a game that does a pretty good job of keeping you moving forward.

          How many hours are you in? Are you doing PVP or just PVE? I’m curious what you have logged. I even run bounties pretty hard to maximize XP gains.

          1. It does. The more I think about it, the more it should’ve been a branch around level 5 after you’ve unlocked the base jump and grenade.

            Well, I play pretty hardcore when I can because I’ve only had the weekends. I usually do most of the bounties I can, and I marathon PvP afterward. I also do the Daily Story and the Weekly Heroic, if possible.

            But yeah, lots of PvP. I’ve maxed out my weekly marks from it twice!

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