Destiny 2 might not reward grind as much as you’d think

Destiny 2

Over on the Destiny 2 subreddit, an eagle-eyed mathemagician known as EnergiserX has seemingly spotted something strange about how the game portions out XP. His discovery came after he noticed something strange about his XP progression in the post-story segment of the game, and that he was receiving far fewer Bright Engrams (cosmetic-laden reward boxes) than he should. Having shared his full workings, I’m inclined to agree there’s something unusual going on, although hesitant to call it such a terrible thing.

Update: It would seem that the backlash against this discovery was intense enough that Bungie have officially dropped the XP scaling system from the game, effective immediately.

The long and short of his exhaustive number-crunching is that in a longer play session (3 or more hours), you’ll eventually hit a point of sharply diminishing returns. While the game may be reporting that you’re earning bucketloads of XP, the vast majority of it will be floating off into the ether, unloved and forgotten, rather than adhering correctly to your progress to the next level and your next Bright Engram.

Resetting this to normal is simply a matter of taking a break from the game. Loot and other rewards are still doled out just as quickly as normal no matter how much you grind, but the primarily cosmetic rewards you get from leveling up beyond the cap of 20 will slow down if you try to rush it.

Destiny 2

To me, it feels like Bungie are trying to go back to the roots of MMO design here, back before Blizzard introduced their ‘rested’ status in World of Warcraft. If the findings are accurate, it’s a soft XP cap to encourage players to take a break, go outside and plot their next raid with friends instead of popping alien heads ad infinitum. Personally, I don’t think it’s too bad of an idea, especially as the only thing being capped is your rate of earning bling – though as always it seems others will be less than happy over this revelation.

There is also the more cynical interpretation that very impatient players will be encouraged to buy premium currency in order to hand-pick their cosmetic upgrades of choice. I don’t see many ever considering this, as the game has always seemed quite generous with its flow of fancy dress-up armor pieces and secondary currency used to buy specific dye colours for your gear, but I’m also a cheapskate and notoriously patient.

As a habitually casual player of anything massively multiplayer, I’m not exactly moved to grab my dramatically named future pitchfork and laser-torch. If the game were to impede my progression up through the power levels (beyond the annoying drop-off as you reach Power 260, but that’s another story entirely), I’d be significantly more irritated. Where do you lot stand on this? Gnashing of teeth, or a laconic shrug?

38 Comments

  1. AthanSpod says:

    Already addressed? link to bungie.net

  2. Nevard says:

    Destiny is developed by Bungie and published by Activision. Though it’s clear how it can lead to confusion, Blizzard is only responsible for the launcher.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Apologies, and corrected now – I definitely know it’s a Bungie game, it was just the result of writing the article late last night after a long day, and another name somehow slipped into its place.

      • Asurmen says:

        “To me, it feels like Bungie are trying to go back to the roots of MMO design here, back before Bungie introduced their ‘rested’ status in World of Warcraft”

        This sentence still needs correction.

  3. Minglefingler says:

    Seems a bit of a coincidence that they slow down progression for the thing you can spend money on, no? A while ago I may have been less cynical but then we find out about Activision’s patent on an algorithm to encourage microtransactions, not to mention other recent controversies. I’m less willing to give companies the benefit of the doubt than I would have been.
    Bungie have turned it off now though as PC Gamer reported: link to pcgamer.com

  4. theoriginaled says:

    Its pretty simple: people like to be rewarded, not punished. Rested xp, reward for taking a break; xp caps, punished for playing too much. Seems simple but it makes a world of difference psychologically.

    • ckirk says:

      This.

    • LexW1 says:

      Technically this system had both. If you were earning XP at a very, very low rate, it supposedly boosted it. No-one saw that in action, but Bungie claimed it did. It seems like the only place it even potentially might have kicked in was raids, though. I believe the guy who made the findings is currently checking some footage of raids to see if it ever did, or if Bungie were outright lying about that.

      However, the big difference between this and any normal “rested” system was the timeframe. In WoW, you have to leave a character alone for many hours or even days to get rested XP – IIRC it takes several days (10?) to “max out” rested XP.

      Here, you could have not played for weeks, but the XP penalty could kick in within 10 minutes. Then go away after 5. Then kick in again almost immediately, and so on. It was very dynamic and appear to reduce XP gains so that you basically never got more than 50% of the XP it showed as numbers on screen, over time, and sometimes much less. It certainly leveled the playing field – a player farming highly efficiently and with a high level of effort got no more XP than some guy just sort of bumming around shooting stuff, in general.

    • Rindan says:

      Do you know the difference between doubling your rewards for the first hour and halving your rewards after an hour?

      Wording.

      Any game that has significant progression system is balancing how fast it feeds you rewards. Too quick, and it feels cheap and they burn through their content. Too slow, and the people who play the game to see the numbers go up get frustrated.

      Personally, I just avoid games built around progression these days. Some sort of progression system is totally fine, especially in line with story. Nothing wrong with getting the assault rifle after killing a few guards with your bare hands, but that is just progression in service to a character and story arch. That is an entirely different can of worms from an MMORPG which is literally built upon “progress”.

      Progress seems like a cheap thrill that is hitting “good job on finding that extra food, now we don’t need to work as much!” section of the brain that is totally fucked in modern day society. It’s a dumb impulse to feed, at least in me. I just stick to games where the primary draw is actual enjoyable gameplay these days. It’s why I skipped Destiny but happily jump into Overwatch or PUBG. The only thing to improve on this games is yourself. The second you stop having fun, you can just stop.

      • Cederic says:

        On paper the outcome is the same but in practice behaviours change. Go read some Daniel Kahneman, he’s looked at this academically (and applied it in the real world).

  5. Sam says:

    If the system were visible it would be a reasonable anti-grind measure to encourage players to take a break. Good for the player’s health and their long term enjoyment of the game.
    But it being hidden makes it utterly useless in that role. Leaving only error or malice as explanation.

    • RayEllis says:

      Another day, another game dev/publisher caught trying to overtly manipulate its players into coughing up more money.

      Can’t wait for the inevitable inclusion of a bitcoin miner in a game. Come on…you know it will happen at some point.

    • LexW1 says:

      Sadly it has to be intentional not an error (whether intentional = malice is up to you), because they were aware of the system and able to turn it off as soon as publicity started coming in. It had been spotted properly at least 22 days ago, but an XP-farming event made it particularly obvious more recently (and allowed full-on readings to be taken).

      And yes, it being hidden is the problem – plenty of other games have had DRs to prevent various kinds of farming, but the ENTIRE POINT is to make them as obvious as possible, so as to discourage people from farming, not to hide them. It’s the intentional hiding that makes what would otherwise be slightly paranoid suspicions a lot more valid.

      • April March says:

        I think the OP meant that the error was not in the presence of the system itself, but rather in faling to communicate its existence to the players.

        Although since it seems that experience was falsely reported as not being earned, it reaches that magical point where the amount of stupidity required for it to be an error is more insulting than consider it malice. Not that it’s completely impossible when we’re talking huge companies, though.

  6. wombat191 says:

    In the age of loot boxes being your form of progression in a game, where you earn points for watching people open loot boxes and then a company straight up fudging numbers to make you more likely to purchase loot boxes there is nothing accidental about this.

  7. Blackcompany says:

    Doesnt help that Destiny 2 is an abysmally boring game. I mean sure, the shooting is solid, but…the rest of the game is just so…safe. So perfectly, inoffensively, predictably mundane that…well, honestly, if I even finish the main story, I will be very surprised.

    And DLC? Forget it. One repeatable event per open world area. Bog standard here to there corridor shooter missions. Boring class powers with predictable, overlong cooldown…the net result of all of this is that, going forward, if the name Activions, Bungie or Blizzard is attached to it, its forever off my radar.

    • BeardyHat says:

      With you on this. Really wish I hadn’t succumbed to the hype and bought Destiny 2; it’s so utterly bland and boring. Maybe it would be fun if I liked to play with people, but that shouldn’t be a requisite.

    • Daugvolf says:

      Agreed. It’s like an extremely dumbed-down Borderlands. And I resent saying that because it’s an affront to a great game like Borderlands. Don’t get me wrong, Destiny 1 was even moreso shallow and dull imho.

      But my god, the loot is uninspiring. By early to mid game you’ll find guns that will carry you strait to the end. And in the end-game nearly everyone uses the same guns because they’re considered ‘best in slot’.

      And the PvP is awful. Players just run and hide til the clock runs down, then they try to get in at least one kill before the round ends.

      And Jesus Christ, the voice acting and writing is atrocious. It’s just way too goofy and cheery for a gritty setting like that. Borderlands it definitely ain’t, even if it’d like to be.

      • Daugvolf says:

        And the PvE is basically just a gallery shooter. Most enemy AI consists of 1. Hide behind stuff 2. Pop out from behind said stuff and shoot occasionally. You can just stand back and play headshot whack-a-mole all day.

  8. Chromatose says:

    Translation: “Errk, you caught us out! Sorry about that, we won’t do it again, promise!”

  9. elevown says:

    I mainly played mmo’s back in the ‘roots’ days, like EQ, UO, AOC etc and I can tell you NONE of them had Xp caps or diminishing returns after X hrs. In fact their design philosophy seemed to be the exact opposite – they wanted / even often FORCED you to play in very long stints. Raids were often 10-20hr 50+ man affairs.

    • LexW1 says:

      That’s kind of half-true.

      Most of them did have effective DR on XP from certain methods – often from repeating the same content, killing the same mobs, killing mobs that anyone has killed too much and so on.

      Do you remember the phrase “camp bonus”? It was a pretty big deal in some games – DAoC, for example. If you found some mobs no-one had killed for an hour or a few hours, they could be worth 2-3x as much XP as normal (which was a huge deal back then).

      Then there were other systems, like various forms of rested XP.

      So yes, none had a generic “reduced XP after hours” (with Destiny 2 it was more like “reduced XP after 10 minutes” though), but they did have all sorts of DRs or inverted DRs or the like.

  10. LexW1 says:

    Dominic, I’m afraid this is demonstrably not the case:

    “To me, it feels like Bungie are trying to go back to the roots of MMO design here, back before Blizzard introduced their ‘rested’ status in World of Warcraft. If the findings are accurate, it’s a soft XP cap to encourage players to take a break, go outside and plot their next raid with friends instead of popping alien heads ad infinitum.”

    It would have been nice if the system was designed that way.

    It absolutely was not.

    The system had diminishing returns kicking in extremely rapidly if you earned XP relatively rapidly – in as little as 10 minutes. This is in the reddit post you linked to.

    You do not benefit from “taking a break and going outside” with this system. If you take a break, and then go back to anything which earns XP rapidly, it will immediately kick in again. It doesn’t matter if the break was 5 minutes or 3 days or a month.

    What the system does is make it so that, whatever you’re doing, you earn about the same amount of XP. That’s what the findings of the article were. So if you’re doing something that’s super-intense and showing you earning a ton of XP, you’re actually getting about N amount of XP over time, but equally if you’re doing a raid with a low rate of XP gain, you’re still getting close to N amount of XP over time (assuming you’re actually killing things).

    The only benefit he could find was that if you were doing high-XP-rate stuff, you could, potentially, just stop for 5 minutes after every event, because when you started up again, you’d have so much less of an XP penalty that you’d earn the same amount.

    That is clearly not the same sort of design as rested XP or other stuff that encourages you to take REAL breaks. A pity, but there you are. I feel your article is a tad misleading as a result. If you read the data in the reddit post there’s no way you could have had the belief you do.

    • Rizlar says:

      Also that quote doesn’t make sense to me – surely the idea of a ‘rested’ status, ie. bonus xp if you haven’t played in a while, is exactly the sort of system he then describes. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      Personally I dislike this type of daily/login bonus/xp booster, carefully doled out experience, which it sounds like Destiny has jumped into with both feet. Personally it feels less like an encouragement to play in moderation and more an insistence to do things every day, whether you fancy playing something for a bit or not. It’s all just horribly artificial and insistent and I don’t like it.

      • KDR_11k says:

        The game even has a rested status, at least I always see a “bonus XP for 3 levels” icon in the gear screen.

  11. Freud says:

    Developers and their hamster wheels.

  12. Terics says:

    I’m torn because its a bad system that is actually pretty minor. Leveling to 20 is trivial and post 20+ progression comes from powerful engrams, which reset every week. So I guess the principle of this is bad, but it just seems so whatever.

  13. KDR_11k says:

    Honestly, forcing everybody to the same XP gain per hour sounds like something that game would do. Next to all the power equalization (feels exactly the same whether I’m fighting enemies at level 2 or level 20) and all the loot being the same except for some unexplained power number it just feels like they didn’t want to make a game with loot and experience and such, just a regular shooter.

  14. Boozebeard says:

    The game actually does have a rested XP mechanic. If you look at your buffs, I think it’s to the right of your weapons on the inventory screen(?), you will see a rested XP buff (assuming you are rested)

    Edit: Oh I can’t see it anymore? Is this what is actually being refereed to? If so then it wasn’t hidden… I mean it wasn’t that obvious, but it was there. Or I’m just not rested, pretty sure I should be though.

    • welverin says:

      There is a weekly 3x XP bonus for your first three levels every week, I’m confident that is what you’re thinking of.

  15. SaintAn says:

    “To me, it feels like Bungie are trying to go back to the roots of MMO design here, back before Blizzard introduced their ‘rested’ status in World of Warcraft.”

    Except Destiny isn’t an MMO. It’s a multiplayer co-op shooter.

    • Asurmen says:

      No one said it was, but Destiny appears to borrow a few design ideas from them, hence that sentence.

  16. brgillespie says:

    What might be egregious about this would be folks purchasing the “double XP” microtransactions. They’re receiving “double XP” of a hidden scaling curve.

    If you knew you were getting up to 5% of the displayed amount of XP, would you purchase the Double XP items?

  17. fish99 says:

    “We were gonna change this anyway, honest!”

  18. Eleriel says:

    “it’s a soft XP cap to encourage players to take a break, go outside and plot their next raid with friends instead of popping alien heads ad infinitum.”

    That would only have worked if the game had TOLD the person playing that they were earning less XP, though.