Tech Life A story in progress

Still Playing Destiny

I’m still playing Destiny. It’s February. We’re well past the holiday period where I have an unusual amount of free time to binge on video games. This Christmas it was Warlords of Draenor (revitalized game play, almost a reboot, right?), Shadows of Mordor (fascinating engaging game play and enemy reputation system + best game based on movie lore ever), and Destiny.

It’s February and it’s just Destiny now. My minutes per week are spiking, I’m compulsively checking Friday morning to see what wares Xûr is sporting, and I’m slowly gathering a group of fellow Guardians1 where we’ll collectively help each other tackle the end game content.

Video game reviews aren’t my forte. There is so much great writing about Destiny elsewhere, but for the first time since World of Warcraft, I’m lost in a video game and I want to explain why:

Destiny is hard. There has been an ongoing lobotomization of video games for decades and it’s understandable. The easier a game is to play, the more humans will play it. It’s a delicate balance that game designers have to manage: how hard to build the puzzle?

Destiny won’t scare new players. It does a fine job of introducing new players to the mechanics of the new world. You’ll level up quite a bit, but at some point with your first character, you’re going to run into a part of the story you can’t pass with your currently level character and gear. The enemies are too hard. You’ll be frustrated and you’ll ask a friend who will tell you, “Yeah, go level up on Crucible or run some Vanguard missions and come back.”

It’s a risky game design move. Early on, creating a potential roadblock for new players that involves branching from the main story line. This is a moment where non-committed players can switch to any of the other great many distractions available to them, but those who return will notice that one or two earned levels will get them past the roadblock and they’ll also gain valuable exposure to the other parts of the game.

Destiny feels like Quake. I was a big player of both Quake, Unreal, and Halo. I was not a Call of Duty player. I played a couple versions of Call of Duty, but it never stuck. Whether it’s the content or the the game play, I don’t know, but early on in Destiny, I was struck how much – even though I was using a controller and not a keyboard – Destiny felt like those early games. Here’s why:

First person shooters (FPS) have a mechanic called Time-to-kill (TTK) which measures the average time it takes to kill a fellow player. There’s a trend in FPS games to lower the TTK to increase gamer joy. Make sense, right? Run into a room and BAM BAM BAM, you’ve got three insta-kills. There is satisfaction there, but it’s empty gaming calories. You ran into the room and TWITCH TWITCH TWITCH, you’re a big winner.

You won nothing. You showed no skill save for pulling the trigger fast. Destiny’s higher TTK means that you have to think and strategize (quickly) before you run into a room of full of enemies because it’s going to take some time to mow these folks down:

  • What is the right weapon for this room? (How good is your understanding of your currently equipped weapons and skills?)
  • What is the right entry point? (Do you intimately understand the map?)
  • Where are you going to aim? (Can you aim?)

Really, Can You Aim?2 Crucible is the player-versus-player (PVP) portion of Destiny and there is no better way to explore your utter Destiny ineptitude than a few hours getting waxed in the Crucible. If you’ve ever been remotely good at FPS, you’ll spend your first week yelling an endless stream of profanities at your screen because you’re aware that I know how I could be better.

Again, another bold move by Bungie. Each degree of gaming frustration correlates to a portion of the potential gaming population bailing for greener and easier fields. I say – good riddance – I want to play with folks who are eager to achieve excellence.

I’m on month number five of Crucible and only in the last month have I felt like I had a clue what I was doing, but now I cherish what I considered my hard earned ability. Right behind Crucible is the ever-evolving raiding content and the difficulty of that content has created entire cottage industries of websites designed to help players organize raiding parties around these multi-hour events.

I’m awful at raids right now, but that won’t always be the case.

Destiny has no story. Lore and how it’s told has never been a differentiator for me in video games. Frostmoure is that big sword… for that guy? Right? Destiny’s lore has been getting ripped on since the beginning and I have two points:

First, have you seen the game?


Forget about what stories are being told within the game. Just look at the amazing detail within in the game. This is a universe where shit has gone down. It’s not entirely clear what has gone down, but it’s serious and it’s everywhere. I feel surrounded by a story that I don’t quite understand and I like that dramatic tension.

Second, who cares? Selfishly, the story I care about the most is mine. How am I progressing? Are there unsurmountable challenges that I have surmounted? Am I learning? Am I progressing? Do you remember how I ended up getting Invective? I do. It’s a great story.

Destiny is a story in progress. It’s not quite done, but there is more than enough in place for me to enjoy my place within the story. It’s a difficult world where achievement is increasingly difficult to unlock, but I prefer to work for achievement because that makes for a fascinating story.

  1. I’m playing on PSN as “kurzinator”. I’m on the West coast and play in the evenings. I aspire to get a regular raid cadence during the week and weekend. 
  2. As a former Quake and Unreal player, I have a real issue with the controller because I know that a keyboard has drastically better precision. Imprecise controllers are here to stay and, yes, it’s fun to sit on the couch and play. While it might not be designed to specifically address controller lameness, Destiny’s radar UI someone makes up for the lack of precision. By giving me the ability to see where enemies are coming from, I am able to regain some of the confidence lost by the controller’s thumb-based lifestyle. 

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14 Responses

  1. Getting drunk and playing halo while talking more Sh!7 than actually gaming has a special place in my heart. I’m still trying to get into Destiny, I’ve been playing it here and there since December. It just won’t stick. My gamer buddy won’t let me give up on it, but I just like playing games solo when I get the chance. The unplayed games piling up on my devices, and other new games I’ve been waiting for has made me anxious to play games with no ending. I really enjoy the increased TTK, and need for quick strategy, and after reading this post I can’t help but be excited to play it again.

  2. So great to hear I’m not the only one still hooked on Destiny. Yes, here it is, February, and I’m in the same boat. I even played through Modor over the holiday break, in hopes that it would get me off the crack that is Destiny. It’s a great game but soon found myself going back to Destiny almost every time. I don’t even think I’m that good at it but I’ve gone through the trouble of trying level up all three classes I have. I now bounce between them when playing.

    What still boggles the mind for me is that I believe I play the game an inordinate amount but still haven’t figured out how to level up in Crucible or Vanguard. That part of the system is still very opaque to me. But I do like that you can bounce between campaign playing and PvP when you get bored with one mode of the game play.

    I appreciate you posting this. Makes me feel better when I’m winding hours away at Destiny on the weekends.

  3. CharmedLife4Me 9 years ago

    Great post! The game-addiction-fever that has been Destiny for me for the last two months of my life are finally starting to subside. My destiny-widow-wife and I enjoyed a movie together for the first time in several weekends.

    I look forward to joining Kurzinator on upcoming raids.

  4. Brian 9 years ago

    Nice read. It’s refreshing knowing there are others out there happy with the game and looking forward to where it will go. For some reason most reviewers are hell bent on picking apart the game as opposed to just enjoying it for what it is.

  5. Fantastic to see some positivity in the Destiny gamer community, thanks for the post!

    Anyone in the Rands community on PS4, feel free to send me a friends invite with Rands in the message. I’m a friendly, committed Guardian, that’s been playing since day one. My skill level would be described as experienced and mostly competent, enhanced by the benefits of quality gear. Or good on strategy and teamwork bad on twitch skills. 😉

    Good games all, enjoy whatever you’re playing.

  6. Barry Williams 9 years ago

    I have to agree with you that Bungie knows how to build games that are immersive and trigger emotional attachment. My heart still races a bit when I hear the Halo theme as I conjure up moments of near terror from fighting through endless enemies in the single player mode or reflecting on a particularly difficult kills or custom games during multi-player. Destiny has the feel of mass effect without the excess of a story line, playability like Call of Duty but without sacrificing the emursive experience. Call of Duty is a good game.. simple and efficient, Destiny simply takes the FPS genre to another level. It is art.

  7. CharmedLife4Me 9 years ago

    Great Post! Fully agree.

    My Destiny fever has yet to break . . . so little change on the horizon for my Destiny-Widow-Wife and Destiny-Orphaned-Kids, especially with the next chapter scheduled for release in Q2. In the interim, will keep enjoying the experience and chasing the next platinum door (a Frazier TV show reference which captures the genius of this game’s design).

  8. You’re right about ranking up via crucible or vanguard, but one main thing that you need to do in order to pass certain strikes and attain better gear for the game is finding a fire team.

    Doing certain strikes alone for the first time can be very daunting especially if completing it offers you strange coins, gear or weapons that help you later on.

    It seems Bungie have made it that you need to have friends to play the game either by learning from them about missions and weapons and to complete certain tasks. Such as VoG and Crota with 6 players to complete.

    Also since getting Destiny on my PS4. I have purchased a used Vita to remote into it to buy stuff via Xur and yesterday I got a PS Tv (the wires and chargers for it are bigger than the device itself) so I won’t be hogging the main tv.

    Also about “shit has gone down” I highly recommend the Bungie Ride along. It really shows how much effort they put in to environment to give you a feel of what happened.

    Hopefully once I stop upgrading my gear I may have enough glimmer to purchase special ammo Invective…

  9. If you haven’t already, I might recommend that you look into getting a “scuf” controller or at the very least, some “kontrolfreeks” for your existing controller.

    They may seem gimmicky, but I’ve tried both and they definitely reduce some of the console gaming lameness. There is sound science behind the increased precision offered by the longer thumb-sticks, and in the case of the “scuf” controller, you can further customize your setup by ordering one with additional button paddles on the underside. (where your middle and ring fingers normally sit doing nothing)

    The paddles are super cool, because they allow you to perform more complex maneuvers- for example, you might jump, turn, aim, and fire your weapon all together.. Versus the standard controllers which require you to remove your right and/or left thumbs from the sticks to press d-pad or X/Triangle/Square/Circle buttons…

    Sorry Rands, if it sounds like I’m selling snake oil here… But I am a true believer in these products, and they have absolutely increased my enjoyment of console-FPS


  10. Terry Peppers 9 years ago

    Hey Rands … I had no idea you were playing. I have a regular group of raiders on the PS4 what we play with all the time. Pretty casual and grown up. Coordinated strategies and division of labor – all the time. If you’re interested in playing … happy to take you through Vault of Glass and or Crota’s End.

    PSN / bivouac_2000

    We play almost every night focusing on Nightfall and Heroic on “reset day” and then working raid checkpoints.

  11. Anthony Rago 9 years ago

    Yours is the one review of Destiny that really rings home with me. I’m a 54 yr old day 1 player with three 32 characters and I forge onward despite carpal tunnel lol. AnthonyR1969 on PS4

  12. Devon Shaw 9 years ago

    Somehow just found this in your feed archive!

    I skipped the launch for a variety of reasons, but picked it up maybe two weeks after you posted this. I’ve since dragged the entire group I played Borderlands with over to it. A few of us were pretty solid Halo players dating back to CE and it helps that the loot system parallels Borderlands and Diablo enough to look familiar.

    You can do anything in this game. I’ll play PvP with ex-Call of Duty groups, spend entire evenings carrying people through weeklies and nightfalls, practice solo runs through Crota’s End (which helps newcomers get geared up at the same time) and last weekend, my wife and I even spent an entire day dead ghost hunting. What’s crazy is how much there is to do, and how young this game is. A year or two from now we’ll look back at how excited we were for House of Wolves and revel in how far the world has come.

    The last time I put this much time into one game was when Fallout 3 came out. Destiny is a rare breed, indeed.

    PS4 // RageousX if you’re ever looking for more people to run with!