Fall to Grace: Issues at Bungie

The work environment at the Bungie, Inc. headquarters in Bellevue, WA is one that has experienced turmoil over the past several years. Creative and joyous minds once collaborated there to make the critically lauded “Halo” series, with an almost child-like whimsicality. But after Bungie’s departure from Microsoft, signing with Activision and the departure of key figures such as writer Joseph Staten and composer Martin O’Donnell, the studio has become a shell of its former self. We’re not talking about the Bungie of yesterday, however.  We’re talking about the Bungie of today and tomorrow. 

Make no mistake: there are still incredibly talented people at Bungie making work that almost defies genre. The newest iteration in the “Destiny” series, “Destiny 2,” was acclaimed by critics at launch for its beautiful art direction, stellar soundtrack and terrific gameplay.  Many complaints of the first game were addressed and rectified. However, over the course of “Destiny 2’s” life cycle, several problems arose within the game, and Bungie’s actions have only further intensified the ire of its passionate community.

One of the biggest controversies surrounding the game is its overarching design philosophy. In the first “Destiny,” gameplay systems rewarded time investment greatly. All of the interwoven leveling mechanics, loot systems and currencies made for a game that was not particularly casual friendly. For the sequel, Bungie tuned gameplay systems so that they were more accessible to newcomers, while also failing to provide much in the way of meaningful end-game content for the hardcore fans. What consumers were left with was a game that did little to reward time investment. Since “Destiny 2” was geared for more instantaneous gratification, reaching maximum power level did not take long for most players. Games should never compromise on their core concepts or systems simply to appeal to a wider audience, but that is what happened here.

Another problem that has risen within the gaming community is the monetization of the product. Micro-transactions were added roughly halfway through the first “Destiny’s” three-year life, but mostly as an afterthought. They were merely a way to directly get extra cosmetic content. The much-maligned slot machine mechanic made its way into the system later on, but it was expanded upon greatly in “Destiny 2,” much to the community’s dismay. Many items that were once earnable by players were now locked behind a paywall. These items now either take obscene amounts of grinding to obtain, or the sixteen digits of your credit card. Which do you think they want you to pick? On top of that, some of these items can directly upgrade the performance of your character in the game, leading to a form of pay-to-win.

These aren’t the only problems that lie within “Destiny 2,” and the community has been vocal about each and every issue. From expansion packs locking non-paying players out of previously accessible content to experience-point throttling, to putting timers on earning certain in-game rewards—Bungie, under Activision’s reign, has implemented numerous anti-consumer practices. However, there is still time and hope for Bungie to change. One of the biggest things it can do to win back the trust of its fans and consumers is to place its trust in them. Back when Bungie made “Halo,” one of its key design philosophies was to make sure the player was at the helm of every decision being made. Questions like, “Would the players want this?” and “How would they react?” were constantly being asked.

Bungie can’t just listen anymore if it wants to return to its legendary status; it needs to act upon the community’s requests in a timely and deliberate manner. Gaining back the trust of the players is crucial if Bungie wants them to stick around.

Leave a Reply