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Lessons from Destiny’s first add-on could bring larger fixes to the endless loot grind

There’s something wrong with Destiny.

Well, there are lots of things wrong with Destiny (at least as many as there are right), but this is something that leaves regular players disappointed on a weekly basis. They repeatedly chase the best rewards from the game’s hardest mission, the Vault of Glass, and fail, defeated again and again by the raid’s ridiculously stingy loot drop rates.

Related: Destiny: The Dark Below DLC review

Does Bungie plan to fix it? That depends on you, as Destiny community manager David “Deej” Dague told Digital Trends at Sony’s PlayStation Experience in Las Vegas. The game’s newly released downloadable content pack, The Dark Below, is as much a testing ground as it is new stuff to play with.

Destiny - Dark Below 2

“[The new ‘Crota’s End’ raid] has been designed to be a more rewarding experience in terms of the loot tables [that dictate how drops are distributed]. We’re trying to create a raid that is a little bit more generous with the gear that you’re going to earn,” Deej said, noting that the best rewards will still be limited to the raid’s hard mode, which is scheduled to launch in January.

Tons of players are still missing the loot they want despite doing the Vault of Glass as often as possible — which is once per week, or twice for those that run it on both Normal and Hard settings — since Destiny came out, and Bungie has admitted that the probability tables for that mission are not as they should be. With Crota’s End and the newly adjusted probabilities, there’s hope that players won’t get the same things over and over while missing out on what they’re really seeking like so many do in the Vault of Glass.

So why not update the Vault of Glass’s loot tables as well?

“I’m not able to make any promises about the Vault of Glass or how the reward system will be different or how we’ll continue to iterate on it,” Deej said. “In terms of whether or not we revisit the Vault of Glass with some of that same thinking remains to be seen. As always we like to put something in the hands of the players and see how they respond to it, and that will teach us how we can best move forward.”

That may sound like fudgy PR speak, but Bungie has made enough mistakes with Destiny that any dedicated player who stops to think about it can appreciate the developer’s newfound caution. Bungie’s latest gaffe involved changing the way exotic weapons are upgraded, then announcing an even more drastic change just days later — while in the meantime players had wasted a lot of time and resources on items whose progression will soon be reset.

“We’re trying to create a raid that is a little bit more generous with the gear that you’re going to earn.”

“The timing of that release of that information wasn’t ideal,” Deej admitted. “But a lot of times we get this information to the forefront when it’s ready, you know? These processes and these procedures are happening in parallel with development, in parallel with basic community management.”

“There’s a time at which you have to produce patch notes, and there’s a time at which you suggest what the next changes will bring. So we’re finding our rhythm with giving people information in a way that allows them to plan for the delivery of those changes. And then there are times when it’s really best to just sort of release the patch and say, ‘Go out there and tell us what you think.’”

As far as The Dark Below, plenty of players have already begun tackling its challenges, including Crota’s End. Hopefully it’s not long before Bungie figures out whether players are enjoying the new loot system and whether the changes should be applied retroactively to Vault of Glass. But Deej says players shouldn’t be too eager to jump straight into the new raid.

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“The interesting thing about The Dark Below to me is that it definitely is the most unified experience that we’ve put in the hands of players yet,“ he said.

“Every bounty, the Strike, and the raid are all there to serve the same theme. So the raid really is the end game not only in name only, but really the conclusion of that narrative. So when you play in Crota’s End, you’re going to understand what’s at stake and why you’re trying to kill this final boss, because everything you’ve done up to that point has lent some context to that.”

“Every bounty, the Strike, and the raid are all there to serve the same theme.”

You don’t have to get very far in Crota’s End to realize that all that context isn’t really necessary. Some mechanics from The Dark Below’s new story missions do appear in the raid, but they’re fairly self-explanatory even if you haven’t played those missions yet, while the raid’s more confusing (and arguably best) puzzles are the ones that weren’t foreshadowed at all — just like Vault of Glass. And as far as the narrative hook, that’s not too difficult to figure out either: you’re there to kill Crota. He’s a bad guy. Duh.

The Vault of Glass was designed to feel like a separate experience that players had to “earn the right” to play, and “we want to have that same sensibility with the way people tackle Crota’s End,” Deej said. But “if you are a level 30 Guardian, and you have an upgraded suite of weapons that make you feel like a badass, you’re welcome to jump right into that raid on day one,” he continued. “It would be a bit like reading the last chapter of a book, but you can.”

And when it comes to Destiny, no doubt many players won’t really mind skipping to the end.