From Halo to Destiny: Bungie embraces the ‘delicious form of culture shock’

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Destiny players agree on a lot of things, like that the game’s loot system sucks or that Ice Breaker is an amazing gun. But ask your average Guardian whether Bungie has done a good job listening to its fans and you might get some very different responses.

In some ways, Bungie has been amazing at responding to fan feedback, adding updates to how engrams work, more bounty spaces, exotic weapon buffs, voice chat options, and a bevy of other positive changes in the months since Destiny launched. But when it comes to other issues, like changes to the Vault of Glass’s boss fight, unbalanced loot tables, and the many bugs that still haven’t been fixed (raise your hand if you lose ammo every time you die), Bungie seems to have turned deaf in one ear.

Not true, according to Destiny Community Manager David “Deej” Dague.

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“The better we get acquainted with each other, the more we can anticipate their needs, the more we can anticipate the way they respond to certain types of information, and the more, I think, they’re willing to trust us and come along with us,” Deej told Digital Trends at Sony’s PlayStation Experience in Las Vegas.

“There’s a million magical things that happen in the player’s brain when they hold their controller in their hands and they look at that screen. The things that they’re undertaking, those things happen to them. It’s a very personal visceral experience for them. And we’d be crazy not to listen.”

“There’s a million magical things that happen in the player’s brain when they hold their controller and look at that screen.”

He readily admits that it’s on Bungie to address certain criticisms better than it has. “I think the launch of Destiny was a sprint. In order to finish this race, we’re going to have to break into more of a jog…you can’t sprint a marathon,” he continued—meaning that, ideally, Bungie will soon strike a balance with the game’s mechanics and systems and won’t spend as much time scrambling to produce updates.

“There’s always going to be dissension, there’s always going to be disagreement, but I think people know that we’re at least in this for the long haul and willing to listen to what they have to say about these sorts of things.”

Deej described some of the questions the developers ask themselves: “What are the best ways for us to support this experience over time? What are the things in the game that are working as designed, and what are the things in the game that can be better?”

They’re clearly not afraid to make changes; the December 9 launch of Destiny’s The Dark Below expansion adds more features and alters more existing systems than any previous update. Everything from the way rare exotic gear is handled to basic currency systems get a fresh look. “This is something that we relish,” Deej admitted.

But for many Destiny players who were expecting something more like Halo when they began what Deej calls “quite an odyssey,” this world of level caps, loot caves, and raids can seem overwhelming. And Deej said Bungie feels this “delicious form of culture shock” as well.

“We’ve never been so connected to the player before. We’ve never been able to iterate on a product like this so frequently once it slipped out the door,” he explained.

“We’ve never been so connected to the player before.”

“This is the first game that I’ve played that is this elaborate. I’m really a traditional shooter player. So this culture shock for me has been as significant as [it has for] some of the other Bungie fans who are used to playing shooters, who are used to playing games like Halo.”

Deej admitted that the timing of some recent announcements — like the changes to how exotic gear is upgraded that caused many players to waste time and resources — hasn’t been ideal. But this is a learning process for Bungie as much as it is for Destiny players, and “every time we update the game, we learn something.”

“Any company in the world would love to have the Bungie community: an invested, passionate group of people who are willing to come to your house and tell you how they feel about your product,” he continued.

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“Companies invest millions of dollars into market research every year so that they can know the consumer of their product. We don’t even have to ask. All we have to do is open our doors on the forum or maintain a Twitter account, and people are more than happy to tell us about how they feel when they play.”

In other words, keep right on bitching on Twitter, Reddit, and Bungie’s official forums, because the people behind the scenes are hearing you, and they’re apparently loving the feedback. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll actually fix that ammo bug.