Destiny 2's XP Throttling Courts Controversy, But Bungie Has Bigger Issues to Address

Destiny 2's XP Throttling Courts Controversy, But Bungie Has Bigger Issues to Address

A triple-A company tweaking XP gains to indirectly encourage microtransactions? Say it ain't so.

Bungie's been messing with the XP balancing of Destiny 2, to the chagrin of the eagle-eyed Destiny 2 community. A Redditor broke down the changes Bungie implemented last week around Thanksgiving Day. XP was changed to a scaling system according to the length at which players played activities (such as higher scaling for the Leviathan raid, lower scaling for public events), even dropping approximately 95 percent of the XP the player should have earned during an event of enemies battling other enemies in the environment.

But XP, of course, doesn't really matter in the endgame of Destiny 2. Not a whole lot, that is. Once players hit the level cap of 20, XP gets converted towards a meter that rewards players with Bright Engrams that can be broken down for goodies at the Eververse shop. Essentially, levelling up just nets you a Bright Engram, and everything else is left to your Light Level, which currently has a cap of 305 (dependent on the armor and weapons you have equipped to boost it). Next month when the new expansion Curse of Osiris launches, that cap will increase to 335 (with mods). Bright Engrams are purely cosmetic though. Players can cash them in and get a supply of shaders (colors for armor), ornaments (cosmetics for exotic weapons), emotes, and more. What you can get with Bright Engrams is, essentially, inconsequential to progressing in the game.

Just the bright dust, ma'am.

So Bungie tweaked it, probably to inspire another thing entirely. That's right. Ding, ding, ding: microtransactions.

Destiny 2, like the first Destiny, still has microtransactions. But they're not of the pay-to-win sort, nor the (at least literal) loot box variety. Instead, they're in the special cosmetics in the shop where players can cash in Bright Engrams. By throttling XP earned, players are gently encouraged to spend more money on Bright Engrams. Or so, Bungie probably thinks. Fans were quite peeved about it, so they changed the XP accruing again.

As of the time of writing this, Bungie's addressed the situation in two ways: first via a blog post saying they were listening to the community and deactivating the system immediately, and later a tweet, clarifying the fixes they made to the system post-haste. As the XP still stands, it's been amended to the way it once was, with no XP scaling depending on whatever event players are tackling. However, a core element of the switch hasn't been changed: the amount of XP needed in order to "level up," or rather, gain a Bright Engram. Instead of being 80,000 XP like normal, it's now doubled to 160,000 XP. As the Redditor experimented before with testing out the system before it was partially fixed, they deduced that they should have received 1.5 more Bright Engrams than actually gained, thus, technically throttling.

Even after this new controversy swirling around Destiny 2, with Bungie "fixing" a problem that didn't exist in the first place, players across communities seem to have their minds set on other things mostly. Like all the other problems that haven't been fixed.

In fact, some are even worried this is going to overshadow the other actual problems that currently lie in Destiny 2. The lackluster endgame. The slow-grind of tokens to put towards other engrams. The constantly full inventory of shaders and armor. The lack of anything at all to keep players actively engaged with the game even after they hit the 305 light level cap across multiple classes; the act of making repetition enjoyable again, as some argue the first game did. Even across over three years of Destiny, fans still have a truck load of problems with Destiny and now its sequel, problems Bungie doesn't quite wholly address to their favor.

It's an awkward notion: how beholden should developers be to every whim of the player? We've seen in Overwatch the opposite effect with Blizzard being too beholden to the needs of players, whether in in the game's lore and items or just in effectively breaking the game beyond recognition from where it was a year ago. Whatever players want, they get. And even then, there's arguably even more problems abound for Blizzard to weather. While the XP-tweaking is no doubt an answer to the upcoming expansion raising the player level cap from 20 to 25 (and light level to 335), it does feel a bit misguided. Nonetheless, XP will soon become more integral to players' experiences again, and by messing around with its XP, suddenly the idea of it has become relevant again to players' worries.

But for now, at least on fan communities, players hope that Bungie will turn their attention elsewhere too. At the very least, Destiny 2 director Luke Smith and project lead Mark Noseworthy announced on Twitter that they will be addressing general community feedback on the game sometime this week, in addition to detailing more about the upcoming expansion. Maybe this will serve as a lesson for Bungie in the future: in not fixing things that didn't need fixing in the first place.

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Caty McCarthy

Features Editor

Caty McCarthy is a former freelance writer whose work has appeared in Kill Screen, VICE, The AV Club, Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN. When she's not blathering into a podcast mic, reading a book, or playing a billion video games at once, she's probably watching Terrace House or something. She is currently USgamer's official altgame enthusiast.

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