Since Destiny 2 launched last week, I have given the game a fairly large portion of my time and effort. It's actually been rather enjoyable, as Destiny and its sequel occupy the slot that Call of Duty used to: all my friends who don't play games much anymore picked them up. They have one or two slots in a given year, and Destiny 2 is it for 2017.
As such, I jumped into the game with a crew of fairly avid players. We're not hardcore progression-minded folks, but we have kept up with the curve so far. Campaign done, Strikes completed, Nightfall polished off. We're Raid ready for tomorrow.
Unfortunately, there's a disparity between player-vs-environment (PVE) and player-vs-player (PVP) content. In Destiny 2, while you can roll around in a free-form squad of as many friends as you want in the open world, a Fireteam (read: invited group) maxes out at 3 people. If you want to party up and share in the spoils, three is your maximum. If you want to run a Strike or Nightfall, the same is true. On the other hand, Crucible PVP content is built around 4v4 play, allowing a group of 4 friends enjoying each other's company and stomping opponents together.
There is an issue I've noticed within a week of play. If we're running PVP content, you can have a solid squad of four friends together, but when it's time to do a Strike, someone has to sit out. You can be running with a great Fireteam on a Nightfall, but if you decide to run Crucible, you either pull another friend out of what they're doing, or let matchmaking add a random player to your team.
On PlayStation 4, we run a shared party within the console's built-in Party Chat system. When we need a friend to hop in on the Crucible, we just give them a shout. When we want to run a Strike or Nightfall, there's this awkward moment of "Oh, I'll go do some Public Events while you guys run a Strike or two." You always have to shut out someone in your crew, due to the split between both modes of play.
The thing is, this was less of a problem in the first Destiny. Destiny allowed for 6v6 or 3v3 play depending on which PVP game mode you were playing in. Teams of 3 or 6 matched up with the number of players required for Strike and Raid content, so both PVE and PVP were a matched set.
It's not hard to see why Bungie made the change. The 6v6 matches were a bit unwieldy and chaotic with all 12 players running around throwing grenades and using Supers. A solid team could roll right over with you with successive Supers. Hardcore competitive players also preferred the smaller team sizes, making individual contribution matter a bit more. For Bungie, having a single team size in PVP also allows for a bit more focus and tuning for competitive play.
"I think at this point it would be very difficult to go back to those types of experiences and the reason I say that is because the entire game was created around this 4v4 focus," Destiny 2 PVP design lead Lars Bakken told Daily Star. "It’s not like we couldn’t do it, it’s just there are so many things that are fundamentally reliant on how the systems connect, it would be pretty difficult to do. Sorry I have to break fans hearts. I believe the experience is so good that I want them to play it and see it for themselves."
"It’s a known challenge. We looked at things like PvP, and we looked at the passion of the PvP and the sandbox team," Destiny 2 director Luke Smith told PlayStation Lifestyle about the mismatch between modes. "Their passion came from a place of, what can we do to make PvP as good as possible? What’s the right player count? If you look at the constraints that previously existed, things like fireteams being factors of the same size, and you say what if we got rid of those things? What if we removed those constraints? Would it let us make a better PvP game? The team answers yes and I support that too, even if it brings in some additional social friction."
The problem is the social friction is real. Folks on the Destiny subreddit and the official Bungie forums have noticed the problem in their own groups.
"My best friend and I play these types of games all the time. My co-worker and his best friend does the same. All 4 of us bought the game and are on every night. All of us never play together," said Reddit user PrimusDCE.
"Fourth man on? Bummer. Guess you gotta go run everything on your own. This is a nightly issue for my group and I," said Reddit user Jburm.
"It's become an exercise of whoever answers first," added Reddit user SoulOnyx.
A number of folks just used Crucible as a fun diversion before or after Raids. With 4v4 being the only option, those folks are without a Destiny 2 palate cleanser.
"I'm cool with 4v4 but 6v6 was fun for messing around and being a group. I had tons of fun goofing around with my clan in control matches. Really pushes crucible towards an elite mindset considering you only have 1 more than trials. I wish they'd bring back at least a couple 6v6 modes," said Bungie forum member Tgpumpkin.
"Please bring it back. My 6 man fireteam was the only thing this shitty PvP game had going for it. Now we're forced to drop two?" asked Infidelav8r.
"I want to be able to play with my raid team before/after the raid. Crucible was a way to wait for the team to get together and just decompress," added Dunggabreath. "4v4 just makes it harder to rationalize spending time in Crucible. I'm not saying remove 4v4 for those people just add 6v6 back."
Even those who enjoy PVP want the ability to queue up for 3v3 or 6v6 play. The current proposed fix in the highest-rated Destiny 2 PVP thread would be to have 4v4 for Competitive Play and the more options for Quickplay PVP. That's not the only thread asking for other options in PVP play. One user even notes that the current Crucible PVP system is dire for solo players, because they find themselves matched up against set teams of 4.
Part of Crucible is working for some players, but the issues in moving from PVP to PVE and vice versa are a major annoyance in my current Destiny 2 play. And I don't seem to be the only one with the problem. I don't have an issue with 4v4 on the face of it, but the inability to play with my friends without leaving someone hanging is simply odd. Coming from other massively multiplayer online games that balance progressive content in the same multiples of players like Final Fantasy XIV (4-man dungeons/trials, 8-man full trials, 24-man raids, 4-man teams in The Feast PVP) or World of Warcraft (5-man dungeons, previously 10/25/40-man raid content, currently scaling raids from 10-30 players), Destiny 2's system just seems inelegant.
Hopefully, that's something that will change with time, but currently I'm not expecting much, as it would require a rebalance of content on Bungie's part and I'm sure the team has bigger problems and future content on their plate. But if you're listening, Bungie, it is a problem and one you should keep in mind.