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For the past decade or so, games have effectively copied each other, integrating the best mechanics of certain genres and improving upon them if needed. Now that’s not to say that that’s a bad thing; after all, Halo popularized regenerating health systems that are now almost universal in shooters, leveling and ranking systems are everywhere, and let’s not forget how many games are seemingly inspired by MOBAs and RPGs lately. In theory, this should also mean that developers would learn from each other’s mistakes, but in the case of games like The Division and Destiny, it appears as though they have ignored history and have suffered for it.

At their core, The Division and Destiny are loot based games, much like many games with RPG elements, such as Borderlands and Diablo 3. As you can probably expect, the main allure to these games is the loot; you basically go around, kill some things, get some loot, and then use the new loot to kill some tougher things and get even better loot. Unfortunately, both The Division and Destiny ran into problems with how often loot is distributed to players, which obviously led to some grumblings among their respective communities. 

The only guaranteed loot from beating The Taken King's raid

The only guaranteed loot from beating The Taken King’s raid.

Now let’s pretend that both The Division and Destiny are the first games to ever introduce loot based reward mechanics. If that were the case, it should come as no surprise that they would make the same mistake of not adequately rewarding players for the time they invest into the game, and in all likelihood, they would probably be forgiven for it. However, they are not the first games to feature loot, nor will they be the last to run into problems with an audience that is disgruntled with how meager their in-game rewards are. 

If anything, they fell into the same exact pitfalls that Diablo 3 fell into whereby meaningful loot was initially very sparse, mainly due to the fear that giving players large amounts of good loot at once would lead to them feeling satisfied faster, which could lead to a declining audience once everyone got the items that they are looking for. Needless to say, this actually had the opposite effect of retaining players, and if anything, it damaged their game even more because people were leaving the game out of frustration and anger. The same exact patterns can be seen in Destiny’s audience after the release of The Taken King DLC where people were not happy about having to fight at least three layers of RNG in raids to get good loot, and The Division’s audience after the release of the Incursion update that nerfed crafting and Challenge mode rewards to be a quarter of what people were comfortable with.

Chest

It’s a box that gives you the second most powerful items in the game, and you don’t even have to kill anything!

On the contrary, a game like Borderlands 2 had so much loot that you could always feel comfortable experimenting with different weapons and playstyles. Want to be a glass cannon who mostly uses a certain notorious rocket launcher? No problem. Explosive shotgun wielding tank? Difficult, but somewhat viable. Generic stealthy sniper? Just have to find the sniper rifle first, but at least some decent ones are guaranteed drops from quests and enemies. While it didn’t prevent people from leaving the game, it at least tried to make them leave with fond memories rather than out of anger over having bad luck.

Ultimately, no one is forcing developers like Bungie and Ubisoft Massive to observe what made the audiences of other games happy, but it certainly would help. After all, mistakes are acceptable, but if the mistakes you are making are preventable simply because other people already made similar mistakes in the past, then at the end of the day it just reflects poorly on you. 

More About This Game

Anson Chan

Staff Writer

You ever wonder why we're here? It's one of life's greatest mysteries, isn't it? Good thing games exist so that we don't have to think about it. Or at least I don't have to think about it. Instead, I'll just play Halo or something.



  • John

    A very good article and i wholeheartedly agreed.

  • Zepherdog

    Reminds me of the days of Phantasy Star Online, back when loot was pretty scarce but still plentiful in that your performance against enemies and bosses mattered when calculating the drops. You were guaranteed to get at least some rate and ultra rare stuff each run, not to mention the loot were often pretty good to begin with and there were also separate quests specifically designed to get rare stuff.

    It wasn’t perfect but it still wasn’t as infuriating an approach as that in some modern games.

  • SomeCollegeStudent

    It’s amazing and rather telling how often I can look at older games and say they had better design or better mechanics than modern AAA games.

  • Zepherdog

    Back in the day developers had to actually think how to make their game appealing , not just throw in flashy lights and set pieces and call it a day.

    These danged children ruining my vidya.

  • SaintOblivious

    I always thought that the initial loot system of Diablo 3 was designed to force people to use the Auction Houses. It felt as if I would rarely get a Gold drop that benefited my class & the expectation was that I had to list it & use those proceeds to buy what I needed. It was one of the primary reasons I dropped out of D3 until they overhauled the loot system.

  • Dom The Elegy

    “Now that’s not to say that that’s a bad thing; after all, Halo popularized regenerating health systems that are now almost universal in shooters, leveling and ranking systems are everywhere”

    Those are both very bad things tho. Regenerating health less so, but progression systems are /the/ worst addition to gaming over the last 10-15 years. Locking out content from people, creating an uneven playing field in what should be a competitive test of skill. All to create a skinnerbox to make people come back to see another XP bar fill up. Fuck progression systems.

  • GrimFate

    As a big CoD: MW3 player, I agree with this. What is supposed to be fun about having to level up to unlock weapons, when the top-tier weapons aren’t even necessarily better? It’s somewhat rewarding the first time through as you get access to new guns, but once you’ve prestiged a few times, it’s just frustrating.

  • GrimFate

    This was exactly what I wanted to post. I felt FORCED to use the Auction House on multiple occasions because, even though I think buying equipment is cheap and unrewarding, I just couldn’t find good enough loot to move forward on the harder difficulties. I also never found a single piece of legendary equipment.

    And then they overhauled the game and all of a sudden I was getting better loot, and I did end up finding some legendary loot. But I’m sure they didn’t have to balance what loot you got against the Auction House economy… right?

    I wonder if that explains Destiny and The Division at all. I’m not familiar with if they have the ability to trade equipment between players, but I wonder if because they are effectively MMOs in terms of player interaction if that causes issues with how much good loot they can reward players. I mean, Borderlands is single-player and co-op, so if you keep throwing good guns at the players, it doesn’t really affect anything except that player and any co-op partners they have.

  • SomeCollegeStudent

    As far as I know, there isn’t an official trade system in Destiny nor The Division.

    “Why is there no trade system (in Destiny)?”

    https://www.bungie.net/en/Forums/Post/197362240?page=0&sort=0&showBanned=0&path=1

    “Ubisoft Massive said prior to The Division‘s launch that player to player trading would not be initially available. With the 1.1 update, players will be allowed to drop items after a boss kill and let another member of their team pick it up. This can only be done in a two hour window after the drop and can be done unlimited times within those two hours. ”

    http://techraptor.net/content/division-gets-big-update

    Now, as to whether or not this could be balanced, all Bungie has to do is ask WoW or GW 2 about their trading system and for tips on keeping player trading from unbalancing the game. This problem of player trading is nothing new.

  • GrimFate

    Huh. Interesting. What’s the point of throwing a bunch of random people into the world hub bit then?