Why Destiny players are smarter than Bungie expected

Bungie has confirmed that it's considering the addition of matchmaking to Destiny's super-challenging Raids. To anyone that hasn't played Destiny, or doesn't fully comprehend how tough the Vault of Glass is, I imagine the reaction is some variation on the noise “Duh”. However, for those who have actually tackled the game's first Raid--which is only available for players of level 26 and above--it may come as a surprise that Bungie is considering the idea of letting strangers team up altogether. After all, the Vault of Glass is bastard-hard, and requires total coordination among no fewer than six players. However, I think it's a glorious testament to the way Destiny's players have embraced the spirit of teamwork engendered by the game itself.

So, for me, it comes as little surprise. Despite the fact that I work in the 'games industry', and could easily populate a six-person Raid based on the people I can physically see from my office desk, I find myself increasingly seeking the comfort of strangers in Destiny. Hey, I love playing Strikes with friends as much as the next person, but there's a wonderful feeling that comes with overcoming overwhelming odds with two complete unknowns.

The way the game has been designed and balanced allows three (or potentially six) totally disparate players to coordinate perfectly; to communicate through the language of shooting hundreds of aliens in the teeth. See, when I play Strikes with strangers (and admittedly they're all from the Vanguard Strike Playlist), everyone understands their role within each combat scenario, because they've been exposed to hours of Destiny previously. It's a wonderfully balanced system of problems versus solutions, and even teams of strangers know how to answer the questions asked of them. Hey, that's something of a necessity in a game that requires online play to even work, right?

Ok, let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. Over the last week, the game has been fore-fronting two particular Strikes (at least when I've been playing): The Devils' Lair and Cerberus Vae III. So, I've played each one about four or five times in the past few days. Each time I play, my team of total strangers follow the same patterns, and offer the same solutions to the scenarios thrown up by the game. The Devil Walker near the end of Devils' Lair? One person snipes from the centre, another deals damage from the top right of the map, and a third controls the Fallen minions down the left flank. There's no overt communication here: just an innate understanding of what needs to be done for a successful mission. But it's not all pre-scripted either. What impresses most is how people react when things change; how they help each other compensate when enemies overrun a flank, or down a fellow Guardian.

Obviously, there are multiple ways to approach certain aspects of each Strike too. Again--going back to Devils' Lair--I've seen successful fireteams stringently defend the laser-grid area against the three waves of Fallen and Hive, and I've seen successful teams take the fight to the spawn area, eliminating snipers and stealth units at source. In each instance, though, everyone on the team instinctively knew how they fitted into the strategy. Do you revive a fallen comrade? Or preserve yourself for the 30 seconds it'll take them to respawn. Again, without communication, people just know what works best. It's amazing.

While the Vault of Glass is a big step up from basic Strikes, the same principles apply. By giving enemies specific behaviours, and showing players how Destiny's weapon-sets interact with those foes, Bungie has given its devoted Guardians the tools to team up and solve problems (beat levels) with the very minimum of traditional communication. This is one of the game's true beauties, and something you only truly understand when you've spent proper time playing, because it's knowledge gained through experience.

So, to me, it comes as little surprise that Bungie is considering matchmaking for Raids. It feels like a natural next-step in the evolution of Destiny's flow of features. Give someone a car before they learn to drive, and what you get is a wreck and some seriously bad automotive PR. Teach them to use it, though, before handing over the keys, and the results are much more positive. Yeah, it's a metaphor for Destiny's Raids, in case you haven't figured that out. People weren't prepared for Raid matchmaking when the game first launched (and many are still likely to be unprepared) but given a few more weeks, and I think it'd be a great addition to the game. More than that, it'd be a nod of respect from Bungie to its players, who have smartly embraced Destiny and made it their own.

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