You know things aren't going great for a game when one of the senior developers is wheeled out to make a vlog explaining (and apologising for) recent decisions. So it goes in Destiny 2 today, where game director Joe Blackburn earlier used the platform formerly known as Twitter to share his thoughts on how things are going. Answer: could be better..
The important context for how we got here is that a couple of weeks ago Bungie put out a lengthy State of the Game post, which was also aimed at addressing various persistent community complaints. These kinds of posts are fairly standard for Bungie, but what was unusual this time was that it immediately made the situation much, much worse.
The most inflammatory part of the post was the suggestion that Bungie—a studio owned by Sony, with hundreds of employees—simply does not have the resources necessary to deliver more than one new PvP map per calendar year. This, as PC Gamer's Phil Savage predicted, did not go over well. Destiny 2's PvP community is notoriously underserved—they once went an astonishing 950 days without a new PvP map—and the original post even admitted that "the most frequent feedback we see is that there is just not enough new PvP content, specifically new maps."
"I think it's fair to say that this approach is not producing the Crucible that our players expect from us," Blackburn said in his video.
Destiny 2's PvP community would clear agree on that point. The pushback in response to the State of the Game was ferocious enough that Bungie has now decided that it can in fact make new PvP maps, and it's going to make a whole bunch of them and then give them away for free in 2024. "This is a shift from our strategy," Blackburn admitted, "so it's going to take us time to sort of understand the details of what we're putting out here."
Blackburn also acknowledged in fairly candid terms that the original State of the Game post should not have been released. "[It] wasn't up to our standards for what you all expect from those kinds of communications," he said. "It didn't provide the high-level vision that we normally provide… Truly, a bunch of us were heads down working on The Final Shape and weren't able to give it the care and love we normally put in…. And that's nobody's fault but mine."
Trying something different, yall have 15 minutes to chat? pic.twitter.com/wzB6xqJPGUAugust 15, 2023
In addition to the free maps, Blackburn promised to increase the number of modes in Destiny 2's core playlists, and said the studio is going to incorporate a "PvP strike team" to improve the process of developing that aspect of the game, as well as its communication with the player base about what's coming next. This seems to be a direct response to the frankly plausible theory that Destiny 2 hasn't had a dedicated PvP team for some time, which has also led to much grousing around the idea that Marathon has absorbed that talent.
Having dedicated developers just working on Destiny 2's Crucible would at the very least be a start. "One of the most exciting parts about these strike teams is, we build them based off of community feedback. So these strike teams are built from the ground up to look at, 'What are the pain points that are hitting our community the most?' So all this list is going to be built and burned down from, 'Hey, these are the big issues the PvP community is looking at in Destiny 2.'"
Reaction from the PvP crowd so far seems positive, if understandably also a little cautious not to get hopes too high.
In a similar vein, Blackburn also promised better overall communications about Bungie's future plans for the game, citing recent dissatisfaction over broken promises around the cadence of new seasonal armor as one area where it failed to keep fans properly up to speed about what's going on. "We're confident in our strategy going forward, we believe this is the right priority going forward," Blackburn said. "But also, it's our responsibility to communicate this stuff sooner."
Some of that failure to communicate can no doubt be attributed to its community team's reduced interactions with players, driven by growing levels of abuse and threats: The studio won nearly $500,000 last month in a court case against a player who harassed and threatened a community manager in 2022, but said recently that despite that, its employees are still being abused by players "just because they work at Bungie." Blackburn said fan interactions will increase with the launch of the new season, but will continue to be handled through Bungie's anonymized "branded accounts."
Blackburn's video definitely has more than a little echo of Blizzard's sad-face apology for the state of Diablo 4 in July, but the approach is notably different in the way it seeks to head off trouble, rather than clean it up. Much of it is aimed at addressing the backlash to the most recent state of the game, yes, but it's Blackburn's notes on next week's Final Shape reveal that I find most interesting. He says that the reveal (which was recorded "a while ago") is aimed at a wider audience than the hardcore Destiny 2 community: Instead of focusing on hyper-detailed system changes, "it's going to be really focused on the story, really be focused on the location, and maybe we'll get a little bit into how the live service of Destiny is going to change after The Final Shape."
In other words, manage your expectations accordingly, and don't be surprised (or mad) if the reveal doesn't answer every single criticism you've had of the game up until this point. However, for that crowd he did also tease a rework that's coming to Xur and Strange Coins. Great news for fans of the squid-faced alien arms dealer, I'm sure.
Bungie's Destiny 2: The Final Shape showcase will take place at 9 am PT/12 pm ET on August 22.