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Bungie reassures Destiny's frustrated community about the game's future

And owns up to some confusing mistakes in this week's patch notes

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

It's been a whirlwind week for Destiny developer Bungie, and in an unusually candid weekly update today, the studio attempted to ease some of the community's long-simmering frustrations by being more frank and forthcoming than these blog posts tend to be.

The hubbub began Monday, when Eurogamer published an interview with senior designer Derek Carroll in which he said Bungie was "moving to a more event-based model" for Year Two of Destiny, forgoing large paid expansions for limited-time events like the Sparrow Racing League that went live this week. That racing mode will be available only until Dec. 29, although there's a chance Bungie could bring it back later.

Longtime fans of Destiny expressed concerns about the thought of having to wait all the way until Destiny's sequel presumably arrives in September 2016 for meaty new content like additional raids and planets. Eric Osborne, Bungie's marketing director, sent a tweet on Tuesday in an effort to calm down the community, and elaborated on the tweet today.

Osborne came out and acknowledged the fans' frustration, saying, "You seem worried that there won't be any more substantial content until we ship another full game, or that all of the content for the rest of Year Two will come in the form of timed events." That's not the case, according to Osborne, who said that Bungie is planning new "events, activities, content, and features" for 2016, including "some events and some activities that will become additions to your Director."

The Sparrow Racing League is Bungie's winter/holiday event for Destiny: The Taken King, following the Halloween event, the Festival of the Lost, which began in late October. Osborne described two events scheduled for early 2016: The first will resemble the Halloween event in terms of scale, while the second will be "far larger than anything you’ve seen since the release of The Taken King." Bungie is also planning "another significant update to the world and sandbox" — i.e., the gameplay balance — for that time frame; indeed, the studio previously said it wanted to deliver such updates every quarter.

Destiny Sparrow Racing League - Sparrow with five racers hot on its tail Bungie/Activision

Bungie's weekly update then moved onto a more recent controversy that sent the Destiny player base into a confused frenzy: the patch notes for update 2.1, which arrived on Tuesday. The notes included tweaks to weapon balance — changes that Bungie had announced nearly four weeks prior, on Nov. 19. The weapons section of original patch notes, as published Dec. 8, was identical to the November preview. But apparently, the tweaks mentioned in the notes weren't actually the changes Bungie made in the game.

The studio revised the notes yesterday, Dec. 9, and players began to complain that the new changes appeared to be inconsequential. For example, the original post listed base damage increases of 3 percent, 7 percent and 4 percent to different types of auto rifles, and base damage reductions of 9 percent, 8 percent, 8 percent and 2 percent for groups of pulse rifles. But according to the updated notes, the actual tweaks were one or two orders of magnitude lower — 0.3 percent, 0.7 percent and 0.04 percent for the auto rifle buffs, and 0.9 percent, 0.9 percent, 0.9 percent and 0.97 percent for the pulse rifle nerfs.

This wasn't the first instance of this kind of screw-up, and by this point, conspiracy theories ran rampant among the Destiny player base. Frustrated, accusatory threads popped up on the Destiny subreddit — the home of the game's community — with titles like "Communication between the community and Bungie is...well, atrocious"; "Why does it seem like Bungie's first instinct is to lie about screw ups?"; and "We understand mistakes happen Bungie. Please give us, your dedicated and intensely loyal playerbase, the truth."

In today's weekly update, Destiny senior designer Jon Weisnewski did his best to explain the whole sorry situation, and to his credit, he addressed the players like adults.

"Any frustration caused by my incorrect messaging of the change values was unintended from my end and perfectly understandable from your end," Weisnewski began. "Transparency and open dialogue around our design intent for this game means a lot to us."

Bungie updated the patch notes for update 2.1 again today to "reflect the real numbers you are experiencing in the game," said Weisnewski. It turns out that the true reductions in pulse rifle base damage are drastic: 14.23 percent, 10.69 percent, 8.17 percent and 2.97 percent, depending on the rate of fire.

Destiny - Sparrow Racing League screenshot 02 1920

The reason these figures were messed up in the first place, according to Weisnewski, is mundane: He had temporary numbers in a draft of the patch notes, and he didn't get the correct percentages in the document before it was published. Neither the test team nor the editors of the post would have been able to realize the mistake. And yesterday's update was also wrong, Weisnewski explained, because "in my own self-induced panic to get the real numbers out to everyone, I very hastily assumed I had made the same mistake on Pulse Rifle numbers and screwed those ones up in the published revision."

"The resulting update caused more confusion and made it seem like we were trying to cover our tracks," Weisnewski continued, characterizing it as a "sloppy move" but saying that "none of it is malicious or a cover up."

As for how nobody noticed for a whole month that the patch notes differed from the November preview, Weisnewski admitted, "Unfortunately, I don't have a good answer for this."

"none of it is malicious or a cover up"

Finally, Weisnewski discussed the community's complaints about minute adjustments to damage, like the 0.04 percent boost to high-rate-of-fire auto rifles. He noted that the damage numbers that pop up in the game are rounded whole numbers, and that those figures are affected by many factors. So while a tiny tweak might not be reflected in the damage from a single shot, the design intention is that it will make a difference over time.

"Will that be enough to 'properly buff' Auto Rifles?" said Weisnewski. "We'll see."

The weekly update just went live this afternoon, but it seems that this kind of openness might be the way to go for Bungie moving forward. The Reddit user who characterized Bungie's communication as "atrocious" updated his post after Bungie published the weekly update today. He praised the studio for being "obviously aware that there were questions that needed answering," and although he wasn't sure if it'll end up being enough, he said, "Personally, I'm pretty happy with what we got."

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