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Bungie clarifies Destiny 2’s server situation, says it ‘invested heavily’

Dedicated servers aren’t the be-all and end-all

Destiny 2 - Crucible screenshot
Action in Destiny 2’s Crucible.
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.

Destiny 2’s debut last week got a mixed reception, but one thing that disappointed everybody was the confirmation from developer Bungie that the game will not use dedicated servers. In its weekly update today, the studio provided more details on Destiny 2’s network infrastructure, hoping to assuage players’ concerns and explain why the development team believes in the strategy it has chosen.

In short: It’s true that Destiny 2 won’t use dedicated servers, but the issue isn’t that simple, according to Bungie.

For the uninitiated, most games use one of two systems for online play: peer-to-peer connections or client-server connections (aka dedicated servers). With peer-to-peer connections in a multiplayer match, one player’s console hosts the game while the others all connect to it, and all the action runs through the host. If dedicated servers are in play, the developer of the game controls the server and runs the game, and all the players connect to it. The latter setup generally offers a more consistent and secure experience, but it’s very expensive for developers to use.

The original Destiny ran on a hybrid of peer-to-peer and client-server connections, and Destiny 2 will use the same setup. But Bungie is changing the system for the sequel in an effort to improve the experience. In particular, players complained about the state of the high-stakes Trials of Osiris mode, where cheaters ran rampant and ruined the experience for others.

“Every activity in Destiny 2 is hosted by one of our servers,” said Matt Segur, engineering lead on the game, in a post on Bungie’s website. “That means you will never again suffer a host migration during your Raid attempt or Trials match.”

That’s different from Destiny, where one player would serve as the host console in each multiplayer session. The only elements of a game that ran on Bungie’s own servers were script and mission logic; other features, like damage state and AI behavior, were tracked individually on each player’s console.

It’s easy to attack companies like Bungie when they don’t use dedicated servers, because the perception among gamers is that the studio is cheaping out. But Segur tried to refute this line of thinking.

“We've invested heavily in new server infrastructure for Destiny 2, including using cloud servers for gameplay for the first time,” said Segur. “We really believe this is the best model for all of Destiny 2's varied cooperative and competitive experiences.”

He added, “As a team we’ve got no regrets about the unique technology we’ve built for Destiny 2.”

Because Destiny 2 is coming to Windows PC, unlike its predecessor, questions abound about how Bungie will keep that version secure. Tom Clancy’s The Division, a game that’s similar in concept to Destiny, was rife with cheaters in its early days, especially on PC. Segur reassured people who are thinking about getting Destiny 2 on PC, saying, “We have a variety of top-secret strategies to ensure that the life of a cheater in Destiny 2 PC will be nasty, brutish, and short.”

Destiny 2 is launching Sept. 8 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and at an unspecified time on PC. Bungie will perform large-scale network testing this summer with the game’s beta. For more on Destiny 2, here’s what we know about the game so far.

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