I‘m trying to organise a Destiny 2 raid night. On paper, it shouldn’t be too difficult. There are five of us – yes, one Guardian short of a full fireteam, and if that doesn’t perfectly encapsulate us, then I don’t know what does – but we have a couple of pals on standby prepared to jump in as our sixth when we’re ready to go. Though our clan is a lapsed one (I blame kids, partners, and jobs; in that order), we’ve spent the last few weeks trying to get back into the game, farming Pinnacle gear and XP to buff ourselves and hit level 1300 so we can revisit Vault of Glass, and now we’re ready.
Well. Technically. Diaries permitting.
The reason we weren’t ready to go when Vault of Glass released was that most of us had already quit Destiny 2 at least once before. Half of us dropped out around the launch of the sequel, and then the rest – myself included – around the time expansion Forsaken released.
I’d had several frantic weeks in work, which meant I couldn’t complete the expansion when it dropped and couldn’t keep up with levelling. By the time work had calmed down again, everyone seemed to be light (that’s a special Destiny pun for you there; you’re welcome) years ahead of me, and catching up seemed almost insurmountable… particularly as my light level was so comparatively low, I was barred from joining in on some of the higher-light activities my mates were playing. And what’s the point of having a regular fireteam if you’re not able to play together?
This was, and kind of still is, the problem with Destiny. It’s a problem with a lot of games-as-a-service offerings, quite honestly. Unless you play a lot, keeping up with weekly and daily missions, and gathering all that sweet high-level loot, you’ll slip behind your mates. Slip behind too far, though, and you may never really catch up; for instance, while there’s currently a max power cap of 1320 on all gear, truly dedicated Guardians can keep ranking up their Artifacts ad infinitum. It means most of us have to log on every couple of days and work through all the missions that drop the best gear just to keep on top of things. If we don’t, we’ll have to go through this all over again when the next raid launches.
To be fair, it’s not that I don’t have a good time; for all its flaws, I love the Destiny universe, and the gunplay is sublime. My fireteam and I catch up on each other’s days and take the piss, all while headshotting aliens. But I can’t help but begrudge how much of a time commitment it demands from me.
Imagine my delight, then, when 343 Industries – the studio currently developing Halo Infinite, another shoot-shit-in-space series that I absolutely adore – has publicly pledged that the next Master Chief instalment’s new Battle Pass system won’t feel like a “chore”.
“We’re working hard to ensure that the Battle Pass isn’t a grind for players,” Ryan Paradis, live team design director, revealed last week. “I for one can’t stand it when I’m playing a game JUST to complete the Battle Pass – it feels like a chore to me.”
Wow. Imagine a battle pass that doesn’t ask you to grind, eh? Just think of the extra early nights you’ll get! Maybe you can even read a couple of chapters before bed? Christ, maybe you could even write a book, eh – you always reckoned you could with a little more time, right?
But wait – there’s more!
“We looked at other titles, where you buy something that provides time-limited access to the pass, and now you feel obligated to play… That’s not fun, and it’s not player-first. If you put the trust in us, and purchase something from us, it’s yours. No strings attached.”
Read it again, my friend. No. Obligation. To. Play. Have there ever been sweeter words in the English language to a lifelong gamer that’s hit adulthood and now finds themselves short on time?
“We want players to have cool content, activities, events, and rewards over the course of the season, but we do not want to demand that players play a ton of hours every week of the season to complete everything,” Chris Blohm, lead progression designer, said in an interview with Halo Waypoint. “We want players having fun in Halo, not grind it like it’s a job.”
In that final sentence, Blohm has perfectly captured everything that’s wrong with live service games today. They’re absolutely right; games shouldn’t ever feel like a job.
And yet, the more aggressive live service games become – and the more shameless they become in flogging you new seasonal content that may or may not still be playable in eighteen months – the more it does indeed feel a chore. A job. Something you do because you have to, not because you want to.
Of course, the old adage goes that time you enjoy wasting is never wasted, so no matter how long it takes you to max out the Battle Pass or unlock all the seasonal challenges, it’s all good as long as you’re making fun doing it. But here’s hoping Halo Infinite delivers on its promises because, dear Christ, am I ready for a game that’s exactly that – a game and not an unpaid second job.