I make no secrets about my dislike for the “Git Gud” shouting “hardcore” gamers that love to spend their days on Reddit or other game forums explaining their superiority over “filthy casuals”. I’m firmly of the opinion that people like that can go fornicate themselves with a large pinecone. There is another group that annoys me to a smaller but still noticeable level: people who complain when a game purposely moves into a more difficult design ethos that requires a certain level of dedication and time investment, along with a little bit of skill.
I’ve been playing a loooot of Destiny 2 since the Forsaken expansion came out and this week is the monthly PVP event, Iron Banner. I’m, at best, an average PVP player but I love this event. This time is a little different from the first year because of one simple change: power level matters. Let me explain for anyone who hasn’t played Destiny. In other Crucible (the PVP portion of the game) modes, a characters power level is mostly irrelevant. Damage and defense don’t scale according to player level. It was the same for the first year of Iron Banner. Aside from gear choices, everyone was on a level playing field. Iron Banner throws that out the window. Stronger players have a serious advantage and this has a lot of people’s feelings hurt.
I’ve seen a lot of posts on forums and Twitter that go along the lines of “Destiny is catering to people with no lives outside of video games” or ” they’re making it impossible for anyone who plays casually to do the event”.
So when is it a problem to focus on more invested players and when is it a justifiable way to reward the people that have spent the most time with a game? There’s a few different ways to look at that. For most of this I will primarily focus on Destiny but the principles apply across any game.
Does it make sense for the game?
This first one can be broken down even further from both functional and story driven standpoints. Let’s look at both.
In the case of story driven, the Destiny franchise has a pretty solid set of legs to stand on. From the very beginning the Crucible has always been described as a way for characters in this world to hone their skills and let the most dedicated and capable rise to the top. Iron Banner even more so in that it’s an event put on in honor of some of the most powerful and legendary characters in the lore. It makes sense for those that have grown in power to have an advantage.
Functionally it still serves a purpose. Trials of the Nine, considered by most to be the truest test of PVP skill, is a more pure test of ability due to it not having power level affect the match and it “locks” equipment choices once started. It also requires a premade team of four and doesn’t allow for matchmaking with random players. Iron Banner has neither of these restrictions. It allows someone who doesn’t have a dedicated group to play in a more intense environment without needing to round up other people.
Is progression in the event neccessary to the game?
Games like Destiny with both PVP and PVE game modes have to choose between striking a balance of the two or having one there to support the other. Neither is inherently right or wrong and games have both benefited and suffered from this decision. The only sure statement one could make on the subject is that it needs to be planned for accordingly. For the most part, Destiny is a PVE focused game. The PVP is really good but it isn’t where the majority of the focus is. PVP focused events such as Iron Banner or Trials aren’t neccessary. The rewards for those events, while they may be cool and unique, aren’t any more powerful than what is gained during PVE. Even missions for rare items that have a PVP based objective are usually not too terribly difficult and it’s part of getting some of the best gear in the game. Though I’ll admit that last part is somewhat subjective, the point is that it isn’t a requirement. There is no PVE content gated off by PVP content.
If a game developer chooses to offer unique rewards that require more effort, or time, than average for the game there isn’t a rule saying that they can’t offer better rewards. Bigger effort for bigger payoff is a natural outcome in almost any aspect of life. If they choose to offer those rewards for one mode of gameplay it would be wise to offer similar rewards in other situations. However, the idea of making everything easy enough for anyone to accomplish dilutes the incentives to continue to play and get better. These challenges are there for the players who have made the investment.
How are advantages acquired in game?
This is a big one in the modern gaming world. If you’re looking at a situation where not every player is on an even field mechanically, what causes the imbalance. If it comes down to skill, then don’t take it personally. There will always be someone better just like there will always be someone less skilled than you. If it’s a matter of time investment, then it is what it is. While no two people have the same circumstances, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. A lot of things in life aren’t fair and everyone has their own issues to deal with. I get that. But if there’s anything unbiased in this world it’s time. When someone can simply buy advantages via microtransactions or some other garbage method, you have a problem. Some would argue that buying the advantage is no different because the player had to earn that money in the real world. The people that made that argument would probably be a good employee for EA. Because they’re awful. EA is awful. The point is that we all make decisions on what we invest our time into. Sometimes the problems of life may force us in directions we don’t care for but I still believe that everyone makes their own fate. If you dont have the time to play a game as much as someone else you can choose to make more time for it or you can use that time for other things. It’s not the responsibility of a game developer to fit your schedule. Its impossible to make everyone happy so there’s no need to try.
Is it fair difficulty or just difficulty for difficulties sake?
Some games are harder than others. Sometimes its intentional. Other times it’s bad game design. The key difference is why it’s difficult. If it requires precise timing and quick reflexes that’s okay as long as it’s made with enough care that a player can reasonably expect that being that quick and precise will achieve the desired result. If the controls are bad or the game relies to heavily on random factors it’s badly designed and that’s not okay. Again, this may require additional practice but it’s fair.
At the end of the day there are endless variables that can affect someone’s experience with a game. Developers can account for some of these things with good design but they still have to set a baseline for what that experience will be. If they have chosen to make a game that requires more effort or skill or practice, that’s their prerogative. As consumers we can choose to play those games or not. There are plenty of reasons to complain about games for completely justifiable reasons. If a studio or publisher is doing something unethical or harmful to it’s customers we should make that known. On the other hand, if it’s a matter of preference the waters get a little murkier. Take a step back and decide if what you’re unhappy with is really a problem with the game or if it’s simply something you don’t like. Either way you decide, do what makes you happy. Play the games that you enjoy. Just dont let it stress you out. Life has enough problems without us adding new ones.
In case you haven’t heard, we are doing a giveaway on October 6-7 during our first 24 hour stream event! Come watch all the Bros together as we play games, talk to you, and have a great time.