A Little More About Destiny 2 Beta

A Little More About Destiny 2 Beta

Posted by on Aug 30, 2017 in Editorial

Image result for destiny 2

I feel that maybe I was a bit harsh in my posts yesterday concerning both Destiny 2 and Starfinder. I’d like to look at Destiny 2 in a little more depth because just today there have been two voices talking about the presentation and/or the ramifications of this week’s “beta” test.

When I was younger, a beta test was literally a phase which asked consumers to kick the tires and report findings so the developers could make fixes and adjustments before releasing the product. Nowadays, “beta” can mean anything from the traditional definition to a screening of the final product used as a marketing tool to help tide fans over until the game releases.

The Destiny 2 “beta” clearly falls into the latter category because as far as I can tell from the words on the streets, the product runs pretty much without issue. There doesn’t seem to be anyone experiencing anything worse than login server issues. My experience was as perfect as one could hope for: the animations were flawless, the framerate was smokin’ and there wasn’t a single glitch that was noticeable. In cases like this, “beta” reeks strongly of “marketing hype”.

In his daily post, the esteemed Mr. Belghast of Tales of the Aggronaut fame calls a spade a spade: this isn’t a “beta”, but a “demo”. It has all the hallmarks of what we elders remember in our demos: gameplay that presents a shortened segment of exactly what you’ll get in the finished product. Not enough to spoil anything, but the exact experience that should leave you excited for what’s to come. If you were burning out on news and videos and convention and trade show presentations, then this next phase should reenergize you enough to get you to the finish line in a few months.

And here’s a quote from Ser Belghast that I’d like to include:

The problem being however is that we really are not putting the best foot forward for a bunch of players that may or may not have ever experienced the franchise.  The other problem is that we are not exactly doing a great job of giving players that bounced hard off of Destiny 1 a great reason to feel positive about coming back.

Which is kind of subverting what a demo is ultimately intended to do: entice people to buy the product. In the past, we had to wait until release to put our money where our mouths intended to be, but now we can pre-order months in advance based solely on promises of what’s to come. A demo should make it easier to make that choice, but does the Destiny 2 “beta” actually accomplish that? I submit that if you were hyped about D2 then the demo will fuel you through the next few weeks; if you were on the fence, then maybe the access helped one way or the other. But if you didn’t care for Destiny The First, there’s nothing here except more of the same — same gameplay, same enemies, same setting (albeit a bit transformed), and the need for some level of familiarity with original to make you care about the destruction of the Tower and the subjugation of the Traveler. In short, this beta shouldn’t be moving anyone’s needle in a significant way, which means that as a marketing tool it kind of failed in its overarching mission of conversion into the Destiny family.

Since it bears the label “beta” and not “demo”, should this access have done more, then? The Fantastic Mr. Wolfyseyes seems to believe so

I admit: I might have thought way more highly of the D2 experience we got if we’d been allowed to roam around in what I would consider being the best mode of the Destiny design: the open world instances. What we got was a short narrative shooter akin to Call of Duty which is important to the game, certainly, but…we knew about this specific narrative scenario because it’s what has been shown pixel for pixel for the past several months. Beyond this, we got one strike (which you needed to party with others to do) and PvP (which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, despite the rampant belief that it’s why people play shooters).

If we look back to Bel’s position, maybe adding more would have brought more people on board at this point by showing them something that everyone would be participating in when the game releases. So far no one has seen the open world aspect (AFAIK, being someone who isn’t following this saga too closely), and while being on-rails, having a strike, and offering PvP demos is nice from an energizing-the-base kind of way, none of those provide the “wow!” factor that the open world segments offered in Destiny Prime (IMHO).

Then again, Destiny is a juggernaut already. There are a few franchises which seem to get all the marketing dollars (CoD, Assassin’s Creed, Forza, etc) which make avoiding knowing anything about them impossible, which makes having an opinion on them equally impossible…Destiny is certainly one of these lucky few franchises. Yes, people did have strong opinions based on their experience with Destiny Numero Uno, and those opinions will color how they approach Destiny 2, and as much as I personally love the open world parts of the game, that they were also part of the original means that experiencing them in the sequel isn’t going to really add extra punch for those who have feelings about Destiny as a whole, good or bad. They might strongly reinforce those who already love the franchise, but there’s probably a diminishing return on that; those who love it will love it the same whether they get open world beta or just get what we actually got. Same with those who hated what the original offered, as the beta was more of the same, as the open world will generally also be more of the same.

The real wildcard, then, isn’t going to be based on this beta demo but is the demographic that had no hands-on opinion of Destiny at all, which is comprised mostly of PC-exclusive gamers. A lot of folks I know are bi- or tri-lingual when it comes to gaming: they have a PC and at least one console which gives them the option to pick up cross offered or exclusive games if they desire. Some folks are die-hard PC or console gamers and do not cross those bounds either because of ethical or financial reasons. There are a lot of PC gamers out there who might have looked at Destiny and sighed as their friends whooped it up against the Taken King, and those are the people for whom the demo had the greatest value from a marketing standpoint.

In addition, that the game is being offered on PC exclusively through what has got to be in the top five most widely used game launchers in the world — Blizzard’s app — might have more of an effect over time than the beta demo could have hoped to have had. I don’t have any kind of numbers, but I know that for me, Overwatch was a non-starter before release; it wasn’t something I was interested in. Yet after it was released and I saw a massive chunk of my Blizzard app friends list playing it, I thought that maybe there was some wiggle room for me. If all these people were playing, maybe I could glom on to them and actually enjoy the game. So I bought it simply because I had overwhelming visibility to a large segment of people I knew and trusted who were already playing it. If they liked it, then logic dictates that I should like it also, because I like them. While that is actually a crappy way to make decisions, it turns out, it’s that heat of the moment when you’re on the fence that amplifies that kind of influence and causes people to make the leap. I think that we’ll see a lot of people playing Destiny 2 when it launches, whether or not they tried the beta demo this week.

Update: Although it’s been a few days, I want to clarify that there was never any doubt that while the “beta” might not have conformed to the traditional and ancient form requiring players to submit questionnaires and forms and dxdiag dumps, Bungie was absolutely watching things behind the scenes. Back when Bungie was making Halo games, there was a feature that they published showing “heatmaps” of player activity in PvP. You can’t find those maps now, but there’s a Wired article which talks about Halo 3 and includes some info on their data collection and internal QA processes.

So yeah, we might not be smacked in the face with feedback requests, but we as a society have progressed to the point where that probably doesn’t much matter because the back-end data collection and visualization tools are always working, even when everything looks silky smooth for the front end experience.

What do you think?