Much has been written about the various shortcomings of Bungie’s shared-world shooter Destiny. (Don’t call it an MMO. Srsly.) I’m not here to rag on it. Not in a hostile manner, anyway. Regular readers and listeners will know; I love me some Destiny and I’m pretty forgiving about its faults. But I did have an experience this evening that highlighted (highlit?) one particular shortcoming, so I thought I’d discuss it briefly.
My Hunter is level 28 now. I still have six armor upgrades still available, so I’m farming mats hoping to top them all off and maybe hit 29 before the expansion hits in early December. So, tonight I’m scouring the moon for helium filaments. I see a “Revive” prompt pop up. It looks to be pretty close by and I’m in a decent mood (seven shards within a half hour will do that to you), so I figure I’ll help a Guardian out.
It’s a level 28 Warlock. He points at me. I figure he’s trying to be helpful and point out a chest spawn I haven’t seen yet. I always appreciate it when someone does that for me, even if they have to put a round through my head to get my attention.
I go and check the cliff edge, listening for the distinctive “whisper” sound of a chest. I have my own language for spawns where I qualify chests as a “whisper” and mats as a “glisten” sound. I’m not hearing either.
The next thing I know the Warlock has jumped off the cliff and is now doing that frantic double jumping that happens when you find yourself “out-of-bounds” and facing that countdown clock until the game mercilessly kills you for having the unmitigated gall to go exploring. How dare us.
So, he’s flailing, trying to get back above the edge of the cliff. There’s literally nothing I can do. I suppose I could have been a dick and introduced him to my little friend, Mr. Steel Oracle, but no. I don’t roll like that. I decided to stick around and wait for the inevitable respawn so that I could revive him again once he needed it. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
Eventually he got back up on his own. I proceeded on my way, trawling for helium filaments like a futuristic longshoreman. Next thing I know, the Warlock is back and he’s punching me. I figure, Okay, he’s trying to show me something. But he’s just standing there. I look in the direction he’s pointing. Nothing. I look back at the Warlock. Just standing there. He’s not giving me much to work with here.
He proceeds to follow me around for the next ten minutes or so, occasionally punching me with his glowy, orange gauntlets. Eventually he gets on his Sparrow, following me around and trying to ram me. I still have no idea what was going through his head. I’m guessing he’s pissed, but I haven’t a clue about what.
Was he upset that I just stood there watching him as he struggled back onto the map? Was he embarrassed that I interrupted a suicide attempt and was trying to silence me? Was he actually trying to show me something, he just really sucks at charades? I have no idea. Did I do something to upset him or was he simply being a jerk and harassing me because it was something to do? Was he a loyal listener just trying to tell me he loves the podcast? That seems unlikely, but you never know. Bungie has left us with no way to easily communicate whatever the hell that was playing out on the Archer’s Line.
When I first started playing the game in beta, I praised Destiny for it’s lack of concern with communication. At the time I was coming off of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, where as soon as I step into a Duty (dungeon) I have to make sure I have a keyboard plugged in, since complex communication is mandatory and impossible (or severely implausible) via controller inputs alone. Simplicity was a welcome change.
With Destiny, communication didn’t seem so important. Generally speaking, if I’m on my own, I don’t need to communicate with anyone, this incident not withstanding. If I’m in a Strike, communication would help, but coordinating without it becomes its own kind of meta-game that I find quite fun. I would argue it’s never really that crucial in a Strike anyway. The strategic difficulty level just isn’t there, not outside of the raid anyway. Maybe for the Dust Palace Strike, so that you can coordinate damage types and focus fire against the Psion Flayers, but that’s probably it in the current game. In raids, voice chat is enabled, so no problem there.
But it would be nice to have a few other emote options. I feel like “Sit” is just a waste of space. I use it to communicate that I’m AFK, but that’s it. “Wave” is a good friendly emote, even if the animation for Hunters is a little doofy. “Pointing” is essential for guiding and getting someone’s attention (unless you’d prefer to shoot at them. I consider it kind of rude, but I’ve gotten used to it as a necessity since it’s generally accepted as valid communication.) “Dance” is, of course, essential for post-Strike/Public Event/etc celebration. Gotta have that.
Four hotkeys is probably fine, but it would be nice to have the option of picking those four from among a list of options fitting similar broad categories as: ‘friendly,’ ‘celebration,’ and ‘gesture.’ Thusly, I could set my ‘friendly’ to be either “wave” or “salute”, my ‘celebration’ to be either “dance” or “cheer” and my ‘gesture’ to be either “point” or “thank you.” There could even be a ‘taunt’ category for use in the crucible, if they wanted to take a page from Smash Bros’ book. Hell, Bungie could go oldschool (and questionably inappropriate) and have a ‘taunt’ option be “Teabag.” Bring back that Halo multiplayer feel. There probably should be a ‘rude’ category as well. Sure, people will probably overuse it, but I’d like to at least be sure that I’ve done something to upset them, such as make a chest they wanted despawn by looting it before they could get to it. Okay, I get it. I have earned your wrath.
I keep joking about not calling Destiny an MMO, but really, Bungie would do well to take a peek every now and then to see how actual MMOs handle certain things that both have in common. Part of the fun of early WoW was using emotes to communicate with the other faction. Nowadays it seems like people just login with an alt on the other faction if they want to communicate. In A Realm Reborn, communication isn’t really a problem. Between usb keyboards, console voice chat, controller-based text chat and a plethora of emotes, there are enough options to get points across. Sure, it’s a hassle juggling a controller and a keyboard, but it beats having no communication or miscommunication.
It wouldn’t kill Bungie to look into opening up the communication options a bit more. There are rumors about offering voice chat in match-made game modes in addition to the current fireteam-only option and maybe those rumors will come to fruition before too much longer. Perhaps that option might eventually seep into the open-world game as well. But adding some further options to allow players to get their point across in the game at-large would be a very welcome addition.