If you play multiplayer video games, you’ve probably experienced some sort of un-balanced feature before: this can be anything from a bad internet connection to a character ability or weapon that’s hard to counter. Those features could make you mad, or you could wind up exploiting it for your own enjoyment. This is a part of gaming that will likely be around to stay, even in this day and age of constant patches and updates.
As I was making my way through the Destiny reddit looking for something to write about, I found a thread regarding the exotic hand cannon Thorn, and began reading people’s opinions of how it should or shouldn’t be nerfed. Scrolling down, the thread went from the topic of nerfing Thorn to other weapons being nerfed, buffed, taken out, or changed in some way. Then a thought hit me: Destiny, along with some other video games that include a variety of weapons, character abilities, and gear, can be pretty difficult for developers to balance. Why is that?
I’m studying video game design in college (university) right now, where I’ve learned a lot about ethics, variation, representation, and a whole lot more in relation to games. One of the first and most important things I’ve learned so far is that there is no such thing as a perfect game: every game will be un-balanced in some way, shape, or form, no matter how many patches or updates have been released.
That being said, I’ll explain to you a thing. When developers are working on a game, they try and make the game as balanced as possible; this can be creating different car classes for a racing game, different character abilities for an RPG, or assigning different weapon attributes that counter one another. This can be difficult to do for a variety of reasons, including being aware of other items in the game and, more importantly, the people that play the game – different players have different play styles, so its important not to cater to just one. Devs have quality assurance (QA) testers on staff to help test different aspects of the game, but they also hire temporary testers from outside of the company to ensure the game is as balanced (and bug-free) as possible before it launches.
For Destiny, Bungie had to try and balance all of the weapons, armor, gear, and abilities of the Guardian classes, including the perks for each. Once the game launched, they continued to make changes to everything within Destiny, trying to make the game the best experience for all players, including changes to the Crucible, PvE experiences, and the RNG loot system. Bungie has been pretty good with applying patches and updates that incorporate feedback from players, and this has been proven with some of the updates for Destiny. However, some players still question why some things stayed the same while others changed.
When a developer begins working on a patch for a game, it requires careful planning and execution. Video games all come down to numbers and values within the game’s code: a weapon’s damage rating, a car’s top speed, the blast/damage radius of a character’s attack…these are all represented by numbers. When nerfing or buffing a weapon in a game, you have to carefully increase or decrease the different number values for that weapon, whether it be recoil, time between shots, ADS time, damage drop-off at range, or something else.
These patches and updates can take a while for devs to put out. When you change something in a video game’s code, you have to see how those changes affect other aspects of the game. This sort of goes back to that “no video game is perfect” thing I mentioned earlier. If you change or fix something within a game, whether it be a bug, glitch, or an “overpowered” weapon’s stats, another bug, glitch, or overpowered weapon makes an appearance. Its just a part of game design.
You still might be wondering what all this stuff has to do with Bungie nerfing Thorn. Well, if you remember the early days of the Crucible, auto rifles used to rule the land with the SUROS Regime leading the charge. They weren’t impossible to counter, but their effective range was superior to even some sniper rifles; as a result, a lot of people used auto rifles just to compete and hold their own. Players began to report how difficult it could be using other weapons in the Crucible due to the dominant auto rifles…so, the devs at Bungie worked on nerfing them, while giving pulse rifles a slight buff.
Did that solve the problem? Not exactly. See, once the auto rifles were nerfed, some players found the next weapon(s) deemed “overpowered,” the Thorn being one of them. The process essentially repeated: players saw the success of those that were using the Thorn or The Last Word or the Vex Mythoclast, so they themselves began to use them. Before long, those three weapons (among a few others) became the most common you see in the Crucible. And Trials of Osiris is almost straight up Thorn territory.
I’m not saying the Thorn needs to be nerfed or buffed or anything else; my point with this is to express the process of implementing a patch to a video game like Destiny, and why it doesn’t happen every time someone cries foul. Like I said, Bungie is generally pretty good with listening to the Destiny community; DeeJ and the rest of the Bungie team have done a great job with listening and changing things within Destiny. The Destiny Hot Fixes, updates for shotguns in PvE, and removal of Commendations prove that they are working hard to make the game the best experience for all players.
If you’ve read this far, please understand that I don’t mean to come off as arrogant or an, “I know what I’m talking about, so listen up noobs” kind of way; I’m a gamer too, and I definitely have my own opinions on the subject. Instead of talking about why the Thorn needed or didn’t need a nerf, I wanted to discuss why patches for games like these don’t just appear each time you or other players think something needs to be changed. It’s to express the general process of applying a patch to a game, and how it’ll affect the players and the game itself. Even when there are millions of people calling for a patch, developers have to work hard and be patient before implementing one into a game. And even then, not every player is going to be happy.
Every game is going to have some sort of un-balanced feature or its own Thorn – if you want to go through the Destiny reddit thread yourself, its right here. What do you guys think? Are there any other features you’d like to see changed in Destiny? Leave your comments down below!