In an interview with Luke Smith, the most recent issue of Edge dug up an issue that has always plagued the Destiny player base, but has become somewhat subdued by the success of Bungie’s juggernaut in recent months. Matchmaking, or should I say, the lack thereof in endgame content. Here is what Luke had to say (via Gamesradar):
I think matchmaking can make other players disposable to you…The reason that people quit out of strikes is because there’s no consequence to their departure, just a punishment for that disposable person on the other end of the line. It’s pretty hard for me, emotionally, to want to subject groups of players to that. What’s not hard for me to think about is a version of Destiny that makes it easier to look for and find groups to go engage in difficult content with, a version that helps bring people together in a way that the current software doesn’t.
You mean, a version of Destiny that included matchmaking, or at the very least an LFG (looking for group) mechanic for its most difficult and rewarding content? Smith went on to equate the game to a “bar I can go to when I get home.” A more apt comparison would be a bartender that only serves its craft beers and liquor to friends and regulars, while the average Joe who comes in when he can only gets Bud Light.
That metaphor is not meant to slight the any of the game’s content, as I reviewed The Taken King expansion that released this past September, and I found it to be a great chunk of content. One of the things I found particularly encouraging about it was how there was a vast amount of content that could be tackled individually and didn’t require a fireteam. But, there can only be so many quests to complete, and those that have been released via Bungie’s “time-gate” strategy have largely required friends to complete (some even require raid completion). This is why the persistent lack of matchmaking in endgame content made it into my “con” list.
It is also not meant to slight the raid content, as they are extremely fun to play. They should be; they are what the rest of the game builds towards. Many would argue that raids are where Destiny shines brightest, though in my humble opinion, some of the recent strikes are more fun because they find a better balance between brevity and interesting mechanics. Even more important to the overall game design, raids are a primary source for equipment necessary for your character to reach the level cap (alongside Nightfall Strikes and Trials of Osiris, which also lack matchmaking). But, as Bungie themselves stated back in March, less than 20% of the player base had ever completed a raid.
While that number may be slightly different now, I don’t think anybody would argue that the lack of easy, in-game matchmaking contributes to this statistic. Luke Smith provides a very heartfelt explanation here, but the more general argument made is that the experience would be compromised by playing with “randoms”: you’d find many not using headphones, making coordination difficult, and many inexperienced players clearly not prepared for the content. Here is the bottom line: most of those who make this argument have a group of friends with whom they play and don’t need matchmaking. They wouldn’t be affected either way. Furthermore, the argument you are making is that a rather large segment of players should be shunned from important content because the experience would not be “up to par”. The logic is not there.
The natural retort is to suggest using a user-made LFG website. I have used such platforms, and the experience there is horrific. I have spent, in one instance, an hour and a half searching for a group. Things may have improved somewhat since the “nerfing” of Gjallarhorn and the Vault of Glass arsenal, which violently divided the player base between the haves and have-nots, but now light level is quickly taking their place. It’s frustrating when players ask you to be at light level 305+ to do the content that gets you to that place. The long story short is that I now avoid using these sites like the plague.
Finally, we all have to realize that, despite those that praise raids as these masterful puzzles, the mechanics are not that complex once discovered. The difficulty is derived primarily from the lack of direction. When I finally played Vault of Glass, I had learned the mechanics from watching the top players who had been the first to complete it, and the group I had found was able to run it on Hard Mode with relative ease (and most of us had no microphones). Many games of greater complexity survive with far less direction thanks to their online community (think the Souls series), and Destiny already has a very large one where top players pave the way.
At the end of the day, the matchmaking debate really shouldn’t be a debate at all. First and foremost, the result only affects those who currently suffer due to its absence. It divides the player base pretty harshly, and renders the good work done to the progression system somewhat irrelevant by blocking top-tier weaponry. Finally, as you listen to those who defend the current position, you begin to realize that they are working harder and harder to make their argument. Reading Luke Smith’s argument above, I can just hear the debates in PR offices over how to tackle the inevitable question.