I Think I Might Want To Play Destiny By Myself

It was my first time on the moon. I hadn't been on the moon, not even in a virtual sense, since Nodes of Yesod on the Spectrum 48k. That was 1988. Damn, things had changed a bit since then.

Destiny. Love it or hate it, it is a glorious looking video game. It's the kind of video game that demands pause. In between the shooting of aliens and the upgrading of gear, Destiny is a game that asks you to stop for a second and just look at things. Most of the time that 'thing' is the sky.

I am a level 5. As mentioned before, I’ve only just made it to the Moon for the very first time. I stop to look around because it's glorious. I stop because Destiny deserves a good goddamn gaze once in a while. It's too gosh-darn good looking to be rushed through and ignored.

In my earpiece: "Hey there's a golden chest over here. Come and get it."

My buddies — miles ahead. Nothing but dots on the horizon with numbers above them. Level 16. Level 20. These guys are eons ahead of me in video game experience that is Destiny. Why are they here with a noob like me? They're playing to help me level up quicker. To help me find the gear. To allow me to play the 'hard' versions of the story missions for XP bonuses and whatnot. I appreciate the help, but I sense they're in a rush. I certainly feel the pressure to rush, to not make this experience suck for them. They are, after all, helping me out. I don't want to let them down.

They're playing with the speed and efficiency of players who have seen in all before. Worker-ants bustling past the tourist in Circular Quay; I'm the idiot with the camera gawking up at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I want to fit in so I give chase. I want to catch up quickly so I'm not such a burden. So I can play the game on that level.

But then I stop. I ask myself. What am I even doing here? Why am I speeding through the gorgeous environment when I should be taking things slowly, step by step?

It’s weird. Destiny is a game you're supposed to play with friends. I’m constantly being told that. We're constantly being told that. It is the default position of everyone, including Bungie, the game's creators. Earlier this morning I tweeted that I was considering playing a little more of Destiny by myself, as a single player.

"That would be like having a Facebook account with no friends," was one of the many tweets I received in return. People seem almost hostile to the idea of others playing Destiny alone, but more and more I'm thinking that, for the foreseeable future, this is how I want to experience the game.

Because three days after the game's release the joy of discovery — for most — seems to have evaporated. Time poor folks like me — parents with jobs, significant others and things that need doing — are already miles behind. Playing Destiny with friends who are ahead feels like going through the motions with dead, hollow eyes. There's no pleasure, no actual sense of joy and exploration, just the process, just the impatient rush of playing catch up. I don't want my experience to be like that.

Playing with others, particularly players who have seen and done it all, can be a dissociative experience. It tears you from the moment, rips you from the world. Because there are two separate things happening at the precise same time: the experience of the game and the social experience of ‘being with friends’. I’m not sure the two are compatible.

In a game like Destiny you are primarily shooting things and chatting with friends in a co-operative environment. "How's things, how was your day?" The game itself just becomes a conduit through which socialising occurs. You might as well be knitting or washing the dishes. It stops you from disappearing into the game itself.

It’s a space where you slowly start to dissolve into the idea of the meta-game. Where the fiction evaporates — you see the 0s and 1s and the veiled mystery of Destiny is lifted. I can already sense it in the chatter: the idea of talking about the game above the game, learning how to ‘game’ the game. I’m not interested in that. Not at this stage. Not a week after release.

I just want to play Destiny. Maybe I’m already at the stage where I’ll have to do it by myself?


    Great write-up, Marky Mark.

    Agreed. I'm thinking that if I do ever play it (and that is by no means guaranteed), it will be solo, at least for the first run-through. And if that is "not the way it's meant to be played", well, I probably just won't play it.

      Well see that is the problem here. 'Mark' has completely misinterpreted Bungie's meaning when they say Destiny is best played with friends.

      Destiny is best played with friends, WITH them, not playing with a couple of friends 4x your level who are trying to farm XP for you so you can be closer to their level (I have no idea why).

      Destiny is best played with a friend who is your level or close to it. Someone who you CAN explore things with, who won't rush through the experience.

      I kind of find it stupid that this article is talking about how the experience of playing with other people has made the editor want to play by himself, when he was playing the game incorrectly with other people in the first place.

      I don't play the story missions with other people, I prefer to experience the story by myself, makes it easier to experience when i am doing it solo. I definitely would not have enjoyed the story as much as I am if I did it with my friends, we'd spend too much time screwing around.

      There is NO "way it's meant to be played" in this game, Bungie gives people the options of playing Solo, or with others. Strikes and Raids are the only things where we need to play with others.

      Last edited 12/09/14 1:24 pm

        lol @ playing the game incorrectly.

        There's an incorrect way of playing the game is there? There were some caveats around playing with friends that we weren't aware of it seems. According to Akuma here, not only are you meant to play with friends but the disclaimer is you're only meant to play with friends the same level as you and only once you've experienced the story on your own, otherwise you' doing it wrong.

        Mate, Mark's article is spot on.

      I've enjoyed both solo and group play so far. Sometimes I like being in a team with all the chaos and synergy. And other times I'm a lone hunter picking through every building for loot. Both options are viable.

      I used to play loads of Diablo II back in the day and one thing I loved doing was helping lower level guys through the acts. I would always take a passive approach because my gear would normally kill any enemies if they hit me. I love assisting lower level guys because often when I play through a game the first time, I am so excited I overlook heaps of stuff, on a second play through with other people I can explore more and actually go slower and not faster.

      Think Mark needs some better multiplayer mates who understand social gaming. I just like hanging out in most games in party chat wandering around and in no particular rush.

        Think Mark needs some better multiplayer mates who understand social gaming. I just like hanging out in most games in party chat wandering around and in no particular rush.

        The game play does push you towards rapid movement though. It's very fast paced combat. Reminds me of a super fast brawler. Even if you're not going into a melee frenzy you still dive right in. It seems like Warlocks and Hunters have special abilities that push you to get right up in the enemies faces, and I know Titans are all about jumping right into the middle of it.
        I'll admit that thanks to years of MMORPGs I link group play with quick, efficient movement through content on an almost subconcious level, but in Destiny I go even faster because combat gets me moving fast and creates momentum. I've got nothing against how Mark plays, but I feel like in Destiny I would have to make a concious effort to slam on the breaks after finishing a fight in order to play that way.

    Don't worry mark, if I had destiny I would be level 1-2 by now :) Job + family + other commitments != epic amounts of free time for gaming

    I don't think there is anything wrong with playing Destiny alone.
    I haven't played with anyone else and so far there is only one person I want to play with.
    I am having plenty of fun spending an hour at a time doing each mission, exploring every hole and doorway and taking my sweet time to take out all of the enemies that I can find. I haven't even made it off Earth yet and I'm in love.

    That was the problem I had with Diablo and Borderlands 2 (I didn't co-op Borderlands 1). I'm trying to listen to the story, engage with the characters, find out why they're sending me on their quest, discover their resolutions, listen to the funny dialogue, etc. But all other random players are skipping through it all and activating the next quest. Completing as many quests as quickly as they can. Grabbing the next loot and immediately swapping out their current item for the same item with an obvious bigger number or turfing it, then moving onto the next quest to attempt to turf their new item for a newer item.

    Even at the end of the game in Borderlands 2, where the final boss explodes in loot covering the area, I want to listen to Jack give his final speech. The second he opens his mouth, someone shoves their shotgun into it.

      I know what you mean. I tried playing Borderlands 1 and 2 with friends and constantly ran into the same issue.

      There's one guy in particular in our group who has zero desire to slow down ever. No matter what game we are playing, be it Diablo, Left 4 Dead, or Destiny, his only imperative is to rush at full speed towards the nearest group of enemies and hold down the attack button. If the game has melee weapons his ferocity can be further multiplied by a factor of 3.

      Now I'm a strong believer in "to each his own", so if that's how he enjoys his games then fine. Unfortunately it means in a game like Borderlands he rarely even stops to pick up ammo and loot chests, let alone listen to story or quest details. I enjoy the guy's company, but it really bums me out at times.

      In the end I just decided to play through all of Borderlands 1+2 (and the DLC) solo, and left group play for leveling alts.

        You've got a bad case of Game Locusts.

        Rush through a game get to end and scream... No end game content!!! Move onto next game...

      with games like that i generally preferred doing a solo playthrough first off, so i could get a feel for the game myself, get engaged in the story and just generally become more immersed. when you start playing through with friends and going after the end-game gear and all that it is just as fun (sometimes more so) but just in a different way.. but i do agree, people rushing ahead when you just want to become immersed in the world and take things slowly can ruin it a little.

    I'm playing by myself (hehehe) and having a ball of a time. I'm having so much fun exploring this universe and taking my time.

      Ditto. I'm up to level 4 now. I've occasionally hooked up with randoms in a Journey stylee when there's an interesting area going on or an even-noober has clearly wandered into a group of difficult Fallen they're about to get murderd by, but when I want to head off, I'll give them a wave and trundle off my own way. it's all good.

      I'll add other people from the kotakuau clan over the weekend and hook up my headset to say hi, but i'm enjoying the limitations of waving and pointing for now.

      Last edited 12/09/14 2:51 pm

    The highlights of Destiny for me are the things that happen on the way to missions. Crashing into the sparrow of a friend. Falling off cliffs trying to get chests seven times. Clearing out enemies only for them to respawn, running away in terror. The beauty I take in when I'm on my own and doing free roam missions. I feel like Destiny is very, very, very superficial when it comes to story and all that stuff. The lore is there but it's not really written all that great in-game. I've enjoyed my time with friends way more than my alone time. (And I'm a crazy hermit.)

    I see what you mean though about the awe of seeing places for the first time.

    Last edited 12/09/14 12:15 pm

    I think it's definitely worth playing through alone for at least the first mission on each world so you can get a scope of the world. I think I spent 10 minutes when I got to the moon just bouncing around watching my footsteps settle into the dust. Amazed that through my virtual avatar was walking on the moon, a place I know I'll probably never get to see up close. It was great. Although the mission I did play with my housemate was basically the same as your scenario, he was level 20 and I was level 7. He rushed through to the boss fight while I was off exploring and enjoying the scenery

    The only slight downside to solo play is that some of the larger scale firefights tend to drag on, so a boss fight with normal enemies spawning all the time might take 2 minutes with others may take 5 - 10 minutes on your own.

    I know what Mark...you need to find people who are at the same level so you can play with them and experience the storyline better..

    I'm on level 7 and find it fun...the only bugbear I have is matchmaking on multiplayer....game just puts you in random groups....I was playing control last night (just to complete one of my bounty quests - to play 5 games of control) and I was matched with 2 players below my level, 2 players at my level and the rest was all players in the high teens or level 20, & 21.....they need to make the matchmaking better

    It's funny, because I'm seeing some of my friends and acquaintances just gun through the story mode and do everything solo on their mad rush to hit the level cap, and I feel like although the game nudges you to go co-op, it's actually slightly better that way. Of course, there's no middle ground; either play alone or with the right people. It's been a been a while since I've played a co-op game where you can both comfortably engage in moments of pure teamwork and fine world-exploring/sightseeing right thereafter.

    What a story Mark!

    In seriousness though, I get what you mean. After getting a full time job, I've always felt left behind by my friends. It sucks sometimes but I learned to appreciate playing MMOs by myself and catching up a little later on. Great to see you enjoying it and not being one of those complaining that they've already finished the game

    I don't have Destiny but will be playing it by myself when I get it not because I don't want to play co-op but because I have such a huge backlog of games people would probably be on Destiny 2 or 3 when I play no 1. :-(

    Nothing wrong with taking your time and enjoying a game. Too easy to get lost in the 'get to max level and get best gear asap' mindset. All too easy with level/loot driven games like Destiny, Diablo, Borderlands, etc. Especially tempting when you have people and methods available to get those levels and gear extra quick.

    I'm in the same boat. Got Destiny at launch, digitally - and have only hit level 10 last night. Been particularly busy/tired this week and just haven't had much time. Seeing friends already at 20+ and have been since the second or third day. Just taking my time with this one, honestly.

    What's the rush? Enjoy it, take it all in. Or just tell your friend to roll new characters and come play with you at your level.

      Nothing wrong with taking your time and enjoying a game. Too easy to get lost in the 'get to max level and get best gear asap' mindset.

      I'm enjoying games like Diablo a lot more now I'm forcing myself to stay out of meta game until I actually reach it. I came to the realisation while reading Mark's Idiot in Azeroth series that if I don't force myself not to I end up reducing 95% of the games content to a chore that needs to be done before I can get to end-game. The dumbest part is I actually enjoy end-game more than exploration, but I've spent too long in guilds and clans where I consider holding the groups progression back by not putting in 110% to be bad form.

        It's a difficult mindset to break alone at times, let alone with other people. Even if they don't push for it, you feel a sense of obligation to pull your weight.

        Diablo's a funny one. Once you get to 70 and have access to adventure mode, it's pretty much just a grind for gear, and resources to optimise/enchant stuff that isn't quite rolled to what you wanted. I love D3, but periodically stop and ask myself what I'm actually playing for. I can solo T4 (not exactly earth shattering, I know) and all I'm really doing is grinding for hours and hours to raise my stats a little just to work up to the next difficulty.

        Yet I still go back. Funny how it works.

        I recently started diablo III on Xbox One and I'm enjoying just running around killing shit - and that's how I'm approaching Destiny too. I'm not an MMO person, so if could only see the game as a passage to an endgame raid and wasn't not able to enjoy the mechanics of killing digital enemies and hunting for loot then I would consider both these games failures. They are clearly not.

    The problem is when you leave groups and play on your own it becomes apparent very quickly just how MMO the content is. Like almost all MMORPGs you don't leave footprints in Destiny. You move through enemy spawns rather than clearing areas. At best you activate public events, which usually means arriving midway through or having someone else come along and stomp the enemies. Even then it's not like you blow up an enemy structure and it stays gone. Usually it doesn't even go away.
    You interact with the world using only the most basic verbs. You activate something, you kill something, you go somewhere, and that's about it. There's no chase scene. The seige never ends. There's no blowing up Alderaan. On a rare occassion you might not be able to go back to Alderaan because you saw a cutscene where it blew up, but it still exists and hundreds of players are still running around killing all those enemies you killed.
    It's one of the big things that annoyed me about all the backlash Blizzard received over phasing. I'll admit they screwed up the execution, the gathering issue was only going to annoy players, but ultimately the game needed some way to actually tell a story to create new lore instead of just continuing on Warcraft 3 plotlines.

    When you play solo you realise that you haven't opened a single door in the entire campaign. You haven't touched anything that wouldn't reset itself a minute later. If the game play is fun, and when you enjoy playing co-op it almost always is, you don't notice this stuff. When you're out on your own and the game play sags a little you realise that in all your questing you realise your avatar hasn't talked to anyone that didn't exist entirely in his own head.
    Even after the Beta I was really hoping Destiny would fix this. I was hoping those no-respawn zones might be more cinematic in later content. It's a shame.

    I had the same experience with Borderlands 2, a clan mate was already ahead story wise so it was rush rush rush. I ruined it for me that day and I have never being back to it. Unless you have the right players, all prepared to go at the same speed, it does no one favours. I will be happy to play through all of this mostly on my own.

      Borderlands 2 was rough. I mainlined that so hard (grinding for Bee+Conference Call in particular) that by the time the first DLC came out, I couldn't bear to look at the game anymore. Utterly ruined it for myself.

        I played and loved the hell out of the first one. It was the first game where I was really excited for a sequel. That one session, just ruined it so much for, and now I find it hard to touch any game on the older console. So many games never to be touched again.

    I normally have a character I level up solo and one for playing with friends to mitigate the problem of rushing through content. That said, I'm finding that I'm not really interested at all in Destiny's story (Personal Opinion Alert!) as it's really not that great. The gunplay (Or Fist-To-Face-Play in my case) is the interesting part for me in the game and that's way more fun with friends. Esepcially since the missions tend to be pretty same-y. Though the Sword of Crota fight was incredibly fun. I wish that was integrated gameplay, not a once off.

    Strange that you mention the Moon when you talk about the game being beautiful... I found it extremely underwhelming, grey and empty. My first time on Venus, though... I couldn't stop staring.
    the sulphur pools, the sky, the foliage, the ruins... so beautiful.

      Oh my god, Venus was amazing! I think I took something like 10 screenshots. I was going to post them but didn't want to spoil it for anyone.

    Why are they here with a noob like me? They’re playing to help me level up quicker.
    After numerous times subjecting myself to this play style in the past I've come to learn that it's one of the worst things you can do in a game. You should always strive to play through a game the first time at your pace, either solo or in multi.

    Yeah that was what I was like in Borderlands 2. Playing with two mates on our first time through, and this other guy we knew was trying to level his 3rd character and was douche-ily zipping us through quests and stopping us actually getting the context or the humour. I just logged off, it wasn't fun. Never played with him again!

    This is just about how I feel, and why I wish they'd included a single-player campaign as well. I don't like playing online - I don't mind this in that there are other players present, but I don't want to be forced into having to rely on others to get by.

      As far as Destiny goes, the entire game can be done solo. I did about 99% of it solo. There's nothing wrong with playing solo nor do you get penalized for it. If you want to do some of the side stuff (dungeons/strikes) that will require you to coop but you can leave that until you reach the max level.

    I kind of agree with you there Mark. I'll probably do the same for now too. I've mostly played on my own so far except the time- when I was at level 5- I decide to go on a level 8 strike on my own. Well, 2 random players showed up with me and joined the fight. It was pretty good until near the end with some tough enemies. I kept dying and they kept reviving me. Eventually they must have got the shits with me so they they started beating me and left.

    Now I just do story and patrol missions and work on slowly levelling up. I enjoy the random encounters when someone helps me out when I'm getting pinned or when I turn up in one of those shooty vehicles (can't remember the name of them) and help out some others.

    Eventually I would like to get into some fire teams with team Kotaku or jump in the Crucible for some competitive action.

    For now, I'm happy to enjoy the wonder and explore the worlds of Destiny on my own.

      Just so you know, you can't play strikes or raids solo. Not at all. The game wont let you. Trying a mission you're under leveled for is a true grind.

        Oh, ok. That makes sense. I'm new to MMO's so I think I was dabbling with a few of the options on the map. I'll refrain from that situation as it got me nowhere and I seem to have upset some internet people.

        Thanks for the heads up mate

    Thats exactly how I feel about Destiny. Solo player all the way, Id rather take my time. I intentionally steered clear of as much of the hype as possible and am finding it not that hard a slog.
    I prefer a single player offline campaign. I enjoy looking around and taking my time, to get the most out of the story.

    Anyone else having connection dropouts? I've been sent back to orbit maybe 6 times today with different error codes each time. Normally have a stable connection (PS4)

      Yeah same, I lost my progress in a Hard Mode Strike 2 times today. =/

      I did on the day it came out and my wife was having trouble staying connected to multiplayer around midnight last night, but otherwise not really.

    @markserrels - just put the brakes on. It's not too hard. I saw you on The Moon last night and noted your relatively low level. I thought to myself, "You're moving too fast!". I'm lvl 11 and haven't left Earth yet. But that's the thing, I've still had the opportunity to play socially with a couple of the higher level KotakuAU mangs just dicking around doing recon missions and hanging out. Did a couple of Hard story missions etc. I've also prioritized SP time and just wandered around looking a the sky, collecting spinmetal and shooting some bad guys. Sure, it's good to progress and see change in powers and gear, but there's no rush....or is there? Exactly.

    Last edited 12/09/14 1:11 pm

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