There’s a long-running joke amongst gamers and developers: It’s not a bug, it’s a feature! Usually it’s a self-aware joke — some bug or glitch disrupts the game either visually or even functionally, but it’s sometimes entertaining enough to keep in or consider a part of the experience. For once, I find myself telling that joke with a straight face. That teleporting trick in Destiny‘s final raid boss fight? It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Vault of Glass raid, allow me to explain. When you make your way through the mazes and puzzles and dozens of enemies all the way to the raid’s final boss — Atheon — you and your team of five other Guardians still have a challenge to face. You’ll have to fight off Vex enemies and protect yourself against Atheon, all while intermittently teleporting through two portals to kill more enemies while demolishing Oracles. That’s the most basic rundown of how the final fight in the raid goes down.
My raid team and I had a strategy locked down. We had fireteams on specific duties. In fact, throughout the raid, for areas that included combat, each of us always had a role to play out. We agreed on roles for each other based on class, level, and weapon loadout. It was part of the strategy. Those lucky enough to have the sniper with regenerating ammunition would perch themselves atop a large column to help fend off suicidal Supplicants and even take a few shots at Atheon in between. We learned who was best at wielding the relic, and who best at shooting down Oracles quickly. We were able to consider the factors that might contribute to people’s strengths or weaknesses and decide on their roles from there.
But in the latest patch, Bungie decided to fix a crucial, tactical feature in this boss fight. Three players must be teleported through to one of two different areas at a time (known as either the past or future), so that they can grab a relic and destroy oracles and make their way back to Atheon, and then use the relic to help defeat him. But whereas before a team could decide who would be best to send through to grab said relic — after first figuring out how to even position themselves to make that happen — those players are now selected at random. When three players are teleported, they have to immediately decide which of the three of them will grab the relic, and which will tackle the oracles. Those lost moments of deciding, bickering, discussing could potentially be crucial. You already have an incredibly limited amount of time to get the killing/destroying done in those areas, let alone when a pre-fight conversation is involved.
Now, to be clear, I haven’t played the raid under these new circumstances myself, and my colleague Jason says it didn’t feel as debilitating as perhaps some people feared. Though there have been many complaints about new, missed bugs that players are frustrated to have to deal with while the Atheon strategy was honed in on to be removed.
Some players have even found strategies around this complication. One Redditor shared a system dealing with rankings: teammates’ relic-holding abilities would be ranked 1-3, hopefully making the determination easier when the transport happens. Here’s part of that tip:
Once everyone knows their own number it’s simply a matter of either calling out your number upon teleporting in or just looking around. The highest ranked player picks up the relic and the others focus on Oracles. The majority of the time we always had a 1, 2, or 3 teleport so it actually went much more smoothly then we anticipated.
Bungie’s community representative, David Dague, who goes by Deej on their forums, explained their reasoning for going against player wishes on this one, emphasis mine:
I talked a lot to the developers about your opinions on the matter. You don’t want to be selected at random. You want to choose who gets to fetch the Relic under fire from those nasty Oracles. I spoke on your behalf. Your voice was heard. We discussed your concerns.
I even said “Why not just change Hard Mode and leave Easy Mode alone?”
I was told “The Raid is never supposed to be easy.”
At that point, I recalled all the times I stood and delivered the line “…the most challenging encounter we’ve ever created.” It was hard to disagree. As a veteran of Cairo Station on Legendary in Halo, I had to admit that I had been carried through the Raid like luggage assigned to my clan. I did my own carrying later, but carrying had been done.
This is an activity that was designed to be undertaken by a hardcore team that is ready and willing to adapt and improvise to changing battle conditions. Like the moment when the Templar shields random players, the Final Boss was supposed to be extremely dangerous. While we’ve been working on some of the other things for which you’ve been asking (i.e. better exotics, voice chat in matchmaking, more bounties), the designers who made the Raid have plugged the holes that you showed them.
If you got in on the ground floor of this thing, we thank you. If you understand the mechanics for how to beat Atheon, it’s still a thing you can teach your friends. If you’re all up to the challenge, the Raid is waiting for you.
I think the problem I and a lot of other players have with this reasoning is that the Atheon battle is still plenty difficult without ceding to randomness to achieve that same effect. Knowing who would be teleported never felt like an exploit, it felt like it was designed to let players strategize around that discovery effectively.
In Bungie’s own words (as pointed out by a Redditor): “Any time you have a game system which players cannot understand, it might as well be random. No matter how fair the tiebreaker may be, if a single Assault Rifle bullet can slip by and decide the outcome, it might as well be random. And randomness is a poor substitute for tactics and skillful execution.”
The idea of introducing randomness to the Atheon fight is something that Luke Smith, the lead designer on the Vault of Glass raid, spoke to in an interview with Kirk earlier this month.
The goal for this raid, Smith said, was to make it feel like a “final exam,” a sort of final challenge that every other Destiny challenge — particularly those experienced in the raid up to its final boss — was leading up to. That actually makes a lot of sense to me, too. Here’s another quote where Smith goes further into this idea versus that of a more organised fight:
Our goal was to have an encounter where each player in your raid needed to be able to do each job from the entire raid. So, to allow players to have some freedom over choosing or selecting who’s going to do what job, while that’s strategically interesting, and it’s led to a bunch of really cool strategies, it actually doesn’t align with the goal for the encounter.
But unfortunately not every player is specifically best-geared or leveled for certain encounters. The idea of the Vault of Glass always felt like a system built around teamwork, and that made sense. Certain groups would break off into three and threes, and sometimes two and two and twos. Certain players would gravitate to others, play best with them. If you didn’t lead each other through the Gorgon’s maze, you’d screw the entire team. Everything hinged on helping one another out. Each player has a weakness and a strength that they can try to balance out through teamwork.
As one Redditor put it: “I don’t mind rising to a challenge that requires me to practice more, react quicker, and play smarter. But now the challenge is ‘find better teammates.’ That challenge sounds exhausting.”
Then there’s another angle. One Destiny player on Bungie’s forums brings up another good point on the issue of scraping the timestream patch:
The current “fix” to the Atheon VoG fight is contradictory to the established Lore of VoG.
According to the Lore, the Vex are trying to rewrite the laws of time/space. The Gorgons and Oracles are the Vex processing nodes that handle the rewriting of the laws of Time/Space. Kabr smashed the crap out of a Gorgon, and subverted the it’s processing core so that he could use it’s ability to rewrite the laws of Time/Space to fight the Vex. This Gorgon core is the relic.
Thus, during the Atheon fight, Atheon is trying to hide the relic from the players by sending it into the future & past. However the Relic itself is fighting this, which is why the players also get teleported back/forward in time along with the relic.
Oracles then show up to try and write the players near the “hidden” relic out of Time/Space which is why you kill them (to stop them).
Given the lore, it makes no sense that Atheon would send random people back/forward in time. Atheon doesn’t want to send ANYONE back/forward in time, just the relic. The reason why players get sent back/forward in time along [with the] relic is that the relic itself is a Time/Space Rewriting processing node and is interfering with Atheon.
Either way, it makes absolutely zero sense why random players would be sent back/forward in time. The most sense is proximity to the Relic, the second thing would be Proximity to Atheon. The least sense is random.
The specifics for the lore are up for debate/interpretation, but it’s certainly an interesting perspective and addition to the camp of “bring back organised teleporting.”
So what do you guys think? Bug or feature?