Bungie Explains Why It Really Killed Destiny's Loot Cave

Bungie Explains Why They Really Killed Destiny's Loot Cave

Back in the early days of Destiny, some players would spend hours just...shooting into a cave. The reason? Loot. Precious, precious loot.

Eventually, Bungie patched what players were calling the "Loot Cave" — Bungie didn't think it was a good way for players to spend their time. Or so they said:

Shooting at a black hole for hours on end isn't our dream for how Destiny is played. Our hope is that social engagement in public spaces is only one part of the Destiny experience. Expect changes soon which decrease the efficiency of cave farming and correspondingly increase engram drops from completing activities.

Today, during a GDC panel on how Bungie researched and tested the player experience in Destiny, Bungie's John Hopson cited a completely different reason for why Bungie killed the Loot Cave.

As Hopson explained it, the average Destiny player spends their time doing a wide variety of activities. The breakdown, per Bungie's findings:

Bungie Explains Why They Really Killed Destiny's Loot Cave

But sometimes, players would get distracted from these activities and they'd start doing other things. Strange things. Like, say, shooting endlessly into a cave — all in the name of loot. And when Bungie looked into it, what they found was that the Loot Cave wasn't nearly as good as players thought it was.

"They were very weak enemies that didn't drop very good loot," Hopson said. "The funny thing is that we knew about [the loot cave] before launch, we knew that this was potentially exploitable activity, but we didn't care. The actual drop rate per minute spent is not any different than anything else.

"So you actually will get less loot [shooting into the loot cave] per hour than you would just playing the game. But the players weren't doing the maths that way," Hopson said.

Hopson theorized that players shot into the loot cave mostly because it was low effort, not because it was actually better than other locations. Somehow, some players convinced themselves that the Loot Cave was amazing, but that wasn't actually the case — or so Bungie says.

So if Bungie didn't initially care about the Loot Cave, and it wasn't actually broken, why did they end up killing it? Hilariously, it was because of the sheer number of player complaints.

"The time of the loot cave was the highest peak of players reporting each other for cheating," Hopson said.

Hopson described situations where players would angrily report other players for using the loot cave. Sometimes, these players would take matters into their own hands and actively stop enemies from respawning in the cave — thereby stopping the more loot from appearing. And when players did this, the players who wanted to use the loot cave would report the jerk players. It was a mess — so they got rid of it.

"[The Loot Cave] was actually pretty controversial," Hopson said. Hopson also mentioned that Bungie spent some time getting rid of other Loot Caves prior to the launch of Destiny, in the hopes of stopping the phenomenon of players shooting into an area endlessly to reap the rewards.

Other funny or curious things that happened during the presentation:

  • One person got up to ask why they didn't have a Gjallarhorn despite playing for over 700 hours. Hopson said that unfortunately, SOMEone had to end up being that unlucky.
  • Another person got up to ask if Bungie could stop Xur from selling more No Land Beyond — the gun that is infamous for being awful. Hopson said it was out of his control.
  • Hopson mentioned that Bungie didn't expect the random drops to be as big of a deal as they ended up being. What they were expecting was for players to simply buy better gear, and to have random drops act as the cherry on top, so to speak. Instead, players have latched onto the RNG, and it's affecting their perception of the game.
  • Hopson said that during development, in an effort to stop Destiny from leaking, they increased their security at Bungie. This meant metal detectors, locking up tester's cell phones, never leaving people alone with the game, testing on platforms that were locked down. He said it was "probably overkill," but that these measures let them get people outside of Bungie playing the game for research early on.
  • The hardest missions for players end up being ones like the "Chamber of the Night" level — essentially, levels where players are locked in a room where they have to defeat waves, right before having to go up against a boss. These levels don't have save points between waves, and they exist as "skill checks" for players — you can't hang back and snipe or anything like that. "You're either good enough to survive or not," Hopson said. Apparently, some of these levels ended up being so difficult, that they lost a "few percentage of players" during these points — and sometimes, these players wouldn't ever try the levels again.


    So basically if you're not engaging in all of the parts of that pie chart, the game's probably not going to be very fun for you. That explains a lot, though it's unfortunately different from the way they pitched the game.

      Yup, as someone who preferred to play solo strikes and not much else, this is pretty much on the mark....

    I don't buy it.

    I got more purple and legendary items from a short time in the cave than I ever did playing normally...by far. One friend had been 20 for a week with no good items to show for his troubles and then nearly decked himself out in top end gear in one day.

    We really didn't need to do the math. (And more importantly, Bungie has been pretty lacking in the truth front of late)

    Last edited 05/03/15 2:44 pm

      I agree. It was just constant spawns, so even if the drop rate was the same, you still got more loot. Besides, it was never about the loot, it was about the mats. I've finally spent a bit of time levelling my third character and they are still always coming up short on sapphire wire.

      To be honest it seems it is them who botched the math, the drop rate per enemy might be the same but you have the loot cave ENDLESSLY spawning enemies, vs having to move from enemy pack to enemy pack in normal play. If the loot rate is the same the constant killing is going to outweigh the killing plus down time or normal play

        Exactly, the basics of any farming or grinding run is to find a densely populated area with a high spawn rate.

        And you didn't even need to kill them. You'd just park yourself nearby and watch the loot and levels roll in. Bungie didn't even make a move until people starting exploiting this to generate Ancient Coins by resetting characters.

        Yet looking back on it, it's the only time our party communicated without pressure.

      Agreed. I dont buy it at all. I got some really nice drops from the loot cave and it enabled me to level up pretty quickly.

      Sounds like usual Bungie information control......tell everyone the players are wrong.

        The more worrying explanation would be that Bungie actually believes their reasoning. Remember this is from a talk they're giving at GDC, so pitched at other developers and not at their players. If they actually think that it wasn't as efficient then it suggests some fundamental and fairly worrisome gaps in understanding, but at the same time those gaps would line up with some of the weird decisions they've made...

      Pretty sure it was just so much more effortless and significantly quicker to keep rolling for the chance at loot

    I may not be interested in Destiny but I still love Bungie.

      I'm the same. I'm a bit disappointed in Bungie but I'd still give them the benefit of the doubt again. I've been playing their games since the mid 90s.

        Oni and Myth all the way!

        P.S. Their other older games are also good!

          By 'mid 90s' I mean I had Operation Desert Storm and Pathways into Darkness and played a few games of Minotaur as well. :)

          Their old games were great. Pathways would make an awesome game nowadays too if it were rebooted.

    I never really got anything good from the Loot Cave, but it did allow me to level a 2nd character to level 15 before even finishing the earth story missions with very little effort.

      I think reason we never got anything that 'good' out of the loot cave was because of the cryptarch as well, i got plenty of purple engram drops, but every one i turned into the cryptarch turned to blue trash. They didn't patch the cryptarch to be kinder until after killing the cave. The cave was better for materials alone, I still have thousands of gun parts and hydronic essence.

    Those first 2 dot points probably explain more about Destiny's user base than anything else.

      Unfortunately you're right. So much complaining.

      very funny they were asked though.

        isn't it? Here's your opportunity to ask a question to someone who's lead user research (or something equally important) at Bungie and 2 of the most selfish questions possible were asked. Bit sad really.

          yeah I found it funny that such stupid questions were asked. out of the hundreds, thousands that could have been asked about, ie, cut content, on disc dlc controversy etc etc etc .....they ask those two questions hhahah spazmos.

    I think it comes down to time, if you're doing the cave on earth or venus or wherever, you take out a lot of the running around aimlessly, going from area to area, waiting for doors to open of patrols/strikes/story missions. So while the math may be the same in terms of items dropped by dudes shot, by cutting out all the useless time wasting stuff you actually shoot more dudes in that same amount of time, thereby increasing your chances of getting more stuff from said shot dudes.

    I still play every few days, if only to shoot some dudes whilst catching up with a mate that I don't get to see that often. Got my second character over 30 now. Need more shards.

    How is the story piece that large? There is zero reward for redoing story missions (unless it counts daily heroics).

    And that was the problem with "playing the game" to get gear; there were basically no rewards for doing missions, and the strike playlists hand out blue gear the majority of the time (which is basically useless once you're high enough to do strike playlists). It's a bit better now, but the loot system was terrible at launch.

    You also need to be Vanguard/Crucible rank 2 (or 3? I can't remember), before you can start buying gear, which is a fair bit of grinding where Bungie apparently didn't expect players to be rewarded at all.

    I once played with someone who was amazed how high level I was with only blue armour. I had been grinding (yes, sometimes at the loot cave), waiting for purples, or to get enough marks to buy some new gear, and it took so long that I had gotten the best blue gear and upgraded it to max.

      not to mention that the gear you get to buy is mostly crap...he left that bit out.

      Probably because of the people who did the story missions and then rage quit because they didn't want to grind and destiny wasn't what they were pitched/expected

      Story missions are probably high due to daily heroic story missions rewarding up to 8.5k XP, and story mission bounties usually having 5k XP rewards. The vendor gear can be bought from rank 2 onward, but you need commendations for two of them (although they can come from any character - by the time I made a titan, I had about 10 commendations just taking up vault space from my other characters, but still took two weeks to get enough rep and marks to buy 33 light gear). Edit: Pre-expansion, oops. Yea, I'm pretty sure it was Rank 2 for two items, rank 3 for one other, and rank 4 for the helm.

      Last edited 05/03/15 3:40 pm

        Yeah, I felt a bit cheated by the addition of commendations too. My original character (who is no longer my main, because I always found legendary gear for other classes) was vanguard rank 6, but I have no commendations to show for it...

          My main was around rank 15 when they added commendations, iirc, but I timed my rep to rank up immediately after they added them (as they told us about it in advance). That combined with having nothing to spend marks on for weeks meant I got 3 33-light pieces the day they changed the vendor's inventory; the following weekend I grabbed an upgraded helm from Xur. After spending weeks getting to 30 by raiding, it felt a little cheap to hit 31 by going on a shopping spree...

      I could tell you about how we calculated these numbers......

      Last edited 05/03/15 3:54 pm

        I don't have time to listen about how I don't listen.

    The third point is the most important I think. They expected players to buy better gear, but the best gear you have to rely on RNGs for (or get lucky with what Xur's selling for exotic armour). So we're supposed to buy second rate gear and be happy with that?

      yeah i found that very strange. it's almost like they're forgotten raid armour/weapons i.e. the best gear in the game, is all RNG.

      Maybe the raid to them are like some sort of pinnacle they don't expect anyone to reach and we'd be happy just getting there. Maybe they assumed we'd be happy running around with rare gear and buy legendary stuff if we could afford it?

    What a crock of shit...clearly shows the devs have no fucking clue about how their game ACTUALLY works...

    - buy better gear with rng being the cherry on top ??? U serious ...vast majority of vendor gear to buy is crap, you need to have the rng gods bless you with a decent drop to get the good shit.

    - I've seen some poor buggers with over 1000 hours and no jelly... Saying someone has to be that guy is just fucking lazy coding... You should be able to earn what you want and then really have the rng as cherry on top.

    Never explained why the game is a fucking content desert compared to what was promised... Dickheads.

    Last edited 05/03/15 3:16 pm

    - I saw others involved with the loot cave antics and really don't know what the big fuss was from players or developers. I just played and got gear normally with mates, having a ball doing story and strikes. If others want to shoot at a cave then go for it. Boring as batsh*t though. Each to their own.

    - PvP is such a small percentage yet because of these clowns playing it, the 90% of us remaining can't use shotguns in the game. Go back to COD!! ;P

    - Pretty sure the guy asking about Gjallarhorn is a clone of one of my mates here in WA!! Am I right Jack??

    - Also, we're really struggling on the Crota hard raid. Massive respect for the groups that get through, they make it look easy.

    The devs seem to look down on players quite a lot. Basically saying they're idiots who can't do math, don't want to play the rest of the game where the "real" fun is, etc. I think they need to recognise there are serious problems with the game that will need fixing in Destiny 2, but from what I've seen it seems to be more of a "you're holding it wrong" sort of attitude towards players.

      well said ... we're doing it wrong and they insta-patch stuff to try and keep us playing how they want us to...not to what was promised.

      Your holding it wrong is EXACTLY what I thought reading this.

    Hopson mentioned that Bungie didn’t expect the random drops to be as big of a deal as they ended up being. What they were expecting was for players to simply buy better gear, and to have random drops act as the cherry on top, so to speak. Instead, players have latched onto the RNG, and it’s affecting their perception of the game.

    They must be planning on making vanguard gear L36 in the near future because they're talking about a different game then the one I've been playing.

      Going by CE, then they will release Lvl 36 Vanguard gear with it and you get to re-level everything again. Its the perks that make the weapon and seems to be the point the dev is missing. Why would I want to buy crap weapons?

        DeeJ said in a previous up weekly update that they "learnt their lesson" and they wouldn't make raid gear redundant in HoW. So who knows how that will turn out...

          I actually get how they have positioned Raid weapons to be focused on the raid and not general play, so I'm not sure they need to be upgraded (unless they upgrade the raids). If people want to keep their raid weapons then they need more vault space (yeah its coming) so they can equip them if they want to go back in...

          My issue is with RNG and how broken it is...they need a better balance between vendor weapons and rng weapons or have the ability to re-roll in pve. Exotics should be a VERY rare drop, and attainable from bounties.

    "The hardest missions for players end up being ones like the “Chamber of the Night” level — essentially, levels where players are locked in a room where they have to defeat waves, right before having to go up against a boss. These levels don’t have save points between waves, and they exist as “skill checks” for players — you can’t hang back and snipe or anything like that. “You’re either good enough to survive or not,” Hopson said. Apparently, some of these levels ended up being so difficult, that they lost a “few percentage of players” during these points — and sometimes, these players wouldn’t ever try the levels again."

    That's exactly why I stopped playing. I spent hours trying to defeat one of those missions solo, with grey armor, a crap weapon etc. When I died, I had to do the whole thing over again, except without any ammo. When you respawn at a checkpoint, you respawn with what you had when you died, not what you had when you passed the checkpoint. I could have teleported out and gone and farmed more ammo again, but then I would have also had to do the 30+ mins fighting my way back into the mission area anyway. On top of all that, the mission reward for beating this would have been another grey item that I would have broken down for parts anyway.

    TLDR: It just wasn't fun.

    "Hopson said it was out of his control"

    Rubbish, there's a poster on the Destiny reddit page who datamined the game and successfully "predicted" Xur's inventory several weeks in a row, amongst other things. And yet when the new patch came out Xur had slightly different loot than what was in the data- which means they can and will alter it. Why do they insist on treating players like idiots?

    Man. I am pretty glad I never got around to buying this game. Because I can't remember the last time a game had this level of bad news for this long.

      Yeah, but it's relative. The reason there are so many 'bad news' stories and people whinging is that shit loads of people are still playing it. Nobody writes stories or complains about a game that nobody plays ie Titanfall.

    I disagree with this article. You did get more loot farming the cave for many reasons not stated. The simple fact of having constant spawns is a give. The engram drop ratio as far a the cave to playing the game was a lot higher. No waiting through loading screens or going back to orbit. Not to mention more crytarch packages faster.

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