Shortly after Destiny launched last year, we posted a list of 30 changes we thought would make it a better game. We were so young and innocent then; we were so hopeful.
It's been almost a year. Bungie has released two expansions for Destiny: December's The Dark Below and May's House of Wolves. In September, they will release The Taken King, which looks to be the most substantial addition yet. In between major releases, Bungie has also been tweaking and patching Destiny, adding a number of small improvements to the interface, matchmaking, gameplay, and more. The Destiny of summer 2015 is a markedly different game from the Destiny of fall 2014.
It's likely that Bungie will be announcing a bunch more about The Taken King over the next few weeks. They will probably share and tease more about the new weapons and armour, explain whether our gear will carry over from this year into next, show us some new crucible maps, talk about how the Prison of Elders will be expanded, and more.
Before all that happens, let's go back over those initial changes we suggested last fall and see how many of them actually made it into the game. Turn on your wayback machine, here we go…
1. Sparrow Races
What we wrote: "How in the world someone can put super awesome speeder bikes in their game and then not organise some way to race them is beyond me, but somehow Bungie did it."
Has it happened? No, not yet. It still seems ridiculous that we can't hop on our awesome speeder-bikes and actually race someone. There are, at least, now "pikes" strewn around some patrol areas, which let you drive around and shoot stuff. It's not racing, but it's something.
2. A Comprehensive In-Game Stats Page
What we wrote: "I also can't tell you how many hours I've played, how many strikes I've completed, how many times I've died, or how many bullets I've fired. There should also be an easy in-game way to check stats like your Vanguard or Faction rep, for that matter."
Has it happened? Yes, at least partially. The inventory screen now has a lot more information than it used to, and it's possible to see your rank in the various factions without visiting that faction's HQ in the tower. Still can't see your overall K/D or how many aliens you've killed, though.
3. Better High-Level Armour Customisation
What we wrote: "We'd love to see some sort of deeper armour customisation -- not just of appearance but of ability, or perhaps a "gem"-like system that lets us weld items onto our armour to gain additional buffs."
Has it happened? Sort of. It's not possible to change a piece of armour's stats, but thanks to the etheric light system, you can upgrade a whole lot of different armour. As a result, it's much easier to get a build that you like, e.g. pure INT/DISC with extended grenade-throw distance and more super energy from kills. The Taken King looks like it will add even more armour flexibility, giving you more choice about which stats you boost and even letting you change them on the fly.
4. Better Ship Customisation
What we wrote: "It'd be nice to feel like our rides reflected something about us other than just whether or not we've been lucky enough to find a rare ship while doing patrols."
Has it happened? No. Your ship is still your ship, and while some of the ships introduced in House of Wolves are cool -- they either look like crystalline glass sculptures or like off-off-brand Go-Bots -- it's still not possible to customise your ship's look with shaders or other cosmetic additions. The ships still all look the same, and as a result, one of the most "elite" ships is… the janky one you got at the very start of the game, because so few of us hung onto it.
5. More Patrol Landing Zones
What we wrote: "We'd love to be able to choose our landing point, rather than have to navigate all the way from the Steppes to The Divide every time we want to go take out that Fallen Walker in the public event."
Has it happened? No. You still land in the same places on patrol, and it usually still takes too long to get from there to wherever you're going. The Taken King is adding a new patrol zone, of course, but no word yet on how the existing patrols may change.
6. Patrol Mission Difficulty Modifiers
What we wrote: "We'd love to see a second difficulty setting -- maybe just a single one -- that kicks the base level of the grunts on each world up by ten or so levels."
Has it happened? Sort of. You can't modify a patrol's difficulty, but with House of Wolves, there are now higher-level Fallen enemies hanging around on Venus, Earth and the Moon. Poor Mars, though. Does anyone go to Mars anymore? Mars must feel so bummed out.
7. Launch To Tower, Not Just Orbit
What we wrote: "We're only passing through space on our way to the Tower to cash in bounties, decode engrams, and do whatever else. When we bring up our ghost in the field, two face buttons are still unassigned -- it only makes sense that one of them could be designated a "Launch to Tower" button."
Has it happened? No. Alas. However, Bungie's Destiny app has made it possible to do some of the things we used to have to go to tower to do, like transferring gear and materials between characters. Cool third-party apps like Destiny Item Manager and Tower Ghost make it even easier. It'd still be great to bypass orbit and go straight to tower from wherever we are.
8. More To Do In The Tower
What we wrote: "'Find Xur' and 'Turn on the Fan' are some of the closest things to actual activities, and it'd be nice if Tower could continue to grow and offer more and more things for players to do. "
Has it happened? No. Sure, they added a new "tower" in the form of the Reef, but there's still nothing to do there except try to jump onto the one thing or the other thing, or to turn on the lamp that's next to the postmaster. Fun! There are now more factions, more vendors, and more things to check, but nothing new to do.
9. New Shaders At The Store, For Pete's Sake
What we wrote: "We'd love it if the Guardian Outfitter would actually start getting some new stock, even if it was just once a week. It's amazing she's stayed in business this long, frankly."
Has it happened? Yes. Eva Levante did finally get a few more shaders in stock since we wrote our first article, though her stock still can't be called bounteous. Fortunately, you can now get new shaders at a few other vendors, as well -- Eris Morn, Petra Venj, Variks and Lord Saladin all sell a few nice-looking shaders, provided you can rank up enough to buy them.
10. Built-In Shader Previews
What we wrote: "...it'd be even nicer if Bungie built in a preview feature for shaders similar to how it lets you preview other gear. Surely there's space for a dressing room somewhere on Tower..."
Has it happened? Yes. You can now preview shaders before you buy them.
11. Meaningful Clans
What we wrote: "It'd be nice to be able to create and manage your clan in-game, and even to have access to a shared pool of money or bounties. It'd also be cool if every clan could be given their own space on Tower (they'd all occupy the same area, of course) that you could customise, where people in the clan could go to hang out, get clan-specific bounties, that sort of thing."
Has it happened? No, not really. Clans still feel mostly "outside" of Destiny, little more than a way to publicly show that you and the other people on your Crucible team are allied outside of the game. Clan pages on Bungie.net are a decent way to organise, but it'd still be nice to see clans become more meaningful in the actual game.
12. Custom Emblems
What we wrote: "We'd love the opportunity to design our own emblems, the better to help our clans stand apart."
Has it happened? No. There are more emblems in Destiny than ever, but it's still not possible to make your own custom emblem. Players have worked their way around this by getting creative with the little-used emblems -- I saw a clan in Trials of Osiris called "The Green Arrows" who all had matching fugly green emblems -- but as of now, we still can't make our own.
13. Opt-In Proximity Chat
What we wrote: "It's great that Bungie is adding opt-in chat for crucible multiplayer and strikes, but it'd be nice to see something similar for proximity chat while out exploring in the world."
Has it happened? Sort of. It's now possible to join a voice channel to talk with the people on your strike team or on your Crucible team, but the game still doesn't have the sort of proximity chat we were envisioning.
14. A Bunch More Emotes
What we wrote: "This game direly needs a wheel's worth of emotes that are actually useful, some of which relay information through the other players' ghosts. 'Help!' 'I'm ready to revive.' 'Come here.' 'Go there.' 'Shoot that.' That sort of thing."
Has it happened? No, though as the recent uproar over the exclusive Taken King collector's edition emotes demonstrated, the game will be getting more emotes soon. Just how many remains to be seen.
15. The Ability To Change Your Handle
What we wrote: "Destiny should allow players to create custom names for each of their characters, rather than having them all operate under their Gamertag/PSN name."
Has it happened? No. Bad enough that we're all still saddled with the PSN IDs we picked out when we first started, we're also not able to put a different handle on top of that in Destiny. If your PSN ID is CPT_JUGGALO, then CPT_JUGGALO you remain.
16. A Helmetless Option
What we wrote: "We'd love to be able to show off our fabulous haircuts outside of the Tower."
Has it happened? Sort of. The inverse, actually. You can't go helmetless while on patrol, but you can opt to wear your helmet in social spaces. We'll count this one as a "sort of."
17. Character Re-Customisation
What we wrote: "If we're going to continue to develop these characters over the next ten years, we'd better be able to change our minds about how they look."
Has it happened? No. And we're all very hopeful that The Taken King will let us change our character's face, sex, and race.
18. The Option To Hide Other Players' Handles
What we wrote: "It'd be nice to have an option to turn off other players' handles in-game. It'd be entirely optional -- their level could still display, since that can be useful information, but it'd be nice to have more control over what shows on our HUD at a given moment."
Has it happened? No. And to be honest, after nearly a year of Destiny, in retrospect we wouldn't really care if this one never happened. Especially if we were allowed to pick our own custom Destiny handles. It's nice to see who you're playing with.
19. A HUD-Free Screenshot/Selfie Mode
What we wrote: "Destiny would hugely benefit from a HUD-free screenshot mode, as well as a good selfie mode. It'd be even better with the aforementioned helmet-free option, which would make every random battle look far more interesting and photo-ready."
Has it happened? No. And the game's beauty continues to be difficult to document and share without a bunch of text and other UI junk getting in the way.
20. More High-Level Solo Activities
What we wrote: "If a [solo] player just wants to play for an hour or two each night, there should be more than a couple of things for them to do."
Has it happened? Sort of. There are more single-player missions now, of course, but most of the new PvE activities are geared toward playing as a team. Lone wolves can matchmake into the weekly strike or the level 28 Prison of Elders, or hop into the new public events, but when you do those things, you're gonna do them alongside other people. There still aren't many high-level, endgame-ish things to do on your own.
21. New Missions With Actual Variety
What we wrote: "Here's hoping the new missions channel the sorts of challenges seen in the Vault of Glass raid, with enemies who buff and debuff, bosses that require careful strategy to defeat, and environmental challenges that test the limits of Destiny's long-distance jet-jumps. Show us what you've got, Bungie. We can handle it."
Has it happened? Yes. Both expansions introduced new single-player missions with more variety, particularly House of Wolves. There's always room for improvement, of course, but we've seen several clear steps in the right direction.
22. In-game Grimoire Cards
What we wrote: "Grimoire cards should be moved into the game somehow, either during loading screens or at a kiosk in the Tower, or somewhere in the menus. You wrote all that lore, now put it in your game, Bungie!"
Has it happened? No, and the Grimore remains sadly segregated from the rest of the game. Sites like Ishtar-Collective.net have done a great job of pulling all the Grimore lore together into a digestible format, but it remains baffling why so much of Destiny's backstory isn't in… you know, the game.
23. An Integrated Looking-For-Group Tool
What we wrote: "While it's nice that there are websites that let people hunt for teammates for the nightfall strike or the raid, it'd be even nicer if the game itself could feature that sort of tool."
Has it happened? No. Popular LFG sites have continued to do a fine job of remedying Destiny's lack of an integrated LFG tool, but Bungie has yet to add one to the game itself.
24. Vote To Skip Cutscenes And Pre-Mission Briefs
What we wrote: "I didn't really like this game's story the first time through, Bungie. Why are you making me watch it again and again? "
Has it happened? No. I don't even have time to explain why I don't have time to explain why it's a bummer that we still can't skip cutscenes. I've watched these stupid things so many times that there's nothing left… not even the light.
25. A Way To Undo Gear Breakdowns
What we wrote: "It's likely that someone or other will accidentally break down a legendary or exotic piece of armour and regret it afterward. It'd be nice if there were some sort of short-term undo option for breaking something down, like the buyback option most RPG stores offer."
Has it happened? Sort of. You can't undo a gear breakdown, but it is now possible to "lock" your gear, meaning my precious Hopscotch Pilgrim will forever be safe from an accidental holding of the Square button.
26. An Inventory Wheel
What we wrote: "It'd be nice to have an inventory wheel that lets players quickly access different weapon loadouts, ammo packs and other consumables, and check the status on various bounties. There's no reason we should be fiddling with in-game menus while taking damage from enemies."
Has it happened? No. We players have certainly gotten better at hopping into the inventory menu, changing up our loadout or popping an ammo synth, then hopping out in time to stay alive, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't love to have a better inventory interface in-game.
27. Shared Bounties
What we wrote: "If you wind up out patrolling with a friend and they have a (non-exotic) bounty that you don't, they should be able to share that bounty with you and have it turn up in your bounty inventory. You shouldn't have to return to Tower just to get on the same page."
Has it happened? No. This is another improvement that, in retrospect, actually doesn't feel all that important. It'd be better if we could just grab bounties using the Destiny App, so that if, say, we started the Nightfall without getting The Cleansing, we wouldn't have to bail out and go back to Tower just to get it.
28. A Home For Exotic Bounties
What we wrote: "Exotic bounties are cool and everything, but they're also time-sinks, and they shouldn't hog an entire spot in your bounty inventory for the multiple days it usually takes to complete one."
Has it happened? Sort of. There are now twice as many bounty spots as there were when Destiny launched. It's still not enough, but from what we saw of the menu screens when we demoed The Taken King at E3, there are more bounty spots coming, along with a whole page dedicated to mission progress and, presumably, other ongoing challenges like exotic bounties.
29. An In-Game Map
What we wrote: "While we've all learned the basics of Old Russia and the Moon, it'd be nice to have an in-game map that shows our location relative to the overall world we're exploring"
Has it happened? No. At this point, we've got all of the maps memorized, but I'm sure newcomers would still benefit from an optional in-game minimap.
30. A Way To Pause The Game
What we wrote: "Bungie: as adults with roommates, spouses, children, and pizza delivery guys occasionally asking for our attention, we cordially ask you to add some way to pause your fucking game. Thanks."
Has it happened? No. Seasoned players have figured out when they can set down the controller and for how long, but Destiny still forces you to play on its timetable, not yours.
31. Let Players Trade Items… Or Maybe Don't
What we wrote: "It seems inevitable, but we're not sure that it would actually improve the game."
Has it happened? No, and it shouldn't. Even at the time we first wrote this, it was included as number 31 because we said we weren't sure we wanted it. A year later, it's even easier to see how a trading economy would completely upend Destiny's reward system. A real-money economy would sprout up outside of the game almost immediately, with $US100 eBay Gjallarhorns for everyone. As fucked as Destiny RNG often is, there's still something vital about only being able to use weapons and armour that you yourself unlocked in the game. When I see someone wearing full Trials of Osiris gear or even just using Thorn, I know that they did some shit to get it. A trading economy would throw all of that out the window.
If you've been counting, four of our proposed changes made it into the game, seven were sort of added, and 19 still haven't made it. A few of those 19 are things don't really rate anymore, but most of them would still improve the game. Also, to Bungie's credit, they made one big change -- increasing our vault space -- that we hadn't thought to ask for because it hadn't yet become an issue in October. Of course, there's still not enough vault space, but hopefully (hopefully, hopefully) they will give us more in September.
Will The Taken King address more of our lingering issues? Probably. When that expansion comes out, will we publish a list of new changes we'd like to see? Likely. Will the people who make Destiny continue to be annoyed as we cavalierly propose solutions to problems that are likely much harder to solve than they seem? Almost certainly.
We'll know more soon, as The Taken King is out in just over a month. Here's hoping they at least let us skip the cutscenes.a