It was an interesting weekend for Destiny. Thanks to a new exploit, players got a closer-than-usual look at how the game's loot system works. What we've found is that there's something weird going on with exotic drops.
Here's a story: On Friday, Destiny's weekend vendor Xur turned up for his first appearance since The Taken King launched and year two of Destiny began. Xur was selling a few specific pieces of exotic-tier armour along with engrams that could turn into any of the game's exotic helmets.
I blew a bunch of Strange Coins on helmet engrams and excitedly went to decode them. Bungie reps had talked a big game about how the new loot system will now take into account gear you already have and give you stuff you don't have, and I was pumped to get some new stuff.
The first helmet I got was An Insurmountable Skullfort, the same helmet I'd gotten as a drop after finishing the Nightfall strike a day earlier. Hmm. Not a great start. I decoded another engram and got Mask of the Third Man, which I had last year but hadn't gotten in year two. Third engram: Another Insurmountable Skullfort. Jeez. Fourth engram… another Mask of the Third Man. What the heck? In the end, I got three new helmets out of about ten engrams; all the rest were duplicates.
Once I heard about the Three of Coins exploit — a trick that allows you to quickly farm exotic engrams from a low-level boss — I went to test it out. Purely for research purposes, you understand. Then, because I am a degenerate, I kept testing. And testing. And testing.
Many engrams later, I found that I was getting way more duplicates than should have been possible: Two Helm of Saint 14s, two or three The Last Words, three Invectives, three Telestos, a whopping four Light Beyond Nemesises, another couple Mask of the Third Mans. Something was off about this.
Over the weekend, other players began sharing their own similar stories. A lengthy Reddit thread titled "Can we agree that exotic engrams are providing more duplicates than usual?" is filled with stories similar to mine, though the items in question vary. Players report decrypting seven, eight engrams and only getting two items with the rest being duplicates.
"I got 6 exotic primary engrams, 4 of them were the last word," writes one player, Metatron58. "I'd say something is wrong."
"Man I got 4 Invectives and 3 Crest of Alpha Lupis and I thought I had the worst luck in the world," writes another, ChildishGenius. "Semi-comforting to know other people are also getting screwed."
Destiny has long been governed by the random number generator, known as RNG, or, to more spiritual players, "RNGesus." The method by which Destiny decides who gets what item has been and will likely always be shrouded in some mystery. I and a lot of other players have long had the feeling that Destiny likes to give duplicate exotic items — almost every Destiny player has a story about how they went seven months without, say, a Hawkmoon, then got two in the same week.
Things were supposed to have changed with The Taken King (which, I should note, is extremely impressive so far. Our full review will be up by the end of the week.). Thanks to the exotic exploit and the current small pool of year-two exotics, last weekend gave us the best chance we've had to try to understand how the system works.
So, what's going on? Given what I saw in my own game and read of other players' accounts, it doesn't seem possible that the system is truly random and we all just have bad luck. It could be that the new loot system is bugged. It might be working as intended, with exotic drops weighted toward year-two versions of year-one items. It could also be that Destiny RNG is weighted toward giving players duplicate exotic items, maybe to keep people from filling up their collections too quickly. I've asked Bungie if they can shed some light on what's going on, but they haven't responded by press time.
It's hard to feel that salty about duplicate items, given that the Three of Coins exploit gave most of us at least a few things we would have had to wait weeks or months for otherwise. Then again, before anyone knew about the exploit, I blew a ton of strange coins on helmet engrams that gave me a bunch of useless duplicates. If this is a bug, it's a bummer of one. Hopefully Bungie gets us all an answer soon.