A Fascinating Study On Destiny Player Behaviour

Look, I'm not going to pretend that everyone should read this, but if you play Destiny — or are just curious about what would make a Destiny player tick — then this research paper based on the game and its players is an interesting read.

Called Guns and Guardians: Comparative Cluster Analysis and Behavioural Profiling in Destiny (remember, it's a paper, not a best-selling novel), it looks at the data from 27,967 PvE players and 16,422 PvE players in the game and is able to classify them into certain behavioural groups based on the weapons they use and how they used them.

Looking at the type of guns used, at what distance kills were made and in what game mode, the authors were able to create some broad player categories.

Here are the player classes able to be determined from PvE data. Note these aren't based on the game's actual classes, they have been developed based on preferred weapons and playstyles:

High DPS (23.5% of the players): The largest cluster of players focused on using weapons with a high damage per second (DPS) output and use their specials a lot.
Guerilla Warriors (16.7% of the players): These use a great variety of weapons and are highly adaptable to changing situations in the game. They change weapons often and are characterised mainly by their flexibility and consistent high performance with all kinds of weapons.
Close Combatants (22.9% of the players): These players are characterised by their almost exclusive reliance on close combat weaponry (melee and short-range guns), with which they perform very well, better than any other profile.
Sitting Duck Snipers (18.8% of the players): These players prefer to kill their opponents at long ranges, and tend to operate from stationary positions, utilising sniper rifles first and then switching to other weapons as enemies close the distance.
Mobile Marksmen (18.1% of the players): Unlike the Sitting Duck Snipers, the Mobile Marksmen stay mobile and engage the enemy at closer ranges, but surprisingly stick to a single weapon type, most commonly a long-distance rifle such as scout-, pulse- or sniper rifles.

The data was handed over before the release of Rise of Iron, so not everything you see here is 100 per cent up to date.

In addition to the classifications, though, the study was also using the data — provided to the authors by Bungie — to map game balance, and found that despite the wild differences in approach and playstyle, the closer you get to the top levels of the Destiny community, the neater those differences dovetail together.

All of which is building towards something cool. Tucked away in the conclusion of the paper is this:

Future work aims at building on the profiling results towards the creation of an item recommendation system for Destiny. The first step in this process will be extending across the character level range, and generate performance/playstyle clusters as a function of progression, adopting a more dynamic performance view. Secondly, the equipment held by each player can be incorporated into the analysis, providing insights into what weapon choices are preferred by the most skilled players for each playstyle at all levels of in-game progression. With this information, a recommender system for suggesting items to players can be developed.

As someone who only dabbles in Destiny, and can be overwhelmed by the stats and changes made to weapons, getting some quality gear recommendations based precisely on what I was needing would be great.

There's a summary of the report's findings over on Gamasutra, but you can read the whole thing here.


    Ooooh. I would love to be able to enter my name and see where I fit in the play style ranking. :)

    Mobile Marksman Warlock. I love my Tlaloc.

    I just love stringing together a few long range sniper kills. I am not very good at it so it doesnt happen often and i often wonder if i stuck with another method would my results be better.

    Unfortunately there are very few sniper distances in the multiplayer maps so it often feels like i am bringing an inferior weapon to a spray-bullets kinda gunfight.

    I think this highlights Destiny's biggest strength and weakness- Bungie's reliance on crunching data and psychology to control players. They literally hired behavioural specialists to help make the game more addicting. It's all about the numbers, turning actual human players into data points and exploiting it for maximum effect. Multiplayer has always seen other people being reduced to a moving target to kill and teabag, now Bungie is doing it to their customers too. They've gotten so obsessed with "what makes players play" that they sometimes forget "fun" along the way. (cough microtransaction-plagued halloween event this year cough)

    Disclaimer: I've played Destiny for around a thousand hours and keep having to stop and make sure I'm actually playing it for fun and not just out of habit/addiction (eg running daily quests with no actual benefit other than "they're there"), and made myself quit because of it. I know other games like wow also are, but I think Bungie has taken the manipulation of players to gambling-like levels...

    Last edited 12/11/16 1:37 am

    Granted, this is a psychology paper and as such is on the weakest end of scientific rigour.


    Kotaku should not try to interpret scientific papers. Those "classes" are sets of behavious - not mutually exclusive and are based on an aggregate of total behavious - not the average of behavious within individual players.

    All this data tells is is that, yes, there are in fact different ways to play Destiny and that the Destiny playerbase as a whole utilises these at differing rates.

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