Bungie has announced that it's changing how Destiny 2 handles experience points. The move comes in response to players who have been raising questions about it over recent days, with a growing consensus that the system was rigged.
For a while after starting a new character in Destiny 2, experience points (XP) are what you use to level up. You get more XP, your level climbs, you get new abilities. The usual. Once you've played a few hours and hit the soft-level cap of 20, however, XP takes on a different role. You still get XP, but instead of levelling up, each time you fill your experience bar you get a Bright Engram. Bright Engrams are Destiny 2's loot crates. Each one contains a few randomised cosmetic items such as emotes, ships, and ornaments for your gear. You can also purchase Bright Engrams for real money in the game's Eververse microtransaction store. In the wake of controversies over loot boxes in games such as Battlefront 2, any indication of a rigged system was sure to set players off.
Last weekend, Destiny 2 had its first "Clarion Call" event, which gave bonus XP to players when they were joined by at least one of their clanmates. In the wake of that event, some players noticed that the longer they played, the slower they'd progress, despite the fact that they were repeating the same activities. The first time a player would earn 5000 XP, they'd see a large chunk of their XP bar fill. The second or third (or fifteenth) time they earned the same number of XP, the bar would get a much smaller chunk.
All week players have been sharing anecdotal evidence suggesting that something was off with the way the game displayed XP gains. Yesterday, Reddit user EnergiserX posted a lengthy analysis of XP gains and determined that, according to their findings, the game was throttling XP progress invisibly while telling players they were earning XP as usual.
In a post today on the official blog, Bungie essentially confirmed that players' findings were correct, and said that it is immediately suspending the XP throttling system. Here's the full statement:
We've seen community discussion around XP gain in Destiny. After reviewing our data, we agree that the system is not performing the way we'd like it to. Today, we'd like to describe what's going on under the hood, and talk about what you can expect going forward when it comes to earning XP in Destiny 2.
Currently, XP will scale up when playing longer or fixed duration activities like Crucible competitive multiplayer matches and the Leviathan Raid, and XP will scale down when playing activities that can be quickly, repeatedly chained, like grinding Public Events. We are not happy with the results, and we've heard the same from the community.
Effective immediately, we are deactivating this system.
As a result, players will see XP earn rates change for all activities across the board, but with all values being displayed consistently in the user interface. Over the course of the next week, we will be watching and reviewing XP game data to ensure that these changes meet our expectations, as well as yours. Any additional updates to this system will be communicated to you via our official channels.
The whole issue is a bigger deal than it might otherwise have been chiefly because of the way XP is tied in with Destiny 2's Eververse microtransaction hub. Bungie could have had any number of reasons for designing the XP system the way they did, but many players were quick to ascribe the most obvious (and nefarious) reasoning: That Bungie wants players to feel like they're making progress more slowly in order to encourage them to spend money to get Bright Engrams faster. If players could simply grind public events over and over for XP, they'd eventually get so many Bright Engrams that they'd run out of cosmetic items to chase.
Anger about the XP system has been boiling over in recent days, which has been compounded by disappointment with this week's lacklustre promotional stream for the upcoming Curse of Osiris expansion as well as general dissatisfaction with the state of Destiny 2 two months after launch. In October, game director Christopher Barrett shared a long list of improvements that are in the works, but since then players have gotten scant further information on when those improvements might be coming.
It's nice to see Bungie responding to players on the XP issue, though it feels as though its hand was forced this time around. It's unlikely it will do much to defuse the tensions enveloping the Destiny 2 community, which are only exacerbated each time players have to take it upon themselves to figure out what's going on behind the scenes. Hopefully Bungie's future communications will be clearer and more proactive. Otherwise the tension will only grow.