It’s been a rough year for Destiny 2‘s high stakes competitive mode. Trials of Osiris has been plagued by cheating, glitch exploits, and lopsided matchmaking. Now it’s a hotbed of match fixing, as players try to game the system to get its coveted rewards without actually putting in the work, and Bungie’s decided to take the whole thing offline for the third week in a row to address it.
Problems around match fixing first came to light around February 28. Trials Report, a third-party site that analyses player data, noticed that of the 23,66 players who had gone flawless so far that weekend (meaning they got seven wins and no losses) 16,300 had five kills or fewer. 11,281 had none at all. The only way to log those kinds of numbers is if opponents are killing themselves. Bungie proceeded to take Trials of Osiris offline. It then cancelled the following weekend’s Trials event as well. On March 11, the studio wrote on Twitter that it had “resolved this issue,” and Trials would return the next day. And it did. And so did the match fixing. And now it’s offline again.
How, exactly, does match fixing work in Trials of Osiris? YouTuber Lunarated laid it out in detail in a video a couple weeks ago, but essentially it revolves around teams signalling their willingness to trade wins by equipping a certain piece of banner art (Häkke) to their characters. When two of these teams get randomly matched against one another, they roll virtual dice to see which side will get the win and proceed from there with the fixed match. The entire process is made smoother by the fact that Steam has a built in virtual dice function in the messaging app, making it that much easier for random PC players to coordinate.
One complicating factor are Passages, cards that record wins and losses and which are a prerequisite for playing Trials. Get three losses and you have to turn in or reset your passage, erasing any wins you might have earned. To get around this issue, players who lost a dice roll and were required to lose would simply back out of matches, log-in as a “dummy” character, and log the defeat there, saving all of the wins for their main character. The ability to back out of a match and rejoin is now at the centre of the controversy around match fixing, and the thing Bungie appears to be focusing on to try to clamp down on it.
“Due to an issue with Fireteam Rejoin functionality, Trials of Osiris has been disabled for the remainder of the weekend,” Bungie wrote on Twitter over the weekend. “We will provide updates when available.” The studio did not respond to a request for comment about what the problem continues to be or whether it considers match fixing to be cheating.
Initial reports at the time were that these match fixing rings first blew up in popularity among Steam users in China. But the match fixing quickly seemed to become more widespread than that. After all, a big part of playing Destiny 2 is taking advantage of whatever means are available to grind for the best loot as quickly as possible. Trials Adept guns, which are reserved solely for those who can amass flawless win streaks, are some of the game’s best, so it’s not surprising that match fixing has trickled down into the category of SGA (Super Good Advice) on the game’s subreddit.
It’s also prompted some deep soul searching within the Destiny community about whether match fixing is hurting the game and whether Bungie has been too quick and severe to try to coralle it. While intended for high-level, end game players, Trials of Osiris does not constitute an esport and is not connected to any larger sort of competition. Its rewards can’t be traded or sold, and there is an infinite supply of them. Someone getting them from match fixing isn’t taking them away from those who are competing normally.
The counter-argument, of course, is that players engaged in match fixing are hurting the integrity of the mode, and of the larger loot grind, and devaluing the meaning of the exclusive guns earned there by potentially allowing every player with some patience to acquire them. And so there are long threads on the game’s subreddit arguing back and forth about whether Trials match fixing is a scourge or a clever workaround, and what Bungie should or shouldn’t do about it. The studio has already committed to overhauling Trials before the end of the year to “improve the overall health” of the mode.
In the meantime, a lot of players (myself included) will have missed out on another week of Trials gear. Having recognised the flaws in Trials last fall, Bungie implemented a new engram that would guarantee a weekly piece of loot from the mod, whether you win, lose, or jump off a cliff to avoid playing altogether. Hopefully that doesn’t get outlawed too.