Sunday night Destiny 2 content creator Tryhard ‘Trials Player’ Tristan tweeted out a picture of his exo hunter sporting a mysteriou new emblem called A Classy Order. It was a reference to the Spicy Ramen Coupon players got back in the game’s Forsaken expansion and an ode to one of the game’s most beloved characters. For Tristan the screenshot was just meant to show off a cool new secret he had access to in the game, but for the rest of the Destiny community it sparked a firestorm over datamining, spoiler culture and emblem reselling.
Destiny 2 emblems come in four varieties: ones earned in-game, ones collected as Bungie Rewards, ones tagged to special events, and ones distributed via codes that you enter on Bungie’s website. Emblems from one-time use codes can go for a few bucks or much more depending on how rare they’ve become.
The Spicy Ramen Coupon — a red banner sporting a bowl of in front of a pile of coupons — was originally discovered back in May the day Destiny 2’s current Season of the Splicer went live. Bungie scrapped the Spicy Ramen Coupon along with a lot of other things in the game when Beyond Light came out last November, and players nostalgic for the sentimental virtual trinket were hopeful to see it return in some way ever since. While the emblem isn’t officially in the game yet, codes for it do indeed exist, allowing players to share and sell them at their discretion. Two players Kotaku spoke with said they spent roughly $US50 ($64) on their Spicy Ramen emblems, though not everyone approves of the practice.
“Don’t buy the Spicy Ramen Coupon emblem,” Destiny 2’s community manager, dmg04, wrote on Twitter. “It’s meant to be a free gift on Bungie Day, from us to you. Dataminers – please stop spoiling content, whether it be story or emblem codes. I know it can be exciting to be the first person with cool info, but please respect the fun.” The tweet went viral and by the morning Bungie was briefly trending, even though most players had never seen the emblem dmg04 was referring to. It was sort of like being forced to spoil a birthday present early in order to make sure the person doesn’t go out and buy the thing you already got them.
“I can’t begin to describe how bad it makes us feel at Bungie when things are leaked and spoiled,” added player support specialist Drew Tucker in a separate tweet. “We want to excite and delight everyone with our stories and content, and to see them datamined, leaked, or just spoiled really puts a damper on things for us.”
Datamining is a double-edged sword for any game studio, especially one with a popular live service game like Destiny 2. Bungie makes its API available to the public, allowing players to do a range of things from track player stats to catalogue all of the game’s unique loot. But they can also use it to scrape new updates for clues about the game’s ever-evolving story weeks or sometimes even weeks before it goes live in the game.
Most players don’t pay attention to the sites that track everything new discovered in Destiny 2’s API, however, and it wasn’t until just recently that some players began spotting the emblem in-game. “I saw a few friends had it, reached out to where they got it, put me in touch with the dude giving it out,” Tristan told Kotaku. “A lot of us that got the emblem are collectors. That might sound dumb to people, but anyone can collect anything. I have every coded emblem that has ever been obtainable.”
“People wanted it because it was unknown,” an emblem-seller who goes by Swim told Kotaku. “Something to flex that they had before the rest of the world. At the time, no one, including me, knew when this emblem would come out. The mystery behind it is what drew in a lot of players. Tons of people were interested when they heard about it.”
Swim said he received the Spicy Ramen emblem codes from a “Bungie insider,” and as far as he knows he’s the only one who had them. According to him, the early release of the emblem is strictly an issue of internal leaks at the studio, and a completely separate issue for datamining. “Not a single person who I gave the emblem to, or sold to, was angry. I even offered refunds, which were all declined,” Swim said.
There are other issues with emblem reselling. Namely, trying to buy emblems can mean running into many scams. Some players also acquire the emblems through dubious means. Bungie released a Light Keeper’s emblem last December as a reward for players donating to its Game2Gether initiative raising money for children’s hospitals. One current Ebay listing is asking over $US200 ($257) for it. “The thing that sets people off, which is understandable is when the Charity event emblems get resold for higher prices,” Tristan said. “Which in my opinion is scummy but it’s been happening for years.”
Another thing that’s been happening for years are datamined story spoilers. That can be a more complex issue, because players often look up things like perks or new weapons, leading them to accidentally discover plot twists and character arcs in the process. It’s unclear what, if anything, Bungie can do to try and separate the two.
“We will always be the ultimate source on what is legitimate and available or not, including what gets data-mined before the game is live, while anyone else is not an official source unless we say so,” a spokesperson for Bungie told Kotaku. The studio did not comment on whether there’s more it can do to hide parts of Destiny 2’s API, or the original source of the leaked Spicy Ramen emblem codes that kicked off the game’s latest drama.