On Weapon Diversity
I've spent a lot of time on this subreddit, and one of the most frequent complaints I have seen in the discussion on PvP balance is the "I just want to be able to use all guns." Or, "I'm tired of this or that."
I have seen players complain as fervently about blink-shotgun felwinter's (which had nearly 50% higher effective kill-range in HoW than shotguns did before the most recent patch) as they did snipers after December 2015.
I have seen players complain about Clever Dragon as much as they complained about Thorn. I have seen players complain about NLB as much as they complained about Universal Remote (only 6ish months ago).
I have seen players complain about SUROS (near release), Red-death (late-TDB), Messenger/Hopscotch (immediately after Taken King), MIDA (late TTK)
I even see players starting to complain about icebreaker/sidearms and special weapons that break the new ammo economy.
The only similarity between these complaints is that there is a large swathe of players who want weapon diversity
Now, on the surface, weapon diversity sounds like a great idea. But in actuality, it's quite toxic. For the following reasons:
If the game tends to play one way, certain weapons will have synergy with that gameplay. In any set of gameplay conditions, only a certain number of weapons can take on a certain number of roles.
If there are, in fact, multiple weapons in the meta, this simply means that gameplay has centralized to the point where anything goes. If I can stand in one spot on the map turreting with Clever Dragon, I can do the same thing with MIDA, or the same with a long-range handcannon. That is the gameplay, and any weapon that can do that thing becomes a part of the meta. Put simply, that's a sloppy meta that comes out of sloppy, linear gameplay
Periods of high weapon diversity tend to settle extremely quickly. Or, to borrow a term from other games, the meta is "solved." This is why I frequently chuckle at players talking about how they can "experiment with all kinds of guns." And then a week later, their First-curse/Fusion rifle voopnation bullshit gets consistently stomped by a whatever loadout is actually good. The player gets frustrated, and feels resentment towards the meta because of this.
In other words, weapon diversity almost directly conflicts with gameplay diversity.
Periods of high weapon diversity tend to settle extremely quickly. Or, to borrow a term from other games, the meta is "solved." This is why I frequently chuckle at players talking about how they can "experiment with all kinds of guns" after a nerf. And then a week later, their First-curse/Fusion rifle voopnation bullshit gets consistently stomped by a whatever loadout is actually good. The player gets frustrated, and feels resentment towards the meta because of this.
The fact that metas tend to resolve is not a bad thing. What is bad is how players react poorly to low weapon diversity. What is also bad is that with each meta, there is an increasing disconnect between what the player thinks is good, and what is actually good. Basically, the average, casual player latches onto something, while better players almost immediately identify what "remains" after the Bungie nerf hammer hits. Therefore, when Bungie brings around the nerf hammer, the hits seem random to pretty much everyone.
Anyways, my next point:
On Gameplay Diversity
As I said earlier, weapon diversity often times conflicts with gameplay diversity. And by gameplay diversity, I refer to how the game is actually played.
In other words, the concept of gameplay diversity, and ultimately why it's more important than weapon/class/meta diversity comes down to the player.
In a game with high gameplay diversity, the player is at the core of the game. When there are hundreds of different "correct" plays to make, there is inevitably going to be more personality with each player's gameplay.
For all the talk from Halo veteran's about the beauty of slow kill times (more on this later), I've never once seen anyone mention how Halo players are cool with everyone using a battle rifle, or an assault rifle, or whatever.
Now, this isn't to say that Destiny should be a one-gun game. I'm just noting that in Halo, and indeed, in a lot of one-gun games, there is so much gameplay diversity.
You can truly tell in these games who the sniper is, who can grind the game to a halt, who can play angles, who can dominate space, who straight up wins gunfights with pure mechanical skill, etc., etc., etc.
Don't get me wrong, Halo is as far away as from what Destiny should be as CoD. But it boggles my mind how so many players forget why people are content in other games with relatively set-in-stone metas.
Gameplay Diversity in Destiny
So, what does Gameplay diversity look like in Destiny?
It looks like this:
(Note: these are from Poshy's perspective, because a lot of the tournament vids that weren't on his channel disappeared. I would have loved to show you the stark contrast between Poshy's gameplay, and War's gameplay, and Gabe, and Mgir)
I've talked about House of Wolves gameplay for quite some time, and I often emphasize the following:
There were only two loadouts that were really, really good (with a few loadouts that were close). TLW/Sniper, and Thorn/Shotgun
Despite special weapons which are nearly twice as good as they are now, there were far more primary gunfights than there were right before the special weapon changes. Basically, HoW had primary gun battles without having to artificially remove special weapons from the game.
The low killtimes (compared to the current kill-times. Across the FPS market, the kill-times were actually fairly moderate) added emphasis on maximizing efficient movement through space. Just watch as every blink/crouch/slide is perfectly calculated. Thorn and TLW had killtimes that (contrary to popular belief) you could react to, so long as you knew how to navigate and rotate around a map.
Players who were better with the limited number of loadouts consistently won. Just like Envyus consistently destroys competitive teams in OW, and just like every other well-balanced, highly marketable PvP game's top-tier. You have players who are good at certain things, and it creates intense interest for players looking to play/watch the game.
Poshy's jack-of-all-trades gameplay was distinct from Mgir's fast-paced pin-point thorn-shots. Warbulletproof's smooth, circular gameplay (controlling short angles with TLW, and long angles with sniper) was distinct from AEgabriel's brute-speed takedowns. etc., etc., etc.
This can't be overstated: Thousands of people showed up to watch a laggy, 30 fps, 10hz tickrate, game without custom lobbies in HoW. This is how well Destiny fit its niche in HoW
On Killtime Myths
Every few weeks or so, there is inevitably going to be a thread about how slow kill-times are great, tactical, friendly to a large audience, less twitch/whatever.
I'm going to debunk pretty much all of these myths. Starting with the following fundamental truths about kill-times:
Kill-times are optimized on a per-game basis. An ideal kill-time is based on what the game's maps look like, how fast the players move, and how fluidly the player navigates space. CoD can function with kill-times under .25 (250ms) seconds because it has low navigability, combined with fast, sprinting movement and lots of cover. Halo thrives because the maps are relatively open, and there is generally lower mobility (although recent Halo games have attempted to add mobility, we can clearly see where that has lead the franchise). This allows for 1000-1500ms kill-times.
The difference between kill-times matters more the lower you go. This is due to the human-reaction threshold which starts at 180ms and ends at about 300ms. Therefore, a gun with a 340ms killtime is going to feel distinct from a gun with a 250ms killtime. Even moreso than a 1500ms gun would to a 1000ms
the appropriate killtime standard also depends on the effective killtimes of the game. If ideal killtimes (fastest) is significantly faster than the slowest killtimes, then the game will require more mechanical precision, and heavily reward players who can multi-task between the various elements of gameplay and maintaining mechanical precision. Again, look at HoW. The reason the best players always won thorn fights was because the Thorn two-tap (two headshots) was 340ms of commitment and the three-tap (bodyshots) was double. Furthermore, the best players not only achieved ideal kill-times more often, they did so while adding a unique flavor to their gameplay. For instance, being able to Two tap from multiple angles coming out of a blink/slide/titan skate.
Now, debunking some of the common myths that I see with killtimes:
- Myth: You can't react to low kill-times
For this to be the case, the effective killtimes of the guns in-game would truly have to be below the human reaction time. No non-ohko weapon outside of Glitch TLW bullets can achieve this.
- Low killtimes = CoD/twitch-shooter
As I said earlier, when you're talking low killtimes, how low really, really matters. Thorn never came close to CoD. Furthermore, in CoD, you can spam bullets and get kills.
- Low kill-times = old-people friendly/only allow people with better reaction times to win
Human reaction times span from 180ms to 300ms. It takes 200ms just to ADS a gun in Destiny. It takes another 100ms to move the gun a few hundred pixels at 4 sensitivity. Boom, 300ms just to initiate a gunfight. Boom, 50 year old gamers rejoice. You technically have enough time to react before a gunfight even starts.
On top of this, you have an extremely liberal radar that tells you well in advance when you're going to be getting in a gunfight.
I take medicine that significantly slows my reaction time. I never had particular trouble with the lower kill-times before Taken King.
I've seen 40 year olds do fine in trials and in sweats.
- Low killtimes create linear gameplay where one player gets to ignore their team and steamroll the other team
Sorry, nope. Low killtimes just mean that you have to be especially communicative with your team. gunfights can break out in an instant.
Furthermore, higher kill-times force players into standing next to eachother to secure a kill. Even Destiny's largest maps are not built like Halo's. Teamshooting in Destiny is done shoulder-to-shoulder.
To put it simply, there are more ways you can make a triangle on a map than you can make a straight line. That's why in the streams above, you see players strategically holding spaces apart from one another. Players force eachother out of position with aggressive plays. This requires as much team-work as securing kills in Halo requires.
- High kill-times are more tactical/require smarter play
Sure, this could be an argument. But it depends on the game. In Destiny, I can be halfway across your screen in 500ms. At medium range, I can move faster laterally than you can move your reticle if I wanted to. In halo, I can't
In other words, if killtimes go above a certain threshold, gameplay becomes sloppy.
So you can either systematically reinvent the entire core of your game to accommodate higher kill-times. Or you can keep the game's kill-times where they need to be.
A lot of players have picked up on the fact that Destiny is fundamentally a different game in PvP from when it released. Good players are moving on (or have long moved on) to other games. The fact is, that despite how imbalanced the game was before TTK, Destiny was fundamentally its own thing. Generally, the killtimes of the best guns matched the gameplay. Now, everything is out of whack because the primary sandbox has slower-killtimes.
So instead, of just reverting the endless stream of nerfs, the sandbox team has to artificially cut the game down. If you can't balance specials to shitty primaries, simply practically remove special weapons. That's what they did.
If you can't balance mobility/kill-time ratio. Nerf mobility. That's what they are trying to do (blink/shade-step/T.G.). I don't even know if the sandox team understands the concept that slower killtimes fundamentally conflict with fast movement speed. Who knows. It's kind of wishy-washy. Titan-skating is still ridiculously fast.
Point is, the sandbox team can try to artificially adjust the entire game, or they can just let Destiny be Destiny.
- It's too late to turn back from slower killtimes
No, it isn't. We have a long way to go to get to the end of the tunnel (Becoming the shitty Halo Clone that someone in the sandbox team keeps dreaming about). We still have titan-skating, extremely fast sprint-speed, massive slide distances, extremely high jumps, OHKO grenades that curve sideways to secure kills, tiny-ass maps etc.,etc.,etc.
So if we want high killtimes, we have to fix all of that and that's still not going to be enough.
Why? because Destiny was shipped with killtimes that matched the gameplay. It's like trying to push two rocks up two hills.
Literally, just reload HoW, and tone down Thorn and TLW, Fix weird shit like final rounds, and the bizzarly overnerfed auto-rifles and you have a game. Instead of shredding the bladedancer subclass, add the titan/voidwalker buffs. Mythoclast and Red Death weren't that far off from Thorn and TLW. Literally, if they would have removed some of the DoT duration off of Thorn, and fixed the Glitch bullets on TLW, we could have seen an even better game than we got from HoW.
There is no conclusion. I'm running out of Destiny essays to write.
Speaking of which, check out these Destiny essays, because they have a lot of theory and shit that's related to game balance. Or not. I'm all for consensual readership:
1 Dis about all sorts of shit involving gunplay
2 Dis the one about handcannons
3 Dis the one about gameplay