Destiny: Bungie devilishly trapped its players
On forums and in other community venues, both hardcore and casual players will attest to that sentiment, yet somehow, both fan bases still chug along, min-maxing their stats, grinding out faction reputation for a chance at extremely rare cosmetic items, or chasing that one elusive gun. Normally, that would sound like we players are making our own decisions about grinding extra hard for minimal returns, but really, we’ve fallen prey to Bungie’s grand designs.
Once you hit the soft level cap — something a robot has managed — you can play through four weekly events (currently two raids and two strikes) per character until the reset seven days later allows you to get loot from those events once again. In an effort to gain extra chances on dropping specific desired loot, players created extra characters (a maximum of three slots), which not only extends their playtime, but grants them access to the game’s most enjoyable content extra times per reset. At GDC this year, head of User Research at Bungie, John Hopson, revealed the tricks and strategies Bungie employed to keep us coming back for more — even if certain players are able to uncover what’s coming down the pipeline.
Three years before Destiny released, Bungie had test groups regularly playing game builds and documenting almost every response elicited during gameplay. The developer split players up into five categories: short and long campaigners, short and long omnivores, and specialists. Campaigners would play the campaign, omnivores would partake in activities from every category — PvE, PvP, and anything else — and specialists would focus on one specific activity. Wanting players to get the most out of its game, Bungie focused on the omnivores.
Bungie employed eye-tracking technology to document where players looked, they recorded what players said — explicit or otherwise — and gave players a button to press when they felt something in the game worked. So, while Bungie employs dastardly tricks like time-gating the game’s most fun content or requiring a slog of a faction reputation grind, the developer’s real trick is it psychoanalyzed — and recorded — players to find out what works best.