‘Destiny’ Beta Shows Social Limitations Of Anti-Troll Decisions

As the Destiny beta test takes a two day break for maintenance, the overall impressions from the Playstation 4 and Playstation 3 experience have been positive so far. While the game is technically sound for a beta and sports some solid and exciting gameplay, Bungie’s “shared world shooter” lacks two components that make it feel like it is an experience being shared with others – the ability to communicate and play the game locally on the same TV.

The communication problem in Destiny is a conscious design decision by Bungie to limit voice chat only with people that share the same fireteam. The approach was taken to limit the likelihood of obnoxious players ruining the experience of others as multiplayer lead Lars Bakken explained in a Game Informer interview.

One of the things that we’re doing for the first time ever in Destiny, we’re taking a different approach to voice chat. We know that, not just in multiplayer, that in general, when you get into a game with someone that you don’t know or someone that you’ve never seen before and may never see again, they have this power to completely destroy your entire experience and maybe ruin the game for you forever. And so what we’re doing instead of having that…one in ten chance possibility of someone ruining your game, we’re effectively saying you only have voice chat to your fireteam. And we’re doing other things to let you communicate with other players, but it’ll be interesting to see how people react to it, for sure.

This may limit trolling, but the result in my experience has been a rather lifeless series of missions during the Destiny alpha and beta test when I do not play with people I already know. The communication options outside of voice chat are currently limited to four gestures – waving, sitting, pointing and dancing. None are particularly useful when trying to communicate with teammates. This makes coordinating during Strikes, Missions and competitive multiplayer needlessly more difficult.

Compare that the various social offerings in other games that may or may not include voice chat as an option. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn for the PS4 offers both text chat and a long list of emotes that are mostly silly but include useful ones as well. Battlefield 3 introduced the concept of spotting enemies / targets on the PS3 and Xbox 360 and improved with Battlefield 4 despite those games other problems. Meanwhile, the PC MOBA Smite from Hi-Rez Studios borrowed the Tribes Voice Guided System to provide quick and important communication with teammates in as little three button presses.

If a Bungie decides not to expand voice chat to proximity outside of fireteams or some other measure, a better non-verbal communication system will be needed to point out targets, destinations or objectives.

Destiny Gameplay
Destiny for the PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360.

This brings me to the lack of a local co-op option with Destiny. Bungie excelled at local co-op with Halo: Combat Evolved through Halo: Reach and created some memorable moments with my son, myself and his friends. So, its absence here has been especially disheartening during the alpha and beta as we take turns playing instead of doing what should happen in a “shared world shooter,” playing together.

The lack of local splitscreen was confirmed in a Bungie interview with GameSpot in June. The realization of that during the alpha and beta has been especially bittersweet, however. I would take Destiny running at something less than 1080p with splitscreen co-op if it meant the opportunity to enjoy the game with my kid or my kid to enjoy the game with his neighborhood friends.

Is Bungie setting up Destiny to fail at socializing by limiting voice chat to fireteams and no local co-op play? Or do you think the social options currently available are all that’s needed? Sound off in the comments below?

The Destiny beta will return Wednesday, July 23 for the PS4 and PS3 and launch for the Xbox One and Xbox 360. Bungie confirmed today that the Xbox One version will run at 1080p when it is released in September even if the beta is only 900p.

[Images via Bungie]