This past weekend, the sequel to Bungie's Destiny was made available as a public beta to try out the game. Having never played the original, I was excited to try out another take on Role Playing Shooting. After playing it however, I'm not so sure that I want to play Destiny 2. One thing I am sure of is how Bungie designed a horrible beta and there are some important takeaways.
1: The Purpose of the Beta
Open Betas are a good chance for new and existing players to try out an upcoming game and see what's in store for them. With Destiny 2, new players were thrown in with little instruction on any of the game's systems. For experts, they were treated to an overly linear (and singleplayer) section.
I don't know who the beta was aimed at, and that's a big problem. If it's for new players to try get into the game, then it was an absolute failure. There was no guidance or explanation of the rules; not even tool-tips to go over the basic systems.
If it was for showing returning players what's new and exciting, then it was just a moderate failure. There were new story elements (I assume, being a new player), but nothing in terms of new game systems or additions which we'll get to next.
2: Where's the Hook
Besides giving players a chance to try out a new game, having an open beta has a secondary purpose -- To sell people on the game. With Destiny 2's beta, it's hard to feel motivated to spend the money.
Again for new players, they were treated to a light show with no purpose or explanation. The issue is that it presents a game scenario where new players are not even being considered a part of the equation. This is even more damning as Destiny 2 is going to be on the PC, as the first game was console only.
Every game in a series is potentially someone's first game, and it's essential to balance new and returning player expectations.
For returning players, I've heard from fans already who said that they did not see anything new or different with the beta. Not helping matters was the overly-linear stage that only served to show off the story. For fans reading this, was that level typical of the Destiny experience?
A better experience would have been having a story level and a second level that showed off the gameplay. The Destiny 2 beta was like being offered to test drive a new car, but you could only drive five miles an hour in the parking lot.
Now I know that people will point out that there was a fireteam and competitive multiplayer options, but unfortunately that takes me to another problem.
3: A "Free" Play
For the week prior, Bungie has been promoting the Destiny 2 beta free for everyone to take a look at the upcoming game. So it was surprising when I went to show off the real meat of the game to find that I was locked out due to not having a PS Plus subscription.
I don't have PS Plus, because I don't play enough console games online to warrant it. More importantly, if you're claiming to have a "free beta," then don't have any pay walls in it. This act left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and has me wondering about just the overall quality of the content (and microtransactions) that are coming.
This was Bungie's chance to let new players actually see what the fuss was about with the Destiny series, and they completely screwed it up. Having a pay wall in your free trial stops new players and keeps them from becoming fans.
Imagine if the Call of Duty multiplayer free weekends removed the perk and experience systems for free players. Not only would that anger players wanting to try it out, but it also meant that they were not seeing all the game systems.
The major hooks from Destiny are the Role Playing Shooter elements and multiplayer; both not on display for free players.
The original Destiny turned out not to be Bungie's magnum opus, but a polarizing game depending on how much DLC you played. The Destiny 2 beta was the time to show new and returning players that they have learned from their mistakes and are making the game better.
Unfortunately, all that they showed was how not to attract people to an open beta. Having a beta is the perfect chance to sell your game with the game itself. What we got was a marketing stunt aimed at people who were already fans of the series, and even that didn't showcase all of the game's strengths.
I don't know about you, but I certainly didn't leave that beta wanting to give Bungie $60 regardless of the platform.
Before we go, let's quickly touch on lessons that we did learn.
Sell Your Game:
The point of opening the doors of your game to everyone should be obvious -- You're giving the audience a chance to see what the fuss is about.
Whether you're giving a demo or a beta, the core gameplay loop of your title should be on display. Someone should walk away from your beta with a good idea about what the game is.
Playing through the Destiny 2 beta, all I can assume is that I'm playing a corridor shooter while Nathan Fillion cracks wise at set points. When I played the beta for Diablo 3 before launch, I was able to see what Blizzard had in plan for the full game and got excited for it. Forty minutes after playing the original Left 4 Dead open beta, I knew I was going to buy that game.
Bungie did not learn the lesson that Capcom did with the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 demo released last month -- Whatever gameplay teasers you put out have to be the best representation of the game. If I'm not ready to pre-order your game after playing your beta/demo, then you have failed in your job.