Backlog: In Memoriam: Loot Cave edition

Photo courtesy of Wesley Copeland

September 24th marked a sobering day for the Destiny enthusiasts and a milestone for Bungie's MMO-like shooter: it's the day when the game's first major wealth-acquisition exploit was removed.

I've been reading an inordinate amount of economics-related books and news stories lately, so forgive me for dusting off my rudimentary Econ 101 knowledge with this analogy:

Any online game with a persistent universe will develop an economy of some kind. In Destiny, that economy revolves around loot: items that drop from bad guys or are doled out as rewards for overcoming environmental and player-based challenges. As the sole governing body over Destiny's economy, Bungie made the unexpected decision to remove trading from the final game. Simultaneously, your character's maximum level is locked down at 20, which most players will hit before completing the game's relatively brief sequence of story missions. The crux of all this is that end-game content like raiding is locked to players who are well past level 20, and the only way to push past the level cap and acquire even more power is to obtain and power up extremely rare gear; unfortunately for most players, the game is already notorious for its miserly loot distribution. In other words, if you want to enjoy the richest challenges the game has to offer, you've got to put in some long hours grinding through repetitive tasks out of some faint hope that you'll eventually be rewarded with a piece of gear that boosts your character's level slightly.

In this economy of post-20 leveling, supply is incredibly constrained by Bungie and demand goes well beyond the established means of obtaining rare gear through the loot lottery attached to 30-minute strike missions and countless bouts in the Crucible. When demand outpaces supply so substantially, it only makes sense for people to seek out loopholes in the system.

Players found just the shortcut they wanted in an otherwise-unassuming place called the "loot cave." By exploiting enemy respawning behavior, players could trick the game into endlessly creating new bad guys to mow down, greatly increasing the probability of earning rare gear. Of course, it wasn't very fun, and Bungie wisely put an end to it today. Unfortunately, there's been no compensation by increasing gear acquisition elsewhere in the game, and players are now stuck grinding through hours of strike missions and crucible multiplayer matches once again--or, more likely, hungrily hunting down the next exploitable loot workaround.

So long, loot cave. We hardly knew ye.

This week we've got Aaron sharing the sordid details of his loot cave-exploiting Destiny spoils while Nick reflects on the 20-level journey he's taken with his hunter and wonders "what's next?" Also, Doug played a racing game because that's what Doug does.  - Nick Cummings

Aaron

Backlog-Ancient-Destiny-Aliens.jpg

I’m not saying I’m going to talk about Destiny...but I’m going to talk about Destiny.

Yeah, that old chestnut.

Here's the scoop: I hit level 25 last weekend. For the unaware, non-Destiny playing plebeians out there that means I hit the hard level cap of 20; however, through toil and hardship (and the right amount of purple-colored special gear) I willed myself further into the so-called soft level cap, which, as of this writing tops-out at 30.

For my fellow patricians (you know who you are -- salve!): Yes, I used the wonderful, beautiful power of the Loot Cave. My endorsement of this mythical trove of treasure feels like an infomercial, so I'll just own it: "Dying to know how I went from level 21 to 25 in just six hours? Buy my new book, Loot Caves: Your Secret to Success!"

Question: Is the cave an exploitation of Bungie's gating systems?

Fuck yeah it is!

Even so, a soon-to-be-closed loophole is a blessing for the working professional such as myself. And hey: I've logged my fair share of hours since the launch. But it was only when I (unfairly) amassed volumes of rare equipment through the power of the cave that I observed a return on my investment. Such is the bane of all MMO-styled adventures -- you put in the time without immediate pay-off.

No, Destiny isn't boring me. I love it. Really, I do. Still, I also love the fact that there's an exploit that allows me to get ahead with less effort. I'm a busy guy.

My hunter's next task: get more purple shit.

Nick

Aaron guided me on a marathon tour through Destiny's final chapter. Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids, of course, but it's also not the greatest place to stage your Earth-centric game's finale -- particularly when there's virtually no denouement to speak of. Five story levels and one big, dumb boss fight later and I found myself back right where I'd started: at the Tower, talking to merchants, wondering whether I'd actually finished a game or not.

Carolyn Petit already wrote a way better assessment of Destiny's squandered narrative potential than I ever could, but the reason I find myself still entranced by Destiny has nothing to do with its world or overarching story. It's the loot economy, stupid.

I'm afraid I don't have a whole lot else worth sharing this week. I'm still plugging away at Fire Emblem: Awakening (chapter 13) and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (dungeon 4) and they continue to be exactly what I thought those games were: pretty good at what they aim for. Ho-hum. Maybe it's time I suck it up and prepare for the emotional turmoil of playing through another season of Telltale's The Walking Dead.

Doug

Most racing games start you in piddly, slow cars. GRID Autosport lets you jump straight into FIA GT3-level cars in the Endurance part of the ladder. Nice!

Most racing games start you in piddly, slow cars. GRID Autosport lets you jump straight into FIA GT3-level cars in the Endurance part of the ladder. Nice!

I have to keep this a little brief for today (I have a precious day off of work on a weekday and need to run like three errands including going across the city to find one very specific ATM - Japanese banking is silly) but after last week's podcast asking about stuff to play, I promptly took that to heart, went out, and got two games...that we didn't even mention.

I didn't even really intend to buy anything on PlayStation Network; honest! I was just looking. And I rarely look at the Flash Sale splash page, but I happened to see it when it said "RACING GAME SALE" so I knew something bad was about to happen to my wallet. I'd given GRID Autosporta side glance in recent weeks, since it features a wide range of racing cars I like (sub-Formula 1 open-wheel cars, GT sports cars, touring cars) and had been reviewed decently well. But it was still $60. Not on flash sale it wasn't! $12.49 for an almost-new game I had interest in is a hard offer to turn down, so I jumped on it.

I've put some time into the game, and I really enjoy it. You hop from racing variety to variety, and the series are short enough that it never feels like you're locked in. The handling feels great, and it's the kind of team-based racing gimmick I've wanted to see in a game like this for a while. There isn't as much focus on collecting cars as there is just on racing them, which is good.

The other title I picked up last weekend was Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition, aka "that updated console port of Diablo III". Despite owning the PC version, I put hardly 15 hours into it, which is a shame. But I prefer games on console, and needed to pick up the expansion anyways, so after trying the demo a month or two ago and loving the controls I decided to pick this up. It is absolutely fantastic; it sure is Diablo, but that isn't a bad thing!