In the film The Matrix, the protagonist (Neo) learns to see the world around him as the bits and pieces of code that truly comprise it.  A seemingly ordinary “world” is a fabrication held-up by a complex system.  Direct comparisons to other software, like games, aside I want to draw a parallel to post-release support.  Like the Matrix, many modern video games with long “tails” require consistent attention and manipulation.  In the Matrix, personifications of programs and tools monitored and adjusted the world as needed.  In video games, it takes collaboration, teamwork, communication, and time management to keep a game like Call of Duty looking, feeling, and playing great despite patching, bugs, and downloadable content.

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Internal testing showcases potential changes to auto rifles in Destiny.  Left screen sees damage of 19 per hit against an AI enemy; right (and a further shot) shows damage of 15.  Now imagine trying to predict and test PvP impacts of such a change.

 

Bungie’s Destiny provides a generous but unintentional example.  Since launch, Bungie has tried to manage their massive title and its overlapping PvE (player versus enemy AI) and PvP (player versus player) elements.  Unlike a title like Call of Duty that separates story and multiplayer characters, the character you play through with in “story mode” is the same one (including unlocks, inventory, equipment) you play in competitive multiplayer.  Recently, Bungie announced its Weapon 2.0 update that hopes to address lingering and pervasive balance issues with the myriad of in-game armaments.  Roadblocks on the path to balance emerge as the hand canon that dominates PvP, if rebalanced, could minimize its effectiveness in PvE (or negate its viability at all).

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The above image is a graph of the popularity by armament and date of primary weapons in PvP.  Out of the top 4, 3 are hand canons that are slated for some changes to better balance competitive play.

 

If you are familiar with or play any degree of competitive gaming, you probably have some grasp on the impact of small changes in games with these elements. Nerf (diminish) the fire rate on an auto rifle or cut the effective range of a shotgun and gameplay is dramatically altered.

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A graph of PvE heavy weapon prevalence.  The GJallarhorn and Hunger of Crota are both rocket launchers and players possessing these were given preference for “pick-up” events – distorting cooperative play balance.

 

To control the conversation and provide pre-PR (public relations) PR, Bungie has diligently tried to stay transparent and keep the community in and part of “the loop”.  It’s not perfect, and still is the subject of much criticism BUT Bungie’s attempts to keep developers and players connected helps both groups understand the other a little better.  In this way they have enabled players to “see the Matrix” of Destiny.  Though they are not the first to provide in-depth development information, they are exemplars of the process with fresh, frequent updates and surprising community engagement.

 

When considering potential changes to a game, remember this: it’s complicated.  I have jumped to criticize titles far too often without taking the time to examine the breadth and depth of the impact made by said changes.  So be patient, stay informed, and never jump to conclusions…gaming is complicated.

 

 

About the blogger

ccccccMy name is Trevor Shanahan and I am finishing my undergraduate degree in Marketing with a minor in Media Studies.  I am interested in video games and everything they touch (their industry, development, games as art, psychology of games – like gamification, industry issues, cutlure, etc.).  I have come to realize that the more I learn ( and learning is so important) the more I do not know.  Learn as much as you can about what you love and   try to give back to it.