Why you should take ‘Destiny’ beta concerns with a grain of salt

The old Russian “Cosmodrome” map players got to explore in a Destiny beta that closed this weekend left many of them wondering: Is that it

Destiny is the next game from Bungie, the developer behind the Halo franchise, which is to say expectations around Destiny are extremely high. Halo all but defined a console generation, and Bungie has to try and top that. 

The story behind Destiny has all the makings of an epic adventure. When humanity discovers an alien being called the Traveler on Mars, the discovery marks the beginning of a large-scale human migration through the solar system. 

Destiny begins after the Traveler’s ancient enemy, the Darkness, kicks humanity off its colonies on Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the Moon. And the only remaining safe city for humans is on Earth, underneath the husk of the Traveler.

So far, so good. Bungie has a thing for stories where humanity’s back is against the wall and we’re facing extinction at the hands of a conglomerate of hostile, alien species. Four planets and a moon ought to be room enough for hundreds of thousands, or millions of Destiny players to have fun redeeming mankind through the rapid expenditure of bullets and explosives, right?

Concerns began when a poster on the r/DestinyTheGame subreddit noted that every planet in Destiny, which at present would be Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, plus the Moon, has only one map to explore. The comment was made by Bungie Assistant Community Manager David Dague during a livestream of Destiny play on Twitch.

The opinionated posters at NeoGAF got ahold of this information and blew it up into an 86-page-and-growing discussion/argument about whether Destiny is geographically big enough to warrant all the hype.

There was one mission to the Moon, which was only offered Saturday evening during the beta test. The rest of the beta took place in Old Russia, in a former jumping-off point for human colony ships called the Cosmodrome

The Cosmodrome wasn’t very large, as far as video game spaces go. It might have taken a solo player a day or two to run through all the story missions on the map, to get what they needed out of the free-explore mode, and then to team up with some other Destiny beta players for the difficult, cooperative Strike Mission at the center of the Cosmodrome.

For the prospective Destiny player who doesn’t intend to sink into the game’s multiplayer component or play multiple times to experiment with different character classes, this is potentially a cause for alarm. With one map per planet, five planets in total, the math doesn’t work out to an overwhelming amount of gameplay measuring by the two days’ worth of content on the Earth map.

NeoGAF user ButchCat summed up the concerns nicely in a post on the huge, ongoing thread.

“So we’ve completed 20 percent of the game in the beta already. Nice going for a 400 million dollar game.”

Bungie Community Manager Eric “Urk” Osbourne eventually stepped into the thread to regulate.

“Destiny’s pretty big. It’s the biggest game we’ve ever made, by far, and we’re sort of known for making games you can play for months, years, and even decades if you’re a little bit…dedicated,” Osbourne wrote.

According to Osbourne, Bungie was only able to support the Halo games on the multiplayer side, through the release of new map packs, and some at Bungie weren’t happy about this state of affairs. Destiny, on the other hand, is meant to support all types of players. 

“Destiny is philosophically built [to] support every type of player, and all modes with ongoing activities and events. We look at it quite a bit like television programming, as opposed to a singular film, as we had in the past,” wrote Osbourne.

Part of the confusion here is that beta tests on game consoles are often just glorified stress tests. “Beta” usually implies a game that is still very much in development, and subject to marked changes once the beta ends. Beta tests on consoles, however, often present the player with polished-looking content, which creates the illusion that testers are seeing a product that is very close to the finished.

The beta test for Destiny looked extremely well-polished. That’s ostensibly why fans have gotten themselves up in arms about how much content the final game will have, by taking the beta experience as too literal a representation of what the final, retail game will be like.

“Beta was water wings. Level 8 is nothing,” wrote Osbourne, in reference to the maximum level achievable by players in the beta. “You barely scratched the surface, and it seems like some folks had fun with what was there. If you did, good news. More soon.”

Image via Bungie/YouTube

Dennis Scimeca

Dennis Scimeca

Dennis Scimeca was the Daily Dot's gaming reporter until 2016. He loves first-person shooters, role-playing games, and massively multiplayer online games. His work has appeared in Salon, NPR, Ars Technica, Kotaku, Polygon, Gamasutra, GamesBeat, Paste, and Mic.