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How Destiny became Farmville
Here’s why thousands of Destiny players are shooting blindly into a cave right now.
Farmville is a game about doing pointless things that require no skill ad infinitum, which is why the traditional gaming crowd despises Farmville so much. But in a turn of absurdity, Destiny, which was widely anticipated as the epitome of what traditional gaming has to offer, has descended down a decidedly Farmvillian path.
In order to score the pieces of armor that let players advance past level 20, which they must do to access Destiny’s high-level endgame content, players have taken to shooting blindly into a cave over and over and over again.
Destiny has turned into this. Welcome to cave farming.
To review: Destiny is a hybrid between first-person shooters and dungeon crawlers. In FPS games, you run around and shoot things. In dungeon crawlers, you kill monsters and enemies who drop money, weapons, and armor—collectively referred to as “loot”—in the hopes of getting more powerful weapons and armor than you already have.
The challenge is to see how high you can turn the difficulty up while still beating the levels through quick reflexes and working together with your teammates. This is essentially what Destiny turns into once a player has finished the threadbare story.
The dungeon-crawler Diablo III launched with five Acts, each broken into multiple levels, to give players a lot of content to repeat at higher levels of difficulty once they accrued better and more powerful gear. Destiny, on the other hand, has a handful of 20-minute levels, called Strikes, and one substantive Raid level. That’s not a lot of content to repeat ad nauseum, though that’s the first, preferred method developer Bungie suggests for players to seek out high-level gear.
The only other preferred method is to play multiplayer matches in the Crucible, which is horribly imbalanced. There also seems to be no rhyme or reason to who does or does not receive end-of-match rewards of high-level gear.
“Engrams” are like blueprints, which are translated into items at Destiny’s social hub by a character called the Cryptarch. Purple items, called Legendary items, are good. Blue items, called Rare items, are not. A purple engram ought to give you something good. Too often, it does not.
Exotic items are even better than Legendary items, and you have to grind a currency called Strange Coins to buy Exotics. It’s just another system that, even if working as intended, still feels broken. Hence the latest Downfall parody, which is so spot-on with its criticism it’s tragic.
This isn’t about Destiny players wanting stuff just to have it. A player in Destiny needs high-level gear to access the high-level content to keep playing. High-end armor in Destiny has an attribute called Light. Without enough Light, players are blocked from progressing.
A new Twitter account, @legendaryengram, has gained over 18,000 followers in just five days. Some choice tweets:
Roses are red Your item is blue Your engram was purple Sucks to be you
— Legendary Engram (@legendaryengram) September 18, 2014
Sorry, guys. I know you wanted an exotic. I really blue it.
— Legendary Engram (@legendaryengram) September 21, 2014
— Britt (@brittca) September 21, 2014
This is where the Cave Farm of Death comes in. The cave is a spawn point for enemies, so given a choice between beating your head against a wall running the same Strikes, or getting your ass beaten in the Crucible, you might as well just sit there and shoot enemies in the cave (read: fish in a barrel) for the same amount of time, with a higher chance of getting gear you want because it drops more often.
It’s a matter of choosing between rolling the dice three times or a hundred times in 20 minutes. Here’s our intrepid Daily Dot test of this farming method to see if it works. Not the best results on this run, but over time it does seem to generate more engrams/gear than you’re going to see on an average Strike run, and certainly more than you’ll receive from any Crucible match.
The other good part of this farming tactic is that a Public Event called “Defend the Warsat” drops right on the spot where you’re shooting into the cave about every 30 minutes or so. Completing Public Events earns you the currency you need to purchase Legendary gear. In other words, if you farm the cave, you kill two birds with one stone.
To be fair, Bungie has painted themselves into quite a spot. If they make Legendary and Exotic items too easy to find, players will quickly access and blow through the extremely small amount of remaining content. Then they’ll get bored and leave. There just isn’t much to do in Destiny, unless you enjoy the Crucible.
One has to wonder whether it would have been worth it for Bungie to hold Destiny back for another year until there was more content to release, and until the loot systems had been properly tuned to keep players happy. But that’s what patches and paid downloadable content are for. In the interim, happy grinding!
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.