What We Can Learn From Usability Failures in Destiny

Destiny is a great game. It is getting a lot of complaints due to some obvious failures such as not having enough content, lacking LFG or match-making mechanics for the more difficult missions, and not having a lot of character customization options. These are all true and valid criticisms, but I still find myself playing the game a LOT.

Recently I’ve found myself focusing on another kind of failure in the game. These are user-experience failures. I thought that it might be fun and useful to clearly identify them because some of the principles involved may be useful in other kinds of software.

Orbit

Destiny is constructed as a series of play areas where you can do different things. There are areas with missions and enemies (Venus, Earth, the Moon, and Mars), a safe-zone on Earth called The Tower in which you can trade with merchants and receive bounties, and Orbit where you can see all these areas and decide where you want to go next.

Orbit is useless.

It should not be in the game.

Orbit basically lets me look at a map of places to go, select one, and go there. This would be fine if I didn’t have to pay the cost of load-time in order to transition from one area to another. If I’m on Earth and I want to turn in some bounties and then go to Mars, I have to:

1) go to orbit (load time)

2) go to the Tower (load time)

3) go back to orbit (load time)

4) go to Mars (load time)

Instead I should be able to:

1) go to the Tower (load time)

2) Travel to Mars (load time)

In fact, I should be able to travel directly from any one area to any other area without having to load a special context in order to see a map. If I want to skip the Tower, I should just be able to:

1) go to Mars (load time)

Why is orbit even a thing? Why can’t I access the map from any location? Why can’t I stay in the world I’m in after a mission?

The Sin: Wasting User’s Time

Destiny shoehorns the player into a workflow that doesn’t make sense for the player and wastes their time. If there is a technical reason for this workflow, Bungie should solve the underlying problem in such a way that the user’s play flow is streamlined.

Joining and Leaving a Fireteam.

Let’s say I’m in the Tower and I’m invited to join a fire team. Let’s stipulate further that the fireteam is also in the Tower. The game

1) immediately takes me to orbit

2) and takes me back to the Tower.

WTF?

Likewise, if I’m in a fire team and I leave it the game almost always takes me out of where I am and sends me to Orbit (which as I’ve already stated is useless).

The problem here is likely technical (but it’s solvable). I imagine that the issue is that I’m in the The Tower on a different server than the rest of the fireteam. Bungie has chosen to solve this problem by taking me out of the current server and completely reloading a new context on the new server with the same fireteam. Other MMO’s have faced this problem and solved it without forcing the player to reload the same environment they’re already in.

The Sin: Wasting User’s Time

Destiny is forcing the player to endure the consequences of their bad design decisions.

Cut Scenes

OMFG I can’t believe I’m even having to say this so late in the development of video games. Unskippable cut-scenes are the 2nd to worst sin in games. The first is unskippable cut scenes that start immediately before an epic battle which will likely kill the hero many times before the player succeeds. Having to watch the same cut-scene over and over between attempts frustrates the player and drains enjoyment out of the game-playing experience. Some games are so bad with this that I have stopped playing them altogether.

Attention Game Developers–I’m interested and willing to watch your cut-scenes once. I know you put a lot of work into them and want the players to see them and enjoy them. However, the game is supposed to be fun, and watching the same @$#*$_)(*!@&)(*&$ movie over and over again makes the game not fun. Please for the love of all that is bright and good in the world, stop!

If I was a professional game reviewer, I would immediately dock 20% off of the game score for doing this once. In Destiny, no cut scenes are skippable. Gah!

The Sin: Wasting User’s Time

Failing to understand what the player wants out of your game and instead pushing your own agenda on the player leaves a bad taste in the player’s mouth.

Summary

Hmm, it looks like all of these problems are a variant of the same thing. The user’s time is valuable and the workflows you design for your software should be designed to get user’s where they want to go as fast as possible.

Destiny is a great game. It’s a well-executed MMOFPS and I’m still enjoying playing it. However, it has some serious warts. All it will take is a more competent competitor to enter this space to get me to play (and recommend to my friends) something else.

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