Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the largest Destiny-related Reddit community exploded with data that seemed to confirm an unadvertised limitation in the game Destiny 2. According to fan analysis, players of the always-online shooting game suffered from drops in experience point (XP) gain depending on what modes they played and for how long… without any in-game notice.
This revelation was promptly followed by the game's developer, Bungie, confirming the discovery as accurate and promising a fix. But this "fix" was coupled with another unannounced change—a flat, across-the-board reduction in XP gains for all Destiny 2 activities. Bungie only confirmed this decision after fans pointed it out.
Destiny 2, like its predecessor, depends largely on an open-ended "end game" system. Once you beat the game's primary "quest" content, you can return to previously covered ground to find remixed and upgraded battles, meant to be played ad nauseam alone or with friends. To encourage such replay, Bungie dangles a carrot of XP gain, which works more slowly than during the campaign stages. Players are awarded a "bright engram" every time they "level up" past the level cap; the engrams are essentially loot boxes that contain a random assortment of cosmetics and weapon mods. Everything you do in the game, from killing a weak bad guy to completing a major raid-related milestone, is supposed to reward you a fixed XP amount.
As series fans gear up for the game's first expansion, slated to launch December 5 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, its eagle-eyed fans at r/DestinyTheGame began questioning whether those rewards were really as fixed as claimed. Some players began to suspect that they were actually getting less XP than advertised each time they repeated certain in-game missions and tasks, such as the game's "Public Events."
With stopwatch in hand, a user named EnergiserX tracked the modes he played, keeping an eye on any shifts in XP gain over time. He put enough data together to confirm those suspicions: the XP gained in certain modes would shrink with each repetition. Worse, the game gave no indication of these diminishing returns. The XP-gain numbers that popped up above the game's XP bar didn't reflect the game's hidden scaling system. Thus, there was no way for a player to accurately calculate how their XP gain had been affected or scaled without going through EnergiserX's exhaustive process.
With findings in hand, the tester posted on Reddit with calls to the developers for a response, which the community received on Saturday. Bungie confirmed its use of an "XP scaler" and added that it was "not performing the way we'd like it to," which meant the developer would remove that XP-scaling system upon the game's next patch.
However, Bungie didn't clarify how the developers actually would have liked for this XP-scaling system to work, nor what factored into it announcing any changes beyond the system simply being discovered.
Double your XP grind, double your fun?
A patch went live on Sunday, and one data-hungry player soon confirmed that all of the XP-scaling systems they'd uncovered were now gone. Players would now be rewarded XP as advertised in the game, no matter what mode was played or for how long.
But this patch introduced another unannounced change to the XP system. Bungie decided to tune the speed of XP gain by doubling the required XP needed to "level up," from 80,000 points to 160,000. Patch notes didn't mention this change; Bungie, once again, had to be questioned by its fanbase before confirming the exact amount of this XP-related change. (As of press time, the game's public API does not report the updated XP-per-level amount to players combing data that way, which Bungie says will be fixed soon.)
Fan outcry to this system has mostly hinged on the lack of transparency from the developer, with the game neither displaying correct XP amounts while scaling was active nor officially guiding players to play better-gaining modes. Other players have pointed to official, paid promotions, like Bungie and Activision's promotional deal with the snack food Pop-Tarts, which offered doubled XP gains in exchange for buying their food. "Did I technically get the 25-percent [XP] boost?" Reddit user Armlock311 wrote on Saturday. "Technically yes, but if [the] scaling mechanic was public knowledge before the Pop-Tarts event began, would you have spent your money on Pop-Tarts for the XP gain? I wouldn't have."
Other players have openly questioned how much this scaling system was driven by the game's real-money economy. Destiny 2 players can spend real money on the bright engrams, which can more quickly unlock the game's loot box contents than can be earned via XP grinding. Bungie's Saturday statement about the XP scaling system did not address this question from fans.