The consensus so far on Destiny 2 is that it's a hugely entertaining game that easily surpasses the first in terms of narrative (although so does watching a piece of bread brown in a toaster, so that's a low bar). However, one aspect of Bungie's shared world shooter has some fans fuming.
In Destiny 1, shaders – which are used to colour pieces of gear – can be used as often as you like. That makes sense, because Destiny is a loot-focussed game in which you are constantly upgrading your stuff, so it's nice to be able to customise your character at will by experimenting with different colour schemes.
However, in Destiny 2, shaders can only be used a single time, and as well as earning them via levelling, chests, engrams, and vendors, you can – sing it with me! – ♪ gamble for them in loot boxes you buy with real world money ♪.
That is, you pay Bungie for the mysterious contents of a box, and may or may not get what you want out of it.
A Reddit thread demanding that Bungie remove the single-use rule (but strangely, not the microtransactions themselves) has more than 41,000 upvotes.
In response, Destiny 2 director Luke Smith defended one-use shaders on Twitter, stating that Bungie expects players to be "flush" with shaders through gameplay alone, and that repeating missions to get more is a super exciting thing.
"Shaders are now an ongoing reward for playing," he wrote. "Customization will inspire gameplay. Each planet has unique armor and Shader rewards. With D2, we want statements like 'I want to run the Raid, Trials, or go back to Titan to get more of its Shader' to be possible."
You'll notice that this doesn't explain why they are also selling shaders for real-world cash, but we all know why: because some people spend money over and above that which they paid for a game merely for the chance to get loot (however insignificant), and this makes publishers a lot of money.
Many players never do that of course – I'm one of them – but often the way a game parcels out loot is affected by the presence of microtransactions, and that affects spenders and non-spenders alike. (As an aside, it's often stated that microtransactions are for those that don't have time to play a game, but what does it say about a game if players opt to spend money to skip chunks of it?)
Making them consumable is not an answer to the question "How can we make this game more fun?". I wonder what question it was an answer for— Jones (@CaptCatHands) September 7, 2017
In addition, loot boxes are designed to exploit the more vulnerable personality traits of certain players (including younger players), and these people (identified by publishers using terms such as "whales") dump vast quantities of money into things like loot boxes. This may or may not bother you, but you've got to admit it's a pretty cynical practice. Naturally, Bungie makes the system as opaque as possible too, employing several in-game currencies and granting shaders in odd numbers to confuse buyers and annoy perfectionists.
And it's worth noting that loot boxes in Destiny 2 don't just contain cosmetic items. There's a chance you'll end up with mods that give your shields, speed, reload time and so forth a boost as well.
That might not seem like much, but it's the thinner end of the wedge. Publishers will continue testing the boundaries of player tolerance for these things, because publishers exist to make money, and are run by heartless automatons that see us strictly as financial units. Give 'em an inch, and all that. And just how much money does Activision need? Imagine being that rich, and yet still using every opportunity you can to extract more money from your fans.
As Jim Sterling says in the above short video on the topic: "People saying [that these things aren't a big deal] are going to change their tune when companies come for the bits of the game they like."
Some online are saying that Destiny 2 must be a great game if shader microtransactions are all people can find to complain about. For these people, it's obviously not a big deal. In this case, it's not a big deal for me either: I won't be playing Destiny 2 because I thought the first was incredibly dull and in general I find loot-heavy games grindy and tedious.
However, I still find this whole practice pretty gross. Part of the problem is that these things are so pervasive in games already that they are the new normal. Of course this new game has a somewhat shitty business model buried inside it. They all do!
What do you lot reckon? A big deal? Don't care? Par for the course? Something else? And do you ever spend money on loot boxes? Let us know in the comments below.