Tobold's Blog
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Circumventing the quit wall in Destiny

Keen recently coined the phrase quit wall for the point in a game where "it’s a natural breaking point where [the developer] essentially gave players permission to quit their game if they couldn't climb over and reach the other side of the content.". In other words, players don't ask themselves the question whether they should quit a game when they are in the flow. If there is a break point in that flow, like a step-change in difficulty, or a big change in how the game plays, people are more likely to consider quitting.

I recently reached such a quit wall in Destiny. I did about 20 attempts to finish the last moon story mission, Chamber of Night, and failed every time. You get locked into a chamber where you have to withstand a constant barrage of waves and waves of monsters, and if you are alone a single mistake means you have to start from the beginning again. In a regular MMORPG there would be three possible solutions to that: Skip that piece of content to go elsewhere, find a group to help you with that content, or outlevel the content and come back. Skipping doesn't work because you need to finish Chamber of Night to open access to the next planet, Venus (I think). Finding a group didn't work because Destiny doesn't have decent group finding tools for story missions. If I join a strike mission (which are supposed to be harder than story missions), I get grouped with two random strangers, and up to now that always worked well (except if I get disconnected): Just by being present another player gives you the opportunity to respawn if you die, the scene only resets if ALL players are dead. But for the story missions there is no such automated group finder, and even by setting my fireteam option to public and waiting for an hour in front of the story mission dungeon I couldn't find a teammate. Story missions are solo or to play with already existing friends on your friends list. As I don't play console games very often, I didn't have any. And as there is no chat in Destiny, it is hard to meet people and make new friends.

I tried outleveling, but even at level 13 I still failed to finish Chamber of Night. So I considered quitting. But I do like playing Destiny, and I wondered what the alternatives to quitting were. If I could level up my character very quickly, and get good gear, then maybe I could finish that story mission and move on.

What I found was that because of how loot drops and death in Destiny are handled, it is in fact very easy to level very fast and get loot very fast as soon as you reach the moon. The first moon story mission, the Dark Beyond, has somewhere in the middle a scene where you find a dead guardian in front of the Temple of Crota. At that point the temple door opens, and about 30 mobs of the Hive pour out. The standard way to beat that encounter, and that is suggested by your ghost, is to move back. But you can also stand right in front of the door and kill a lot of monsters within a minute in a blaze of glory, which ends with your death. O death, where is thy sting? There isn't one in Destiny other than you being set back to the latest checkpoint. Which in this situation is the door of the temple opening and the Hive pouring out. Which means that you can stand in front of the door again and die in a blaze of glory again. And again. And again. Each time you gain xp. The loot drops (other than ammo) don't reset when you die, so after a number of waves you pick them all up. If you play the mission on hard the mobs are level 9 and drop more loot. But in Destiny the level of the loot drops depends on YOUR level, not the level of the mobs.

So after doing that for one evening, I am suddenly level 19, with a full set of nice uncommon and rare level 18ish gear. Plus I learned a lot about how the Hive mobs AI works, and there are nearly the same mobs in the Chamber of Night. I think tonight I should be able to beat that mission and move onwards from the moon. It does feel a bit like cheating, but if playing as intended only gets me to the quit wall, I'll play as not intended to circumvent that wall.

Are you still upholding your opinion of "Destiny being casual" after powerleveling?

Do you believe that average console-playing housewife will do the same?
Well, it was pretty casual up to that point. If we assume that I can't beat the last story mission of the second planet in the game (I think its the 10th mission overall) because "Tobold sucks at this sort of game", then I have to wonder why I didn't have any problem earlier, and even finished the presumably harder "strike" mission on earth twice out of two attempts.

So up to this point Destiny was a casual-friendly game. And suddenly there is a step-change in difficulty, a "quit wall". I'll have to see the next planet to find out whether that sudden jump in difficulty was a one-time thing, or whether from that point on everything is much more hardcore.

Right now I can't exclude the hypothesis that Destiny is a casual game where somebody made a design error at a single point in a single mission.
I can't speak for Destiny, but I have run into this same kind of situation in other games. A game that was fairly easy up to that point is suddenly extremely hard, bordering on impossible. It has always turned out there was something I missed, some trick or exploit, that made it just as easy as the rest of the game. I am now fairly quick to look things up online to make sure I didn't forget to push the button that gives you five super strong allies or something.

Of course, the other possibility is this mission is designed to be done in a group, and the failure is with the group finding tools, not with the mission design. A lot of game designers seem to just assume you will have several friends all playing the game with you.

I am curious, though. You said you gained several levels and some solid gear. Does this now mean that once you pass this mission, you will now be up on gear and levels compared to what you should have been at this stage? In a game you are already calling casual friendly, this could be a real problem with things being way too easy.
I did the Chamber of Night mission now at level 19, and then leveled up to 20 in the first mission on Venus. The Venus mission was much easier, but still not trivial. I think the main thing I was missing was gear, not levels, as levels have less of an influence in Destiny.
Right now I can't exclude the hypothesis that Destiny is a casual game where somebody made a design error at a single point in a single mission.
Fair evaluation, it does sound like that.

When games get accidentally hard...
@Gevlon "console-playing housewife?"

I don't know of any console-playing housewives who would be turned off by a little power-leveling. In fact I'd go so far as to argue that most gamer women I know are generally more efficient and dedicated at power leveling that guys I know, self included.

@Tobold thanks for the tip, I'm about to hit the spot you just got through, will engage in a little "gaming the system" as well to get through the hump.
You're just more of a casual than you like to think you are. I did it first time at level 9, without dying once and the heroic modifier on. The game is still really casual. All of the missions can be done in a weekend without much effort. The only 'quit wall' is the random loot drops are needed to break the level 20 cap and that raids can't be done via matchmaking.
Came back to comment that I did reach this point and passed it by without even realizing this was the "quit point" you were talking about...hit Venus at level 12 and after a while remembered there was supposed to be a hard spot you had yes, I am inclined to think either somehow I have better shooter skills (I wouldn't take that bet) than you or perhaps you're a bit more casual than I in terms of this particular style of game.
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