Destiny doesn’t support matchmaking for raids, and one month on Brenna’s still convinced that’s a good thing.
The Vault of Glass
At present, Destiny has only one raid, the Vault of Glass on Venus.
It’s available in easy (level 26+) and hard (level 28+) difficulties.
Since you can’t equip more than one exotic armour piece, the raid is the only place to gather armour with enough light to get you to level 30.
Weapons found during the raid generally have special abilities that make the raid itself easier on repeat attempts (or hard mode).
The raid is set up for six players, but it can be completed by three. Two can do all but the Gorgon section. One alone can solo the bosses, with luck, skill and maybe a bit of cheese.
Destiny has been out for over a month now and we’ve had plenty of time to think about Bungie and Activision’s grand investment. We’re still another month away from the first major content expansion, so the play-once-and-trade-in crowd have moved on, and Bungie and its players are settling into an MMO-like cycle of daily and weekly activities punctuated by special events.
As with any MMO or indeed any game, nobody’s totally sure why they’re doing what they’re doing, but they’re doing it: building a character or multiple characters towards the cap, collecting all the best gear, mastering the toughest challenges. One of the cornerstones of this play schedule for characters of level 26 and above is a weekly attempt at the raid – maybe two for those advanced enough to tackle hard mode.
We don’t know what the active player base is, although on average 3.2 million players log in every day. We do know that over half a million players have finished the raid, and that number is growing every day.
It’s not growing as fast as some players would like, though. The Bungie forums, the Destiny Subreddit, and gaming website comment threads are full of the same complaint repeated over and over again: the raid needs matchmaking.
I have said it before, and one month in, I’m saying it again: no it bloody doesn’t.
The Vault of Glass is, for now, the toughest challenge Destiny offers – and also the most satisfying. Even now that the raid’s secrets have been cracked and laid bare (all but that bloody fifth chest), executing the necessary gameplay is a test of skill, co-ordination and, ah ha ha, preparation. It feels like an entirely different game – or perhaps a whole new level. It’s no wonder everyone wants to do it, right?
Yeah, and I understand that, I really do. You hear a little bit about the raid – how hard it is, or maybe even how easy it is, now that skilled players and top level gear are in close proximity – and you want to have a go at it. The problem is, you’ve been solo-ing most of the game so far (which, you know what? Me too! Well done us) and so you don’t have a group of friends whom you know well enough put aside anywhere from 45 minutes to, oh fifteen fucking hours, to potentially have a brilliant time and score a lot of delicious loot or, you know, the exact opposite of that.
How nice it would be to just open up the navigation pane, select the raid, and wait a few minutes until you and five other strangers were thrown together and dropped down at the doors to the vault! Right? After all, you’re prepared. You have ammo packs. You have a level 30 weapon, and a void fusion rifle. You’re at least level 26, and probably level 28. You’ve read up on various strategies, so you know what you’re doing. You have a mic so you can communicate. You want to get your run done and earn your first piece of raid gear so that – blessed be! – you can start pushing for level 30.
Now imagine this actually happens. There’s you, serious, determined, but ready to have a laugh.
Then there’s your five randos. None of them have mics. None of them will listen to you. None of them will stand on the sync plates. None of them seem capable of figuring out how to kill the Minotaurs charging the plates. They all bunch up on one side, then the other. You run out of ammo trying to get the door open.
You would meet players without mics. You would meet packs of level 26ers hoping to be carried through. And you would meet the literally hundreds of thousands – if not millions! – of Destiny players who clicked on the raid icon and waited through matchmaking having literally no idea what they’re in for, because Destiny is, for them, just another shooty-shooty-bang-bang.
I’m painting a very negative word picture here because it’s the egregiously awful occasions that stick out in people’s minds, generally. In strikes, in PvP, you remember all the rage quitters and non-contributors, and not the quiet solid teammates who get on with it and never see you again. If the raid had matchmaking, you would meet players without mics. You would meet packs of level 26ers hoping to be carried through. And you would meet the literally hundreds of thousands – if not millions! – of Destiny players who clicked on the raid icon and waited through matchmaking having literally no idea what they’re in for, because Destiny is, for them, just another shooty-shooty-bang-bang.
That’s not to say these people can’t do the raid. Of course they can. They’re probably great at shooters, and if they had the slightest idea what was going on they’d rampage home, perhaps taking Atheon’s head and turning it into a delightful codpiece.
And maybe one day they will. They’ll think to themselves, “I wanna do this raid everyone keeps babbling about. It can’t be that hard. Wait, what, there’s no matchmaking? For fuck’s sake, this is 2014” – assuming it’s not 2015, or 2016, or however long we keep doing this to yourselves without blowing up the planet – “how can there not be matchmaking. I don’t have five friends online, because I’m a strong independent sort and just moved into a new time zone. I know. I’ll go on the Internet and see if there’s some sort of place where I can matchmake myself manually.”
Happily, there is. There are several. There’s the Bungie forums. There’s the fireteam Reddit. There are two different websites called “Destiny LFG” and if link to the wrong one I’ll be cussed out so go forth and find out whichever one it is the hive mind approves of.
“The Destiny community, it turns out, is absolutely stuffed with lovely people.”
Make a post or answer a post on any of these websites and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a group within an hour, even if – and perhaps I should stress, especially if – you’re honest about your abilities, experience and equipment.
The Destiny community, it turns out, is absolutely stuffed with lovely people. Many of them are happy to teach newcomers what the raid’s about, even if said newcomers are a bit surly about needing direction. It’s stuffed with lovely people who have no idea what they’re doing either, and are happy to fail miserably alongside you, laughing all the time. It’s stuffed with lovely people somewhere in the middle.
Spend any time on any forum dedicated to Destiny and you’ll keep on hearing the same stories: groups who got together via a third-party tool who had successful runs, where success is measured by a variety of factors, and went on to become friends and lock in a regular play time. I myself have made friends with four or five people I’d never interacted with before through raids, who I might have considered “randoms” beforehand, despite having second-hand connections with them.
These are the kinds of connections you make with people when you reach out towards each other in order to commit to a certain kind of experience that you’ve all determined to chase down. It’s not the kind of connection you make when you idly click onto an icon because you have a spare half hour, or it just popped up and you don’t know what it means.
I’m not saying that a random group thrown together by matchmaking isn’t capable of running the raid and having a good time. But I’m saying that by enforcing this extra step of agency, this active decision to place something between the raid and me, you and Random Internet Stranger, Bungie is ensuring that the raid is positively opt-in. The ranks of tourists are thinned. You’re not guaranteed a perfect experience, but the chances of having a super shitty one are cranked right down.
One last note. I’ve had the matchmaking argument at the pub, and my opponent – foolish man! – chimed in at this point to say that the need to visit a third party matchmaking service isn’t that big an obstacle to tourists and casual players, and won’t keep them out of the raids. Since he’d started off by complaining that not having matchmaking made forming a raid group too hard, I chalked up a victory to Bungie and me.