Destiny 2: Bounty System Analysis

I’ve just played through Destiny 2 and all of the DLC that I have access to (Forsaken, Shadowkeep, and Beyond Light), and even though I’m not the type of player that loves repetitive loot grinds, I found it really fascinating that Destiny 2 kept drawing me back.

Destiny has always had amazing gunplay, but I always found the experience to be very overwhelming with so many things to do strewn across the game. The Bounty system has been a big proponent of keeping me engaged and guiding me through the experience, and it’s what I want to explore and dissect in this write-up.

Bounties are optional side missions offered to players by certain vendors scattered throughout the world. The player has to pay a small amount of Glimmer (Destiny 2’s soft currency) to acquire a bounty from a vendor. Each vendor has a set number of bounties, some that refresh daily and some that refresh weekly. However, if players have completed all of the set bounties, they can pay a larger soft currency amount to get a randomly rolled bounty. Bounties require the player to complete specific tasks, which are divided into 3 different categories: location, mode, and activity.

LOCATION

Location bounties are bounties that are based around doing specific tasks within a certain area. There are 6 vendors in this category.

Shaw Han: Shaw Han is one of the first characters you meet in the game, and he’s in charge of the Cosmodrome, the tutorial area. Because of this, all the bounties are meant to be guiding the player through the early player experience by getting the player to interact with core systems.
Example: Defeat combatants on the Cosmodrome with Arc, Void, and Solar damage.

Devrim Kay: Devrim is charge of the EDZ, one of the early areas.
Example: Defeat enemies with Arc damage in the EDZ.

Eris Morn: Eris Morn is in charge of the Moon, the area for Shadowkeep.
Example: Gather Helium Filaments from resources nodes across the Moon.

The Spider: The Spider is unique because he has two types of bounties. The first is location-based, centered around the Tangled Shore, the new area introduced in the Forsaken expansion.
Example: Defeat Cabal in Sorik’s Cut.

Petra Venj: She holds the bounties for The Dreaming City, an area that is unlocked with the completion of the Forsaken expansion.
Example: Explore the Chamber of Starlight in the Dreaming City.

Variks the Loyal: Variks is on Europa, the new area introduced in the latest expansion, Beyond Light.
Example: Using a Pulse Rifle, defeat combatants with precision final blows in Europa Lost Sectors.

MODES

Mode bounties are bounties that center around interacting with a certain mode in Destiny, such as the Strikes or the Crucible. There are 5 vendors in this category.

Commander Zavala: Zavala has Strike bounties, which are repeatable missions that are played with a 3 player fireteam.
Example: In multiple strikes, defeat combatants with Void damage

Lord Shaxx: Shaxx is in charge of the Crucible, which is Destiny’s PvP mode.
Example: Complete Crucible matches and defeat opponents with Void damage. Defeating opponents with Void Supers and Void Power weapons grants the most efficient progress.

The Drifter: The Drifter has Gambit bounties, which is a PvPvE mode.
Example: Eliminate a high-value target in Gambit.

Lectern of Enchantment: This has bounties for Destiny’s Nightmare Hunts, which were introduced in the Shadowkeep expansion. These are essentially difficult boss fights that the player seeks out.
Example: Find the Lost Sector K1 Communion and dispel the Nightmare within.

The Spider: The Spider’s second bounty type is the Wanted Bounties, which has the player traversing the galaxy to hunt down Wanted enemies.
Example: Hunt down the wanted Silent Fang who escaped from the Prison of Elders.

ACTIVITY

Activity bounties are bounties centered around interacting with certain features or mechanics. There are 2 vendors for this category

Banshee-44: Banshee is the weaponsmith of Destiny, and he’s in charge of all combat and weapon based tasks.
Example: Calibrate Sidearms against any target. Earn bonus progress against targets at close range and opposing Guardians.

Suraya Hawthorne: Suraya gives out clan-based bounties, and how clans interact with the other modes and systems in the game.
Example: Complete Nightfall: The Ordeal activities with clanmates. Higher difficulties grant the most efficient progress.

WHAT WORKS?

As you can see, since the bounties pretty much cover every single aspect of the game, the player is always rewarded for what they specifically what they want to do. They are granted the agency of only spending soft currency on what they want to focus on, versus balancing over 40 optional side missions that are active simultaneously.

The bounty system also helps support players partaking in the grind by rewarding them for doing things that they would already do. Because they have to be in a specific area to get certain resources, it may feel really repetitive just circling the same area repeating the same actions over and over. However, having the additional layer of different bounties that have the player focusing on different actions helps spice up the repetition. The ability to roll random bounties with random objectives also rewards players that are solely dedicated to a single activity or mode and makes the time spent feel less “wasteful”.

The bounties also exist in this giant loop of rewards and resources. Some examples of how it works within the larger system:

  • Completed bounties often give the player gear and resources, resources that can be used to convert to other resources or gear.
  • The completion of the bounties themselves has the player inherently doing actions that will increase the reputation they have with that particular vendor. For example, when you get gear that you don’t want, you can dismantle it to get materials. You donate those materials to the gunsmith vendor, which fills the reputation meter. When you completely fill the reputation, you get a randomly generated piece of Legendary gear (which if you don’t like, can just be dismantled again for more stuff).
  • If the player completes all of the set bounties for the week for a specific vendor, they will complete the weekly challenge and receive a piece of Legendary gear.
  • Completing bounties also gives a sizable amount of season progress, leading to more rewards, gear, and resources.

One thing that I really appreciate about the way bounties work is the way that they are woven into the fabric of Destiny’s world. Most games would have these objectives on a board or just in a menu. Destiny requires the player to travel to the planet and physically find and walk up to the vendor to help them. The game forces the player to interact with the world to get access to these useful optional objectives.

Some bounties aren’t even accessible until you get past certain story beats in expansions, forcing the player to immerse into the narrative and lore. It makes Destiny feel more alive and less of just a checklist of things to do. In the Dreaming City, a lot of Petra Venj’s bounties don’t even have a specific order, they just have a quote from the vendor. One example is

Our enemies outnumber the awoken, but they cannot outlast the guardians.
- Petra Venj
.

This bounty is to have the player kill 100 enemies. It has way more flavor imagining the vendor saying this to the player character, instead of “go kill a huge amount of bad guys”.

WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED?

Although I just mentioned that mixing the bounties in the world and characters, one of the downsides of that is that it’s extremely confusing for new players. For the longest time, I didn’t know what bounties really were and which vendors had what kinds of bounties and which had the rewards that I was looking for. They’re strewn across every location in the game, and as a new player it can be sometimes difficult to parse the icons on a map when you first open it in an attempt to find the important person to talk to.

The bounties also use lots of specific jargon that I wish could be explained within the bounty itself, either on the main modal or in a sub-tab. It could be implemented similar to how Magic the Gathering: Arena and Legends of Runeterra define their keywords with floating modals.

Continuing with the user experience and interface, it is often extremely cluttered and unorganized the way that the bounties are displayed in the player menu. It’s only sorted by the most recent bounties with no ways to filter, or have currently possible bounties appear at the top (for example, having specific location bounties appear when you are in that location). The game does allow you to bookmark specific bounties or quests on the main pause screen, but that feature is like putting a sandbag in front of a flood. It helps, but is more avoiding the main problem of confusing UI/UX.

The onboarding with the function of bounties and resources should be better communicated also. Crating items require the player to understand that certain resources exist with specific vendors, with specific bounties granting resources that can be converted to other currencies at another vendor that requires the player to fly to another planet. It’s the double-edged sword of having the player have to fly between planets to physically interact with the vendors. It does immerse them in the world, but for players that are thousands of hours deep into the game, they don’t want to sit through multiple loading screens just to get all the bounties they need.

Finally, a couple of the challenges are centered around using specific weapons to complete it. However, in Destiny, the player doesn’t have an easily accessible method of attaining a specific weapon. They would have to rely on random chance if one of the weekly bounties is getting kills with a weapon they don’t own. It’s fine if Destiny doesn’t have easy ways to attain weapons, but I wouldn’t create many bounties with that goal if there isn’t. Destiny’s hyper specific bounties in general should also be avoided because of this exact reason.

TAKEAWAYS

It might seem obvious, but rewarding players of all types for specifically what they want to do seems to contribute to Destiny’s amazing retention rates. Players will return day after day to grind the same content, but with the self-driven bounties, they can add just that extra layer of spice to keep players coming back.

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Tri Nguyen

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is writing game design exercises and analyses

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