Opinion: Regarding Destiny 2’s Frame rates

So gameplay of Destiny 2 got revealed last week and overall, I liked what I saw. If you’re new this site, I’m letting you know upfront that I’m very much into Bungie’s science fiction MMO shooter hybrid Destiny and I’ve reviewed The Taken King (which was my first game review for the site) and Rise of Iron expansions. The “too long, didn’t even bother to click the hyperlink” version of my time with Destiny is that while I love playing the game, I hate waiting for more Destiny to play. The core gunplay is tight, the level design is superb, and the community is amazing…but the amount of content released within each expansion can be completed quickly and wait for more content creates dry spells.

From what I’ve seen of Destiny 2, it looks like more of the same but with several teaks to make the core game much better. I like new game engine even though the game looks similar to its predecessor. I like the Mass Effect 2 approach where the game starts out with the Last City on Earth under siege and the aftermath leaves your character powerless and empty handed leading you on a galaxy spanning quest to reclaim your powers, your home, and your revenge. The gunplay remains tight as ever but little things like giving elemental primaries weapons (like the new SMG class) their own weapon slot and relegating all one hit kill weapons (shotguns, sniper riffles, grenade launchers, etc.) to their another slot changes how you approach each battle.

Not much was shown regarding how planet exploration and rewards work, but I felt that the Destiny 2 gameplay reveal was a great demonstration of Destiny’s 2 core philosophy to expand on the original Destiny. But similar to what they did with The Taken King expansion, Bungie is reseting everything to allow all players to start the game with an experience best catered to current-gen consoles and PC owners. You see, Destiny 1 was built with compatibility between PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 and Xbox 360 to Xbox One. Rise or Iron ditched last-gen consoles, but the limitations of the Destiny 1 engine really showed when the game failed to stay at 30 frames per second during very intensive moments. So releasing Destiny 2 as an expansion of the aging Destiny 1 engine was never really going to happen but this design choice has opened up an interesting discussion point.

During the Destiny 2 reveal event, the game’s director Luke Smith and project lead Mark Noseworthy were interviewed by IGN’s resident Destiny players Destin Legarie and Fran Mirabella, and the question of why Destiny 2 is maxed out on consoles at a 4K resolution and 30 frames per second (FPS) was brought up. This was Luke Smith’s answer, “The console, the PS4 Pro is super powerful, but it couldn’t run our game at 60. Our game’s this rich physics simulation where collision of players, networking, etc, and like, it wouldn’t run… [there’s] not enough horsepower there.” Then Mark Noseworthy chimed in with the following, “But there’s tons of GPU power in the PS4 Pro. That’s why we’re doing 4K, right? It’s on the CPU side. Destiny’s simulation, like we have more AI, more monsters in an environment with physically simulated vehicles and characters and projectiles, and it’s part of the Destiny magic, like that, like 30 seconds of fun, like coming around a corner and throwing a grenade, popping a guy in the head, and then you add like five, six, seven other players in a public event; that is incredibly intensive for hardware.”

Now I can’t say I’m disappointed with this news considering Bungie has never made a console game that went above their 30 FPS cap (seriously, look it up). But I sympathize with those console players hoping for higher frame rates…up to a point. Many people online are declaring Destiny 2 as “pathetic” and “garbage” just for being capped at 30 FPS on consoles. Some are even saying that this all Sony’s fault to force parity between the console versions which to me, is a hilarious conspiracy theory considering the PC version exists at all. All of this disappointment stems from how most modern shooter games are capped at 60 FPS.

But the thing about Destiny is the is more of an MMO than FPS game. Creating an MMO is always taxing since developers have to build an engine to sustain large worlds and even more time mapping out network issues to get a cooperative experience running smoothly for their game designs. As of this writing, I have yet to see a console MMO hit a steady 60 FPS because of the realities of creating a game large enough to accommodate hundreds of different people with different network connections. While Destiny is nowhere as massive as World of Warcraft in terms of player counts in each session, it does use peer-to-peer networking and the gameplay is very physics intensive with bullets and superpowers from multiple people being used against several different enemy types in different activities.

To be clear, yes it sucks that Bungie failed to get Destiny 2 running at a locked 60 FPS on all consoles and it reallly sucks that they aren’t doing dedicated servers at all. But I don’t blame them for trying nor do I blame the players upset at this decision. 30 frames per second is…fine. It’s not terrible but I feel like Bungie should’ve optimized their game engine more towards upping the frames on the CPU side of things instead of focusing on making the graphics up to date with current consoles. And while I think it’s astronomically unlikely that Sony forced Bungie to gimp Destiny 2 on consoles, their continued exclusivity deal is still terrible for everyone. Aside from gating off 5% of in game content to PlayStation 4 owners, it seems like Sony is dictating how Bungie gets to control the marketing of their own game. The game that Bungie legally owns. It’s weird, right?

From where I’m standing, Destiny 2 is pretty much Bungie’s last chance to convince the world at large that Destiny is still viable as a franchise. The game’s initial launch was the biggest heartbreak of this console generation while each expansion fixed many of its underlying problems. But in the past three years of playing Destiny, frame rate was never a major concern to me or to its community. Content has always been Destiny’s problem and I’m skeptical that Destiny 2 will deliver months of content at a steady pace. But right now, I have no problem recommending the PC version of Destiny 2 as the superior version based on all current information. But having all the frames and shiny pixels in the world won’t matter if Destiny 2 delivers a mediocre experience. As for me, I’m sticking with the PS4 as all of my friends are still on there and really, that’s the deceptive hook of all online multiplayer games. You play them because your friends are on and so long as everyone’s having a good time, that’s really all that matters.

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