Another factor in Bungie’s troubled relationship with its players is the way the studio has removed exploits discovered in some of the game’s tougher PVE challenges, or ‘cheeses’, as the community terms them. A route beneath a platform from which you could safely kill the Archon Priest, end boss of a Strike mission on Venus, was quickly closed off. The Strike is no problem at normal difficulty, but when it comes up in the weekly Nightfall rotation – where the enemy threat is ramped up hugely, and it’s game over if your entire team goes down at once – it’s a different matter.
“That spot you describe in the Archon Priest fight? If that activity was natively fun, and the penalty [for failure] wasn’t so high, I don’t think people would do it,” creative director Luke Smith says. “When we think about the way we construct activities, we’re now thinking: ‘Is this challenging you in the right way? A way that’s going to lead you to the fun journey we want you to have?’ I think that’s a tremendous opportunity for us to improve going forward. We’re not there yet.”
Despite the 100-plus QA staff Bungie employs in-house, Smith is sure that the community will find similar exploits in The Taken
King. In addition to regular testers, Bungie has now formed a crack unit of players who not only test out high-level strategies suggested by the design teams, but also go looking specifically for exploits. “They’re some of the best thumbskill guys we have, but also some of the best metagame players,” Smith says. The team’s name? Velveeta, named after Kraft’s popular brand of processed cheese.