Much like playing Destiny 2, working in a coffee shop requires a commitment to efficiency. Attacking a string of drink tickets means buckling down and finding a rhythm; swinging portafilters, tamping espresso pucks, and steaming a gentle whirlpool of cold milk in quick succession. When everything coalesces I can enter a kind of flow state, completing each step with confidence like I’m striking at a Wing Chun dummy. Add the reality of serving during COVID-19 into the mix, taking and delivering orders through a window located a short walk away from where all the action is, and the challenge becomes an exercise in optimization. What can I do to reduce my trips behind the counter? Should I run drinks to customers as they’re completed or stockpile a few to save on steps? If a line is forming, how many orders can I take before stepping away and leaving folks anxiously fiddling with their credit cards? What’s the cost/benefit of each move?
Games revel in this kind of risk/reward decision making that goes beyond base reflexes; a bold flank around the capture point, one final poke at the boss with low health, or daring to explore just a little further before cashing in your haul. But there’s nothing like pulling off a flawless attack phase or lining up your tasks and knocking them down one by one, knowing you did it all in the perfectly optimized order. Destiny 2 provides that feeling of optimization through its daily and weekly activities and the adjoining bounty system.
On a typical session, I’ll begin in orbit before I descend to the Tower, a hub for Destiny 2’s principal characters where I pick rotating goals, called bounties, to net experience and crafting materials. I could check in with Banshee-44, the Exo gunsmith, to acquire the task, “On Mars, calibrate weapons with precision final blows,” for example, as well as other bounties for PVP and PVE activities I’ll want to hit along my run for additional loot drops that refresh with every Tuesday reset. With the added bonus that any and all of these bounties can be claimed multiple times across the game’s three character classes, all collected in a shared XP pool via Destiny 2’s season pass and persistent inventory, it’s easy to lose an entire afternoon or two bounty hunting.
This is thanks in large part to community members like DeerTrivia, who posts weekly and daily optimization guides to the Destiny subreddit that outline the game’s offerings and the most efficient way to play. Often beginning his posts with a factoid about his favorite ruminant mammal (did you know the otherwise standoffish reindeer can form springtime “super-herds” of nearly half a million?), DeerTrivia crafts an easy-to-follow breakdown of complementary bounties and activities, their cumulative rewards, and even the estimated time spent for a fruitful run.
“The posts started as a response to a lot of criticism I was seeing about bounties ‘forcing’ players to play a certain way,” DeerTrivia says, “because they required certain weapons or elements.” Though DeerTrivia agrees there are “a lot of justifiable complaints” about Destiny 2, he “wanted to show people they can hit [the maximum] Rank 100 in a season without being forced into particular play styles,” even if “it just takes a little longer.”
When making his optimization guides, DeerTrivia follows a few baseline rules: aim for a rate of at least 1 bounty per 5 minutes playtime, no weapon/elemental specific bounties on the main list (instead relegated to a section at the bottom of the post), and no bounties that “would require players to do really tedious things,” such as continuously reloading into patrol zones to replenish their super by tagging public events. Then, using data gathered from sources like the daily reset thread or TodayinDestiny, he can use this criteria to “whittle down the day’s bounties… and start trying to connect the dots between them.”
For example, DeerTrivia can combine Zavala’s Strike bounties with whichever “planets have the most bounties that can be done in a Strike,” effectively satisfying the requirements of multiple bounties at once. But because these are optimization guides and not simply exhaustive lists, DeerTrivia has to take the cost/benefit into account: “Can extra bounties justify hunting down Fallen in the Anchor of Light when it’s such a pain in the butt?”
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The Daily Grind
Bounties are a source of friction in the Destiny community, sometimes regarded as a restrictive necessity and not a fun bonus towards meaningful progression. Bungie has directly acknowledged this ongoing discussion, with Design Lead Tyson Green having this to say about the controversial mechanic:
“Bounties should focus on being an optional way to optimize for more or faster core progressions, like XP or Powerful gear by way of Challenges.
When it comes to optimization, we recognize that there is a very blurry line between “optional” and “mandatory”, and there’s no perfect balance that works for everyone. But we think the balance is tilted too far towards feeling like you need to do bounties to unlock Seasonal content, so we’re going to take this step to tilting back.”
Though he agrees that “bounty XP should never outweigh activity XP,” and that the general grind in Destiny 2 needs an “overhaul,” DeerTrivia says focusing on bounty “optimization has made areas of the game more fun by giving [him] very specific goals to work towards.”
It’s near impossible to do everything in a rapidly-expanding live game like Destiny. But for DeerTrivia, the demand to whittle out the time-consuming fluff, scrapping all of the least rewarding activities, and focus on doable tasks “is a fun little puzzle” because “approaching the power climb from an optimization standpoint lets [him] play the content [he] wants to faster.” Maybe Destiny 2 is like jazz, and it’s all about the stuff you don’t play?
In any case, it’s always nice to watch a multitude of progress bars fill in your Quests tab. The global pandemic can make a lot of things feel like they’re on pause, frozen between the before and eventual after of a generation-defining event. It’s no doubt a privileged anxiety, feeling like the world has slowed without bars or movie theaters or birthday potlucks, when many people don’t have the luxury of too much time on their hands. But it’s natural to be soothed by the small things you can control; that happy chime of cashing in a row of daily bounties or slotting in a piece of Pinnacle gear to make that all-important number go up. It’s silly, but it feels like that’s an important thing to have right now, and I’m glad DeerTrivia is here to help.