An eye-opening thread on Destiny’s subreddit is gathering pace. Titled “Here is what is really going on with XP In Destiny 2”, it’s a detailed dissection of how the game tracks XP – and how you can often be awarded far less than you think.
This has all sorts of implications because of the way Destiny 2 rewards you by levelling up – by giving you (after the initial ‘cap’ of level 20) the game’s version of a loot box, a Bright Engram.
Bright Engrams can also be bought using real-world money, but levelling up is Destiny 2’s way of awarding you one for free.
Reddit user EnergiserX investigated how the XP you earn is actually applied to the levelling up process – and found that it frequently does not translate directly how players had assumed.
Put simply, EnergiserX discovered the more XP you unlock in a short space of time, the less impact each XP point has on filling your progression bar.
“There is a hidden scaling factor that ramps up as you earn XP more quickly,” EnergiserX explained. “The scaling factor will increase at least to the point where you’re only really earning four per cent of what you should.
“Public Events will only ever earn you 50 per cent of what they say, as the end of event XP alone is enough to trigger a 50 per cent scaling factor.
“To get one thing clear: there is no cap to XP. You can keep earning XP as fast as you want, and you will always be making progress towards that next Bright Engram. You will just face dramatically diminishing returns the faster you go.”
The findings reveal that players hoping to earn a big amount of XP by playing the game in what seems the most rewarding way – undertaking Public Events while completing Patrol Missions, for example, or by pulling off chains of kills – are actually working against themselves.
“If you earn XP slow, the in-game display is correct,” EnergiserX reported. “If you play normally, the game drops some XP (~50 per cent). If you power-grind XP the game will drop most of your XP (in testing, I managed to lose ~95 per cent of the XP during an ‘enemies moving against each other’ event).”
To work out how much XP was being applied to your XP progress bar (which slowly fills at the bottom of your screen), EnergiserX recorded hours of his gameplay and tracked how fast the bar filled by counting the pixels filled on screen.
“Since the XP bar in-game is 360 pixels long, I calculated that 80000 XP/360 pixels = 222.8 (rounded to 225) XP per pixel,” he noted.
In the graph below, the orange line shows the amount of XP you think you’re earning, whereas the dark blue line shows how much you actually are, using popular Destiny gameplay tool DIM, which gets its data directly from Destiny’s API. The yellow line shows the amount of XP “lost” –
not added to your progression bar.
Over three hours, EnergiserX estimated he should have earned enough XP to unlock roughly 1.5 more Bright Engrams than he was actually awarded. When buying Bright Engrams using Destiny 2’s premium Silver currency, this equates to just over a couple of quid’s worth.
There are some troubling conclusions here. Some among the Destiny community have angrily suggested this is a way for Bungie to deliberately constrain XP gains so players cannot speed their way to free Bright Engrams, which could otherwise be sold for real-world money.
Bright Engrams are, after all, the way Bungie makes money from Destiny 2’s live service. Destiny 2’s gameplay loop gives players a taste of this and instills the regular ritual of visiting the in-game microtransaction vendor whenever you get a free Bright Engram to crack open. It ensures players will see the option to buy more as often as possible, and it’s easy to see how giving away too many might decentivise purchases. Why pay when you can just play?
Then there’s the issue of Fireteam Medallions, items that boost XP and are sold via the microtransaction shop. If Bungie is selling an item to boost your XP, while simultaneously ensuring your XP gains are curtailed, a lot of players are then, at the very least, paying for a boost they’re not fully getting.
We’ve asked Destiny publisher Activision for comment, although Bungie is currently on Thanksgiving break.