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Bungie designer Luke Smith admitted this weekend that they made mistakes with Destiny's first DLC The Dark Below. They don't plan to repeat those errors with the next DLC, though.
Smith said that there were major issues with how The Dark Below loot worked. Players who completed Vault of Glass couldn't appreciate their loot because it was rendered obsolete by gear offered by vendors. Requiring players to reset talents on their Exotic weapons when upgrading also didn't work out too well.
Many players found themselves stuck at level 29 because of the poor loot system. Smith said that the "Forever 29" meme, expressed in videos like this one, "was a killer" for the development team:
"Our philosophy about rewards/loot continue to evolve as we see how players play and react," Smith said on NeoGAF. "We will continue to improve acquisition stories and frequency (My understanding of the perception is that Crota's End drop rates are much improved vs. Vault of Glass: footnote below), lessen the grind and get players to the fun parts of their arsenal faster."
Bungie felt that Crota's End improved the situation somewhat. The drop rates and range of perks available to each weapon improved. This led to players getting to level 32 quicker but also having more options for customizing their Guardian.
However, one part of the equation still isn't working in Smith's view: Exotic Shards. These items can be purchased by Xur or obtained by dismantling Exotics. They're required for the final upgrade node of Exotic gear. Smith said that this mechanic was actually making loot less fun to receive.
"Shards are a are a barrier between you and equipping a sweet new piece of gear. We want fewer barriers to equipping upgrades. The shard economies erect these barriers between players and the new piece of gear they just got."
"We're not intending to adjust the shard economy for this Tier -- we don't want to invalidate player effort (again). But removing the barrier between that new drop you're excited to get and actually being able to equip it as a member of your arsenal are something we will do going forward."
It sounds like Bungie's making a decision similar to what Blizzard did in World of Warcraft with the latest expansion pack. WoW players used to be able to enchant, gem and reforge the stats on most of their gear. The problem with all these upgrades is that it meant players were almost never able to equip an item right away. They had to tuck it away in their bag until they had run back to town and made a bunch of purchases. That made new loot less fun - which is a bad thing when acquiring better and better loot is the main progression path for the game. Blizzard, like Bungie will be doing soon, decided to remove the barriers. Now only a few types of equipment can be enchanted, not all items have slots, and reforging was removed altogether.
Destiny's House of Wolves expansion pack doesn't have a release date yet. However, leaked details from earlier this month suggest that it will debut in March.