The race to claim the world-first clear of The Last Wish, Destiny’s latest and perhaps greatest raid, was the most exciting yet. There are many reasons for this. Early impressions of The Forsaken expansion were very enthusiastic, resulting in a surge in interest from new and returning players that made the stakes feel higher than ever.
Developer Bungie also promised a slew of new rewards for the team that earned the accolade, including a WWE-style belt and a special emblem. Then, during the race itself, it became clear that the record time to get a world-first for a Destiny raid, held by the original’s famous Vault of Glass, would be broken. As it turned out, the team from Clan Redeem clocked almost 19 gruelling hours before finally taking the crown.
It was a dramatic night, and while high-end Destiny raiding can’t be compared to the equivalent scene in more complex, traditional MMOs, such as World of Warcraft, it can be engaging in its own ways. Outfits like Redeem and Math Class, home to prominent Destiny YouTuber Datto, have led these world-first races for some time now. This demonstrates that Destiny is not so dumbed down as to take no skill or consistency. There’s also something to be said for its accessibility, and the fact that the entire race can be decided in one evening, rather than unfolding over several weeks. A sprint is as exciting as a marathon, after all.
In the first of three interviews with Datto and Clan Redeem’s FleshCrunch, we asked what differentiates them from other aspiring raiders, and whether high-end Destiny raiding will ever develop a scene as rich as that of World of Warcraft.
The rest of our talk with Datto and FleshCrunch covers a couple of other topics. In part two they discuss the design of the Last Wish and the race to beat it first, and in part three they assess the competition, with Anthem, The Division 2, and others coming for Destiny’s audience.
PCGN: When you enter a raid blind and run into a new encounter, what’s your method for solving it? Is there a process that you follow?
Datto: For us, it’s typically: 1) figure out what does what, 2) come up with asinine strategy that completely overthinks the encounter, 3) realise we were overthinking it, 4) refine strategy, 5) beat it. It’s a lot of pure headbashing, really. Trial and error. What does this do, what does that do, what happens if we try X, Y, Z, what do the things at the death screen mean, why are they important?
A lot of people think we’re masterminds of puzzles, able to figure out everything so easily. We’re not – most of us, anyway. We just have really thick skulls and a lot of time on our hands that other people don’t have.
FleshCrunch: Our process for solving a new encounter is to evaluate new ideas from each other and to pay attention to different things happening around the room. For example: during Wrath of the Machine’s Vosik encounter, our teammate at the time, PvT Nuclear, noticed the rooms on the side light up, so we all went in there and he also noticed the lock sparking. He shot it and we finally figured out how to survive the mechanic that kills you. During a blind race, no idea is a dumb idea until after the fact.
PCGN: Which is harder: figuring out the mechanics and developing a plan to beat an encounter, or executing on it?
D: If Riven is any evidence, it’s probably executing on the plan. Most of the time, the individual mechanics of a lot of encounters are figured out quickly. Actually doing what we say we should be doing – that’s another story.
FC: Typically figuring it out is the hardest part and then executing, for us, is the easier part. This generally holds up until the final boss. When you get to a boss like Riven, we knew what to do for several hours and it still took us about an extra six hours to finish. You could blame that on fatigue, but that’s usually how it goes.
PCGN: Both of your lineups have changed a lot since you started raiding. What do you look for in your first-team raiders?
D: I look for the ability to perform without me having to explain everything all the time. I look for people who, when presented with a challenge, can immediately react to that challenge.
One of my pet peeves while raiding is having someone die and hearing someone say ‘what should we do now’. That shouldn’t be the response. The response should be: ‘I’ll take over,’ or ‘you swap with me and I’ll do that job’. If you can react to those kinds of situations, I want you on my team. Having good aim skills and just raw thumb skill (or keyboard skill) is really helpful, sure, but it’s not everything. A good raider knows their role. A great raider knows all roles.
FC: There are no specific qualifications we look for, but no one has ever been in our team that we had no experience playing with. I wouldn’t say there isn’t a logical process for us to know if someone is good enough, but if there is, we don’t really follow it. We just take our usual six in.
PCGN: Redeem now has five world-first raid clears, while Math Class (or Prime Guard) has been in contention in every race since Destiny launched. What is it that makes you both so consistent?
D: We’ve always looked for good players and recruited as such. A lot of old school members are still around, but we’ve gathered new players along the way. We’ve gotten better, we’ve built chemistry with each other, and I try to push people to be better all the time.
We continue to have a lot of teams in the top five in every race, with multiple teams in the top 25, which I also think is impressive. We also don’t make people contend in world-first races if people don’t want to or don’t have the time, which means we’re raiding with people who are the hungriest to compete.
FC: If I had to say it’s one thing, it’s probably our time spent playing together doing things that we consider ‘high-end’. I’ve played with people like Modern Tryhard and Ehroar so much that I know where they are in any given situation without looking, and I’m sure they’re the same for me. I can count on them to be observant while still keeping the room clean and not dying, all at the same time. We just flow well together.
PCGN: Wrath of the Machine Normal was Redeem’s first world-first in Destiny. What had you guys been up to before that? Did many of you have a history with competitive PvE gaming?
FC: Before Wrath of the Machine we were all little-known speedrunners who were just loving the game and finding excuses to keep playing up to that point. We had one person that could be considered popular at the time, and none of us really took anything all that seriously until raid day.
We went in looking for a good time doing the newest raid. We had no idea we had a chance at world-first until we reached the boss and a friend told us we were the only ones there. We just kept doing what was us after that. Just speedrunning the game and coordinating with others on finding time-saves for missions.
PCGN: What’s your assessment of Destiny’s competitive raiding scene? Is the competition strong?
FC: There are sure competitors that we have to look out for during a new race that are always close behind us. I’d love it if another team would start doing raid speedruns and the like more frequently together as that would also help their cohesion and make for a tougher race. The competition as of now can be a bit rough.
D: Competition has been strong since the Taken King days and honestly has been pretty consistent. The top groups have stayed pretty high at the top very consistently.
PCGN: Destiny is a simpler game than traditional MMOs, but do you think Destiny competitive raiding can flourish similarly in its own way?
FC: I feel as though the potential is there for it to be much more competitive, but considering the playerbase we have, I doubt it’ll ever get on, say, WoW’s level. If it were to get there, I believe they’d have to redesign a lot of subclass paths and build a raid to be more along the lines of a typical MMO, where you want pretty much every character and subclass at all times, and more defined roles in a team.
Sadly, the game isn’t built to be like that as of now, and if it ever were, the percentage of players that would complete a Destiny raid would drop even lower than the already low number of people who raid now.
D: Assuming competitive raiding means the world-first chase and by extension speedrunning, I think it could, but there’s certainly not enough interest in the entire community for much competition after the world-first chase.
I don’t really know what kind of spark the game would need to get people interested in speedrunning raids, but I don’t think it’s a big deal, to be honest. I would like to see competitive PvE as a whole become a thing and I do think Bungie now has some room to make that happen since the game is in a much better spot now.
PCGN: Raid matchmaking for Destiny: good or bad idea?
FC: Matchmaking directly is a bad idea in my opinion. But if there was some sort of forum or way to advertise for a raid team that was accessible inside the game, I feel that would work way better.
D: It’s something that I think a lot of people want, but would realise is not the best idea. Could completely random people who matchmake into a raid beat it? Sure. Would every group? Nope. And I think there’s way more that can go wrong than can go right.
Now, if Bungie wanted to make an ‘easy mode’ version of the raid – bosses with less health, rip out a mechanic or two, stuff like that – and then give corresponding levels of loot, I’d be ok with that, because I feel like most people who don’t raid want the experience of seeing the raid itself. I worry about matchmaking because if Bungie gives it to people it might dumb down raids in order to cater to that audience, which would suck for the people who raid right now.
At the same time, if Bungie didn’t dumb down raids for that audience and people really wanted to try to matchmake into a raid, who am I to tell them no? I just don’t think the experience of it will be very good for the people queueing into it. Imagine all the annoyances of a typical LFG group. Now realise there will be people without microphones, low power level, no experience, no clue what they’re doing, no clue what a raid even is queueing into this playlist.
PCGN: What advice would you give a Destiny player who enjoys raiding, perhaps with PUGs or a casual clan, but wants to get into the competitive scene?
D: Find like-minded individuals and start practicing. Hop in a Discord server, try to find some people, make posts on Reddit and on forums, let people know that you’re looking to be at the top. Easier said than done, though – finding those people will be tough. You may find some friends along the way who aren’t as good as you’re hoping for, dealing with that is definitely a part of the challenge.
FC: I would advise that they try their hand at speedruns of various activities inside of the game so they can work on their coordination together. The most important thing for a good team is – just like in a competitive PvP environment – to know instinctively what each team member is supposed to be doing, so you can easily work out the kinks. A lot of teams fail on the damage department in raids, so using speedruns and gaining a more in-depth understanding of the game and how things work with each other is a great way to go about becoming a more competitive team.