If you've been playing Destiny recently, you might have heard of the mystical 'Loot Cave', an 'exploit' that allowed players to farm loot for hours - it's now gone. And I think that's quite possibly the worse thing Bungie could do to try and engender faith in its fledgling new community.

For those unfamiliar, the 'Loot Cave' was an area of Earth where a small group of enemies repeatedly spawned - if players were quick and precise enough, they could kill the batch of enemies, force the next set to respawn in the cave, and repeat it, generating oodles of items called 'Engrams', which could be turned in to an NPC for random rewards. Considering Engrams are relatively uncommon, especially higher-quality ones that reward rarer loot, people leapt at the chance to gather at the cave and shoot away for hours, collecting their spoils. I've been doing quite a bit of it:

Honestly, I'd reached a point in Destiny's end-game grind that it was the most fun I could have outside of the Player versus Player deathmatches - and it was fun to see the community gather around a fascinating quibble in the game world, not even a real glitch or an exploit but a clever acknowledgement of the game's enemy-spawning mechanics, in such an obsessive way. People would be gathering at this point, playing together and forming groups - groups that would persist beyond the loot cave phenomenon and go and play other parts of the game together. It was arguably the only kind of 'emergent' public gameplay I'd even seen in a game that Bungie had advertised as being built upon it.

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It was of course, inevitable that Bungie would eventually patch it out, which they did so earlier today:

The Hive of the holy "Treasure Cave" have realized the futility of their endless assault on Skywatch and have retired to lick their wounds and plan their next attack.

I'm not actually all that bothered by the change - I don't think anyone really is, they're probably more disappointed that an easier way to find loot is now gone. But the fact that Bungie have immediately taken action on removing something that its player base rallied around, had fun with, instead of patching the games' variety of current issues - issues they chose to acknowledge in a post alongside the patch notes - speaks to something far more worrisome for a player base Bungie expects to stick with them for the 10 years they have planned for the Destiny franchise. It speaks to a level of disdain to those players for essentially not playing the game the way they wanted them to.

At some point with entertainment, especially with something so involving as a video game, a creator must acquiesce certain creative controls over their work to their audience - the end product is theirs now to enjoy and do with as they see fit. This is almost perhaps most important to the process of game making as the audience can possibly have the most tangible impact on the end product through their play. The game can have a structure to it, set tasks, but ultimately, the audience makes their own fun from how they interact with it. The Loot Cave is a perfect example of that sort of thing, and by so hastily targeting it and removing it, simply with the sentiment that 'they're playing it wrong', is perhaps just about the worse thing a creator can do to their audience - especially an audience they want to stick with them in the future.

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It makes the divide between the developers and the audience all that more transparent, and ultimately it cheapens their relationship. Not only does it sow an element of distrust - what if the player base finds something else that Bungie deems 'not the way to play the game'? - it lets the player base very clearly know that Bungie sees their own grand interpretation of their product as an overrider to whatever its player base wants from it. The symbiotic relationship between developer and fanbase, between creators and audiences, is important across any sort of entertainment, and it's hamfisted approaches to changing that symbiosis like this that damage both the relationship and the final piece of media as a whole.

I'm not saying that all creators have to relinquish control over to their audiences to generate creativity - that way lies madness, there has to be a strong voice to guide something, and that should be the creator's. But it's disappointing to see that control wrenched out of an audience's hands so transparently as it has been with Destiny.

Farewell, Loot Cave. Your engrams won't be missed - but what you represented just might.


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