Destiny's meta shifts are fascinating

March 22, 2017 by Cole Tomashot

Even small adjustments to Bungie's massive online shooter can have tremendous impact on how the game is played.

With certain videogames, staying up-to-date with the best strategies and gear can be just as useful as mastering the mechanics and controls. Often this concept of what is the best or most efficient in a game is referred to as a meta. Metas are most commonly associated with online or multiplayer focused games, and these games tend to build large dedicated communities who gather on platforms such as Reddit, Twitch, and YouTube to discuss and shape a game’s meta. 

A meta shift is usually the result of a content release, player discovery, or patch. What makes these meta shifts interesting, is that while they are occurring a push and pull relationship between developers and players reveals itself as both parties play a role in a game’s meta. The moments when a game’s community comes together to adapt to a shifting meta are easily some of the most interesting and exciting in games. 

Take Destiny’s 2014 The Dark Below expansion, specifically the sniper rifle named No Land Beyond. At the time of its release, Destiny’s community widely considered No Land Beyond to be a joke. No Land Beyond occupied the player's primary weapon slot, which was unusual for a sniper rifle: up to this point, Destiny’s sniper rifles existed exclusively in the special weapon slot, which limited a player's ability to snipe through ammo scarcity. Unfortunately, no one could really figure out how to use it, and so the gun languished in many players’ vaults.

Then Destiny’s community discovered that if someone were to fire No Land Beyond, interrupt the bolt animation by reloading, and quickly start and stop sprinting, the gun could be fired again. This process may sound complicated but it is actually quite easy to do, and it allows the No Land Beyond user to shoot much faster than sitting through the gun’s entire bolt animation. This workaround, often referred to as the No Land Beyond “reload glitch,” gained popularity after many of Destiny’s top tier players started using it on Twitch streams and in YouTube Videos.

[You would be amazed how long it took us to find a video of the glitch that didn't start with "Hey guys." --ed]

Destiny’s development studio Bungie indirectly endorsed the use of the “reload glitch,” declining to remove the exploit despite multiple patches. Instead, these patches boosted No Land Beyond’s effectiveness by altering other weapons, notably increasing the visual flinch of all sniper rifles except No Land Beyond and adding sidearms as a new special weapon in the 2015 House of Wolves expansion. The addition of sidearms was especially significant, as pairing a sidearm with No Land Beyond allows players to make up for the shortcomings of a sniper rifle at close range. 

In the latest Destiny patch,, sidearms are further improved as a result of adjustments made to the special ammo economy. Special ammo in Destiny is acquired at specific locations and at specific times and, until recently, would remain with the player even upon death. With this new patch, however, all special weapon ammo is now lost when a player dies, except for sidearm ammo. No Land Beyond and sidearm usage are now at an all-time high in Destiny, and Bungie has indicated that it will be making changes to both of these weapons in the future to reduce their effectiveness.

The special ammo changes have already significantly affected the flow of Destiny’s multiplayer environment. It is much more common to see players playing much more passively to keep the special ammo they have or a position that allows them to grab spawning ammo boxes quickly. This style of play is particularly common in Destiny’s high-level game mode, Trials of Osiris, which is a multi-round, one-life-per-round arena that yields unique and powerful rewards. It also has become much more common for those with high primary weapon skill to win games as those who rely heavily upon their shotgun, sniper, or fusion rifle are now at a disadvantage.

While seeing one of my favorite weapon combinations in Destiny altered is not ideal, I am eager to see what will emerge as the next big thing in Destiny’s community. A large part of why I love No Land Beyond was following its journey to Destiny meta dominance and the excitement around how a new content release, player discovery, or patch would affect the weapon, and that’s something I’d love to experience again. Seeing both the Destiny community and Bungie play off each other’s actions in a beautiful harmony that is regularly effecting change is truly fascinating. This connection between creator and player is one of those "this can only happen in videogame" moments that I really hope more and more people can experience.