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The Group Who Conquered Destiny's First Raid

It took more than 10 hours and 1,600 deaths for Primeguard to take down Bungie's Vault of Glass challenge. Here's how they did it.

More than six months ago, Jamaal “Rex Smaals” Smith decided to start a clan for Bungie’s then-upcoming MMO-infused shooter, Destiny. Not just any clan, though. Primeguard would be the premiere group of fighters in Destiny. The best.

The group assignments determined ahead of the raid.
The group assignments determined ahead of the raid.

“We were talking a big game,” said Smith. “A lot of people were doubting us, we were doubting ourselves.”

But Smith and his group of 80-strong members made a convincing opening argument yesterday, becoming the first two groups in the world to complete Destiny’s debut raid, Vault of Glass.

MMOs are the birthplace of raids, typically referred to as endgame encounters. They’re placed at the end because it’s not surprising for raids to take hours, days, or even weeks to crack open and solve. Raids are teamwork-focused affairs meant to provide the ultimate challenge for veteran players.

The initial group was made of three Titans, two Hunters, and a single Warlock. All told, that group’s raid took 10 hours and 42 minutes and 32 seconds. During that time, it took down a combined total of 5,733 enemies, and collectively died 1,606 times. The full stats are here. At the end, they were the victors.

When I spoke to several members of Primeguard, just hours after completing Vault of Glass, there was a mixture of excitement and fatigue. Some members had trouble answering my questions.

“It’s exhausting and it’s kind of a little bit surreal right now,” said Smith. “It hasn’t really set in.”

Smith started recruiting for Primeguard months back, and initially ran into pushback from the community for being too “elitist.” But Smith had enormous ambitions for Primeguard, and was looking for the right candidates. Just wanting to be involved wasn’t enough. There was specific criteria.

Not much was understood about Vault of Glass before it launched yesterday. It was known raids would be a focus of Destiny’s endgame, but it wasn’t clear how they would work. Zachary “ExpBountyHunter” Preu was part of the recruitment process, and tried to make sure Primeguard was fully prepared.

“We asked people about their game history,” said Preu, “so we have people from all types of games: MMOs, FPS, RPGs. All that came together just so that we would have the best chance to complete something like Destiny. Destiny is something completely different from anything else.”

Most Destiny players are likely familiar with strikes, cooperative missions which have players squaring off against massive waves of enemies and enormous bosses. It’s mostly a war of attrition, and the main strategy is survival. Raids are different and more ambitious. Vault of Glass involves puzzles, a stealth section, and more. In essence, constantly changing variables that require players to work together.

The team relaxes in The Tower after a job well done.
The team relaxes in The Tower after a job well done.

“We were very, very pleasantly surprised,” said Smith. “It was a big, major difference. If people think the raid is just a tougher version of the strike, I’ve got news for them. They’re going to be completely blown away."

Not long before Destiny shipped, Bungie announced raids wouldn’t have matchmaking. Bungie argued players wouldn’t have fun randomly matched with players. Stephen “Datto” Jonke agrees.

“After going through that,” said Jonke, “I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy to try and do that with just random people. It would be nightmarish.”

“It’s all but impossible,” said Smith. “For someone to try and accomplish that with a group of random people that they don’t know, [where] they don’t know their playing style, they don’t know really how the other classes operate--it’s nearly impossible. I could not see a random group of people beating it until six months from now, when there’s online guides and people can reference those.”

Point taken.

You don’t have to finish a raid in Destiny in one go, though. Raids have checkpoints, and they last a full week. But Primeguard wanted to finish Vault of Glass first, which meant stopping wasn’t really an option. Smith started to question whether his group could pull it off during the second and final boss.

“There were a bunch of times in there where I was questioning whether we had [it],” he said. “We were going in there with two level 26s, one level 27, one level 28. They say it’s a level 26 encounter, but to get through it easily or painlessly, I would advise everyone to be around level 28.”

What allowed Smith and company to achieve victory was spending time evaluating their failures.

“We think we’re doing something right, it’s working a little bit, and then we reroute our entire strategy around something that one person discovers,” he said. “That’s the good thing about having so many people with MMO experience and high-end PvE experience. They recognize patterns that they’ve seen before, they figure out puzzles quickly, they see things occurring. So often, it would happen that we would be like ‘okay, stop.’ One person would say ‘hey, when he does this, these guys pop out in this pattern, we need to all be moving to this side.’ Boom. He’s down to 15%. Another two hours later, we switch it up, he’s down to 5%. Next thing you know, you don’t need to communicate as much as you have to before because everyone knows their roles. It’s like a machine. When you get that guy down, it seems like it’s rolling. Everybody’s in a zone and knows their roles and responsibilities.”

“I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy to try and do that with just random people. It would be nightmarish.”

Though it took more than 10 hours to deconstruct Vault of Glass, Primeguard figures a team knowing exactly what they were doing could finish it in two or three hours.

Even in the team’s darkest moments, it never conceived of giving up. Of course, it helped the world, including Bungie, was paying close attention. More than 8,000 people were watching Jonke’s stream.

“First and foremost, we’re gamers,” said Smith. “We wanted to be the best, we wanted to be world’s first. Everything else that comes with it is amazing, but if Destiny was a game that wasn’t hyped up like it was, if Destiny wasn’t a popular game, if it was just a regular game that no one else liked that we enjoyed personally, we would have gone about it the exact same way.”

The only frustration for Primeguard was a complaint that’s been echoed elsewhere: a lack of loot. Though a few loot drops showed up during the extensive fighting, not a single person from either group earned anything meaningful when the completion screen for Vault of Glass showed up.

“All we got was a shader and a couple of high-level materials,” said Preu. “I don’t think either of our groups got any actual loot. I’m sure they’re going to fix that.”

Even still, all three maintained that wasn’t a true disappointment. The victory was worth it.

“We wanted to be the best,” said Smith.

(You can listen to my interview with Primeguard on the Interview Dumptruck.)

Patrick Klepek on Google+

164 Comments

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RichLee

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Edited By Bollard • 

This was a cool interview for those who are miles away from the Raid. Scoops!

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TrafalgarLaw

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Edited By TrafalgarLaw • 

12 hours!? I don't know about this, devoting months of prep work for single raid...a 12 hour slugfest sounds like an overly drawn bummer...

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RealLionheart

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RealLionheart • 

The lack of loot is really odd.

I feel like Bungie so heavily resisted the idea of this being an 'MMO' that they failed to add the Quality of Life services that make games like this (essentially an MMO) so much fun. Lack of text chat, lore on a website, limited endgame, and no matchmaking. Throw in matchmaking with chat support and let pick-up groups (who would be able to coordinate and strategize) decide for themselves if it's fun or not. Matchmaking in MMOs for raids doesn't work out 100% of the time, but when it does it's because we have a streamlined option to communicate.

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Barf_Surprise

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mikey87144

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hoffman_900

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Edited By hoffman_900 • 

What's the point of the end game content if you don't get any loot that completely blows away anything you go in equipped with? Especially after 10+ hours to complete it?

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Suits

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Suits • 

May as well have no loot at all in the game, just progression

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Stubee

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Stubee • 

Sounds fun, shame I can never play it due to lack of matchmaking.

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thelastgunslinger

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thelastgunslinger • 

I hope that they either implement matchmaking at some point or introduce a lower difficulty/lower reward tier for those of us who really want to see this content but don't have the time to dedicate to a full on raid.

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UricTheOddball

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Corvak

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Corvak • 

I didn't have the time for this kind of raiding back when it was in WoW, and I still don't have it for Destiny.

Congrats to the people that beat it, but it's long been known that this kind of gameplay doesn't attract players.

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ESREVER

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ESREVER • 

10 hours is kinda extreme, they must be slow learners. One of the more famous BL2 speedrunners I follow, ProfessorBroman, just finished it for the first time in a hour and fifty. They had somewhat prior knowledge cause they had attempted some of it yesterday but had to regroup and try again today after a bug reset the raid.

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Besetment

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Edited By Besetment • 

@trafalgarlaw said:

12 hours!? I don't know about this, devoting months of prep work for single raid...a 12 hour slugfest sounds like an overly drawn bummer...

That's the wrong mindset to have. The encounter doesn't take 12 hours to do. It just took them that long (closer to 11, actually) to do it first. When World of Warcraft was new, I was in one of the first guilds to take down Ragnaros in Molten Core. More than half the raid wasn't even at the level cap, and our gear wasn't even remotely up to par. There weren't many strategies for how to kill any of the bosses, because a lot of them hadn't been killed by anybody. We did it anyway, and it took us days. Days. It was a trial by fire, and the whole point was to figure out what to do and then do it. The article says these guys collectively died 1,606 times? That sounds about right. Obviously, when everyone else tries this raid it will take a lot less time. That's how these things work. Later on down the road, when you're level 28 and you try this raid out with friends, I bet it will be a cakewalk and take you a couple of hours.

TL;DR this doesn't apply to most people who will play Destiny, only the crazy ones.

"Though it took more than 10 hours to deconstruct Vault of Glass, Primeguard figures a team knowing exactly what they were doing could finish it in two or three hours."

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Grelik

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Grelik • 

Now they just need to add this wonderful, varied game play to you know, the rest of the game so us plebs who will never have an organized group have something else to do. I'm really liking the game, and have 50 some odd hours in, but its a shame they decided to save the interesting new game play for a raid most people won't get to actually enjoy, but at least it's a start.

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csl316

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csl316 • 

How often are they supposed to be updating with new raids?

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slyspider

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slyspider • 

Man, I have no friends on the ps4 so playing destiny any more than the 5 or 6 hours I have seems pointless

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Lotus

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Lotus • 

That's a lot of 30 fps shooting going on, can't even imagine.

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Mike

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Mike  Moderator • 

How could Bungie have screwed the loot up this badly, especially for raids?

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hassun

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Edited By hassun • 

That entire ordeal and barely anything to show for it item-wise?

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Sessh

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Sessh • 

The time investment is so out of proportion it's insane.

It's different for a real MMO, where you have way more options than just "shoot this, then that", but this is something I can't see more than a few people even trying to complete.

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Fobwashed

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Edited By Fobwashed • 

No loot pretty much sums up my current thoughts on Destiny

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Luck702

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Luck702 • 

Lmfao, completing a 10 hour objective that cost you over 1000 deaths only to finally finish it and be rewarded with... absolutely no loot. I'd crack my Destiny disk in half.

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Cloneslayer

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Cloneslayer • 

I'm loving Destiny but this is a huge bummer. First of all if you can complete heroic raids in WoW with randoms I'm sure this is feasible with randoms. Lack of matchmaking is bs. Lack of matchmaking in a lot of the game really blows. Second, no loot?? Why even bother? I'm only 24 and not ready for the raid anyway but like wtf.I'm never going to get 6 people together so essentially I wont experience what sounds like some awesome content.

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SquareTheRoot

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SquareTheRoot • 

This was a very interesting read. Indeed, like the commentators above me have pointed out, the lack of loot is very odd. Did Bungie simply not expect anyone to complete the raid so early and were planning to put in the loot at a later date, like say a day later maybe? Or is it just a thing where they were unlucky? I guess there are many explanations that are plausible, but man that's weird. Anyway, cheers to the team for pulling it off! I tried it yesterday with mostly random people and we couldn't even get past the first thing.

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Shaka999

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Shaka999 • 

See, if I had a group of friends to play with, this game sounds like a lot of fun (and if they put it on PC, but I digress).But without that group, I can see no reason why I would want to touch this game. Don't get me wrong, I like that they're doing all of this raid stuff, but I would be totally bummed if I bought this game expecting a great single player experience only to get to the end of the game and realize I can't see "the rest of the game" because I chose to fly solo.

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Leadcat

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Leadcat • 

As someone who has never properly become invested in an MMO this article made me realise that I have no idea what a raid actually involves.

With that said I'd definitely expect some kind of decent in game reward for doing anything that takes over 10 hours.

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KirkyX

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Edited By KirkyX • 

It sounds like a lot of fun. Obviously, the level of endurance required to do what these people did is beyond most players, but it sounds like Bungie have plenty of tools in place - saving, being able to stop part way through and resume later - to help less determined players get through it. I love the idea of having to solve puzzles cooperatively and such, and the main reason I like Destiny so much is that I find the basic gameplay perfectly compelling.

My go-to group isn't large enough to tackle it, but I know of a couple of Destiny clans who we could probably join up with.

As for the loot... Well, I'm hoping that was a bug or oversight of some sort. I've had no trouble with the frequency and quality of loot in the game so far; it always seems to come at just the right time to keep each drop exciting.

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Monkeyman04

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Edited By Monkeyman04 • 

I don't know if I could sit down and do that for 10+ hours for no loot. I hope there are checkpoints so one could take breaks, doing that 10+ hours straight sounds like a nightmare that I don't think I would enjoy. Good on these guys I guess.

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cloudymusic

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Edited By cloudymusic • 

@besetment said:

@trafalgarlaw said:

12 hours!? I don't know about this, devoting months of prep work for single raid...a 12 hour slugfest sounds like an overly drawn bummer...

That's the wrong mindset to have. The encounter doesn't take 12 hours to do. It just took them that long (closer to 11, actually) to do it first.

Yeah. This isn't a thing that's going to take most groups 10 hours to beat. It just took them 10-ish hours to figure out their strategies, blind, with no guides, from beginning to end. The first groups to clear content in any MMO usually go nearly nonstop for a few days or weeks while they work on it. For everyone else, once the strats get published widely and all you have to do is watch a couple tutorial videos, clearing the content becomes much, much easier.

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nickhead

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nickhead • 

Cool read, no loot is just insane though. Good for them for not letting it get them down.

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ProfessorEss

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Edited By ProfessorEss • 

@corvak said:

...it's long been known that this kind of gameplay doesn't attract players.

I'm curious where this finding came from. Is there a study that back this up?

I ask because from where I'm sitting it seems that this exact kind of gameplay has been attracting plenty of people for a long time now.

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Scribble

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Scribble • 

According to eurogamer "Their average lifespan was 2 minutes, 22 seconds."

I'm not sure this sounds like much fun to me to be honest, if it's just the same bullet sponge enemies thrown at you in overwhelming numbers for very, very little in game reward.

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GERALTITUDE • 

This was a sweet read and the dumptruck is great. Wish we had more stuff like this (interviews with gamers as well as developers) on the site. Great idea Patrick. Was very cool and I think very well rounded for this site to have a little more of the other side of Destiny, namely the people who like it.

12 hours!? I don't know about this, devoting months of prep work for single raid...a 12 hour slugfest sounds like an overly drawn bummer...

You don't need to do it all at once, there are checkpoints!

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Tracer223

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Tracer223 • 

The game bugged at the end of the raid, there is a huge gear reward for beating the raid. Bungie has confirmed this and they will be mailing the gear to Primeguard.

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JesusHammer

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JesusHammer • 

I wonder how many bullet sponges there are and how many constantly resespawning enemy waves you have to shoot. Well I guess it's good some people out there are enjoying Destiny even if I'm having to push myself to slog through it.

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xbob42

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xbob42 • 

I don't know how you can have people from MMO backgrounds and not think you can do a raid like this with randoms. MMOs have random queues and people clear all but the hardest of content with relative ease -- and those are much more technically demanding battles that revolve around a much larger array of mechanics and player abilities.

Sure, randoms wouldn't be the world first, but thinking you'd need to be at it for 6 months while watching videos is really stretching it. Developers should stop assuming everyone who plays with randoms are mouth-breathing idiots.

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Edited By mrfluke • 

@esrever: @hoffman_900: @trafalgarlaw: @monkeyman04:

@besetment said:

@trafalgarlaw said:

12 hours!? I don't know about this, devoting months of prep work for single raid...a 12 hour slugfest sounds like an overly drawn bummer...

That's the wrong mindset to have. The encounter doesn't take 12 hours to do. It just took them that long (closer to 11, actually) to do it first. When World of Warcraft was new, I was in one of the first guilds to take down Ragnaros in Molten Core. More than half the raid wasn't even at the level cap, and our gear wasn't even remotely up to par. There weren't many strategies for how to kill any of the bosses, because a lot of them hadn't been killed by anybody. We did it anyway, and it took us days. Days. It was a trial by fire, and the whole point was to figure out what to do and then do it. The article says these guys collectively died 1,606 times? That sounds about right. Obviously, when everyone else tries this raid it will take a lot less time. That's how these things work. Later on down the road, when you're level 28 and you try this raid out with friends, I bet it will be a cakewalk and take you a couple of hours.

TL;DR this doesn't apply to most people who will play Destiny, only the crazy ones.

"Though it took more than 10 hours to deconstruct Vault of Glass, Primeguard figures a team knowing exactly what they were doing could finish it in two or three hours."

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Beaudacious

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Beaudacious • 

Lol this game is a joke. Giant dev team, hundreds of millions of dollars. For what? Four planets of Halo horde mode for 20 hrs, with a patchwork of story. Followed by one raid where you just get endlessly pummeled, dieing every ~2 minutes.

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rand0mZer00

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vhold

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vhold • 

The beta testers that beat it first must languish forever in anonymity.

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StarvingGamer

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StarvingGamer • 

@xbob42 said:

I don't know how you can have people from MMO backgrounds and not think you can do a raid like this with randoms. MMOs have random queues and people clear all but the hardest of content with relative ease -- and those are much more technically demanding battles that revolve around a much larger array of mechanics and player abilities.

Sure, randoms wouldn't be the world first, but thinking you'd need to be at it for 6 months while watching videos is really stretching it. Developers should stop assuming everyone who plays with randoms are mouth-breathing idiots.

Or maybe it's because they have MMO backgrounds that they can see how the differences in gameplay would make a Destiny raid significantly more difficult with randoms. I don't know, I haven't done a Destiny raid, but I do know that it is significantly harder to overgear in Destiny than it is in, say, WoW. And the fact that there is no trinity suggests that you can't really have one or two especially strong players carrying a raid in Destiny.

Maybe you should stop assuming that this clan and the devs at Bungie are idiots.

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RobertOrri

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Edited By RobertOrri • 

Just be glad Destiny doesn't require attunement or any crap like that for raid content.

I guess they should also be thankful that gear in Destiny doesn't have durability, which is more often than not the bane of raiders. Die a dozen or so times and your equipment becomes useless.

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The_Dude_Abides

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Arrested_Developer

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Edited By Arrested_Developer • 

"Oh this sounds so cool!"

*They got no loot*

"Well fuck that."