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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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The_Millzor

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The_Millzor • 

It took them longer to complete the raid than it took me to finish the whole story...

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Oddballs

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Edited By Oddballs • 

This isn't the kind of game I was expecting, nor is it the one I want. Kudos to the raid team though and well written, Patrick.

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Devil240Z

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Devil240Z • 

At least if there were matchmaking people like me would have a shot at it. I don't think Ill ever even get to attempt it without matchmaking.

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TheManWithNoPlan

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Edited By TheManWithNoPlan • 

Hmm, well I guess I'll never experience that part of the game's content...

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ESREVER

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ESREVER • 

Although its already been confirmed that there is in fact a big loot reward, I'm still a little disheartened by all the people saying "Wow, whats the point if no loot?!".

What about just the rush from something new and challenging? I guess that type of mentality is long gone and only the promise of loot will keep people interested. I find that kinda sad...

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ajamafalous

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ajamafalous • 

This is one of those "it's been super cute to see people complaining about this who have no prior MMO progression raiding experience" situations. I've been in raiding guilds in vanilla/BC/Wrath-era WoW that raided for 3-4 hours a day, three days a week, and we'd still have weeks where we didn't down every boss (especially towards the beginning when ilvl is lower and everyone is still learning the mechanics).

Thanks for the article/interview @patrickklepek

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SuperJoe

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Edited By SuperJoe • 

Who needs loot when you can get 2 silver trophies! Two! That's 60 points of achievements.

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Homelessbird

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Homelessbird • 

@grelik said:

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.

Quoted for truth. I really like some parts of Destiny, but the idea that a prerequisite for me to do this stuff would be applying to join a guild? Meh. If that were something that I could easily do in the game, then maybe I'd consider it, but lacking the friends/time, I don't really see myself doing some sort of guild application process on some website.

It's nice that this raid is varied and interesting, or whatever, but it'd be even nicer if that were part of Destiny proper. As it is, I don't see myself playing it much longer - certainly not with this wall in front of me.

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DedBeet

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DedBeet • 

@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.

Like the millions that still play WoW, though I have no idea many of them actually raid. Raiding can be pretty exciting, but I can't afford the time investment anymore.

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NeoCalypso

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NeoCalypso • 

It's pretty god damned annoying that nobody seems to be able to convey what actually makes these stupid raids so hard. They are always so pointlessly vague about it when it's just a shooter so It can't really be all that complicated.

Also I think Bungie is in for a rude awakening when they realize that games focused on hardcore raiding like this seems to be, fail hard in this day and age. Look at what happened to wildstar. Massive focus on the raiding aspect of the game and it's turned into a huge failure when they realized that the majority of the people playing their game aren't into that. Now they are trying to rush out a bunch of solo content to keep player numbers from dropping too much. Like how many full six person groups of friends does Bungie think are gonna sit around and grind to play their 10 hour long raid content for months on end?

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AthleticShark

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AthleticShark • 

None of that sounds fun. First you need to know a group of people who are competant enough to be decent teammates. Second you have to have that much time to devote to it. Third it is just bullet sponge enemies with no real reward at the end.

How was any of this a good idea? I would rather have multiple raids split up into 1-2 hour sequences. Relying on other people sucks no matter what platform and when its hard to even find people...sigh. just disappointment

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chuck_schwarz

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chuck_schwarz • 

I feel like Destiny should have been attempting a more accessible approach to raiding, but sounds like these guys had fun! Article was a good read.

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dudeglove

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dudeglove • 

As if you needed another reason not to play Destiny.

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Nux

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Nux • 

I really want to try this raid but Destiny's crap loot system is a big deterrent.

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jimmdogg

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Tyrrael

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Tyrrael • 

No loot pretty much sums up my current thoughts on Destiny

I really like this game, but this is, unfortunately, my biggest gripe. In most loot based RPGs, you get a ton of loot. You may not be able to use a lot of it, but it guarantees that you have money, and in this game's case, upgrade materials too. I'm simply not getting enough weapons to dismantle to get the materials needed to upgrade the ones I have, nor am I getting enough weapons that replace the ones I'm using. I've had the same helmet for what seems like forever. *sigh* I love playing the game for it's shooting mechanics (it's just so damn fun), but I have to agree that the lack of loot in a loot based game is frustrating and is really starting to wear on my nerves.

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Reisz

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Reisz • 

Holy Christ, some materials and cosmetics? Hahaha. Fuck me. How is there not a set-in-stone loot table that rewards every player in the Raid?

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Jackel2072

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Jackel2072 • 

I didn't even complete the raid yet and got a legendary Shotgun out of it

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Spitznock

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Spitznock • 

The whole "first!" aspect of WoW has annoyed me for years now. Disappointed to see it appear in Destiny.

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S3V3N

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Edited By S3V3N • 

No loot and excessive amounts of loot is a difference. I saw the youtube video of some guys who tried and failed at the raid after playing for five hours. They were trying to be organised but they were also clueless (as is everybody else at this point). It was fun watching them figure out what to do and not always knowing the best way; it's a challenging game, after all. And they did get some decent loot. Nothing crazy, but definitely not "nothing".

Perhaps if you played it a few times this will all become easier - and of course your character will be a higher level. So these raids will become easier in the future. What bugs me a bit is that there is no link to the stream that was recorded. If anyone knows where to find it, I'd appreciate the info. Gonna look for it myself now :)

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riostarwind

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riostarwind  Moderator • 

Good job on the article @patrickklepek. I usually try to take on a raid in a game eventually but it was interesting to read about a group that wanted to be the first to do it.

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MrMazz

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MrMazz • 

I don't find Destiny (or most MMOs) to be that interesting from what I've watched but I always am interested by stuff like this. Good job.

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mrpeabody

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mrpeabody • 

"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."

Ah, they employed the complex "human wave" strategy. A good game beaten by a good guild.

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AV_Gamer

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Edited By AV_Gamer • 

Good for them. But still not interested in Destiny. Bungie needs to do more.

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MildMolasses

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MildMolasses • 

@csl316: the grimoire only shows two spots for raids right now. Perhaps the expansions will add one each

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nERVEcenter

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Edited By nERVEcenter • 

WoW's world firsts have been at least this intense year after year, and the hardcore raiding community has been imploding due to burnout and hyper-competition, but only when Destiny comes along does Patrick see an interesting story in a world first?

I feel like Patrick should take advantage of his investigative skills and start searching for the fallen-out members of guilds like Ensidia and investigating how hardcore content that continually keeps improving still manages to lose tons of its most dedicated adherents. There's a story there that's way more interesting than this one.

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jackburtonme

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jackburtonme • 

Ahh, just missed the "complete a raid with no one in your fireteam dying" trophy. Next time, guys, next time.

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cyberfunk

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cyberfunk • 

Why isnt this from the start of the game? It souds like the most fun part.

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solidlife

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Edited By solidlife • 

Ok now I am interested in Destiny FPS raiding content that is not similar to the strikes, GB clan?

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mrsmiley

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mrsmiley • 

Great article, and everything sounded encouraging until the end... no loot? Really?! No one at Bungie thought it might be a good idea to provide a legendary/exotic drop after completing something that is expected to take several hours to finish!? Even if they change it, the fact that it starts out that way shows how out of touch Bungie is with this style of game. Here I thought completing strikes on high difficulty settings without loot was bad... but a raid? Terrible.

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Deadlydog

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Deadlydog • 

@reallionheart: Yeah, after playing MMO's for a long time i kind of feel that if a group of people want to do something they will figure it out. Does not really matter if they are a random group of people or not. Matchmaking in WoW's flexible raids works fine for example. Also no loot is the stupidest thing ever, who thought it was a good idea to make an mmo not have tons of cool loot?

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mattchops

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mattchops • 

Are warlocks not that great? Why did they bring only one?

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smokyexe

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Edited By smokyexe • 

Really? No Loot?

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Rodin

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Rodin • 

While this is kinda cool i guess, how is this news?

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shatteringlast

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shatteringlast • 

@lotus said:

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

Really bud? Really?

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citizencoffeecake

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citizencoffeecake • 

Supreme lack of loot would be so disappointing, I would consider this article my rare drop if I were a member of that team.

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kindgineer

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kindgineer • 

Ah. Reminds me of the good old days of going into raids blind in World of Warcraft, Star Wars Galaxies, and Everquest. I don't get that anymore now that I have a family, but it was good to walk down the road again in memory without having to kill myself for 100's of hours to do so!

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Benmo316

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Benmo316 • 

The raid sounds like fun but I'll never experience it. After playing many, many hours over the past week I'm only level 24. Plus I have only two people on my friend's list who play Destiny. I get why there's no matchmaking but it sucks there's a part of the game I paid $60 for that I'll never get to play.

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Steadying

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Steadying • 

We get articles and stuff on big gaming websites about this Destiny raid, but no articles about world first clears of raids in MMO's that people have been trying to beat for weeks to months?

I get that Destiny is super popular and stuff right now and people are excited, but...meh.

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AMyggen

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AMyggen • 

Man, this brings me back to my MMO days. Kinda miss it, but not really.

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pweidman

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pweidman • 

No real loot gotten after 10+ hrs, holy shit. That's just so sad. Good for them, but Bungie needs to iterate and patch up the silly loot tables obviously. My first legendary to open from an engram was for another character. After 50+ hrs., it really makes you question the grinding, especially with D3 out there working better than ever.

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big_jon

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big_jon • 

Huh. That's funny, I'm part of that group on Bnet.

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Stimpack

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Stimpack • 

It's only a matter of time before even the most diehard defenders of this game lose their patience along with the rest of us.

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mbradley1992

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mbradley1992 • 

This, to me, highlights this game's problems. Why do the major raids have to require 10s of people, 10-15 hours, and 1,600 deaths? I mean that's just "Demon's Souls: The MMO" in my book. I don't have 12 friends that I talk to regularly enough to put together a team for this kind of raid, so I'll likely never see this content, and that's a fundamental problem.

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radioactivez0r

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radioactivez0r • 

I think this would be a more interesting read if the world first clan was a secondary part of it, and the meat of it was about the raid itself, the mechanics, and the choices Bungie made. As it stands, I don't really care who beat it first and it doesn't really explain anything about why it was so difficult. They died almost 3 times per minute, for what?

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sodapop7

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sodapop7 • 

Wow a lot of whiners here. Guess I'll go back to enjoying the game then. Interesting article though, I'm pumped to give it a go.

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bigwinnerx

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bigwinnerx • 

Thanks for the article, PK. Of course it's news. Good read.

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clush

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clush • 

"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.”

yeah... no. everything in the article contradicts this.

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kingschiebi

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kingschiebi • 

There might not be matchmaking available, but this seems pretty useful...

http://destinylfg.net/

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tikimorpher

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tikimorpher • 

WoW's world firsts have been at least this intense year after year, and the hardcore raiding community has been imploding due to burnout and hyper-competition, but only when Destiny comes along does Patrick see an interesting story in a world first?

I feel like Patrick should take advantage of his investigative skills and start searching for the fallen-out members of guilds like Ensidia and investigating how hardcore content that continually keeps improving still manages to lose tons of its most dedicated adherents. There's a story there that's way more interesting than this one.

This thought occured to me too. Why is this "FIRST" story worth writing about but other MMOs not?