Giant Bomb News

164 Comments

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

Avatar image for gaspower
GaspoweR

4899

Forum Posts

272

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 2

Edited By GaspoweR • 

@crcruz3: Ah alright. It didn't appear that was what you were actually describing since it was separated in a different phrase. :D

Avatar image for inevpatoria
inevpatoria

7436

Forum Posts

2136

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 6

@historyinrust said:

@boojr said:

why are we still talking about this game....it was a let down (almost brought a ps4) and in a few years will be forgotten unless they just keep throwing money at it to keep it alive.... T__T

Because the ways in which it is a let down, and the fact that--despite its myriad flaws--it can still command so much attention from its players, are completely fucking fascinating.

How about because a bunch of people actually like it a lot? I, for one, love the shit out of it. Sure, the variety in content is lacking and the story is bad but the content that's actually there is incredibly fun to play. The multiplayer is great and rewarding in a way I haven't felt since modern warfare 2. I'm really looking forward to trying out that raid and so is a lot of people. That's why we're still talking about destiny.

Totally. And I completely agree.

But it's more than that at some point. It's still this surprisingly confounding thing that no one seems to truly understand on any level. Destiny carries a certain magic with it. And I think the part everyone is still circling around is how a game so flawed in so many aspects can be so riveting.

Avatar image for random45
Random45

1807

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By Random45 • 

Gotta agree that them getting no loot for investing that much time into it is absolutely bullshit. Did Bungie not expect anyone to complete it this soon or something?

I also saw a post saying Patrick should track down the guild leaders for Ensidia and talk to them about this stuff, that would be pretty rad. Back in WoW, that guild was pretty much the mythological guild that no one could ever compare to.

Avatar image for oopprraahh
oopprraahh

287

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 3

oopprraahh • 

fun read. really enjoying the game and hope I can gather up enough people at the end to do this raid.

Avatar image for y2ken
Y2Ken

2942

Forum Posts

82

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 21

Y2Ken • 

This sounds pretty nifty. Figured it would just be a slightly longer, tougher Strike. But puzzles and stealth sections? Sounds kinda nuts. Definitely looking forward to giving it a shot at some point, although I think I'll take their advice and try to pull my level a little higher than the base entry requirement before stepping into it myself.

Thanks for the interview, Patrick! A great quick read before bed.

Avatar image for ajroo
ajroo

272

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

ajroo • 

I almost get the impression that Bungie wants some of Destiny's Exotic gear to be so rare and valuable that even seeing someone using it, is a big deal.

I watched Primeguard's second team for most of their run, but fell asleep around hour 11. It was quite an experience to behold. I was impressed at the complexity and puzzles Bungie installed in the raid. It wasnt just "shoot stuff" then move to the next thing, etc. It was an adventure in every way possible.

Thanks for this story Patrick. I was wondering about these guys.

Avatar image for christoffer
Christoffer

2374

Forum Posts

58

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 2

Edited By Christoffer • 
@random45 said:

Gotta agree that them getting no loot for investing that much time into it is absolutely bullshit. Did Bungie not expect anyone to complete it this soon or something?

I also saw a post saying Patrick should track down the guild leaders for Ensidia and talk to them about this stuff, that would be pretty rad. Back in WoW, that guild was pretty much the mythological guild that no one could ever compare to.

O my. That would be Kungen, wouldn't it?

Edit: Sorry. I guess Kungen was Nihilum before they merged

Avatar image for kycinematic
kycinematic

145

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Avatar image for spctre
SPCTRE

346

Forum Posts

36

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 6

Edited By SPCTRE • 

So "too elitist" is still the rallying cry of the inept, time-constrained and the jealous? Got it.

As for the no loot thing, that's just one more sign that Bungie really rushed the raid content.

Avatar image for jesus_phish
Jesus_Phish

3845

Forum Posts

3307

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

If they got no loot, did they at least get rare currency?

Avatar image for spctre
SPCTRE

346

Forum Posts

36

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 6

SPCTRE • 

@neocalypso said:

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.

I don't know that I'm the person to be answering this, since I've neither participated in the Vault of Glass nor watched a single playthrough from front to back.

But I did catch some of it on stream last night.

Saddle up. This could be a long--and completely inaccurate--post.

---

It looked like, matter of factly, that the raid's difficulty is dictated by two factors:

1) The number of moving parts in the combat scenarios.

2) DPS -- that is, the DPS typhoon the bosses and infinite mobs can dole out + the relative lack of damage players do to both of those entities.

Concerning Point 1: Players (in the scenario I witnessed) aren't fighting a boss and squads of regular enemies in a simple shoot-em-up. The boss has a shield that can only be deactivated (for a few seconds at a time) with a raid-specific weapon. Some kind of sword. The player wielding the sword can only deactivate the boss's defenses if they have built up their super ability, something that regenerates once every few minutes, or more quickly if Orbs of Light are dropped when other supers nearby are used.

When the shield is deactivated, it only remains so for a couple beats. This is more or less Point 2 in totality--players don't hurt the boss very much, and when they do, they can't hurt it for more than a few breathless moments every few minutes. The high-level enemies and boss, however, can leave an entire team in cinders with one or a few well-placed attacks, or as a result of lapses of judgment/coordination on the part of the team.

Meanwhile, as the team struggles in this war of attrition, entities called Oracles spawn around the boss room, which is large and intricate. The Oracles generate a team-wide debuff that are removed by being within close proximity to a point very close to the boss location. Basically directly underneath the boss itself.

As the players fight against these Oracles and the boss and the mobs coming in endless droves, the boss will trap individual players inside red globes. These globes can only be destroyed by another player, and will kill those trapped inside if not destroyed promptly. I'm talking, like, within a matter of seconds. While inside the globe, the player can still fire their weapons, but cannot move and will still suffer damage from enemy fire. Nearer to the end of the battle, multiple players will be caged inside globes at once.

So, the raid requires a lot of communication simply because there are numerous situations that offer incredibly brief actionable windows. If you don't have a complete and total awareness of the situation, you will miss an opportunity. And that missed opportunity will either prolong an already protracted encounter, leading to odds being further and further stacked against the player team, or will lead to one or more players being killed instantaneously.

And I think what I saw was just the first of three major encounters.

Ultimately, the raid presents as a ferociously-involved combat puzzle. Bungie's penchant for having players incorporate and change engagement strategies in real time (e.g., needing the right gun for the right enemy, flanking and double teaming when necessary) gets turned up to its highest possible zenith.

It struck me as uncontrolled bedlam in a game that, otherwise, doesn't really condition its players to prepare for it.

Thanks for taking the time to sketch the outlines of the encounter. Interesting read for anyone interested in raid mechanics.

Avatar image for skippersonne
SkipperSonne

180

Forum Posts

5

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

I don't always agree with what you say and what you cover, Patrick- but this was a great and timely interview.

Avatar image for echozs
Echozs

50

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Echozs • 

Always love these type of articles, great job.

Avatar image for mr_creeper
mr_creeper

2458

Forum Posts

13

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By mr_creeper • 

Came here to read this now that I'm geared for the raid. I've always found these clans that do world first to be quite interesting. Thanks for the great interview, @PatrickKlepek.