crucible radio bungie interview auto rifles

Jon Weisnewski & Sage Merrill on Auto Rifles, Skill Gap, & Balance

Published on: Dec 21, 2015 @ 14:56

Crucible Radio Ep. 27 (Part 1):

Birds, Bones, and Swain interviewed Jon Weisnewski and Sage Merrill, two lead sandbox designers at Bungie. Jon, the weapons master, and Sage, the man in charge of keeping Sunbreakers in check, gave us some informative answers to the community’s biggest questions. They also had plenty of their own insight they wanted to share. 


Auto Rifles?!

Jon has taken a lot of flack the past two weeks about a misplaced decimal, but he reiterates that the patch notes debacle was an honest mistake. The problem with such a small decimal is that those kind of percentages don’t appear on screen.

The slight buff to auto rifles may not show up in the yellow critical shot numbers, but overall their power has increased.  Because health values are normalized in the Crucible from the player perspective, some functions simply aren’t visible which can make a transition difficult.


Matchmaking is a Pain

Bungie knows this, but Jon and Sage are both sandbox designers and therefore do not control the networking, so no official comment on changes could be made. They did insist that the team is highly aware of the issues players have been experiencing, but whether or not a change has been made is still unconfirmed.

srl pro tips


The Skill Gap

An interesting component that is not often considered when discussing balance is the concept of “skill gap”, which is the ability for skilled players to play better, and the balance that keeps everyone at an even playing level. For instance, the original blink-shotgun build offered too high a skill gap, and created serious chaos in the arena.

Some nerfs and buffs are applied because of skill gap, not simply because a certain weapon is used a lot. Changing something because someone is “good” is not an effort to punish skilled players, but to ensure that one aspect of the game doesn’t allow for more success compared to some other aspect – hence, balance.


You Can’t Just Change One Thing

When asked why everything gets tweaked and adjusted instead of frequent smaller changes, Jon explained how much player happiness impacts changes and balances. Weisnewski phrases it with an example: imagine your favorite gun, let’s say the MIDA. Now imagine if a nerf was released that only nerfed the MIDA. You’d be upset, right? Bungie doesn’t want a certain group of players to feel like their favorite aspect of the game was targeted, so it’s important that everything is evaluated when balancing instead of a single area.


High Impact Pulse Rifles

When altered, high-impact pulse rifles were tweaked in such a way that bullets-to-kill was reduced by one. The 14% only comes after the fact; they can still two-burst, and the true adjustment made was how many bullets need to hit a target in the head to kill them. Unfortunately, high armor builds are very popular in the Crucible, which can make two-bursts quite difficult.

Fusion Rifle’s Role

Fun fact: prior to 2.1, hip-firing with a fusion rifle was more accurate than aiming-down-sights. This has played into effect as players adjust to a new balance, but they are now working far more effectively. Fast-charging fusions had a slight damage reduction which has frustrated certain players, but this is because the fusions are intended to play at short-to-mid-range. If they’re too fast but hit too hard, then they’re going to dominate over shotguns. Now, timing and prediction are even more important when using fusions. Sage highly recommends picking up a Year 2 Plan C.

Unique to fusion rifles, the range stat impacts bolt speed. Higher range on a fusion rifle means faster bolt speed.


Weapon Usage vs Weapon Strength

Jon and Sage use a particular chart that displays weapon usage and how successful players are with said weapon. There are popular weapons, certainly, but rarely do those weapons actually give players a significant advantage compared to others. For example, the 1000 Yard Stare is extremely popular, but players using it generally perform evenly with 1.0 k/ds.

A lot of the “meta” weapons arise due to popularity or recommendations, or simply because they’re so easy to acquire. Rarely in Y2 has a gun propelled a player so far above others to be truly considered overpowered.


That’s it for the first half, but be sure to follow Planet Destiny and Crucible Radio to catch part 2 on Monday, December 28th. In that episode we’ll talk sidearms, gun perks, exotic design, subclasses, and much more.