Lack of Dedicated Servers Does Not Bode Well for Destiny 2 on PC

On one hand there is excitement in knowing that Destiny 2 will grace PC this year. On the other, there is disappointment in knowing that there will be no dedicated servers.

Speaking with PC Gamer, project lead David Shaw confirmed that the upcoming sequel will feature peer-to-peer networking for online play. He called it a “complicated typology,” which is perhaps referring to the unique mesh-based networking technology that the first game uses for its persistent world.

For those unaware, Destiny is powered by a hybrid online design that sits comfortably between a dedicated and peer-to-peer setup. The world around you runs almost entirely on the former, while the multiplayer gameplay is handled by the latter. Technically, Destiny is a peer-to-peer game. However, the shared elements of dedicated technology allows the developer to tackle the problem of matchmaking.

When we talk about playing massively multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft, we instantly think about joining the closest server to our locality for the best possible experience. The population, though, is dependent on the number of players inside. In addition, most games isolate a specific group of players to a mirror image of the world.

Bungie was not interested in dividing the player-base. It developed Destiny to stitch together all those mirror images and separate servers into what it termed as a “shared world.” Players across the globe join and play together inside one giant bubble. This effectively means that you will always come across other players, regardless of where they are playing from. A smooth lag compensation or penalty then makes sure to level the playing field.

Hence, when Shaw mentioned that Destiny 2 will be featuring a complex form of online design, he was talking about an evolved version of the same online infrastructure that we saw with the first game.

The model has merit, except for one little aspect where it falls short. The peer-to-peer servers of Destiny run on an abysmal tick rate for consoles. It is reportedly 10 Hz, meaning that users send packet updates ten times per second. The low tick rate is due to the hardware limitations of consoles, a norm for almost every multiplayer game that features peer-to-peer.

While a low tick rate can be bearable when playing against the environment, it is frustrating when pitted against other human players. There is a dire delay and the gameplay feels sluggish. Bungie’s mesh-based hybrid technology may solve the latter for Destiny 2, but the lack of dedicated servers means that we will have to endure trade-kills and express discontent over bad hit-registration.

The multiplayer community on PC has grown too accustomed to low latency and excellent response times for first-person shooters. This aspect sits high on a pedestal when competitive play is concerned. The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive servers for professional matches run at over 100 Hz, while Battlefield 1 was released with support for 60 Hz. Overwatch, on the other hand, arrived at a mere 20 Hz but was updated to 63 Hz on PC after a constant stream of complaints.

Bungie is not willing to talk right now about how the online design of Destiny 2 will function on PC or what tick rates we will receive. It has stated that it is looking into possible optimizations, but whatever “new technology” is involved is in play for consoles for the time being.

This does not bode well for PC at all. A peer-to-peer setup is not the way to go for Player-versus-Player (PvP) and there will definitely be a nasty delay to deal with. Dedicated servers should be standard for first-person shooters. With a history of lag for the first game, it is unnatural that Bungie decided to opt for the same route the second time. As a silver lining, the developer has promised to listen to the concerns of the community and plan changes accordingly.

Destiny 2 is scheduled to release on September 8 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The PC version, however, has been pushed back to an unannounced date. It is also being developed by Vicarious Visions and not Bungie.

It is understandable that many are looking forward to experiencing Destiny 2 on PC but it only serves well to be informed of what exactly you are buying.