Fewer Nerfs, Please

borderlands bee shield crop

A couple of years back when Borderlands 2 released, people were in a bit of a snit.

For anyone who had played the first Borderlands, you knew the legendary drop rate was as close to perfect as it could get. You knew you were going to be seeing those orange weapons on the regular, and in a loot-based game, that’s a major component of what people want.

They want to experience those awesome, over-the-top weapons the dev team put so much thought into.

When Borderlands 2 released, that changed for the worse.

The game released in September of 2012, and from the get go, players were unhappy with the abysmal drop rates. I can attest to playing the game through in its entirety twice and only once seeing an orange item actually drop. And I never saw one in a loot chest. The only orange items I was seeing were mission rewards.

It blew.

So it was a bit silly, and weirdly appreciated, earlier this year (over two years later!) when Gearbox finally adjusted the loot drop rates to three times what they had been. That’s a huge difference. And I still wasn’t seeing anything much.


However, shortly after the game originally released, they were quick to nerf something I loved: The Bee shield.

For anyone not familiar with the term, nerf doesn’t refer to the spongy sport items of joy, at least in this case. Nerf refers to when something is scaled down in stats.

And it wasn’t enough that they did it once. I believe, all told, they nerfed it three times. Within the first few months.

The perks of The Bee were obvious: they made you a powerhouse. The Bee is an amp shield, which means you do bonus damage at the expense of a temporary shield drain. The Bee has no drain, so you are basically getting ridiculous stats all the time.

Now in a gonzo game like Borderlands, why wouldn’t I want to use it? And if I wanted the “pure” experience, why couldn’t Gearbox trust me, the player, to decide if I didn’t want to be overpowered and to just change it out for a different shield?

It’s sort of silly.

destiny gjallahorn

What brought about this topic for me today was the announcement that Bungie will be nerfing the exceptional exotic weapon the Gjallarhorn in Destiny.

The Gjallarhorn (or Gjally as some people refer to it) is arguably one of the best weapons in Destiny. It’s a rocket launcher with tracking rockets, which also detonate into Wolfpack Rounds which further add to the damage. It’s a lethal combination to just about any boss in the game.

But the reason for this nerf was completely bizarre: apparently some fireteams have been unwilling to accept a player for certain types of endeavors if they do not have a Gjallarhorn.

I think that’s a pretty elitist way to decide who can join a fireteam.

I also think it’s not Bungie’s responsibility to mess with a weapon’s stats just to level the playing field thus (in theory) allowing certain players without that weapon to potentially get accepted into more matches.

Bungie has been consistently nerfing (and buffing, truth be told) weapons over the last year since the game released. They have gone back and forth on certain types of weapons, but some have suffered.

A while back, they took one of the best auto rifles in the game (the Suros Regime) and scaled down its effectiveness. It wasn’t super fun. They also significantly nerfed the Vex Mythoclast after it was just wrecking people.

This also announced that they will be nerfing the Thorn as well.

If I was still playing the game, I’d be pretty cranky about that one.

The Thorn is a hand cannon and arguably the most difficult exotic bounty to complete. The hand cannon is a beast. And if it weren’t for my partner and I sharing a profile for Destiny, and his being better at the Crucible than me, I’d never have it to begin with.

The problem I have here is twofold:

One: if there is nothing wrong with a weapon, why not leave it be? What I’m saying is, unless there was an actual mistake in the programming, why nerf a weapon at all? Video games are supposed to be fun. Having the occasional overpowered weapon can be good, silly fun. If there are people out there who don’t agree with that, they don’t have to use the weapon in question.

Two: why should a developer assume this type of responsibility in this way? In the instance of the Gjallarhorn, they are nerfing it in hopes it helps people become less discriminated against. That’s a great endeavor, however after it’s nerfed, some other weapon will take its place in the ranks, and the attitudes of those same fireteams will continue on.

Is it unfortunate that there are fireteams out there who won’t accept someone into their team without a particular loadout?

Of course.

Is it Bungie’s responsibility to make up for those players?

Not really. You can’t control the millions of players out there. It’s a nice idea to try to make things more inclusive, but I don’t see it working out the way they think it might.

How do you feel about nerfs? How do you feel about overpowered weapons? Do you think it should be a developer’s responsibility to adjust weapons to alter player behavior in other ways?

And on these somber notes, I bid each of you a glorious weekend. Cheers!

12 replies »

  1. Small point of contention, while the term “nerf” may not specifically reference the foam versions of sports balls, I’m pretty sure it is based on the other (and perhaps more popular) products sold by the Nerf company. They have a pretty wide range of “kid-friendly” weaponry. I believe the term is rooted in the feeling you get when Bungie, for example, replaces your rocket launcher with a foam dart shooter.

    I completely agree with you about the Borderlands 2 loot drop rate. It’s pretty ridiculous! While the more powerful, and more rare, weapons should be found infrequently enough to make it a big deal, only coming across one gold weapon during an entire playthrough is downright criminal. Gold isn’t even the most rare, right? Isn’t there another color above gold? After many hours spent playing Diablo III: UEE I can say I feel Blizzard really nailed the rare loot drop rate. Often enough to keep you happy, yet rare enough to make each drop exciting. As much as I like Gearbox’s work, they seriously dropped the ball in that regard.

    As for the rest, I’m honestly not sure where I land on that issue. Since I don’t play many online multiplayer-focused games I’m sure it’s not going to be nearly as impacting on me as those that do, so I guess I would say that I could see valid reasons for the constant re-tuning as well as sympathize with the gamer upset by it. I think it might only make a huge difference for me in the competitive space, which I have little or no interest in. Maybe if I did play those games/modes I would have a better grasp on the complaint?


    • Oh I know what Nerf is! And I was seriously amused by your explanation of the rocket launcher turning into a foam dart shooter. :)

      The drop rate is still so crappy. Oh, and to answer your question, yes, orange items are the most rare. E-tech weapons fall between purple and orange. Oh, shoot, Pearlescent weapons (robin’s egg blue) are the most rare.

      I absolutely agree; I think Diablo III got the loot drops right on the nose. I adored that game.

      I actually don’t play Destiny anymore, so I’m not playing online either. That’s the only game I ever played competitive multiplayer in. And I wouldn’t consider this piece a complaint, but rather my preference. Semantics, I know.


      • Oh, I wasn’t necessarily thinking of your post as a complaint. There’s usually a constructive way to discuss most divisive issues and I think you’ve done that here. I was actually just remembering a friend that called me just to complain the last time there was a re-balancing to the weapons in Destiny. I’m all for trying to understand where a person is coming from most of the time, but it’s extra challenging when that point of view is delivered so… so… loudly and entitled I guess would be the best way to describe it.

        I’m glad you were amused by my foam dart shooter analogue.


        • Oh sweet. I just didn’t want it to come off as a whiny tirade.

          Wait, a friend called you just to bitch about rebalancing in Destiny? That sounds like something from a sitcom.

          I really did. If someone switched out my Gjallarhorn with a nerf dart gun…well…that would probably bum me out if I still played Destiny. :)


    • I just feel like it’s totally unnecessary, unless, of course, it was an actual mistake that somehow made it through testing. With a game like Destiny that was in development for four years, there should be no reason to nerf a weapon “just because.” I know that isn’t their reasoning, but their choice to do so is attempting to fix an issue that is out of their control. They could also just give every player a Gjalley and that would even the playing field. I’d actually prefer that. If people have stuck with the game, why not reward them with a Gjallarhorn instead of nerfing it for everyone else?

      Man, stuff like this is weird.


  2. Fair point about loot drop levels. It sounds like the Borderlands devs just made a bad decision on legendary drops. None of this is an exact science and it’s possible to get it wrong. Or you could just be insanely unlucky. :/

    Is it Bungie’s responsibility to make up for those players?

    Unfortunately in the hairy world of multiplayer gaming, it is very much the developer’s responsibility to deal with crap like that. For Bungie to have taken such action must mean they had stats showing the issue to be a significant problem and not isolated to a few crass teenagers.

    Suppose Bungie took no action on the Gjallarhorn and it got to a point where everyone was essentially required to use that weapon. That would ultimately leave the impression of (1) a broken game due to not addressing imbalance and (2) a community controlled by its most toxic members.

    Every nerf has two sides, one for the people utilizing the power being taken away, who will naturally be upset. But the other side is those whose play styles are alleviated by the nerf, either by freeing up a perceived restriction on spec (i.e. you MUST use this weapon) or, in the case of PvP, by not having to counter what may be reasonably uncounterable.


    • If you are so inclined, you can Google the issue and you will see that people had been experiencing the sad loot drop rates from the beginning. The “funny” part to me was that it took them nearly three years to remedy it, and only after the Handsome Collection had released. If they had time to tweak various other things, they could also have adjusted the rate for the millions already playing the game.

      Either way, it did feel unlucky!

      As for Bungie, I understand where you are coming from, but on this we will have to agree to disagree. I don’t think the community is controlled by the toxic members, but I do think Bungie is trying to assist the matter in one of the only ways they can. I have to admit, I do admire their trying. I just think another weapon will quickly take the place of the Gjallarhorn, and the process will start all over again.

      I hope the people who don’t have a Gjalley will get just as much love from fireteams as those who do. Nerf or no.


  3. I had intentions of getting back into Destiny with the new expansion dropping this Sept.; after reading this blog. I am glad that I ditched the game when I did. Ijs! Great blog as always. Hope to see more like this from you down the road.


    • I used to be so into Destiny. I just loved it. Then my experience with the community went south, so I forced myself to step away, and as much as the new content looks interesting to me, I won’t come back. Not for the foreseeable future. So I’m right there with you!

      Aw, thank you. Truly. I just hope I keep coming up with topics! :)


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