‘Destiny’: What Are Ghost Bullets and Why Do They Matter?



Since The Taken King launched last year there have been a plethora of buffs, nerfs, and general balance changes to the overall structure of Destiny. For some time there have been discussions among the official Reddit and forums about Hand Cannons producing something called a “Ghost Bullet” or “Phantom Bullet” when firing. This concept is linked specifically to the Hand Cannon weapon archetype and revolves around rounds fired from your gun just vanishing into thin air. Now in PvE (Player vs. Environment) this isn’t a big deal and probably wouldn’t have gone noticed by the community.

However, for those who play Destiny’s online competitive modes, this can mean the difference between winning a game or losing one. Having a round disappear in an already slow firing weapon is a big deal for many and can be seen as weakened the strength of them in game. One of the big Destiny community members, tripleWRECK, tested the Ghost Bullet theory in the Crucible. This was done with a person who lives in the same area as tripleWRECK, which removes the possibility of lag or major interference between both parties.

In his video, we can see that Hand Cannons suffer greatly from both weapon range and accuracy. This means that rounds fired from Hand Cannons are highly inconsistent and have an unknown factor that weighs in if the gun will be as accurate the next time it’s fired. We also have to consider weapon bloom, which is when accuracy for a weapon is decreased slightly after each bullet. Weapon bloom is in Destiny to discourage users from firing Hand Cannons as fast as humanly possible, while still remaining accurate.

This is a serious issue since Hand Cannons are supposed to be one of the most accurate primary weapons in all of Destiny. However, developer Bungie actually offered a detailed response to this issue about 12 hours ago on their main forum. Their remarks on “Ghost Bullets” reads as followed:

Hello Destiny community!

Due to a recent resurgence in feedback about “Ghost Bullets” we wanted to take a minute to explain how and why the weapons in Destiny behave the way that they do…

“Ghost Bullets” is a community-coined term that is being used to describe the frustration of missing the intended target due to weapon stats. The bullets aren’t disappearing, they just aren’t hitting the bullseye. Internally, we would call this specific aspect of a weapon “Accuracy,” which is one of the values embedded in the Range Stat of every Destiny weapon.

When looking at Destiny weapon archetypes, we wanted players to be able to assume a weapon’s traits through visuals and an intuitive understanding of how weapons work. Players can make the assumption that barrel length, and stability (stock) will affect the accuracy of a weapon class. These types of distinctive behaviors make for fun and interesting choices within the action simulation.

In short, Hand Cannons, with a relatively short barrel and no stock, are not intended to be long range precision weapons like a Scout Rifle or a Sniper Rifle. Instead they are big, heavy, pistols that pack a large punch. If you can control the kick, and close on your targets during combat, you will likely (as our friend Variks says) “Kill them dead.”

We want to very sincerely say that this communique is not meant to be argumentative or belittle any of the consistent feedback we’ve received on the subject. Regardless of how “correctly” the game systems are working, the core message is that shooting a Hand Cannon during high skill gameplay can feel inconsistent and/or frustrating for people. We hear you, and we are always looking to improve on that experience.

While it’s unlikely that we would completely remove Accuracy as a concept from Destiny weapons, we will investigate alternative options to balance Hand Cannons vs. other weapon archetypes. Destiny is a game that will evolve as players push, pull, and build the world.

You are wonderful people, the best community, and passionate about this game in a way that pushes us to always be our best. Thank you for playing, and thank you for reading.

Destiny Weapon


Now, it’s true that Hand Cannons aren’t meant for long range, but this showcases a problem with the entire archetype. If they are meant to be slightly unwieldy close range weapons than they should be able to outgun other players who close the gap. Yet, assault rifles have pretty much taken the spot for any close range engagements and players always have the option of using shotguns as well. What this creates is an inconsistent area where the Hand Cannon weapon class fits, which makes them highly inconsistent when used.

It also doesn’t help that Hand Cannons span a range of different styles, which means that your engagement areas will change based on what one you’re using. Take The Last Word as an example, this is a weapon that is highly focused on dealing close range damage to opponents which seems to fit in  with Bungie’s general idea. However, looking at the other exotic Hand Cannon The First Curse we can see that this weapon is made for medium range engagements thanks to its slow fire rate.

No other weapon class has this much of a varied pool to choose from, which can make Hand Cannons incredibly frustrating to use. While I do believe Bungie wants to resolve this issue, they first need to bring the other Hand Cannons in line so we can have consistency across the board. If you want to make your weapon more focused on close range battles than the entire pool (with the exception of some exotics) should reflect this concept. Until then the idea of Ghost Bullets will continue to crop up due to balancing issues within the weapon class itself.

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