This is Director’s Cut – Part II, a now mega-long update looking at the last six months of Destiny 2 and looking ahead to Shadowkeep, and maybe a bit beyond. If you missed Part I and have an afternoon to yourself, go check it out.
As the first section grew in length, I figured this section would be the last one. But at some point Avengers wasn’t going to be split into Infinity War and Endgame, either. So there will be another part. I love you 3000.
Looking Ahead (to Shadowkeep)
This fall is a necessary first step in turning Destiny 2 into the game we want it to be.
It’s been a busy year, so let’s recap:
- We assumed publishing control of Destiny and wanted to get something new into your hands as quickly as possible (Shadowkeep!)
- We paired it with a free entry point in New Light to welcome new Guardians into the fold.
- We wanted to bring Destiny 2 to new platforms to keep heading toward the you can play Destiny anywhere dream (Steam and Google Stadia).
- We’re taking the initial steps toward building Destiny as a single, evolving world.
- And we’re doing all of this while cranking on a bunch of the systems changes we’ve talked about and will continue to talk about heading into Shadowkeep.
Here’s where we’re going this fall.
The Care and Feeding of the RPG: Add Depth, Improve Customization
We want to give people who love the RPG aspect of Destiny (like many of us) more stats and depth on the character sheet to sink their teeth into. We want to give players more agency over how they look. We also want armor to have that deep pursuit players love about Destiny—which brings the victory of finding their perfect roll.
Let’s Talk About Armor, Part I: Mods, Stats, and Tradeoffs
In order to allow players to independently pursue gameplay mods and further customize their Guardian fashion, a lot of work has been done to update armor for this fall. We’ve refactored a number of the stats in the game, we’ve overhauled the UI, and we’ve begun to separate capabilities from aesthetics.
Before I go on, I want to interject: It seems like some comments from part I around MTX are being misconstrued. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough. Maybe it felt too ambiguous. Let me try and clear this up before we get into armor.
Destiny has and will continue to have Weapons, Armor, Ghosts, Ships, Sparrows, and Shaders that you can earn from activities to prove to the people looking at your character that you did the thing, whatever that thing is: I beat the Raid a bunch; I earned Iron Banner gear; I played a ton of Crucible; I wanted to gather rain in my shoulder pads so I played Gambit a ton; I made a sweet set of Astroshaman gear at the Rune table; I farmed that Strike for the Mindbender roll that makes people rage; et cetera.
Let me be crystal clear: That isn’t changing.
What we are doing with the new armor system is saying: Find the perks you want, find the armor look you want, (from the megalist of currently available Destiny 2 armor) and pursue that armor to get the elements/stats you want and combine them to make your Guardian.
Destiny also has an MTX store that houses things like Sparrows, Ships, Emotes, Ghost Holograms, Weapon and Universal Ornaments. The items in that store rotate and can be purchased with Silver or Bright Dust. And starting this fall, Bright Dust is just another in-game currency that you can earn by completing Bounties, instead of buying a bunch of engrams and sharding them to generate Dust.
In Shadowkeep, there are armor sets, weapons, Ghost, Ships, and Sparrows coming from the destinations and activities.
Time-in. Back to Armor.
We started out by looking at what period in Destiny’s history was a good starting place for evolving the stat game (we felt like it was The Taken King/Rise of Iron) and what principles were guiding our new designs (we want to separate gameplay and aesthetics to grant more agency over both).
There was a deep dive stream about this topic on August 14, but let’s recap some of the high-level points.
- Armor now has an Energy meter ranging from 1–10.
- You can use materials and currency to level up the Energy value on a given piece of armor.
- Mods have both an Energy cost and an elemental affinity. In order for a mod to be equipped, your armor needs to have rolled the correct element and have enough Energy available (e.g., Hand Cannon Reloader costs three Void Energy to equip, so your armor must have rolled Void and have three Energy available in order to use it).
- Fundamentally, this means we have additional vectors for tuning things like mods. We could tune their effect (how much speed does the reload effect add?), we could tune their cost (how expensive is this mod to socket?), we could add mods to the pool for a different affinity, et cetera.
- When you acquire a mod from the game, it’s like getting a perk that you can put on all armor. So once you’ve found Enhanced Hand Cannon Reloader from pinnacle activities (enhanced perks will come only from pinnacle activities), you’ll be able to socket that mod into new armor that meets its criteria (the mod is not consumed and can be socketed in and out at a small cost).
Here are the elements of armor that can roll randomly:
- Elemental affinity rolls between Solar, Arc, and Void
- Armor’s starting Energy value can roll randomly as well (they can all be leveled to 10)
- Stats all roll random values (intellect, discipline, strength, mobility, resilience, and recovery)
Like in The Taken King, the stats will have break points that decrease their cooldowns (yes, your Sparrow now shows up on the character sheet).
Begin Math Time:
Today in Destiny 2, the base recharge rates convert to a stat value of 30 in the new system. Getting to 30 isn’t too difficult, though of course some people (but certainly not you!) will ride the RNG roller coaster to get the stat they really want to 30. By chasing a good stat roll, you can achieve the fast recharge rates available in the game today without needing to use mods. It is totally possible to put together a +100 intellect build (100 is the cap) without socketing a single mod. Some of the new mods will provide +10 to a given stat to help you shore up stats you care about.
But, that specialization may come with a price. Because you’ve specialized in intellect, you may be making tradeoffs for other stats (e.g., grenades come back slower or something—it really depends on your stat rolls). But if your grenades came back slower, then maybe that Demolitionist perk that you’ve been dismantling (I know, I know, Demolitionist is actually pretty good on non-Primary weapons!) would start to look appealing.
End Math Time.
We’ve made a bunch of armor in Destiny, and we didn’t want to leave behind any of the armor that players can currently pursue. So, we’ve also updated every new drop in the game to integrate and leverage the new system. This means if you want to go back and get the small Titan shoulder pads from Sloane on Titan, you can go chase a roll of them that uses the new system.
A number of the current mods will not work in the new armor that’s dropping this fall. But those mods aren’t being deprecated at this time. For example, your Super mods on your current armor will still work, but Super mods cannot be socketed into the new armor (you could socket your armor with intellect mods instead, though).
We did this because, while we think the evolutions we’re making to armor are a great step for Destiny over the long haul, we want you to decide when you migrate to them.
Part II: The Armor Migration
Amplifying depth and choice via the new stats system ushers in some changes to armor. We’ve converted all current Destiny armor to use the stats, so cooldown durations will change as we migrate to the new system. You’ll be able to see the cooldown timers of your legacy armor when Shadowkeep’s patch goes live.
Here’s what we don’t want to happen: you feeling like “the game deprecated my old armor and perks; that time I spent playing Forsaken and its Annual Pass content was a waste, since all of the perks on the armor got turned off while Bungie forcibly migrated to this new system.”
Here’s how we hope this works:
If you’re a pretty hardcore player (or really lucky!) and have a set of armor today with perfect-for-you perks (like a fully loaded Enhanced Gun You Like set of perks), I think you’re going to keep using them for a while. I certainly expect the World First raid teams are going to go in with Forsaken-era gear that they’ve infused up throughout their Shadowkeep Power progression.
As the weeks go by and players approach the Shadowkeep Power cap and start finding mods with enhanced perks, we think that’s when our most invested, progression-chasing players will start to move over. Players can totally mix and match between new armor and the armor they have today as well.
For players without perfectly rolled gear, we think the transition to the new armor system is one they’ll make pretty quickly. In our long-form playtesting, our internal teams (not Velveeta—these are other internal players and playtesters. Sidebar: I’m real disappointed I missed out on the “kraftiest” opportunity in Part I. Good catch, Reddit!) have found that they’ve used their current armor on their “main” Guardian but rapidly switched to Armor 2.0 on their less-played alts.
Remember LiveJournal? Let’s do it.
With how I play, it’s a crude mix of fashion, function, and economic efficiency. I rarely invest resources in an item until it’s an item I know I want to use. I don’t infuse very often unless I need a specific piece/roll for an activity. I do not have a favorite class, I play all three. I tend to rotate them based on what is most effective or needed for group play in a given moment. I personally love it when the game gets hard, and I feel as if we would benefit from more challenge (I really liked how Contest mode enforced an action game skill component on World First attempts!). I totally have my favorite weapon archetypes (which I’ll spare you), and I get really frustrated as a player when there is an archetype I feel like I absolutely have to use all the time because it is far and away the most efficient thing. This is because I do—when playing content that matters—have to be using the most efficient thing. This creates some interesting discussions with the team at work when they create something that is super fun but isn’t actually efficient to use. I will totally mess around and get a triple double in patrol with a weird weapon, but the weird stuff isn’t getting used in a Crown of Sorrows group early in the season. Even then, I want to get through that content as quickly as I can.
My characters generally look HIDEOUS on the climb, and then I start to make them look good again once I get to the end game (and since I’m color-blind, my friends think my characters look pretty hideous in the end game, too). I think for me, I’ll shelve my nicely rolled items, delete everything that I wouldn’t wear raiding, and start using new equipment while I power up and find some looks I like—and then, when it’s time to go on JacketQuest, I’ll infuse up my well-rolled raiding equipment.
End of LiveJournal post.
Back to what I started this with—we want the transition to ultimately be your choice, one that you decide to make when you want to make it. Maybe you’re ready to start tinkering with stats. Maybe you really want to start combining universal ornaments and currently dropping armor to up your fashion game. Or maybe, like me, you’ll do both at the same time (but hopefully with less mocking from your so-called friends).
The Pursuit of Power: Increasing Player Agency
We’d like the act of chasing Power and stats for your build to be something you have a bit more agency over. Not a full-blown “play whatever you want all the time”—because that means people just find the most efficient thing, rather than dipping their toes into a bunch of different activities—but certainly less restrictive than it’s been in the past.
We’ve also had a long-standing challenge in Destiny of making XP matter, and that feels like a real growth opportunity for us to dig into something we’ve wanted to look at for a while.
This section discusses Power and the changes coming to it this Fall.
Part I: Powerful Sources, Primes, and the World
Like I mentioned in Part I, the number of powerful sources in Destiny 2 ballooned during the annual pass. We’re curating down the sources in Shadowkeep. Our target is to get the number of powerful sources closer to Forsaken-launch levels. In Forsaken, as you over-leveled an activity (meaning your Power gets higher than the activity), the activity’s rewards would become less valuable (the inverse was also true for being under-leveled). In Shadowkeep, we’ve changed that. Instead, the system will advertise a consistent expected powerful reward, regardless of your Power relative to it.
Over the years, we’ve come to discuss several parts of Destiny in terms of short-, medium-, and long-term goals.
In the simplest terms: Short-term goals can be completed in a night or a week, medium-term goals can take several weeks, and long-term goals can take anywhere from a Season to several Seasons. For some folks (like me), getting good at a part of the game may take a lifetime (that’s a personal-mastery goal).
We think reaching max Power can be a medium-term goal for Power-progression-focused players. For those players, we hope pursuit of stats and someday trying out new builds is their long-term goal. I say “someday,” because while we’re taking our first steps in buildcrafting with a new armor/mod framework this Fall, I think we’re going to learn a bunch about what making a viable build in Destiny requires. You’re going to surprise us with crazy, creative things we’ve never seen once this is live—we’re all looking forward to it.
We’re doing some minor housekeeping on Prime Engrams. They’ll begin dropping once you hit 900, and you’ll accumulate charges for them as you make your way from 750 to 900. We’ve increased the number of Prime Engrams you can earn in a given week and rebalanced the value of each one to account for the increase in volume.
As far as contributing to your Power level, world drops often feel like a waste. To get away from that, we’ve made some changes that allow these drops to help players progress beyond the soft cap. World drops in Shadowkeep will have a chance to drop at a player’s current Power level.
Here’s an example: A player has an overall Power level of 912. Gloves are their lowest slot at 906. A player might open a Legendary engram and receive 912 gloves (an increase of 6 Power).
We’re making this change because we feel like the world Legendaries are a little undervalued at the moment. This isn’t some grand accelerant for Power progression, but rather a little quality-of-life experiment to reward your free-roaming adventures or random Legendary-activity drops.
Part II: Preparing for New Light
One of the essential parts of New Light is crushing the barriers between friends. Today, one of those barriers is the Power level.
To players, Power level can mean “we have different goals, so we don't play together.” A new character starting at 10 Power would naturally feel that they had to go play all this other content—and in many, many hours you can play with the friend who recommended the game to you.
That does not sound very sweet. It’s like telling someone to play a MOBA and then saying “we’ll play with you in 100 hours when you’ve learned to last hit.” (This is what my friends said to me. Do I have bad friends? As I’m writing this, I’m starting to wonder.)
That’s not what we want in New Light.
We want to get new players and veterans colliding quickly. After Black Armory, we made a deliberate choice to try to do this with each Season. Both Season of the Drifter and Season of Opulence had bounties to boost up players’ Power levels. With New Light and Shadowkeep being bigger moments of collision, we’re continuing that philosophy, but optimizing the mechanics to fit the moment.
We’re setting the Power this Fall to 750 for both returning and new players. We want you to all be together when Shadowkeep opens. Here’s what this means:
- Every single item in the game is being raised to a Power floor of 750 when Shadowkeep and New Light launch. Every item in your inventory (and vault) is going to automatically jump to 750.
- It's like a free global burst of infusion for all players.
Which means that right now, you could (should!) stop spending currency to infuse your gear sets or that C-tier of weapons that you're keeping around until the patch notes just in case they are going to be good after the changes (there are many buffs coming and it is very tempting to spoil a bunch of them, but I said this wasn’t gonna be the patch notes!).
Part III: More Power, More Problems
(We originally had this as Mo’ instead of More, but I changed it upon the sad realization that there is an entire generation of players who missed out on Biggie, Puffy, and Mase in the Bad Boy era. Yes, it’s kind of weird that I changed this and left the Highlander reference in. Especially when neither is T for Teen.)
I’m the first to say it: Raising the Power of all players globally is indicative of a greater problem. It’s real weird that someone will boot up New Light for the first time and immediately be 750.
The capital P Power level in Destiny (or Light as it was called in D1) has been asked to do a lot over the years. For a time in Destiny 1, it was one of the only things players had to pursue. In D1, Power/Light meant something in terms of achievement—but that badge of honor had its problems (forever 29 via raid boots, etc).
Destiny 1 put the Light/Power level over the player’s head and drove players to raid and raise it. Over time, we gave players other paths to raising their Light/Power (Nightfall, Iron Banner). We took Light off the nameplate and made it three digits in The Taken King, trying to turn Light into something more like a three-digit item level, but without the stat budgeting assigned to it where the stats dictate true character power.
At D2 launch, we shortened the Power climb, over-simplified the game, made it too easy to get items, focused on bringing new players in, and hoped that players would pursue looks alone as their endgame (we were wrong!) while we continued to build features like what would become Forsaken Triumphs.
During that period, we also democratized Power so that players didn’t need to raid or play Nightfall to reach max Power. They could kind of just do any weekly. Forsaken introduced gold sources onto the map, and over the course of the year, the number of powerful sources continued to increase.
See, Power has a lot to do with the amount of damage players can both deal and receive. In fact, it's the biggest factor in it. It’s also been the thing to pursue. Our gameplay specialists—the roles where dedicated Destiny players come in and participate in long-form playtesting with their imported-from-home character—frequently point out that they can’t engage with a number of parts of the game ’til they’ve “completed the Power climb.” Over the years, we’ve made the Power climb shorter and shorter. We’ve made it easier and easier to reach max Power.
We’ve also introduced things like Triumphs, titles, and Collections to provide additional stuff to do as the prestige of Power waned.
In Shadowkeep, we’re trying something a little different.
First, we’re introducing a Seasonal Artifact, unique and thematic to each Season.
As the artifact levels up, it can do a few things: First, it becomes a source of seasonal artifact mods—unique mods that can be equipped only during that Artifact’s season. These mods may be brand new experimental mods or powerful mods with reduced energy cost enabling players (and us!) to experiment further in the buildcrafting space.
Second, the seasonal artifact can award players a Power bonus, but that bonus is not applied to gear (nor does it increase the Power of future drops), but instead to all of your characters. This is meant to give players who can’t or don’t want to play pinnacle activities a seasonal path to Power. This way, even if a player doesn’t play the raid, Iron Banner, or the [REDACTED], they can still have a high Power value for the Season. Leveling the artifact to raise your Power is meant to be Seasonal character growth. Each Season, we’ll have a new artifact with new mods that change how you play—and the Power bonus will reset.
In addition to curating the list of powerful sources, Shadowkeep will also introduce pinnacle powerful sources. These sources are the only way to earn gear drops above power 950 in Season 8.
Here's the thinking: Pinnacle reward sites can award players Power above 950. This is a way of reclaiming a little bit of the character Power prestige that the initial D1 Power climb created. If you inspect a player and see their gear is 960, you know they’ve done a bunch of pinnacle activities. It’s worth mentioning that as you raise your Power via pinnacle activities, other powerful reward sites will continue to drop powerful sidegrades.
All of this said, Power in Destiny 2 is still imperfect. We’re making some adjustments to it this year for Shadowkeep: things like Seasonal Power bonuses and pinnacle activities awarding pinnacle Power. But when we look to the future, we feel like the Power system may benefit from a rework further down the road. There’s real potential in creating more agency for players, figuring out if Power should be prestigious or not, and taking on the challenge of how to keep players relatively close together Season after Season, while still allowing them to make progress.
Here’s something I miss from Destiny 1: filling bars on my items and using materials to level items. Even though I ended up with more ascendant and radiant materials than I ever could’ve needed, the existence of these materials meant the hunt for powerful rolls could go on longer. I think wanting and needing materials is a good thing—as long as you know what you can do to go pursue that material. I’m glad we’re getting a little more of that back into Destiny with Shadowkeep.
Need Masterwork Cores? Well, we didn’t have a very good answer for that much of the year. Lesson learned.
Stay tuned to bungie.net for the third installment of Director’s Cut. It focuses on the action part of MMO-action game (think: combat and PvP, with a bonus section on the evolving world) coming to Destiny this Fall.
See you soon,