REFLECTING ON LIGHTFALL: LAUNCH AND BEYOND
Apr 5, 2023 - Destiny 2 Dev Team
We’re just over a month into the launches of Lightfall and Season 20, and there’s been a lot to take in. Today, we’d like to dive into the feedback we’ve received, the gameplay updates and quality-of-life improvements we’ve been cooking up, and an early preview of what we’re planning for next Season. But first, we want to start by giving a massive thank you to the millions of players who’ve jumped in with us so far.
With Lightfall’s launch, Destiny 2 saw its highest number of concurrent players in years. We welcomed more New Lights, returning players, and daily active players than we did with The Witch Queen’s launch last year. We surpassed our sales expectations for a new expansion, and we were absolutely blown away by the record-breaking viewership for our World First Race with Root of Nightmares. Lightfall’s OST even debuted as the #1 soundtrack on iTunes against some very steep competition, which warmed our hearts to see.
But just as with any new expansion year, we have our work cut out for us as we pave the way for what’s to come. Here’s Destiny 2 Game Director Joe Blackburn to kick things off:
Hey, Guardians. We’re floored by how many new and returning faces have been devouring Destiny 2 these last few weeks, and while it’s clear the initial experience we delivered on day one didn’t provide the full clarity we originally planned for when we set out creating Lightfall, the team has taken the feedback to heart in both what’s coming this year, and with how we’re ending the Light and Darkness Saga in The Final Shape.
Over the last few years, the team has set a high bar for what to expect from Destiny 2’s evolving world, and we’re committed to making sure the resolution of our first saga lives up to that legacy. We’ll continue to build toward that resolution throughout the year of Lightfall, and I can’t wait to experience the conclusion to this saga alongside all of you as we make our way to The Final Shape.
Of course, there’s plenty to come between now and then. We’ve taken a broad look at community feedback across the game since launch and have been working to address several areas in the coming weeks, while also forging ahead on content for our upcoming seasons. Let’s get into the things we’re building and improving in response to your input on Lightfall so far.
Hey everyone, it’s the Player Identity team here to update you with what we're planning for Guardian Ranks and Commendations. These two systems have been live for about a month now, and we’ve been discussing how they will evolve since Lightfall’s launch.
First, we wanted to walk through a few of our goals for these systems as they were designed:
- Guardian Ranks should serve as a guide to let you know what you should be doing to improve your Guardian, especially if you’re new to the game. They should create a social signal to others, so that you can quickly glean some information about a Guardian’s skill within Destiny 2. This social signal should also carry meaning season-over-season.
- Commendations are meant to create cycles of gratitude so that players are thankful for one another. They should reinforce that the most celebrated Guardians are those who have earned the respect of their peers by helping them out.
Meeting Our Goals
With a solid amount of data now under our belts, it’s clear we missed the mark on some of our goals and needed to make updates based on constructive feedback. While the first batch of Guardian Ranks has proven to be an invaluable guide for New Lights, we want to improve the system for all players.
Guardian Ranks should be a useful guide season-over-season, which means they should reflect the most recent content in the game. Hitting the highest rank you can achieve isn’t easy, so you should feel pride in showing it off across multiple seasons. We also expect players would become annoyed if they had to redo all the basics each season, so we’re building in shortcuts to renew ranks you’ve previously achieved even faster.
To that end, we’ve refined the goals for seasonal resets. Players should be able to represent their accomplishments across a whole season, and those who’ve previously completed a Guardian Rank should be able to renew that rank quickly in the next season. The social signal should also have meaning each season ("That Guardian is rank 8, so they clearly know how to complete a raid. I should join their fireteam for the new one!").
So, how will this manifest in the game? When starting a new season, your rank displayed to everyone will reflect your highest rank earned last season, and if you achieve a higher rank than you did last season, it will be your new displayed number.
Players renew their previously completed ranks by only completing blue-tinted categories in the Guardian Rank progression; other categories will not reset. Ranks you do not renew will fade at the end of a season.
Commendation counts will be reset each season to reflect your experience with the newest content. Your Commendation score and breakdown will be tracked each season, and you’ll only lose a percentage of your Commendation score each season, rather than having it reset.
As the year goes on, it's important that we track your achievements throughout the seasons. In Season 21, we're adding a new display to the Journey screen that will show your recent seasonal history. This will include Guardian Ranks, Commendation score, Commendation breakdown, Seasonal Challenges, and Seasonal Triumph score.
We believe several of our objectives for Guardian Ranks were initially over-tuned and we placed too many objectives in certain ranks, leading to the very appropriate meme of most players being "forever six" at launch. We've taken a step back to look at how things could be improved, and we’re making changes that we believe will make a big difference.
For example, shortly after launch, we:
- Moved the Lost Sector completion and flawless objectives to higher ranks.
- Reduced the Commendations objective requirements in Guardian Ranks 7-11.
Longer-term (currently planned for Season 21):
- Returning players will now start at rank 5 and ranking up from 5 to 7 will be faster than it was to rank up from 6 to 7 at launch.
- Rank renewal will be fast-tracked, so most players will have quickly renewed rank 7 by playing seasonal content, earning Artifact power, completing Seasonal Challenges, and trying out the newest Exotic.
We also plan on “remixing” ranks 6-11 to provide a better expression of skill between those ranks. Once these changes are out in the wild, we'll continue to monitor the data to determine which other long-term changes are needed to ensure we feel good about our updated objectives.
Although it was initially exciting to see over 100 million Commendations granted in the first two weeks, we’re aware that we made the system too closely tied to progression. We know we have work to do to get Commendations to a better place, and plans are already in motion.
We’re re-tuning some values so active players can be much more deliberate about who they do or don’t want to give a Commendation, without worrying about the amount they’ve given holding them back from their goals. We also recently made it easier to identify and appreciate your favorite teammates by adding five seconds to the Commendations phase at the end of a PvP match.
In our update on March 30, we made additional reductions to Commendations requirements so players can reach their milestones much faster:
- Removed Guardian Rank objectives that require players to give Commendations from Ranks 7-9.
- Further reduced the Commendations objective requirements for Guardian Ranks 7-9.
- Reduced Hawthorne's weekly powerful reward Commendations requirement from 20 to 5.
In the coming weeks, we’re planning additional updates to make giving and receiving Commendations more meaningful, including:
- Updating eligibility for Commendations based on activity participation (or lack thereof).
- Adding a new Commendation: “Best Dressed.”
And starting in Season 21:
- Objectives to receive Leadership Commendations in ranks 10 and 11 will be retroactive for the season, so raids and dungeons that you lead from day one will count toward your progress.
Building social systems is always challenging. Even in a studio with hundreds of people, you never know how things are going to behave in the real world until we put it into the hands of the players. The best part about this community is that you're not afraid to give us input! Constructive feedback is always appreciated and essential to helping us get things into the best possible state for everyone, and we'll keep monitoring and evolving our systems so they can reach our goals.
When we launched Lightfall, we kicked off the largest set of difficulty re-tuning the Destiny franchise has seen since The Taken King. As players started patrolling Neomuna and playing Lost Sectors, Nightfalls, and the Avalon Exotic mission after completing the Campaign, it became apparent that some areas of the game were experiencing unintended behaviors because of this change.
For example, the modifiers for Legendary Campaign feel great in single-player Campaign missions scaled up to three players, but they become oppressive in a ritual-focused three-player activity like Avalon. Even Nightfalls, which have far less aggressive enemy HP tuning than the Legendary Campaign, can feel overwhelming when played multiple times in a row.
Legend and Master Activities
While we feel incoming damage to players is in a great spot in Legend and Master activities, non-boss units had a bit too much health and could feel more like bullet sponges than we’d liked. We’ve made some changes to balance things out, starting with these tuning updates that went live on March 30:
- Legend and Master activities
- Enemy HP scalar reduced by 10%.
- This includes all non-raid/dungeon content with the Legend and Master monikers.
- Legendary activities, such as Legendary Campaign missions, are generally not affected.
- Legendary Avalon
- Co-op scalar converted to Legend Nightfall levels, rather than Legendary Campaign.
- Enemy HP should be reduced by about 33% in a full fireteam.
We think our first Nightfall Battleground felt great on Hero, similar to how it played that first time running it in Season 19. On Legend and Master, however, things were a little less clear. We have some changes in our upcoming Season 20 mid-season patch:
- Heist Battleground: Mars
- Decreasing how often combatant waves spawn on higher difficulties in the Towers phase.
- Increasing the map score multiplier to help players reach score goals without exploits.
- Adding an additional ammo crate.
- Other Heist Battleground changes
- Reducing the frequency and number of some combatant waves in all boss fights.
- Reducing the health of Deathtongue Choristers.
- Hive runes now have the same health on all difficulties.
- Thinning out the Fallen tripmines in Heist Battleground: Moon.
When we started building Lightfall, we were keenly aware of what a normal patrol zone feels like to any player past New Light: weak enemies that die easily and are only threatening to players in large numbers, or when public event bosses are around. For Neomuna, we wanted something different. We wanted to make it always feel dangerous, like a city under siege by powerful enemy forces, where even rank-and-file enemies can be a threat, and powerful enemies demand your attention.
In some ways, it should feel unsafe and oppressive. We understand that's somewhat of a shock to many players who were expecting every enemy to be easy prey... after all, we have some strong difficulty modifiers on Neomuna. We’re pretty satisfied with how it plays (after nerfing Threshers), how it encourages teamplay and buildcrafting in ways patrol zones typically do not, and how it specifically allows many builds to shine.
However, we’ve made some adjustments so far:
- Increased the spawn rate of Vex Strike Force event in the Vex Incursion Zone.
- Partition activities are now replayable each week after earning your initial Pinnacle power reward.
- Reduced the rate that rank-and-file (red bar) enemies are replaced by tougher Elite (orange bar) enemies.
- Reduced the spawn rate of turrets, specifically in Ahimsa Park.
In a future patch:
- Certain patrols will be easier to complete.
We’ve heard feedback that the daily Terminal Overload area feels empty both before the event is active, and while it’s going on. During the event, we wanted players to focus on the event enemies rather than fighting generic enemies that didn't give progress toward the event. Due to some technical restrictions, we couldn’t accomplish this without removing enemies from the area prior to the event starting. We’re investigating new tech that would allow us to be more flexible in a future destination.
We did need to do a better job of matching you with Guardians who are interested in a fight and not just driving past on their Sparrows, however. As of a recent update:
- The Terminal Overload director node now more reliably matchmakes you with other players who are participating in Terminal Overload.
Lost Sectors warrant special attention as some of our only solo-focused endgame activities. While we understand the initial frustration of being under-leveled early in Season 20 to take on Lost Sectors, we believe the activity levels are appropriate as endgame content for the Seasonal ebb and flow, while acknowledging they require a full Power climb with the release of Lightfall to reasonably attempt.
As Season 20 continues, and certainly at the start of Season 21, we feel both Legend and Master Lost Sectors will feel very approachable for regular players, and we aren't planning on making any difficulty changes specific to Lost Sectors at this time aside from the 10% enemy HP scalar reduction that we noted above. We do have some upcoming changes to Exotic acquisition to share below, so read on!
The Threshers were originally tuned for combat against Guardian tanks, which are powerful tools against Cabal vehicles that could use autotargeting to destroy slow-moving Thresher missiles. Threshers have always dealt more damage than intended against Guardians, but under pre-Lightfall combat at lower Power levels, they weren't lethal enough to need a nerf.
As a part of our goal to make the invasion of Neomuna feel more threatening, we deployed Threshers more often than we ever had before and assigned them difficulty modifiers previously only seen in Nightfalls. This significantly increased their brutality.
To reduce this spike, we removed impact (direct) damage and only left the explosive damage from their missiles in our patch on March 23. The maximum damage on a direct hit should now be less than half of what it previously was.
Vanguard Scoring and Reputation
While it’s still a little early to tell if Vanguard scoring bonuses are tuned to our liking yet, we do have a few things to discuss. With Lightfall, we retuned the score multiplier of Master and Grandmaster from 2.0 and 2.5 to 1.75 and 2.0 respectively, to make the scoring curve from Hero to Grandmaster smoother. While this makes for a better play experience, where every strike can feel time-equivalent to others for rep gain at the same difficulty, any pursuit that used single-instance score needed to be adjusted to account for this.
In a future patch, we will:
- Take a pass at low map score multipliers and individual objectives to make sure everything feels better, specifically Guardian Ranks Nightfall scoring objectives and Legend Dares of Eternity bounties.
- Add a throttle to prevent certain exploits as an optimal score strategy.
After Season 20 concludes, we plan on doing a full review of Vanguard scoring over the entire Season and may have other tunings to make.
EXOTIC ARMOR DROP RATES
When we built Legend and Master Lost Sectors in Beyond Light, we envisioned them with two main gameplay goals:
- The player should have a place to test their builds solo against endgame content.
- The player should have a place to acquire new rolls of Exotic armor with some amount of determinism.
In the years since then, quite a few things have changed. While we left Lost Sectors uncapped for combat difficulty in Lightfall (unlike Nightfalls and Raids), we put them at the same activity level of other Legend and Master activities, knowing that players might struggle early in Season 20 but would eventually be able to level up and master them. Since we aren’t raising the Pinnacle cap in Season 21, players would start that Season ready to attack them.
However, we also realize we’ve placed a lot of pressure on Lost Sectors as a source of Exotic armor. We agree they aren’t currently a great method for new players to acquire Exotics from Beyond Light onward until they’ve played enough, and that with the new activity level changes, they become even less welcoming to many players. We also agree that their utility for targeting specific drops has been getting less reliable as we add more Exotics each Season, and this will only continue!
As such, we’ve made some changes in a recent patch:
- We increased the Exotic drop rates from both Legend and Master Lost Sectors.
- Note: We want to be careful about raising the drop rate too much at a time when the activity itself will be getting easier and easier, especially in light of other changes coming (see below).
- Once most of the player base completes their yearly Power climb, we will again re-evaluate completion times and rates for rewards.
Lost Sectors aren’t the only Exotic source in town, though. In an upcoming update:
- The Vex Strike Force event in the Vex Incursion Zone will drop a new piece of Exotic armor if you have any left to collect, on a knockout list, with no slot limits like Lost Sectors have.
- If you don’t have any Exotic armor left to collect, it will drop a random Exotic roll.
COMING IN SEASON 21
Now that we’ve covered some of the changes we’re focusing on during the remainder of Season 20, let’s look ahead. We’ve got more quality-of-life updates in the works for Season 21, in addition to the adjustments coming to Guardian Ranks and Commendations mentioned earlier. First up, let’s hear from the Armor & Expressions team about what’s being added to buildcrafting next Season.
New Buildcrafting Updates
We completely revamped the armor mod system and made a lot of changes to how buildcrafting works in Lightfall. As always, with such sweeping changes we anticipate there will be reactions from the community that require us to make adjustments and additions.
One of the most common pieces of feedback we've received on the new armor mod system is that players would like to better integrate their subclass and their armor mods by having a way to gain Armor Charge by picking up Stasis shards, Void breaches, firesprites, and ionic traces. The Artifact perk in Season 20 that allows you to do so with firesprites has proven to be a popular one, so we decided on a more permanent solution that covers all subclasses, including Strand.
Likewise, many players miss the ability to build into being able to gain Armor Charge without having to get right up into the thick of things. While the increased number of ways to generate Orbs of Power warrants requiring Guardians to push forward into the combat arena to collect them and gain their Armor Charge, we do want to provide some ways for players to opt-in to a more generous collection method through buildcrafting.
So, we’re adding two new armor mods in Season 21 to replace some key features that many players were missing from their pre-Lightfall builds:
- Powerful Attraction - When using your class ability, you collect all Orbs of Power within a radius determined by the number of copies of the mod you have equipped.
- Design note: The requests for a "Seeking Orbs" mod that would allow Orbs to track to you did not fall on deaf ears. However, adding such functionality to an object that is spawned as frequently, in such numbers, and for all fireteam members (not just the creator) could create memory, performance, and latency issues.
- Elemental Charges - Collecting the subclass collectible associated with your damage type (firesprites, ionic traces, Stasis shards, Void breaches) has an escalating chance to grant you a stack of Armor Charge. On Strand, this is granted by destroying tangles.
- Design note: The frequency of gaining a stack of Armor Charge is tuned differently for each collectible to account for the differences in frequency and volume of creating these collectibles.
Additionally, we have a change coming to the Shoot to Loot weapon perk in Season 21:
- Shoot to Loot - Can be used to 'loot' Orbs of Power in addition to ammo boxes.
- Design note: We did evaluate also having the perk allow you to collect firesprites, Stasis shards, and other subclass-spawned objects, but technical limitations made this unfeasible at this time.
As we mentioned shortly after Lightfall’s launch, we’re also bringing three new Strand Aspects to Lightfall owners in Season 21 to open up even more buildcrafting possibilities. We’ll have more to share on what to expect from these Aspects as we get closer to next Season’s launch – as a reminder, these will be:
- Titan: Flechette Storm
- Hunter: Threaded Specter
- Warlock: The Wanderer
Artifact Perk Refunds
In Season 21, we’re adding the ability to refund and apply individual Artifact perks with a single click. We wanted to get this in for launch, but technical limitations prevented it until next Season. This will make overall buildcrafting much faster, as you’ll be able to adjust your passive perks on the fly without having to reset the entire Artifact.
Seasonal Ritual Schedule
We’re constantly looking for new ways to improve our Ritual schedule and have a couple of changes that players have requested for a while that we feel great about trying.
In Week 1 of Season 21, we’re planning to run Trials of Osiris.
- Since we won't have a Power raise of any type in Season 21, we can run Trials earlier than usual with a reasonably level playing field.
- We’re hoping this can be an ongoing change: if it’s a week where no raid is launching, no Iron Banner is running, and no significant Power climb is introduced, we think we should run Trials of Osiris as early as possible.
In Week 4 of Season 21, we’re aiming to make Grandmaster Nightfalls available.
- Without the seasonal Power climb, and with the requirement level changes we added during Season 19, we believe we can successfully launch Grandmasters earlier.
- Note that this is only for the Weekly Grandmaster. The Conqueror gilding node is still planned to open in Week 7.
Exotic Armor Focusing
We’re adding Exotic Armor focusing to Rahool in Season 21. When this goes live, all Exotic engrams aside from drops from activities that award Exotics (i.e. Lost Sectors, Vex Strike Force, Nightfalls) will no longer auto-decrypt. These will sit in your engram inventory and can be focused at two different tiers:
- Focus an Exotic engram to a specific entitled release (Shadowkeep, Beyond Light, The Witch Queen, etc.)
- Just like now, Exotics that came out alongside seasonal releases are always included in the previous yearly entitlement.
- Cost is one Exotic engram, one Ascendant Shard, and 30,000 Glimmer.
- Directly focus the Exotic armor you want!
- Therefore, it will have a higher cost: one Exotic engram, three Ascendant Shards, 60,000 Glimmer, and one Exotic Cipher.
- Note: We plan to raise the Exotic Cipher stack limit from one to five.
As before, you’ll still be able to decrypt them at Rahool with no focusing for free. Note that you can't get new pieces of Exotic armor from focusing, so you’ll need to collect them from the Vex Strike Force event or Lost Sectors in the meantime. In the future, we are looking to move acquiring new armor to a more accessible location.
More to Come
We also have several more updates we think you’ll love coming in Season 21, but we’re saving the details for when we’re closer to the reveal of the Season. Here’s a preview of a few:
- We’re upgrading more than 15 of our lower-performing Exotic armors and rolling out balance changes to several others.
- We’ll have some exciting news for players who enjoy improving their raid and dungeon Exotic drop chances through Triumphs.
- We’re taking a pass at team-unfriendly Vanguard bounties requiring specific weapon or ability kills, and more.
Thanks again to everyone who’s been on this journey with us so far, whether you’re a New Light or a nine-year veteran. As always, keep your feedback coming and let us know what you think about everything we covered today at our @Destiny2Team accounts: