Lightfall and the Year Ahead
Feb 13, 2023 - Destiny Dev Team
Welcome to February, Guardians.
My name’s Joe. You may know me as the Exo in your Grandmaster using whichever Exotic Bow matches the Nightfall singe, or the Awoken on your friends list with their fireteam set to closed as they put another hour of attempts into soloing the latest dungeon, or maybe even the human with three different red border weapons equipped trying to complete ten separate bounties in a single match, but when I’m not logged into Destiny or on socials trying to convince people my Guardian fashion game is strong, I’m also the Game Director for Destiny 2.
In a couple of weeks, Lightfall will be in your hands. It’s the penultimate expansion in the Light and Darkness Saga and it’s a radical acceleration toward The Final Shape. But as excited as we all are about Lightfall, it's not the only thing coming to Destiny 2 this year. Destiny is a massive, living, breathing organism and what it requires to thrive is an incredible development team with a constantly updated list of priorities that can regularly inject high-value changes. So today, we’re going to pull back the curtain and talk about how we see the game right now and what changes we need to make to allow Destiny to continue to evolve and thrive the way we all want.
First, the good: we have gotten to a place where Guardians can expect consistency in the quality of content coming to Destiny 2 all year long. From The Witch Queen to Season of the Seraph, we are incredibly proud of all the high-quality shooter content and storytelling that has been added to the game over the last twelve months.
But amid this quality and consistency, Destiny 2 can sometimes feel too predictable. While some consistency is necessary for us to be able to regularly update the game and prevent players from having to relearn Destiny every three months, as well as to maintain our team health and sustainability, it is clear that too much predictability has created a lack of surprise and delight by the time some of our major game updates get into your hands.
Aside from predictability, we sometimes still hear a refrain that has been sung since the beginning of our journey: “There’s just not enough to do.” While there is plenty happening at the start of an expansion or seasonal drop, by the end of a season we often see our most engaged players lamenting that they have run out of things to sink their teeth into.
This is not a problem that one more strike or an additional map can solve. Destiny 2 has an incredible amount of content. But sometimes not all our content is as rewarding or engaging as we’d like, and sometimes you just can’t find anyone to play it with.
So, with the issues laid out in front of us, we created four big goals for Destiny 2 leading up to The Final Shape:
- Expand players’ imaginations
- Bring challenge back to Destiny
- Enrich our content
- Connect our Guardians
Now, none of these goals will be achieved with one change and they all are going to require consistent maintenance to remain true, but for the rest of our time together today, I would like to walk you through how we plan to address these four big goals in 2023.
Expand Players’ Imaginations
In Destiny 2, we want each major update to get the gears inside our players' heads turning on what's new and what it means for the way they interact with the game. This wasn’t true for all of our releases last year, and it's going to take changes across multiple releases to get us where we want to be. We can’t break all the design bones we want to right away, so instead let’s unpack how we will take on this big challenge over the course of the next year.
Season of Defiance
Lightfall will launch alongside Season of Defiance, and while most of this content was wrapped up before this new goal was put into place, we still have numerous seasonal quality-of-life changes along with substantial iterations to our current model coming to shake things up, starting with reducing complexity with our progression systems. This means fewer competing currencies to earn.
We’re doing away with Umbrals and Umbral Energies, so after you’ve unlocked seasonal focusing, if you want to focus an engram into a particular seasonal weapon or armor, all you’ll need is glimmer and a seasonal engram. Additionally, seasonal engrams will be stored and tracked on seasonal vendors, so managing the engram bucket in your character’s inventory will be much easier than it is today.
We also won’t be asking you to hold large stacks of seasonal currency to unlock a chest at the end of every seasonal activity. Instead, we will be dropping singular keys throughout your playtime that allow you to extract better rewards from the chest at the end of a seasonal activity. This will create a simpler relationship where you know that if you have even one key, you’re getting even better rewards.
It also represents the repositioning of these chests as true bonuses, not requirements. Unlike today’s seasonal currencies, keys won't drop every time you complete an activity. To compensate for this change, we've made the base rewards for each seasonal activity completion better, so when you earn and spend a key it is a meaningful bonus, not a requirement to engage in the seasonal playlist. Finally, by default, keys can drop from seasonal activities, which means you are no longer required to play content outside of the seasonal playlist to chase seasonal rewards.
On top of these changes in Season of Defiance, players can expect fewer total vendor upgrades, with each individual upgrade being more potent and some upgrades even offering a variance on the way you interact with the seasonal activity. In Season of Defiance, we’ve also taken a big stab at the way we name our various progression systems and currencies. We want any player to read the name of something and immediately understand what it does; in short, to spend more time playing and less time trying to understand what they are supposed to do.
In Seasons to Come
After Season of Defiance, we will head into Season of the Deep. With some time under our belt to react to recent player feedback, Season of the Deep will not feature a vendor upgrade paradigm. The same will be true for the following Season. This doesn’t mean players will never see a vendor upgrade system again, but instead means we want to create more varied experimental frameworks and slowly create a wide array of different systems for players to show their investment into seasonal content.
This variety will also extend into the types of content players experience in the moment-to-moment gameplay of our later seasons. In both Season of the Deep and Season 22, the team is pushing the envelope to create more fresh activity experiences, like when we first unveiled the Shattered Realm in Season of the Lost or debuted Battlegrounds in Season of the Chosen.
One thing we want to continue from last year is casting a wide net when it comes to the themes and fantasies our players can expect with each release. Lightfall already has a very different tone and setting from The Witch Queen, and we want to continue this tonal variety in our seasonal content. From reapers to pirates to cowboys, last year’s seasons proved that Destiny 2 can encompass experiences that contain wildly varied inspirations, and we are committed to the adventures in Lightfall’s collection of seasons feeling just as thematically fresh from one another as they did last year.
These stories, progressions, and themes aren’t the only way we think we can stretch the player imagination space. Some of this is going to come from putting new systems into Destiny 2 or revisiting systems that aren’t quite hitting the mark.
In Lightfall, we will be adding Guardian Ranks to the game alongside rethinking Destiny 2 buildcrafting with Loadouts. While we aren’t going to go deep into either of those systems here, they both represent new lenses that we want to continue to apply to Destiny 2. For example, Guardian Ranks aim to be the effortless way Guardians share their place in their journey with one another. No longer will the number next to your nameplate be a representation of how much you’ve grinded the Season Pass; instead, it's a representation of your experience as a Guardian and the challenges you’ve faced and overcame.
You’re going to want a killer set of weapons for those challenges, and this year we’re going to change how you think about obtaining those weapons with some major updates to weapon crafting. While we love having some sources of deterministic perks, we’ve found that the route to getting the weapons you want to craft can be too random. At the same time, we also believe that weapon crafting being a part of so many of our weapon chases has diminished the joy of simply getting a great perk roll as a drop. So, here’s what you can expect to change with weapon crafting in the year of Lightfall.
- To create independent chases for both crafted and non-crafted weapons starting with Lightfall, fewer of our total weapons will be craftable and more of our weapons with long term sources will get value from random perk rolls.
- To allow these non-crafted weapons to stand toe-to-toe with crafted weapons in Lightfall, in the year of Lightfall more and more of our non-crafted weapons (starting with new raid Adepts this year) will have the ability to be enhanced.
- Enhancing allows your dropped weapon to start leveling up, use mementos, and gain access to both enhanced perks and enhanced intrinsic properties, but only the enhanced versions of the perks and Masterwork that are already on the version of the weapon you are enhancing.
- Simply said, with some time and resources, enhancing allows you to take the random rolled weapon you’ve obtained and enhance its existing roll to match the full power of a crafted weapon.
- We are targeting to roll this out initially with Lightfall raid Adepts at the launch of Season of the Deep. Long term, we want to expand this functionality to most of our new non-crafted weapon drops, but there are some technical hurdles we need to solve first.
- For crafted weapons, we will have some additional changes planned:
- You will never see Deepsight on a weapon unless it is something you need to make pattern progress on. When you see a red border in-game, you will know it's valuable.
- Targeting Season of the Deep, we will also be adding a mechanism to activate Deepsight on any craftable weapon they do not have the pattern for.
Finally, we want to tackle one more thing out-of-game to help with our goal of expanding the player imagination, and that’s giving our players a little more of a sneak peek into releases before they hit the servers. So, while some of our releases this year will still be kept secret until they hit players’ machines, others, like Season of the Deep, we’ll preview and share key details ahead of time.
Bring Challenge Back to Destiny
We could have all the variety in the world, and that wouldn’t matter much if we weren’t also making sure that the content our players spend the most time with is engaging and interesting. There’s a lot that goes into making a piece of Destiny content engaging, but at the chewy center, it's challenge.
Last year, we spent a lot of time bringing all our subclasses up to the Stasis 3.0 standard. During that time, not only did our abilities become more powerful, but their synergy with weapons and gear raised the total Power tide for all boats.
The result of these changes is a game with a more compelling RPG, but at times lower levels of challenge in our core content. With a player base as large as Destiny’s, the right level of difficulty is going to be different for everyone. While we are still committed to offering multiple difficulty levels in content such as our campaigns, Nightfalls, secret missions, dungeons, and raids, we feel like the baseline challenge in most of our content is just too low.
Bringing challenge back to Destiny requires a two-pronged approach. If we just tuned up our enemies across the game, we would start to encounter issues where combatants frequently one-shot players and would feel super spongy. As a result, even more relaxing content would require players to conform to the most meta Guardian loadouts. On the other hand, if we were only to tune the player’s efficiency, the RPG elements would start to feel like they matter less, and Destiny might start to lose its essential fantasy of being this powerful battle wizard in space. So instead of focusing just on one vector, we’re going to take measured approaches in both the player’s toolkit and the strength of our monsters.
Let's start with the player’s toolkit. Across both PvE and PvP, we believe that abilities dominate too many engagements due to potency (which we don’t want to nerf) and uptime, which we do want to tackle. Destiny is a game about guns and powers; we want both to shine. So, starting with Lightfall, we are moderately increasing ability recharge time across a wide selection of our abilities as mentioned in the ability tuning preview last week. We’ve also noticed that enemy combatants just aren’t hitting as hard as we want them to, especially against max resilience Guardians, so we’re adjusting the amount of damage resistance granted by resilience and increasing the energy cost of resilience mods from 1 to 2 for minor mods and 3 to 4 for major mods.
With the buildcrafting updates in Lightfall, we believe great builds will be much more accessible to the community, and while we still want your gear and your mods to be critical, some of the buffs to Guardians’ damage and survivability were just a bit too strong in the old system, and so we’ve taken this opportunity for a balancing patch to gear-driven buffs.
Now, I know those last paragraphs might have been scary to read, but we don’t think these changes are going to be a big swing of the balance pendulum. More than anything, this is about reining in some unintentional Power creep that we saw over the last year. We’re committed as always to making your Guardian feel like the ultimate monster-killing machine, and I’m confident that with Strand, our new buildcrafting updates, and a suite of new weapons coming in Lightfall, you will all be making Zavala and Shaxx very proud.
But I promised a two-sided approach to challenge, so let’s talk about how things will be shaking up with enemy difficulty. Recently, we’ve been happy with the level of challenge present in the base Heist Battlegrounds playlist. To achieve this, we used a difficulty knob that enforces just how over-leveled we will let players be compared to the enemies they are fighting. This knob has always been present across our activities, and it’s adjusted based on how evergreen we want the challenge to be in those missions.
We were pretty aggressive with this adjustment in Season of the Seraph and it produced great results, so the base Battlegrounds playlist in Season of Defiance will use the same settings. Carrying this approach over, we are also going to be adjusting this same difficulty tweak on the Vanguard Ops playlist. We aren’t going to set this playlist knob to a level quite as intense as the Battlegrounds playlist, but we do want to use this setting to make Vanguard Ops a lot more engaging to the average Guardian starting in Lightfall. This approach to Power and difficulty is also going to be present when players are roaming around Neomuna, and while we don’t want the entire game to feel like it's turned up to 11, we think these changes will help the enemy forces patrolling Neomuna feel dangerous and worth your attention.
You may have noticed that we have been experimenting a lot with our Power settings over the last few seasons, and we are planning on taking on even more experiments this year. We think that there are some major issues with Power in Destiny 2 and how it prevents players from seeing some of our best content, so we’d like to make a big change to the system in The Final Shape. However, to understand more about how our changes could be improved, we want to keep tweaking our Power settings over the year of Lightfall.
Some of these tweaks might be found in our back end with little transparency to the average Guardian, while others will be front and center. For example, when Lightfall launches, we will have a Power climb that is very similar to that in The Witch Queen, but later in Season of the Deep, we don’t plan to raise the Power or pinnacle cap at all.
Enrich Our Content
With all these changes to Power and pursuits, we also want to make sure there is plenty for players to sink their teeth into over the next year. For the last few years, we’ve been trying to attack this problem by trying to squeeze one more morsel of new content in each release. But I think we can get better results with a different strategy: making the existing depth of incredible content in Destiny 2 more valuable to new and returning Guardians.
Let's start with one of our most evergreen rituals, the Crucible. Player-versus-player combat is here to stay in Destiny 2, as we think it’s one of the most inherently replayable parts of the Destiny experience. Last year, we injected several new modes into PvP, from Rift to Eruption to Fortress. We’re excited for some of these game modes to get more facetime in the core ritual experience, but we’re not done adding variety to the ways you engage with PvP.
In Season of Defiance, we’re looking at getting Countdown back into the game along with a respawn variant of the game mode we call Countdown Rush, where players must detonate/defuse both bombs on the map before the round ends. We also aim to run a series of Crucible Labs, including a mode where the player sandbox is dramatically changed. Weapon damage, ability uptime, and even ammo are all adjusted in a new mode tentatively titled "Checkmate Control." This mode will reward players who use their smarts and their skills. So, if the only way the enemy has been able to shut you down in the past is a solo Blade Barrage, they might be in trouble. This isn’t all we have planned for modes, so keep your eyes on Labs for more classic and all-new modes later this year.
Now, we think that a steady stream of novel game modes, and a reining in of player Power is going to do a lot for the health of our PvP ecosystem, but we’re still committed to keeping true to our Crucible maps plan, which means the arrival of Meltdown in Season of the Deep, a brand new Vex Network map in Season 22, and the return of Citadel in our last Season before The Final Shape. We will also be looking at our existing maps and doing a spawn retuning pass on many of them this year to improve how our various modes flow.
In matchmaking, we still don't feel we have nailed the trade-off between fair matches and good connections. We still need to get features like Dynamic Skill Ranges in-game to allow for players across all skill levels to get consistently high-quality connections in their matches. As we continue to adjust algorithms to improve connection qualities, we are also turning our eyes toward lobby balancing, where we aim to construct matches with a more consistent skill spread amongst players on both teams.
We also want to continue to zoom out and make sure that we’re upgrading the meta systems that encourage folks to play PvP. Think of this like the Iron Banner revamp, our recent increases to Iron Banner Reputation, and our commitment to having three Iron Banners per season this year. While we haven’t settled on all the final details, we are currently looking at the rewards and matchmaking structures of Trials of Osiris and would like to push more updates to that mode this year in order to more consistently keep the population at healthier levels. Finally, in Competitive we want to improve the speed at which players climb to the rank that most matches their Crucible skill and ensure it’s clear why you won or lost the specific number of ranked points shown after a match.
Exotic Mission Rotator
Trials won’t be the only thing getting love as far as rituals go, so let's start talking about the PvE side of the game. Over the years, we’ve added a ton of great Exotic missions like Presage and Operation: Seraph’s Shield to Destiny 2. This year, not only will we continue to create new Exotic missions, but starting in Season 22, we will be adding an Exotic mission rotator.
Like our legacy raid and dungeon rotators, the Exotic mission rotator will feature Exotic missions from the past that rotate on a weekly cadence and offer great rewards for players willing to dive into some classic content. In Season 22, this rotator will contain the Exotic missions from Seasons 13, 16, and 19: Presage, Vox Obscura, and Operation: Seraph’s Shield. With this framework implemented, we hope to use this rotator in the future to continue to bring some of Destiny 2’s most classic missions back into the fold.
Refreshing Our Strikes
Another area of PvE we think we can have a big effect on is the Vanguard rituals. We have already talked about how we are going to be making the Vanguard Ops playlist more engaging by raising the challenge level, but with Lightfall, we are also shaking up some of the activities inside the playlist.
This effort will begin with refreshing the Lake of Shadows and Arms Dealer strikes. Both activities have had their objectives and encounters re-imagined and upgraded to match the combat engagement levels of some of our more recent strike entries, such as Lightblade and Proving Grounds. In addition, we are also taking strikes that have not been updated recently, such as Exodus Crash and The Inverted Spire, and dramatically reducing their presence in the Vanguard Ops playlist while eliminating them from Nightfall rotations. These strikes will still be available for direct launch, but until they get brought up to the engagement parity with some of our more recent Vanguard content, they will not show up as frequently as part of ritual gameplay.
Aside from strikes, we are also going to be upgrading how Battlegrounds integrate with Vanguard Ops. Alongside Lightfall, the Season 16 and Season 19 Battlegrounds will be added to the Vanguard Ops playlist. We really like the fast, enemy-filled chaos of Battlegrounds, so this year we will also be adding a selection of Battlegrounds as Nightfalls. This process will begin with the Mars Heist Battleground being part of the Nightfall rotation in Season of Defiance, and we expect more Battlegrounds to be following suit each season.
We’re excited to see how players tackle Season of Defiance’s first Nightfall rotation where four out of the six Nightfalls will be new or refreshed content coming to the Grandmaster rotation for the first time. We expect even the older Nightfalls to feel rekindled by new loadout options, since the match game modifier is also being retired from Nightfalls with the launch of Lightfall.
As we get further away from Lightfall in our seasonal schedule, we are going to make some targeted changes to ritual content based on what we’ve observed about why players engage in this content. While we don’t expect these changes to make it in for Season of Defiance, over time we want to start pushing both more rewards to ritual content and more options to engage with our ritual content. This will include changes such as moving the initial source of obtaining Exotic armor away from Lost Sectors and back into the core rituals, no longer asking players to earn all three of the ritual pursuit ornaments in seasonal challenges, and allowing players to earn more new rewards and complete more of their weekly challenges by playing content of their choice, not just in the newest seasonal activity playlist.
This rebalancing of objectives and rewards is going to be a slow burn over the year of Lightfall, and we are going to take a more direct approach in our last Season of the year, dedicating a significant amount of development time toward a more core ritual-focused season. While this Season will have plenty of new activity and story content, we want to take this time right before The Final Shape to crisp up our core rituals and pursuits as we head into our final expansion of the Light and Darkness Saga. This last seasonal effort is just now getting underway, so expect more details as we get further into the year.
Connect Our Guardians
A lot of what we have planned for this year is right around the corner, including big features like Commendations and Guardian Ranks with the launch of Lightfall. The Commendations system is the first step in creating stronger connections between Guardians this year.
It can be hard to reach out to someone you don’t know. Commendations are an icebreaker – a simple way of saying thanks to players that you appreciated playing with. Over time, players will accumulate a ton of different commendations that help build a story for how others in Destiny 2 perceive you.
Certain commendations like “Pacesetter” and “Saint’s Favorite” are only available to be given in Trials of Osiris, while others like “Perceptive” and “Knowledgeable” are given out in raid and dungeon content. Eventually, the commendations you earn will become a history for where you’ve been and what you’ve done.
With the Commendations system, those at the highest levels of Guardian Ranks will have proven to be folks that are consistently appreciated by others in the community. Sometimes it will be because they are the kinds of people willing to do the heavy lifting when organizing a large group of players. Sometimes it will be because, even if they aren’t the kinds of people comfortable speaking up, they are always doing what needs to be done to help the group overcome the obstacle in front of them.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been playing a bunch of Heist Battlegrounds, and every so often I’ll get matched with a pair of folks that I have a lot of synergy with, and we will end up absolutely crushing the Hive infestation. This joy has come with this tiny sense of regret that I’m not living just a few weeks in the future and able to pass along a couple of commendations to show my thanks. I can’t wait for Lightfall to be in everyone’s hands so we can all have the opportunity to show gratitude to our fellow Guardians.
Commendations represent just the first step of reaching out to one another. If players want to generate a deeper relationship, they need the opportunity to communicate. Over the last few years, Destiny 2 has often felt too lonely for those who aren’t playing with folks they know. In order to improve this, we’d like to invest in the overall chattiness of Destiny 2. This is not something that’s going to happen right away with Lightfall, but we want to start opening up more lines of communication between our players in the future.
Eventually, we want to change our game-wide text chat channels so you have more frequent opportunities to reach out to a fellow Guardian. Over time, we’d like to continue to invest in deeper chat moderation, better filtering, and bigger features like speech-to-text.
We think that text chat is a great way for players to communicate with one another at their own pace while still retaining some anonymity. This does not mean that text chat is going to become required for Destiny 2! We still plan on allowing anyone inside Destiny 2 the ability to avoid text chat entirely, meaning they will never automatically be added to a social text chat. We also plan to allow anyone the option to quickly leave channels on a case-by-case basis if the chat is trending in a way that makes their game experience worse.
This is all going to be very new for Destiny, so I expect that we will be learning a lot from these first few steps and tweaking our plans with chat and how open various channels are as we go forward and get feedback from all of you.
The last piece of our social puzzle for the year is our biggest: Fireteam Finder. Initially, we hoped to get our take on a first-class in-game Looking for Group tool in players’ hands this summer with Season 22, alongside our next reprised raid, making a perfect pairing for new raiders. But as our plans became more solidified, we realized that the features needed to create a truly top-notch LFG experience were going to require a bit more time. So, while that reprised raid is still coming out this summer, we’re pushing Fireteam Finder out to our final Season of the year alongside a brand-new dungeon.
We think that a truly first-class LFG system won’t be perfect until we can see how our players use it, but we want to make sure that the initial launch still has a ton of features that will allow players to find a fireteam inside of Destiny. This means a Fireteam Finder that you can queue up for from anywhere in the game. The ability to tag your posts with keywords to describe the kind of group you’re running and the kind of people you’re looking to recruit. The option to create groups where folks can join automatically, allowing you to get right into the action. And the power to create groups where you as a leader can approve or deny each person trying to join up, giving you tight control over the kind of group you’re putting together.
I can’t wait for Fireteam Finder to make its way into players’ hands later in Lightfall’s year and to see how many more of our Guardians will be able to enjoy some of the best content in gaming alongside all of you.
So, those are the big four for the year: expand players’ imaginations, bring challenge back to Destiny, enrich our content, and connect our Guardians. It’s not going to happen all at once, and we most certainly will try some things that aren’t going to land right on the first attempt. But we are going to continue to take risks with Destiny 2, because we think taking risks is essential to surprising and delighting our players.
It’s possible that we get into this year and discover a new set of opportunities and challenges for us to pursue. If that happens and our roadmap for the year changes, you’ll hear it from us. We’ll keep you posted on our web site and our socials. As we talked about at the start, Destiny 2 is a big, living, breathing organism, and what it needs to thrive is always changing, but one thing you can count on is that just as so many of you are choosing to spend your precious time in this game world, we are proud and grateful to be there dreaming about, creating, and experiencing this game we all love.
Thanks for reading and see you on Neomuna,
Game Director Destiny 2