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Seasons in Destiny 2's Third Year

Hey everyone,

A couple of weeks ago, I did a (too?) many-word retrospective [Part I, Part II, Part III] on the last six months or so of Destiny 2. This covered what we think worked well, what didn’t work as well as we’d hoped, and some of our thinking on where Destiny 2 is heading. You’ll see some of this manifesting in what’s coming this fall:

  • A Rise of Iron–sized expansion, Shadowkeep, where we’ll explore how the Moon has evolved since we were there last. (See how vague I’m being? It’s because I don’t want to SPOIL. There are many, many sleeps to go.)
  • Overhauls to key game systems such as armor that give you more choices on how you play and look.
  • Evolution of game difficulty systems, starting with changes to Nightfall strikes. (You may have seen a preview last week at gamescom; more on that down the road.)
  • Features that make it easier to play with friends, such as New Light* (more below) and Cross Save. (I see all of you new-to-PC players. Thanks to the PC community for welcoming them!)

We’re simultaneously deepening the parts of Destiny 2 we know and love, but also removing the prohibitive stuff from before that made Destiny 2 hard to play with your friends.

This is a real high-wire act. We want Destiny to be a game where every blueberry could become someone who calls the Tower home.

My hands have had a week off from typing, so let’s talk about seasonal philosophy and how Seasons are shifting to fit with how we tell stories and move the world forward in the vision of Destiny 2 as a single, evolving world.

I mentioned in the Director’s Cut, Part III that we want Destiny to be a world that has narrative momentum, and a key part of that will be how Seasons support Year 3. Back in June, we mentioned that one of the ways we’re making it easier for friends to play together is to offer everything à la carte. We’re going to do just that with each Season. You and your friends can choose what you want to play, and the world will change every Season.

Year 3 will have four fully supported Seasons of content (last year’s Annual Pass had only three!), but this year, you can opt in to each Season for 10 bucks—you won’t have to pay up front for an entire year of content, like with the Forsaken Annual Pass. (FYI, the first season in this new vision, Season of the Undying, is included with Shadowkeep, but if you just want to experience Season of the Undying, you can grab that à la carte without needing Shadowkeep.)

The World of Destiny 2 Changes Every Season

With each new Season in Destiny, we want players to feel like they—as a community—are contributing to Destiny’s evolving world. Each Season in Destiny has to ride the line between delivering self-contained, Season-long world arcs and making the handoff to the next season. Together, Seasons move the Destiny universe forward.

In Season of the Undying, the portal to the Black Garden that was opened as a part of JacketQuest has awoken the Vex, and they are now pouring out across the surface of the Moon. Working with Ikora, players will [Do Some Stuff, Go Somewhere, Fight Some Things, and Solve a Problem aka REDACTED]. By the end of the Season, the portals will close, the world state will change, and the Seasonal activity connected to it will go away.

Yet something remains. This will be just in time for [REDACTED] to kick off the start of Season Nine—Season of Dawn.

Everyone who plays Destiny will be able to see how the world is different and changing during the Season. Those with the Season Pass will be able to play a seasonal matchmade activity within the Black Garden for that extra level of sweet gear (this is similar to the old Annual Pass access), but the goal is that everyone will be involved in how the world changes.

And at the end of the Season, your collective actions will have caused the world state to change and the Seasonal Activity connected to those events will also go away.

Doing this allows us to evolve the world—narratively, but potentially physically as well. It is not possible to keep Destiny frozen in place to allow all activities to live forever while also changing the world in meaningful ways. This strategy lets our team be agile and innovative. We believe that Destiny will grow even better when the world state can change, and that the best Destiny stories are the ones where “you had to be there when….”

But while events and activities in the world will come and go as the world evolves, weapons critical to the meta will not be locked in each Season for new players or for players who missed that Season. Legendaries and Exotics you need to stay competitive will be re-earnable in the future, although not always immediately after the Season ends. We’ll be talking more about that later—this is one area where, with the new seasonal model, we expect our plans to evolve across the Seasons to meet the needs of the Destiny community.

And while we’re on the subject of gear and weapons, I want to talk about some other additions we’re making to your chase to create whatever-your-perfect-Guardian-is.

Reward Philosophy in D2Y3
As we dug into how to deepen the customization of your Guardians, we wanted a reward system that could: standardize some of the reward mechanisms each Season, provide clear value in its rewards, make the value of a paid Season super clear, and allow players predictable progression via XP.

We all love the chase—that perfect roll!—but we all play differently. Year 3 will add more transparency and predictability while still giving you the RNG option for the unexpected gear or roll you didn’t know you loved until you got it.

We’re adding two new predictable reward pursuits in Season of the Undying.

Seasonal Artifact
Our first addition is the new Seasonal Artifact, which is free to all players. This will allow you to further customize your Guardian’s build every Season by unlocking additional mods to socket in your Armor 2.0 gear. Earning XP just by playing will level up your Artifact, letting you unlock the next mod you want for your characters.

While leveling up and unlocking mods, you will also increase the Power of the Artifact, which will continue increasing until the end of the Season (yes, it is uncapped). Artifact Power adds directly to your overall Power and is account-wide. We are both excited, and a little terrified, to see how high players will manage to raise their Artifact Power during the Season.

We want the Artifact to let us experiment more freely with our sandbox. During the last five years of Destiny, we’ve really wrestled with (and continue to wrestle with) obsolescence and permanence in player Power. So, when we were coming up with something new in the Seasonal Artifact, we wanted to figure out how we could have a system that allowed players to create build-altering powers yet not need to commit indefinitely to whatever they made and have it live on forever.

We want to date new builds, not get them hitched into the forever combat ecosystem.

It doesn’t have to be forever anymore. The Artifact can spotlight some different ways to play each Season and introduce new types of perks, while we (and you!) can experiment more boldly with new combinations and expressions of Power. We want to use the Artifact as a mechanic to allow the game to shift some each Season. In an action game like Destiny, part of the fun can be discovering new ways to play.

Here’s an example from my own play: I earned Wendigo this season. I did it naturally, by grinding a ton of strikes (although I was pretty tempted to go farm Blind Well with a group to make it go faster). I ended up using Fighting Lion a bunch in these strikes to get my grenade kills (omg why don’t the guys at the end of “The Hollowed Lair” count?!). What I found was that I really liked using Grenade Launchers, but I hadn’t really given them a spot in my routine PvE loadout (I don’t have Mountaintop). But as I was playing with Fighting Lion, I was getting better at using breech-loaded Grenade Launchers and at timing my detonations, et cetera.

So, while I was on WendigoQuest, I ended up developing an appreciation for an archetype I’d largely overlooked, and I developed some new skills (OK, “skills”) while earning Wendigo.

Seasonal Artifacts and Seasonal mods will go away at the end of each Season. And the new Season will bring a new Artifact, new mods, and a new pursuit for Power. This way, we can try bolder balance choices each Season with the sandbox, and if we get it a little wrong, we’ll be more likely to let it ride for the whole Season without nerfing your new favorite OP build.

Seasonal XP Progression
The second predictable reward chase we’re adding to Seasons are Season Pass Ranks. Some of you might have spotted this on the August 14 armor stream, but we didn’t provide any context. Without context, it’s really easy to find yourself on the jumping-to-conclusions mat. (This is totally human; we all do it. I certainly do. It’s OK.)

Let’s talk about these ranks.

We want to make sure that each Season has multiple, complementary reward sources, because we all play Destiny differently, and we want to be able to customize our Guardians the way we want to. We will continue to have RNG rewards as a part of our activities, and we also want to add a direct track of rewards each Season that you can progress every evening. The best weapons and armor will still live in the treasure chests of our toughest monsters and villains, but we hope now there will be fewer nights where players feel like they logged into Destiny and got nothing done.

The Internet is talking a lot about different builds in games. Season Ranks are kind of like a build for playing a season of Destiny. Grabbing bounties, doing strikes, completing weekly challenges—these are straightforward ways to unlock Season Pass Ranks when you don’t have the time to arrange a raid group, or check Google for the right strategies to solve a problem, or gamble against RNG (where it feels like the house always wins). The ranks help our friends in the community who have families and/or full time jobs, or who are deep in finals territory at college. Sometimes you just want to log in, grab some bounties, shoot some aliens (or Guardians), earn XP, and chill with your friends.

That’s why we’ve added 100 ranks to earn each Season, with Free and Premium track rewards, plus a UX design that’s intuitive and familiar if you play other games. Unlike those other games, you’ll make progress by earning XP doing the things you’re already doing in Destiny—defeating monsters and completing bounties and activities. This is about a new additive layer of predictable rewards for just playing the game.

Here’s a look at the Season Pass UI:

It’s All Part of the Season
With every Season Pass, you will get everything you’d expect from a Destiny Season (new activities, rewards, a storyline, et cetera), not just the new Season Rank UI and the reward tracks. Like I alluded to way back in the first Director’s Cut, we need more sustainable ways to deliver rewards, and the Season Rank UI is a big step in us getting there.

So now, with all this context, let’s look at what you Season Pass owners get in Season of the Undying (which, again, is included with Shadowkeep):

  • Season Pass owners get access to a new seasonal activity, the Vex Offensive, which includes:
    • Four Legendary Weapon drops
    • Additional weekly and daily bounties
    • Additional weekly challenges with powerful rewards

  • A new weapon quest for an Exotic Bow, Leviathan’s Breath
    • Exclusive to Season Pass owners

  • A new Exotic Hand Cannon, Eriana’s Vow
    • Awarded on Rank 35 of the free track
    • Awarded on Rank 1 of the premium track

  • Three seasonal Legendary armor sets (one for each class)
    • Collect a complete set during the first 25 ranks of the free track
      • NOTE: This is a change from the Annual Pass, where you were required to purchase gear from the Season.
    • On the premium track you get all three sets on Rank 1
    • These also drop within the Vex Offensive seasonal activity
      • If you want versions with higher stat tiers, you’ll need to play Vex Offensive to earn them

  • Some additional premium track rewards: 
    • Three universal ornament armor sets (one for each class)
    • An Exotic weapon ornament for Eriana’s Vow
    • Two Legendary weapon ornaments 
    • A new finisher
    • An Exotic emote 
    • An Exotic ship

Progression, or How Differently You All Play Destiny
For many of us, Destiny 2 is a regular hobby, but how that hobby fits in with our lives is different. We have players who play every day, we have players who have 10–15 hours a week, and we have players who log in for whatever time they can spare. Every season, Destiny 2 will change, and the community working on changing the world together means that we want all of our community to be able to be a part of it.

Some other games let players buy every rank when a new Season begins. In Destiny, we want your time spent playing the game to matter; we want the first players who unlock a bunch of the sweet stuff to have unlocked it through play, not pay. Some players are going to work super hard trying reach rank 100 as quickly as possible. We think that’s great.

But again, all of you play Destiny 2 differently, and when we say we want the whole community to be part of how the world changes every season, we keep coming back to giving players the choice of how they want to spend their time. Based on how a lot of you play, 100 ranks is going to be cleared in the season, but not all of you will have the time.

To solve for how our community plays Destiny, we’re planning to allow Season Ranks to be purchased as a catch-up mechanic late in the season. We’re going to wait to see how players engage with Season Ranks and make sure it’s tuned well before determining exactly when we unlock the ability.

Season of the Undying runs for 10 weeks, and we’re currently thinking of enabling this somewhere in the last 2–4 weeks of the Season. We know that sometimes life gets in the way, and you just want to get the last few rewards before the season ends and everything resets. In the same way that we’ve been doing seasonal catch-up for Power, we think providing a late-in-the-season rank catch up makes sense. This initial version is our starting point, and the way we’ve designed Seasons moving forward means that we’re going to be able to have the flexibility to tune how this works once we see how Season of the Undying goes.

I see you: “Did Bungie just raise the XP needed to get a rank to some ridiculous level so that players have to buy ranks at the end of the season?” The answer to that question is NO. For example, in our internal team tests, playing strikes in a fairly relaxed manner (18 minutes per strike play time) with full stacks of bounties can get a Seasonal Rank in less than one hour. Every week, Guardians also get rest XP bonuses (per account), where their first three ranks are at triple XP. Playing strikes with full stacks of bounties and rest XP should get 10 ranks in around 8 hours. And knowing you, we’ll all see even better ways you’ll min-max your time to clear your ranks.

Our goal in tuning this is for our most committed Destiny players, who start on week 1, to reach Rank 100 simply by doing the things they already love spending their time on. If that’s not happening, we have the freedom and ability to adjust. We want Destiny to be your home however you want to play and hit 100. You may never want or need to buy a rank. We just want our community to be able to play together as easily as possible and narratively be part of the Destiny world as it changes.

Your Seasonal Rank also goes away at the end of the Season—a new Season of ranks and rewards will take its place. And like our Seasonal Activities, we don’t want important gameplay-focused rewards to be inaccessible to players who missed a season, so any Legendary or Exotic weapons introduced in a Season Pass will be attainable in future Seasons. Those coveted rewards won’t be available immediately, but it won’t take longer than six months either. More details on that soon.

*New Light, Removing Barriers for Friends, and $0
We’ve talked a lot about what you get if you buy the Season Pass, but let’s talk about what you get with Destiny 2 for spending nothing. This fall, new friends playing Destiny 2 for the first time are coming, and we’re going to make Destiny a great experience for everyone. At its core, what makes Destiny 2 special and a place we all come back to is the community, the friendships, and the memories made along the way. Destiny is best if you can convince your friends to play, and we think a $0 price tag is another way to make that easier. The default version of Destiny 2 this fall will be New Light, and on top of all of D2Y1 available for free with New Light, we’re going to make sure there’s plenty of new, free content in Season of the Undying. Here’s some of what all players (even without the season pass) can access on October 1:

Alt: All Destiny 2 players, whether you’re coming in with New Light or are all-in on Shadowkeep and Season of the Undying, will have access to the following:

  • Patrolling the Moon destination
  • The opening mission of Shadowkeep  
  • Two new strikes
  • Crucible Updates
  • Two returning PvP maps from the D1 era—Widow’s Court and Twilight Gap
  • Elimination in Crucible Labs
  • Armor 2.0 build customization
  • Eye of the Gate Lord Seasonal Artifact
  • New finishers
  • Two new pinnacle weapons: one for Gambit and one for Crucible
  • Free Seasonal Rank rewards, which include:
    • New Exotic weapon—Eriana’s Vow
    • Three Legendary armor sets (1 per class)
    • Two Legendary weapons
    • Best of Year 2 Bright Engrams 
    • Glimmer and upgrade modules

The Legendary armor and weapons that come with the free Seasonal Ranks are like sampler platters for the Season Pass. If you want to find the best stat rolls for that armor, you will need to play the Seasonal activity and get the drops. But players who just want to collect all of the armor can earn the base version from the free track.

Eriana’s Vow, the new Exotic on our Seasonal track also drops on the free track (but you get it earlier if you have the Season Pass). We have also added a lot of rewards on the free track that are nice quality-of-life rewards for players, like upgrade modules, which are free Infusions.

How This Could’ve Worked Last Year
This has been a pretty dense dump of information (thankfully it has more pictures than the Director’s Cuts did). I wanted to wrap this up by looking at how a season of content done in the style of Year 3 might’ve worked with some Year 2 content we all remember. 

Let’s re-imagine the Season of the Forge in Year X of Bizzaro-Destiny

(begin Wayne’s World do-loo-loo-loo)

A week before the Season begins, all players receive a note in their mailbox. It simply reads: “I have returned from the stars. Meet me on Dec. 4 at 10:15 AM PST. —Ada” Once this note has been given out, a small countdown timer appears on the Traveler. When the timer reaches 0, players in the Tower see a ship unlike any they’ve ever seen land between Zavala and Lord Shaxx. A figure transmats out and walks through the Tower, opening a door that had long been shut. Players follow the character through the Tower and the figure lowers her hood and greets players, “I am Ada, and we have work to do.”

The Season Pass in the Director is updated, the rewards are revealed, and now Ada and players begin a Season-long experience of refining forges in the world, completing bounties, finding materials, working on Black Armory armor sets, and taking on the new raid, Scourge of the Past. In a twist, Datto and his group are the first to finish.

As players work together to forge weapons early in the track, smithing and building new ones, the room around Ada begins to change. The schematic data from players’ work is resulting in new weapons and mods for players to create. These weapons and mods don’t all require playing the Seasonal activity—some of them are found in new encounters within strikes, some of them are forged in Last Wish (like the Alchemy Lab in Blackwing Lair).

As the player community plays, meta objectives are revealed. Once a certain number of players have unlocked ranks on the Pass, cinematics unlock for everyone to watch. We see the Drifter and Ada arguing over something pitting the two against each other, the scene ends with Drifter raising an eyebrow at a set of gun schematics behind Ada.

As the Season winds to a close, the Drifter begins to summon players to him. He’s having a new space built in the Tower, and the first people he asks for help are those who’ve earned the title of Dredgen. Now players begin to gather materials and donate them to fund the Drifter’s new scam. The Drifter won’t stop talking about the gun schematics he saw behind Ada.

Very late in the Season, players notice Ada’s room looks like it’s being packed up. She’s leaving. The schematics that sat behind her are missing. Over the course of a few weeks, she packs her equipment and, in an event similar to her arrival, she vanishes. Ada, her wares, and her forges are gone.

Banshee-44 reminds players that even though Ada is gone, she left him the schematics for her weapons and armor, and he’ll be rotating them through over time.

And the Drifter asks you to visit him, saying he’s got a surprise…

(end Wayne’s World do-loo-loo-loo)

And while today, the “Let’s Pretend” section above is very much a work of fiction, we are working to build the technology that would make something like this possible and help make our Season Pass feel uniquely Destiny.

Season Passes in Year 3 will in some ways feel very new and in other ways feel pretty similar to the Forsaken Annual Pass experience. Our intent is that the Season Pass mechanics—as we’re aligning everything with a single, evolving world and how we’re moving the Destiny story meaningfully forward—are additive to the core Destiny experience (we’re still going to have things like Holiday events, dungeons and secret missions, and all kinds of stuff that we hope surprises you!). It’s an evolution and an experiment, and hopefully what you’ve seen lately is that we’re going to keep being agile and continuing to make the best decisions for the game along with you. We’re excited to see where our unified seasonal philosophy will let us take the Destiny universe over the next year.

(Also, thanks for all of the comments and responses to the Director’s Cuts—I have some deleted scenes and ideas on how the format could evolve when it returns next year!)

See you soon, 
Luke Smith 
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