As some of you know, I didn’t work on Destiny before it shipped in 2014. I started out as a Guardian. I got hooked on running the Vault of Glass, trying to get my Truth drop in a Nightfall, and, yes, sometimes trolling my fireteam with inopportune Ward of Dawn placements.
After playing for just a few short weeks, I knew I wanted to do whatever it took to work on the game. Destiny changed my life. Back then, I knew Bungie had just begun the journey of what Destiny could be – and what it could mean – to so many Guardians like me. When I walked through the doors of Bungie for the first time, The Dark Below had just shipped and the team already had their eyes up, outlining ambitious plans for the future. It was clear that everyone at Bungie loved Destiny fiercely and believed in its future as much as I did.
Flash forward to today. Season of the Chosen has launched, and it's incredible to see how far the game has come. Right now my Guardian is crushing Battlegrounds, perfecting a new build for Master Lost Sectors, gilding titles, progressing Seasonal Challenges, working on catalysts for some of the most unique Exotic weapons we’ve ever added to the game, and experiencing more Seasonal narrative progression in Destiny than ever before. It’s humbling to think how much of these systems and this content didn’t exist two years ago, last year, or even last month.
Though going to work these days includes video calls, guest pets and kids, what continues to humble and motivate me since my first day is how this team still looks at Destiny with fresh eyes every day. We see possibility in Destiny at all levels on the team and working on this game has really become life-changing for many of us. Destiny, this friendship-maker-and-sometimes-temporary-friendship-breaker; this catalyst to make memories; this universe that we all love. We’re lucky to be here and share these moments with you.
Destiny has so much to offer to so many different types of players, and even more than that, it means something different to each player. It’s complex, intricate, and demanding, and that makes it an awesome challenge to work on. As massive as Destiny is, we believe there is so much more potential to unlock in this amazing game, stories to finish and new stories to come, and that will keep driving us to make it better every week, every season, every year.
The Witch Queen, Lightfall, and Beyond
Last summer, we outlined our ambition for the next era in Destiny 2 by announcing the full arc, starting with Beyond Light, followed by the Witch Queen and Lightfall. As we began to scale production on the Witch Queen last year, we made the difficult but important decision to move its release to early 2022; we also realized we needed to add an additional unannounced chapter after Lightfall to fully complete our first saga of Destiny.
We’ve long thought about moving Destiny’s annual release to the early half of the year primarily for the health of the team, but the Witch Queen and not being tied to legacy expectations allowed us to make this choice early for three important reasons:
- The Witch Queen represents an important evolution in the ongoing story of Destiny 2. Beyond Light built the foundation and allowed us to weave the world-building of Destiny and Destiny 2 together, but The Witch Queen will light the fire on a strongly interconnected narrative across Lightfall and beyond, unlike anything we’ve ever attempted before, with characters, arcs, heroes and villains that persist over multiple future releases. Even more importantly, the conclusion of these releases will also conclude the “Light and Darkness Saga,” the conflict we first introduced with the launch of Destiny many years ago. As we’ve been developing The Witch Queen, we realized that we needed this release to be the first of many moments crucial to the story of Destiny. With so much leading to and dependent on what happens in The Witch Queen, we wanted to make sure that we gave ourselves enough time to build out this journey in the right way, starting with an exceptional first chapter in The Witch Queen.
- With Destiny now committed to being an everlasting evolving world, we want to make sure we are still taking the time to upgrade the systemic foundation of Destiny 2 to support everything we want to do in the future. Our ultimate vision for Destiny 2 still stands – a definitive action-MMO, a unified global community where you can play Destiny anywhere with your friends. For 2021 this means upgrading our approach to keeping Destiny’s weapon and armor game fresh, refining our vision for PVP, implementing transmog, and adding Crossplay. More below.
- Finally, and the most important reason, we are proud to be uncompromising when it comes to our commitment to the health of our teams. With COVID-19 keeping us away from the office, and the large amount of work on our plates, we needed to move the date in order to make sure that both this year's updates and The Witch Queen were both delivered at the quality we strive for, and on a schedule that made sense for everyone involved.
Making this choice is not one we took lightly. Believe me, as someone close to The Witch Queen’s progress, there's no one more than us that wants to get it out as soon as it’s ready. But at the end of the day, we know we’re making this call for The Witch Queen and future chapters in Destiny 2 for all the right reasons, ones that puts our team first and our game at the quality bar we strive for ourselves.
We'll have more to share on The Witch Queen and beyond in the late summer of this year.
But today we need to talk about what’s happening in 2021.
Let’s get to it.
Rewards That Matter
With Season 11, we introduced infusion caps, an iteration on infusion designed to keep Destiny’s gear game fresh from release to release and to create a healthy ecosystem for our aspirational content. While we still believe in these goals, it's clear our execution was off the mark.
Infusion caps helped us meaningfully shift the meta in Beyond Light and create a rewards ecosystem that was manageable to balance and monitor, but the system has also made our rewards feel like they have an expiration date and have frequently made playing our legacy content feel shallow. We want the rewards you’ve earned in Beyond Light and its subsequent seasons to feel like valuable tools you can use in the incredible challenges you’ll face in The Witch Queen. So, we’re making a change.
We’ve made the decision that any weapon or armor that can currently be infused to max Power will continue to be able to reach max Power permanently. Starting in Season 14 we won’t be capping the infusion on any weapons or armor that have not already reached the cap as of the start of Season 13. This means you’ll be able to take your Trustee, your Falling Guillotine, and all the high-stat armor you’ve earned this year to take on the raid in The Witch Queen.
While we still strongly believe that Destiny needs a method to shift our meta in the game’s most challenging activities, we don’t believe that infusion caps are the right answer. We’re taking time this year to research and validate a plan that creates a fresh and balanceable ecosystem for our most aspirational content, one that doesn’t make our rewards feel like they have an expiration date. We’ve learned a lot this year and don’t want to rush finding the best plan, so don’t expect to hear anything more about this until after The Witch Queen.
Because we won’t be capping any more of our weapons, we must consider more variables in the game balance of our upcoming seasons and releases, so expect to see tuning when it comes to our biggest outliers in PVP and PVE. Yes, I’m looking at you, Felwinter’s and Warmind Cells.
This is a big change for Destiny and one that we did not make lightly. However, we believe there’s nothing more important in Destiny than getting our rewards right.
Now that we’ve talked about rewards, let's talk about Power. Last year we started a paradigm where we raised the overall Power cap by 50 each season. While this helped ensure that infusion caps shifted the meta, it also made each season feel like a significant reset to the Power you had accumulated.
To combat this, we will be experimenting with a new Power level cap. Starting in Season 14, we will only be raising the Power cap by 10 for each non-expansion season. This means if you reach the maximum Power in Season 13, when next season rolls around you will be directly in the 10-point Pinnacle band of the Power pursuit. This Power increase should feel familiar to anyone who played Season of Dawn last year, and we’re excited to see how this progression feels alongside our new systems.
We believe this change will make it even easier to pick up and enjoy Destiny each season, while still allowing us to have a deep RPG Power pursuit when we launch The Witch Queen.
Angels of Death
Like many of you, I am passionate about PVP in Destiny 2 and it’s clear that we haven’t had a consistent message around these modes. So, I’d like to share our high-level vision for the Crucible:
Direct player versus player competition is essential in Destiny as an option to express mastery of your Guardian and showcase the strength of your arsenal against other players.
It’s a simple vision, but it's one that’s crucial to making the game feel like a real place for those players that crave that showcase, where the rewards you’ve earned, the skill you demonstrate, and how you’ve built your Guardian all matter. So, let’s talk about what we’re doing this year for PVP, starting with our two priorities: improving gameplay sandbox balance in the Crucible and upgrading the experiences of our most aspirational game modes.
When it comes to balance updates, these can be divided into three major buckets.
First, in Season 15 we will be addressing “three-peeking” in Trials and Competitive. In these modes, emotes will be disabled and players will be unable to pull out any third person weapon that doesn't have ammo. Third person experiences are part of what make Destiny’s gameplay feel so good, but it was clear in our most competitive arenas that these mechanics were being used in ways we did not intend. This is a tricky problem to solve in Destiny's complicated sandbox, but we think this is a good starting point.
Second, over the next several seasons, we will be making changes to Stasis and Light subclasses in order to achieve a healthier balance of subclasses in the Crucible. Across Season 13 and 14 we will be adjusting Stasis in the Crucible in order to bring its overall effectiveness in line with our Light subclasses. Here are some of the changes you can expect coming to updates this Season and next:
- Decrease Super damage reduction.
- Increase Super energy cost when performing light attacks.
- Remove freeze AOE on Super cast.
- Reduce travelling efficacy of Shiver Strike when slowed.
- Decrease Withering Blade damage and tracking.
- Decrease slow stacks applied to targets.
- Remove Shatterdive damage reduction.
- Fix bug where Iceflare Bolts wouldn’t track towards targets immediately on creation.
- Fix bug where Shadebinder Super projectiles were not tracking until a certain distance travelled.
- Decrease crystal shatter damage.
For Season 15 we are also looking at universal adjustments to Stasis by increasing damage reduction when frozen to provide more survivability for the victim.
Following this Stasis tuning, in Season 15, we will also focus on Light subclasses and release a set of targeted buffs to our most underutilized specializations. The goal of all these changes is to keep Stasis feeling great in PVE and to bring its representation in PVP more in line with our Light-based abilities.
Finally, we want to continue to adjust weapon archetype performance and introduce new perks that shift the meta in the Crucible. I think the team has done a great job in this area over the last several months, introducing balance changes both at the seasonal boundaries and at the mid-season, and we want to continue to drive down this path to diversify the types of loadouts you encounter from season to season. In addition, at Season 15 we will also be looking to adjust overall ability usage rates to make sure guns and gunplay are always key to success in the Crucible.
Of course, gameplay balance only matters when the underlying playing field is fair, and unfortunately cheating continues to be a significant issue, especially on PC. We’re always working to maintain security as new exploits emerge, and as always, we don't want to talk about a lot of those improvements for fear of empowering the bad guys. A few areas we can talk about are:
- We’re aiming to nearly double the size of the Bungie game security team this year, reflecting our long-term commitment to fair play.
- We’ve begun regular surveys to better understand your experiences with cheating and to measure our progress. This new data enriches our existing streams from player reports (thank you for reporting!) and game instrumentation. If you receive one of these surveys, please share your experiences to help us fight cheating.
- We’ve begun a strategy of aggressive legal action against cheat developers. You may have seen news articles about some of our early actions here, and we will continue to pursue those who undermine fair play using every tool at our disposal, both in partnerships with other studios and under our own flag.
We’ll share more security news when we can.
Beyond gameplay balance and security, we also want to adjust the structures of our most aspirational PVP modes in order to make them a better experience for our players.
First up, we’re targeting an overhaul of the Trials of Osiris rewards structure and matchmaking paradigms, to release before the end of this year. With this update we specifically want to target a few things:
- Improve the overall health of the Trials matchmaking pool, both by incentivizing a wider audience to engage, and better defining separation of skill tiers.
- Rebuild the Trials reward structure so that it encourages more players to stick to their active cards longer. Our current structure encourages a lot of recycling cards after a single loss, meaning the first games of your Trials card has a high chance of being incredibly challenging. We want to build a reward structure that continually pushes higher skill players to want to progress deeper into their card even after a loss, making 3-5 wins a more achievable goal for more players.
- Investigate opportunities for solo players to participate in Trials regularly. We believe this will not only make the matchmaking pools healthier, but also will also encourage more players to see what Trials is all about and hopefully form social connections with other PVP-loving Guardians.
After Trials, we will be targeting a similar in scope refresh to Iron Banner. While there is a lot do when it comes to supporting the Crucible, we want to target our efforts around global PVP balance and our most aspirational modes first.
In Season 14, the Vault of Glass will return. The team will have a lot more to say about it before launch, but there are a few things I’d like to clarify now. Our philosophy behind bringing things out of the Destiny Content Vault is to keep them feeling like the content you remember while updating them to meet Destiny 2 difficulty and raid standards. So, while the high-level experience remains the same, you should expect the raid team to have a few tricks up their sleeves when you tackle the depths of Venus this summer.
Vault of Glass will also launch with both a Contest mode in the first 24 hours and a World First race. Since this is a reprised raid, we’re going to do World First a bit different. Players looking to claim the belt will not only have to complete the raid, but also a curated list of challenging Triumphs. And while only one fireteam will walk away with a belt, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to earn the ability to purchase some sweet real-world loot through Bungie Rewards.
One last thing. Before the end of the year we are also looking to add a Master version of Vault of Glass. We’ve been really excited about how Master and Grandmaster difficulty have altered Nightfall strikes, increasing the potency of combat and the importance of executing mechanics. We’d like all our future RAD (raid and dungeon) content to offer Master difficulty versions, where players can earn Adept raid and dungeon gear, and while we aren’t able to commit to a Season 14 timeframe for Master VoG, we do want to take the time to develop a sustainable structure that allows us to ship these closer together in future releases.
Getting Reacquainted with Adelaide
In Season 14, Ada-1 is returning to the Tower, and with her comes the ability for players to take any armor they have in their collections and turn it into a universal ornament. In Destiny 2 we will call this transmog system “Armor Synthesis.”
Every season Ada will offer players a set of bounties that highlight various activity types. Players can complete these quests and receive the materials they need to power up Ada’s Loom, which can turn any piece of armor in your collection into a permanent universal ornament. Players short on time will also be able to purchase Synthesis tokens for Silver.
Once you’ve acquired some new universal ornaments, you will want to head over to the new appearance screen in the character menu, where you can manage the ornaments on all your gear in one place. You’ll also find that you can apply shaders here individually or on all pieces of your equipped gear with one click. To make it even easier to try out a bunch of new looks in Season 14 we’ve also changed shaders to be permanent unlocks, meaning you no longer will need to hold onto stacks of shaders in your inventory.
At the beginning of Season 14 we will be including a starting supply of Synthesis materials as reward for completing the Seasonal onboarding quest. We know many of you have been looking forward to Synthesis for a long time and want to frontload your ability to create some of the looks you’ve been looking forward to showing off.
We’ve still got a few quick things to cover, but I wanted to make sure we didn’t end without taking the time to recognize how incredible the team is here at Bungie. It's enormously difficult to make a game like this from home, but the team comes at it every day with unmatched enthusiasm and talent. One of the reasons why is that our team is full of Guardians: conquerors, Lighthouse frequent-flyers, lore masters, and people that just love to get in a strike or two with their family. All the work they do is because they believe that Destiny 2 can be the definitive action MMO on consoles and PC for years to come. So, without spoiling our plans for The Witch Queen and beyond, let's talk about a few more things the team is working on this year.
- Crossplay is coming to the masses in Season 15. We’ll be doing some internal rollouts and alpha tests in Season 14 to prepare for a widespread launch this fall. With Crossplay, you’ll be able to play with all your friends no matter what platform you call home. And don’t worry, we won’t be matching console and PC players together in the Crucible unless PC players specifically invite their console friends to play with them in the PC Crucible pools.
- Some of you have noticed that Ikora Rey has not been nearly as present recently in Destiny 2. We've missed her as well. Not only will you see Ikora again in Season 14, she will be playing a pivotal role in The Witch Queen.
- In Beyond Light, we introduced Stasis subclasses. Like Solar, Arc, and Void, Stasis will continue to evolve into a fully supported damage type. In Season 15, we will introduce our first round of Legendary Stasis Energy and Power weapons. There will be a lot more info here as we get closer to the fall.
- More recently in Season 13, we rolled out phase one of our new gilded title system, where players can gild our ritual titles like Conqueror, Unbroken, Dredgen, and Flawless each season. In Season 14, phase two of gilding titles will roll out. When players gild a title, it will now also display how many times that title has been gilded in the past.
I can’t overstate how excited I am for what the team has planned for this year and beyond. What we're doing this year is about multiplying our potential for years to come, and while I promised not to spoil any of the things we will reveal for The Witch Queen later this year, I feel like I owe you a little treat for sticking with me after all this text. So, here’s an early concept at one of the wild armor sets you’ll be able to earn in our next annual release.
Thanks for reading,
Joe “Joegoroth” Blackburn
Assistant Game Director Destiny 2