As the release date for Destiny 2: Shadowkeep nears, game director Luke Smith is experimenting with a new way to communicate his reflections, insights, and plans for the future in a three part blog called the Director's Cut.
Each post focuses on a different aspect of the past, present, and future of Destiny 2, and as whole provides a level of transparency not often seen from game developers. At over 10,000 words, the Director's Cut is a pretty beefy manifesto to work through. We're going to be breaking down the key elements of each section as well as sharing our own thoughts on Destiny 2, where it's been, and where it's heading.
Most would agree that Destiny 2 is in the best state it has ever been in. The Annual Pass experiment delivered a constant stream of content all throughout Forsaken and gave players tons of weapons to chase and power to earn. Yes, it still has it's problems, but Smith is proud that the team was able to lay out a road map for the year and achieve all of their goals.
Unfortunately, the downside was that the past 6 months have represented an unsustainable workload for the team. Jumping from release to release has left many worn out and overworked at Bungie, and with the growing concern for work-life balance in the game industry, don't expect D2Y3 to keep up with the same flow of content that Year 2 had, Smith makes this clear by saying "We needed to develop a more systemic, standardized set of mechanics for progression to keep our teams healthier."
Next, Smith acknowledged that the game currently has too many sources for powerful engrams, meaning players are spreading themselves too thin repeating the oldest Year 2 activities like story missions and farming dreaming city in order to get upgrades, curation is going to be a focus moving forward.
To that extent, either Gambit or Gambit Prime will soon be vaulted in order to focus resources on tuning one game mode or the other. Smith also noted how some players didn't appreciate how Season of the Drifter disproportionately focused on one game mode, and that's something they're going to try to avoid in the future.
Other topics covered in this section include balancing the action side and the RPG side of Destiny, occasionally needing to nerf overpowered weapons to maintain meaningful challenges, changes to the Eververse store, a reimagined questlog, and acknowledging that the Menagerie is a massive hit and they will be focusing on more constant progression activities like that. The entire post offers some great insights into how the developers think about Destiny and what they want the game to be in the future.
Smith begins part 2 by describing the new armor system, Armor 2.0, coming to Shadowkeep in September. Armor will now have a variety of roll and customization options in order for players to tune their builds more specifically to match their play style and team composition. Old armor isn't getting left behind, either. ALL armor will be migrated to Armor 2.0 so players can search for the perfect roll on their favorite piece, no matter what era of the game it's from. Armor 2.0 is going to be a big shift for Destiny, and will be the first step toward reimagining the game as a deeper RPG.
Probably the most significant reveal in Part 2 is that with the launch of Shadowkeep and the free-to-play version New Light, the power level of every single item in the game is being increased to 750. This new starting point is to ensure that new players coming to the game can play with current players on an even playing field and participate in the same activities.
Finally, Smith detailed the new seasonal artifact item, which levels independent of your character and provides unique buffs and bonuses. The power level of the artifact will reset each season, and it is designed as a way for players to pursue power even after reaching max power level and give more RPG options to the game.
Bungie is lowering the immunity wall in Shadowkeep so players have the option of taking on challenges they are way under-leveled for if they so chose. There is also something like a stat squish coming to overhead damage numbers to show values that are easier to understand and more meaningful.
Supers, particularly roaming supers, are going to get reworked. This may disappoint some players, but let's face it, the power level of supers has gotten way out of control. Bungie is also changing heavy ammo to be given to the whole team when collected, like it was in Destiny 1.
PVP is getting some major changes as well. 3v3 will be the new standard for competitive going forward, and several new 3v3 game modes are in the works, including the return of elimination.
Finally, Smith went into some details about how narrative and content releases will work in Year 3. Destiny 2 can't grow infinitely, and to that end, this year's new content will be added, things will change, and then that content will end and be removed at the end of the season. The next season will introduce a new chapter in the story, and the game will change again, adding new temporary content for the next 3 months. This is in effort to move Destiny forward as an evolving word, without letting it collapse under its own weight.
A New Era For Destiny
This type of long-form communication goes a long way to make the community feel heard and help them understand the changes that are coming to the game. Luke Smith did a fantastic job representing himself not only as the director steering the ship but also as a passionate player that feels all the same things the rest of the players feel. Destiny seems to be on the right track, learning from their mistakes and pursuing the things people like about the game. When New Light launches in October there will be a lot of new guardians joining the fight, and from the way it sounds, they're going to find a Destiny that is fresh and ready to receive them.
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