Destiny 2 Y2 - DIRECTOR'S CUT - PART III YR 3 discussion PvP


Aug 16, 2019 - Destiny Dev Team

OK. When I started writing this Director’s Cut, I figured it would be an easy couple-thousand-word post. My plan was to rapidly look back at the past six months of Destiny 2 and lay out a simple outline of where we want to go this Fall. I think I still did that, but I ended up wanting to talk more about the “why”, the team, and share how we are thinking about Destiny . I remember following games when I was younger and being excited to dig in to the messages the developers put together, like Tigole’s posts on raids and dungeons back in my WoW days.

And I loved it. And I loved reading those posts.

Maybe this was all a love letter to long-form communication—a relic from a time before it was all hot takes, 140/280-character posts, and upvotes.

I didn’t think this would add up to something longer than almost every paper I wrote in college. But here we are.

Before we get to today’s programming, I want to circle back on reloader mods and also about mods more generally in Armor this fall, in case you missed my Twitter thoughts.

  • These general mods–which provide the exact same effect as Hand Cannon reloader (but also affects other small arms weapons)–cost 4-5 energy (depending on the mod) and do not have an elemental affinity associated with them.
  • These general mods – of which there are 11 – are unlocked for everyone automatically, so you can start to tinker right away.
  • Basically, when you want to specialize your weapon, it requires matching your armor’s energy type.
  • And then you get an energy discount on socketing the mod.

Thanks for the questions on this.

Let’s finish this series by looking at combat—where the action game and RPG collide—and begin the conversation about the “single evolving world” portion of our vision. (We’ll have more on the evolving world later this month after the feeling has returned to my fingers.)


We want the game to be an awesome power fantasy where challenge can push back on its players. As we discussed in Part I, the game started to bend in Year 2 under the weight of this Power and Destiny’s imperative that it ride the line between action game and RPG. This section is going to explore that collision across a variety of places: the UI, the player character, and of course PvP.

Part I: Damage Numbers and the 999,999 Problem

Destiny 2 was built with very different goals in mind than was the much-improved version of the game we’re playing today. Some parts simply weren’t meant to last for several years. One of those parts is the displayed-damage values relative to the player’s Power level.

This problem most clearly manifests to players as the frequency of “999,999” showing up in your HUD. As the post- Forsaken year continued, the curve that dictates the value of displayed damage sharpens into a hockey stick. The display values for Shadowkeep rocket off the graph and become almost vertical!

This inflation for damage is getting retooled this Fall. It will look like a UI numbers squish, but more crucially, behind the scenes we’re setting up the damage-display system to last. It’s important that you understand we are not nerfing your outgoing damage ; rather, we’re refactoring the displayed number game wide.

We’ve also had something that, over the years, the team has come to call “The Immunity Wall.” This is a value where players cannot damage AI. In the game today, if you’re 50 Power below an enemy and you shoot it, you deal a big ol’ donut. Another change we’ve made for fall is that we’ve lowered (raised?) the immunity wall to 100. This means you can now deal damage to enemies you are up to 100 Power below. The at-Power (you and an enemy are the same Power) experience isn’t changing. This isn’t a nerf. This is a way for folks to take on greater challenges by fighting further below the Power curve.

Part II: Buffs, Debuffs, and Stacking Rules

You know it, I know it, and Gladd knows it: The way damage stacking works in the game right now is busted . Multiplicative damage combines with the exponential damage inflation above to send damage numbers to soaring heights of “we cannot continue this way.”

We’ve taken all the weapon damage buffs (these enhance the player’s outgoing damage) that can appear on the character and stack-ranked their damage effects (these are effects like Empowering Rift, Well of Radiance, Lumina’s buff, and top-tree Void Titan’s Weapons of Light). We’ve also overhauled the system under the hood, so the damage calculations use only the most powerful buff on a player at a given time. It’s got nuance to it, though: If you’re under the damage effect of something stronger than Well of Radiance, you will still receive the healing effect from the Well, but the damage bonus would come from the other buff (e.g., Lumina or Weapons of Light).

We’ve made some changes to debuffs as well (a debuff is an effect that weakens the enemy). We’ve touched the effects and durations of a number of them. These effects include Hammer Strike, Shattering Strike, Tractor Cannon, and Shadowshot (Shadowshot will now work on powerful weapons as well).

In general, only one ability buff can be active on a player at a given time, and enemies can be affected by only one debuff at a time. There are notable exceptions in the form of Exotics and weapon amplification perks (Kill Clip, Rampage, et cetera). The Exotics and weapon amplification perks will remain multiplicative increases to damage above the ability buff values.

Here’s a simple version: Buffs that apply to a single weapon (Rampage, Kill Clip, Exotics) can still stack. But buffs that affect all your weapons no longer stack. The most powerful of those buffs will be applied to your damage. I’m sure someone is gonna make a video that shows this in action on October 1st.

Part III: Supers Everywhere

Masterworked guns. Super mods. Orbs everywhere.

Right now, for a pretty decent player running Super mods, the time it takes to gain a Super is under two minutes in PvP. If you compare the duration and damage of roaming Supers in Destiny 2 to roaming Supers in Destiny 1 , you’ll see they’re more powerful now than ever before. We didn’t even have roaming Arc Titans in Destiny 1 , but every time I play PvP, I get killed by one twice in the same Super. Similar to the way that deep down, we all know the damage-dealing capabilities of Guardians has gotten out of control, we know the Supers have too. Destiny 2 was overly restrictive at launch, but now the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. We’ll start bringing this back toward center in Shadowkeep .

On a livestream a couple months ago, I mentioned that we’re lowering roaming Super damage resistance. And we are. Seeing someone pop a Super should not instinctively make us want to run away, give up, or float off the map. We want Super kills to feel earned, and we want players on the business end of a Super to feel like they can make a big play and put down that Striker Titan. Being able to challenge someone in their Super is important, and right now, many of the Supers are very, very hard to challenge.

On top of that, more things than ever now contribute to players getting their Supers back, so we’re doing some tuning there as well. Supers will be just as powerful, but they will be a more strategic choice. As such, we’re reducing the effectiveness of orbs on refilling the Super meter and reducing the Super energy gained from kills and assists.

This isn’t just a PvP problem. Remember that series on the Reckoning in Part I? It’s all related. Supers are still very, very powerful in the PvE game—players will just need to be slightly more specific with their timing and positioning than in the past. This kind of tuning is a pendulum: We’ve swung it hard in different directions, and we’re all hopeful that these changes will begin to find a better middle ground for Destiny 2 .

I know you’ll let us know your thoughts (once you’ve played it this Fall).

Part IV: Heavy Ammo Available

In Destiny 1 , Heavy ammo became an in-match rally point in 6v6 matches. Once opened, players nearby would all get some Heavy ammo. In Destiny 2 , Heavy ammo is a jockey-for-position speed-before-need looting game that gets played all the time. In Destiny 1, Heavy ammo felt metered, and in Destiny 2 you can defeat a team (but not an Arc Titan) multiple times with a brick for a Hammerhead.

See where is this heading?

We’re making some changes to Heavy ammo in Destiny 2 : Heavy ammo will be communal in 6v6 playlists. We’re also reducing the amount of ammo per brick in PvP for certain 6v6 archetypes. It’s not exactly the same as D1 though—when a player cracks open the Heavy crate, other players have a window of time to interact with it to get their Heavy ammo.

Part V: Let’s Talk About PvP

There has been a lot of conversation (internally and externally!) at different points during the year around the support Bungie provides PvP. On one hand, we have continued to tune the game each quarter, added pinnacle PvP weapons (that somehow ended up as pinnacle PvE weapons), tried out a ranking system in the Crucible, and returned the game to its 6v6 roots. On the other hand: We haven’t released a new permanent game mode, many game modes from Destiny 1 are nowhere to be seen, there isn’t a public-facing PvP team, and the last real thing we said was Trials is staying on hiatus indefinitely.

Let’s get some of this sorted out.

Trials of the Nine wasn’t the hero we wanted it to be. We made too many changes to a formula that—while it had begun to decline in Destiny 1 —wasn’t as flawed as we thought. When we were making Destiny 2 , we talked a lot about making sure it felt like a sequel, bringing in new players, and simplifying the game—and Trials of the Nine created another casualty there. It happened on my watch, and if I could turn back time, I’d challenge us to do many things differently. If nothing else, I hope it’s clear we are committed to learning from the mistakes we make and making it right.

There were some really cool parts to the Emissary. Some of the gear was pretty potent (Sup, Darkest Before), but the theme felt weaker, the Trials card was less important, and the stakes felt lower. Trials of the Nine didn’t work the way we’d hoped, and Trials of the Nine is on hiatus indefinitely.

So why have we been so quiet about PvP? Well, we didn’t have a lot to say. We weren’t actively developing something to hype up. We knew PvP was going to be something everyone got for free in New Light , so it wasn’t really a part of the Shadowkeep core offering. What are we doing about PvP became a question we were asked internally, too. A bunch of folks on our team are passionate about PvP and wanted to know where it was heading.

PvP is in need of some quality-of-life improvements and restructuring. This Fall, with New Light (hopefully) bringing a bunch of new folks into Destiny and with our existing players looking for some updates to PvP, we will start by making significant changes to the PvP portion of the Director.

Today, it’s a fine balance between adding playlists and maintaining healthy populations when we’re looking at changes to playlist structures. We want to achieve a couple of goals: First, we want players to have some more agency with respect to “pick a playlist, play a mode.” And second, we want the playlists to drift back to the “everything is a factor of 3” that Destiny 1 used (and that the rest of the game mostly uses).

Player counts being based on a common number (like 3) is important. It enables a bunch of activity options for groups of friends to engage with. In Destiny 1 , players could run a couple strike groups, team up for a raid, go play 6v6 PvP, split up and go to 3v3 PvP, et cetera. At launch, Destiny 2’s 4v4 PvP completely broke this pattern, and we want to reset that bone with PvP this Fall.

We’ve revised the playlists a lot, and here’s how it’s going to work:

  • We’ve removed the Quickplay and Competitive nodes from the Director.
  • If you’re looking for an experience like Quickplay, we’ve added Classic Mix (a connection-based playlist [like Quickplay today]). Classic Mix includes Control, Clash, and Supremacy.
  • Competitive is replaced by 3v3 Survival (which now awards Glory).
  • We’ve also added a Survival Solo Queue playlist that also awards Glory.
  • We’ve added 6v6 Control as its own playlist.
    • With the potential influx of new players this Fall, we want to have a playlist that signals to new players that this is where to start.
    • We feel like 6v6 Control is the right starting place when introducing new friends to Destiny .
  • We’ve added a weekly 6v6 rotator and a weekly 4v4 rotator.
    • These rotator playlists are where modes like Clash, Supremacy, Mayhem, Lockdown, and Countdown will appear.
  • We’ve removed some underperforming maps from matchmaking, too.

We’ve also been working on four variants of 3v3 Elimination. They include different approaches to revives (token resurrection or not) and variations on how Heavy ammo works. Elimination is going to make its return in Crucible Labs. However, Elimination is very much unfinished. It’s missing VO, and there are no unique medals associated with it. Between the missing polish and the four variants we’d like your feedback on, Elimination—for the time being—is a great fit for Crucible Labs. We fully expect it to graduate out of Labs and find a warmer home.

We wanted to make sure we could test Elimination on some familiar maps, so we’ve brought back Widow’s Court and Twilight Gap. We want to play with you, and watch you play Elimination in this combat sandbox and see how it all fits together.

We’re also changing how we do matchmaking. With a bunch of potential new players entering Destiny via New Ligh t, we don’t want PvP to feel like you’re being told it’s time to learn to swim as the helicopter door opens over the Pacific Ocean. So, we’ve made some changes to separate the new swimmers from the Olympians.

Additionally, we’ve also taken a longer look at matchmaking and overhauled the skill-matching system. In the game today, Quickplay is the only playlist that doesn’t have some version of skill matching in the game. We’re preserving that behavior (connection matchmaking) in the 6v6 Classic Mix playlist. Here’s what gets really annoying about skill match:

  • When it’s overly restrictive, it’s fatiguing when every single game feels like a sweat fest.
  • When it’s overly loose, a player can get an entire evening of unlucky matchmaking RNG where they’re getting dumped on by squads of Terminators shredding Kinderguardians. A bad time (for the Kinderguardians)!

There’s much more complexity and nuance to an evening of PvP than those two statements above, but they do accurately capture the core problem: a lack of match-to-match variety. Sure, for a bunch of Terminators, a night of stomping might be a blast, but what about the folks on the receiving end of that business? This is where it gets tricky to improve matchmaking—people generally tend to focus on their own experience in their feedback.

We think variety across an evening of PvP is important. This Fall, skill match should ensure a wider variety of matches, regardless of player skill. Some matches should be tense and thrilling, while other matches should be stomps. This philosophy should also apply to the top players, so they don’t feel like every match is a sweatshow, either.

We’ve refactored how players gain Glory ranks with these skill match changes—we’re factoring in your skill value to Glory gains and losses, so that number can more effectively represent skill.

We’ve also made a number of quality-of-life changes to Glory, Valor, and Infamy to make losses less punishing to your streaks.

Once the above changes go live in October, we’ll be watching, listening, and reading as you check them out.


There’s an aspirational vision for what “evolving” could mean for Destiny . Someday, Destiny could become a dynamic world, where the world changes each season. We want playing Destiny to feel like you’re playing in a game world with true momentum, a universe that is going somewhere . A game where things are happening —not just in terms of new items and activities but also in terms of narrative. It’s frequently seemed like Destiny was treading water in terms of moving the world’s narrative forward. We want to tackle this in Destiny 2’s third year.

During Season 8, a new situation will unfold on the Moon (I’m being cagey here only because I am reluctant to spoil anything). Over the course of the season, parts of the game will change before the situation culminates in an event that will ultimate resolve it, and its content will be exhausted. But this resolution sets up the events of Season 9, which again adds something new to the game and resolves it, something that too will go away, but not before setting up Season 10, et cetera.

This differs from last year’s Annual Pass, which permanently added activities to the game. This year will see events that last for three months and offer new rewards to chase, although at the end of that period, some of the activities will go away. For a time, the rewards will too. But we also acknowledge that part of playing Destiny is collecting all of the stuff, so in future seasons the weapons and Legendary armor associated with these seasonal activities will be added to other reward sites.

I alluded to some of this when we were Looking Back. The game continuing to grow forever isn’t something we can support. Destiny’s simulation, fidelity, and architecture fundamentally make it a big game. I’ve seen a lot of “game X does it, why can’t Destiny ?” but the referenced games and ours have very different technical profiles.

Technical limitations aside, we also don’t think making a game that grows forever is Destiny’s path forward. It’s why the second component of the vision is a single, evolving world (to clarify, that single evolving world doesn’t mean there’s only one destination on the Director—that’s not where we’re heading!).

You were there with your friends, got the gear and weapons to remember it by, made the memories, and changed alongside Destiny .

In late August, we’re going to talk more about the Annual Pass and how it’s continuing to evolve.


If you’ve made it this far, thanks. I think I could probably write another 10,000 words about this game. This Fall is my ninth working on Destiny . And at times it’s felt way longer than nine years. There have been dark, dark days. For you. For us here, and certainly for me. But this year has been special—it’s been a lot of fun talking with you all and getting to try some different things (whether they are a stream where I turned up unshowered because my hot water went out the morning of [yep] or a Twitter promise that turned into way too many words [this]).

The Bungie team has worked incredibly hard, and we’re excited to get Shadowkeep onto your hard drives in October. Big thanks to them for their hard work and also for helping me put this together on a comically tight timeline. Many, many emails and work-related IMs were sent during the construction of this message.

Thanks for playing, reading, and being a part of this community.

See you soon,

Luke Smith

easier to watch than read