Destiny 2 – Bungie’s plans to evolve the seasonal model

We’re coming towards the end of Season of the Worthy and there’s been a bunch of feedback related to the seasonal model in the game, points that have been picked up by Bungie and will start evolving in year 4 of the game starting in the fall. The following is a look at Bungie’s plans to evolve the seasonal model in Destiny 2.

Seasons in Destiny 2

Seasons of content aren’t uncommon in games these days with many big live-service games using them to roll out regular content updates, try out new ideas, introduce new features and retire old ones. In Destiny 2 this started back at the launch of the game with 3 seasons in the first year as Bungie was finding their feet in this new content model.

Back in Destiny 1, we went through months and months of content drought, leading to calls for change and more regular updates. For example, in year 2 of Destiny 1 throughout the Taken King expansion – this started very strong, but we didn’t have many updates that entire year, leading to stale content loops to3ards middle of the year as players simply repeated the same activities.

The seasonal model was improved with Forsaken in 2018 with 4 distinct seasons – Season of the Outlaw, Season of the Forge, Season of the Drifter and Season of Opulence. Forsaken was largely seen as a success, however, we all felt that mid-year fatigue right around the mid-season when we were all doing The Reckoning over and over.

With the introduction of Shadowkeep in fall 2019 much of the seasonal content that was introduced was going away at the end of the season. Luke Smith laid out plans during his Directors Cut series in Summer 2019 saying he wanted to create a feeling of “You had to be there”, but this move kind of backfired and created some serious FOMO in the community leading to Destiny feeling more of a chore, rather than the original objective of creating those moments.

The season pass and artefact was introduced during Shadowkeep, allowing seasonal progression throughout. This led to Bungie leaning on bounties as a source for XP progression, which definitely has its own issues.

Good things about Seasons

With the shorter seasons in the game Bungie can test out new ideas and there’s a short iteration loop allowing them to change course if things don’t work as intended.

We’re also getting regular content updates. Sometimes it can feel like we’re not, but this is probably the best it’s ever been in the game as we’re getting almost new content every week. Compared to Destiny 1 this is pretty good. The community will always eat up the content really fast and it’s unclear if we’re ever going to get to a model where we’re 100% satisfied with the rate of new content.

It’d be great to have a new raid every season, a new dungeon every month, new pinnacle weapons each season but that’s probably unrealistic with the environment Bungie are working in. With Activision and their support studios like Vicarious Visions gone, Bungie is now independent and taking the game in the direction they want to take it. They just have to decide where it’s going and how to get there. Not to mention the current global crisis and how to make a huge game likely Destiny as distributed teams.

The narrative is more in the game than it’s ever been and we’re experiencing it through gameplay. The Saint-14 Season of Dawn story and the Corridors of Time is probably a narrative highlight in Destiny, and the coming Pyramid Ships too and the history of Rasputin and the Collapse. We’re edging towards a place where the narrative takes centre stage and we’re experiencing it together… that has to be a good thing.

The problems with Seasons

Let’s have a look at Bungie’s feedback from This Week At Bungie on 30th April 2020 to help illustrate some of the issues and how they plan to address them. This was from Evan Nikolich at Bungie:

We’ve collected lots of great feedback over the last several months about our Seasonal model. Luke outlined some of our thinking back in February, and today we want to look at how that vision is guiding action in Destiny 2, Year 4.

We have been making progress carrying the overarching narrative Season over Season in Destiny 2. Saint-14 and Osiris led to the Warmind which leads to… [REDACTED]

It’s not perfect yet. The bridges between Seasons can definitely be improved, and we could do a better job of recognizing prior Seasons’ narrative threads in the active Season.

In Year 4, we are going to build a better-interconnected narrative and, more importantly, let players be a part of that narrative no matter when they enter the current year. This means if you start playing in March 2021, you could go back and experience the Season 12 and Season 13 narrative content. We want our stories to feel more cohesive, flow with meaningful momentum Season over Season, and lead to an exciting climax each year.

That said, for a narrative to have weight, there needs to not only be meaningful change but also a meaningful way to experience the history of the world.

We haven’t preserved enough history for a player who comes in mid-year to have any concept of what came in that year’s prior Seasons. As a result, players can feel left behind later in the year and unable to experience the stories or to acquire prior Seasons’ weapons and gear. The Forsaken Season Pass allowed its content to build up over the course of the year, and that’s where we’re heading in Year 4.”

Evan Nikolich, This Week At Bungie – 30th April 2020

One of the main issues here with Shadowkeep was the inability to experience some of the main narrative beats if you came into the season late. If you missed Season of Undying, then Ikora’s search and battle against the Undying Mind went away.

Same situation with Saving Saint-14 and his ultimate return to the Tower. Back in Forsaken, we had this kind of model where story and activities were accessible all year round, allowing you to dip in and out if you wanted to.

Personally I checked out during Season of the Forge and came back at the end of Season of the Drifter, and I could easily jump back in and pick up where I left off.

Beginning in Season 12, the core parts of the activity experience will live on after the Season has ended. For late players joining in future Seasons, we want to give you the opportunity jump straight into the heart of the older activity experiences without all of the previous Season-specific requirements. We want to remove any competing and distracting elements with the new active Season, which has its own ritual progression, but the actual activity experience stays.

Let me give an example of how this might work in the future using Season of Dawn to illustrate. With our new approach, when Season of Dawn concluded we would have left behind the “Saving Saint-14” quest, the Exotic quests to acquire Devil’s Ruin and Bastion, and the Sundial activity. We would sunset the Obelisks experience to reduce clutter in the quest log and to keep bounty quantity from inflating across the game, and deprecate the Fractaline currency so it could be safely removed from the player’s inventory. The Obelisks were time intensive and we do not want to overload a player’s choices in engaging in the current Seasonal ritual versus the past Seasonal ritual. This is our current plan for Year 4 but, like everything else, these plans and exactly how content persists will change and evolve as we work.

Destiny 2 will still have moments woven into the overall universe narrative where we remove old content and allow for new content and stories to grow in its place. As we’ve said in the past, we cannot continue to grow the Destiny universe infinitely. There’s lots of reasons for this – technical, resourcing, as well as from an overarching universe design standpoint. Finding the balance of creating and maintaining content in our ongoing narrative is a necessary part of continuing to build on Destiny 2.

Evan Nikolich, This Week At Bungie – 30th April 2020

There’s a challenge here to keep the game a manageable size while maintaining the core activities allowing you to experience the narrative. I’ve been asked questions in the comments of weapon guides for things like Devil’s Ruin and the Corridors of Time, and you simply have to say these are things that went away and may come back in the future. This definitely creates the FOMO and I’m not sure the “you had to be there” thing is entirely positive.

There was that week or so where the entire Destiny community was solving one of the biggest and most complex puzzles in the history of Destiny with the Corridors of Time and the Bastion quest… that was fun. But it would be good to keep major narrative beats. Especially for Bungie, who no doubt poured a lot of time and resources into creating those missions, which could only be experienced for a few short months.

With the Seasonal activities persisting, a player will need a good reason to go play them. The reason is in the rewards and we are planning on carrying a Season’s rewards forward throughout the year. In today’s Destiny 2, history is expressed by the things you have collected. We want players to be part of that chase no matter when they enter the year and to reduce the pressure to collect everything during a single Season. In the short term to acknowledge this step forward we are taking, we are adding some selected weapons from Seasons 8, 9, and 10 to an engram that will drop during Season 11.

Long term, we want to make sure that the rewards we release each Season are available to players throughout the year. Continuing with our Season of Dawn example, the rewards that came out of Sundial would continue to drop from Sundial. How the drops will occur will change (as, narratively, Osiris has left and we have removed the Obelisks), but weapons and gear would still be present. This is the obvious solution, but it suffers from a design perspective in creating a narrow pursuit focus. Having the rewards in just one location oversimplifies the pursuit game and has the same effect of limiting the ways you can play Destiny.

Our focus is to broaden and provide multiple ways for you to earn past Seasons’ rewards. In addition to the rewards coming from the Seasonal activity, we are thinking of having the Seasonal rewards be available to earn in the core modes of play as well (Strikes, Crucible, and Gambit). If you’re getting tired of playing Sundial, you’ll have the opportunity to jump into Crucible or Strikes and pick up a couple of the Season of Dawn weapons we’ve handpicked. As the Seasons roll on, the rewards will continue to get added to these core activities and, as a player, you can tackle the pursuits at your own pace in your preferred mode of play and feel the world growing in terms of rewards.

To summarize, we’re going to move toward Seasons that can be experienced all year. The Destiny experience should grow each year after an expansion, have a meaningful evolving world, and a bunch of reasons to play. And then each year, we should take a step forward into a new expansion.

We’ve done this better in the past and we’re going to mine from that going forward to make our future Seasons that much more compelling. There will be much, much more Year-4 talk in the coming months.

Evan Nikolich, This Week At Bungie – 30th April 2020

To summarise Bungie’s identified a few issues they’re going to be addressing in year 4

  • Access seasonal content all year round
  • Adding previous seasons loot to core activities
  • Building better, interconnected narratives
  • Reducing the FOMO

Much to look forward to there from Bungie and how they plan to improve things for year 4 of Destiny 2. The narrative this season with the approaching Pyramid Ships certainly has me pumped for next season. We have issues in the game right now with too much reliance on bounties, however, Bungie’s addressing issues week over week and we’re in that lull period that happens every year.

We’re headed towards the end of the Season of the Worthy now which has seen the reintroduction of Trials and major movements in the narrative. Things can definitely be improved and I’m optimistic about the future of the game.

Let me know down in the comments what you think of the seasonal model in Destiny 2. What do you think of the changes they’re proposing, and do you think they’ve got the balance right? If not, how would you improve things and do you think there are any games out there that get the live-service updates right?

That’s it for this look at Bungie’s plans to evolve the seasonal model in Destiny 2. For more Destiny 2 content like this check out the Shadowkeep Guide or check out the YouTube Channel.

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