Destiny 2’s Seasons and the Return of the Live Team
Yesterday, Bungie held a panel at TwitchCon providing details on the Destiny 2 events that will soon be rolled out by the Live Team. That’s right, the Live Team is back, and has been tasked with taking over D2 from the initial game designers and focusing on the game’s sustainability over the coming year. The panel was hosted by DeeJ, Ryan Paradis, the Live Team Game Director, and Steve Dolan, the Live Team Senior Designer. The focus of the panel was the introduction of “seasons,” a new term assigned to the Live Team’s task of keeping D2 constantly evolving as it moves forward. So let’s break down what happened on the panel, what was discussed, what wasn’t discussed, and maybe wildly speculate about what this means for the future of D2.
What are Seasons?
In a sentence, Seasons appear to be evolving themes that will re-focus the game on a broader level and consistently change over time. The Live Team plans to have four seasons each year, although, like anything, this is subject to change. This isn’t something completely new to the Destiny landscape, as we’ve seen events like Festival of the Lost (the Halloween one most people liked), The Dawning (the Christmas one most people had mixed feelings about), and Crimson Days (the Valentine’s Day one that most people hated). However, with the introduction of D2, it looks like the Live Team will be rolling out with more commitment to seasonal events and more dependability for the injection of new content into the game. The Live Team will begin Season 2 sometime in the winter with The Dawning, a familiar seasonal event for those who played D1. There will be hockey. And snowball fights. No word on curling, yet, but there will surely be more that wasn’t detailed during the panel. So I’m just going to go ahead and say “yes” on the curling.
The panel referred specifically to “changing themes” and “more content” that will accompany each season. Looking forward with the hindsight of how the Live Team operated in D1, this leads to the assumption that the “themes” will be dressing up the Tower according to the theme, and that “more content” means there will be an injection of new weapons, gear, cosmetics, and maybe a few new PvP modes. But this isn’t more D1. The Live Team is just getting off the ground with D2, and Paradis and Dolan were admittedly withholding about many of the details of what to expect.
I’m not telling you to expect new story missions or a sudden update that completely opens up a brand new game. That’s clearly not the job of the Live Team; but expecting them to simply roll out the same exact elements of D1 events, and nothing more, ignores the simple fact that the Live Team, like the rest of Bungie, is well-aware of feedback surrounding its events and is capable of making worthwhile and pleasantly surprising adjustments to better the game. The Live Team hasn’t given us a clear roadmap of what exactly is going to happen, but they’ve given a pretty clear assurance that the Tower you visit today will be markedly different from the Tower you visit in a few months. How different will it be? And will it affect you enough to compel you to get back to the coveted Destiny grind? We won’t have an answer to that until it happens, but this is a start.
Complaints about the unfulfilling status of D2’s endgame are impossible to ignore, and the problem seems to be something so fundamental that it likely isn’t going to be solved by the Live Team’s events alone. But Bungie has already acknowledged that they are discussing how to address it, and that’s not just coming from the small portion that is the Live Team. People have poetically claimed, over and over, that D2 is a game that is a “mile wide” but an “inch deep.” But there’s something to be said about being a mile wide. All they need to so is drill downward. Let’s consider the Live Team’s Seasons to be the chisels, and the DLC content the mortars.
The Season Rituals
The Live Team also stated that they will be tasked with implementing and overseeing endgame events such as Iron Banner and Faction Rallies. And major changes were announced right off the bat, which are part of the Live Team’s efforts to do their part to restructure the endgame grind.
First, the Iron Banner token system is remaining, but being scaled back to a more traditional Iron Banner system. As opposed to turning in tokens and earning random loot packages, you will be able to purchase certain offered loot from Lord Saladin, suggesting more dependability to your investment into Iron Banner.
Second, you will be able to earn Ritual gear directly through gameplay. The Live Team wasn’t specific on what exactly this means, but it serves as another indication of the Live Team’s efforts to back away from a pure token-based loot system and provide other ways to acquire items that the community may find to be more meaningful.
Third, there will be new loot with each Season. New armor, new weapons, and — most interesting — new ways to grind up certain types of items to gain special ornaments for them. The Live Team was quite clear that one of their goals was to introduce ways for guardians to cosmetically set themselves apart from everyone else through their efforts. How much grinding this will entail, and if it will be a welcome addition, remains to be seen, but it certainly introduces a new reason for many to continue playing.
Now I know there’s a lot of people out there that are terrified of the “slippery slope” of microtransactions and quietly (or not so quietly) fear that Bungie is actually a massive racketeering organization that wants to rob you of all your money before you know what happened. If you’re one of those people, and you twitched at the last paragraph about the phrase “cosmetically set themselves apart,” I would advise you to stop reading.
Still here? Let’s continue.
Here’s a new one, and the Live Team didn’t go into great detail about it, so I will just quickly address this. There will be small events during each Season called “Clarion Calls” in which guardians will be able to earn double the XP under certain circumstances. Earning more XP gets you to your next Bright Engram more quickly, which brings you to Eververse, where the microtransactions are. Which leads into…
The Eververse Grind?
The Live Team spent the bulk of the panel giving details about the various Eververse items that will be rotating in and out during each Season. I talked recently about Iron Banner as a barometer to measure the endgame of Destiny, and that the appeal of the endgame grind essentially boiled down to the never-ending quest to gain access to exclusive items for the simple sake of having something someone does not (also known as your ego — we all have one).
Well, here comes some spicy exclusivity. Each Season, just like the inaugural Season we are currently in the midst of, features Eververse gear and exotic Eververse items such as emotes, ships, and sparrows. Once we move forward to Season 2, The Dawning, those Season 1 gear sets and exotic emotes, ships, and sparrows will be replaced with new items. The old ones will never come back. If you didn’t acquire them, you never will.
Destiny’s online community is already a powder keg of salt and Ponzi scheme conspiracy theories, so this news was sure to make someone’s head literally explode. To be clear, this doesn’t have much of any impact on me as a player. My clan has always given little regard to the color of the box behind a cosmetic item. In fact, it was essentially a requirement to, at all times, be displaying the rare-quality Emerald Rook emblem (a.k.a. the Penguin emblem, and I know it’s not actually a penguin and that it’s a crow, but first consider this counter-point: shut your mouth, it’s a penguin).
But I would be ignoring the obvious if I didn’t acknowledge that this grind for Bright Engrams may walk a dangerous line for those concerned that Bungie wants nothing more than to make extra cash off cosmetic items. You can already see the claims that Bungie is positioning their endgame to Eververse as close as possible so people grind for those exotic cosmetic items, and then eventually say “screw it” and drop $20 for some silver. It’s all a matter of perspective. If you’re a pessimist looking at this with a half-empty glass, these items are nothing more than the devil incarnate trying to take advantage of your ego and bankrupt you in the name of fancy dance moves and ships. If you’re an optimist looking at this with a half-full glass, the Live Team is ushering in tools to slowly bring back the endgame grind and the beginning of something that may reward sustained efforts. Before you sound off on this, take a moment to think about how this will affect your experience with the game and use some discretion. If you think Bungie simply wants more microtransactions from you and you’re deathly afraid of being tricked into spending money left and right, then use some discipline.
New Crucible Maps and Sandbox Tuning
In addition to the seasonal events in the social spaces and rotating stock of weapons, armor, and cosmetics, the Live Team will also be responsible for slowly building up the Crucible’s lineup of PvP maps. It surely won’t be a large influx of new maps, as there is a lot of painstaking work that must go into designing a Crucible map, but a slow and steady introduction of maps to expand the scope of the Crucible is welcome news. As great as Destiny’s famous gunplay is, the current Crucible could use more — more maps, more weapons, more gameplay modes — just more. The Live Team’s involvement in producing more PvP content on a consistent basis — even if at a more methodical pace — is an encouraging sign.
It’s also encouraging to see that the Live Team is not working alone within their own group, and that they are working with the sandbox team to fine-tune weapon and class balancing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fired off a Nightstalker tether that ended up being a dud. This must be what we get for going to that cut-rate Shard of the Traveler.
We will hopefully get some of that insight soon, as Senior Gameplay Designer Jon Weisnewski will sit down with the guys from Crucible Radio and discuss the current state of game balance. And if you don’t listen to the Crucible Radio podcast already, I highly recommend that you start with that one.
Great Steps, But Unanswered Questions Remain
All in all, this panel was meant to unveil the Live Team and it’s plan for Seasons in D2, so some burning questions remain. The panel did not discuss any upcoming DLC’s. The panel did not talk further about adding custom matches or ranked modes to the Crucible. The panel did not discuss Bungie’s greater plans for adjustments to the endgame. The panel did not discuss what happened to my Penguin emblem and who specifically I need to harass about this travesty.
But the reintroduction of the Live Team is a welcome sight and a reassurance to many that D2 will continue to evolve, adapt, and refine. And this is just the Live Team, a small segment of Bungie.
Bungie also announced that it would host three Twitch streams on its channel in November. Who knows what we will see on those streams, but the Live Team looks ready to jump back into Destiny and start chiseling downward into that so-called “mile wide, inch deep” trench. And that’s a good thing.