Destiny 2 is changing pretty drastically in the next month and a half. The release of the Shadowkeep expansion will bring huge systems changes across the entire game, and New Light will make the base game free-to-play for everyone. In a live game like Destiny 2, each and every decision isn’t necessarily going to be the most popular, but sometimes simply understanding the reasons behind changes can have a positive impact. “Director’s Cut” is a lengthy series of articles from Destiny 2 Director Luke Smith looking back on what the team has learned from the last six months of Destiny 2, and how those lessons will carry forward into the next expansion and beyond.
Part one of “Director’s Cut” is out now, and it features a surprisingly honest and raw look back at Destiny 2’s Season of the Drifter and Season of Opulence. Smith, in his own unique style and voice, plainly explores the thought processes that went into some of the design decisions, analyzes how those were received, embraces mistakes, and moves forward. It’s neither defensive about past decisions nor a pity party for features that were poorly received. Smith makes very clear that this is about learning, iterating, and moving forward, and it’s about providing some understanding to players about why certain decisions have to be made in the interest of a better game for everyone.
It also provides a look at some of the human costs of game development, particularly on ongoing living game like Destiny 2. Smith talks about the toll that a constant demand for new activities and content has on a team pressured to deliver, and how they are looking to refine that pipeline in the future. The iterative process is mentioned, with the Pursuits tab called out as a specific example.
Destiny 2’s pursuits tab has been something of a controversial change. Though it’s current iteration was meant to only be a holdover into a whole new “Questlog” menu, that wasn’t communicated to players in an effective way. There was rampant disappointment from the community, and it hit the UI team pretty hard.
They were crestfallen. Not just because of the sometimes-harsh-feeling feedback, but because this team wanted make something sweet, exceed your expectations, and meet their own expectations. None of those things happened.
Smith communicated the intent to keep working on the pursuits menu, showing off the new version that will be available “this fall.” (Presumably when Shadowkeep and New Light launch.)
Luke took that opportunity to talk about the need for a change, admit where the team had fallen short, but also give players the opportunity see that there is a real human impact behind their feedback. Feedback is good, but we also need to remember that it’s people who make these games.
That’s just one small sampling of what “Director’s Cut” went over. I plan to write up a full analysis a bit later, from the perspective of a longtime Destiny player and fan, going over each of the elements that Luke Smith talked about. From encounter design, to rewards, and even a bit on microtransactions, there’s a lot to digest here that I want to take the time to properly talk about.
There’s a fine balance that must often be struck between letting players in on development secrets and not oversharing. We’ve seen infamous examples of both, from the lofty No Man’s Sky vision that wasn’t fully realized at launch (hooray for Beyond!), to how tight-lipped BioWare has become about Anthem’s future. When a developer can be both open and honest while also reining in expectations, players are incredibly happy. “Director’s Cut” is Bungie respecting Destiny players, and giving them a chance to respect the developer back. It results in a mutual understanding. Players still may not be happy about nerfs or changes made to the game, but at least now they have the chance to understand them better.