Back when the original Destiny was first announced, Bungie's top-level designers were adamant that it shouldn't be treated as an MMORPG. The thing is, Destiny and Destiny 2 have only become more MMO-like over the years, so Bungie's stance has grown weaker and weaker. Fortunately, and partly because the studio's on its own after leaving Activision, Bungie is finally ready to treat Destiny 2 like an MMO and cater to hardcore players (without alienating people who just want a fun shooter). During a developer livestream held earlier today, creative director Luke Smith said the first goal of Destiny's independent future "is being an awesome action MMO."
Destiny general manager Mark Noseworthy added that "we've been worried about that term [MMO] for a long time, we've shied away from it. It comes with a lot of baggage. Does that mean it's a subscription game? Do you have to play with a mouse and keyboard? But this is one of those things where, we're on our own now, and it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, so it's a duck. We can accept that this is what the game is."
"And when we say MMO, we don't mean subscriptions," Smith said. "We mean two things. The first part, and where we're lacking right but it's been getting better since Forsaken, is improving the RPG."
"We really want deeper build customization for our characters," Noseworthy continued. "You're creating these monster killing machines and you want to make them your own. We can do a lot more there."
"A bunch of what we're doing this fall [with Shadowkeep] is adding the stats back into the game," Smith affirmed. "RPG-ing the game. Forsaken improved it, and we think Shadowkeep's gonna take that to the next level."
In a new ViDoc exploring Shadowkeep and the future of Destiny 2, Smith said "a bunch of the work that we're doing is about adding depth to the character sheet. The teams are thinking about how we want to evolve the armor, get more stats into the game, get more player customization. How can we get the depth and pursuit for this awesome character you've been building for, some of us, five years?"
The ViDoc showed off several updated systems, the biggest being a totally overhauled armor system. "Armor 2.0" will let you take any mods or perks that you've unlocked and apply them to any piece of armor. We also saw the return of artifacts, a type of sixth armor piece not seen since Destiny's Taken King expansion. Artifacts are coming to Destiny 2, and Bungie says they'll complement character progression in a new way, with top-tier Legendary artifacts offering perks rivaling Exotics.
"I'm excited about the artifact," said art director Shiek Wang (notably specifying the artifact, but maybe that's reading too much into it). "Players just get to fidget with these knobs and switches and do all the things they want to do." Design lead Steve Dolan added that: "When you get to this last tier [of the artifact perk tree], each of these perks feels relatively close to what an Exotic might feel like. That's gonna be a lot of fun."
The new RPG elements don't end with armor, either. Guardians are also getting a brand new type of attack in Shadowkeep: finishing moves. We saw Hunters doing acrobatic spins with throwing knives, Warlocks straight-up ki-slapping ogres, and Titans (of course) punching stuff really hard. It's unclear how finishing moves will be unlocked and equipped, but they're sure to add something to combat and customization.
Several Shadowkeep Exotics were also featured in the ViDoc. Senior designer Lisa Brown showed an Exotic heavy bow which fires explosive arrows that deal heavy knockback, though its final effects are still very up in the air. She also demonstrated an Exotic trace rifle which "creates a big crit spot" on enemies. Finally, we saw an Exotic hand cannon which not only has a scope (!) but which Brown described as "a one-handed sniper." Another designer warned that this hand cannon "kind of lights you on fire if you keep firing it too much," but honestly that sounds like a small price to pay for a one-handed sniper. Again, all of these Exotics are works-in-progress, but they also sound pretty darn cool.
The ViDoc also included a much-needed look at PvP. The Crucible hasn't seen many changes or additions this past year, but Bungie's finally looking to break the silence. With Shadowkeep, the experimental Crucible Labs playlist is getting updated with "some much-loved game types of the past" (please Rift), and Bungie says several playlists will be reworked. Throughout the Crucible segment, several remastered Destiny maps were also shown, which suggests new maps (or at least new-old maps) are finally on the way.
That is a whole bunch of promising, exciting stuff, and Bungie shared plenty more like it today. Destiny 2 cross save support is on the way along with a Destiny 2 Steam version and a Destiny 2 Google Stadia version, plus a Destiny 2 free to play build called New Light coming this fall. Suffice it to say today was a big day for Destiny, and 2019 is going to be a big year for Bungie.
For even more Destiny goodness, catch up on the now-confirmed Destiny 2 Shadowkeep leak.