Weapon Tuning/Balance Changes!

Published on: Jul 16, 2015 @ 19:25

You can find the full article at Bungie.net

This update has been a long time coming, but I’m very happy to be here again to talk about some pending weapon changes. This time around, we’re hitting a lot of stuff so I hope you’re wearing your reading pants.

These changes are all very dependent upon each other to be successful, and after careful consideration we decided the best road ahead was to present them all together as a full update.




As a whole, Auto Rifles needed to be reevaluated from the 1.1.1 update. The goals are still the same for this weapon, but this time the approach centers on a higher base damage with quicker falloff. With 2.0.0, our Sandbox programmers have granted the ability to independently tune Range and Damage Falloff. This allows us to emphasize optimal combat range without violating some of the more intricate aiming systems that are tied into the Range stat.

When the update goes live damage falloff will be more obvious, (as shown in the following screens.


  • Auto Rifle is optimal at close to medium range
  • Damage, Stability, and Range are tuned such that players desire Stability for reliable close quarters damage, or Range for better accuracy and increased damage at a distance
  • Elevate Auto Rifles so they are a more competitive option in PVP, and simultaneously more satisfying to use in PVE


  • Increase base damage
  • Start damage falloff closer to the player to emphasize its role as a close to medium range weapon
  • Small reduction in base stability. Landing shots at optimal range is unaffected, but repeated precision hits require more weapon control to land consistently
  • Boost damage by 10% against AI combatants



Pulse Rifles are strong right now in PVP. We want to maintain that feeling of raw power, but introduce some subtlety to the firing mechanics of the weapon. Base damage for the mid-speed (most common) Rate of Fire is now tuned so that the victim’s Armor stat is the deciding factor in TTK (Time to Kill). Base Stability of all Pulse Rifles has been dropped very slightly, so that landing shots is still intuitive, but consistent precision hits will take more skill. Magazine sizes have been increased across the board to make them more efficient in PVE activities.


  • Pulse Rifle is optimal at medium range, but can still effectively engage enemies at close or medium-long range
  • Rate of Fire sets a pace for players to track moving targets, and then deliver precision damage in bursts
  • Pulse Rifles should feel strong in PVP, but don’t become the only competitive option
  • Additionally increase their efficiency as a PVE weapon


  • Reduce base damage of the medium RoF by about 2.5%
    • PVP: Bursts-to-kill (all precision hits) is 2 or 3, depending on victim’s Armor stat
  • Small reduction in base stability. A burst should still land all shots at optimal range, but three precision hits will require more weapon control to land consistently
  • Increase magazine size on for all base inventory stats



Scout Rifles are currently orbiting their sweet spot pretty nicely. We made a few changes to solidify their role as the optimal long range Primary choice, and to help create a delta between the Hand Cannon archetype.


  • Scout Rifles are the best Primary Weapon for long range engagements
  • Scout Rifles perform best when landing paced precision shots
  • Rate of Fire and Optics are tuned so that Scout Rifles are a little harder to use effectively close in


  • Increase base damage for medium to high Rate of Fire Scout Rifles
    • PVP: Does not affect TTK in PVP on a Guardian with full health
  • Increase magazine size for all base inventory stats
  • Reduce Final Accuracy when firing from hip
    • Fast firing outside of ADS will be less accurate
  • Boost damage by 5% against AI combatants



During the last set of changes we made a very small adjustment to Initial Accuracy, Range, and Damage Falloff looking to curb the long range effectiveness of Hand Cannons. However, anyone who has been cross-map-zapped by Thorn or Hawkmoon knows this is still very possible. So we pushed this a little bit further. Landing a long range shot now requires slow careful aim, and a hit at that distance won’t deliver on the weapon’s full damage potential.

In PVE, the role of the Hand Cannon is very close to the role of the Scout Rifle. Hand Cannons do slightly more base damage, Scouts have slightly more ammo in the mag, but otherwise their functions overlap a great deal. To help separate these two we made the range changes noted above, but also reduced magazine size on Hand Cannons while simultaneously increasing the magazine size on Scouts. This should help push these two weapons apart, and make the player choice more interesting. Hand Cannons do more damage up close, but with fewer rounds. Scouts with greater range and magazine size, but slightly less damage per bullet.


  • Hand Cannons are optimal at close to medium range
  • Hand Cannons are optimal when shots are paced, but become less effective when fired quickly
  • Rewards agility under fire, precision targeting, and snap shots
  • Hand Cannons cannot reliably compete with Scout Rifles at long range


  • Start damage falloff closer to the player to limit long range lethality
  • Small reduction in ADS accuracy, targeted at making long range snap-shooting less reliable
  • Reduce final accuracy when firing from hip
    • Fast firing from hip is less reliable
  • Reduce magazine size for all base inventory stats
  • Reduce base Optics (zoom) for all Hand Cannons
    • ADS now grants more width in favor of depth


The Shotgun changes in 1.1.1 hit Range pretty hard. For almost all of the Shotguns available to players, this felt really good in our playtests. Occasionally a long range Shotgun with the right perks on it would show up and push the intended limits, but they were few and far between…

…Until Lord Saladin started selling Felwinter’s Lie! The availability of a powerful, long range Shotgun that could be Reforged until the perfect perk arrangement showed up made this combination very prevalent. In House of Wolves, we continued to allow Reforging on other ranged Shotguns. Soon after, what we thought would be exciting edge cases in our weapon population became the new normal. Rather than hit the Range stat again, we are directly targeting the Shotgun perks that push out Shotgun lethality distance: Shot Package and Rangefinder.

The PVE boost to Shotguns in 1.1.1 was significant, and since then we’ve seen groups of Guardians gang up with their boom sticks and trivially roll through some pretty tough PVE encounters. The reward of gut blasting a hulking enemy is super sweet, but that close-quarters action could benefit from a slight reduction in outgoing damage.


  • Shotgun is most effective at very close range
  • Complements melee attacks and other close-quarters class builds
  • Offensively closing on an enemy with a Shotgun is a risk/reward timing game
  • Curb Shotgun effectiveness in PVE slightly to reintroduce some risk when closing on a powerful enemy


  • Shotgun perks that enhance lethality at range should be less effective when combined with a high initial Range stat:
    • Reduce Shot Package Accuracy buff by 30%
    • Rangefinder adds a 5% base Range increase on ADS (was 20%)
  • Reduce Precision Damage multiplier on Shotguns by 10%
  • Reduce damage against AI combatants by 10%


When we hit Fusion Rifle accuracy in the last update, we saw a lot of players move to Shotguns as their close range weapon of choice. For this update, we have preserved our original intent to reduce overall range, but have scaled back the nerf on close range Fusion Rifles to help them contend with Shotguns in close quarters.


  • Fusion Rifles are optimal at mid-range, where targets are easier to track but they’re not close enough to attack while charging up
  • Requires combat foresight and the ability to predict a target’s movement to use successfully
  • It should not be easy to find and build a Fusion Rifle that can achieve maximum Range


  • Slow charging, high Impact Fusion Rifles have decreased Range values
    • Makes it more difficult to max out Range for these weapons
  • Projectile Speed for Fusion Rifles is slightly reduced
    • Emphasizes the need to lead a targets outside medium range
  • Improve Accuracy for short range Fusion Rifles
  • Reduce Accuracy for long range Fusion Rifles



Sniper Rifles are playing into their intended role right now and we don’t feel a need to change the base behavior. However, one piece of feedback that the community has been very vocal about is the effect of the Final Round perk when combined with a high Impact Sniper Rifle.

Around the time of the 1.1.1 changes, we started phasing this perk out on Sniper Rifles and combined with the Special Ammo economy changes introduced by the Multiplayer Design team we hoped to see this perk lose its potency. The introduction of Trials of Osiris put us back on the spot to address this perk. To address this we are changing Final Round to only scale precision damage for Sniper Rifles. This change fits the role of the Sniper Rifle for both PVP and PVE.


  • Sniper Rifles are optimal at long range, and difficult to use for medium to short range combat
  • Sniper Rifles reward thumb skill with high damage against precision targets
  • The Final Round perk on Sniper Rifles should still require precision shots


  • Final Round on Sniper Rifles buffs precision damage only, not base damage
    • This change only affects this perk when combined with Sniper Rifles



There’s not much to say about Rocket Launchers. You find a purple brick, you load up your Rocket Launcher, you blow #### up. We’re giving Rocket explosions a tiny boost to Blast Radius to help out with those glorious multikills that rain bodies.

However, the Grenades and Horseshoes perk has enabled an element of carelessness in PVP, that we would like to address. While we definitely want that perk to grant you some slop while firing at a single target, it also needs to allow agile players the slim possibility of escape if your aim isn’t true.


  • Rocket Launchers deal massive AoE damage from a distance
  • Rockets are optimal when placed in the middle of a group


  • Slight increase in base Blast Radius.
  • Grenades and Horseshoes proximity detonation reduced.



Unlike the last weapon balance update, we’re taking this opportunity to address a few of our Exotic Weapons in tandem with the changes to the base weapon behavior. Fair warning: Some of these changes are intended to make you feel better while killing with the weapon, and some are intended to make you feel better while being killed by the weapon.

Hard Light

Hard Light is a beloved weapon. We want it to be better. The new flexibility we have with Damage Falloff as an independently tuned value gave us a great new avenue to push this exotic a little bit harder into its fantasy.


  • Increase base Stability to 80 (was 65)
  • Increase bounce count for Hard Light projectiles
  • Hard Light projectiles are not affected by Damage Falloff


We’ve heard (and share) the resounding feedback for Necrochasm. Not only has this weapon been considered a weak reward for the monumental effort it takes to acquire it, the base archetype (high Rate of Fire Auto Rifle) happened to be tuned down with 1.1.1 at almost the exact same time it became available. The following changes combined with the Auto Rifle base changes have made a positive impact in internal playtests. I personally shrieked with joy when I got my first ever double kill in Skirmish from the Cursebringer explosion.


  • Increase base Stability to 60 (was 40)
  • Increase magazine size
  • Cursebringer perk will always trigger on a precision kill
  • Cursebringer explosion has increased radius and deals more damage

The Last Word

The Last Word is our fastest time-to-kill (TTK) primary in the game. The intent of this weapon was always to deal lethal damage up close and in style while shooting from the hip. Right now the Stability and Range of this weapon has players reliably getting ranged kills while aiming down sights, so we want to try and push this weapon into more of its intended role.


  • Reduce Range stat to 10 (was 20), reduce Stability to 20 (was 30).
  • Reduce effective range while in ADS.
  • Increase accuracy and precision damage aim assist scale when firing from the hip. “Get three coffins ready.”
  • Fixed bugs with Hipfire damage bonus applying incorrectly


Thorn has had an interesting journey. It started as a weapon that was perceived as an unworthy reward for one of the most contentious exotic bounties in the game, and has slowly dug its way into players’ flesh as one of the most popular exotics among the Destiny population.

Equipped Primary Weapon Popularity (PVP)

We want to preserve the functionality that makes Thorn such a compelling weapon, but its effective range and lethality are one of the most hotly contended items by the PVP player base. The base changes to Hand Cannons and weapon stats address Thorn’s range.


  • Reduce base damage of Thorn’s Mark of the Devourer DoT (Damage over Time) to roughly 1/3 of what it was in PVP and PVE
  • Allow DoT to stack up to 5x across multiple landed projectiles
    • This is a net buff for Thorn’s DoT, but reduces the lethality of the weapon in PVP


The elusive nocturnal bird… Hawkmoon has evaded many players for quite some time. It is one of the hardest weapons in Destiny to acquire, which probably makes it sting that much more when you are killed by it. When you get dealt a lucky mag and the bonus rounds all stack on one bullet, then that bullet will one-hit-kill a full health Guardian with a precision shot. Even though this is rare, just knowing it is possible tends to amplify the frustration for Hawkmoon’s victims so we’re taking steps to help ease their passing.


  • Add a stack limit to Luck in the Chamber and Holding Aces so that only 2 of the bonus perks will ever stack on one round. This should prevent Hawkmoon from 1-hit killing full health players in PVP
  • Add 2 rounds to Hawkmoon’s magazine when Holding Aces is unlocked
  • Luck in the Chamber damage bonus reduced by 3%

Ice Breaker

We’ve all done it. Hunker down in the back of the map with your lunch box, picnic table, a sci-fi paperback, and Ice Breaker. Kill all the enemies, wait for more to show up, kill those ones too, put a few shots on the boss, make a sandwich, finish the strike, and then collect your reward-that-isn’t-Hawkmoon and move on. The recharging ammo of Ice Breaker has become a staple for the PvE game.

We don’t want to completely destroy that, because a really great thing happens when all of a sudden you need Ice Breaker and you’re still waiting on that next round to show up. In that moment there is an interesting tension at play; you need to think about how you spend your next few seconds while it recharges. We are going to amplify that tension by increasing the recharge duration by a few seconds.


  • Increase recharge time for Ice Breaker rounds to 1 every 8 seconds. Was 1 round every 5 seconds

No Land Beyond

Sworn off by most as a waste of Strange Coins, used as a joke weapon by people who want to stack the odds against their favor, and every now and then it is the tool of destruction that wipes up a Crucible match by a slick, run and gun, sniper elitist faster than you can say “Welcome to my YouTube montage.” We built No Land Beyond for the quick sniping, PvP-minded player. However as many have pointed out since it was released, the weapon does not hold up in PvE.


  • Increase weapon handling speed for faster time to aim, ready, and stow
  • Adjust sights to fix overlap/parallax issue while aimed
  • Increase time decay of The Master to 8 seconds
  • Add an additional 20% Precision Damage bonus while The Master is active

Black Hammer

While technically not an exotic, this weapon was chased as if it were. Currently it is the only Sniper Rifle that is more capable of ending a PvE boss faster than Ice Breaker.


  • Increase ammo inventory to 18 rounds
  • White Nail perk now pulls ammo from your inventory

Lord of Wolves

This weapon is a bruiser and doesn’t need help. The only element that is lackluster is the Recovery boost granted to allies from the Lord of Wolves perk. We had hoped this would inspire Fireteams to stay close and attack and defend as a unit, rallying around their pack leader. However the Recovery boost doesn’t do much to incentivize this. So we tripled it.


  • Tripled recovery boost bonus for allies granted by Lord of Wolves


If Destiny had a nuke it would be the “Ballerhorn.” We definitely intended to have a high damage Heavy Weapon that was ideal for PvE destruction. What we did not intend, and what we unfortunately saw, was pick up Raid and Nightfall groups gating participation based on whether or not players had this weapon. Gjallarhorn was so strong that for many people it had become the only answer to getting through tough encounters, and therefore they were less willing to spend time with other players that didn’t have it.

Equipped Heavy Weapon Popularity (PVE)
Equipped Heavy Weapon Popularity (PVE)

We strive for Destiny to be a place where a single weapon or strategy does not dictate how, or with whom, you spend your time. In the new world Gjallarhorn is still worthy of its legacy as an exotic Heavy Weapon, but we hope it promotes inclusive behavior rather than exclusivity.


  • Reduce damage of Wolfpack Rounds



For Update 2.0.0, we also took a pass on weapon stats. This has a subtle but broad impact on gun combat. As we acquired and levelled up our Legendary weapons during the first year of Destiny, we realized that it is not very difficult to find weapons with strong starting stats that you can then push into pretty high ranges simply by using the default upgrades we make available on the talent grid. While it definitely feels great to grow a weapon into a deadly killing machine, the downsides over time are:

  1. PVP lethality across all weapons gets exaggerated due to high performance guns that don’t have any flaws or quirks
  2. As you collect and grow weapons over time, they all start to feel like the same gun

We took a few different approaches to stats that we hope address both of these issues, and also introduce a bit more variety into how your arsenal of upgraded weapons feel.

Reduced Base Weapon Stats

We reduced the base stat value of a few targeted stats across various weapon types. Specifically, we focused on the stats for a given weapon type that typically enhance performance the most and made those starting values slightly lower. This means brand new Auto Rifles will have slightly less starting Stability, brand new Shotguns slightly less starting Range, etc. You still have lots of options to grow those stats as you spend time with a weapon. Also, this change is only being made to weapons newly available in The Taken King, so your base stats for everything from launch through House of Wolves remain consistent.

Stat Perk Tuning Pass

The initial set of stat perks that have been on weapons since launch (Send It, Hammer Forged, Field Scout, Perfect Balance, etc.) all granted a pretty huge increase to their targeted stat. Not only did they spike their stat, but they never asked the player to make a meaningful trade-off for it on the weapon. We have gone back to all of these stat perks and reduced the amount that they buff your weapon stat, and this change was made retroactively against all year one weapon talent grids.

To compensate for the weaker stat perks from launch weapons, we added some new stat perks (which have already showed up on your House of Wolves weapons) that do provide a significant increase to a stat in exchange for a reduction in other stats. This allows players to be able to spike a stat that reinforces their play style, but at a cost. Basically, if you want to spike a stat we are asking you to specialize the weapon for what that stat offers.

Stat Perk column on Talent Grids

Lastly, we wanted to ensure that if we were introducing Stat Perks that asked you to reduce a stat, we never forced you into doing that by placing that perk on an unavoidable node. Talent Grids will almost always unlock in the order of: small benefit -> medium benefit or another small benefit choice -> large benefit with a tradeoff.

The only node in that column you have to unlock is the first one. From then on it is up to the player which node they want activated at any given time.


This covers most of the weapon changes that address what you currently know about the game. We still have some surprises and twists we don’t want to spoil that you’ll get to experience when The Taken King is released. We playtested these changes every day, multiple times a day, in all activities, using all kinds of weapons. We feel pretty good about them.

However, the total amount of time we as a studio can spend on a given build of Destiny is a shred of a fraction compared to the first hour this update hits all of you. As always we are excited (and slightly terrified, to be honest) to see what comes of this update in your hands. We are reading forums, watching streams, listening to podcasts, at all times devouring your impressions in an effort to make this game better. We’re even reading the comments (shudder). Heck, some of us might even be the random Guardian in your pick-up Fireteam.