Post Script

In­ter­view: Luke Smith, cre­ative di­rec­tor


The Taken King’s cre­ative di­rec­tor, Luke Smith, doesn’t just make Destiny, but plays it too. The day be­fore the game’s re­lease, he asked his Twit­ter fol­low­ers how they were plan­ning on spend­ing the launch. His plans? A “20-plus hour poop­sock ses­sion”. Here, he re­flects on how The Taken King feels now it’s in the wild, shares fu­ture plans and ex­plains why fea­tures we saw dur­ing E284’ s cover visit didn’t make the cut. You’re in and out of the stu­dio at the mo­ment. What’s the mood like now, three weeks af­ter launch? Pos­i­tive. We’re psyched that peo­ple are en­joy­ing the game. We’re find­ing is­sues, of course, but we have an awe­some live team col­lat­ing is­sues and pri­ori­tis­ing fixes. We don’t feel like our work is done – we’re never go­ing to feel like our work is done with Destiny. It’s like play­ing Whac-A-Mole: we think we’ve hit all the moles and then more pop up. We’ve re­struc­tured the stu­dio now to bet­ter al­low us to do that. You’ve al­ready fixed an ex­ploit us­ing the Three Of Coins, which boosts the drop rate of ex­otics. Surely you knew it was go­ing to be abused? We did. We un­der­stood when it went out the door that it was go­ing to lead to some over-gen­eros­ity in the ex­otic game, and I take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that. But the spirit of the Three Of Coins is re­ally awe­some. We wanted the game to be, and feel, more gen­er­ous – and the ideal ap­pli­ca­tion of how th­ese things should be used post-hot­fix is yet to be dis­cov­ered. I’m happy there’s a story about Destiny be­ing overly re­ward­ing! Look at where we are now ver­sus a year ago. Now you’re see­ing the game with a player’s eyes, what are you dis­ap­pointed with? There’s def­i­nitely stuff in the game that, as a de­signer/ di­rec­tor, I wish was bet­ter. I think we missed some op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­struct quest­lines that func­tion in par­al­lel – if we’re go­ing to ask you to go back to the Cos­mod­rome, it would be bet­ter to ask you to go back to the Cos­mod­rome and be re­ally ef­fi­cient and do a bunch of stuff at once, rather than send­ing you back there [again] a cou­ple of days later. Player com­mu­ni­ties quickly un­earthed the se­crets of the Dread­naught, and at the mo­ment it seems that the last un­solved mys­tery is the Sleeper Sim­u­lant ex­otic. What else is left? There are a cou­ple of pieces of that puz­zle left. There’s an­other ex­otic, No Time To Ex­plain, and a hand can­non that’s been datamined called The First Curse. Then there’s some ex­pe­ri­en­tial va­ri­ety com­ing that we haven’t re­ally talked about. I’m not let­ting the raid team pat them­selves on the back just yet – we’ve got a lit­tle bit more in store. Such as? In Hard mode, all of the boss fights have a new me­chanic, a new el­e­ment. There’s also Chal­lenge mode – a par­tic­u­lar way of killing a raid boss that gets you a spe­cial em­blem and a re­ward. Math­e­mat­i­cally, you’ve only seen or com­pleted five-thir­teenths of the raid. A cou­ple of items we saw a few months ago – the Cryptarch’s cor­rupted en­gram mis­sions, the Speaker sell­ing a slot-spe­cific drop buff for the raid – aren’t in the game. What hap­pened? Just bad, un­fix­able bugs we found in cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, so we punted them. There was an­other item that re­set your Night­fall cooldown so you could run an­other one. We’re go­ing to ex­per­i­ment with them in the fu­ture. The orig­i­nal Destiny’s endgame was a hunt for raid gear to hit the level cap. In­fu­sion has changed that. How would you de­fine the endgame now? I think a huge part of build­ing a char­ac­ter is build­ing an iden­tity – mak­ing your­self look cool and get­ting your stats the right way. I’m on the hunt for one par­tic­u­lar chest piece; it’s go­ing to give me an ex­tra frac­tion of a per­cent­age in ef­fi­ciency. I don’t want play­ers to feel like they have to do that, but I like the idea of be­ing able to do that with­out hav­ing to worry about the ver­ti­cal power game. We wanted the ver­ti­cal power as­cent to be quicker to get peo­ple into the con­tent they’re ex­cited about. It took a re­ally long time in vanilla Destiny to get into the raid. We wanted that to be less­ened, and wanted play­ers to be­gin to tin­ker with hor­i­zon­tal pro­gres­sion, vis­ual pro­gres­sion and van­ity. You’re of­ten crit­i­cised for not al­low­ing match­mak­ing in raids. Could that ever change? I think match­mak­ing can make other play­ers dis­pos­able to you. The rea­son that peo­ple quit out of strikes is be­cause there’s no con­se­quence to their de­par­ture, just a pun­ish­ment for that dis­pos­able per­son on the other end of the line. It’s pretty hard for me, emo­tion­ally, to want to sub­ject groups of play­ers to that. What’s not hard for me to think about is a ver­sion of Destiny that makes it eas­ier to look for and find groups to go en­gage in dif­fi­cult con­tent with, a ver­sion that helps bring peo­ple to­gether in a way that the cur­rent soft­ware doesn’t. A bunch of the stick­i­ness of Destiny for me is that it’s the bar I can go to when I get home, where I can wear my py­ja­mas and shoot the shit with my friends. It’s a game that’s best played with oth­ers, and it’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to em­brace that fur­ther in the game.

“The spirit of the Three Of Coins is re­ally awe­some. We wanted the game to be, and feel, more gen­er­ous”

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