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”