Post Script

Luke Smith, game di­rec­tor, Destiny 2


With de­vel­op­ment of the launch game com­plete, di­rec­tor Luke Smith has, like us, been play­ing a lot of Destiny 2. Two weeks af­ter launch, here he dis­cusses the game’s early life, Bungie’s re­newed fo­cus on data, and the never-end­ing strug­gle to keep pace with an au­di­ence with an in­sa­tiable hunger for new things to do.

No doubt you’ve been keep­ing tabs on what play­ers are up to in the game. Is their ac­tiv­ity run­ning largely as you ex­pected? There have been some pleas­ant sur­prises, but there are some that ask you to be in­tro­spec­tive about them, too. An ex­tremely high per­cent­age of play­ers have both fin­ished the cam­paign and reached the level cap. Like, a shock­ing num­ber of play­ers. I think that’s a re­ally in­ter­est­ing data point, and the team should be re­ally proud of that. It means that, when peo­ple en­ter the world, they’re stick­ing around. But the flip of it is, are we bring­ing enough new peo­ple in? With ev­ery piece of pos­i­tive data, there’s other stuff we should be ex­plor­ing, and I think that’s a good les­son. Data tells a story, and we’ve got to make sure we’re watch­ing that.

Af­ter ten days or so, we could see the tide turn­ing a bit among the Destiny com­mu­nity. Play­ers who’d binged on the game were wor­ry­ing about the longevity and shape of the endgame, fret­ting they’d run out of things to do. What’s your re­sponse? It is im­pos­si­ble for us to make con­tent faster than play­ers can con­sume it. It takes months to make an awe­some Ad­ven­ture, and play­ers will eat it in 20 min­utes like a big bag of chips (laughs). This is just part of the job; we’ve got to get more con­tent in the pipe­line.

The fact it’s taken two weeks for that to hap­pen ac­tu­ally says a lot, right? If you run out of things to do, but you’ve played 100 hours, that’s not so bad. I think that sounds pretty good! I don’t play a lot of games for 80 or 90 hours. I think one of the things we’ve got to make sure we’re do­ing right is, if you play it for 80 or 90 hours, are you happy with where you got your char­ac­ter to? And when there’s new stuff for you to do, are you in­ter­ested in com­ing back?

The Destiny ex­pan­sions con­tained some great lit­tle se­crets, such as Out­break Prime and Black Spin­dle. The peo­ple on Red­dit who reckon they’ve seen ev­ery­thing the game has to of­fer... are they right? I don’t want to set ex­pec­ta­tions that we’ve got a hid­den Out­break Prime or Black Spin­dle ly­ing in the wings! But we do think of things like Fac­tion Rally, and Iron Ban­ner, and there’s stuff that can come out of the Cayde chests ev­ery week. There’s stuff that’s go­ing to keep show­ing up that peo­ple haven’t found yet.

One of the ad­van­tages of some of the changes you’ve made, such as re­mov­ing ran­dom perks, mean you can tinker with in­di­vid­ual guns, rather than perks or en­tire classes. How does that af­fect your ap­proach to bal­ance in the Cru­cible? It gives us a much bet­ter look on the data side. When we get data back we can now look at some­thing like scout ri­fles and see what is and isn’t be­ing used. Be­fore, if some­thing like Clever Dragon was over-rep­re­sented in Tri­als Of Osiris, you wouldn’t re­ally know what that meant. Now if we see some­thing like Bad News [a Destiny 2 hand can­non] be­ing highly rep­re­sented in Cru­cible, we can look and see why, see what’s mak­ing it po­tent, and po­ten­tially tinker with it from there.

Re­mov­ing perks was meant to re­duce the way Destiny loot drops could be dis­ap­point­ing – you didn’t get the god roll, so you dis­man­tled it im­me­di­ately. Yet with fixed weapon perks we’re dis­man­tling more guns than ever. What’s the an­swer to that, and do you still be­lieve it was the right de­ci­sion? I’m still a pretty big sup­porter of the change. I be­lieve that, ul­ti­mately, the Destiny fran­chise is head­ing to­wards be­ing a col­lec­tion game. I un­der­stand that we have short­com­ings there right now that we need to ad­dress. With re­spect to mak­ing du­pli­cates mat­ter, this is still one of the things we have ideas for. You project, when some­thing comes out, what you think the problems are go­ing to be. Some­times you’re right, and you’re like, cool, we can just do the work we planned to do. Some­times you’re not right, or you have some­thing else come up that be­comes a higher pri­or­ity. So for us, what we’re do­ing right now is look­ing at the po­ten­tial work we could do, and we’ll pri­ori­tise it. I still be­lieve, and so does the game­play team, that we’ve done the right thing for the col­lec­tion game.

You told us ear­lier this year that Destiny 2’ s cam­paign was fore­shad­ow­ing story events that might not come to light for years. Was that just about the post-cred­its scene, or is there more in there? I talk about fea­ture de­vel­op­ment on a short, medium and long-term time­frame, and I think the post-cred­its se­quence does a lot of the same. The long-term stuff is years away, while the short term stuff is months away. The first thing the Trav­eler’s light touches when it leaves in that cin­e­matic is Mer­cury, a place we’ve vis­ited be­fore, and [will again] in our first ex­pan­sion, Curse Of Osiris. We’re def­i­nitely call­ing the shot, but we’re call­ing it across a va­ri­ety of time­frames.

It takes months to make an awe­some Ad­ven­ture, and play­ers will eat it in 20 min­utes like a big bag of chips

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