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