Bungie on what to expect from Destiny 2

By Nathan Lawrence

Project lead Mark Noseworthy breaks down the familiar, the tweaked, and the new for Bungie’s Destiny 2.

Destiny 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC) is one of those magic sequel opportunities where the developer (Bungie) can deliver on the promise of the original game. Given the divisive launch of the original Destiny, Bungie has an opportunity to hit the ground running with Destiny 2, simply by addressing the launch issues of its first attempt at the sci-fi shooter IP.

It was clear that Bungie has learnt from the missteps of Destiny’s launch, too. The biggest pillars for Destiny 2 that were announced at the recent gameplay reveal revolved around improvements on the original game. This means a stronger emphasis on storytelling in the form of a cinematic campaign. Matchmaking has been added, albeit in a Guided Games form that seeks to keep the potential toxicity that can be found in random player pools to a minimum.

These inclusions are set to be bolstered by the inclusion of new friendly faces, new threats, and game worlds that are bigger than anything Bungie has attempted before.

We had the opportunity to sit down with project lead Mark Noseworthy and pick his brain about a number of core Destiny 2 topics. Read on for our full interview, which covers Destiny 2’s launch in comparison to the original Destiny, AI changes, PC specifics, and more.

We just wanted to start with a bit of a bigger question. For people who are coming to Destiny 2 from vanilla Destiny, what will Destiny 2 look like compared to what they experienced with the launch for the original Destiny?

MN: So, you want me to describe what it will visually look like?

Oh, no, in terms of the experience compared to Destiny 1 coming in to Destiny 2.

MN: With Destiny 2, we are trying to start the game off with a real big bang. Destiny 2 is a fresh start for all players, so whether you’ve been playing a tonne of Destiny 1 before, or you’re brand new to the universe, we’re going to introduce you to this world as if you’re new. The last big city on Earth has been attacked. We’re trying to tell a really cinematic campaign story that has rich characters and interesting plot twists, and takes you on a real crazy tour of our solar system.

For someone coming back to Destiny, they would have been aware of what was there in the original Destiny prior to DLC, and now they’re coming in to Destiny 2. What looks the same and what looks different in terms of content for Destiny 2?

MN: I think it’s going to feel familiar but different. We try to take everything that was good about Destiny, the activities you enjoy, the lore from the past, story missions, or doing three-player Strikes, or just hanging out in the world doing patrols, or the Raid. All of that content is coming back – meaning the type of content – it’s all new and improved. We’re also expanding on top of that.

The idea of being able to really, truly explore the world is something new that we’ve invested, really, a lot in and there are three features here I can detail for you. One is the Destination Map itself. When you’re boots on the ground now, you can pull up this map every two to 25 minutes, if you want, and it’s going to say, here’s something new for you to do. And you can see where the Public Events are now, it’s right there. ‘Oh, that one’s going to take place in this space over by the church in about five minutes. I’m going to hit that up before I do my next mission.’

Also as part of exploring the world, there are Lost Sectors. Lost Sectors are these places that are essentially hidden dungeons that exist on the map that you can find, and as you go into them, you’ll find a boss who’s essentially defending treasure. He’s got the key to the treasure. So, these Lost Sectors exist all over the environment for you to find. If it looks like a door leads somewhere, it probably does.

And then we have Adventures. Adventures are a new type of activity that take place on the destinations that tell the story of the destination itself. Instead of being part of the main Red War campaign arc, they’re telling the story more about the characters of the world and the story of the combatants and the history, the fiction of that world.

"The Red Legion are the biggest threat the Guardians have ever faced."

There were two very clear audiences identified during the presentation: the newer player, the player who hasn’t touched Destiny before, and then the returning player who’s probably going to play Destiny 2 anyway. We were just curious as to whether there’s been any attention to detail for getting the people who might have played a lot of Destiny at launch and then come away from it. Is there any effort to get them to come back, and how are you approaching that?

MN: We’ve always wanted Destiny to be compatible with real life, and that means for some people they’re going to play every night as they’re preferred hobby, and that’s amazing. For some folks, they’re going to pick it up, play the campaign, have fun with some Strikes and say, ‘You know what? I’ve had fun, I’m going to put it down and play football with my friends or play another game,’ or whatever. And then you have this third player who just doesn’t play Destiny.

We’ve designed Destiny 2 to be a fresh start for all players, so that all three of those player types can all come in at the same place and start with this new story. So we’ve given a lot of thought to how to optimise it for someone who…

Y’know, I think someone who hasn’t played for a long time, say, pre-DLC, I don’t remember that much about a game I played a few years ago. ‘I remember it was really fun to shoot aliens, and I remember there were other people in the world, and there were sweet guns, but I probably don’t remember that much about the story, or the fiction, about the universe. Who are the guardians? What’s the last they’ve seen? What’s this Traveler about?’ We’re making sure that all players, new, returning, lapsed, will get reintroduced to the world of Destiny: the story, the place, the mechanics, everyone is going to be reintroduced to it.

Has there also been effort put into the idea of the AI difficulties as it relates to ramping up the difficulty level, not just in terms of the amount of damage that they might take and the amount of damage they might give you, but in terms of additional intelligent behaviours and things like that, so you’re really going to be surprised every time you come up against a different group of combatants that fight in varied and unexpected ways?

MN: Yeah, we’ve enhanced the combatants across the board in Destiny 2. We’re certainly looking at them from the grounds up. ‘Hey, how are their behaviours, and how can they respond more intelligently?’

But we’ve also added brand new combatants, especially for the Red Legion. The Red Legion are like Cabal special forces, like Navy Seals, and they are the biggest threat that the guardians have ever faced. Today, in the build, you can see three new Red Legion units.

You have the War Beast: that was the dog with metal on its face, and it will claw you. You have the gladiators: those are the dudes with the two blades and they just chase you, and they’re really beefy so they’re actually hard to take down, but they really push against you as a player. And then you have the Incendiors who have the flaming jet packs and they fire flames at you. If you’re careful, you can shoot the gas tank and blow them up. In addition to just being the tide that raises all boats with better, more polished combat experiences, period, we’re also adding brand new units.

Does that mean also, from the units you’ve just described, you’re trying to push players towards constantly moving? Or is there room for people to hang back and snipe, or play it a bit slower and a bit more tactically?

MN:We… it’s really up to the designer of the encounter itself, or the mission, or activity that they’re playing. We try to build combatants that support many different types of moods. You think of them like different football players or different chess pieces on a chess board. Like, ‘What are we going to put in play here?’ Every encounter is different, has different options that the designer has chosen. Sometimes that means that, actually, we’re going to force the player into melee range a lot because there’s a tonne of Thrall out here and this means you’re going to have to melee guys or shotgun them or have some way to control the crowd. Or everyone’s going to be up on platforms really far away, you’re going to have to use a long-distance rifle to take these guys down. So, we try to build our races to be pretty versatile to support all sorts of types of play.

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Do you mind if we rattle off a bunch of PC questions?

MN: Sure. I’ll give my best answers.

Okay. Can PC players expect the kind of fidelity options and FOV sliders that we would expect from regular PC shooters that are coming out?

MN: Yes. You should check it out for yourself. We’ve built it really, we think, a robust series of features. We want PC to feel like a first-class citizen in Destiny. We’re huge PC fans, and we’re trying to deliver a great PC experience, by PC fans, for PC fans.

Are there dedicated servers for PC players, or peer-to-peer?

MN: It’s going to be peer-to-peer.

Across modes?

MN: Yes.

Anti-cheat, which is something that is a bit more PC-specific, compared to consoles Now that Destiny is coming to PC, in the competitive space, there have been a lot of games ruined by cheating. How are you looking to approach anti-cheat out of the gate?

MN: This is something, definitely, we have a team of people who worry about this stuff. So, we care deeply about maintaining the integrity of the game, so we have some things planned, but I’m not going to go into any details on them. But we want the game to play great on every platform. On PC that means having a really good plan for how we attack cheating.

Do you find that you’re having to balance the PC version differently, especially in terms of difficulty? If elite PC players are just able to crack off headshots every time, then the highest difficulty might not be the same challenge as something that’s on console.

MN: Yeah, we’ve thought about that quite a bit. Ultimately, we have one design for the game. And so, if you’re playing the Raid on PC or you’re playing it on PlayStation [4], it’s the same Raid. It’s the same experience. And we’re going to try and keep them as similar as possible, because hopefully we want this to be the best experience. We may look in a few places where weapons need to be handled differently, and we’ll treat them slightly differently.

For instance, there’s no recoil on guns on PC because recoil on the controller feels really good. ‘I’m firing, I’m firing, I’m firing, oh, I’m losing control of my gun a little bit.’ That feels great, especially with magnetism and all the magic in the controller that makes you feel it. With a mouse and keyboard, you don’t want the mouse moving without you moving it, so recoil doesn’t feel good, so there is no recoil on PC.

There are a couple of key ways we’re going to try and change it, make it so it feels native to that platform, because we want people to feel like Destiny 2 is built for PC. We want them to feel like Destiny 2 is built for console. And each of those platforms, we think it feels great.

So, no recoil for any weapons from pistols and shotguns right down to the fully automatic weapons; is that correct?

MN: I think that’s accurate. I don’t want to go down in history as the guy promising that… The basic idea is that some things don’t work that don’t feel good, and those places there are going to be little forks in the road.

UPDATE: Destiny 2's PC lead David Shaw has confirmed that there will be recoil on PC but that it will be "heavily modified".

For people who want to play on PC, Destiny 2, but played the first game on console, they want to shift across to the PC, is there any sort of way that they’re able to have recognition for their console time, or is it just a completely fresh start?

MN: It’s a completely fresh start.

"No plans [for cross-platform play]"

Any plans for cross-platform play?

MN: No plans.

Can you talk to us about some of the challenges you have in terms of keeping content feeling fresh and dynamic when you’ve got players who put in dozens of hours every week, who are maybe approaching the same missions. Are there ways that you can mix that up, or have you approached it differently in Destiny 2 where everything should feel different when you come back and play multiple hours per day?

MN: I said before, we’re trying to build the game that can totally be people’s hobby, and that doesn’t mean we’re trying to build a game that people need to play all the time. We’re trying to build a game that has an incredible variety of content to play, and that’s engaging to play through multiple times, but also have layered on top of that, things like Trials, things like Iron Banner, if it comes back, things that happen over the calendar period of the game, so you can play for a while, then put it down.

Or you can come back when an expansion releases, or if there’s something cool happening this weekend, or, ‘Oh ,my God, there’s this mission that got turned on on a Saturday night, what’s going on?’ And people come back to it. And a lot of the variety comes from that programming of the content. We also do things, like with Strikes, Strikes are awesome for that, three-player dungeon romps with other people, because Strikes aren’t the same every time you play it. I’m sure the boss you fight is going to be the same, but the encounters you fight along the way, there’s some randomness, with multiple variations of the Strikes, to keep things fresh.

How have you expanded on the vehicular component of Destiny 2? Is it bigger, or can we expect similar things to what we had in the original game?

MN: I think if you look closely at the trailer you’ll spot a couple of different vehicle options that you haven’t seen before that may or may not be a focus of the campaign.

Outside the campaign, then?

MN: I think you’ll have to wait and see.

Thank you very much for your time.

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