Special: The Challenges of Bungie and the Changes for the Destiny 2 Future – Destiny 2: Beyond Light has been out for a week and a half now, and the Crypt Stone Raid kicked off last night, accompanied by a competition to be the first to reach the end. The release of Beyond Light marks an important moment for the game, as Bungie has done a lot of background tweaking, lots of additions, and a new year of content kicking off. Especially now that Season of the Hunt has started. That’s why we spoke with Justin Truman, Destiny 2’s general manager, about the changes, the situation at Bungie, and what’s to come.
One of the most impactful events of 2020 is of course the corona pandemic, which is (has been) increasingly spreading. It has also had a lot of impact in the United States, especially in Seattle and the surrounding area. That’s where the first American deaths were from the virus, and according to Justin himself, that happened near Bungie’s Bellevue office, right next to Seattle. Bungie responded immediately and sent all employees home, along with a high-end laptop or PC to be able to continue working. This ultimately led to some postponement of the expansion, given that it did not come without its challenges.
At the same time, Justin said that we can all consider ourselves lucky, given them, but we also work in an industry where everything can be done remotely. Still, working from home did have an impact on the creative process, also because this happened two weeks before Season of the Worthy started, which is logically a busier time given that people are preparing for the release of a new season and therefore new content. But the general creative process also encountered challenges here, because where the many people involved usually often walk together to discuss things, or go through it in the corridors of the office, that was gone in one go.
Justin describes the creative process as a whole bunch of sparks that form all over the office and that combine to form a fire that is the force of a new expansion or a season. Shaping all of this into a good whole is difficult enough at the office, let alone when everyone works remotely. This is what has also been seen as the biggest challenge in the run-up to the release of Beyond Light. At the same time, Bungie is very proud of what they have now managed to create, because the latest expansion is not only new content. After all, it also adds Stasis which has an impact on the game’s meta.
The catalyst of the story
Speaking of Stasis, this is a creative way to bring the Guardians into contact with the Darkness as well, which is at odds with the ‘good’ of Light. This introduction only laid the foundation, because one of the starting points was to incorporate the element into the story. This so that it is introduced to the universe in a ‘natural’ way and the intention is that what Bungie has brought now acts as a starting point and catalyst for the future. They want to bring more diversity in the gameplay and from a power fantasy they have added this to the game, so that it actually feels different and innovative on top of what we have known from Destiny 2 for years.
Bungie has plenty of plans to develop it further and integrate it into many aspects of the game, but that depends on the community. Thus, they will take the feedback to heart and continue to build on it to make it better and to evolve properly as time passes. That is not just a matter of adjusting and keeping an eye on the balance, this can also include additional additions and in this way Bungie creates a new start for Destiny 2 in a general sense with Beyond Light. We will see further development in the long term, but it remains to be seen in what form. Does that go with the seasons or is the first significant adjustment or addition only with the release of the next major expansion? That again partly depends on how the reception is and that has just been going on for a week and a half, so time will tell.
Now that the new season has also started, players have plenty to do right now. Bungie continues last year’s model in a similar fashion, despite the postponement of Beyond Light and the stretching of the final season. This does not mean that the duration of the coming seasons will be cut, Justin says when asked. Bungie still plans to offer four seasons in the coming year, but in-game events may take place in a different season. Festival of the Lost would normally have taken place in Season of Hunt, but due to the stretching of Season of the Worthy, that event was included. These kinds of small changes can therefore apply, but in the end it does not matter much for the total experience.
The seasons have taught Bungie a lot in the past year. For example, they have found that one season had a lower entry threshold than the other season. This both for newcomers and players who have returned after some time. In this, Bungie tries to find the right balance so that it feels more smooth for all types of players and that comes with an added challenge. Since there is now quite a lot of content available and players are in all kinds of points in the general progression, they are still trying to find a connection with the current season. This so that players don’t fall into a hole in terms of what to do, a story with holes and more. As a result, Bungie wants to offer a custom experience for all types of players, so that entry is pleasant and pleasant at any time. Something they will continue to develop in the coming years.
Another aim that Bungie wants to emphasize and integrate even more in the coming seasons is a logical structure. They have already done this with the previous seasons last year and they are continuing that in a more detailed way. The story that starts with a new season must find a logical connection with the previous season, as a story is being built that should last longer and should not feel like a blank. After all, that makes it incomprehensible and complicated. But with the lessons that Bungie has learned, they expect and intend to do even better this year and one of the most important things is overview. And that is why the Vault was created.
Overview is crucial
Justin said that the general perception of Bungie is that if you look at the map, you should not be confronted with 21 destinations. It also doesn’t help that if you want to complete all of the weekly activities, you have to participate in 11 Raids, so to speak. There are always those hard, but let’s face it: not everyone has enough time to keep up with this continuously and with too much content it simply becomes unclear over time. That’s why Bungie looks at what the best Destiny experience is and they keep acting on it. With Europe a new location has been added and with the Cosmodrome an older location is being brought back.
Not only locations can be removed, also certain activities can be stored in the Vault. This at a time when Bungie deems it less interesting to the players, but in return, Strikes from the past will return and even the Vault of Glass Raid will see its resurrection in the game. It is a matter of seeing how the players interact with it, see what is useful, what is useful and much more. Bungie will thus make a good inventory of what the players want in terms of nostalgia and to what extent the older content is sufficient. Is it necessary to offer the older content in a new guise or transformed? Then that is also an option and with the rich library of activities, locations and more, there is plenty to choose from what can meaningfully return in the future.
Bungie has an important starting point in this, said Justin. They don’t want to do the return of older content just randomly. It must be clear when what returns and it must fit logically into the current situation. At the same time, Bungie will also extensively and clearly communicate everything that is about to disappear, so that players have enough time to do their thing before it disappears. The Vaulting and Unvaulting of content will therefore not take place on a weekly or monthly basis, but at times when Bungie deems it necessary and they will let you know extensively. This so that nobody runs into nasty surprises.
Finally, Bungie also continues to monitor the introduction of new players. Last year, a portion of the Cosmodrome was brought back as an introduction to Destiny 2 for new players. This worked fine, but Bungie felt it was not enough. That’s why they’ve adjusted that now, giving newcomers an even better introduction to the universe. This is continuously done on the basis of our own approach in which the question ‘is this what we want it to be’. Depending on that answer, they will make it better, adjust and balance it. Of course also partly on the basis of feedback from players. This new Cosmodrome is now a ‘big step’ forward according to Justin and they continue to make small steps in this, so that it is and remains the best introduction for newcomers. In any case, they are far from ready.