With the latest seasonal shift in Destiny 2 introducing plenty of exciting things, crossplay being among them, I’m most keen to make the return trip to The Dreaming City. It’s such an ethereal place set in high sci-fi fantasy that, for me, still stands out as one of the most sweepingly pretty places we’ve ever been in Bungie’s epic saga which recently surpassed its seven-year anniversary—seven being a number of great significance for the developer, as many would know.
With the season still in its early days, we got to have a chat with Bungie’s Art Director for Season of the Lost, Jason Sussman.
He shared with us some great concept art from The Dreaming City, as well as some wonderful insight at just what goes into bringing these gorgeous places to life, and how Bungie’s seasonal approach has been a creative boon for all involved.
We’re sure players are excited to return to The Dreaming City after it was first introduced in Forsaken. What is it like for you to be back there?
Coming back to the Dreaming City palette and lore was a real pleasure. I’ve been secretly and not so secretly wanting to get back to the destination and Mara for some time. Dreaming City was one of my favorite destinations and themes to work on. During Forsaken, the team that I worked with was amazing and we had a blast building out the Awoken architecture.
Dreaming City really allowed us to push the fantasy element in our palette by incorporating somewhat an Art Nouveau look into our Awoken palette.
What points of difference can players expect, as far as the city itself goes, in Season of the Lost?
We get to go further out into the cloud bank and discover an ancient tower that was once used for Awoken rituals in the past. It’s now derelict and it’s up to players to reengage and use various elements of lost Awoken technology to align the ley lines and awaken the ancient tower. This is where our six-player Astral Alignment activity takes place.
As far as exotic locations go, Destiny has always been an embarrassment of riches. There are so many tones at play. Hive signals horror, the Cabal’s Leviathan planet-eating warship is a decadent palace of gold, while The Dreaming City feels like high-fantasy. What are some of the inspirations that formed The Dreaming City as we know it?
Early on we knew we wanted the Dreaming City to feel ethereal and dreamlike, with shores not of water but of cloud banks. Unlike the other destinations that are planet-based, we wanted the foundation of the Dreaming City to be a location carved from a massive geode. Then with the Awoken city palette itself we wanted to lean into the “space elf” component of the Awoken — elegant bold shapes that were at one with nature and bright and porcelain in its material.
We also echoed the connection with nature in their technology being within the geode crystals itself.
Would you say the game’s seasonal approach has been a creative boon for the team in terms of always working on something new?
Absolutely. Having the ability to touch all the variety of palettes, locations and expand or evolve areas in our game has been great for the team. Additionally, we get to see our content go live continually which is a very big change of pace from building content over a longer period.
Destiny’s content has always walked the line between sci-fi and fantasy, what are some of the ways you show this in the game’s environments?
Dreaming City is an excellent example of this. Sometimes we push the core theme of our destination, armor, weapons, etc. in one direction and then apply subtle elements of the other theme. Dreaming City, as an example, has a strong fantasy element; however, we embed the sci-fi technology within other subtle areas such as within the crystals themselves, the tech in the stained glass, or in their lighting in a space.
Astral Alignment is a new match-made activity that has been introduced in Season of the Lost, it also heralds the return of The Blind Well. How does this activity, and all of the advanced Awoken tech it includes, feed into the overarching concepts The Dreaming City is built on?
Previously in Forsaken, we charged the Blind Well core and rerouted its energy to burn open a portal to the Shattered Throne Dungeon. In Season of the Lost, players get to return to the Blind Well and learn how the Awoken use their technology to align and connect ley lines within our reality and those within the Ascendant Plane. We’re drawing back the veil on the Dreaming City and its inner workings.
As a fan of the Shattered Realm from an artistic standpoint, I’d love to hear more about its inverse version?
When we introduced the Ascendant Realm in Forsaken, we were inspired by the Taken and the narrative around them being pulled into our reality. We wanted to hint at a dark mirror of our known reality living twisted and torn in another dimension. A place that is always turbulent and overbearing. In Season of Arrivals, we wanted to use it as a way for Savathun to gate the player from getting to the Tree of Silver Wings.
Now in Season of the Lost, we wanted to expand the exploration and its hidden secrets, taking the player across multiple twisted versions of Destinations in the game. Giving them a chance to bind the degrading ley lines inside and outside of the Shattered Realm.
I love that it sounds like Ager’s Scepter might pull the curtain back on even more Shattered Realm, but what are specific things your team does to keep new weapons—including Exotics—in keeping with the season’s theme?
Our Seasonal weapons and exotics are a great touchpoint for us to help further our story and broaden the reach and look of the season. Early on we work closely with Shiek Wang, who is the Art Director for our rewards, and together we flesh out the visuals by aligning them to the core fantasy and journey the player will be going on each season.
Like I said earlier, any lover of environmental art would be spoiled for choice with Destiny. I, myself, adore anything to do with the enigmatic IX and their Unknown Space, but what’s your favourite place of all?
Oh man, that’s very difficult. For me, it’s more about my favorite moments working on the content: How the team is gelling, the challenge of the moment, how it expands or pushes us in new exciting ways.
Dreaming City was one of those times, Nessus was another for entirely different reasons. I will say that I am very excited to see the Throne World in players’ hands though. You are all in for a real treat with that destination.
A lot of the rumour that preceded The Witch Queen’s stream had Old Chicago pegged as the expansion’s new play space. Clearly, it wasn’t to be, but are we ever going to see Old Chicago?
We have been working in the world of Destiny for a long time now and we are always looking for new and exciting places that aren’t always real-life locations.
Lastly, what’s the one thing fans should be excited about during Season of the Lost?
We have some great stuff planned for this Season as we lead up to The Witch Queen. I’ve always really enjoyed the seasons that tie directly into our annual releases. Season of the Lost is one of those magical moments where we get to build in some fun surprises for players as we hand off to our annual release of The Witch Queen.