We Spoke To Bungie About The Witch Queen’s Renewed Focus On Narrative and its Gameplay Systems

It’s been one month since the release of The Witch Queen, and a vast majority of players are very pleased with the end result. Hot off the heels of that success, we got to speak with some of Bungie’s developers, providing some interesting insight into the narrative direction of the game, new gameplay systems in The Witch Queen, and what’s to come next in the ever-evolving live service experience. Here’s what project lead, Blake Battle, Adam Grantham, narrative director, and Guillaume Colomb, senior narrative lead had to say.

 

How does the team define moral ambiguity? How much of a priority is it in new content, especially the witch queen? Do you ever feel like you’re brushing up against the limits of the world, as it was established years ago, in trying to add more moral complexity?

Adam Grantham: I see it not as a counter act to to what’s been established, but more as a surfacing of some of the stuff that wasn’t always clear. A lot of the times in Destiny’s past it’s had this rich lore, that that can be a bit buried or difficult to access for players. What we’ve been fortunate enough to do in recent years is surface that and put it front and center in the game, making it more visible to players. I think it’s not so much that we are like turning our back on some of those old themes but we’re evolving them. Our characters and the people who occupy the Destiny universe had a way of looking at the world, and as we, encounter more enemies, and we fight to defend the Last City, we are uncovering new truths and new ways of looking at things. Each clash kind of opens our mind to some new angle on something, and through that, we’re learning and getting a richer, more complete view of the world. That’s where I see the moral ambiguity taking us and I don’t see it as a counter to like hope as a core pillar of Destiny, because Destiny is a hopeful universe.

 

Guillaume Colomb: The interesting thing is that Destiny, as it’s a live game it almost has its own life, as we are working on it, we’re also discovering what the world has to offer. We’re discovering things as almost our own character also discovering more about Light and Darkness. The Red War was really focused on the Light, and what is the light is through the character of Ghaul whereas Forsaken was really trying to understand what that thin line between the Light and the Dark is. Shadowkeep was really about what is Darkness and after having gone through that that’s where you can add layer of futility and trying to understand that our perception of what the Darkness is changes, just as it does with the characters.

The reveal at the end of the campaign was very satisfying for long-term players in terms of paying off a narrative thread that has been teased since vanilla Destiny, can you talk about the thought process and challenge of finally delivering that character? 

A.G: We talk about the end of the Light and Darkness saga that we’re driving towards, we’ve got Lightfall coming. And then The Final Shape, and this kind of started with a real commitment to see that happen. We’ve got something exciting with this, we’ve got the Traveler, and we’ve got the Black Fleet coming in, which we’ve been building up to. I think the magic of something like that can be lost if you if you just promise and promise and never deliver. So we have this commitment, like let’s see this through, one to kind of pay that off. And then two to show that there’s a future for Destiny outside of those threats. With with that commitment in mind, we started thinking what does it mean to bring that to an end. That led us to some of the threads that you can see that we’ve started teasing, in The Witch Queen. I don’t want to spoil anything we’ve got coming up, but that really is the driver for it.

 

The build up to fighting Savathûn over the past year has been the best of any antagonist in Destiny. Now that she’s effectively off stage, at least for a little while, are you worried it will leave a big hole to fill?

A.G: I think we’d be irrational if we weren’t always worried about doing the best we can. We’re always want to do something great, and then when we do something great, we’re like, oh, no, we did something great. And now how are we going to keep doing something great. That’s just part of being a creative person. When I look at the plans we’ve got for what’s being developed right now, it has me very excited and confident for what’s to come. I feel like there’s a moment that’s occurring in Destiny right now, that I get the sense is exciting fans. This moment is not a fluke, I think we’ve hit our stride. I think something special is happening here right now.

The Witch Queen campaign is impressive in how it brings elements that feel like dungeon or raid mechanics into more approachable Destiny activities, and feels more akin to what we’d expect from higher level content Does this have the team thinking about changing the approach to other future content?

Blake Battle: It’s been awesome to see the reception of the campaign missions, and appreciation for things like raid and dungeon elements within them. I think there’s a chance we look at integrating some of those things into strikes or battleground in the future, but I don’t think we have any specific plans to. They’re very different kinds of content, a campaign mission for example, you can play it through linearly, and take your time with it. Strike content tends to be more ritual, and you want to either have a high end Grandmaster experience with other folks, or you’re just wanting to get through your rituals for the week. I’m not sure if it directly translates into a strike kind of thing, but I think we definitely are looking at what are the pieces of our activity content that tend to be resonating with people? What are the common elements? And how can we make those shine more in different types of activities?

 

A.G: What we discovered in The Witch Queen is there was this class of content that we wanted, and didn’t quite have, where we have this stuff for the hardcore players with the dungeons and the raids. And then we have the stuff that’s in strikes, that kind of the popcorn of Destiny; it’s easy to consume. You can just kind of go and play a couple strikes and that’s it, without having to get lost in the story or the mechanics too much. What we didn’t have was this medium thing where it was accessible to the casual players, but still rich and challenging in the way that some of those dungeons and raids are. We kind of found this happy medium in the campaign, I think, and players seem to be enjoying it. But that doesn’t mean that the other categories don’t also still keep their place and destiny.

Weapon crafting is big addition in The Witch Queen, but it can feel limiting to have only a few weapon patterns and have to rely on RNG for Deep Sight Resonance weapons. Are there plans to revisit the way weapon crafting works in the future? If so, any notion about how?

B.B: I wouldn’t say that there is a well structured, here’s exactly what the plan is for the future of weapon crafting. Because I think that releasing weapon crafting in The Witch Queen is the first step of determining that. A big part of Destiny is chasing weapons and chasing loot. The ability to deterministically craft the thing that you want is a big adjustment to that. It’s been very deliberate to start with a smaller subset of weapons to see how the system impacts the game and the economy, then we can make our judgement based on feedback and how things are going in the live game as to what the future is to it. I can’t right now lay out: hey, here’s exactly where it’s going, but I can say that in the next years/year, we’re going to be determining what that path is. We’re going to be continuing to monitor how the foundations of the system of how you unlock patterns and how long that takes over the next several weeks and months to make sure its the experience we want players to have.

How many players have conquered the new Legendary campaign difficulty level as a whole? What percentage of players did you expect to be able to conquer it right after the release? 

B.B: I don’t know the specific percentages, but I can definitely answer to the design intent. I think for the Legendary campaign, we definitely wanted the average to above average player to be able to creep through solo on the Legendary campaign and have a meaningful experience and be able to complete it. Right now there’s actually mixed opinions as to is it actually easier to go in with harder enemies and three players versus solo, but like it remains to be seen. It’s definitely not meant to be an exclusionary feature, but it is meant to be something that’s more challenging for somebody that wants a more meaningful campaign experience upfront.

 

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen is out right now on PC, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox consoles, with Season of the Risen being well-underway.

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