Return of the Iron Lords – A Chat With Bungie About Destiny: Rise of Iron

At E3 2016, Bungie and Activision weren’t showing off Destiny’s upcoming expansion, Rise of Iron, but they had the creative and technical minds behind the start to year three of Destiny on hand for interviews about the coming update. We had the opportunity to sit down with Scott Taylor, Executive Producer on Destiny: Rise of Iron, and ask him a few questions of the Plaguelands, the wolves, and if Saladin likes sparrow racing.  

PSLS: Destiny: Rise of Iron is the beginning of year three for Destiny, right?

Scott Taylor: Well, it’s the first major expansion since The Taken King.

PSLS: And the other two updates. So what are you bringing to Rise of Iron that you hope changes what everyone thinks about Destiny, kind of in the same way that The Taken King really changed the meta of the whole game, what does Rise of Iron do for Destiny?

Scott Taylor: I think Destiny, as we’ve seen since launch, is constantly evolving — trying to become the best version of Destiny that it can be. With Rise of Iron we’re trying to tell a great story with Saladin and the Iron Lords and really delve into the PVP side of the lore with Iron Banner. All the things you’d expect from a Destiny release. We have great new weapons, great new gear, exotics — we have exotics that we’re excited to talk about later this summer. We have Gjallahorn coming back.

PSLS: Of course, the Iron Gjallahorn.

Scott Taylor: Yeah, the Iron Gjallahorn, if you pre-order you get the Iron Gjallahorn which is amazing, and everyone can get a version of Gjallahorn which is really exciting for players. Players have wanted the weapon and this is a cool way to– We have some great quests to get to this weapon, and that’s really exciting. We’re excited to have that connection between players and their weapon.

PSLS: New enemy types. How are you evolving what players know about the enemy?

Scott Taylor: The raid’s themed around the Fallen and we have the Devil Splicers, who are corrupted versions of the Fallen, patrolling the new zone we have — The Plaguelands. The experience we want is that you see that it’s Fallen, they look like Fallen, but they’re a little different, and that carries over into how they behave as well. You’re gonna think you know how to fight this guy and then he’s going to do something that’s going to surprise you. That’s the experience that we want.

PSLS: With Rise of Iron, you do need to own Destiny, Expansion 1, Expansion 2, Taken King

Scott Taylor: Correct.

PSLS: How will it be for new players? How are you approaching it for a player that looks at Rise of Iron, they think it’s cool, they want to get into Destiny, and they’re brand new to the game?

Scott Taylor: With Taken King, we had the spark — the character boost — so we’re going to be doing similar things like that to make sure that if you see this and you’re like “I want that axe!” that you can get into the game and play it. We think it’s a really great time for new players to come in and see all of Destiny. There’s a lot of content. We actually think that the storyline and the new space are sweet, and the aesthetic of the place — it’s going to be a great jumping on place for new fans.


PSLS: What did you learn through year two that you brought to Rise of Iron to help change the game?

Scott Taylor: I think some of the changes we made– you know, the infusion mechanic evolved, and that’s in a pace now that we’re really excited about; we’re going to continue that with Rise of Iron. There’s the constant balancing of the sandbox and evolution of how we handle all aspects of the game. We just continue to try to iterate and make the best version of Destiny based on the feedback we have. We’re all gamers and we all play Destiny, and we kind of selfishly want Destiny to be great too for ourselves, right? So we combine all those things to try to be constantly improving upon the experience.

PSLS: You may not like to compare to yourselves, but compared to Taken King, size-wise and experience-wise, what are we looking at with Rise of Iron?

Scott Taylor: Chris Barrett, the game director and I, worked on House of Wolves, and the way that we’ve thought about it is, starting at that place and saying– there’s so much more, right? House of Wolves came, and you didn’t have a raid. That was a thing, did people notice that? (Laughs) But we have a raid this time, we have a whole new zone which we didn’t have with House of Wolves, so we really look at it as House of Wolves plus. In so many aspects it’s just a huge growth for us.

PSLS: Off of House of Wolves, which was great, had a lot of great sotry content, but people kinda…

Scott Taylor: Yeah, and that’s really great. The way I look at it is that the fans want Destiny more constantly. It’s been out 18 months and already had that many expansions, it’s a lot of stuff, and people want more. We’re really trying with this release to deliver a bunch of content and use this September to continue to evolve the game.

PSLS: With The Taken King we saw a lot of new cinematics, new narratives. You really got a sense for the characters like Cayde-6. Is that something that’s returning with Rise of Iron? Are we going to see a lot more of that narrative focus?

Scott Taylor: Absolutley. That’s another thing we didn’t have in House of Wolves. We had the starmap and the CG piece. In this we have all new in game cinematics, we’re telling a story that we think is really going to help expand the world of Destiny for players and tell them about the Iron Lords and what happened to them and why we’re doing the Iron Banner. Saladin’s been in the game since the beta, standing there, training guardians for something, and now we’re going to kind of pay that off and see what we’ve been training for. We’re really focused on that narrative and that story telling those things, and you’re going to learn a lot about Saladin and find out why he is the way he is, where he came from, what his mission is, and how that affects the player in the world. We’re also really focused on doing something like (points to Rise of Iron poster) you can see the wall has been torn down, so time has passed. We’re going to be playing with the fact that this space has changed and how does that feel, and we want to use all those things to tell an amazing story. We’re really excited about that aspect of it and continuing to evolve our storytelling.

PSLS: You mentioned that Saladin’s been in the game since the beta, and there are a few other elements that have been in the game for a really long time that players are used to — Xur, for one. Anything that you are doing with those to evolve and change what players are expecting from the usual?

Scott Taylor: Xur’s ritual is obviously a really cool part of Destiny and we’re not tinkering with that right now. But I think it points to the fact that there are all these different pieces of Destiny — Xur, Saladin, the cryptarch — all these things that have untold stories, right? So for Rise of Iron we kind of grabbed Saladin and we said “I wanna know about this guy and what he’s talking about,” just like we did with Eris, and we’ve done Petra, in House of Wolves, and Variks, and Cayde in Taken King. We think by being really specific about some of these characters it ends up making the whole universe richer. Now we can start saying things like Cayde-6, and we know who he is and what he’s like. We want to come out of this knowing what Saladin’s like, and why he is the way he is. Saladin’s a little more serious than Cayde, but I think it’s important that we have a sense of fun and adventure that we are continuing to embrace.

PSLS: With the new area you’ve got, you’ve got a new new hub world as well, a new Tower like area. What’s going to compel players to go there versus the Tower or the Reef?

Scott Taylor: Well, the Tower’s not going away, and [it’s] still super relevant. What we wanted to do was create a space that really was tied to this experience and have some cool new things that we haven’t done in a social space before which we’re going to talk about later in the summer. We’re really excited to have players feel like it’s a different tone in the space. We also do a thing we’ve never done before where the space is occupied at the beginning, and you have to go in and clear it out and take it back. Then you kind of settle in. It’s a much more remote space. If you think of the Tower as a bustling, polished, beautiful place that has tons of activity, and the Reef is very industrial. That space as well was used to tell the story of the Reef, and the queen and Petra, and the Prison of Elders. So this space is very tied to Rise of Iron. The characters there care about what Saladin cares about. There’s wolves there, which is cool. It just has a different feel to it. It feels remote. It feels like you’re settling a place. All of the quests and stories for Rise of Iron are going to be filtering through that space, so you’re going to be visiting there to fully experience Rise of Iron.

PSLS: Are you scared of the balancing that is inevitably going to need to come with all the new weapons, and are we getting new character abilities and things like we got with Taken King?

Scott Taylor: Balancing is something that we’re always looking at and trying to make sure if it’s right for that time in Destiny’s lifecycle, so no, I’m not scared of that. That’s typical. That’s part of our job. As far as new ways to feel powerful: Yes. There’s the axe, which you can see (Points to poster) and it’s on fire. There’s no new subclasses but there are things that we’re going to be talking about later in the summer that help enhance your power in a different way, and we’re really excited about talking about that.

PSLS: The wolves, are they just going to be set pieces, or are they actually involved in the story and in the gameplay in any way?

Scott Taylor: The wolves- Unfortunately no pets, no companions (Laughs). But the wolves are really interesting because they’re on the armor, and we wanted to see why Saladin likes the wolves so much, so the wolves you will find where you find Saladin. In the social space you’ll see wolves around, but there’s no- You don’t ride them. They’re really cool looking and help kind of sell the wildness of the space.

PSLS: Does the narrative take off of the end of The Taken King? Is this definitively after The Taken King, or could it take place alongside it?

Scott Taylor: Time has passed. We haven’t done anything like this before as overtly, where the environment is different. It’s clearly later. It’s its own story though. It’s its own adventure focused on Saladin and the Iron Lords, so I don’t think of it that way. But it’s another side of the Destiny universe.

PSLS: What unique things are you doing with the Plaguelands to differ it from the other areas?

Scott Taylor: There’s new patrols, new public events in the Plaguelands. You have the new enemy type there, the Devil Splicers. They are, as Chris calls them, jerks, and they are kind of ravaging this space. The Sieva (sp?) is the technology that is behind all of this corruption, and it’s infested all of this area. There’s a bunch of neat, unique to the Plaguelands, events that I don’t want to spoil for people yet, but there’s some really neat things there. It’s going to have its own patrol node, so if you want to just patrol the Plaguelands, you can do that. You’re going to stumble upon all sorts of secrets. We did a lot of that last fall, and we’re going to continue to do that.


PSLS: Size-wise, what are we looking at for the Plaguelands?

Scott Taylor: It’s large. There’s a lot of new real estate. It is very different than the Dreadnaught, because the Dreadnaught was a very interior space, which was awesome. We wanted it to feel vast. So when you come out and you first witness the Plaguelands, you see this amazing skybox that shows you all of the places that you can go. I would describe it as a substantial new zone. It’s meaty. It’s nice.

PSLS: It’s on Earth?

Scott Taylor: It’s on Earth, so you’re going to access it by tapping on Earth in the director, and you’ll see that the map has changed a bit and it’s expanded out to the right.

PSLS: What’s your favorite new addition with Rise of Iron that’s coming to Destiny?

Scott Taylor: Well we’re not talking about PVP much today, but the new mode that we’re going to let those guys share — they are really proud of it, as they should be — is really, really fun. And the axe is, as you can see, very fun and you feel so powerful with it. And then the story, the cinematics are really great and affecting, and that’s fun to see, even in a working state when you’re like “oh wow, that’s working,” so the storyline’s really exciting to me. So I just said a bunch of things instead of one, but the PVP mode, the axe, and the story are three things that I am really excited about.

PSLS: That’s good that you’re excited about all of that!

Scott Taylor: There’s more too, but I’m trying to restrict myself! It’s a great thing, and Drew [PR rep] will get mad if I say too much.

PSLS: You feel confident then that Rise of Iron is really a focus on players of all types?

Scott Taylor: Yeah!

PSLS: I know previously some of the expansions have been more focused towards PVP or more focused on single-player, and this is one that comes in and gives a little bit something for everyone.

Scott Taylor: It’s funny when you phrase the question that way, I do. I feel very strongly that that’s true. Rise of Iron really hits all of those different areas, like if you just want to kick back and play with your friends and do patrols and public events, great. If you you want to do the raid, which are always six players of intense focus, great! The strike is great. The reprised strikes that we brought back and remixed are great, and PVP stuff will, I think make people very, very happy. I think when you look at all those different quadrants, you’re going to see that we’ve covered the things that Destiny does well all across the map.

PSLS: So the focus on Iron Banner in terms of the narrative does not necessarily mean that people who are averse to actually playing the Iron Banner should be worried about this expansion in any way?

Scott Taylor: Absolutely not. Destiny’s really unique in the aspect that you are this one character in all of these different activities with the same weapons, and that’s really cool. We wanted to take that piece of lore that PVP players have a real affection for; the weapons that are named after the Iron Lords, and that ritual — to just take that and put it into a PVE experience. If you play the story and you’ve never played PVP, it’s going to great, it’s just going to be a different Destiny experience. And you’ve still seen that guy in the Tower, even if you haven’t done anything. And that’s going to be enough to be interesting to you. And if you’re a new player it’s still a great story that kicks off and has all the context you need. We’re very aware of the fact that not everyone plays PVP and that’s fine. We wanted to use that lore and iconography, and move that into PVE. We think that’s going to be really fun for people.

PSLS: Beyond Rise of Iron — not necessarily additional expansions or sequel or anything — how do you see Rise of Iron itself evolving after its release, and continuing to have updates to change it like we saw with Taken King?

Scott Taylor: We’re still working on exactly what’s going to happen after Rise of Iron, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to be supporting the game and continue to evolve and have events. We did that last year. We had all sorts of different types of events of different scale, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to continue to look at that.


PSLS: Does Saladin like sparrow racing at all?

Scott Taylor: Does Saladin like sparrow racing? I haven’t asked him. I’ll ask him when I get back to see. Do YOU like sparrow racing?

PSLS: There could be a league…or something. Like a racing league…for sparrows.

Scott Taylor: Iron League, or something? Well I’ll go ask him when I get home.

PSLS: Those Plaguelands look fun to race in…a nice expansive area.

Scott Taylor: Oh, interesting! Well I’ll go ask him what he thinks of sparrow racing, I’ve never talked to him about that. (whispering) I know he’s not real! (laughs)

PSLS: If you had one thing to say to Destiny players, to Destiny haters, to everybody, about Destiny, about Rise of Iron, what do you want to get out there?

Scott Taylor: I want to get out there that I think we all love Destiny as much as everyone else and we think that Rise of Iron is a really great next adventure for Destiny. We’re just basically really excited for everyone to see it.

We want to thank Scott Taylor for taking a moment to answer our questions about Destiny: Rise of Iron, which releases on September 20th this year.