The Destiny 2 gameplay reveal is behind us now, and at the event we had a chance to talk with Bungie’s Head of Community Eric Osborne, aka “Urk,” about the thinking behind some of the core changes to Destiny’s sequel like subclass reworks, weapon systems, and massive areas with tons to discover. He tells us how Bungie answered the call of the community to not only make Destiny 2 a worthy sequel, but also a familiar game for the millions of fans that have played for the last three years.
PlayStation LifeStyle: You just revealed Destiny 2—
Eric Osborne: We did! We totally did!
PSLS: That’s kinda a big deal!
EO: It’s pretty exciting, pretty exhilarating. It’s also really humbling to see everybody. You never know what to expect, to hear cheers and everything, it’s awesome.
PSLS: Let’s get the bad out of the way first. Obviously people are excited, but what are some of the criticisms you are hearing about the game? Things that could be changed or balanced before Destiny 2 releases in a few months?
EO: To be totally honest I’ve been doing interviews, so I haven’t really had time to digest or spend any time poking around on the web or on the reddit or Twitter or any of the places are really sounding off, so I’ll go do that after my day is done today. We were just really excited to show people what we’d been working on and talk about the key features that we think are going to make Destiny 2 special.
A big story with captivating characters that new and returning characters can celebrate together. A wider variety of activities to do and destinations that are more worthy of exploration that have their own rewards Clans and guided games, ways to bring players together and offer up not only an official way to be a member of a clan and get rewarded for doing that, but also for solo players to find groups and play some of the most intense cooperative and competitive experiences that Destiny has to offer. I think those are responses to things that our community was asking us for and things that, coming out of Destiny 1, people wanted to see us make investments in, so that’s what we’ve done.
PSLS: You are making a sequel, and obviously you want to make it a new game, but at the same time familiar to the players. You’ve got to strike that balance of the gameplay, UI, and everything feeling familiar, while making it new at the same time. How do you evolve that in Destiny 2 to strike that perfect balance?
EO: There were some clear spaces where we knew we could really double down and improve. The story is a channel where we know we wanted to provide more content for solo players, we wanted to provide a big cinematic story with characters that you’d love to fight alongside and enemies that you’re going to love to hate. That opening premise of losing your light and your power and your home to a villain, Dominus Ghaul, who has his own believable motivations. He believes that he should be chosen by the Traveler. We thought it would be really compelling for players to just play the game for story.
And then of course we can do things like reimagining our PVP game in the Crucible to lean in to 4v4 and come up with a more of a focus on skill players and people who are just playing Crucible content for the competition, but also providing new players ways to determine what has happened, to learn and to grow. More readability and watchability, so if you’re just coming in to the Crucible fresh, you’re not wondering what’s going on. You’re going to get your bearings.
There’s a lot of things we can bring to bear in Destiny 2 that we just see as the big bets, the things that we want to invest in, the things that we want players to experience. I don’t know if that really answers the question, I kinda wandered there for a second [Laughs].
PSLS: [Laughing] Yeah, yeah! While playing I noticed that there is a lot of cross-classing going on in the subclasses. You know, you have Defender going away in favor of this new shield ability, and instead you now have this class ability, the shield that the Titan can put up. Hunters got the shadestep that is now the class ability, Warlocks have the aura. It limits the necessity to choose between the different subclasses because you now have the core elements as a unified class ability. Do you feel that there is still variance enough in the subclasses to be a core decision?
EO: We definitely wanted to make sure there was a lot of variety and definition between the subclasses and there are a number of ways that we’re doing that. One that you just talked about is the native abilities for each class. They aren’t shared between the classes. The Titan barricade for example, any Titan can do it, but no Warlock can. The Warlock rift , they can lay down a field of energy to heal their allies, and the Hunter dodge ability, every Hunter can do that.
They fit those archetypal roles right? The Titan as the class that’s front and center, providing protection for their allies. The Warlock is the sort of wizard, alchemist, the crafty type of manipulator on the battlefield. The Hunter, who’s elusive and agile and can dodge in and out of combat. Same thing happens with the supers as well. They define those classes through those archetypal roles.
Part of the upgrades that we wanted to bring to bear for each subclass was still creating paths for players, so you can still choose movement modes, you can still choose your grenades, you can use that intrinsic ability that I talked about. But you also have these core groupings, these paths. They’ll sort of help players who might not be super familiar with those builds, which things have synergy, which things work well together. It allows us to take away some of the choices that weren’t working super well so that every choice becomes viable. You can’t make a mistake and just pick something that is not optimal.
It allows us to then take a subclass like the Gunslinger for the Hunter and really push it into its true fantasy, so you can have the traditional Golden Gun you’re used to, or you can choose a different path where you can fan it and have six shots, but you have to do them in rapid fashion. You walk into a room, pop it, and just lay waste to an entire enemy team. That’ll feel really cool in an old Western kind of cowboy way. We can really push the boundaries and also create more clarity in gameplay.
PSLS: What was the thinking in reworking the whole gun system from primary, secondary, heavy to– what is it now? Kinetic, energy, and power?
EO: Yup, so we’ve got kinetic, energy, and power weapons, and again that was about providing players with more options, more choices, and more depth in our sandbox. We already feel like we have a really good sandbox, really responsive and fun gameplay. It’s just fun to run around the world and shoot aliens and collect rewards, but we wanted to make those choices for players a little more purposeful to cater to their play style.
So in the kinetic weapons slot you can have things like scout rifles, pulse rifles, autos. You can have a sidearm or a submachine gun. So it’s not just bound to utility weapons. You can have situational weapons. Obviously a submachine gun is going to be better up close than a scout rifle which is going to be better at range.
Those same broad archetypes also are available in your energy slot. The difference is, not only can I run two scouts or two sidearms, but the energy gives you a little depth in gameplay. It’s really effective against shielded enemies in PVE, so you can strip the shields with your energy weapons and then go back to kinetic to do a headshot. And then in PVP, energy weapons are really good against opponents that are in their super. You can use that to whittle their health down really fast and take them out.
PSLS: So the elements, that’s kind of what they do. They do more damage against a super but they might not be as effective against somebody that’s not in their roaming super.
EO: Absolutely right. So you’d want to switch over to your energy weapon if someone’s in their super. If you can pair that up with the element that they’re in that’d be good. And then the power weapons allow us to do things like put shotguns in the power weapon class, put sniper rifles in the power weapon class, and the new grenade launchers, rocket launchers.
PSLS: Some of the problem weapons from the first game.
EO: Weapons that acted outside of their role previously, or became de facto power weapons because of the ubiquity of the ammo. That means that players can pick up power weapon ammo and use that for that moment in time. It leads to a lot less surprise kills in PVP, but it still allows us to retain the power fantasy weapons in PVE and PVP. When you bust your shotgun out, you know you’re about to wreck shop. Whatever’s going to get in your way’s going to go down. But it’s moments in time. The frequency that those are available are much less prevalent. Those moments of time are more akin to like a super where you’re just high lethality during those moments in time.
PVP specifically we’ve done things to make sure people understand that you have — like you specifically — I will know when you pick up power ammo, and see call outs of where you picked it up.
PSLS: The Crucible has a lot more information…
EO: A lot more information available, specifically around both helping people learn the ropes and have a lot more situational awareness. Call outs for heavy, call outs for locations on the map. The heavy– err, power ammo, is actually contained now to just the person who pulls it, so there’s a lot more risk reward in that. And then also you can see supers in the HUD. You’ll not only know when your super is ready, you’ll know when your teammates supers are ready, you’ll know what supers they are.
PSLS: And what supers you’re up against.
EO: The supers you’re facing and when they’re ready, so that gives you a lot more clarity and information, readiness. So you can decide, hey, the Gunslinger is up on the other team, I’m going to lay low for a while. Hopefully he’ll pop it out in the open or I can get the jump on him. It just gives you a lot more depth. All those systems combined that we talked about, you know reimagining the super specializations and the paths and archetypes, the restructuring and improvements that we’re making to the weapon slots and the flexibility we’re giving players, and a lot more feedback in the HUD, that will add up specifically in PVP to a much more understandable and learnable game for players.
PSLS: Are you concerned at all that limiting sniper rifles and shotguns to the same slot as something like rocket launchers or the new grenade launchers is going to cause de facto issues where, say, this grenade launcher is best for this boss or something like that?
EO: Not necessarily concerned. I think there’s always going to be weapons that are more viable in certain situations that others, and that’s about players having the choice to choose those weapons. There’s always going to be a PVE standout for certain situations or against a certain boss, and I think that’s part of what makes Destiny special. You can build a really rich arsenal and you can improvise with them. You’re not locked in to one weapon archetype. You can build out your tool chest, and then if you’re just feeling in the mood for rocket launchers, if you just want to turn the brain off and watch enemies die, or if you just like, want to put your pants on and play some PVP you can rock the sniper rifle and take some people out from long range. It becomes situational.
PSLS: The 4v4 for Crucible, that is 100% across the board every single mode will be 4v4?
EO: 100% across the board, every mode is 4v4. The maps — so for example we have Midtown here to play on Countdown — that map is made specifically for the Countdown mode, so we want to make sure the maps are designed to take advantage of those game modes and to be very purposeful. It helps us hone them out and just make sure they’re perfected for that mode as opposed to having to serve multiple modes and then ultimately not serving any of them in the best way possible.
PSLS: You’ve got the new open world map with each of the worlds and the stuff you can discover. Were there any games that were inspiration or that you looked to for how to do that? It’s not something that Destiny has really done before.
EO: We don’t really consider it an open world. We call it free roam, so you can use your director whenever you want, you can see your activities on the map. There are more things to do in the world. That’s a direct response to our community just wanting our worlds to be more explorable and have more depth. With The Taken King for example we created a lot more opportunities for fun and adventure in the dreadnought. This is an evolution of that. Destiny’s worlds are all rich with exploration. They’re not just big, they’re also deep. You can throttle the experience that you want to have.
If you want to have some light fun collecting materials while you chat about work or whatever it is, life with your friends, you can totally do that. If you want to meet a character in the EDZ and then go do some quests for them, some side missions, you’ll get purposeful rewards from them. You’ll learn more about the world. You’ll learn more about the enemy fiction, what their motivations are. You’ll learn more about that character. We think that’s born out of our playerbase wanting more storytelling vehicles, more rewards for exploring, worlds that feel a little bit more alive. More reasons to return to them. It’s jut a direct response to that call.
PSLS: In Destiny 1, Bungie’s stance was kind of “it’s not an MMO.” That was the big thing. “Don’t call it an MMO.” Is that still your stance for Destiny 2, or are you a little bit more open to calling it an MMO this time around?
EO: I don’t know that we’d call it a stance. The first thing we try to do is build a really great action game. That’s what our bread and butter is. That’s the kind of games that we like to play. Destiny to us is a first-person shooter. It has big destinations worthy to explore where you can meet other players and collide with them in strikes and PVP and all kinds of great activities that are rich where you can get rewards and loot. I don’t know that we’re allergic to the term MMO, I just don’t know that that’s the correct classification. I think it’s a first-person shooter with great social elements, with destinations that you can explore and get rewards for spending time in the world.
Obviously we don’t have a subscription model for players to worry about. You invest your hard earned dollars in Destiny and we want to make sure that we continue to support that and give you opportunities to keep playing. Reasons to keep coming back to the world.
PSLS: What is the hardest thing to leave behind from Destiny 1 going into Destiny 2?
EO: I guess I would give you a biased answer, so I’m not sure how people would assess the honesty, but I’m excited to move in to a new story and have new cinematics and characters to meet and worlds to explore. So for me, that’s not a hard transition to make at all. I’m really looking forward to it, as a player. I’m speaking as a player now. I’m just looking forward to seeing my wife and my brother play something totally new. That sense of discovery is really awesome and something that is really powerful.
What weapons are there out there for me to collect. Which ones are the best in which situations. We talked about that a little before. What are the standout weapons, the coveted weapons? What do the new enemies look like? What are the new story missions like? That sense of revitalization and reintroduction is super exciting.
PSLS: The newness overtakes anything that anybody might be sad about leaving behind?
EO: I think so, yeah. Like, I love my Vision of Confluence, right? it was like my jam throughout ’14 man, it was my go to. But if I came into Destiny 2 and just had that weapon, it would get boring for me. I want that newness and that novelty, that discovery.
That variety is what makes the game special for me.
We’d like to thank Eric Osborne for taking some time on the very busy reveal day to talk to us a little about the coming Destiny 2. Flight and accommodations for the reveal event paid for by Activision. Destiny 2 will be released this September 8 on the PS4, Xbox One and PC (at a later date).