When Destiny launched and the Vault of Glass Raid came out, people didn’t quite know what to think. The entire concept of a first-person six-man Raid was new and exciting. Not only was it a whole new playground for players to challenge themselves with, but the developers at Bungie also went into the experience of creating it very green. They didn’t quite know how players would respond to it. Often it’s found that Guardians with take the path of least resistance, and sometimes that means doing things in a way that was entirely unintended by the team that created the Raid.
Even as recently as the Last Wish Raid that came with Forsaken, players have discovered shortcuts that aren’t technically against the rules of the game, but do allow them to bypass some of the more complex mechanics of the encounters. With each and every new Raid released, Bungie discovers more and more about how people play Destiny. They strive to find a way to strike a balance between not frustrating players, but also presenting them with challenging endgame content that should be difficult.
In a series of tweets, Bungie Senior Game Designer Brendan Thorne talked about some of his experience developing Raids for Destiny, specifically what the studio learned from Destiny’s second Raid, Crota’s End. Crota’s End shipped with The Dark Below expansion and featured players diving into the Hellmouth on the moon to take out a Hive god. Reactions to the Raid are still mixed to this day, with some people that despise it and it’s short length (and easily cheesable encounters) and some people that put it as one of Destiny’s best Raid experiences because of these nuances.
What Crota’s End Taught Bungie About Destiny Raid Design
Thorne mentioned that Crota’s End was pretty much complete before the base Destiny game launched, so the studio wasn’t aware of how players would respond to and interact with these Raids. They couldn’t use any lessons learned from Vault of Glass to alter Crota, at least not massively. With most of the core development done early, they were flying blind in creating encounters and discovered that players will game the available systems to create any advantage.
Even something as seemingly aesthetic as a small ledge at the back of an arena can become a central strategy for players, despite Bungie never intending it’s use mechanically. “During dev on Crota, we would frantically move from one side of the arena to the other when Crota moved. It never occurred to us that people would stand on the center windowsill, negating the purpose of his movement.” Thorne explained that players will not be contained. If they can get somewhere, they will use it, or at least try to find an advantageous use for it. “Everywhere in your encounter space needs to have a purpose. If it doesn’t, try to cut it.”
The way players interacted with Crota’s End revealed that players will do anything possible to eliminate risk and limit variables that could lead to failure. If responsibility can all be shifted to a single player, fireteams will do that to mitigate other potential routes of failure. In a Raid, Bungie wants them to be the ultimate six-man endgame encounters. Being able to load responsibility onto one player disrupts the intended mechanics. The opening Abyss encounter was one that Bungie thought would require players to stay grouped together to survive, yet intrepid Guardians found ways to skip entire sections of the encounter and let one person do the entire thing, which is how many groups chose to finish it.
“Don’t expect players to do the mechanic unless it’s absolutely compulsory.” The bridge encounter was supposed to require everyone to work together to build the bridge and trickle players across, but once again, players found ways to evade the intended mechanics, climbing to the highest points of the area and managing to cross the chasm without ever engaging in the plate mechanics.
Most importantly, encounters need to be succinct and with purpose, something they learned from the Deathsinger encounter, where all of the extra adds needed to be killed even after the encounter mechanics were complete and the Deathsinger was defeated. “There’s no sense in drawing out an experience. Identify the core experience, fill it out, then stop. If it feels like unnecessary steps, cut it.”
Finally, they realized that mechanics that only activated when players made a mistake were confusing elements. “Don’t add mechanics that players only experience if they make a mistake. Crota 1.0 summoned the oversoul only when people died. If you never die, you never have to respond.” When Crota’s End was brought back later in Destiny’s life, it was tweaked to make it happen every time. “The reprisal patch changed it so he summoned it after every DPS cycle. Much better implementation.” Bungie seems to have recanted on this one a bit, though. Last Wish does feature some “failure mechanics” in the Ogres that spawn when on the wrong plates in the Kalli encounter. Of course, this is also part of the built in challenge mode, requiring players to engage in a different way to complete the encounter.
Destiny’s development has been a constant and ever-changing cycle, and the Raids are no exception. Bungie learned a variety of lessons, iterating on them as they’ve moved from Vault of Glass and Crota’s End to Last Wish, the most recent Raid that came with Destiny 2: Forsaken. Some of those lessons have been applied to content outside of the Raid as well, making for engaging, yet challenging activities that players love to come back to again and again.
If hearing about classic Destiny Raids makes you want to to relive that nostalgia, don’t miss Destiny 2’s Thunderlord quest which takes players back to a familiar Destiny 1 location. It’s setting the stage for the next season of content after the current one ends on November 27, 2018. Activision recently reported that Destiny 2 didn’t meet expectations, but Bungie developers have come out in their support of Forsaken, saying that they aren’t disappointed with the current state of the game.