It turns out the Destiny 2 Zero Hour questline took Bungie seven months to create, the team revealed in an Game Informer interview. Compared to the Whisper of the Worm secret mission, which took around four months to create and had fewer people working on it, the team spent nearly double the amount of time on it. This was to make sure Zero Hour was balanced enough to feel enjoyable, yet challenging enough to warrant the surprise waiting for players at the end. Those who completed the mission would receive a reworked exotic from the original game, Outbreak Perfected. This new weapon had been put into the game just before Bungie decided to nerf some of the game’s other exotic weapons, but no changes have been made to it since it launched.
The Zero Hour mission was a sort of nostalgic treat for long-time Destiny players, as it took Guardians on a spontaneous romp through the Tower. This area was the social hub in the original game and was lost during the events that took place at the start of Destiny 2. Bungie wanted to return to this area, but had to find a reason for players to go there. This had the team thinking about all of the cool equipment that may have been left there by the Cryptarchs. Rob Adams, Zero Hour’s Creative Lead, said, “…it seemed like they might have some powerful secrets stashed there.” With this idea, Bungie began creating a quest that rewarded curious players for activating nodes around the solar system, which then unlocked the Destiny 2 Zero Hour mission.
While the Whisper of the Worm quest was received positively by most players, it was clear that improvements needed to be made. Bungie spent a lot of those seven months focusing on what mindset the developer wanted players to be in during specific parts of the mission. As Adams explained, “Nearly all creative decisions were in service of evoking a specific localized emotion.” One of the most standout moments from the quest that exemplifies this is when players are fleeing from the murderous robot TR3-VR. There are no other options besides run or hide, because it kills players instantly on contact. The goal with this section was to evoke “fear on a primal level.”
Another focus of the team involved the platforming sections. Bungie has to walk a fine line any time the developer includes these in the game, because these portions typically receive a very mixed response from fans. One of the community’s Whisper of the Worm criticisms is that players who were less skilled in traversing the jumping puzzles would get stuck in them while their team moved on to fight the boss. With Zero Hour, Adams said that Brandon Campbell, Destiny 2‘s Senior World Artist, included switches to make these platforming sections easier. However, they could only be reached at the end of the puzzle. This way, the member(s) of the fireteam who could navigate these portions could make it easier for the rest of the team after they’ve completed the section for themselves.
These hurdles, in addition to various other tweaks and balances, seem to be what increased the Destiny 2 Zero Hour mission development time. Response to the mission was overall very positive, and the Destiny 2 subreddit lit up upon discovery of the secret nodes that activated the quest, so the extra development time seems to have paid off. If you’re a long-time Destiny fan, like many of us here, be sure to read through the improvements we’d like in a new installment.