On the heels of the big Destiny 2 Shadowkeep (opens in new tab) reveal, today three Bungie leads joined producer Geoff Keighley on-stage at E3 2019 (opens in new tab) to discuss some of the particulars for the upcoming expansion as well as the inner workings of the now-independent studio. Destiny game director Luke Smith, Destiny 2 general manager Mark Noseworthy, and Destiny 2 design lead Raylene Deck shared more on the Destiny 2 free to play version (opens in new tab) called New Light, the long-awaited arrival of Destiny 2 cross save (opens in new tab), and the decision to part with Activision (opens in new tab). Let's start with Activision, as Smith's explanation of the separation is especially interesting.
"From the very beginning, even going back to 2014, we've talked about how Destiny has had an identity crisis," Smith said. "We've talked a number of times over the years about the different iterations of Destiny. As we've continued to move forward and think about what the game could be, we started to realize the opportunity we had as developers was to get to a place where we could truly be in control of Destiny. And as we look at the landscape, the way games are changing, the way business models are changing, this becomes an opportunity for Destiny - a franchise we want to continue to be around for a while - to continue to evolve too. And Bungie has struck out on its own a few times. We left Microsoft, we ultimately separated from Activision. We want to be the independent spirit that we've always been. We want Destiny to adapt to the marketplace riding the wave of that independence."
Old low points and future high points
Smith also addressed the popular theory that Activision's oversight was a major or deciding factor in the many low points Destiny and Destiny 2 have seen over the years. "We slipped Destiny twice," he acknowledged. "With the original game we slipped, and with Destiny 2 we slipped. We didn't do that for business reasons, it was purely for creative reasons. It was trying to get the time we need to make the best thing we could. I think one thing that can happen sometimes, and did happen to us in the developer-publisher relationship, is we'd collaborate and choose directions and sometimes those directions weren't the right thing for what our core players were interested in. We've spent a year now completely taking care of that."
"We love the idea of being able to put our core Destiny player at the center of all our decisions," Noseworthy added. "We look at Destiny as a franchise that has a lot of people who love playing it; we love playing it. Part of this newfound independence is that we get to chase that. We get to say, 'We're gonna make Destiny for people who want to play Destiny.' Period. That's really exciting and invigorating."
Smith and Noseworthy described a renewed focus on Destiny 2 during the Shadowkeep reveal. As Destiny 2 enters its third year, a big part of that focus is going to be connecting seasons in clearer, more meaningful ways, both to improve the momentum of Destiny 2's story throughout the year, and to better support Destiny 2's new a la carte DLC model.
"These past seasons, it has felt often 'monster of the week,'" Smith said. "With seasons 8, 9, 10, 11, and beyond, we want the seasons to do a better job of handing off. The Dreaming City in Forsaken launched this loop, and what we want to have this fall is something in the Shadowkeep experience that begins season 8, and something that concludes season 8 is a launchpad for season 9, so you do feel this momentum as you play it over the course of the year."
The far, far future
We may also see future seasons continue the trend of reviving Destiny 1 content, not unlike the way Shadowkeep is repurposing the moon to tell a new story. Smith described Shadowkeep as "the beginning of an experiment" to assess what to do with "the library of content we've built over time and the ways these worlds can evolve." Deck was quick to point out that there are currently no plans to straight-up port Destiny 1 content into Destiny 2, but it seems there's room for more throwbacks to the past.
Bungie's also thinking about the future, and as Noseworthy explained, the next generation of consoles will be a major factor in its plans. The Xbox Project Scarlett (opens in new tab) reveal is still fresh in everyone's minds, and the PS5 (opens in new tab) is very much a known quantity. It seems Bungie is among those looking at potential next-gen ports and releases.
"We're upgrading the engine and technology every year; that's part of being a live game service," Noseworthy said. "The good news is, because we have really high-end PC support, we support a variety of platform fidelities already. So when we think about next-gen, we're really excited about moving to that platform someday. We believe the technology and infrastructure we're building already supports ramping up things like resolution and frame rate and lighting. We think we're gonna be positioned pretty well for that transition."
Noseworthy also teased that Bungie has "a few people in the backyard planting some seeds that might grow into some future things," but maintained that "we're predominantly focused on Destiny; that's the lifeblood of the company." With the Destiny 2 Season of Opulence (opens in new tab) just kicking off and Shadowkeep already on the horizon along with plenty of other major features, including expanded RPG elements and improved PvP (opens in new tab), I'd have to imagine so.
Bungie also clarified how cross save will work, namely how you'll share Guardians between platforms and, critically, how you won't share DLC. (opens in new tab)