Talking the Taken King
As Destiny Week (opens in new tab) draws gently to a close on GamesRadar+, and the 30 second mission-end timer starts up, we start to look forward to the next year. What lies in store for Guardians over the coming 12 months? What can we learn from Year One, to make Year Two better? More pertinently, what have Bungie learned from Year One and how is that improving Destiny (opens in new tab)? Luckily, I was able to sit down with Luke Smith to chat all about The Taken King (opens in new tab) and beyond.
Want to know how hard The King's Fall Raid is? Or about the secret endgame weapon in TTK? Maybe you just want to know what Bungie really thinks about the way you cheese the Nightfall. All the answers are a few clicks away...
Are there any buried secrets in the existing content that people are still looking for?
"I think theres definitely stuff out in the game and out in the world that probably hasnt been discovered yet... I dont have a list of all of it! I know theres a bunch of stuff in The Taken King thats going to be pretty exciting to watch people uncover and figure out and... I am really looking forward to that."
Will you ever let people change their subclass on the fly? Say, with challenges based around bespoke supers
"I think when you get into the realm of; while youre playing the actual game, the right thing to do is to press the Start or Options button, go into your menu and switch stuff... I think youre getting into a kind of scary place. Because then you're actually asking people to not play the game how it's meant to be. We need to make sure that were not doing that. If it ever was like OK, juggle between the Defender and the Sunbreaker as damage types rotate on a boss and that was the only way to beat him, I think thatd be like a bridge too far, yeah."
Will you be changing the currencies or economics again in the future?
"I think that a year ago, we probably would have felt like a bunch of our systems were stable.Turns out they werent as stable as wed hoped or, when exposed to scale, we found flaws with them and we had to fix them. Weve done a lot to re-factor the way the game economy and the character level and how power works, and you always hope that thats your next best idea. And so I think that one of the things for us at Bungie thats really important is to be looking for that next potential pivot. If I were to say right now, this system is going to last forever then that would be foolish. I think that The Taken King is our next best effort at how were going to evolve character progression."
What's your favourite thing about The Taken King?
"I think the thing Im most excited for is peoples reaction overall to the Dreadnaught. Like the entirety of the Dreadnaught part of the player experience, because I think that that represents us taking a bunch of... risks isnt the right word, but thats us pushing in some different directions, and so Im excited to see how the community reacts to that. And if it brings them together, thats going to be a great outcome."
How long has Taken King been in the making?
"I assumed my position on The Taken King once I joined the project, after I finished my core responsibilities on vanilla. However, I was basically working during the day on The Taken King and then at night on Destiny vanilla, so its been in development for a while, and weve had different members roll on and roll off it at different rates. So it definitely accordion-ed up to be a sizeable team. And now its where... were in the period where its gotten small again. But the development timeline: I actually dont know that, I dont remember when I officially started!"
What's your take on 'cheesing' exploits?
"I think theres a lot of ingenuity and creativity in the 'cheesing' of encounters, but what it really is is the quest for efficiency, man! Its all about the quest for efficiency, and when you have an activity like Nightfall, which is so punitive for losing getting kicked to Orbit and having to re-do everything - youre behaviourally incentivising players to play the game in a way that might not be super-fun. The game is at its most fun when youre able to over-commit yourself, get yourself into trouble, emerge victorious and get yourself out. And the vanilla version of Nightfall kinda conspires against that, so we have to do something like soul searching as developers to say OK, well whats going to be fun, and is the fun that were trying to create for you, are you able to have it? What are the barriers between you and that gameplay experience? We have to continue to get better at that."
How big a job is it to redo a Strike?
"Oh no, it takes a bunch of work, like going back in and messing with those Strikes and trying to refresh them without refreshing every element of them is a non-trivial amount of work, but we wanted the total Strike offering and the Strike drops to feel new and fresh for people, whether theyve had Destiny for the last year or theyre just getting it this time this year for the first time. We chose the Strikes that we put in the new Strike playlist pretty carefully. We wanted to have them represent Strikes that havent been played a ton by players already."
We've seen some fans build weapons out of Lego etc, which weapon would you love to see built in real life?
"Oh man! There are probably two that come to mind: one of them is named the Sleeper Simulant, and it is a Heavy Exotic Fusion Rifle that shoots a rail projectile that bounces. It is styled in that sort of 'Rasputin-tech' styling - its a beautiful weapon.
"And the other one... I believe the final name for it is going to be The Old Hunger, and The Old Hunger is the gun that you forge over the course of the endgame. Like, youre going to be finding pieces of it as you go, like basically putting this thing together is the ultimate trophy for primarily a bunch of TTK. I think that that gun as... its like wrapped in cloth, it has an orb in the centre thats... its crazy! To see someone put that together, with all of its moving parts will be pretty mind blowing. Im sure someones going to do it!"
How tough is The King's Fall raid?
Is it tough? Heres the thing man, if I say its tough, then people flog me if its not super-hard. If I say its easy then people are upset if its hard. Difficulty of the Raid is a question that really scales to each group. So what weve done... construction wise is weve built the Raid differently this time than weve built them previously, where weve actually built Hard Mode first. So we built the whole suite of the mechanics for Hard Mode up front, and then looked at that and said OK, this feels good for that Hard Mode challenge, what sub-set of these things will feel good for that group of six whos coming in to play through the game like the... What are the pillars for the Raid activities? Any motivated group of six players who are willing to cooperate and communicate can beat the Raid thats what were looking for and thats our bar. Its not just for a die-hard and their friends, its any motivated group of players who are willing to cooperate and communicate can beat a Raid in Destiny. So thats our bar for Normal, and then Hard Modes hard mode.