Destiny is getting a new lease of life this month with the arrival of long-awaited expansion Rise of Iron, a new raid and a fresh playable area for fans to explore and pore over.
It's not set to be quite as expansive as last year's The Taken King, but any new Destiny addition right now will please the game's rabid fans - of which there are several here at Eurogamer. (Stealth Eurogamer article).
I still spend time raiding and am currently finishing my Moments of Triumph, so it was fun to look to the future with Rise of Iron producer Scott Taylor while at Gamescom recently. There, I got to play Rise of Iron's single new strike, which was fun albeit fairly brief, and the expansion's new competitive mode, which is a Destiny-ified version of Call of Duty's Kill Confirmed.
I chatted with Taylor straight after my play session, which was also the day questions arose about when PlayStation-exclusive items in The Taken King will unlock for Xbox One owners, which we have already reported on. Also during the chat, we touched on the then-current online chatter surrounding the length of Rise of Iron's raid, prompted by Edge magazine's cover feature on the expansion.
Read on for discussion of what's coming after Rise of Iron launches, how best to use Three of Coins and why Bungie spent a night in a wolf sanctuary.
Eurogamer: I liked the new strike. I fell off several times and died, I have to say - but I liked the verticality to it.
Taylor: Thank you!
I have lots of questions. I'm going to try and rattle through them as quick as possible.
Taylor: That's why I'm here.
OK. Sidearms. I couldn't play them in the strike but will Rise of Iron make them a bit more fun?
Taylor: Our sandbox guys are very excited with sidearms... And we had pre-loaded gear in the setup you just played.
Private matchmaking - it's exciting to see that finally coming in. Why now?
Taylor: We started with [Iron Banner and face of Rise of Iron] Saladin and the Iron Lord's lore and bring it to PVE. Then we thought, well this would be a good time to develop private matches and put them in there too. It's a pretty organic process of - 'we have this idea' which leads to 'bring Gjallarhorn in!' and 'private matches'.
The arrival of private matchmaking has got people chatting again about raid matchmaking. Any changes there?
Taylor: We don't have raid matchmaking in Rise of Iron, although we do have a new raid...
What I'm asking is there any change to the philosophy about raid matchmaking? In the past Bungie has always said it purposefully has reserved activities like the raid and Nightfall for people who have actively sought out a group.
Taylor: Matchmaking for raids is something we have talked about but we're not bringing it in Rise of Iron - we have private matchmaking for PVP and we're excited to see what players do with that. This raid is - fireteam up with your best and brightest friends, conquer and go forth to victory.
I read that the raid might be a bit more manageable in length - have you got feedback that it was a little difficult for people to complete all in one go, or to manage around their schedules?
Taylor: That's interesting... no, each raid - it's like, what is the adventure we want to have? The tension we want to create? And then you build the experience around that. It's not like 'we want to hit this much clock time'. It's all about supporting the design guides.
There was an article in the latest Edge magazine which suggested it may be a little shorter...
Taylor: Oh, I haven't read that - [We quickly realise Edge magazine only went on shop shelves back in the UK that day, so Bungie hasn't seen it yet]. I will have to read it!
I heard you guys are big fans of wolves... [laughter] I heard someone spent a night at a wolf sanctuary during development?
Taylor: So [game director] Chris Barrett... it was really important to him, as wolves are on all the Iron Banner armour, to represent wolves in the game. I believe it was the audio team who initially reached out to a sanctuary called Wolf Haven to ask them what we could do to represent wolves properly. It lead them to go out and then it fostered this collaboration where our animators could talk to them, the audio guys set up a time to go overnight and sleep there.
They got lots of audio because apparently one of the issues was, the wolves howl over each other. So they would send stuff over and get excited when it was just a single wolf. In the Plaguelands as you go around you'll hear distant wolf sounds - and you'll definitely see them in the social space, they are all around.
Oh, and one other thing - in our reveal trailer, you know the wolves all around Saladin? The mo-cap 'actor' was Ghost from Game of Thrones. The dog actor - who I believe is actually called Ghost - is our wolf mo-cap. It was like a rock star coming in.
And you can't pet the wolves because they are wild animals, right?
Taylor: Yeah - we talked with Wolf Haven and they had some things we were happy to agree to, they didn't want it to be frivolous, which is a good thing.
I had a lot of fun with Gjallarhorn in the demo. What are you guys doing to ensure it doesn't become the one-trick boss killer it was back in Year One?
Taylor: Sure - so first of all, we know Gjallarhorn is a really important weapon for people. We wanted to have a quest which would honour its place in people's hearts and honour the fact you're getting it. But, when you do have it, we also wanted to make sure it doesn't become a prerequisite for Wrath of the Machine [the new raid]. That's not what the sandbox team wants - they want people who may prefer heavy machine guns to also contribute.
So it's on us to make the Gjallarhorn which is right for Rise of Iron. Part of that is balancing - making it still the fun weapon you know, with the Wolfpack rounds, but appreciating it can't be so overpowered to the detriment of everything else. We pitched Gjallarhorn coming back with Saladin [as a Golden Age relic] and though we weren't actively looking for an oppurtunity to bring it back, we found one.
Talking about weapons which have an emotional attachment - Vex Mythoclast, Nechrochasm. People are very keen to see those coming back after working hard for them in raids back in the day. Is that something you'd like to do?
Taylor: We're not bringing them back now... But like private matches we do talk about it.
Have you guys said how many new exotic weapons are in Rise of Iron?
Taylor: We haven't... We have talked about the Khvostov and maybe shown a couple of others...
You guys have already talked about Sparrow Racing and Festival of the Lost coming back - and it's great to see Bungie talking about that so soon. Fans always want more. Are you planning beyond that?
Taylor: We're focused on Festival of the Lost right now - I've seen some things which are really fun. Then for winter, it's important to note we're not just focusing on Sparrow Racing. Maybe there will be some events for people who don't want to race their Sparrows around. We want to do something which encompasses other activities and is bigger than just Sparrow Racing.
As for Festival of the Lost - can we assume more masks to collect?
Taylor: Yeah, I think I can say that. I've seen some of the things we're making and it's pretty fun. I always know something's good when you hear one loud noise and then people crowd round a computer and start chatting about what they're seeing...
I had a sneaky look at the new, improved Cosmodrome map which includes the fresh Plaguelands area. It seems fairly big, not as big as the whole Cosmodrome, although I know a lot of that is buildings and the sea and things you can't get into. How would you say Plaguelands compares?
Taylor: I don't actually know in terms of real-estate, but in the story you land in the reprised Cosmodrome area which is covered in snow, then bust through the Cosmodrome wall and you're in an all-new area with a lot of things to explore and collectibles to find. We designed the space to support the activities we wanted to include so, I haven't even thought about trying to compare.
I'm guessing like the Dreadnought it is pretty dense, full of things to collect?
Taylor: There's a lot of stuff. We were really impressed with the Dreadnought, and it was a great, claustrophobic, tight space. The Plaguelands has a wide vista, you can drive through all these weird things: lava, broken machines, things on fire. We wanted to have a feeling of vastness when you go in, but we also wanted a feeling of descending into hell. From your mountaintop social space you can go down, and down, and down... I love it.
I spotted a new Strike playlist named Taken War.
Taylor: We're updating those, yes, same as we did last year. Those will be available to play through still.
I'm being told it's my final question. Will Three of Coins be staying for Rise of Iron?
Taylor: Yes, absolutely.
Bungie has never said - what's the best method for using Three of Coins?
Taylor: I always put one on...
Is there a cooldown timer?
Taylor: ...There is not.