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Maintaining a game like Destiny isn’t easy.
The online shooter from Bungie for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One isn’t just another online product that a developer can release, deliver a few updates for, and then move on from. It’s an open-world game designed to keep players engaged for years, which means that Bungie has to regularly create new content for it. That includes the upcoming fourth expansion, Rise of Iron, which releases on September 20. Destiny has over 30 million registered players, and this update can help bring back people who stopped playing after the launch of the last expansion, The Taken King.
GamesBeat met Scott Taylor, the executive producer for Rise of Iron, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles earlier this month about the pressures of regular updates, keeping players engaged, and winning their trust.
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GamesBeat: What lessons have you learned from the last expansion Taken King?
Scott Taylor: Rise of Iron, size-wise — I look at Taken King and House of Wolves, and it fits in the middle there. The thing I’d say about what we’ve learned is that — we have this neat opportunity with Destiny. We shipped in 2014, in September. Instead of just leaving it — it’s a boxed product and we don’t support it — the whole experience has been iterated on ever since we released.
You can see that evolution starting in Dark Below and House of Wolves and Taken King and all the updates we’ve done, smaller events like the Masks Festival and all that stuff. To me it’s been the culmination — this is the best version of Destiny, based on everything we’ve learned.
In Taken King we introduced things like the quest system. We had some amazing cinematics and storytelling. We’ve been evolving the storytelling since then. It’s a bunch of things. Destiny is a different game than it was when we first released.
GamesBeat: Do you think Bungie knew what it was getting into with Destiny, with the need for so much content coming out so quickly?
Taylor: The way I look at that is — there’s a fanbase that’s passionate about the universe and learning more about it. When I do think of the fact we’ve been out 18 months and this is our fourth expansion, that’s a decent amount of content in addition to the other support we’ve done.
I think of it as looking at different ways to support the game. When we decided to do an expansion like this, a lot of it is because we were getting feedback like, “I want a campaign, I want a new space to explore, new real estate, a new zone, a new story to learn more about the lore in the game.” We thought this expansion was a good way to try to accomplish those goals.
GamesBeat: We’re getting close to two years after the launch of the first game. Is there any worry that people might look ahead to Destiny 2 instead of investing in the original Destiny?
Taylor: If we present a quality product in Destiny and people like Destiny — that’s how we’re hoping people think of it. They just want to come and play and be in the world. We’re trying to create opportunities for that. We think Destiny is a great place to do all sorts of activities with your friends. Whether you just want to patrol The Plaguelands while you’re chatting casually, doing some public events and new patrols, or if you want to jump into the new raid and do the hardest thing you can do in Destiny, or if you just want to do the campaign, we’re trying to create opportunities for people who like Destiny to jump in and play. That’s the way I think of it, to try and make a quality product and give opportunities for players to come in.
GamesBeat: One thing I noticed about The Taken King was how it took characters who’d existed already and started giving them more personality. Will we see more of that in Rise of Iron?
Taylor: Yes. That’s been the trend, right? We’ve had Eris that we introduced in Dark Below. We’ve learned a lot about her. We fleshed that out further in The Taken King. Petra, who was introduced in a Tower event called Queen’s Wrath in Destiny, then we evolved her story to move to the Reef and talk about the Queen and the Fallen and the history of those things, along with Variks, our first combatant vendor, we learned about him. And then Cayde-6. You finally know who he is now.
GamesBeat: Right. It’s funny, because he was just the guy I went to get stuff. And then, oh, now he has a personality.
Taylor: The fun thing about that is, in Destiny — you can think of these characters as wallpaper or background detail, but I think of them as opportunities for us to dive into. Saladin’s been in the game since the beta, doing Iron Banner, the ritual of Iron Banner in the Tower. You’ve seen this guy whether or not you play PvP. You can run back and go, what’s up with this gong that’s on fire, that looks cool.
Now, when we came up with this expansion, we decided to take that character that we don’t know much about, this ritual we don’t know much about — we know some of these cool names and these weapons and things, this armor that looks great. Why don’t we find out why he’s doing this and tell that story?
When I look at the universe of Destiny, I see a lot of opportunity to tell stories about these characters that — you look at the Cryptarch and Xur, we don’t know much about them, but they’re cool characters. I’m curious about them. I want to know more about the Cryptarch. He seems mean. What’s going on with Xur? We’re trying to create these opportunities, and then the expansions are a great place to dive in. You see Cayde and you smile now because you know who Cayde is. I feel like I have a good sense of who Eris is. After this release you’ll know about Saladin, and we’re introducing more characters in the new social space that we hope people are curious about too.
GamesBeat: You’ve made a lot of changes, especially based on concerns players had when Destiny launched. Do you think that the fact you did address them, and the way you often addressed them with good humor – stuff like the Cryptarch and the references to it, and the loot cave and things like that – do you think that the way you addressed those issues has improved your relationship with your community?
Taylor: We love our community because of the fact that we think the best stories in Destiny are the ones you make with your friends. When I think of my favorite moments in Destiny, they’re all related to experiences I’ve had. Who I was playing with when Gjallarhorn dropped and what I was doing, all those things.
It’s important to remember that we all play games, we all play Destiny. We think that Destiny should be fun. The communication should be fun too, I think. What we’re doing is trying to create entertainment and be entertaining. If we do have a good reputation with the community, then that’s amazing. We want that, because we love them. We’re all part of that community, too, so we want to create an atmosphere where it’s positive. That’s really important to us. I think that’s reflected in the fact that people have positive impressions of our community and our engagement.