We played a story mission from Destiny 2's upcoming Forsaken expansion at E3, and we spent some time with its promising new Gambit mode, so we had plenty of questions for game director Christopher Barrett and project lead Scott Taylor. Read on to learn what they had to say about building Destiny 2 for hardcore players (like me), how it felt to kill Cayde-6, and how the new raid will play into the rest of Forsaken.
PC Gamer: I'll start with maybe a tricky one, maybe not. With Forsaken, do you feel finally ready to answer the question of, how do I make this player's 13th Better Devils matter?
Christopher Barrett: So, we're bringing back random rolls, which we heard very loud and clear from players. We had a community summit where we brought a whole bunch of players to the studio a couple months ago, and that was one of the number one things, almost unanimously. I think there were about 40 people, maybe 39 wanted random rolls back. That's a change that's coming with Forsaken, and I think that goes a long way toward making that 13th Better Devils matter. And we've evolved the system from what we've done in the past. So, a combination of that with the new weapon mod changes.
Scott Taylor: And collections. We're introducing basically a trophy rack to track all the things you're getting. There's going to be a few question marks in there where you're gonna be like 'I don't know how to get that?' But for a lot of weapons in there, you're gonna see how. All of those things together are going to create something where people are chasing awesome god-roll weapons that make those multiple drops matter.
Can you pull stuff out of your collection like you would an exotic kiosk?
Taylor: Yeah, you can pull out exotics, you can pull out the Year 1 stuff, and then for the Forsaken random rolls, we're gonna dive into the details of that soon. Shaders you'll be able to pull out as well.
That's great. I'm always thirsty for more Metro Shift, that's good news.
Taylor: There's other things we're doing too, like increasing the vault space. All these things together make it so you're going to have a lot of fun chasing a bunch of different collections.
If a Better Devils drops in year two, will it now have random perks? Or will it be like it was in Year 1? And we can bring the power up through infusion?
Taylor: The random rolls are gonna be focused on the Year 2 weapons, but you can infuse the Year 1 weapons and bring them with you. If you love Better Devils, by all means bring it, but you won't be getting those random perks.
Will those Year 1 weapons no longer be dropping?
Taylor: They will still drop, but they won't have those random perks.
And you'll be able to mod the Year 1 guns?
Taylor: I don't have a specific answer for you on that.
Being able to play with a nine-person group in Escalation Protocol, albeit with some finicky matchmaking arrangements, has been great. Is that something you're cognisant of and want to take into stuff further ahead?
Barrett: We've heard that. Destiny is awesome when it's a bunch of people playing together, you're having a good time shooting monsters, you're just chatting. And when the game is challenging at the same time, it's cooperative, so absolutely, we want to bring more of those experiences—hopefully, in the future, without doing weird matchmaking things to get people in there.
It's interesting how unanimous the feedback about random rolls was. Because sometimes it's been surprising that you guys were surprised by what the community wanted. Do you feel like you're more comfortable with taking player feedback to inform your decisions?
Taylor: The mantra this year has been reinforcing the hobby, which I think speaks to a lot of those elements of giving players different opportunities to play however they want. That means if you have one hour a week or whatever, there's a new triumph system and a new collection system so you can go 'I wanna figure this out, or get this weapon, or maybe make some progress on this particular triumph.' But if you're like 'Gambit's rocket launcher has some amazing perks, I'm just gonna play Gambit for 20 hours straight,' that's also something that we want.
When we use the word hobby, we mean it just like that. You think of it as a place you can go and hang out with your friends, or play by yourself, whatever you want. We're leaning more into creating opportunities for people to play how they want.
So, Warmind was kind of a Vicarious Visions co-production. Is Forsaken the High Moon expansion?
Taylor: We worked with High Moon as collaborators. It's funny when we get this question because everyone works on everything, so it's just like any other team that works on a Destiny game. They focused on the Tangled Shore and the combatants, but we all were deeply involved in most of the game.
Which of you decided to kill Cayde?
Taylor: I know whose idea it was, but I'm not gonna say. It came out of a lot of discussions about tone. It's been very surreal for us, these last 16 hours or so. Because we've all been living with this for over a year. So we've gone through this process of mourning and we're at a different emotional state, and now we're getting pulled back in.
Was there some kind of brainstorming session where you have all three Vanguards on the table?
Barrett: We drew it out of a hat. [Laughs]
Taylor: It was always Cayde. It was really important that it's Cayde, because Cayde is at a really unique place in the universe. We wanted to tell a story with tremendous stakes that's deeply personal, and we were talking about how we could make both the players on the couch at home, as well as the Guardian in the game, feel something where it was very clear what your motivation was. Cayde has a lot of emotional attachment. If Destiny wants to embrace that tone and that darkness, we want to be able to surprise people. We don't want to be conservative in our storytelling, we want to not be safe. It felt really important to us to do something that would be shocking.
Barrett: Do the unexpected thing.
Taylor: The universe is most interesting to me and a bunch of other people when it feels like anything can happen and it's alive. That means things need to change and things need to evolve. We'll see what happens when we remove the Hunter Vanguard from the Tower. What does that do to the emotional state of the game? What does that do to the players' motivations? All those things led us to this place where it had to be Cayde. We had to do something like this because we want the game to surprise and delight and shock.
If you're going to do a revenge story, you've got to have something worthy of revenge.
Barrett: Absolutely. We knew originally that we wanted to make this about going back to the Reef, that was a really exciting story that we can continue. What happened there after the Taken King? What happened to all these characters that sort of disappeared? The promise of the Reef was always this lawless frontier, so with the idea of Forsaken and the world we're building, a revenge story made a lot of sense. We've got those Western vibes, anything can happen out on the Reef, so like you said, having that kick off with a bang with someone you care about made that revenge story really work.
And you can't put it out there only to take it back.
Taylor: He's dead. He is dead. I will 100 percent confirm Cayde's dead. We want people to understand the stakes here. You should really hate the people who did this.
I like Uldren being a human-sized antagonist.
Barrett: Yeah, he's someone who can actually talk to you and say things you can relate to. I think that's gonna be really, really cool.
Taylor: And Uldren is able to vocalize what he's doing and why, and you'll very clearly understand why he's doing this.
In past Destiny expansions, the big bad usually ends up in a raid. Would you consider a raid possible with that kind of character rather than some enormous creature?
Taylor: I'll tell you something about the raid. I'll tell you that the raid is connected story-wise to all of this. The raid is directly related to the story of Forsaken. It's not a side thing. It is an ultimate culmination of everything that you've learned, but that doesn't mean the obvious thing.
Can you talk to me about what you've learned about raid loot? I love the second raid lair, but going through for a sidearm and a fusion rifle doesn't feel like the hottest thing ever.
Taylor: If I start talking about raid loot, the raid team will find me. They know where I sit, and they're very strong.
Barrett: I think it's very valid. They're some of the hardest activities in the game, they take the most time, they take the most coordination, they should have the best rewards. If we're not living up to that in certain cases, that's great feedback, and we need to improve that, for sure.
Can you tell me more about how the Dreaming City, the new raid, will change over time?
Barrett: This is gonna be a really unsatisfying answer. There's stuff we want players to discover, and we're super excited about that being something the community sees and discovers as it unfolds.
Taylor: The Dreaming City is where the raid takes place, but it's a full destination. It's not just about the raid, it is about the end game. It's a full place where you can go and do various things. It does change, but we're not gonna tell you how.
Would you describe it as being like the Dreadnaught destination from Destiny 1? So the raid is there, but there are so many secrets and things to do.
Taylor: It has that, absolutely. We were saying Dreadnaught plus Vault of Glass, and that's pretty accurate.
I know you guys are bringing some exotics back. With this being a Western-themed expansion, there were three popular exotic hand cannons that people wanted…
Barrett: Which ones?
Taylor: I bet I can name them.
I was a Hawkmoon guy before it was nerfed into the ground.
Taylor: Right, Hawkmoon, Thorn and The Last Word.
The triumvirate of hand cannons.
Barrett: We're not announcing anything. We know those are beloved weapons, and I would like to see them return at some point as well. There's going to be tons of awesome new stuff in Forsaken.
Taylor: I'll say another thing: if you look at the new Gambit trailer, you might see a little something.
With the bows, they're obviously cool, but what would you describe as the optimal scenario for a bow?
Taylor: There are short-, medium- and long-range bows. You're gonna want to use it when you want to make sure that your shot lands. That's the biggest thing. The constant one-off shots feel really good and have really high damage.
So it's easier to land precision shots over, say, a sniper?
Taylor: Yes, and you're closer usually.
Barrett: They have more ammo than a sniper, too.
Taylor: We think it's a really interesting weapon, and I feel really powerful when I have it. For me, the power fantasy is about knowing I hit that headshot.
I really like the new Warlock super, too, where you slam down this mega rift called Well of Radiance that buffs everyone's health and damage and does AoE damage on cast.
Taylor: Oh, good. That's great!
I'm a raider, so I love how you're diving in on the team-based stuff.
Taylor: That was his whole thing! There you go.
Barrett: Yep, we're gonna release Gambit, which has a bunch of competitive team play, so let's have more cooperative abilities too.