E3 2017: Interview with Destiny 2’s Executive Producer

Destiny 2, unlike its predecessor, will feature a single-player campaign with a compelling backstory that also ties up some of the loose ends from the original game.

Over at the Activision booth at E3 in Los Angeles, we sat down with David Allen, Executive Producer, and discussed some of the challenges faced by the development team at Bungie as well as some tidbits on what to expect in Destiny 2.

Could you give an introduction about yourself and what you do on the team?

Yeah. My name is David Allen and I’m the Executive Producer on Destiny 2. What I do is be responsible for making sure that we deliver a great game that players are going to be really excited to play, that we get it out on time, and that we don’t blow our budget while we’re doing it.

The reception to the original Destiny at launch was not that fantastic but gradually, as you guys launched more content (expansions, DLCs) over the past years to give more meat to the game, players seem to be more positive. What have you learned from those experiences while making Destiny 2?

I think the thing that we’ve been really lucky with and it’s been great is that since the beginning the community and gamers have really latched onto the game. So it has been fantastic being able to see the way that they’ve reacted to the things we’ve put out and to kind of be able to keep that in mind when making future expansions, and now making our first real sequel for Destiny.

Yeah, we’ve learned a lot from Destiny 1. When we came out of Destiny 1, we had an idea of what we wanted to do with Destiny 2, we wanted to tell a compelling story and take players to awesome new places with new things to do. Give them more ways to play together by bringing clans into the game and other stuff like that.

But at the same time, with Destiny 1 coming out and the expansions and, you know — The Dark Below, House of Wolves, Taken King, Rise of Iron — we also had this interesting opportunity to make some small reactions in Destiny 1 to the way that people were playing the game and the things that they were saying and see how that’s going to work. And then use that information to help inform what we’re doing with Destiny 2. So, it’s an interesting chance to get that live feedback as we’re building on these big ideas that we want to achieve.

How does the story in the single-player campaign tie back to the multiplayer this time?

I won’t get into too many details of the story since I don’t want to ruin things for people but, ultimately, there are a couple of ways that it ties back.

One is we’re telling this interesting story of lost and recovery effectively, right? Humanity is in the last safe city on Earth when it gets attacked by Dominus Ghaul and the Red Legion. Dominus Ghaul is here to take our lives, he believes that he’s the one and the Red Legion are the ones that should have gotten the Light from the Traveler in the first place; that the Traveler made a mistake. He’s come to take that from us and because we’re in the way, he happens to kick us out of our home in the process of taking that power away. It’s about how humanity reacts to that; how do we band back together and what lengths are we willing to go to get our Light back.

And one of the important things we want to do with PvP in Destiny is make sure that everything you do —whether it’s the campaign or PvP or Strikes or exploring the planets — you’re playing as you, as your character, your representation in the world. So, we wanted it to really be a cohesive experience across all those things, as you’re gaining power and you’re getting new gear, you’ll be able to use it across everything.

Would you be able to share more about the new content in Destiny 2, such as the new classes?

Yeah, we’re going to have a whole lot of new content all across the game. For Destiny 2 we’re focused on all-new destinations, so we’ve got the European Dead Zone, which is an abandoned part of Europe that hasn’t seen much human activity for a long time. It’s got a corrupted Shard of the Traveler that’s fallen off it, it’s got a Cabal base where they’re studying the Shard of the Traveler, it’s got an abandoned village, so there are a lot of variety in that space.

We’ve also got Nessus which is a planetoid that’s basically been overrun by the Vex. We’ve got Titan which is a moon of Jupiter I think – I can never remember if it’s Jupiter or Saturn (laughs) — it’s a moon that humans have lived on during the golden age so there’s all this golden age archaeologies that’s been abandoned; they kind of float in this giant ocean of methane.

And then we’ve got Io, which is the last place that the Traveler touched down during the golden age. So, we’ve got these four destinations that are different from things that you’ve seen in Destiny 1 but really distinct from each other as well.

As far as your actual character goes, it’s an all-new game so we’ve got all-new weapons, all-new gear, all-new exotics for players to find, collect, and figure out: “Hey what’s the right pairing of exotics with armor with sub-class” and “How do I make myself as powerful as possible in the way that I want to play the game?”

And with the sub-classes we’ve got the Hunter, the Warlock, and the Titan all coming back for Destiny 2, and for each of those we’ve got new ways to play. It’s playable on the show floor here at E3. We’ve got the Dawnblade for Warlock, which is a sub-class about aerial superiority, floating over the battlefield and raining down fire and destruction.

And then for the Hunter we’ve got the Arcstrider, which is a new Arc sub-class that’s about zipping around the battlefield and taking out big groups of enemies, being able to quickly move between different enemies to clear out large mobs.

The Titan we haven’t had it playable yet but we’ve shown in some of the videos the Sentinel Titan, which is a close-quarters support class that’s about getting in the front of the fight and leading the charge for your team. We’ve also got some of the returning sub-classes like the Gunslinger and the Striker Titan that are coming back with new twists to make them new for Destiny 2 and to give you new ways to experience those classes.

What would you say was the most difficult challenge when making the game?

It’s hard to pick one. Games are very super fun to work on but it’s also really challenging because there are so many things that you can choose to do. I think for me, personally, it’s really interesting because you work on a game for two or three years — it takes a long time to make a game — and so you have for a long time a lot of ideas and a lot of thoughts about: “Okay we think this is how it’s going to work” and “We think that when you put these two pieces together it’ll be really cool” and “We think that this mission leading to this cinematic is going to be a really awesome moment for the players”.

Then you work for a really long time building all those things and you finally get to bring them together and we’re kind of, you know, at that point being close to launch and you finally get to see what works and what doesn’t work and whatever last changes you need to make, and how do you polish things to make it the best experience it could be.

Are there any bonuses for Destiny players who move over to Destiny 2 since they can’t carry their progress over?

Your character itself will come forward, like your appearance and class. All your stuff like loot does stay behind though, because we’ve got all-new stuff to do, all-new gear to collect, all-new exotics. We haven’t talked specifics yet but we do want to have a way in the game to kind of recognize the players that have been with us for the longest.

And what’s going to happen to Destiny? Will Bungie still continue supporting the game?

We’ve announced that we’ve already made our last full update for Destiny but it will still be playable after Destiny 2 launch.

Was there any particular content that you wanted to bring to Destiny 1 but couldn’t, and then now we’re seeing it in Destiny 2?

I don’t know if there’s a specific piece of content that I can put my finger on as, “This is something we wanted to do but couldn’t.”  There are definitely things that are kind of like core expansions of the ideas that we had in Destiny. Being able to tell a compelling story in the game wherever you look at. Bringing clans in-game and guided games is an extension of the way that people play together and build those communities. There are definitely pieces that were built on top of what we wanted to do.

GameAxis: Would you say the game now is a lot more story-focused?

Yeah, I’ll enter that two ways. We definitely, on the campaign side, want to make sure we’re telling a compelling story that people can understand and relate to. We also want to make sure that we’re bringing as much of the story of the universe into the game as possible. In Destiny 1 we had the Grimoire cards, which were great and told a lot of deep backstory, but you would earn them in-game and then had to go online to be able to read them. A lot of people just never experienced that because they had to go somewhere else to do it, right?

So, one of our goals in Destiny 2 is to tell more of that story in the game, so whenever we talk about things like adventures that you’ll find as you’re roaming the destinations, those adventures will be shorter missions that tell you the story of the world that you’re in, and the characters that are there. So you get exposed to more of that broader story even outside of the main campaign.

What would you say is your most exciting part of E3 this year?

Most of my E3 has been here in the booth but the thing that’s been most exciting for me is, you know when you’re developing games, like I mentioned you work on them for a long time and a lot of it is: can’t say the name out loud, can’t talk about what’s in the game, stuff like that. So, this year the public can get access to E3 to come in and see the games, and for me it’s been seeing Destiny fans that are really excited, they want to line up and try the multiplayer, to try out the strike, to try out the Homecoming campaign mission that we have.

Getting to see that and feed off that energy and excitement has been really great for me.

Any parting words for our readers?

The biggest thing for me is I just want to say thank you to everybody that’s played the game and enjoyed Destiny 1, anybody that’s thinking of jumping in with Destiny 2. You know as a developer, it’s like I said earlier, it’s super humbling to see the community that’s built up around the game and to see the passion that the fans have for the game and for helping each other play the game. Thanks to everybody for all of that.

Aaron Yip

Aaron Yip is an industry veteran with more than 15 years of experience. When not spending time on his gaming PC and consoles, he can be found in Hyrule solving ungodly puzzles and collecting gems.