In 'Forsaken,' Bungie is taking care to put 'Destiny 2' fans first

 mashable.com  6/14/2018 5:45:29 PM  2  Adam Rosenberg

It's not that Destiny 2 is broken. But it does need some fixing.

As many have observed, Bungie repeated a bunch of mistakes over the past year that first cropped up — and were eventually corrected — in the original game. As a result, many fans have come to feel that the sequel is a step back. But Forsaken, the upcoming Sept. 2018 expansion, is meant to right the ship.

Bungie has heard your complaints and absorbed your feedback. The studio's leadership recognizes that it's not just a matter of monitoring the subreddit and other social channels; engaging with people directly, absent the ambient noise of the internet, can be far more valuable.

That's what led to Bungie to invite some of the game's most ardent fans to its Seattle studio for a visit ahead of the May launch of the Warmind expansion. These players got a chance to sample Warmind, as well as some of what's coming in Forsaken, and then turn feedback that would normally manifest as a Reddit post into a tangible back-and-forth dialogue with the content creators.

"We've gotten a chance to see how players reacted to an event like [Warmind's new] Escalation Protocol, we gotten a chance to see how they feel about the weapon changes we've done," Destiny 2 director Chris Barrett said during an E3 interview.

"I would say seeing how players ... react to those changes, we're able to take that and then tune things specifically in Forsaken."

Image: bungie

This idea of a community "summit" addresses one of the unique problems Bungie faces as it attempts to iterate and build on the Destiny 2 experience: How do you effectively focus test when it takes a seasoned player to appreciate the detail of even the most top-level changes?

The visiting players reinforced Bungie's thinking on what Destiny 2 should be, and the generally positive response to Warmind post-release emboldened the Forsaken team. Bungie already knew how important it would be in year two to "bring the hobby back to Destiny," as Barrett put it, but Warmind provided object lessons to draw from.

"I know that [Forsaken director] Steven Cotton and I and a bunch of the other team members really found [Warmind's new patrol destination] Mars to be a fascinating place," Forsaken project lead Scott Taylor said.

"These are ideas are really powerful, and so we should be doing even more of that."

By gathering feedback directly, Taylor continued, "we're able to reinforce a bunch of the things we're doing with Forsaken as far as our Dreaming City endgame destination and how we're going to have the Tangled Shore destination work. These are ideas are really powerful, and so we should be doubling down on doing even more of that."

While Bungie wants to be clear that the emphasis in Forsaken is on returning players — "The majority of our focus is on Destiny as a hobby," Barrett said again — there are mechanisms in place to help new players jump right in. One in particular should be familiar to fans of the first game.

"We are adding a character boost at the character screen [that lets you start a new character right at the level cap]," Taylor said, echoing the original Destiny's "Spark of Light" consumable. In the first game, it was an item any under-leveled player could use in-game to immediately boost themselves to the level cap at the time.

It wasn't perfect, however. Using a Spark of Light would level you up, but it wouldn't complete all the activities you would have needed to get through in order to reach that level — namely the campaign and subsequent add-ons that raised the level cap. Destiny 2 corrects that issue.

"It's not going to be in your inventory, it's going to be presented front and center this time," Taylor said. "You'd be at the point in the game where you'd be starting the Forsaken campaign [if you use the boost]."

Each Forsaken purchase comes with one boost, and players will have the option of buying additional boosts if they want to create and insta-level more characters. The goal here is to let newcomers and lapsed players both have a way to catch up with their friends immediately. 

Image: bungie

It makes sense. The hobby side of Destiny 2 doesn't really show itself until the late stages of the game. But the overall experience is so focused on social play that going running through old content just to catch up becomes a real drag.

Looking beyond Forsaken, Bungie wants to continue doubling down on Destiny 2 as a hobby. Where past mid-year expansions stuck to a format — a brief mini-campaign followed by a small handful of mid- and late-game activities — the post-Forsaken additions shake things up.

"The thing we want to not do is spend a lot of time making one-and-done kind of campaign missions that you play through once and you never play again," Barrett said. "Story is still going to be important to these releases because [new] content ... without story context is going to be way less cool."

"We don't want to spend a lot of time making one-and-done kind of campaign missions."

Take note, Destiny lore fans: Story isn't going away. Each mid-year expansion — Bungie has confirmed there will be three — is "going to have new story to chase" and "new themes around those releases," Barrett said. But story will propel something other than the traditional gauntlet of campaign missions.

"There will be new places to go, for sure. New places to explore, new secrets to discover, all of that stuff," Barrett. "Right now we're not planning on a new planet as part of that. It's about delivering content more often that players want, and more regularly."

It all goes back to the lessons of Destiny 2's first year in release, especially the sharper moments that led to a more frank one-on-one exchange with fans as Warmind came together. Year two of Destiny 2 is all about the fans.

"That has been the majority of our focus for Forsaken," Barrett said. 

"We have an incredible fanbase, we have incredible players. Let's make this release about them and not try to go after a bunch of new players. We're happy if that happens of course, but we wanted to build something that the fans really want."

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