Destiny: Interview with Bungie Community Manager Eric Osborne
During the inaugural PlayStation Experience, I got a chance to get an early look at The Dark Below expansion for Bungie’s Destiny. At the Destiny booth, Bungie allowed players to play the Sony PlayStation exclusive Strike mission, The Undying Mind. The Undying Mind is a fun, romp. The mission is basically a backwards run through the Black Garden. The Vex aliens are trying to regain control of the Black Garden, and the Guardians send in a fireteam to stop the Vex. The Strike mission takes players from the heart of the Black Garden to its main entrance, where the Guardians face a Vex Axis Mind called The Undying Mind in a boss fight. After playing The Undying Mind demo, I got the chance to speak to Bungie Community Manager Eric Osborne. Osborne spoke to Got Game about Destiny’s first expansion, The Dark Below, the criticisms against the game, the future of Destiny and much more. Here is what Osborne had to say about Destiny’s first expansion content and what is in store for players:
Jeffrey – Destiny’s first expansion, The Dark Below, launches this week. What is the main thing you want players to take away from this expansion?
Eric – I mean there’s a lot of things. We’re going to be three months out from launch on December 9, which is The Dark Below launch, at 1 AM PT. This is actually our 12th update to the game experience. So we’re working away to make sure we’re listening to fans and we’re going to deliver great experiences. The Dark Below is really our first chance to deliver some substantive content. We’ve done things like voice chat. We’ve increased our public events.
Jeffrey – Buying resources from the Tower vendors.
Eric – Buying resources, yeah. You know the deal. You’ve got a 29 [Titan], so we’ve done a lot of things to curate the experience, but this is really our first opportunity to add some multiplayer maps, add a Strike, add story content, add a Tower vendor; sort of up the light level of the gear across the board. And in tandem, we added some new bounty slots. So it’s a good way for us to reach out to the fans who are playing every day and give them some more stuff to do. Even if you don’t pick up The Dark Below, you can go out and wield Sword of Crota. You get some new bounties from Eris. There’s some new weapons you can get from the Vanguard and the Crucible for the Legendary gear so you don’t get left behind. So when you go into the Iron Banner when we bring it back in mid-December, you’re not going to be totally out classed. Everybody who is playing gets something new.
Jeffrey– The main crux of The Dark Below is Eris’ return from the Hive’s lair. She and her crew went down into the Hellmouth. She is the only one who survived, and she has come back to inform on them. But when I look at Eris, she looks Hive-ish to me.
Eric – She’s a little creepy, right?
Jeffrey – Can we really trust her? DrCrispy93 says she looks like trouble.
Eric – She does look like trouble. One of the cool things we were able to do is that players were spending an awful lot of time in the tower. That makes a lot of sense. That’s where you are going to get your gear. That’s where you are going to get your bounties. So to sort of enrich that experience with a character, someone you can sort of just sit and listen to and hear her story. She’s also your quest giver, so she’s going to take you through the story missions. She will also lead you through the Strike and the Raid and the quests that are not unlike sort of the Exotic bounties that you might be familiar with: sort of multi-staged, multi-tier quests that you can go on with more information about the world, help you gear up for the harder difficulty stuff. We wanted to use her as the fulcrum. But yeah, you hit the nail on the head. She’s been in exile. We don’t know quite what she has seen or experienced. We don’t know what her motives are, but she’s coming with a prophesy of “Crota is Coming, and we’ve got to stop them.”
Jeffrey – She is in the Tower, so that must make her sort of trustworthy. Otherwise, the Speaker wouldn’t let her in, right?
Eric – Yeah, she’s a Warlock, so she’s a Guardian. She’s a protector of the City.
Jeffrey – So she is some sort of protector?
Eric – She is on the side of good, yes.
Jeffrey – Are we going to learn more about the Hive and their background and their backstory through the expansion?
Eric – Yeah, so you’ll be introduced to several different characters in the story, including Crota and Omnigul. I don’t want to give away too much of the meat of the story, but as you go through, you’ll get a bit more of the sense of what the Hive are and how they operate. One of our goals to all of our expansion content is to dig a little bit deeper into the mood and themes of the different enemy combatants. The Dark Below is all about the Hive.
Jeffrey – Do you think The Dark Below will debunk any fan theories?
Eric – You know I’m not sure. There’s a lot of fan theories out there ranging from things that hit the nail on the head to things that are just wildly speculative and crazy. I don’t want to do anything to sabotage that. That’s really fun stuff to participate in. Back when I was a fan of the studio, one of the things I really loved doing was speculating on the story bits, trying to stay ahead of the studio. What are they thinking? What is going on with these specific aspects of the story? That sense of mystery is really important by giving players a place to use their own imagination and figure out where they fit into the world, let them tell their own stories as well. We’re trying to strike a balance between giving the player a lot of perceived agency. They’re a Guardian and get to make their story. They get to be a hero. They’re stepping into a blank slate, but also using Eris as a storytelling agent you can empathize with and get little clues about the Hive and what it might’ve been like to live amongst the Hive or the shadows for an extended period of time.
Jeffrey – Have you seen how the community has taken off with the game, like Sir Wallen’s Destiny Lore videos? He does it from the perspective of a Guardian providing reports.
Eric – Yeah, absolutely, getting into the Grimoire cards. That stuff’s awesome. That’s why we hold a lot of things precious and don’t get out there and actively sabotage them. We got to make sure we’re not taking those things and executing ideas that are fan-driven; like, we have our own ideas on where the story is going to go. We certainly don’t want to plagiarize our fans. We want to make sure all our own ideas are original and from inside the studio. A lot of the story is designed to promote those kinds of discussions. We want these trail heads to take their imaginations on a journey. It’s sort of the same way that some of the best fiction out there will give you a couple words or give you a quick scene, and you can fill in the rest of the blanks. Often times when you do that, you let players’ imaginations really take the story where they want it to go. It’s really hard to come in and tell them, “No, no, no, no. It’s really this way.” Their own ideas for them is always the best idea.
Jeffrey – In terms of story criticism, at launch the criticisms of how things were very vague about what was going on.
Eric – Yeah.
Jeffrey – And when you first meet the Speaker, he basically says, “I can tell you this…I can tell you that…!”
Eric – Yeah, yeah.
Jeffrey – There is a lot of teasing and carrot dangling. Will the expansion change any of that at all, or will it keep going as is?
Eric – We’re certainly not going back to revise any of the cinematics for the expansion. We definitely heard the criticism and the feedback from fans and from press about the story being a little thin or not what they expected from our studio. It’s certainly something that we’re taking to heart now and in the future to do a little bit better. Eris was sort of a way for us to focus the story, to bring clear goals for the player, give them a clear mission to accomplish. We wanted to make sure we streamlined her and created her in the Tower as a place you can always come back and know exactly where you are going to get the story. Everything revolves around her and the Hive. I think bringing that in, really tightening it up, and focusing it is going to help players understand exactly what their role is in the world. We absolutely hear their criticism with the stuff they’re talking about. It’s a something that’s top of mind for us. So certainly as we’re creating content and moving forward, that’s something we’re looking forward to addressing.
Jeffrey – So I imagine the House of Wolves expansion will focus on the Fallen and the Queen of the Reef?
Eric – We’re not really looking past The Dark Below. Obviously, the House of Wolves is a house of Fallen [aliens]. So looking at The Dark Below, you might be able to make some prognostications that are pretty accurate about where we might take that. The fact of the matter is we’re working on these things in a sort of reactive way. We have some ideas on where we want to take it. Even pre-launch, we knew a little bit about what we wanted to do with The Dark Below, but a lot of it was also reactive to fan feedback and reactive to how we were playing the game. You learn a lot of lessons when you let people in and play things to the point that we were talking about earlier. That’s where we are, twelve updates into the game. We were pretty confident that we had a lot of things right at ship, and we were pretty confident that a lot of things that needed to be tweaked. We built Destiny to be easy to update. We can be very flexible. We have a team internally that’s constantly thinking about how to bring new things and new experiences–how to curate–how to keep the experience clean and well lit.
Jeffrey – Who created DrCrispy93? Was it you?
Eric – Laughs It was not me. Anything on the marketing side, or anything you see out in the world is the product of multiple people. The ideas sort of well up and are inspired by the game proper. Then they see what fans are doing in the world. That was really a reflection of the sort of gear lust that we saw people sort of having. There is something special about where I can get this gun, or where can I find Hawk Moon? What do the stats look like? A lot of videos I have seen around Destiny have focused on where can I get this gear, or how to best upgrade it. What are the best routes to get materials? All that kind of stuff. This is sort of a reflection of let’s create a character that is all about this sort of gear lust.
Jeffrey – Have you thought about putting him in the game so I can team up with him?
Eric – *Laughs * There was definitely some desire to create a character to walk around. I don’t have anything to announce about what we are going to do in the future..
Jeffrey – OK. Why hotfix an exploit? If players figure out a way to knock the Templar or Atheon over the edge, why fix it? Maybe it is just a strategy.
Eric – We have to be careful with that kind of stuff. I think there are some things we’ll leave alone. You have to prioritize what is most important, so certain things that are antithetical to the nature of the experience, like you say the Raid has the most difficult boss encounters and then they can just be pushed off…. That’s our problem to solve. It’s not a feature of the game.
Jeffrey – Is it really a problem though?
Eric – I think for our core designers, it’s a problem in that players are not having the experience of the Raid.
Jeffrey – I like that experience though.
Eric – Yeah. I think there is really no way for us to get ahead of the player. They are always going to outsmart us. So our goal is not to plug up every hole. Our goal is to repair the dam when there is a very big breach. The Loot Cave is another example. Really, what those things are good for, they become sort of a divining rod. There’s a reason players are doing that. Our goal is to say: “Let’s not just fix the Loot Cave. Let’s fix the Engrams. Let’s look at material farming.” What are they trying to tell us when they’re doing this? They’re saying Engrams aren’t satisfying, so let’s address that.
Jeffrey – Well…they could still be a little more satisfying.
Eric – A little too stingy still?
Jeffrey – For me, yes. I’m going to give you a little bit of a hint there. But keep up the great work and thanks to everybody at Bungie.
Eric – Yeah, thanks.
Thank you to Eric Osborne for taking the time to speak with us. Destiny and its first downloadable content expansion, The Dark Below, are now available for the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.