Destiny 2 Director Answers Our Questions About The Open World, The Darkness And Titan Bubbles

This week at E3, my Kotaku Splitscreen co-host Jason Schreier sat down with Bungie’s Luke Smith, game director on Destiny 2. They hit a wide variety of topics including what The Darkness is, how the game’s open world levels will work, and why they’re taking away Jason’s Sunsinger res.

If you’re into Destiny, you should really listen to the full conversation — it’s in the video above, accompanied by some year-two gameplay by yours truly.

You can also listen to it in podcast form below, starting at 23:35:

I’ve transcribed a couple of parts of the conversation that I found particularly interesting, which you can read below. I’ve made edits for clarity and readability.

On What ‘The Darkness’ Is

Jason Schreier: First thing I have to ask you about: I saw this Game Informer article. In it, you said that you guys will not be talking about The Darkness in the game.

Luke Smith: Yeah.

Schreier: And your explanation was, I believe, something about how it’s not time to reveal that, or you’re focusing on something else, correct?

Smith: Yep!

Schreier: Tell me the truth. Is it because none of you have any idea what “The Darkness” actually means?

Smith: So, I think that at a point, just totally candidly? We had no idea what it was. Straight up. We had no clue.

Schreier: Good! I’m glad you’re being candid today.

Smith: We didn’t know what it was, and we, for a period, we chose [that] we’re going to lump all the races [in together], and you see this in the tooltips in the game. “Minions of the darkness.” And we had taken all the races and said, “Ah, they will just be The Darkness.” But that’s not what the IP deserves. It’s like, literally not.

Schreier: I’m glad you’re admitting this.

Smith: And so what we’re doing with Destiny 2 is, we are deliberately telling a story about the Light. And what it means to be chosen. And as such, we’re in the process of removing the term “Darkness” from the game.

Schreier: I like that.

Smith: Because when we’re going to talk about Darkness next, we need to know what it is and have a plan for it. And we do.

On How The Open World Maps Will Work

Jason Schreier: Something we haven’t seen a lot of and didn’t see a lot of at the event is the open world stuff. I have heard that EDZ is really cool. EDZ — the European Dead Zone — is something that has been in development for many, many years now. Tell me about it. What is cool about it?

Luke Smith: So I think what’s cool about the layering of activities that we’re doing is, it starts with the map, first and foremost. Which, I’m not gonna say a map is some tremendous innovation. For us, the map is a product of a ton of work! [laughing] Like this is something that, this just is not a core competency of our studio. This is a competency and a proficiency we’ve been building. The map is like a fundamental element of building a layered suite of activities that can come on top of that.

Schreier: And by the map, you mean actually having a physical [in game] map.

Smith: There’s a map. And from the map, you can track different activities to do, adventures, you can track public events when they show up on your map.

Schreier: Can you fast travel around?

Smith: There’s gonna be some fast travel options that you’ll unlock.

Schreier: So I won’t have to go online and google “Dreadnaught Map” every time I wanna know where something is?

Smith: No, you actually will not have to do that, yeah.

Schreier: That’s incredible, what an innovation. [laughs]

Smith: [laughing] One of the things that we’re doing with Destiny 2 is, we’re trying to unhide a bunch of that fun. You know, instead of finding the fun on Reddit, let’s find the fun in the game.

Schreier: Sure. Sure. Even with matchmaking now, or semi-matchmaking.

Smith: With Guided Games, yeah.

Schreier: Guided Games. And Guided Games, someone had asked me to clear this up: Are Guided Games available for all types of raids? Just heroic raids? Just normal raids?

Smith: Just normal. Just normal activities.

Schreier: So heroic raids, and challenge modes, and stuff like that, gotta find your own group.

Smith: I don’t know exactly how the challenge mode layers are gonna work there, but yes, the normal tier activities will be Guided Games, and the heroics will be find your own, still.

Schreier: Interesting. Good to know. So as far as the layers of the map, so we saw some of that stuff, the dead… what is the name?

Smith: Lost Sectors. I think Dead Sector, is that an old game?

Schreier: Dead Sector, yeah, I think so. All these video games names just blend together in my mind.

Smith: Just blending together, yeah.

Schreier: What other stuff can people find on the map? Will I actually be able to go and explore and find interesting things in the world?

Smith: We hope so. That you’ll be able to go and explore and find, like, stuff to scan, learn more about. We know that players in Destiny are always looking for, in a bunch of ways, excuses to spend time in the world. And in [The Taken King] we had some scannables that you could find in the world and learn about, and in Destiny 2 we have way more than we’ve ever had.

We have the Lost Sectors, there’s gonna be more events, we still have Silent, we have an event class that we call Silent, which is basically when a bunch of monsters show up and start doing stuff, we have more of those.

We have… what is… we have a name for it internally, but… sometimes, each week we have an activity called a Flashpoint, which we haven’t talked about really, yet. But the Flashpoint is basically like a featured destination, a featured location. And then there’s a whole class of stuff that shows up when it’s the Flashpoint. So that’s unique, treasure maps to go find, special monsters that show up….

Schreier: So it sounds like you guys are throwing some Diablo 3 in here.

Smith: I don’t wanna go so far as to say it’s like Diablo 3. I wouldn’t draw that comparison. But we wanted to, with Flashpoints, to have an opportunity each week to focus players on a single location where they can just go solo, hang out, and then get a super powerful reward from it. Like the equivalent of an unknown reward from Nightfall. Which, you know, powerful for your character, super important.

On whether there are private Crucible matches this time around:

“We do not have private matches at launch.”

On whether they’re going to have ranked PVP at launch:

“We’re not doing ranked PVP. We’re seven, eight weeks away [from finishing]. We have an idea of something we might do. I don’t wanna commit to it here because I’m not sure it’s gonna happen. If we don’t get it for September 6, there’ll be something, some way of players showing off their prowess to other people. Which is ultimately what a ranking system is. We’re working on something.”

On the possibility of raids that require players to fill traditional MMO roles: 

“I think we’ve done a really good job of creating a cooperative raid game that doesn’t rely on the trinity — tank, healer, DPS. And I’m really satisfied that we’ve done that. I’m happy with that. Now let me get to the second layer of the question I think you’re asking, which is, there are other fantasies that Destiny could be providing, like support fantasies, and things like that. Do I ever think we’ll add more of those? Yes. In the long run, we will.”

On whether Titan Bubbles are indeed still in the game:

“Yes. Everyone thought they were gone. For a while, I thought they were gone, too. And I think that the Titan Bubble has this amazing property of, it’s like a mistake you can put in the world [laughs], or it’s something amazing you can put in the world as a player. And, it’s like, you’re physically altering the gameplay space in a way that I think is pretty exciting. It’s one of the things the Sentinal can do [in Destiny 2].”

On why they did away with the Sunsinger’s resurrect ability:

“Because I think that the challenge of choosing when to resurrect is not as interesting, because it ends up, your super bar just is always full. Waiting is not gameplay.”

There was a bunch more interesting stuff in the full interview, so give it a listen. We still have one more E3 episode of Kotaku Splitscreen in the works, featuring more interviews with the people making the games from the show. Stay tuned.


  • I am rather concerned about the backtracking of Guided Games. I thought they learned their greatest lesson from one: people need and want to be able to connect in game for everything. i will keep an open mind, hopefully by having Clans levelling they might stay relevant longer, in the game if might work itself out.

    I can see people getting uber upset by the whole ‘Darkness’ thing but it makes perfect sense to me. its a common writing device, that angers so many people (insert ‘the plan’ from BSG). in some senses it was just a McGuffin and some senses its just writers putting themselves in their characters point of view. Personally I dont require any more explanation for the Darkness, than I do for faith. Hard to explain and quantify but its impact is everywhere. it doesnt matter what it or why it is, it is just there.

    Writers dont need answers for everything. Good story telling for me is stuff that does answer stuff and keeps moving the carrot further away, every time they get close to a truth (insert Lost here). Sure it frustrates some, personally I find it brilliant. Sure I want an answer to if the Queen is still alive or about the Stranger but until this I had no idea there was even question about the Darkness.

    • Writers dont need answers for everything. Good story telling for me is stuff that does answer stuff and keeps moving the carrot further away, every time they get close to a truth (insert Lost here). Sure it frustrates some, personally I find it brilliant. Sure I want an answer to if the Queen is still alive or about the Stranger but until this I had no idea there was even question about the Darkness.

      Except writers DID probably have answers prior to the night of long fucking knives that killed Destiny 1’s chances at living up to its potential, the year before launch. That’s what happens when you axe all the writers who actually knew what was going on, take what they had so far, and cobble it together into some primary school level mad libs Frankenstory of loose ends.

      So yeah, when I hear about shit like this from Bungie, it makes me mad… not so much because of how they’re handling it now, but because it just re-stokes the flames of anger I had for what they did years ago in being so fucking arrogant as to think designers, engineers and producers knew storywriting better than actual writers.

      What’s that, you papier-mache’d a narrative out of story beats from the original template and now there are left-over bits of it that don’t fit? No shit. Thanks for the reminder of how badly you fucked that up, Luke.

      • It was Activision, not Bungie, or Luke Smith, who lead to the story and writer cut. They believed that gamers who bought a, “shared world shooter,” wouldn’t want to be forced into a linear story. At that time, Luke Smith was merely the head designer for the Vault of Glass, and in no position to have to take responsibility for Activision changing story paths.

        Now as Destiny 2’s lead, I think Luke Smith’s direction, passion, and vision for Destiny going forward is promising. Destiny 2 will be better than Destiny 1.

        • Well, the ‘thanks luke’ is ‘thanks for the reminder, luke’, but as for your overall assertion: Nope. As tempting as it is to blame the Big Bad Publisher, this was not Activision’s fault. The sources on this all point to senior leadership at the studio as freaking out about the game’s direction.

          And as for the Frankenstory mess that was cobbled together? The blame lies with Jason Jones, Luke Smith, Chris Barrett, and the rest of the ‘Iron Bar’ panel that thought they knew how to do this better than actual writers.

      • build a bridge already. its been three years, yeah it was crap but more than likely most of those that did the damage are not the same ones who receive the hate for it even now. and guess what, that game will never EVER exist. So you can either find a way to like the one we got to look away. thats not me justifying what happened but there is no use wasting precious time in life on ‘maybes’ especially for something as unimportant as a computer game.

        I am willing to put the ‘real’ game would have been far more complicated and airy (hence the change) than the one we got, so instead of complaining about the game we got, people probably would have been complaining about something else.

    • until this I had no idea there was even question about the Darkness.

      I don’t understand how anyone could not question the Darkness… it invites examination because it is a threat to humanity that we know basically nothing about. In terms of pure survival, we want to know what it is to know how to eliminate the threat that it poses, either through placation or extermination. Failing to question it means fighting it until it stops attacking us, which, if it’s a natural phenomenon or non-sentient, will never happen. It’s the will to stop fighting that drives us to question. I don’t care what the answer is – it could be a space-time disruption that exists because of the traveller’s movement through the galaxy (like the wake behind a speedboat), for all I care, but it needs some sort of explanation to give humanity some hope that the fight will end at some point.

      Hell, I’m just as dissatisfied about the lack of lore surrounding the Traveller itself – I want to know why everyone in the Tower has such faith in it, given we know just as much about it as we do this nebulous “Darkness”… Why is it helping us? What guarantee do we have that it’s not going to abandon us to the Darkness at some point, like it did to the Eliksni? I find it a little hard to believe that a thousand years of examination by humanity’s best and brightest, research that has resulted in digitisation of matter and consciousness, and actual time travel, has resulted in no information at all about the Traveller itself.

  • Retconning the story to date. Well. I’d explain what my problem is with that but I have to time to explain why I have no time to explain.

    Shootbang is hopefully on point.

    • Well. There would be advantages to a retcon… unfortunately, they can’t go back hat-in-hand to take advantage of the cohesion that came with the story that Joe Staten’s team came up with, because that would mean admitting they were wrong and he was right. So. Here they are, doing their best to convince me not to buy the sequel.

  • I am going to take my chances with Anthem and possible pick this once there is a 3rd year edition and everything is available for one price.

    • everything is available for one price. just you dont like the price. Big difference.

      • I picked up Destiny on day 1, then I bought every expansion, where as if I had waited I could have picked up every thing for the same price of buying Destiny on day 1 saving money.

        Is what I mean.

  • His quote about not knowing about the darkness reminds me of this gem from Michael Scott….

    “I knew exactly what to do….but in a much more real sense….I had no idea what to do.”

    Pretty much sums up how Bungie have been handling Destiny from the release day haha

  • Because when we’re going to talk about Darkness next, we need to know what it is and have a plan for it. And we do.

    *cough* DLC *cough*

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!