Destiny 2 Q&A: In-Depth on New Arcstrider Subclass, PC vs. Console Versions, and More
Building something new.
Destiny 2’s fall release is quickly approaching and more of the game is being revealed as the months roll on. Last month we got to chat it up with Michael Zak, the game’s art director. This time, At E3 2017, we got to sit down with David Shaw, the PC project lead for Destiny 2. We got to discuss classes, Bungie’s approach to the PC platform, and even have a bit of fun with some “hard-hitting” questions that Guardians all around the universe are dying to know the answers to.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Destiny 2: New Subclass and Character Info
Ishmael Romero from Twinfinite: Well nice to meet you Shaw. So I have a few questions about what I played of Destiny 2 here and the new things you showed. So I’m just gonna dive right in if you’re okay with that. So classes. Arcstrider. It’s interesting. The Arcstrider is very reminiscent of the Bladedancer, but once I got a chance to play with it, it felt very different somehow. Can you go into more depth about how you guys approached the subclass in Destiny 2 to make it feel that different?
David Shaw from Bungie: So I can go into some amount of depth. Not being a sandbox guy, I’m not the best person to talk to about these things. But one thing we did with the Arcstrider is we kind of wanted to get that feel of like that kung fu style, monk-like feel, whereas the Bladedancer was more kind of like just your rapid, kind of assassin feel. The Arcstrider really has that old school kung fu movie feel, just the guy with the bo staff and the acrobatics. It really, I think, creates a very different feel. One of the things we tried to do with the Destiny 2 subclasses, we want the supers to feel less point and click, and more like they have more of a skill element to them. Like it’s possible to miss. With the Bladedancer I never felt like I missed very often, right? But with the Arcstrider, with all the new subclasses, like the new Titan [referring to the updated Striker class], their Fist of Havoc, it takes a little bit more skill, it takes a little bit more planning, you wanna think about how to use that thing. So we feel like it’s a good evolution.
Twinfinite: That’s funny that you mention that because it was something that I noticed really quickly. The Hunter felt powerful, the Arcstrider, when I activated that Arc Staff during multiplayer, I felt like a lightning god. I noticed that, although I did feel more powerful, I still maintained the squishiness that’s inherent to being a Hunter. Were you guys ever a little worried about that? Was there ever any hesitation to like “you know what? We’re doubling down on what the Hunter is without changing the core of the game.” How did you approach that?
Shaw: I don’t think there was hesitation. I think one of the things we found was that we were really impressed that across Destiny 1 we had pretty [even] thirds of what people mained. About a third of people mained a Titan, about a third mained a Warlock, and about a third mained a Hunter.
Twinfinite: The Warlocks were the smart ones.
Shaw: [laughs] That’s funny because about 15 minutes ago I tweeted something like “we Titans love all the classes in Destiny… except the Hunters. Oh, and the Warlocks.” [laughs] But we really wanted to highlight the differences a little bit. Like with Destiny 1, the classes felt different and they played different, but we wanted to invest in that a little bit more and see if we can separate them a little bit more. And I think with everything that we do we’re not afraid to try things. We’d rather try something, and you know, we’re gonna learn things in our beta, we’re learning things now in our playtest. We’re gonna find things that we love and things that we’re like “argh, we thought we were gonna really love this but let’s tweak it a little more this way because we think it’ll be really good there.” And so, I think we have a… part of the spirit of this company has kind of this boldness to go try things and not be afraid to say OK we have this thing and we love it and we know it works, Hunters love their Hunters, but we think we can make it better. We think that taking those chances is worthwhile.
Twinfinite: Before I move off from Destiny 2’s classes, with the approach of the Dawnblade, the Sentinel, and the Arcstrider, they seem to be sort of reinventions of those vanilla classes of the Sunsinger, the Bladedancer, and the Defender. Is that how the team approached it, is that what you wanted?
Shaw: Some of them we do look at as kind of a remastering of the original, and there are others that are fairly new and unique. Like you look at the Sentinel, and while we’re not talking in depth about it, if you watch the video and it’s like okay, there’re definitely some hints of the Defender in there, but man that dude plays totally differently. You’re not going to play him like you do the current Defender.
Twinfinite: That was the feeling I got from both the Dawnblade and the Arcstrider. It was like it felt familiar, which was good for me as a person with hundreds of hours in, but yet still somehow at the same time felt brand-new.
Shaw: Yeah. You’re gonna have that familiarity and yet that drive, that need to go master that new class and figure out like really, how do I make this class the most powerful it can be.
Twinfinite: I don’t know how much you can speak on it because I know so far you guys have gone into the basic story of Destiny 2 and into the classes. I know there’re going to be huge challenges in Destiny 2. Raids, Nightfalls, which I can’t wait for. How do you guys see the classes playing in those new activities?
Shaw: So that I don’t think we can go into too much depth on because that goes a little past the level we’re on at E3. But once we start talking about those more, like that’s probably a conversation for later this year. It’s funny because this guy is here [gestures towards PR representative] partially so that I don’t go too far [laughs]. Because I want to talk about all of it, but we got our planned stuff, so maybe Gamescom we can talk about something like that? [PR nod].
Twinfinite: One thing I noticed while playing Destiny 2 here, which I think I glossed over at the gameplay reveal event, was that the stats when you’re looking at the character screen, instead of the discipline and strength and everything, it has your recovery, agility, and those things. Is there a reason the team switched the focus to those?
Shaw: So that’s getting a little more into the investment game [progression], which we’re not talking in depth about right now. There’s a lot of pieces of that. But we wanna focus on like, let’s talk about Destiny 2, let’s talk about the story, let’s make sure everybody gets that and understands that, and then we’ll go in a little more depth on that stuff in the future. And this, frankly, this is the hard part where someone who knows the game as well as you do, these are the kinds of things you want to talk about, these nitty gritty things, because you know it so well, and it’s super exciting to talk to someone like you about it.
Destiny 2: PC vs. Consoles
Twinfinite: I want to get into Destiny 2 on PC. At the event I got to try out the Strike on PC, and right now I got to try out the story. It’s buttery smooth. When you guys finally decided, you know what, we’re ready to tackle the PC platform, what was the first, most essential factor that you felt you needed for Destiny on PC?
Shaw: You know, it might be hard to pick one. Going back a little bit, we heard the clamoring for PC before Destiny 1 launched and all through up until we announced Destiny 2, and the reason we didn’t do it previously was that because we wanted to be sure that when we did it, we did it right. And, you know, we launched on four platforms with Destiny 1, which we had never done before. We’d been one game, one platform, you know, for so long. And so, by the time we got to Destiny 2 we figured, we made a plan, we got the team, we got the talent, we partnered with Vicarious Visions, who are an amazing partner, and we’d been working together to finally bring the game to PC, and we’re going to bring it right. When we did that, part getting it right was what are the things that need to be there?
We didn’t want anybody to think about it as a PC port, or as a console port to PC. That’s not the game we’re building. We want them to see it as a legitimate, rock solid PC shooter that still feels like Destiny. And so we had these two things that we focused on. One is what’s the set of things that PC gamers always expect? Everybody has their pet thing like “oh, FOV has to go to 140 or screw you,” right? Everybody has that pet thing, right?
How can we honor those things? So we did things like 4K support, uncapped framerate, mouse and keyboard support that feels great.
Twinfinite: It truly does. I suck with a keyboard and mouse, but I still played and I was just like “this works.”
Shaw: So far we’re pretty happy about it, we’re eager to hear feedback, but we’re pretty proud of it. We’ve added things like you can remap controls fully on the keyboard. We wanna do all these things that players, that really the true PC gamers really want. We went and added some things like that. We didn’t just do the bare bones, the bare minimum. You know, we added 21:9 monitor support because we actually think that those monitors are super sexy and the game looks fantastic on them [laughs], and so we’re trying to do the things that PC players expect and then a few things that are unexpected.
Twinfinite: Are there any of those things you can speak about? The unexpected things?
Shaw: I mean, the 21:9 monitor support like we mentioned before. Launching with Blizzard, we think that was pretty exciting for folks. When we ship with Blizzard, we’ll have full integration with a lot of their things. Like the text chat, we’ll be using that, we’ll be fully integrated with that. FOV is not in the build that you played, but we will have an FOV slider in there. Whether or not it will go to 140 you’ll have to wait and see [laughs].
Twinfinite: Speaking of those features, those customization options when it comes to game settings, how much freedom are you willing to give players to fine-tune their experience on PC?
Shaw: So I don’t know if you looked in the build the first time you played it, but the settings screen, we made a bespoke [custom] settings screen that’s only on PC with all of those knobs and dials so you can dial all your stuff way up and say: I wanna focus purely on visuals, or you can dial it down a bit and say: I just wanna focus on framerate. We got a whole bunch of different stuff in the build that’s here at the event that is most of the knobs and dials that are available, FOV is not in there. This is an earlier build, but we wanted to get them in there so people can see them and be like “oh shit, there’s already a lot here, this is probably enough, maybe there’ll be a few more?” [laughs] But we think that folks will be pretty happy with the availability of options.
Twinfinite: Those options on PC, was there ever any thought of maybe giving some of those options to console players on like the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X now or in the future?
Shaw: I think the expectation of console players is just different. We’ve had a great experience with the set of options that we have on consoles today, we’ve added some over time. Like we threw some stuff [in], we added color blind support, we’ve added some other things into the game, but we think our console players are fairly happy with the options that are there.
The reason the two are pretty different on PC and console is that you got that consistent hardware [on console] and so we feel we can give a really great experience without having to have like an embarrassment of riches, too many choices. And we get the fact that people like choices, but our goal is to provide a great experience no matter what platform you’re on and we think that PC is a great place to play and consoles are a great way to play, and we believe the best place to play is where your friends are.
Twinfinite: Sticking on console, with the advent of the PS4 Pro which came out at the end of last year and the recently unveiled Xbox One X that’s due out this November, are those platforms that, maybe not in a menu, but will you try to take advantage of in some form or fashion?
Shaw: Yeah, we do. Like the PS4 Pro is out there, the consoles we have running on the floor both here and at the Sony booth, they are PS4 Pros and those are 4K monitors, so we’re running at 4K on the PS4 Pro today at the event, so we’re absolutely taking advantage of that.
Twinfinite: So will that be the same on the Xbox One X most likely?
Shaw: We don’t have anything to announce on that, I mean Microsoft just literally two days ago spilled the beans on that [laughs].
Destiny 2: Rapid Fire Questions
Twinfinite: During a recent stream, you guys had the Big Show and you guys gave him a very pretty gun. Can you tell us about that gun?
Shaw: [laugh] Okay, so I know the name of it, it’s called Coldheart.
Twinfinite: That sounds exotic to me.
Shaw: It is an exotic.
Twinfinite: It looks like a heavy fusion.
Shaw: You’re going to have to wait and find out [chuckles].
Twinfinite: Any idea how long we have to wait, because I must admit that’s a beautiful gun.
Shaw: It is a beautiful gun, but I gotta tell you though. The one that hits me right in the center of the chest is Sweet Business, the gatling gun.
Twinfinite: It just tears through things.
Shaw: Yeah I mean, ever since Terminator 2 with Schwarzenegger with it out of the bag, and Old Painless in Predator, miniguns are my jam, so that’s the one that gets me.
Twinfinite: Did Eris Morn’s rock get destroyed in the Tower?
Shaw: I don’t know. [chuckles]
Twinfinite: Is Mara Sov making a come back?
Shaw: No comment. [squints]
Twinfinite: How does Ikora Rey deal with Zavalla and Cayde-6 so well?
Twinfinite: Will we ever be able to beat up on Crota or his father again?
Shaw: TBD [chuckles]
Twinfinite: Are there any wizards scheduled to arrive from any other moons?
Shaw: Any wizards?
Shaw: [Laughs… a lot] um… they haven’t told me.
Twinfinite: Who placed the large 2 in the sky?
Shaw: Oh, that was Luke Smith.
Twinfinite: I knew he was to blame. Does the Stranger finally have enough time to tell us why she doesn’t have enough time?
Shaw: Hmmm, you’ll have to wait and see.
Twinfinite: Will we get to punch Ghaul?
Shaw: [laughs] So Gary, Gary’s a big dude. I don’t know, we’ll have to see.
Twinfinite: [laughs] Thank you very much for your time, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, I look forward to hearing more
Shaw: Right on, I look forward to being able to say more.