Destiny 2 devs on Warlord's Ruin: Storming a castle, slaying a dragon & rocket pistols
For a long time, it felt like Destiny's best bits were reserved only for those with large enough social circles. Despite Fireteams being three-player setups, the best gear, encounters, and lore were hidden behind Raids, six-player activities that relied primarily on LFG systems outside of the game itself.
With the arrival of Forsaken, that shifted somewhat with the arrival of Dungeons, and while Raids are still some of the most fun you can have in the game, Dungeons are fun and rewarding, requiring half the players.
The latest, Warlord's Ruin, shifts the game's setting to a trap-filled castle, taking a medieval tone that feels just as much Dark Souls in spots as it does Destiny. We spoke to Bungie about the process of developing the Dungeon as part of a roundtable interview.
Building a castle to storm
"One of the things that we had never really leaned super hard into was that Destiny is a sci-fi game, but it's also a sci-fi fantasy game," Nikko Stevens, Senior Narrative Designer for Seasons explained.
"You've got spaceships and space wizards, and I think that that fantasy side of things is something that the Ahamkara and Season of the Wish allowed us to really amp up."
"When the concept for Warlord's Ruin began, that really influenced its medieval setting."
"Destiny has this breadth of opportunity for us to explore themes from sci-fi to fantasy, and we're always kind of looking for ways to blend those concepts," Brian Frank, Design Lead for Raid and Dungeons, added.
"For this dungeon, we wanted to take this [to the] extreme in terms of the dark fantasy. I remember really wanting the setting to feel grounded and physical. Where necessary, we use magic like Paracausality and Wishes as the premise for the mechanics, but we really wanted it to feel like an ancient ruins theme."
Slaying the Dragon
So what does a Guardian do when they've stormed a castle? They slay a dragon, naturally, although in this instance, that beast is Hefnd's Vengeance, Blighted Chimaera.
"Early on in a lot of the pre-production and brainstorming of 'what do we want to do with this dungeon?', one of the things that it felt like the team really rallied around was that core idea of 'we're storming a castle, we're slaying a dragon that,' a classic of the fantasy genre." Ryan Baker, Senior Environment Artist for Raids and Dungeons explains.
"Starting from that place of asking ourselves, what in Destiny 2 can play the role of these fancy icons," Brian Frank adds.
"Looking at the Scorn Chieftains, they're like this Black Knights, they're wardens these threats that you have to respect" he explains, pointing to the Ogre as a stand-in for a medieval Basilisk, too. These thematic constraints were rich with opportunity to pull from experiences that are common fantasy."
Amanda Baker, Test Engineer on Raids and Dungeons, notes how popular the initial design for Warlord's Ruin was.
"The brainstorming sessions were really popular for this dungeon," she recalls. "In particular, we had a lot of ideas coming together very early on from a lot of people and whittling that down."
"We have a very long list of people that contribute to any given project, and we seek out from the discipline leads who the direct contributors are going to be," Brian Frank explains.
"We get everybody in a room, and it could be an invite list of 50 people or something, and we do multiple sessions. We start with the player journey, and then we go to bosses specifically and mechanics, and we do their premise."
"All in all, it can take over two weeks to have these meetings every other day. And then we consolidate."
Swords, bows, and a rocket pistol
One question many players have had about Warlord's Ruin pertains to how the loot is decided upon. While there are swords and bows to fit the medieval tone, there's also the Indebted Kindness sidearm that fires rocket rounds, as well as the new Buried Bloodline exotic sidearm.
"The reality is that the gear conception and execution timeline requires us to align, really early on in terms of high-level themes," Frank tells us.
"In this case, as with all the dungeons, we had this sort of one-page concept for the dark fantasy adventure set in the ruins of the castle in the mountains, and the early seasonal gear concepts, they were actually done ahead of the dungeon."
"In that context, the mountaineering set was intended to echo our setting and the adventure of climbing the mountain in the snow to provide a contrast to the 'Dragon Knight' theme set that was sort of already planned for the season because we didn't want to repeat that theme."
"The players already had access to that fantasy, so we wanted to offer something different," he adds. "It was meant also as survivalist gear," Stevens explains. "This is the type of year that you would probably need to live in the Dark Age because everything is trying to kill you."
"Everything is hostile, and if you were to be able to get into this castle, like Naeem (the character from the dungeon) did, you might need crampons and rope and oxygen to get up there."