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Going Deep on Destiny’s Trials of Osiris with Design Lead Derek Carroll

Going Deep on Destiny’s Trials of Osiris with Design Lead Derek Carroll:

Earlier this week I took a trip to Destiny’s seedy underworld, where players who aren’t skilled enough to conquer the game’s Trials of Osiris mode themselves pay large sums of actual money for highly skilled players to do it for them. As I stated then, I sold my soul for a ride to the Lighthouse (three rides, actually)—and it didn’t feel great, although the experience left me with more sympathy than I expected for those who choose to take that expensive shortcut.

In that piece, I quoted Derek Carroll, the design lead on all player-versus-player content in Destiny’s “House of Wolves” expansion, and the man in charge of the Trials of Osiris. Here, edited only slightly for readability, I present our full chat. We covered everything from the mode’s limited map rotation—a hotly debated topic among Destiny fan communities—to the highly competitive, bordering on exclusive, nature of the Trials.

Carroll told me he’s been at Bungie since the Halo days. By way of introduction, he had this to say, laughing as he did: “I’m Derek Carroll. I was the PvP lead for ‘House of Wolves,’ and so Trials of Osiris is kind of my baby. And yeah, that’s all you need to know for right now.”

Our full chat is below.

Playboy: What was the original vision for Trials?
Carroll: So the original vision, the high-level vision, was basically to create a PvP endgame—a place for people to go to get raid-level rewards and have basically the ultimate competition. So that was pretty much the only high-level goal we have, and then we started exploring different prototypes for how to get a more hardcore kind of game type out of the Destiny sandbox.

It seems like you definitely accomplished that.
Yeah, mission accomplished there.

How did you decide on 9 wins to complete a Trials of Osiris card, to get to the Lighthouse?
That actually came from some really boring math with the investment team and just doing spreadsheets and figuring out, you know, how many people we’d have playing, the average—because we knew that we were not going to use skill matching, it’s basically if you’re above average you’re going to win more than you lose, and if you’re below average you’re going to lose more than you win.

And just doing some real ballpark estimates of how long we thought it would take people to complete, you know, how long we wanted them to stay in on average, and then making sure there was enough time and interest to keep the hardcore players happy. With Control and the base Crucible for Destiny we were looking for a really broad audience, and so for Trials we definitely focused down to the hardcore high-level players for what we were after.

A lot of people are not super happy that they feel like they’re excluded from Trials because they’re not good at PvP, but it sounds like it was meant for a smaller audience?
Yeah, we knew that Trials wouldn’t be for everybody. We definitely wanted everyone to try it. We knew that everyone wouldn’t be successful doing it. We didn’t want to slam the door—I mean, that’s part of what makes it cool and part of what makes it exclusive, that it really is difficult to get those Mercury rewards. [But] we didn’t want to slam the door. We didn’t want to say you have to be max level and have exotics and do all this stuff to even get in the door. We wanted you to be able to go up to the club and basically open the door.

And just like with the raids—you can go into the Vault of Glass solo, and you will very quickly find out what the raid’s all about—we had a similar philosophy with Trials. Like, we wanted you to be able to, as long as you have a fireteam of three, you can do it, but not everyone’s going to be successful doing it.

It seems like a lot of people tried it out the first couple of weeks and then the more casual players got turned off and stopped trying. Did you anticipate that it would get more and more hardcore as it went on?
Yeah, and so we knew that we would lose—we’d basically have the most population the first week, and lose players week after week. And that’s what happens in most multiplayer games, just period, unless the rewards are changing or there is something new or different.

And that was part of what I wanted to do with the different maps each week—every weekend you have this like, oh what map is it? How are we gonna take this on? Do we have new ideas? You know, what’s the meta each weekend? And so bringing people back in—I mean, we don’t want it to become so hardcore so that only the best players in the universe are there. We do want more players to come in and stay in. If you’re an average player we want you to go for those vendor rewards [from Brother Vance].

derek carroll

How are the maps selected? Is it random or have we seen all of the possible maps that are going to be in there?
It is not random. I pick them. I’m always interested in seeing what the response is [laughing]. But yes, we have seen all the Trials maps for “House of Wolves” now. There are other ones that are in the elimination playlist that won’t be in Trials. And part of that is we basically just wanted the best of the best and we hand-picked the—I think it’s six maps that are what I consider to be the best and, based on our research, are the best maps for trials.

When you say “best,” what does that mean?
When I say “the best,” I mean the most fair, the most interesting, varied within them. So like, you know, Burning Shrine is what I consider to be the absolute best. But Widow’s Court is very different from that. It plays totally differently but it’s also a very solid map and a fun map for trials. And also we wanted to avoid things like Rusted Lands, which people have played ad infinitum in the other modes. Rusted Lands will show up later someday in Trials perhaps, but not for this initial—we wanted to just have kind of a focused offering for “House of Wolves.”

And honestly, before we launched “House of Wolves” we weren’t sure what a success Trials would be, so we had basically really focused goals. We wanted to make sure that we knew—that we basically could keep everything and have a good handle on what we were doing. Kind of the Destiny approach is that measured, like, here’s what we think, we’re going to be pretty conservative, see how people react to it, and react to that feedback and be able to—unlike in the past like with Halo games, you know, we can put out another update and basically change the game based on the way the community is reacting.

From a personal standpoint, thank you for doing Burning Shrine again recently. Hopefully we can see that every week.
I’ve heard that a couple of times. “Burning Shrine 24/7!” It’s like, eh, maybe [laughing].

With the dwindling number of people doing it every week, do you think the meta game in terms of strategies and weapons that people are using, builds overall—do you think that all has become too focused? Would you like to see more variety in what people are using in trials?
Obviously as a designer, I’d like to see more variety in Destiny in general. But yeah, I think the meta based on the actual map and based on internet group-think, those things inform each other. The sandbox team and the PvP team definitely want to keep there from being one way to play, obviously.

With future updates we’ll see the balance get tweaked a little bit, but for “House of Wolves,” if we didn’t change the game, if we didn’t change anything, eventually just because people being the way, you know, human nature, the meta would definitely stabilize on probably the obvious candidates for weapons, for primary and secondary weapons. And that just makes teamwork easier, it’s just the way people are with the tools they have. But because Destiny is going to change and will keep changing, the meta will definitely evolve.

What is the stance from your perspective or from Bungie’s perspective of people who are on LFG sites advertising flawless runs for money and selling that?
So I think it’s great that people will sherpa people and carry their friends and that’s kind of part of the social aspect of the game, is that if one player, one amazing player can carry two other players to victory, you know, kudos. That’s great for him. Selling it gets a little—it’s kind of creepy for me, but I’m not sure if we have an official stance on that.

I think that one of the things with Destiny is that unlike most other online games with big active communities that have something like an auction house or some sort of trading or bartering system, that develop this financial meta game around them where people are selling items and whatnot, that is something Destiny has smartly avoided until now. And I think this is the first example I’ve seen of that cropping up. Is this something you feel Bungie will have to address at some point?
Like you said, we’ve avoided things like that, and I’m going to continue to avoid that topic. I honestly don’t have a comment on that.

Well, thank you. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. I appreciate it.
I just wanted to clarify one thing about the meta and variety. I just wanted to make sure that that was from, you know, I’m coming from a PvP designer/Crucible designer standpoint. Destiny is evolving and we’re listening to the community and all that…Well, right on. Thank you so much and thanks for loving Trials. I’ll see you at the Lighthouse.

Mike Rougeau is’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games but mostly concerned with getting sweet Destiny loot. He lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend and two dogs. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.

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