Destiny has gone through lots of ups and downs, but “Rise of Iron,” out this fall, is looking like it’s going to be an “up.”
For one thing, it’s the Destiny expansion that’s going to bring back Gjallarhorn, the game’s most powerful (and lots of players’ favorite) giant rocket launcher. More importantly, though—and something a lot of Destiny players might not know—is that “Rise of Iron” is being crafted by the two dudes who made “House of Wolves,” a previous Destiny expansion that managed to cram a lot of content and positive changes into the game.
“House of Wolves” didn’t have a raid, Destiny’s best and toughest missions, but it did introduce a new social space to hang out and grab quests in, new story-based content, an awesome new multiplayer mode called Trials of Osiris that remains one of the game’s best things, and little “quality of life” improvements like the item “etheric light,” which let players upgrade older gear, and more.
“Rise of Iron” does have a raid—plus another new social space, new story missions, a new multiplayer mode, new weapons and armor (and at least one returning favorite in Gjallarhorn), and who knows what else.
We don’t yet know all of what “Rise of Iron” will encompass, but after speaking with the expansion’s executive producer, Scott Taylor, at E3 2016, the year’s biggest gaming convention, I’m more excited for it than ever. We chatted about Gjallarhorn’s return, things from the current game that will carry over in the fall—including the popular “infusion” system that currently lets players upgrade their gear—how Bungie is expanding on Destiny’s story, what the game will look like post-“Rise of Iron,” and more. Read our full chat below.
Hi Scott, I’m Mike. Nice to meet you. I’ve played a lot of Destiny, from the beginning—I checked wastedondestiny.com for the first time this week—
How many hours you got?
Wow! The only thing that’s bad about wastedondestiny for me is that they don’t count the hours I play at work so I look at my thing it’s like, five something or whatever, but that’s not true!
Right because you’re on like internal builds.
Yeah I’m playing all the time, I play at my desk for an hour here or there, so it would add up to god knows.
So what is your role exactly?
I’m the executive producer of “Rise of Iron” and I was the executive producer of “House of Wolves,” which was an expansion—well, you know—it came out last May, and Chris Barrett, who just left for the airport, who is game director for “Rise of Iron,” also did that for “House of Wolves,” so we’re kind of getting back there.
So you guys were the “House of Wolves” team?
Yeah, there was a huge team and we were part of that. So now we’re back.
I guess this is more a question for Destiny’s live team but I wanted to ask given the most recent balance patch, why does Bungie hate hunters so much?
We love hunters! Are you a hunter? Is that your main?
I like to play gunslinger in Crucible, though not as much anymore.
So what motivates you to ask that question?
The tripmines, oh, yeah. [sighing] Moment of silence. No, come on! One of the really neat things about Destiny is that we shipped it in 2014, and instead of just going ‘Ah, I wish that had worked better,’ we’re able to really iterate on the game and improve the experience. I think if you look at the game now versus when it launched it’s changed a lot and evolved a lot and the fact that we’ve been able to do that is really special. And the fact that passionate people for hunters or for other classes—you know, warlocks want capes and all these things—when I hear a comment like that I hear, 'I really like Destiny.’ You know what I mean? That’s what I hear. Everyone has a really great opinion, and that’s exciting, when you look at different ways that the community’s giving us feedback—and we’re all players ourselves—and so there’s a lot of passionate opinions about how to make Destiny feel really fun and balanced.
I bet. I do like the PVE changes for the supers. I’m going to keep playing as a defender in all activities, PVE or otherwise, but still.
Because that’s how you roll. That’s what you want to do. And that’s awesome and Destiny gives you the opportunity to do that!
But the increased power for a lot of other supers in PVE is a good change.
Yeah, it’s great.
A lot of what came with “House of Wolves,” including Prison of Elders, recently came back into the Destiny meta. What else from “House of Wolves” are you bringing to “Rise of Iron”?
I think, you know, “House of Wolves” is part of the journey we’ve had to get to here, to get to where we are today, so what we’re doing is looking at really trying to tell a great story. What we didn’t have in “House of Wolves” actually was a raid—maybe you heard that, I don’t know if that was a thing [laughing]—but we did have Prison of Elders, which is awesome. We have a raid this time.
And Trials of Osiris came out with “House.”
Trials, exactly, people forget that Trials came out in “House of Wolves.”
I never forgot.
We’re excited about—we have Saladin is the focus of this release, and so I think that implies—you know, we’re bringing Saladin into PVE but we have a real passion for PVP. So there’s a new game mode coming out that we’re going to talk about later this summer that’s really really fun, new maps, the other thing from “House of Wolves"—I think "House of Wolves” is the only time that we introduced a new social space, and we’re doing that again. With the social space something we’re really interested in is the fact that at the beginning of the game, you don’t even know this is a social space because you’re finding this area and clearing it out because there’s bad things happening here.
Like putting the patrol beacons on the dreadnaught? Like a story mission that ties into a permanent change within the world?
Yeah, that’s interesting, yeah. So you’re going to encounter a space that the Fallen are attacking and you’re going to clear it out, and later in the game you’re going to discover—you’re going to be asked to come back to this space and you’re going to see that people are moving back into it now that you’ve liberated it.
Good, narrative progression.
Yeah, it’s really fun. So that’s a big thing there. And we’re also adding in the social space a few new rituals that are going to be tied to our endgame, and we haven’t done that before either. So we’re looking at building a social space as a really fun, interesting challenge, because you don’t want to replace the Tower. The Tower is the central area for all of Destiny. But you do want to create opportunities for new characters to join, and for really specific storytelling moments, so Felwinter Peak, which is our social space, really is a great hub for “Rise of Iron.”
You’re going to learn about what happened to the Iron Lords very definitively. We’re going to tell that story.
When you say “rituals” do you mean like standing in front of the gunsmith and reforging my Party Crasher for eight hours straight?
I mean things that we are going to talk about later that are very fun.
[laughing] I lost my train of thought because I thought of that snarky question.
And I didn’t answer!
Of course not! You sort of brought up new PVE and new PVP stuff—lore-wise Iron Banner is a thing that’s only existed in the PVP space before. I like that while “Taken King” introduced new stuff to the lore, this is taking something that exists and going deep on it. Has that been fun?
Yeah, that was very deliberate. So the way you phrased it is actually how we’ve talked about it, which is looking at—Saladin’s been in the Tower since the beta, so he’s been around for a long time helping players, guiding them through this ritual called Iron Banner, really training Guardians for—something. And now we’re going to pay off what that’s been for, what that’s about, why that’s been happening. Even if you haven’t played PVP, you’ve been to the Tower probably and you’ve seen this every once in a while—you’re like “what’s this?” and every once in a while you go up to him and you’re like “there’s a gong that’s on fire and there’s a cool-looking dude standing in front of it!” But you don’t really know much about him. If you do play, you know the name Felwinter. You know most of these names and you’re going to have an association with them there.
So has it been fun? Yeah, it’s been really fun, especially when you start talking about it, some of the names now are evocative, so when you learn about those characters, which is what’s going to happen here—you’re going to learn about what happened to the Iron Lords very definitively. We’re going to tell that story. And so that’s been really, really fun, because it helps—I think some of the best experiences for me have been doing like the Thorn exotic quest. I hadn’t played a ton of PVP, I liked it, but it gave me a reason to do it, and so it very naturally integrated me into that and now I play PVP a bunch. And so if you’re primarily a PVP player it’s like “Oh that’s cool, maybe I’ll try this and do this.” And so it creates a nice organic flow between those two things that we think is really fun. But if you don’t play PVP, it doesn’t matter! You still can play this and you’re going to learn about Saladin and that’s great. But if you do play PVP and you have this attachment, there’s an extra layer of richness that—maybe not surprisingly, but it’s been really fun to—it’s been one of the best parts about exploring this area frankly, is paying those things out.
You hit on something there though, because like, I have a cousin who’s been playing from the beginning, and literally a year and a half in he was texting me like, “How do I hit 320?” (it was a while ago) and I was like, Iron Banner’s this week! And he goes, “What’s Iron Banner?” I thought that was mind-blowing.
Well, I mean, you’ve got to think that—I’m going to think that the game has to do a good job of speaking for itself, so you don’t want to assume things like people going on Reddit or Twitter or following the Bungie page.
You kind of have to though if you’re the kind of player who wants to hit the highest level, you’ve got to go online to find out what’s going to give you that gear.
I think you look toward the endgame activities, and they will get you there, but—
No, they will! If you do Challenge of Elders, you can get to 335, right? What’s been neat since Trials has come out was “House of Wolves” was the first time that we said, you don’t want to play Prison but you want to hit the cap? Play Trials. We were trying to find different avenues. Destiny is at its best when you can decide how you want to approach it. Like do you want to talk to your buddy and just patrol and not think about much? Great. So for this we have Plaguelands, a whole new area with new public events and new patrols, great. But “no, I want to do a raid, and do something really intense,” great, we have a raid! “I want to play the heroic strikes playlist and kind of in between"—you know.
I think Destiny’s really most engaging when you have that suite of activities that you can kind of depending on your mood play because the other thing that’s great about Destiny, when I think of the most fun I’ve had it’s usually related to a very particular experience I had with a group of people. So it’s like I think of the first time I played Trials—I was terrible at it. I played with my friend and we were playing with the Halloween masks, we had this really great experience at home, laughing so much, but we were terrible at it. But it’s still super memorable to me and I think about it a lot. It’s an interesting mix.
The Lighthouse is one of my favorite things that we’ve ever done.
Now that Destiny 2 has been not officially but definitely pushed a year or whatever back we have suddenly a year to contend with, "Rise of Iron” is coming out, and then we have—however much time, you don’t have to confirm anything or whatever, but there’s going to be time between “Rise of Iron” and whatever comes next. There have been really strong bursts of content, and then there have been some droughts. So is there a framework in place to deal with that and keep things going more consistently?
Well if you think about it we’ve been out 18 months or something now—we’ve done, this will be our fourth expansion on top of things like Sparrow Racing League, Festival of the Lost and Crimson Doubles.
The game has been out 18 months?
It’s been longer than that, it was September and now we’re in June, so it’s 21 months.
It hasn’t been out that long, but even that, twenty-something months right, is you know, that’s a decent amount of content for that period, and we’re still learning how to best support the game, and so my point being though that since it’s come out we’ve supported the game in a bunch of different ways. And so post-“Rise of Iron” even though we’re not ready to talk about exactly what’s going to happen I think it’s safe to say we’re going to continue to support the game. We love doing things like Sparrow Racing League for three weeks—
Is that going to come back?
We’re always talking about it, right? I mean like, you put things like Crimson Doubles, Sparrow Racing, Festival of the Lost, the April update that had Prison of Elders updates—we like, we think it’s really fun and dynamic to have the world, have things pop up, and so yeah we’re always talking about all those things and figuring out if we should or shouldn’t.
I’ve read other interviews coming out this week, including Adam Rosenberg’s at Mashable. I know Gjallarhorn is coming back as an exotic, which there was some questioning of. But the big scoop there was about infusion, and Chris Barrett said “Infusion is staying around,” but I wanted to confirm that it’s staying exactly the way it is now?
Yes. I can go farther than that, yeah, absolutely. We hit a place with April where, you know, we introduced infusion in “Taken King” and we liked it, and then in April I think we further refined it to a place where we don’t feel the need to update that for “Rise of Iron.” So to be very specific any gear that’s come out since “Taken King” you can infuse to the light level that’s coming for “Rise of Iron.”
To me the game is in maybe the most satisfying place—like, I’m not putting as many hours in it now as I was when I was like, going to the Lighthouse three times every weekend because I wanted a specific kind of Messenger—
Lighthouse three times every weekend? That’s something!
That was like a little humble brag.
No, I’ve never done that, that’s incredible.
I really wanted that one thing, you know what I mean?
Sure. The Lighthouse is one of my favorite things that we’ve ever done, just because no one knew about it. So if you remember that day, people were like “What is this?!” That was one of the few times I think we’ve done that, where just no one had any idea. And that was really really fun to see—people freaking out. That was neat.
It was amazing. There’s nothing else like it. Every time I go still it’s exciting to me
It’s a special—well, I mean it—I love that. I just love that it feels like a reward worthy of going nine and oh, you know?
And even if the rewards—the guns—aren’t functionally different, to have a trophy, that’s what people really want. But what I was going to say is, the game feels right now like it’s maybe the most satisfying, because when you’re chasing some specific RNG-based piece of loot, it’s satisfying when you get it, but it’s not fun when you’re not getting it. And right now the game rewards you for playing, whatever you want to do, and everything from the way infusion works now to the numbers loot drops at—and when the game rewards me, I actually want to play it more. It feels like that for the first time to me—was that a gradual realization inside Bungie or more an epiphany?
I would say it’s an iteration—with a game like this the best way to learn is to put it out in the world. Obviously we want players happy and engaged and you know, one of our core tenets is “it’s a world you want to be in” and I think that extends to all aspects. And so I think that tuning those things is just, it’s a process, and now we’re in a place where—it’s nice to hear that! Right?
But yeah we want it to be—with Gjallarhorn especially coming back we want people to be able to get it, but it’s going to be, you know, you’re going to play a quest to get it, and it’s hard! It’s a hard quest. It’s worthy of—you know, you want it to be—you want the rewards to match the effort. That’s a goal.
Are we talking Black Spindle hard?
[pauses] Black Spindle—I really loved that.
That was my favorite—I wrote a whole article just about that.
Did you? Just, well, again, no one knew it was coming, right? So that was really fun.
Vault of Glass, Lighthouse—it’s up there with my favorite things that have ever happened in this game.
That’s neat to hear. So I don’t know how I would compare it to that—that’s a very specific experience.
That is still to this day one of the hardest things in the whole game.
Yeah. This is not like—it’s not presented in any way like that, so the comparison isn’t really very apt. But it’s fun.
There are new exotics that no one has ever seen or heard of.
What is the philosophy behind bringing Gjallarhorn back? Is it literally just “let’s give the people what they want”?
No! I talked about this the other day, so I don’t want to repeat myself too much for your site, but I think it’s interesting that doing this stuff is maybe more organic than people think it is, like I guess in a good way, where you know it really started from, Chris [Barrett] texted me one night, and he said—we were trying to think of cool things that were tied in. We were already, we were at this point we knew it was going to be Saladin, we knew we were going to do this new area, we were looking at the exotics and all these other things, and he was texting me and said, “What if we do Gjallarhorn now? What if we bring Gjallarhorn back?” Because it just—it hadn’t been in the game, right?
Was it inevitable that it was going to happen?
No! I mean, that’s the thing, is like, we were looking for an opportunity for it, and he said “What if we bring Gjallarhorn back?” And I said people would go crazy, and his answer to me was, “Good or bad crazy?” And I said good crazy—yeah, exactly! And so the next day we start brainstorming and shopping that around and everyone—you know, by the end of the day I believe we were like yeah, we’re doing that! When I think of that I think of—it really aligned nicely, if you look at the thing, it has wolves and it looks of a piece with this, but it really came together and it was not a—you know we came up with this and decided we wanted to do Iron Banner and then we were like what are the exotics, and obviously we’re going to do this, so it wasn’t like “let’s build something around Gjallarhorn,” it was—"Gjallarhorn fits in here nicely.“ And so then we got really excited and we were like let’s build a quest and do all these things! And so those ideas really evolved very naturally.
I know that you were right, but from your perspective has the response been "good crazy” or “bad crazy”?
My thought is that people have a lot of affection and a lot of emotion tied to Gjallarhorn, and so—
Everybody has a story of when they got theirs, even if it’s a salty story.
And if I think of what makes Destiny great, it’s the fact that you have very specific memories about this—this is what I was talking about earlier, right? I remember when X thing dropped or when Xur sold Gjallarhorn and I went and bought it—or like you know, whatever it is, right? It’s fun, it’s actually really thematically similar if I think about it to what we were talking about with the Iron Banner weapons and the fact that people have thoughts and emotions tied to them, and so now to—time has passed in the real world, and so to bring those things in and the fact that the wall’s changed [in the Cosmodrome]—there’s a lot of things that—nostalgia’s actually, and somberness—those things don’t necessarily go together, but nostalgia’s one of the things that we wanted to have people feel when they play this, and so those things of revisiting these names and looking at Gjallarhorn again, they all fit together really nicely. And so I think it is “good crazy.” I think it’s exciting to bring in something that’s become really associated with Destiny and bring it back.
What about the other exotics that people know are in there but they haven’t been released yet? Are those going to come in “Rise of Iron,” or before that, or—
The only exotic we’re talking about now is Gjallarhorn. There’s going to be new exotics that come out, but we’re going to talk about those later.
New exotics that people don’t know about?
There are new exotics that no one has ever seen or heard of, yes.
And there are some new exotics that people do know about but just aren’t in there yet?
Uhh—the question you’re asking is—I’m trying to think of how to answer that properly. No I’m serious! It’s like, I don’t know how to answer that question properly, to be honest with you,
It’s like with “Taken King” there were supposed to be X number of exotics per class—
Yeah, I know what you’re asking. Yes.
Well we didn’t ultimately see that so where did those—did those go back to the drawing board like Fate of All Fools? Are they coming and we just don’t know when?
[pauses] Trying to think of the list for “Rise of Iron"—I actually don’t have a great answer for that, so I’m not going to answer.
That’s fair! So finally, we’re talking about nostalgia, about people’s emotions, and bringing stuff back at the appropriate time, and I think a year of no Gjallarhorn is a really good time to bring that back—when do you think is a good time to bring back Vault of Glass and Crota’s End—not "are you doing that” but when do you think would be a good time if you were going to?
What I can say is that, you know, same with Sparrow Racing and all these other things, like, the raids being brought up, those things are things we talk about, like, I mean, obviously. For now we thought it was a better use of time to make a new raid and to really spend the time making that a great experience. Those are things we talk about, but you know, we’re not totally solid on exactly what we’re going to do to support right after “Rise of Iron.”
I’ll tell you what I want.
And I have no basis for this at all.
I say do what we did with Black Spindle, right, where Black Hammer was totally overpowered for a legendary—give me my Fatebringer back, make it exotic! Even take the elemental off, I don’t care! Give me Vision of Confluence, and make it exotic! Do some quests around those, right? That’s a good idea! You can have that one.
[laughing] That sounds fun.
Thanks so much!
Destiny: Rise of Iron is due out September 20, 2016.
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games. He really misses his Fatebringer. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.