Destiny 2 producer Wendy Wade discusses Season of the Splicer and Vault of Glass

As Season of the Splicer begins, GameCentral talks to Destiny 2’s producer about playing with the enemy and the return of Vault of Glass.

Destiny 2’s latest chapter has launched this week, bringing new activities, story content, and a raid. We got to sit down with Bungie just prior to the release and talk about a whole host of topics concerning the season, as well as the broader game.

Now that Season of the Chosen is in the rear-view mirror, Guardians are sprinting headfirst into the Tron-like vistas of the Vex network. Season of the Splicer has brought the threat to humanity’s doorstep, with the Last City now plunged into an endless night thanks to a simulation.

This season has already brought a lot, including moving one of the best characters from the lore, Mithrax, to the forefront of the story. The Fallen, or to be more respectful, the Eliksni, has a house that is looking to work with humanity in service of the Light and the Traveller. For the first time a faction of the enemy is now an ally.

A lot is going on in Destiny right now, be it from the imminent threats to humanity in-game, to passionate debates about things that are and aren’t working for the real-world community. With that in mind, we got to sit down with Season of the Splicer production lead Wendy Wade to talk about the current state of the game.

We cover a lot here, from why it’s Mithrax’s time, the return of fan favourite raid Vault of Glass, story context for unvaulted content, PvP and Gambit, SIVA and even, off the back of players sneaking 12-players into activities, the prospect of bigger fireteam activities.

(Sidenote: For the sake of transparency, it’s worth noting we were asked not to ask questions about the new Transmog system. The controversial rollout of the feature has been a hot topic for the community but Bungie has said it’s collecting feedback and will share more when decisions have been made based on that feedback.)

Let’s hop to it!

When you sat down, what were your immediate goals for Season of the Splicer? Where did you want to bring the story and the game? How do you begin design on a season?

So I’m going to break it down into a couple of different pieces. On the narrative side, in Season 13, we had this story where we’re exploring our relationship with the Cabal and learning more about the Cabal as a species, and kind of bringing a different perspective and learning more, right?

Season 14, we’re doing that with the Eliksni. It’s an opportunity for us to share more about this rich lore and history that we’ve built for Destiny, viewing these traditionally combatant races in a broader light. You saw that in Beyond Light, and we’ve seen Mithrax in the past. This isn’t coming out of nowhere, but this was an opportunity to move that story forward. So on the narrative side, we wanted a story to dig in there and really get into the meat of that. What it means to be Eliksni and what their culture is like, which gave us this really cool storytelling opportunity to work with Mithrax.

On the gameplay side, we wanted to bring back a six-player matchmade activity because we don’t have any right now, and players love them, right? So we were able to take the narrative, and take that desire and bring them together.

The story missions that we’re doing, the one to three player non-matchmade ones, we’ve tried that in the past with Season of Arrivals. We had that week over week opportunity to tell the story and the new space, advance it over time. We wanted to bring that back. And again, everything dovetailed really nicely when we brought all those goals together. So, a way to move the story forward, exciting gameplay for our players, matchmade and non-matchmade opportunities. It was all of those goals coming together.

Yeah! On Mithrax it’s exciting to see him finally bring his presence to the forefront.

Yeah, me too, I love Mithrax. Mithrax is great.

Mithrax is a character that has been floating around in the lore for a long time. Why is now the right time to bring him out?

So the at the end of Beyond Light, you learn that Mithrax is now the Kell of House of Light. He’s a young Kell and he’s got a lot to prove. This was the next logical next step. If you look at how the Beyond Light story wrapped up with him as the Kell of Light and the Eliksni having to figure out what’s happening on Europa, it’s a dangerous place for them right now. So from a narrative perspective, it seemed like a natural progression to show, ‘Okay, so what is he doing as Kell of the House?’. So, the stars aligned for Mithrax to bring him forward.

The fact that the Vex are the ones where we’re having to figure out this endless night, this Vex simulation, and the fact that he is a Splicer and understands technology and works with machines – he’s our teacher. We have this relationship with him where we’re going to help his people and he’s going to help us defeat the Vex.

It seems we are beginning to broaden our relationships with enemy races. What were once enemies are becoming allies, from Caiatl to Mithrax and even Crow. Is that a theme we should expect to see carry on?

Yeah, I would say that we’re in, as you alluded to – we’ve had the events that happened in Beyond Light and we’ve got Witch Queen coming, and the goal was, ‘What naturally would happen between those two points, and what stories do we want to make sure we tell between those two major beats?’. That is really how we think about seasons year over year. How do we get from point A to point B? So, I don’t think we’re gonna have… every season is not going to be the same type of storytelling, but with Caiatl and Mithrax, yes, these definitely happened back-to-back.

While a Splicer is a broader Fallen word in the lore, to most players, especially those who played Rise of Iron back in Destiny 1, it has a very strong association with SIVA. Is that at all intentional and is SIVA still on the table for Destiny’s future?

The Devil Splicers, yeah!

Definitely, yeah. We don’t intend that SIVA is not going to be a narrative point in the future. One of the things we wanted to show with the Season of the Splicer is that the Eliksni Splicers are not just SIVA, right? The Devil Splicers, their whole focus was on SIVA, for sure, but there are other types of Eliksni Splicers and that’s something that we wanted to explore in this season. But yeah… SIVA is still back there. You’re not gonna see it in Season of the Splicer, but it has not – yeah, it’s certainly there for the future.

Some have noted that it’s been a little while since we got new Crucible and Gambit maps. Is that somewhere the team is looking at in the future?

Yeah, honestly, Destiny is a really big game, right? So we’re always working with the sandbox and balance and, as you know, Stasis was a very big change for our PvP environments. Massaging that and trying to get things to a good place season over the season, with constant changes to the meta, and constant changes to the sandbox is something that we’re always working on.

However, yes, there are additional plans going forward for PvP and Gambit updates. I don’t have those details. That’s not my team that’s working on those, I’m afraid. But yeah, we understand that those players would like some more there. Everybody definitely gets that.

How do you balance bringing new content into the game and addressing community feedback? As a developer you’re trying to move the world of Destiny, but also the community is loudly asking for something like, say, more Gambit Maps. What’s the process of integrating those two things?

So we’re always looking at the long-term plan for Destiny. And, as you said, where we want to go or where we want to take the story. We’ve got the five-year roadmap that Luke has talked about, and so that’s our guiding light. We break down the Destiny Universe inside that roadmap and what it means and what we can do, based on, frankly, you know, the number of people we have to build stuff.

Then our player feedback is definitely the second thing that we’re looking at because we want to… we’re not working in a box. We’re talking to the community every day and, so, we can’t address all feedback all the time, because we just don’t have enough people, but we do think we do a pretty good job of – we don’t get it right all the time, but we do feel like we are taking the community’s voice into all of our decision-making processes.

The community team, as part of our greenlight process, when we’re figuring out what we’re going to do for a season or for one of the annual releases, they’re there from the very beginning. So they’re helping guide the overall plan for every release, which is great and then it’s just a matter of resource constraints of how we prioritise things.

Yeah, I sympathise with that. I remember when talking to Justin Truman, he hit on having to resource manage the team.

It was exciting that this was the first season since working from home that we were able to do a community summit again, which was great because we were doing those in the office. Then when COVID hit, we had to put them on hold for two seasons, but we were able to do it virtually for Season of the Splicer and it went fantastic. And, hopefully, it went so well, that we were hoping to be able to do more of those in the future, so yeah, it’s definitely important to us.

The last season or so, something I really love is you are adding weapons back into the core game modes, such as Adept Nightfall weapons and things like Bottom Dollar in Gambit, so how’s it been utilising these kinds of pool refreshes?

Yeah, definitely. Again, it’s not my part of the game, so I can’t speak very deeply to it, but I know that the team want to keep the meta fresh and interesting, and so they’re always looking at the different tools they have in their toolbox to help with that, so yeah, exactly what you’re talking about.

Where did the idea of bringing back Vault of Glass come from? What was the impetus, and should we expect more un-vaulting of older content in the future?

Yeah! Honestly, as soon as we decided we were gonna do the Content Vault, it was like, ‘Oh… oh, we can bring back more stuff. We can bring the Vault of Glass.’ Because Vault of Glass is very popular inside of Bungie, in addition to our playerbase. The fact that so many Destiny 2 players have never experienced it, it was only a matter of time, right? We knew, as soon as we could make it happen, it was going to happen.

And it is a lot of work to bring back an old raid, especially from D1, because everything is different in the sandbox and character abilities. And, yeah, it was definitely a challenge. [laughs] In some ways more than we expected and some things went easier than we expected, but the timing just worked out nicely with, again, that overall plan for what we’re doing with Destiny. It just fit in really nicely.

I’m really looking forward to the World’s First because players are going to be like, ‘Oh, I know exactly what this is… oh, but it’s different now and what don’t I know?’ So it’s gonna be a fun discovery process, for sure.

Yeah, my clan and I actually went back and did it in D1 a couple of weeks ago to prep for the World’s First race. It’s interesting because it was definitely a product of its time, but it was also such a unique concept for first person shooters when it released.

Right, yes. Yeah, the team has worked really hard, so I think everyone’s going to be pleased. Well, I think most people will be pleased. We can never please everybody.

With returning content, there have been two approaches to instegrating Destiny 1 content into Destiny 2. The Navotta rework of the Omnigul strike, but also Fallen S.A.B.E.R and Sepiks Strike, were reintroduced without updating the story context. Is that more likely in the future? How are you approaching the context for unvaulted content?

So we look at it on a case-by-case basis with what the content is. Does it make sense to update or does it work as a snapshot in time? So there’s not a hard rule. It will vary based on the individual piece of content and as we’re bringing more things out you’re gonna see more of that, where it runs the whole gamut from almost no changes to lots of changes. So it will vary based on where we are in the overall story of Destiny, where that content is going to live and how many narrative type changes we’re going to have for it.

With the understandable delay to Witch Queen, how has that affected your approach to seasons for the remainder of this expansion cycle?

Yeah, it’s happened before, Beyond Light actually moved a little bit as well. So, the nice thing about seasons is because we’ve got two teams that leapfrog each other, building out the seasons, for the most part, it’s relatively easy for us to adapt to that.

It does cause us to stop and ask a lot of questions, and get answers to those questions. So I won’t say there was no impact, but we were able to tweak things without too much trouble to adapt to that. I think we’re gonna be fine.

How do you hope fans will look back on Season of the Splicer?

On the narrative side, I think it’s going to be how we evolved the relationship between what’s classically a combatant race, and a lot of the major characters in our narrative toolbox, right? So, there are different people in the Tower that are gonna have various different opinions about what’s happening by bringing Eliksni into the City, right? And how that story plays out, I think, is going to be a major point for Destiny.

Honestly, the Vex network is amazing. The work that the narrative team, and the lighting team, and the world art team, and the audio team; bringing that all together as a palette that we can use going forward, it’s just cool and it’s fun, and it’s scary and deadly. I think that’s going to be a big thing that players remember.

I do think that the Override activity is a lot of fun. I mean, we’ve got the benefit of it’s the first six-player matchmade activity that we’ve had in a while, so I think players are gonna like it for that reason. But it’s also cool because you’re moving back and forth between the destination you’re on and the Vex network, and there’s a lot happening and it’s chaos in a good way. So, yeah, we’ve got a lot of neat stuff happening this season. I’m very, very proud of it.

Actually, before you go, on six-man activities, it reminds me. Last season we saw pesky Guardians cramming up to 12 players into game modes not intended to house that many. What did the team take from that and could we ever see bigger than six-man activities in the future?

We did, we did! [laughs] And players really enjoyed it, and we did too. That’s not something we can do in the short term for technical reasons. There are bad things that can happen when you do that right now in Destiny, and the game can crash and things like that. So it’s not going to happen in the short term, but we’re definitely paying attention, and it was very, very popular. So I would not rule it out as something you might see in the future.

By Patrick Dane

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