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Destiny 2 PC Head Talks Balance and Battlenet

Destiny 2 had its big debut last week, giving us a first look, a first hands-on, and a flood of other information. I talked with David Shaw, lead developer on the PC version, about the vision for Destiny 2 and how his team is setting about making it a proper PC game.

The presentation focused a lot on what's new, what's different, what's been changed. I want to start off by asking, what's the same? What's the core, 'we need to keep these things about Destiny to be a Destiny game'?

Shooting aliens in the face! That's core, that's there, that's staying. If they have faces, or if they have juice boxes, shoot those. There's also the investment game: the loot, the gear, the weapons, the armor. That power fantasy that I'm throwing flaming swords or hammers. Going between Destiny 1 and Destiny 2, today I played a Titan and I'm this big burly slam electricity on the ground dude. That feeling of power, that's absolutely critical and core.

The social aspects are, I'd say core, but with Guided Games and Clan support we're diving deeper and investing more in those. We feel really great about the social experience people had in Destiny 1 and that's without these features. 

Some of those things are refinements, things that caused friction in the first game. Like oh, you don't have to hop out to orbit to go to a planet. Or Guided Games. That's not matchmaking, but you're taking an approach to solve the same problem.

We didn't think matchmaking was the right solution. We heard people asking from day one of raids, "I want raid matchmaking." We just didn't believe that was the right solution. So the mad scientists put their minds to that and thought, what is the right solution? And we believe Guided Games is a way to do that, that people didn't realize they wanted but absolutely needed.

It's almost a hybrid solution. You have Clans that lets people stick with their friends in a very clean way. But when there's a hole in it, that's when we bring in a matchmaking-like thing.

For me Guided Games is one of the things I'm most excited about. I play with a clan today but our clan isn't huge. We're on two different coasts, so the east coast folks might already be offline. Getting a raid together takes a lot of effort sometimes. We're all busy folks, most of us are dads, so it's really challenging to do that. But we can get three or four people, sometimes five, pretty regularly. So having a tool to tell people: hey this is how we play, if that sounds good to you, come play with us and have some fun and do challenging things.

We've taken a bunch of friends through Vault of Glass, which is a long raid. Are we just running through to get loot, or is this experiential? So we won't tell them the solution. You know, we won't take six hours to do it or whatever but we really like that experience of seeing someone do it. That experience, that first time going through Vault of Glass. After the fifth or sixth decimation by the Gorgons it's like, okay, how do I do this? We'll give you a couple pointers. It's really great because you get that experience.

You know you're not discovering it new but you're seeing that experience in the same way that made us love it. So bringing that to people in this way is super exciting for us. I get to raid more and we get to be good ambassadors for our community.

Speaking of good ambassadors, during the presentation you mentioned you wanted to give people tools to deal with the toxic landscape that can happen online. Is there a reporting mechanism, so that if someone finds a clan that isn't presenting itself honestly, is there a way to deal with it?

We're not talking about that today but what I will say is that Destiny 1 already has reporting features for players that are being, you know, challenging to deal with. And even back to the Halo days, we have bans and all kinds of things. You can feel confident we're going to take steps to make sure that's a great experience. We feel very strongly about this. It's about building a community, not having people having shitty experiences.

The PC experience maps pretty cleanly, in my experience so far. What surprises were there? What did you have to account for that you didn't realize?

For me, it's funny, all the surprises came from our sandbox folks saying, here are the things we have to look at. From the first day that I was on, it was like, here's the list of things that we think might need to be looked at. And I think they nailed all of them that we needed to look at or tweak. Some of the things that I had never considered. In Destiny 1, on a controller, we can do a lot to make guns feel really heavy, with the kick and the rumble. Those things don't really work great on PC.

Like, if you're kicking the gun you're constantly chasing it with your mouse. So we had to figure out ways to make that work better. That was one thing that was surprising and a challenge, how to make the game feel like Destiny and also feel like a great first-person shooter on PC. It was a big challenge and there's probably half a dozen surprises where I was learning about, like oh, I thought you'd just put a mouse and keyboard on it. And I played a ton of PC games, way back in the day, and it's just really, the things that we do to make console and controller feel fantastic don't work great on mouse and keyboard. 

Are there any subtle balance differences that you had to make? Like, it's easier to headshot on PC, so you have to adjust?

It's funny, that particular thing, I think that depends on how good you are with a controller or mouse and keyboard. There are absolutely tweaks. On PC I expect to be able to 180 turn really quickly, that's just how PC games tend to play. On console, we restrict that a little bit, it gives it inertia. 

There's a weight to it.

Yeah, and on PC, players generally don't want that weight. They want to feel freer. You probably felt that difference on mouse and keyboard, so that's a good example of where we changed something. That's something people may not notice because it just works the way their brain expects, but that's the kind of thing we've done some.

We haven't bifurcated a lot. In fact, we've done it as little as we can, because the core principle is that it needs to feel like Destiny, and it needs to feel like a great PC game.

The core of Destiny and I think of Halo before it is about battlefield management. Shoot this one, stagger this one, it's like a dance. With PC that feels very at home because, like you said, you can 180 very quickly. 

That's good to hear, because our goal is to make it feel natural. That's huge.

Our goal was to bring a legit PC offering on day one. We heard from day one of D1, every post would be like "when is it coming to PC?" We wanted to make sure when we came to PC we did it right.

Even before it came out, I remember years ago doing the preview at E3, we were hovering around the cursor interface in the menus and saying, this is coming to PC right? It's got a cursor on it.

You want to do it right and there are a lot of changes we made. Some are subtle, some are more obvious. On the technical side we said, what do we want to do that will really impact the PC community. So we wanted 4K resolution, lots of different aspect ratios like 21:9 and others, uncapped frame rate. The usual suspects of what you'd want. PC gamers are an enthusiastic bunch, that's how I'll phrase it. The goal was to listen to the community and we're trying to bring a solid, legit debut on PC. 

I want to talk a little about the partnership with Battlenet. So what are the advantages of using Battlenet, and how did this partnership come around?

It starts with, well, a ton of us are Blizzard fans. I started with Diablo and Warcraft 3, I still have my collector's edition of Diablo 2. They made action figures and I've got those in the box. There's a whole bunch of us that are huge Blizzard fans. They have a similar DNA. We look at their player experiences and we think they kind of mirror our own. They're very focused on, how do we make this great? How do we make it feel good, play good. So when they brought it up we were enthusiastic, yes, we'd love to be on Battlenet. So when the opportunity came about we jumped in and we're super stoked. 

What kinds of features and advantages come with the Battlenet interface? 

The biggest advantage is you've got a very PC-centric community that believes and they're already super passionate. They have games like Overwatch that already have elements of things that we know they like, so we're basically going into this tailor-made community with Destiny. Feature set wise, we're going to be fully integrated just like Xbox Live and PSN.

When you playtest on both platforms, is there any adjustment you tried making that then really impacted the other version?

Oh yeah, we've absolutely broken shit. This works for platform A but not for platform B! We will continue to run into those challenges, but in many ways that's teething pains. You get to where you understand what those natural problems are.

But you're still running those changes concurrently. You're not tuning the PC version separately. 

No, we're not tuning separately. There are places that we've diversified, like I said the recoil model. That was a necessary change to get us to where the game played well. We'll continue to find those things but our goal is to find a game that feels like Destiny wherever you go.


This Destiny 2 interview was conducted at an event where transportation and accommodations were provided by Activision Blizzard.

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