Destiny 2 dungeon designers talk Ghosts of the Deep immunity shields

The damage phase looping and min-maxing potential in Warlord's Ruin were a direct response to the feedback from the previous dungeon.


One of the more contentious additions to the Ghosts of the Deep dungeon was the bosses’ immunity shields. Before players could deal damage to a boss, they first had to bust down the shield. This led to a few prevailing strategies and a whole lot of bellyaching from the community. While Bungie heard the critiques, the developers held firm on their decisions, and now Brian Frank, Design Team Lead, has offered some more insight into the reasoning and design principles.

In a recent roundtable Q&A, I wanted to touch on the design decision of the boss mechanics in the newer Warlord’s Ruin (known internally as Ridgeline) compared to Ghosts of the Deep, specifically, the immunity shields. For those not in the know, in Ghosts of the Deep, after performing the necessary mechanics to initiate a damage phase, the player would then have to knock away the boss’ shield before dealing damage to its health. This resulted in players either using Heavy ammo, Supers, or Arbalest to knock the shield away, and then starting the damage phase proper. The end result was damage phases where either a lot of ammo was wasted on a shield instead of health or being locked into using a single weapon to knock it away in one go.

“The bottom line reasoning for why we held the line on that is that those combatants have custom behavior when the shield is active,” Frank explained when talking about Bungie’s firm stance on keeping the shields. “We were sort of stuck with like, well, if we just take [the shields] off, then they're not going to see the cool thing that [the combatants] do.”

It’s a tough situation. Bungie clearly wanted players to experience the new enemy behavior but unfortunately the method in which it was implemented created a huge barrier for some players. No doubt removing the shield, while retaining the behavior, would be a massive undertaking. The problem then comes down to resource allocation.

A player attacks a boss in Ghosts of the Deep dungeon
Bungie held firm on the boss immunity shields due to the unique behavior associated with the shields.
Source: Bungie

The other aspect of the immunity shield is that of complexity and difficulty. For Bungie, Ghosts of the Deep was an opportunity to really push into that idea of bringing the challenge back to Destiny 2. “It's part of why we held the line and that was also in the context of wanting to bring challenge back to the game,” Frank said. “We sort of pushed pretty hard with Ghosts of the Deep.”

While Bungie has continued to say it, the team does listen, and this is evident in the developers’ approach to Warlord’s Ruin. “That was definitely a point of feedback that we focused on when we were working on [Warlord’s Ruin],” Frank said. To that end, the team looked into ways to retain the challenge but also give skilled players a means to min-max their strategies.

“The fact you can get to damage in a single phase was a very intentional choice,” Frank said when discussing the ogre boss fight and the idea of players being able to activate all four totems in one go as opposed to one-by-one. For Bungie, this meant the boss fight felt faster, especially when compared to the final boss of Ghosts of the Deep. It was even considered how solo players would be able to speed up the process. “They probably can’t get all four, it might be possible, but they’re going to get at least get two,” Frank said.

The opening area of Ghosts of the Deep
The opening section of Ghosts of the Deep cannot be sped up, no matter how efficient the players are.
Source: Bungie

One of the gripes players have with Ghosts of the Deep is how arduous the entrance encounter is, even when playing with a full squad. There’s simply no way to speed it up. Part of what makes the dungeons (and raids) so enjoyable is working out how to become hyper efficient at the encounters by perfecting the use of the mechanics. It definitely seems Bungie has become more aware of this and has been making conscious design decisions that allow players to speed things up.

Another aspect the team wanted to explore in Warlord’s Ruin was rewarding players who want to engage with the boss’ health threshold in unique ways. In Warlord’s Ruin, players can deal damage right up to the health chunk but not surpass it. This edging of health bars has trickled over from raid clears, where ammo conservation is critical. “We were pretty intentional about the way the thresholds work in this instance. If you can really strategize and plan for maximising this opportunity, you can do damage right up to the line, but don’t cross it, and then get the DPS again,” Frank said. “The meeting of the DPS stage and pushing way further past it – we just understand that players are going to enjoy that opportunity to optimize and express mastery and how they’re doing damage to the bosses.”

Three Guardians attack the second boss in Warlord's Ruin
Warlord's Ruin lets players edge a boss' health to overshoot a damage phase.
Source: Bungie

“We got to a point where we're like, well, if they've earned that extra time and they're doing good on damage and they still have to worry about ammo economy when they actually reach the top of the encounter, then sure, let them go at it,” Amanda Baker, Test Engineer said. “Let them have their fun and I think that worked out really well for us in the end.”

I’d have to agree. There’s comes a time in every Destiny 2 player’s life where they have to learn the benefits of edging a boss' health bar. Sometimes you need to take the boss right up to the line, but don’t cross it, because that next damage phase is going to be so powerful when you unleash it all.

Overall, the team certainly nailed Warlord’s Ruin, at least when it comes to the balance of challenge versus something that can feel unfair or tedious. Compared to Ghosts of the Deep, players now have more agency to interact with the bosses in a manner that suits their playstyle and skill level. Even the developers recognize the success of the boss mechanics and design in Warlord’s Ruin. “I think for the better we can agree it's a more successful format,” Frank said.

At the end of the discussion, it’s clear that Bungie is – to use a tired expression – listening to the playerbase. While not much could be done about the shields in Ghosts of the Deep without a complete redesign, the team took the feedback and perfected the formula with Warlord’s Ruin. Take a look at our full Destiny 2 developer interview for more insight into Season of the Wish.

Guides Editor

Hailing from the land down under, Sam Chandler brings a bit of the southern hemisphere flair to his work. After bouncing round a few universities, securing a bachelor degree, and entering the video game industry, he's found his new family here at Shacknews as a Guides Editor. There's nothing he loves more than crafting a guide that will help someone. If you need help with a guide, or notice something not quite right, you can message him on X: @SamuelChandler 

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