Back when the Last Wish raid arrived, players dove into it in search of the many hidden wishes it contained. These wishes could be input onto the Wall of Wishes, granting players certain things like quick access to bosses, unique voice lines, and more. But soon, players discovered that a wish was missing.
Wish 15 might go down as one of the longest standing searches in Destiny history. Its importance to the community was not lost on Bungie. To that end, the team had long been thinking about how to revisit the idea of Wish 15 and how to tie it into the story in a meaningful way.
Enter Season of the Wish, the return to the Dreaming City and the séance with the mighty wish-giving dragon, Riven. It was the perfect moment and one the narrative team gripped tightly. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the narrative team in a Q&A roundtable where they offered more insight into how they worked to grant players their wish.
Much like Oryx’s body post-King’s Fall raid, the fifteenth wish was something burning in the back of Bungie developers’ minds. “It’s something that has been in the back of our minds for a long time,” Nikko Stevens, Senior Narrative Designer said. “We were just waiting for the best opportunity to bring that forward.”
The trouble with tackling a story beat like Wish 15 is how much players have built it up in their minds. It’s been this mystery for eight years. Players have dedicated untold hours into playing Destiny 2, searching through the raid, and even datamining content in an attempt to see if it’s even real. The only evidence of its existence is an unlisted Triumph with the flavor text:
“This one you shall cherish.” – Riven of a Thousand Voices
I’m sure Bungie had gotten to the point where it was a legitimate concern whether or not they could do Wish 15 justice. “There was a lot of caution there about what it would mean to revisit [Wish 15] and sort of how high the stakes were and how to pay that off for the players,” Brian Frank said. Part of why Bungie was so careful about using the fifteenth wish is due to the reverence it had received in the community.
This idea of the players finding something interesting and Bungie revisiting it in a meaningful way is nothing new. One of the oldest examples of Bungie taking the community-driven interest and weaving it back into the story is the loot cave.
Way back in the first Destiny game, players discovered a cave in the Cosmodrome where, if you stood back far enough, enemies would continually spawn. This resulted in groups of players standing there, shooting into a cave in hopes that a foe would drop a powerful bit of gear, enough to increase their Light level.
Not only did Bungie tip its hat to the player-led movement by putting a little pile of bones there for players to see, but they brought it back with the Grasp of Avarice dungeon. For Brian Frank, weaving these player-created moments back into the story of Destiny 2 is important, as he believes it allows players to feel like they’re a part of the in-lore narrative.
But in terms of Wish 15, the mythology surrounding it almost made it untouchable. And yet, through the culmination of events leading up to Season of the Wish, the narrative team had all these story threads that needed to be tied together neatly. The return to the Dreaming City, the involvement of Riven, and the need to pursue the Witness – they all coalesced into this perfect moment. “It was a good opportunity to pitch the 15th wish to leadership kind of as our method of gaining access to the Witness and the Pale Heart,” Jonathan To, Narrative Lead, said.
I asked them if the 15th wish was one of the sticky notes on Robert Brookes’ wall. “I'm sure Robert has thought about the topic, but in this particular case a lead writer named Raphael Ahad made this pitch,” To said.
It’s ones of those moments in a story where an early plot point or mystery comes back and has this major payoff. What better way to honor the dedication of players than to give Wish 15 the ultimate responsibility of allowing us to pursue the Witness and halt its universe-destroying actions?
This idea of planting seeds in order to reap the narrative rewards later is nothing new for Bungie. It’s a strategy the team has spoken about previously, and the payoff is always so delightfully worth it. Even now, the team is leaving some doors locked and some horizons just out of reach so that they might tap into it in the future. But for now, the fact that players were so obsessed with Wish 15 led Bungie to utilize it as a narrative device. The players have given it life, basically wishing it into existence.