Crafting a good combat encounter can be tricky, especially over the course of years like Destiny has. In a massive part one of a blog called Director's Cut, Destiny 2 game director Luke Smith discussed how the studio works to identify good design and "cheese" potential with a team codenamed "Velveeta."
Velveeta, an internal team put together after players started yanking out their ethernet cables to beat Crota, is a group of the "craftiest" players of Destiny 2 who work to find the cheesiest solutions in tough portions of Destiny's PvE experience. But Smith also says that Velveeta is a good marker for whether something is challenging enough. If Velveeta can beat it, Smith says that's a good indicator of the action and the gear working in harmony.
This all comes in a section discussing the Reckoning, part of Destiny 2's endgame loop alongside Gambit Prime. As Smith tells it, Destiny 2 has guidelines the team uses to build encounters:
- "We don't want to spawn enemies behind the player."
- "We want players to play a game of taking space from enemies."
- "We want players to have cover where their shields and health can recharge, or where they get to be smart using geometry, movement, ability and gunplay to dig enemies out of cover, and make interesting decisions about target prioritization."
- "We want players to be able to understand where in the space enemies will come from, and if we're going to reverse the combat front on players (AKA spawn enemies behind them, we want to telegraph that."
- "We use dropships, spawn clouds, audio cues, all kinds of tricks to try and prepare players for reinforcements."
- "As character power was dramatically increasing (more on reasons for this increase later on), the encounter rules got thrown out the window."
Essentially, it boils down to that last point: Destiny had so much cool gear that the team started breaking its encounter design philosophy in order to pose a real challenge. And as challenge ramps up, certain strategies-like Everyone Stand On A Well Of Radiance-become dramatically more viable than the others.
"That sweet gear, coupled with the encounter design meant the number of ways to viably/efficiently progress was dramatically reduced," Smith writes. "We want Destiny to be a game where you have lots of choices with your character, build what you choose to do, and funneling those choices down to only one in Reckoning is something we don't want to repeat."
Designing the perfect combat arena is a tricky task. When we talked to the developers of Doom Eternal at E3 2019, we ended up chatting about this exact challenge for a while. One of the harder tasks in games like Destiny is maintaining an equal level of cool new powers that make you feel like a true Guardian, and enemies that pose enough threat to encourage you towards engaged play.
Destiny 2 has been a story of balancing those elements on a teetering seesaw. "The entire time we've been making Destiny, the action game and the RPG have been fighting," Smith writes. "It's the forever war. The RPG has the power to dramatically overcome the action game, and the action game has the power to render the RPG game irrelevant. It's a line—by nature—Destiny will always have to straddle."
We'll see what Shadowkeep does to keep that balance even on October 1. Be sure to keep up with our Destiny guides to gear up for Bungie's first big step as an independent studio.