Have you ever thought that MC Escher’s art should include more rainbow roads? The team behind Destiny 2’s new Prophecy dungeon thinks so.
For some creators, there’s an alchemy in video games that draws them to work in this space. There are unique experiences that can only live in this interactive medium. Within the universe of Destiny, some of those experiences look like Scourge of the Past or the Leviathan. Behind each of those projects are hundreds of people in the pursuit of something unexpected – something new.
Two of the people involved in those raids are Brendan Thorne and Andrew Hopps. Over the last seven years, they’ve worked together on more than 10 raids and dungeons that have pushed the boundaries of what an action MMO like Destiny 2 can do. The latest project they worked on went live a week ago with the launch of Season of Arrivals and takes players into a pocket universe created by the mysterious entities known only as the Nine. Welcome to Prophecy.
The rules that govern this pocket universe allowed the team at Bungie to experiment with a bunch of exciting mechanics and ideas that players have never seen before. To call this dungeon unique would be an understatement.
We had a chance to sit down and talk to Brendan and Andrew about the new dungeon and how it fits into Season of Arrivals – the latest chapter in Destiny 2’s evolving story about the last of humanity raging against the dying of the Light.
It’s nice to meet you both. Can you give us an idea of who you are and what you’ve contributed to at Bungie?
Andrew Hopps: I’m the world lead on the Raid team. I’ve been at Bungie for almost eight and a half years. I started out on the Cosmodrome, but eventually worked on the Dreadnaught which naturally led to working on the King’s Fall Raid – I never left the Raid team after that.
Brendan Thorne: I’m a senior designer on the Raid team and I’ve been at Bungie since a year before launch – so almost seven years. I think Crota’s End was the first thing Andrew and I worked on together. No wait, it was Vault of Glass. Wait no, King’s Fall was the first thing we started. Sorry. Welcome to quarantine day 3000 — everything is starting to blend together.
Speaking of quarantine, what’s it been like working from home?
Andrew: Efficiency feels really good, playtesting is definitely the most challenging.
Brendan: It helps because the whole team already knows each other and we understand each other’s personalities.
That’s good to hear. Can you give us an idea of how Prophecy began? It’s such a different take on a Destiny dungeon.
Andrew: It started with us aligning with the Creative Leadership team to figure out where this dungeon was going to take us. We were really excited about going to talk to the Nine. The Nine’s realm is a really cool place that we haven’t explored a lot. We have The Reckoning and some PvP maps but that’s about it.
Some wild stuff came out of the prototypes and it worked really well with the Nine theme. After that, we went to Robbie Stevens (creative lead) and Tom Farnsworth (design lead) and started talking to them about how to integrate it into their plans for the Season.
How did those conversations go? Can you talk about how the dungeon fits into that larger Season of Arrivals and Beyond Light story?
Brendan: We know the Darkness is coming back and we finally get to explore the question, “what exactly is the Darkness?” This is something that’s still shrouded in mystery. So, when Eris and the Drifter send you to the Nine for answers – as wild as that sounds – it’s a smart trail for Guardians to follow.
Andrew: It’s intentionally vague because we didn’t want to spoil the mystery. We put clues into the dungeon knowing that players will theorize over the meaning. Later on, we’ll be able to help them understand.
Brendan: I hope players are going to look at this dungeon and realize that Bungie has been telegraphing this for a while. Like those major events with cataclysmic ramifications that reverberate throughout the universe and change everything. It’s surprising in the moment but when you look at it in reverse you can see exactly how it came to be.
Did working with the theme of the Nine give you an opportunity to do anything you wanted or was it constraining because of how mysterious they are?
Brendan: I think it was an opportunity. We wanted this to be extraordinarily different from the previous two dungeons, Shattered Throne and Pit of Heresy. Those have a distinctly old school dungeon crawler feel to them – with descents through all these forbidden places. Generally, when we start with a project, we talk about what the themes are. I think for this one it was “new perspectives,” right?
Andrew: Yeah. That came about after some prototyping. Once we started experimenting, we knew we wanted to go off the deep end with the abstract look. The Nine are all about that.
Brendan: We try to pick a really understandable set of thematic experiences and verbs – in the last one, it was “use a sword in different ways to defeat enemies.” In Prophecy, the thematic experience is “use Darkness and Light as a tool.”
Andrew: That fit really well into the “new perspectives” theme as well. When we started talking about how the Darkness is coming, it all tied together.
Brendan: Other than going into a dark tunnel and your Ghost turns on its light, I don’t think we’ve ever used light as a game mechanic. Like actual volumetric lights.
Andrew: Right. I don’t think so either.
Brendan: I can’t wait for people to see what Madison Parker (senior lighting artist) did – it’s like a dungeon in a really awesome modern age art gallery designed by MC Escher.
Did you run into any snags or interesting challenges?
Brendan: There are challenges with playtesting that come about when working from home.
Andrew: Something that helps is having experts in the studio to help test. We started calling them the Kraft Singles because they’re individual players from Team Velveeta – internal expert players that try to find cheese. They’re some of the best players in the studio and they helped test the dungeon so we could better tune the difficulty.
Brendan: Even if players end up finding cheese, sometimes that stuff is so cool. We want people to use the dungeon like a playground. I’m expecting a lot of YouTube videos and GIFs.
Andrew: Someone is going to sword-fly across this whole thing and we’ll think it’s really cool.
It really sounds like the kind of dungeon that people are going to want to play over and over again because of how unusual it is.
Andrew: There are plenty of reasons to play the dungeon more than once a week, so I’m pretty happy how that went.
Brendan: Yeah, I am too. One thing that’s going to suck about working from home is that we’re not going to be able to be in the Bungie theater watching players run through the dungeon and experience it for the first time. Because there’s some really cool stuff in this dungeon – not just mechanically. It’s so visually breathtaking and disorienting that I can’t wait for people to see it. I’m going to have like ten Twitch streams up on the first day.
The Prophecy dungeon went live on June 9 and is free for all players. Hop in today to earn the dungeon-exclusive Daito armor.
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