Luke Smith, the director of Destiny 2 and one of the key architects behind the series, looks at all of the raids to date as his children.
“I love all of them and they’re all unique in their own way,” he said during an E3 interview.
Smith led the raid team across the finish line with Vault of Glass, and he’s continued to work closely with Gavin Irby — who took over after Smith leveled up to Game Director — on one of Destiny‘s signature features. The six-player co-op activities — which, fundamentally, are hours-long group puzzles — are widely acknowledged as the sprawling game’s most unpredictable and play-changing activities.
To hear Smith tell it, each one — from Vault of Glass to whatever awaits in Destiny 2 — is defined by a core ethos. A “heartbeat,” as he puts it.
“Vault of Glass has this property where it spreads players out and brings them back together,” Smith said. “You remember the moments where you’re spread out and you remember the moments where you’re back together in the most potent way.”
That’s accurate. The final and perhaps most memorable encounter in Vault of Glass involves a forced split as half the team is zapped into the future or past while the other half opens a portal home in the present. Once the stranded teammates get back, everyone groups up for a damage-dealing assault on the boss.
In Crota’s End, Destiny‘s second raid, it’s about creating what Smith refers to as “hero moments.” There are moments scattered throughout that call on just one player to pick up a special sword and — for all intents and purposes — save the day.
“The person wielding the sword has this responsibility; they’re the focal point,” Smith said. “Among six, there’s one hero moment.”
Smith chuckled as he turned to King’s Fall, the raid that shipped with The Taken King. King’s Fall placed an emphasis on movement and positioning in each of its challenges, to the point that the final encounter, done properly, has an almost balletic feel.
“King’s Fall has a lot about traversal,” Smith said. “It’s about navigating through space, whether it’s the two series’ of jumping puzzles or the platforming in the final zone with this giant god fighting you.”
Destiny‘s final raid, called Wrath of the Machine, took shape with Smith asking one question again and again: “Where are the moments of glorious combat?”
In one of the Wrath boss encounters, players sprint into “safe rooms” and shoot out a control panel to bring up a force field just before a death ray kills everything on the outside. During the final encounter, randomly charged players take turns exposing the boss to damage. Each instance is a big, blockbuster moment.
“Moments of glorious combat became the heartbeat for that raid,” Smith said. “I think that’s a great action game raid; I love Wrath of the Machine.”
Destiny 2‘s inaugural raid is still the subject of much mystery. We don’t even have a name yet, let alone a sense of what its challenges might entail. But Smith gamely opened up about this one’s underlying idea: a sense of place.
“Raid 5, when we looked at it, it was about building a place you believe is real. That was our priority,” he said.
I asked him here, just to be clear: That’s the ‘heartbeat,’ then? Smith smiled. Then he giggled. Not a laugh; a giddy, uncontrolled, “I-have-a-real-good-secret-I-can’t-share-yet” giggle.
“A place that you believe could exist,” he said. More laughter. “It’s unlike anything we’ve done. The team is incredibly talented; it is a joy to see them work.”