With the recent launch Destiny 2: Lightfall, the latest expansion for Bungie’s sci-fi MMO, players dived deep into new activities, explored a new elemental force on the Strand, and discovered the secrets of the hidden city of Neomoon Neptune. Destiny 2’s new expansion also means a new raid, Destiny’s challenging co-op adventures designed for fireteams of six, designed to test players’ skills, problem solving and teamwork. On March 10th, Guardians from around the world delved into the final – and perhaps most visually stunning – raid to date: Root of Nightmares.
To celebrate the launch of the new Lightfall raid, we recently sat down with three members of the Destiny team: Assistant Designer Kailani Marrero, Staff Designer June Meyer, and Design Lead Brian Frank to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work on (and name) some of the most mysterious , intriguing and challenging materials in all games.
How does the Root of Nightmares raid move the story forward after the initial events of Lightfall?
June Meyer: In Root of Nightmares, players explore The Witness pyramid after completing the Lightfall campaign. During the raid, players can witness firsthand how the Light of the Traveler terraforms the landscape, bringing new life and destroying the existing environment. We never had the opportunity to see or influence this process, and the raid gives players the ability to transform the environment with their actions.
Kailani Marrero: It was important to make sure that the lessons learned by the player (and the Guardian) on Neomoon carried over into their journey in the raid. The Guardian spends some time “going with the flow” — especially once he gets to grips with Osiris and learns to wield Strand during the campaign — and we’ve taken that mentality into raid combat. Without spoiling anything for those new to the raid, the Guardians know who the threat is, and they know that entity needs to be taken out. Even in the face of overwhelming odds, there is work to be done, and that confidence in ourselves and our allies must still remain true.
Q: What are some specific examples of how Bungie uses story themes in the puzzle-like gameplay elements of Destiny 2 raids?
Brian Frank: In Vow of the Disciple (from Destiny 2: The Witch Queen), symbols and their meanings were designed as a system from which game events would build statements about places and characters in our world. In the context of the Witch Queen’s themes of deception and illusion, they were meant to represent truth, lies or prophecies. They also help surprise players as they have to interpret and communicate them to the fire team to complete the raid.
km: Story themes are often add-ons to the experience that add extra “sweep” to the raid. A lot of mechanics are created up front with the general concept of the raid in mind, and then the narrative designer provides more context. The bones are there, but then you can build on them to make it even cooler and add context where needed.
JM: The thematic goal of the Root of Nightmares mechanic was that the Guardians could only succeed against the Witness by mastering Light and Darkness. Players begin the action using only Light, and in the second encounter both Light and Dark are required, but never combined. In the last meeting, players learned how to combine these elements in really meaningful ways.
Q: What are your favorite raid titles from past expansions and why?
km: I’m sure this answer will change with each person you ask! I’m completely biased and love Root of Nightmares over all of them. It took us a while to come to terms – we had a good laugh about the unintended formula of “empty From Empty”, but Root of Nightmares won because it was too good to pass up.
This time we wanted the name to sound mysterious and ominous, and this was definitely a winner. Some players may also have picked up hidden messages in Neomuna that hinted at who they might face in a boss battle, and we wanted to offset that with the raid name. If you know your Destiny lore, certain names immediately come to mind when you think of “nightmares.”
But if I had to pick a top 3 it would be: Root of Nightmares, Apprentice’s Vow, and Last Wish (from Destiny 2: Forsaken).
JM: The Deep Stone Crypt (from Destiny 2: Beyond Light) will always be special to me because of its simplicity. The name of the raid revealed everything about the activity and nothing at the same time. We knew it was most important for players to know where they were going, but we felt it was important to keep the player’s path a secret. This was the first name suggested during our discussion, and we didn’t think of other options because we knew it was the best choice.
Q: What goals does the team have in mind when they name a raid?
BF: Our goal is for the title to convey a sense of mystery, to evoke an adventure you can imagine your character going on, or a challenge to endure and overcome with your fireteam.
km: Naming a raid means finding the combination of words that truly conveys the essence of the activity. They are usually aimed at giving absolutely nothing and everything at the same time. It’s a challenging but fun challenge!
Q: What else does the Bungie team want players — new or returning to Destiny 2 — to know about how raids fit into the experience?
km: For me, Destiny raids are such a unique experience. You see a lot of different raids in MMOs, RPGs, and a mix of them, but to see it in an FPS, to me, is pretty cool. It’s a challenge for players willing to accept it, and the reward is cool stuff and more story. Wins everything around.
BF: As the pinnacle of cooperative activity, Destiny raids are designed to advance players’ stories. We set a high bar for coordination and skill in every raid. It’s very rewarding to achieve success that requires you to rely on your fireteam when victory seemed impossible in the beginning.
Q: How can Lightfall players best prepare for the Root of Nightmares raid?
BF: If you’re up for the challenge, the Legendary Campaign is a great way to acquire a set of gear that gives you the recommended raid power level. Another approach would be to partake in the fall of light and seasonal rituals that offer increased power.
JM: Do Neomuna actions to unlock your Strand shards because grappling and mobility are great ways to stay alive in every raid. Additionally, dungeons are a good opportunity to gear up and dive into more challenging endgame action without having to gather as many teammates.
km: Finding a great fireteam is essential to enjoying any Destiny 2 raid. If you don’t know five other players to raid with, don’t worry! You can use the Fireteams feature in the Destiny 2 mobile app to join an existing raid party or create your own from scratch.
Destiny 2: Lightfall is available now.