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Bungie’s Destiny 2 Story Team at San Diego Comic-Con

Destiny 2 Game Director Luke Smith took a panel chock full of the Destiny 2 story and cinematics leads, along with actor Lance Reddick, through the story of the epic sci-fi shooter coming on September 6 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and for PC on October 24.

By Kevin Kelly on July 24, 2017 Editorial Manager
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Destiny 2 Game Director Luke Smith and a panel chock full of the Destiny 2 story and cinematics leads talked about creating the story for the epic sci-fi shooter coming on September 6.

Just like Guardians go wherever they are needed, so also does Luke Smith appear when summoned by masses of fandom. At least, that’s how the legend goes. Bungie’s Destiny 2 Game Director Luke Smith and members of the story and cinematics teams appeared on a panel at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about the story being created for the game. Joining Luke on the panel were Design Lead Gavin Irby, Narrative Design Lead Guillaume Colomb, Senior Narrative Lead Jason Harris, Cinematic Lead Matthew Ward, and actor Lance Reddick, the voice of Commander Zavala.

While Luke is no stranger to speaking in front of audiences, he started this panel off by saying, “I was thinking about how tired I would be of hearing me talk by now, so I wanted to bring a bunch of friends with me this time to talk about the story in Destiny 2.


Luke asked each panel member how they found their way into working to video games, but Gavin Irby began his career in game development at a much younger age.  “I found this box of books that my mom kept, and it was full of these RPG booklets I had made when I was ten. They were RPGs based on cats and rats… it wasn’t until my 20s when I was working on game mods that I realized I wanted to do this as a job.“ Luke replied, “I think when I was ten I was still eating Play-Doh.” He went on to point out that “Destiny 2 is a story about loss and recovery. We knew we wanted to go to a bunch of different planets. And we wanted to construct a different kind of villain in Ghaul.” Gavin went into more detail about Ghaul, who is shaping up to be one of the most conflicted villains in gaming history. “For me it started with a passionate idea we had that we would create a villain that the players had a personal relationship with. We wanted Ghaul to have a reason to hate the Guardians and to hate the player as well. That meant we had to introduce the player to Ghaul very early.”

Guillaume expanded, “We wanted to talk about not just a bad guy who was evil, we wanted to talk about recovery as well. We wanted to talk about what people in this world care about, which is why we wanted to focus on the Light.” Luke stressed that the player and Ghaul are on the different sides of a conflict. “Ghaul takes the Light from the player, but it is something that he is interested in too. We didn’t want to just create a kind of mustache-twirling villain.” Instead, the team focused on creating a character who had a deeper, personal reason for playing the antagonist.

Guillaume added, “We knew we wanted to talk about the Light and why someone would want it. We realized that the Light was given by the Traveler, who is more or less a god, which is a sort of a validation that you are worthy. Ghaul doesn’t have that validation from the Traveler, and that’s what he wants. It was a difficult journey for us to get there story-wise, and it took many hours to realize that.”

“The Traveler has immense god-like power, and it chose mankind to give that to,” Gavin explained. “I imagine that Ghaul must be extremely angry about that. He must think there is some huge injustice in the world, or he thinks that the Traveler made a mistake. Or does humanity somehow hold sway over the Traveler? Ghaul sees this as a noble quest to free the Traveler.” Guillaume said, “Ghaul thinks he is doing the right thing. He thinks he is there to save the Traveler.”


That became such a large part of Ghaul’s storyline, that it changed his visual design. Luke pointed out that “Once we realized what his motivation is, we had to go back and change his look entirely.” To which Gavin added “The thing that really spoke to me was when Ghaul’s Guardian armor began to take shape. His armor looks much more like a Guardian’s now.” Luke chimed in “He’s like a Super-Titan. He just doesn’t have enough cloth to be a Warlock.”


At this point Jason Harris and Matthew Ward joined the panel, telling us their own stories of entering the world of video games through studying and working in theater (Jason) and from the world of Hollywood and film (Matthew). They talked about the cinematics in the game, which Jason calls “Lighthouse Moments” in the game. “We use these to shine a light on our characters to illuminate important moments.” Jason added, “We use them to be able to spend more time with the Vanguard, and to show things down and focus on the story.”

The team built the campaign around the idea that the struggles of not being chosen, for Ghaul, and the struggle with losing the Light for the main characters. Matthew added, “This is the biggest low that Ghaul has ever suffered, losing the Traveler” to which Jason pointed out, “And we were able to influence the campaign and the missions themselves” through what they were doing with the cinematics. Gavin added that the main story is about how the characters deal with losing the Light, and also what it means to be chosen, both for them and for Ghaul. “They had a relationship that they took for granted, and we called that into question.”


The final member of the panel to come onstage was Lance Reddick, the actor who provides the iconic voice of Commander Zavala. Everyone on the panel heaped praise on Lance and how easy he is to work with. Reddick himself called the story of Destiny 2 “Shakespearean,” which is high praise indeed given his acting background.

It is very clear that Lance enjoys working on the project, having portrayed Zavala for many years now, and he plays the game regularly as well. In fact, the biggest bombshell of the panel may have been the revelation that Lance himself actually plays a Warlock. But he does bounce back and forth between a Warlock and a Titan. “Sorry, Hunters,” he said to the playful gasps of the audience.

On that note, the panel came to a close, and we’ll look to bring you more Destiny 2 news in the weeks ahead as we count down to launch!

For more information about Destiny 2, be sure to check out and follow @DestinyTheGame and @Bungie on Twitter.


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