The Witch Queen enlargement, Future 2’s newest chapter, is the fruits of an strategy to the sport’s story that developer Bungie has been honing for a while. Between the enlargement and Future 2’s latest seasonal choices, the sport’s storytelling is the very best it is ever been. However the seven-year historical past of Future and Future 2 additionally has its share of storytelling failures–and Bungie wanted these failures to get up to now, the studio says.
Prior to now, Future 2 has seen its sprawling narrative of immortal heroes preventing god-like aliens divided into discrete chapters and largely unrelated chunks. The Witch Queen, nonetheless, is one thing else–a conclusion of threads the developer has weaved all through the sport for years, and a narrative that was constructed up by developments in seasonal content material episodes which have been coming to the sport since Fall 2020.
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Now getting into its fifth yr, the present Future 2 story feels strikingly totally different from what was on supply only one enlargement earlier. 12 months 4’s seasons have been thematically linked, spinning tales that checked out distinct facets and characters within the sport world, however which have been all finally items of a puzzle that was constructing towards The Witch Queen. Its story looks like one which’s solely doable as a live-service sport or MMO, the place the sport world adjustments and evolves over time, and the story evolves together with it.
That wasn’t all the time the case, although, and regardless of having huge, fascinating, and well-written lore choices inside and out of doors the sport, narrative was lengthy one of many Future sequence’ weakest components. The development within the sequence’ storytelling has are available increments over time–notably with The Taken King enlargement within the authentic Future, which introduced extra lore to the forefront; with Future 2’s Forsaken enlargement, which put a giant deal with characters’ ideas and emotions by telling a revenge story; and with the shift to seasonal storytelling, which introduced unfolding, week-to-week narratives to the sport. Probably the most dramatic enchancment has come within the final yr, with seasonal tales that have been persistently sturdy and an enlargement in Past Gentle that centered on ideological conflicts as a lot as navy ones.
“It took time for Future to grasp what Future wanted to be, after which it took time to make Future what we knew it wanted to be,” Guillaume Colomb, senior narrative lead at Bungie, stated in a latest roundtable interview attended by GameSpot and different shops. “At first, the sport was pulling in numerous instructions and I feel the workforce of their coronary heart knew what it wanted to be, however there weren’t a number of different video games on the market that have been related, so it simply took time to get there. And I feel that is why Future is so distinctive and particular, as a result of it isn’t like we will have that concept and make the sport immediately. It took seven years, as a result of it takes seven years to do one thing that good–because we needed to fail a number of instances to grasp what was the best method to do issues.”
In keeping with Colomb, what Future 2 gamers are seeing now could be the picture Bungie builders had of their heads once they initially conceived the sport almost a decade in the past. There have been successes alongside the best way, he stated, and people helped Bungie chart a course in what was largely an unexplored format for telling tales in a online game.
There’s additionally extra happening than Future 2’s builders and writers attempting totally different storytelling approaches, as The Witch Queen challenge lead Blake Battle defined. The story, as with all facets of Future, is refined by developer intention, in addition to suggestions from the participant neighborhood.
“I positively do not suppose the story of Future [as a game] is a best-laid plan, I feel it is a story of an ongoing relationship with our gamers and that is been one of many key parts of a reside sport,” he stated. “Beginning method again from D1, we have continued to answer suggestions and see the sport that gamers need it to be.”
There are different components which might be working in Bungie’s favor, as properly. The studio has discovered higher methods to inform Future 2’s story over time, particularly with its episodic seasonal strategy. These enable the writers to inform extra private tales to the sport’s characters, specializing in a couple of at a time. Narrative director Adam Grantham additionally stated that setting an finish date for Future 2’s present story–Bungie has introduced two extra expansions for the sport, Lightfall and The Ultimate Form–has allowed the studio to be very deliberate about the place the story is headed. A part of what makes The Witch Queen really feel impactful and essential to the general Future 2 narrative is that Bungie has been in a position to arrange the eventual confrontation with Savathun over the course of greater than a yr.
Bungie has been engaged on growing Savathun’s story for about 18 months, Grantham stated, and that diploma of planning supplied a number of alternatives to put the enlargement’s groundwork within the sport earlier than it really launched. However one other essential facet of The Witch Queen’s story, which is considerably totally different from what Bungie has finished up to now, is its capability to drag from story components that have been beforehand reserved for lore and convey them to the forefront. The Witch Queen’s marketing campaign closely references the origins of the Hive, that are lore components that have been launched way back to The Taken King in 2015, however largely existed in elective textual content gamers needed to search out and browse. The story marketing campaign makes these components a part of the principle narrative, enlarging the universe for gamers who aren’t acquainted with the lore and drawing connections to the current story for individuals who are. That is a giant a part of what made The Witch Queen’s story significant for long-time gamers, Battle stated.
“We’re lucky sufficient to be in a time in Future proper now the place we’re in a position to reap a number of what’s been sewn over the course of seven years,” Grantham stated.
Pulling these lore threads has made the world of Future 2 really feel somewhat extra cohesive, however whereas setup for Savathun goes all the best way again to The Taken King, and tidbits that may turn into related have been peppered all through Future 2’s vanilla launch, it doesn’t suggest that lore was written with a future enlargement in thoughts.
“Future being a reside sport, we all the time have to consider feeding the lore, and we do not essentially create new lore considering, ‘Oh, that factor in three years, that’ll turn into a giant launch,'” Colomb stated. “We would hope that it is a fairly good piece of lore, I hope we will use it, and typically we predict that and we’re flawed. And typically there’s one thing that does not really feel as essential on the time, however immediately takes on a number of relevance with the discharge we’re engaged on as a theme that matches that. So we’re all the time wanting into lore that now we have, and we all the time attempt to create new lore and feed it in a method that expands the universe and that different folks perhaps, sooner or later, can seize for tales.”
Grantham likened Bungie’s strategy to Future 2 to a quote from novelist George R. R. Martin, who stated he considered writers as falling into two camps: gardeners and designers. Gardeners plant concepts and see what turns into of them; architects assemble their tales in line with extra inflexible specs. For Future, either side are true–The Witch Queen was an architected story, arrange by season after season of tales that lastly culminated within the enlargement. But it surely was additionally the product of seeds planted years earlier that turned one thing the workforce may not have anticipated on the time.
And that is perhaps why it has taken Future 2’s story a lot time to actually come into its own–and why the end result has felt like nothing else in video video games. Each previous failure was a studying expertise, and the concepts from Future’s previous have served to feed its future.
“It takes time for us, additionally, to grasp the story we wish to inform, and the world of Future is a spot that we’re discovering, in a way–a little bit earlier than the gamers, however nonetheless, it isn’t like we perceive all the pieces,” Colomb stated. “We nonetheless uncover, and there’s a lot to find nonetheless.”