Finally here is a link to the actual IGN article for the interview and the text of the interview below. If you can go to IGN, I'd recommend doing so because they have videos available that I've not posted yet to this thread. I've posted the text of the interview for those who may be reading this behind a firewall.
DESTINY: THE ENDGAME IS ONLY THE BEGINNING – IGN FIRST
BY RYAN MCCAFFREY
Raids should keep you busy for quite some time. The Destiny you play after 20 hours is likely to be very different than the Destiny you play up until then, if Bungie’s Luke Smith has any say in the matter (spoiler: he does).
“I think Destiny's endgame begins as soon as you see the way the story ends,” Smith begins. “As soon as you see the way we wrap up the sort of first piece of the adventure that we're going to tell because we want to set you back out into the world to keep going. We want to try to align your motivations as the player with the motivations of the character who you've been pushing around this world. So for us I think a bunch of the endgame starts right at level 20.”
A big part of this is raids. Though Bungie has been careful to distance itself from traditional MMO terminology such as instances and raids, the nomenclature is very much applicable to the upcoming “shared-world shooter.” Story quests are like instances for you and your fireteam, while raids – something Bungie hasn’t spoken much about until now – are one of Destiny’s most intriguing and mysterious elements. According to Smith, raids are, in fact, “one of the pillars of the game.”
Raids are “extremely crafted,” six-player, friends-only gauntlet runs that might best be described as gut-checks. Yes, they will be difficult, and they will absolutely require communication and cooperation. That’s why Bungie isn’t supporting matchmaking for them; the developers don’t want them to be played by disparate groups of strangers. But Smith is quick to point out that they’re not like Strikes – the instanced dungeon-like runs that might take a mere 20-60 minutes – but more like MMO raids in that you’re going to want to buckle up and get comfortable for a couple hours.
“The activity is going to take you and your group of five buddies into a place that you’ve never been,” Smith explains. “A place that you will return to frequently. And [it will] demand of you things you’ve never even really been asked to do in a shooter before.”
This brings with it a number of unique challenges, chief among them being, How do you do this in a shooter and make it fun? Smith has been pondering the same question.
“Often times in MMO raiding – of which I have done a fair bit of,” he begins, “You end up battling against the UI. You're battling against your add-ons. You're battling against clicking. It's not kinetic; it's not an action game.”
He continues: “How do we make something that leverages all of the feelings of the raiding that we understand from a game like Warcraft or EverQuest: cooperation, relying on each other, teamwork, and how do you marry that with a game where you jump, shoot, have abilities, supers, grenades that you activate? How do we bring those things together, and then, on top of all that, create an activity where everyone in the activity has a job, they have a role?”
And then, Smith added ominously, “It's getting people together and getting them into a group and making your way down to the Vault of Glass and seeing what's at the bottom of it – if you can get that far.”
That’s not to say raids will be impossible, but this is Bungie, after all – a studio famous for challenging fans with the Legendary difficulty setting in its Halo games: “One of the things we have never talked about – we haven't really talked about raiding at all,” Smith starts. “One of the things we certainly haven't talked about is that [raids aren’t] an activity that we expect you to get through the first time through.
“Unlike a bunch of the other activities in Destiny, where you begin the activity – like let's say you pick the level-22 Strike playlist – everything in that activity is going to be level 22. It's going to be consistent. If you're level 26, you're going to have some relationship to it. You're going to be more powerful than that activity. In a raid, when the raid begins at level 25, it's not where it ends. Like part of going the raid is the journey of gearing up; building your arsenal to react to the situations that it's going to ask you to go through.”
In other words, you’re going to suffer. But it’s going to be a fun kind of suffering that makes for a better water-cooler moment with your friends later. And that will be partly fueled by the mystery involved. ““We don't adhere to any of the standard rules for the rest of the game,” Smith says. “Like, raids don't have waypoints, they don't tell you where to go, they don't tell you what to do.”
But what is it about raids that separates them from the rest of the game? Smith is quick with an answer:
“I think the E3 experience video [Ed. Note: See above] had the narrator talking about the hardest thing we've ever built and we showed a jumping puzzle. Like, the hardest thing we've ever built is a jumping puzzle? The jumping puzzle is just one part but it's this interesting representation of the philosophy behind a bunch of the raiding which is taking something simple, something that you've done, you understand, and then asking six of you to do it together. In a nutshell, that's some of the philosophy that was driving raid design as we were building the first raid in Destiny.”
Surely something this epic and involved has to have an ultimate showdown, right? A boss? “Obviously we're going to have big cool bosses,” Smith reveals. “I think that we've given people a taste in Strikes of what the bosses are and what they can do. The raid bosses are different: they're still big monsters, much like what you're going to see, they're still scary, but they have a bunch of abilities that are unlike anything you've really experienced in a shooter before. And I don't say that to be a douchebag and I don't say it because it's a cool bullet point, I say it because when we were building this thing there was nothing that any of us could go home to play to try and learn from. I mean we were – as we were going – building and learning and failing along the way to find cool mechanics and occasionally we'd succeed.”
Raids are far from the only post-campaign high-level activity at your disposal, however. While Bungie confirms there will be no “New Game Plus” mode, you will be given reasons to want to come back on a regular basis. “A lot of what's going to drive you is going to be logging in every day, seeing what's in that featured activities pane on your director, and then going into the Tower to get your bounties for the day,” Smith says.
“Bounties are this opportunity for you to create a parallel progression for what you're doing for a day: It's like allowing you to optimize, people love that; I mean I love that. I mean that's the thing that we do every night when a couple of us pretty much play every night from six until embarrassing o'clock. And we're like, the first thing we do is log in, grab the bounties, synchronize what we're going to do, and then either head off to play explorer, and then we tip over the daily activities, and if we haven't done it, we'll knock out the weekly Nightfall activity and get our guys rolling. And then, like, I do that on all three of my characters.”
Asked what a Nightfall activity is, Smith explains: “Nightfall activities come in two flavors: daily and weekly. They have extremely exotic rewards.”
“We want to have activities that occupy the range of challenge for you,” Smith says, changing gears slightly. “So if you're a fresh level 20 you can play the Nightfall daily activity at level 22 and it's going to be hard. It's going to be challenging. But you can get through it, maybe. Maybe if you have some friends. The weekly Nightfall activity is something that pushes all the way out as far as the leveling allows you to go in Destiny. So it ends up occupying at the far end of the spectrum: this extremely high gameplay investment challenge. Like it's both the toughest guys we can throw at you that's going to require the best gear, and it's going to have a bunch of modifiers on it that make it even harder.”
Back to the smorgasbord of endgame content. “After level 20 there are a bunch of Strikes that become available to you,” Smith adds. “So the first thing that you're going to jump into is probably Strikes and PvP. In Strikes and PvP you're going to be accumulating reputation with the Vanguard, and also currency. And you use that currency potentially to buy legendary gear, faster Sparrows, so it's this one axis.” We can also look forward to a daily story chapter, Smith adds.
Still, it’s clear that raids are what are nearest and dearest to Smith’s heart when it comes to Destiny’s post-campaign content. But even he acknowledges that they might not please all players. “Raids are a really big bet for us,” he explains. “It's a bit of a risk. Because the activity requires you to have a group of five other friends to play with.”
Of course, Bungie employed this same tactic with Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight mode, and the lack of matchmaking certainly didn’t derail the gametype’s popularity. Smith is pragmatic with regards to his optimism: “Like, if the worst thing that happens is you get your group together and you all have a great time, and make your way through the first difficulty level of the raid? Wow, that's going to be awesome. I bet you'll want to come back. Hopefully the gear makes you want to come back.”