luke smith planetdestiny podcast

Luke Smith Interview (PD Podcast #38)

Published on: Oct 3, 2015 @ 20:19

Luke Smith, Bungie’s Creative Director for Destiny: The Taken King, joined us for our official PlanetDestiny podcast this week!

Downloadstream on iTunes/PlayerFM, or watch it on YT.

If you can’t watch the whole thing, this article will share a few highlights from the interview that give us some insight into the early days, The Taken King’s design process, and Bungie’s future!

Luke takes his work very seriously and he’s dedicated to his craft. You can find our brief recap below, but it doesn’t cover everything, so stream/download the podcast now!



Luke talked to us about the decision to not include a raid with the House of Wolves expansion. He knows that the community might not like this, but raids are not always guaranteed. During the events of House of Wolves, the team was already working on Taken King and King’s Fall. With King’s Fall, Smith wanted to elevate The Taken King’s story, allowing players to take their existing narrative from the improved storyline and create an epic conclusion.

“Glass Throne”

Smith describes his experience in helping create the Vault of Glass, or the “Glass Throne” as it was called in the very beginning. He chose to focus on the concept of descent, designing the raid around that idea. He also tasked his team with creating the Gorgon’s Maze first, because he wanted to make an interesting encounter that didn’t involve guns. One of his biggest goals was to have slower transition periods; players could talk to each other and bond, and he feels that King’s Fall also captures these instances – at least when you’re not dying.

Smith feels that the jump into the Gorgon’s Maze was one of the pivotal points of development. He wanted players to stop before jumping, confused about where to go next until a player finally made that leap of faith. He also cites the Jumping Puzzle as a controversial concept in development, and his love for Megaman games drove him to implement the platforming into the raid. He also cites Double Dragon as an influence for the final jumping puzzle in King’s Fall.

Smith also delves into Crota’s End and describes how and why the pacing differed so much from the Vault of Glass in that raid. From a design perspective, Smith reminds us that the raids stand on their own with independent themes and personalities. Bungie wants the raids to feel different, keeping the great ‘raid feel’ and they take note of the key elements that people enjoy from every raid.

When “raids” were just a rumor, Luke and his small team kept it a secret from most people. Access to the raid content in Destiny was on a “need-to-know” basis in Bungie’s studio. When he could finally reveal what he and his team was working on, his colleagues looked at him like he was crazy. He showed a video of the door to the Vault of Glass opening to a group of employees and challenged them to find out how to open it. Not everyone is a raider at Bungie, and for some, that was their first ‘raid’ experience.

New Strikes

With the new strikes, Bungie is hoping to prepare players for the raiding experience by adding more teamwork mechanics. However, he doesn’t guarantee that the mechanics in the strikes will always mirror those in the raid, because for that to be the case, the raids have to be done before the strikes, which isn’t always the class.

Better Incentives

Smith commented that Bungie is trying to address players quitting strikes, looking at specific strikes to find places to make changes. They intend to make changes to help the common player, incentivizing players to stay in strikes and not leave others to solo.

Right now, it looks like Bungie won’t be bringing forward Vanilla strikes. Currently, they are faced with the choice of updating strikes or working on more, and they feel the latter is a better use of time. Finding ways to improve the matchmaking experience is on their radar, but currently there are no tangible ideas to reveal.

Now that The Taken King has been released, Bungie is working on more new content.

DLC vs Expansion

Bungie views The Taken King as a major expansion rather than a $20 DLC. As an expansion, the whole game was revamped from all angles, whereas in DLCs, Bungie will look to provide more content and patch things up towards the goal of keeping the game fresh. There’s only so much time in the year for Bungie to make major updates. So they’ll add smaller updates, among the major updates, to make the world feel alive and changing.


He knows the idea can be unpopular, but thinks that some rewards should be incredibly hard to obtain, even if it means that certain players don’t get them.

Smith states that he knew what he was doing with the Three of Coins. The team wanted to make more loot available for players, they just didn’t anticipate for a few farming methods – he says it’s not an exploit.

Regarding raid loot drops, he likes the idea of Moldering Shards, but he realizes that players can be deceived as to how the loot system works and think that the shards are useless.

He clarifies that you are not supposed to have a guaranteed weapon as a drop for your first time defeating Oryx, although he mentions that there may be a bug involved that has tainted player’s perceptions of the system. Smith says that the King’s Fall raid weapons are designed to have very specific uses, mainly centered around the Cocoon perk. He also doesn’t want raid primaries to completely overshadow other primaries. Just as well, he views weapon Reforging as something that hurts Destiny.


Regarding Legendary Marks, Bungie wanted to make Marks important again and give players tough choices as to what to purchase. The same concept goes for Motes of Light, giving players options to use them for experience, give them to factions or stockpile them for infusion.


Addressing PvP, events are the key focus for keeping Crucible lively. He’s excited for Trials of Osiris to come back, and he views it as the most intense, emotional PvP competition that Bungie has made, including his experience in Halo. He also notes that because you can design your character so specifically in Destiny, it’s hard to convince people that it can be competitive.

Smith has no comment on private Crucible matches, but he emphasizes that he wants the competitive scene to be more popular. He views Trials of Osiris as an activity that is very fun to watch on Twitch, and he wants to find more things that are as interesting. Regarding Rift, he talks about how players can grow in ways other than just being able to win gunfights and be more valuable to their team.