Bungie has actually eliminated Cayde-6, Destiny’s wise-cracking chief Hunter character. It’s a psychological minute for fans of the video game. Cayde, voiced by Nathan Fillion, has actually been with Destiny gamers given that the very first video game came out in September 2014. Now, he’s dead, as exposed by a brand-new story trailer launched for upcoming growth Forsaken.
Why eliminate Cayde? That was my very first concern as I took a seat to speak with video game director Christopher Barrett and task lead Scott Taylor at E3 today. That and, is Cayde really dead, as in great and correct dead?
It turns out Cayde really is dead, good and correct. That’s what Barrett and Taylor told me, anyway, and they sounded serious. It’s all a part of Bungie’s drive to give Destiny 2 a darker tone after the series veered too far into jokey one-liner territory. And who’s Destiny’s jokey one-liner extraordinaire? Poor old Cayde.
At E3, I got the chance to play the first half of the story mission that leads into Cayde’s death. The Prison of Elders from Destiny 1 is in uproar, its inhabitants running riot after a mysterious figure triggered a jailbreak. You and Cayde leap into action in a desperate bid to plug the leak. Cayde is his normal, wise-cracking self, confidently commentating on his own killing spree. All the while you, the player, know he’s a dead exo walking. Bungie knows you know Cayde’s done for, too, which lends the level a whiff of melancholy. It’s nicely done.
The E3 story demo ends with an extended cutscene showing Cayde’s death at the hand of Uldren Sov, the Reef Queen’s brother who has been missing ever since the end of The Taken King. I won’t spoil exactly what happens here, but rest assured, Cayde has a laugh to the bitter end.
In this sweeping interview, Barrett and Taylor dive deep into Bungie’s decision-making for Forsaken, which they reckon is as transformative for Destiny 2 as The Taken King expansion was for Destiny 1. Indeed, there’s a lot riding on this expansion – Bungie’s hoping to win back lapsed Destiny fans with Forsaken, attracting those who sank hundreds of hours into the first game but bounced off the second. To that end, Forsaken lets you do things like revert to Destiny 1’s weapon slot system, and adds back in random weapon rolls. Then there’s Gambit, the brand new PvEvP mode that’s a lot of fun. Everything so far sounds pretty great. And if Bungie nails Forsaken, the expansion could mark a return to form for Destiny.
For Cayde, though, there’s no going back.
Mr first question is, why did you kill Cayde?
Christopher Barrett: We wanted to change the tone in Destiny. We wanted to take the game in a little bit more serious and darker direction. And, the theme of the expansion is about the lawless frontier. We wanted to go back to the Reef. We thought the Reef was a truly interesting story we could pick up from Destiny 1. What happened since The Taken King in the Reef? We wanted to make the Reef feel dangerous, like this lawless frontier that anything could happen in.
When we thought about all those themes, we thought about telling a revenge story. It’s interesting to set that tone. The best way to kick off a great revenge story is to have you be avenging someone you care about.
But why Cayde, specifically?
Scott Taylor: It was always Cayde. It had to be. It wasn’t one of those things where it was like we had a dart board. It was the exact opposite. We were talking about having that personal story where the stakes are really high, but they’re about you and your feelings and motivations. Not about the world ending, but maybe your world ending.
To do that, it had to be something meaningful and it had to be something iconic and it had to be bold. I think it had to be Cayde.
Once we centred on that, it became central to the whole game. We built out from those early ideas about loss and revenge and a western atmosphere, lawless frontier and this horrible thing happening. It was always Cayde and it was always that idea.
So you planned this a while ago?
Scott Taylor: It’s been a while.
Fans had datamined Destiny and found sound files referencing Cayde’s death some time ago.
Scott Taylor: Well, that was not this, but it’s been something we’ve been thinking about for a while.
Did you see someone on the Destiny subreddit worked it out before it was announced?
Christopher Barrett: We were like, who told?!
Scott Taylor: My instant reaction was, this is great because I could tell it wasn’t a leak. I could tell it was someone actually looking at all of the things we’d been putting out and putting something together that made a lot of sense. Even when they’re looking at the first art and Cayde’s looking at light, when you look at it now, it’s not subtle from that perspective. But they were picking those things up and putting them together. There’s a bunch of things there that are not necessarily right, but they got that central kick off moment. That was pretty exciting. The thing for us was, can we have this moment where everyone is going to get this revelation at the same time, so we’re pretty happy about that.
So you deliberately inserted hints of Cayde’s death into the game?
Scott Taylor: That artwork had to be iconic for the game. It needed to speak to the theme and the story we were going to tell.
Christopher Barrett: The narrative team, when we know a release that’s coming out, we love putting those little hints into weapon descriptions.
Scott Taylor: That was on purpose.
Christopher Barrett: It’s probably a mix of things that were intentional and unintentional.
Scott Taylor: Things like Uldren’s ship in the Warmind, all that stuff was on purpose.
So, is Cayde really dead, or is he dead like in a superhero movie?
Scott Taylor: No, he’s definitely dead.
This is about Prison of Elders. Is Variks in the story?
Scott Taylor: Variks has a role to play. It’s probably not what you expect.
Why is the Queen’s brother such a dick?
Scott Taylor: He doesn’t think of himself that way.
Christopher Barrett: This was our first real antagonist who is relatable, like humanoid. So, someone who can actually speak to you with motives you can kind of understand. We’re really excited to play with that.
But also, he believes he’s doing the right thing. He’s just doing it the wrong way, from our perspective. He believes he’s doing something noble, something worth doing. That’ll unfold over the story.
Scott Taylor: And you’re going to learn where he’s been.
What about the Queen? Does she turn up at any point?
Scott Taylor: I don’t want to get involved in the affairs of this family, because when you do, you see what happens! I don’t know what’s going on with her. I don’t want to talk out of school about anything having to do with the Sovs.
Christopher Barrett: You’re going back to the Reef, learning the backstory about the awoken. The Dreaming City itself is a place that’s super important to the awoken. So, there’s a ton of really interesting stories that will unfold about the Reef and the awoken and that backstory.
Cayde-6 means he’s rebooted six times…
Scott Taylor: He’s still dead.
So we’re not going to see a Cayde-7?
Scott Taylor: Cayde is dead. Cayde-6 is dead.
Christopher Barrett: Cayde is dead. We’re not trying to trick you. That is the motive of the game. The second mission isn’t Cayde-7 reboot. We’re not doing that.
So how come no-one’s shot my Ghost yet?
Scott Taylor: There’s a bunch of things you have to see about how this all happens in the game. The thing you looked at was how we wanted to announce it to the world. You’re going to get a sense of how this happens.
Why did you want to take Destiny 2 to a darker tone?
Christopher Barrett: For me, the world of Destiny is a place I want to go play. Millions of people are playing the game. You want that world to matter. You want the place to feel like it matters and is cool and interesting and full of depth. When the tone gets too comical, or there’s too many jokes, it almost feels like the world doesn’t matter anymore or you shouldn’t take it seriously. We felt there was too much of that, there were too many one-liners. We’ve certainly heard that from the community.
The promise of the Destiny world is this mix of mystery and strangeness and deeper lore and sometimes humour, but also there’s strange gods from other worlds and evil tomb ships. The world is full of all of these interesting mysteries. So we wanted to make sure we skewed the balance toward some of that, so it felt like mystery and strangeness and the world you were discovering had all of that weight to it, so the world really matters. We wanted to shift the pendulum a little more that way.
There will be stories in the future that maybe are not as dark as Forsaken, but we want to make sure we have all of that in the world of Destiny.
Cayde with a chicken on his head doesn’t necessarily fit within that description.
Scott Taylor: All those things people are going to look at in a different light now. You play with Cayde. Cayde is in the game. And we’re doing some things with non-linear storytelling, which is a totally new thing for us. In the shipping game you’ll see some time jumping. The fact that when you’re playing with Cayde, even though he’s being funny and joking, there’s going to be some melancholy to that. That’s really interesting. So, you’re going to replay the campaign or look at the chicken on the head, now there are different flavours we can go for. That’s really fun.
That then sets us up to go maybe hard humour and then bring us back. Having all of these different types of stories in different moments is something we think can be a very Destiny thing to do.
Based on what you have announced about the season pass for the game, we shouldn’t expect more story beyond Forsaken for Destiny 2 from that season pass specifically, such as cutscene-heavy stuff, character stuff, that sort of thing?
Christopher Barrett: There will be more story. Story is important to Destiny and every release we have will have story related to it, it’s just we want to focus more on stuff players really want, like endgame activities. Things that were really successful that are replayable. Escalation Protocol is an example. We want to put more of those kind of things in the game versus stories that you play through once and will never play again.
Part of the goal with the annual pass is delivering more stuff more often to players, and more loot, weapons, gear and endgame activities. That kind of stuff. That’s where we’re focusing. But story is important. Even Escalation Protocol has a story to it. It has theme, it has lore. It’s related to Rasputin. So, we will continue to always have some story with those kind of experiences.
The tease at the end of the Destiny 2 campaign showed the pyramid ships, which finally look like they’re on their way. The suggestion is we won’t get the pyramid payoff with the annual pass. But will we get that payoff at some point from you?
Christopher Barrett: The thing I will say is, if you look back at that cinematic, the Traveller awakens, the light touches Mercury, Mars, then it touches the Reef, and then… additional things happen. So…
Now Cayde is dead, do Hunters get a replacement Hunter Vanguard character? Or are Hunters now rudderless?
Scott Taylor: Cayde is gone and there is not instantly a new Vanguard.
Christopher Barrett: That is an interesting story to explore. What happens with the Vanguard? How do they react? How do Ikora and Zavala take Cayde’s death? That will unfold as part of the story.
Scott Taylor: They were friends with him, too. It’s not just us as the player. They’ve been with him forever. They’re going to experience this loss in a different way.
I get the impression you’re targeting core Destiny 2 players with Forsaken, after Destiny 2 vanilla attempted to branch the game out. Is that a fair assessment?
Scott Taylor: One of the mantras we’ve had in the studio over the last year is to reinforce the hobby of Destiny. That means we’ve been making decisions focused on people who love Destiny and want to play more Destiny. I don’t personally categorise those people as hardcore or whatever. Let’s create a game that, if you love Destiny and love killing monsters and love playing against Guardians or love playing Gambit, there’s always stuff to do. That’s the goal – to make a game that can be approachable from all these different places.
Say I’m a lapsed Destiny fan – and I know there are many lapsed Destiny fans out there – what is it about the expansion that will convince me to get back into the game?
Scott Taylor: There’s a whole suite of systems we’re adding on top of what we think is a fun yet intense and serious story. We’re adding collections into the game. You’ll be able to look at all the loot you’ve acquired like a trophy rack, and also see how to acquire things you haven’t got yet. We’re adding triumphs and in-game lore. So, if you want that kind of pursuit you can pick, like, hey, I want to go kill four invaders in Gambit, I’m going to work towards doing that. We’re adding random rolls into the game. So, if you want that god roll in Gambit and you want that rocket launcher that’s like the best rocket launcher in Gambit, you can go play a lot of Gambit. We’re adding bounties back in over the summer, then we’re really blowing them out in Forsaken. We’re adding two new destinations. There’s so much! There are new supers!
Christopher Barrett: It’s totally subjective, but I feel like this is the – at least for me, and I’ve worked on a bunch of expansions – this is the biggest and best expansion we’ve released. I think it’s going to be awesome. So, I think it’s a really great time to come back in.
And we’re also going to make it really easy. So, if you want to come back, we’re going to have a boost. So, if they want to jump in and play with their friends, play Gambit or start with the Forsaken campaign immediately, they will be able to do that.
Scott Taylor: We think it’s as transformative as The Taken King was for Destiny 1. We feel like this is going to be a really fun and special moment for Destiny fans. For people who are either lapsed or have been checking it out from the sidelines: Gambit, new campaign, tone change, all these new systems – we’re pretty excited about getting a bunch of new Destiny players.
One of those changes you mentioned I’d love to dig deeper on is the return of random rolls on legendary gear. I’m conflicted on this one. I found myself spending a lot of time re-rolling weapons on the hunt for the god roll. I then realised I wasn’t sure I was having fun just constantly re-rolling a weapon to try to get a god roll, certainly compared to being out in the world and doing activities. But equally, there was something about it that was compelling as someone who is a fan of getting the best gear. It would be great to get an insight into how you balance those two feelings and then settled on the decision to go back to it.
Christopher Barrett: You’ve definitely hit on it. I will say it is something that was pretty universally from the feedback we’ve been hearing from players, that’s something they really missed and wanted back. When we had the community summit a couple of months ago, we had a bunch of players come out and 39 of the 40 players said they wanted random rolls back. This is something they universally wanted back, so it was something we couldn’t ignore.
But finding the right balance between, like, how do we make it feel like every time you get a Better Devils, or another weapon, that you’re excited about that chance, or that you have more things in the game to try and earn and collect and try and get that perfect thing? We want to find that balance where it’s not this thing where you don’t feel your loadout is good unless you have the perfect roll. So, finding that balance where it’s more about customisation of how you like to play and getting the correct roll, that’s something the sandbox team is passionate about finding that balance. We’ll go more into how that system is going to work as we go through the summer and talk about specifics.
We feel the same way. How do you make a weapon have personality and really matter if it has all of these variables and can have a bunch of different perks? We want to find a way to make that work, and hopefully evolve the system to be better.
So it won’t work exactly as it did before?
Christopher Barrett: There’s some adjustments and we’re making some changes.
You can now have any weapon in any slot?
Scott Taylor: Not quite. No rockets in the primary. No grenade launchers in the primary or secondary. But, shotguns, fusion rifles and snipers can all be in the primary and secondary slot as well. And occasionally in the heavy slot as well.
Christopher Barrett: The heavy slot is for swords, rocket launchers and grenade launchers and occasional shotguns – the really powerful or exotic shotguns are still in the heavy slot. But then, if you want to run two shotguns or two pistols, or you can have all three.
We’re also really excited because if you liked how Destiny 1 played, like, if you liked running a primary sniper or shotgun and then a heavy, you can do that in the new system. If you like the Destiny 2 system or running two primary weapons and a heavy, you can do that, too. We feel like it gives the gamer the most flexibility. We’re really excited to see what loadouts players start using.
Like three shotguns in Crucible?
Christopher Barrett: If you run three shotguns, two will take green ammo. That’s much rarer. You’ll be running around starving for ammo.
You’ve announced players can use the new weapon slot system to make Destiny 2 work like Destiny 1. You’ve added 6v6 Crucible to Destiny 2 after it launched with 4v4. Has there been a concerted effort to make Destiny 2 like Destiny 1 to try to win back the Destiny 1 crowd that bounced off of Destiny 2?
Christopher Barrett: It wasn’t about necessarily going back to Destiny 1. There were potentially more options. If you look at Crucible, there were more options for players. We thought bringing back more modes, having things there that allowed players to play how they wanted to play was where we wanted to move forward. So you’ll see things that existed in Destiny 1 returning, however it’s at the goal of continuing to evolve Destiny 2 in the best way we can. Take the things that did work in Destiny 1 that we’ve learned since then and try and evolve Destiny 2 to feature the best of that stuff.
Scott Taylor: The way a lot of us have been phrasing it is specifically not going like, hey, we’ve got to bring it back to Destiny 1, but talking about bringing depth back into the video game. How can we add layers here to make it so there’s a bunch of different things you can pursue at once, and that you were making active choices to do that. Personally, I feel smart when I pick a bounty that aligns with the strike playlist that aligns with another thing. You just feel smart. There’s some different depth to that. Some of those things are going to be from Destiny 1. Some of those things are going to be Destiny 2 base things we’re keeping. And some of those things are going to be entirely brand-new, like Gambit. Like, no-one was asking for Gambit. But we constantly want to innovate as well as take a look at feedback. If we’re simply doing one or the other we’re going to be in a bad place. So, doing both was crucial to us.