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How The Intricate, Secret-Packed Destiny 2 Collector's Editions Are Made

Destiny 2's collector's editions are some of the most interesting in the business, providing fans with real-world versions of in-game items, expanding story, and hiding mysteries.


Lots of games are released with collector's editions, but few are as involved as those that accompany Destiny 2 expansions. The universe of Bungie's shooter MMO is incredibly dense and has seen reams of lore and tons of secrets come and go over its 10-year history. With its collector's editions, Bungie translates a lot of the experience of uncovering Destiny's story and unlocking its secrets into physical objects. A Destiny 2 collector's edition doesn't just come with a statue of some real-world version of an in-game object you can put on your desk--it's also usually full of lore, mysteries, and puzzles that offer extra rewards and a deeper understanding of the game world.

With the collector's edition for The Final Shape, the next big Destiny 2 expansion and the culmination of the last 10 years of its story, Bungie looked forward at what's coming in the story--the final confrontation with the Witness, the story's ultimate villain, inside the ever-present god-like robot, the Traveler. But it also looked backward to the original Destiny and how far players have come. The package includes items that fit both themes. There's the Entelechy lore book, a compilation of pieces of information about the Witness compiled by Eido, an Eliksni scribe who was a big part of one of the seasonal stories last year. And there's an autograph book signed by and full of well-wishes from various in-game characters, some of whom have only appeared in deep-cut lore entries.

The Final Shape marks the culmination of the 10-year story arc that began with the release of Destiny in 2024.
The Final Shape marks the culmination of the 10-year story arc that began with the release of Destiny in 2024.

The centerpiece of The Final Shape Collector's Edition is a replica of the first Destiny's social space, the Tower, which is a real-life version of a replica statue seen in-game in the office of Commander Zavala. It also features three small figurines that represent the three leaders of the Vanguard: Zavala, Ikora Rey, and Cayde-6.

The Final Shape Collector's Edition, as with the others Bungie has designed, is a collaboration between several different teams, as Bungie Consumer Products director Katie Lennox explained in an email interview with GameSpot. The Consumer Products team takes the lead and consults with developers from other disciplines, including the creative, narrative, game design, and marketing teams, she said. A number of the people from those teams responded via email to GameSpot's questions about how collector's editions come to be.

"Each collector's edition must be grounded in the release's overarching narrative storyline," Lennox explained. "Because of our product development timelines, this means we are engaging with the development teams very early in their processes to understand the creative and narrative goals of the game content and to identify unique and compelling opportunities for collectibles that we think would delight our fans."

Collector's editions are major undertakings, she said, and can take more than a year to complete. Because of the long lead time, the Consumer Products team is always working on at least one.

"The process for any product, including a collector's edition, starts with the game," said Alex Dixon, senior manager of Product Development. "For some products, our team already knows the character or in-game content that we're basing it off of really well. Other products might be based off new, unreleased content. Regardless, we always revisit our digital world and get in the weeds with the digital assets and the greater narrative surrounding them to make sure that we are keeping every detail in mind for the final product.

The Final Shape Collector's Edition
The Final Shape Collector's Edition

"Next, we think about the medium we're translating this digital item to. Some items are a more direct translation, like realistic statues; for others, like plush, a design has to be adapted to the type of product. The materials, colors, and manufacturing techniques all play a part in helping the product feel as accurate as possible to the in-game version. Finally, we sample the product based off the design we've created, tweaking and adjusting where needed to get to a final product the team is proud of."

The biggest part of The Final Shape Collector's Edition is its Tower replica, which is more than just an ornament for a desk or a shelf. Switch it on, and it lights up and plays sounds that issued from the public address system while you were hanging out there in the game.

The Tower is one of a few items Bungie has produced that uses near-field communication (NFC) to hide extra secrets. Placing the figurines on top of the Tower, alone or in different combinations, while it's switched to "scanning mode" causes it to play voice lines from the original game.

The NFC capability also hides a fun mystery. When you open the collector's edition box, you're only presented with two figurines, even though the package was marketed with three. Placing the Zavala figurine in a specific spot on the Tower opens up a hidden compartment to reveal the Cayde-6 figurine.

The Hive Ghost replica and Psychometer included in the Witch Queen Collector's Edition
The Hive Ghost replica and Psychometer included in the Witch Queen Collector's Edition

NFC was also a major part of The Witch Queen Collector's Edition, which included both a replica of a Hive Ghost from within the game, and an object called a Psychometer that was designed to read the resonance of certain items. Tuning the Psychometer while certain collector's edition items were placed on top of it would produce different sounds, which gave story hints about the expansion. It gave the sense of uncovering secrets in the same way that characters used to conduct their investigation in the expansion.

"Our team has really enjoyed playing with NFC and working this technology into special interactions between items that ship in the contents of a collector's edition," Hausermann said. "We are always trying to figure out interesting ways to delight our players and include some secrets to solve or bring something exciting and new to the product."

A chance to tell stories

Something that elevates Destiny 2 collector's editions beyond those of other games is the way they add to the overall story told in the game and lore. Most of them have included their own dedicated, printed lore books, with stories that build on whatever's happening in the expansion with which they're paired. The lore book that came with the Shadowkeep Collector's Edition dealt heavily with a strange alien artifact that had been discovered on the moon in Destiny 2's distant past, for example. The Beyond Light Collector's Edition included a journal penned by Clovis Bray, a character who previously appeared heavily in the lore and who was central to the expansion's new location, Europa.

Eido, the Eliksni Scribe of House Light, is a central character in the story of The Final Shape Collector's Edition.
Eido, the Eliksni Scribe of House Light, is a central character in the story of The Final Shape Collector's Edition.

For The Final Shape, Bungie used the collector's edition to fill in some backstory about the Witness. Its lore book, "Entelechy," was created specifically for the collector's edition, narrative designer Lynne Qiu said, rather than being something repurposed from elsewhere in Destiny 2.

"The creative brief was to write a series of entries looking at the Witness's backstory and motivations, along with a vague suggestion that it might be written by Eido," Qiui said. "While we had a locked-down concept of what the Witness was and how it came to be, I had a lot of freedom to explore what came before, and how its past affects its present. Nothing critical will ever be exclusive to a collector's edition lore book to avoid locking players out of important story beats. So, while reading the collector's edition lore book may offer deeper insight and personal stories, it's supplemental reading, rather than required!"

There's also something of a concern about including spoilers in the story told in these packages, senior narrative designer Hannah Filipski said. While The Final Shape doesn't release until June 4, the collector's editions are already in players' hands, and it's usually the case that many will receive the packages well before they have a chance to actually play the game and encounter the story naturally.

While the collector's editions don't include any story that's drastically important for players to understand what's happening in the game, they do provide opportunities for Bungie to dig deeper into some of the deeper ideas and themes at play in the story in lore.

Eido's research in the collector's edition provides new details about the backstory of the Witness.
Eido's research in the collector's edition provides new details about the backstory of the Witness.

"I think there's always more stories that we want to tell than could possibly fit in any one place, and the collector's editions are a great place for in-depth explorations of really deeply philosophical stuff," narrative designer Johannah O'Halloran added.

Memory lane

While The Final Shape Collector's Edition adds to The Final Shape by providing a better understanding of the Witness as a character, much of the package is more nostalgic, with a focus on the original Destiny and the familiar locations players have spent time in over the last 10 years. In addition to the Tower replica, there's the autograph book, which features personal messages from several Destiny 2 characters. There are also coupons for the Tower's iconic spicy ramen restaurant, a place players pass by frequently and the location of several story moments in the lore, and even a few Polaroid photos Eido snapped while searching for information about the Witness.

The decision to look back at Destiny 2 wasn't a matter of worrying about spoiling what was to come, Filipski said, but of getting across the feeling that the upcoming mission has incredibly high stakes for everyone players have met in the game.

"The more powerful driver to lean towards nostalgia was that the Vanguard had no idea what was going to happen once they went through the portal [into the Traveler]," Filipski said. "It's fair to say that this is the kind of mission someone goes into expecting they won't come back from it. While developing the collector's edition, we focused on how the people of The Last City and of Sol would express their appreciation for those going on the most dangerous mission with the absolute highest of stakes. We wanted players to feel immersed while reading through the autograph book, seeing Eido's bad selfie, flipping through ramen tickets and other ephemera--to feel how everyday citizens see their Guardian's heroic acts. It's something we don't often get to explore in the game but appealed to the Narrative team in a deeply personal way."

Eido's message to players and her Polaroid selfie found in The Final Shape Collector's Edition autograph book.
Eido's message to players and her Polaroid selfie found in The Final Shape Collector's Edition autograph book.

Destiny 2 collector's editions always have what feels like a personal link to its characters. Often, they include messages "written" by key figures for an expansion--The Final Shape's kicks off with a letter written by Eido, and past expansions have included personal messages and journals from series mainstays like Ikora and Eris Morn.

The autograph book in The Final Shape's physical package takes that feeling a step further. To capture the feeling that Eido was wandering around the Tower, talking to important people, Bungie delved pretty deep into the lore. Characters who have only ever appeared in the text of lore books or in weapon descriptions are present within it, helping to give a sense of the breadth of Destiny 2's world, even if many of these characters have never appeared on screen. As to how the team chose which characters would appear in the autograph book, O'Halloran said the process encompassed both early plans from the team and some ideas that popped up as the book was being conceived.

"From the beginning we wanted to pull from a wide range of character sources, and we wanted there to be fun little surprises--people you might not expect to hear from, or who might only have been in one or two lore tabs, alongside fan favorites that we knew for sure would be welcomed," O'Halloran said. "The first thing I did after I understood the scope was run to the rest of the team asking for a wishlist of unusual characters they would want to hear from, and it was a really broad list! That's something I love about Destiny, that there's something interesting in our lore for everyone. Even the characters who haven't shown up much have some dedicated fans out there somewhere.

"Once I had a list of characters who might appear in the book, I came up with ways they might run into Eido. (And double-checked with our historian to make sure I wasn't resurrecting anyone by accident!) As I was going through the list and writing out messages, even more possibilities came up organically--sparked by design conversations with team members--or ways that characters might interact."

Making the game world feel real

A smudged autograph message penned by Mithrax, an alien character in Destiny 2.
A smudged autograph message penned by Mithrax, an alien character in Destiny 2.

The autograph book, however, goes even further to make Destiny 2 lore characters feel realistic, and their relationship with the player somewhat more personal. It's not just a series of text messages that characters have left behind; it's made to look as though each character actually signed the book. It includes visual elements that imagine what the characters' handwriting might look like or what flourishes they might have left on the page. In the case of non-human characters, there are other elements left behind in the book, as well.

"I absolutely loved working on the lore and autograph books for this collector's edition because it really was this wonderfully collaborative process where one person's idea would inspire another person's and that person's ideas would spark something in someone else and so on," Consumer Products visual designer Jordan Dalgarn said. "It led to fun questions of, 'How would a member of Caiatl's mighty Cabal actually go about signing such a small book?' 'What does this character's handwriting look like?' 'What would so-and-so say here?'"

The book is supposed to be a sort of thank-you from the people of The Last City, who players work to protect as part of Destiny 2's story. As such, it includes a series of drawings of Guardians, ostensibly done by children who live there.

Dalgarn and Consumer Products development manager Chris Hausermann confirmed the drawings in The Final Shape Collector's Edition really were made by kids--the developers' kids, in fact.

A bunch of children's drawings included in the autograph book were made by the developers' kids over the last 10 years.
A bunch of children's drawings included in the autograph book were made by the developers' kids over the last 10 years.

"Yes, pretty much all of those kids' drawings were done by the children of Bungie employees," Hausermann said. "A couple of my son's drawings from elementary school are in there. Even the paw prints of my cat (Duchess Henrietta Pickypants) found their way into the book."

"It was just a ton of fun to collab over and it was also just so heartfelt every step of the way," Dalgarn continued. "The autograph book, in particular, is meant to inspire our Guardians on this epic journey into the unknown, so everything we put into this book had to come from the heart. I know everyone involved poured themselves into it; not only to narratively support and rally behind our Guardians as they prepare to face arguably their greatest foe, but also to celebrate and champion our community and our journey together with the players."

More than meets the eye

The autograph book is a fun visual element that calls back lots of Destiny 2's deep story elements, but it's more than just a cute nostalgia trip--like the Tower replica, it hides secrets of its own.

Secrets, in fact, are among the most compelling parts of a Destiny collector's edition, and they're often hidden behind puzzles players have to solve. Some of those puzzles are relatively minor and easy, and every collector's edition includes a few that hide redeemable codes for in-game emblems. Others are so complex, they require the cooperation of a huge part of the Destiny 2 community.

"The puzzles must be extensions of this rich world, its characters, factions, and secrets. With that in mind, we brainstorm various ways to tie these puzzles to objects that feel as though they fell right out of the game world and into our players' hands," Dalgarn explained.

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Puzzle mock-up drawings provided by Bungie.
Puzzle mock-up drawings provided by Bungie.

Engineering director Michael Williams works on Bungie's Central Technology team most of the time, but he has a "sideline" working on designing collector's edition puzzles.

"For emblem puzzles, we want them to be a fun discovery process that a single person could do or describe to a friend in a single sentence," Williams said. "We want these puzzles to feel as 'in-universe' as possible, so it's important to make them fit thematically, and even think about who might be embedding the codes. Puzzles related to Clovis Bray should feel different than something from Ikora.

"One extra challenge is that emblem codes are essentially random strings of numbers and letters, so fitting them naturally into the collector's edition content can be difficult. Early on, we chat about materials available, locations we could work puzzles in, and non-puzzle imagery the collector's edition might include. I take that and draft up four to five 'programmer art' versions of puzzles we could integrate, and the group talks through them. Then the team takes that art and makes it look incredible. In some cases, they take the ideas to amazing places--in the latest collector's edition, the artist turned an idea for a robot pawprint into an incredible maze. In at least one case, the team took my art as-is, because they felt it fit the feel of the character!"

Some collector's edition puzzles have gotten incredibly complex, however. For Shadowkeep, the collector's edition included a sort of puzzle box called a Cryptoglyph, which could be opened like a combination lock using clues hidden within the package. Inside was a piece of paper directing players to a website, where they could access a tiny sliver of an image. By all sharing the images they found, the Destiny 2 community was able to stitch those slivers together to reveal an entire additional lore book related to the expansion. Williams said that particular puzzle was one of his favorites.

Destiny 2 players used documents included in the Shadowkeep Collector's Edition to uncover the combination that opened the Cryptoglyph, but that was only the first step of the puzzle.
Destiny 2 players used documents included in the Shadowkeep Collector's Edition to uncover the combination that opened the Cryptoglyph, but that was only the first step of the puzzle.

"For more complex online puzzles, I try to think about how the community will participate," Williams said. "I like to think about it as a giant jigsaw puzzle, where everyone has a piece to provide, even if they don't know how to assemble it. Our community is brilliant, and you can give them almost any near-impossible challenge and they will solve it."

"We put a lot of work and love into the lore book and the autograph book to help convey that connection between the characters of the game and the player," said Dalgarn. "Smudges and intentional little imperfections in a character's handwriting all lend to that and help us deliver these puzzles in such a way that aims to pull the player into the game without them ever needing to fire up their console or PC. We always want the puzzles to be challenging but rewarding, so we do what we can to deliver visual clues or hints to help guide players without outright giving them the answers."

In a lot of ways, Destiny and Destiny 2's collector's editions have grown with the game as Bungie has dialed in exactly what Destiny is. They weren't always quite so involved or complex, but as the game has grown to encompass deeper stories, more fleshed-out characters, and greater mysteries, so have the physical packages evolved to follow suit. The collector's editions have changed to bring more life to the game, in many cases physically manifesting things that have only existed on the screens and imaginations of players and developers.

"There's something magical about holding something that you've experienced only digitally for a long time," Dixon said. "The Consumer Products team has a very fun job, but we take it seriously. We want our players to feel that all of our products authentically express the digital world and characters that they have come to love."

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