Bungie's Destiny: A Land of Hope and Dreams

Discussion in 'Articles' started by XPG Darkside, Feb 17, 2013.

Bungie's Destiny: A Land of Hope and Dreams

XPG Darkside Feb 17, 2013

  1. XPG Darkside

    XPG Darkside Eating cake.... XPG Retired Staff
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    You know Bungie is serious about its first public steps in post-Halo life when Jason Jones – the studio co-founder and Halo mastermind who’s notoriously media-shy – is on hand to introduce the 360-person studio’s new always-online first-person shooter franchise for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and “future-generation technology” – a not-so-subtle nod to the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4.

    “Destiny is our next great shooter in a totally new world,” he said confidently, displaying none of the public-speaking fears you’d expect from a man who hasn’t given an interview to a games media reporter in over a decade. “By the end I hope you’ll agree that it’s a little crazy.”


    “We did a bunch of ambitious things on Halo deliberately to reach out to people,” Jones continued. “We made the game run without a mouse and keyboard, and now nobody plays [first-person shooters] the old way anymore because they don’t want to.

    “[So] how do we take this genre that we love so much and turn it on its head?”

    Destiny’s answer is to offer a quasi-massively multiplayer sci-fi experience (they call it a “shared world shooter”) that is fully playable by yourself, but designed to seamlessly connect you with friends. “We built this game from the ground up to be social and cooperative,” Jones reinforced. Is Destiny an MMOFPS? Sort of. Is there a subscription fee? No, emphasized Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg. Does it require an Internet connection in order to play? Yes.

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    Bungie boils down Destiny’s basics to seven key pillars – an unsurprising number if you’re at all familiar with the company’s cheeky obsession with the famously lucky digit – claiming that “every piece of code and every piece of art must justify these pillars or they get thrown out.”


    Pillar #1: A World Players Want to Be In

    “This pillar really influenced us early in development,” Jones said, noting that Destiny has already been a six-year odyssey for him, while the rest of Bungie started to get in on the action in 2009 and jumped fully onboard after Halo: Reach shipped in September of 2010. “Is this world cool? Do I want to stay here? Do I want to learn more about it?”

    That world is a post-apocalyptic earth. Humanity has been nearly wiped out, but saved by the extraterrestrial protection of The Traveler, a gigantic white globe that now floats claustrophobically close above the planet’s last safe city – a place where humanity’s greatest minds have come together.

    Over time, humans have regained their technological mojo and again taken to exploring the stars of our own galaxy: Mars, Venus, the Moon, etc. Except now various forms of alien life seek to stamp out humanity once and for all, and it’s up to you as a Guardian to help stop them and keep earth safe.

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    Not much is known about the Black Garden...

    Though Destiny’s actual plot is likened to a series of novels that will each house self-contained stories over the course of the franchise’s planned decade-long lifecycle, Bungie narrative director Joseph Staten noted, “One lesson that’s critical is that the most important stories we tell aren’t going to be told by us. They’re going to be told by players – their personal legends built from shared adventures.”

    Pillar #2: A Bunch of Fun Things to Do

    Staten proceeded to tell a story about a possible gameplay scenario in Destiny, in which Staten’s Warlock class character and Jones’s Vanguard (Staten explained that every Guardian wields some of the Traveler’s power: “You can call it magic, I guess.”) head off on an adventure together.

    You’re at the Tower, a reinforced monolith that serves as your home. Here you can socialize, gear up, or group up and then aim for the stars – literally. Many other players mill about. Some you may know, some you may not. Some are making plans for adventure, but others may simply be watching the sunset – a worthwhile endeavor thanks to the spectacle of Destiny’s new engine, which pairs real-time dynamic lighting with global illumination for some truly spectacular vistas (one of the few things I actually did get to see with my own eyes).

    Jones is a higher-level player, and as such has better gear, including an impressive sleek, black spaceship that makes Staten’s smaller, simpler vessel look like, in his own joking words, a “Space Corolla.” Ships will serve various purposes. Only a Scout class was specifically mentioned, though it was implied that space combat will factor into Destiny as well.

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    Mars' Exclusion Zone is controlled by the Cabal.

    Whooshing to Mars, the pair finds “the bones of a lost human civilization.” It’s “an ancient city,” Staten detailed. “Buried in sand. The precious remains of a golden age.” Here to prevent you from reaching any of the literal gold that’s rumored to lie beneath the ruins of the Dust Palace are the Sand Eaters, a group of massive, armored rhino-esque creatures known as the Cabal.

    A shootout soon turns ugly for Staten’s Warlock and Jones’s Vanguard. Fortunately, a mysterious female player – rocking a Hunter class – speeds in on the very Ghost-like Pike vehicle and helps turn the tide thanks to her unique weapon, dubbed “The Fate of All Fools.” The battle was won thanks to invisible, behind-the-scenes matchmaking that linked the players – think of it as the next evolutionary phase of Bungie’s groundbreaking hopper technology that served as the online backbone for every Halo game starting with 2.

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    Earth's moon is broken. Check out the tectonic action!

    “Every time you run into another player, it’s amazing,” Staten exclaimed. “It just doesn’t happen in other shooters.”
    The two of them are now three, and the trio plumbs the depths of the Dust Palace, reaches Charlemagne’s Vault, and Staten scores a new pistol. Like the Huntress’s sidearm, it too has a custom name: “Thorn,” a fitting description for a 45-caliber hand cannon. With this outing complete, the Hunter leaves just as quickly and quietly as she arrived. If this sound a bit reminiscent of IGN’s 2012 Game of the Year Award-winning Journey in that regard, you’re not alone.

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    The Hunter class of Guardian lies in wait as a few different foes pass.

    “And just like that,” Staten explained. “The Dust Palace becomes part of my story. The breadth and depth of Destiny’s world encourages me to find my own adventures.
    “It’s a place where I can leave my mark.”


    Pillar #3: Rewards Players Care About

    Jones explained how the game will have “a lot of great things to earn, find, and make,” reiterating that “everything you do in Destiny earns rewards.” Besides unique weapons, every piece of your kit will be your own, from your helmet to your cape to your armor pieces to your face. Their goal, he said, is to keep players coming back “day after day, week after week, month after month, [and] year after year.”


    Pillar #4: A New Experience Every Night

    “Imagine you could spend an hour and accomplish something,” Jones mused. Bungie aims to have emergent activity, where “you get distracted from doing the thing you meant to do when you logged on.” Furthermore, Jones expressed hope that “every time you sit down to play Destiny you have a different experience than last time.”

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    All we know about the Vex is that they're time-traveling robots.

    The word “raids” – a term MMORPG fans know well – was used at one point during the presentation, suggesting large group scenarios as well as solo and smaller-party endeavors. Bungie says they’ll have “an activity for every mood.”
    As an extension of this pillar’s concept, Destiny will have no main menu. Instead, it just lives and you’re always in it when you boot the game up.


    Pillar #5: Shared With Other People

    Though all of the Bungie representatives on hand made sure to emphasize that there’s plenty of fun to be had in Destiny by yourself, they made repeated efforts to nudge my thinking in a more socially minded direction.

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    You'll have at least three classes of Guardians to choose from: Hunter, Warlock, and Titan (left to right).

    “Everything that’s fun to do is more fun to do with your friends,” Jones mused. Naturally, of course, there will also be a fully featured competitive multiplayer mode, though neither Jones nor anyone else from Bungie was willing to offer even a hint about any details just yet. Well, other than the fact that you won’t be forced to engage in player-vs.-player combat unless you explicitly desire to.


    Pillar #6: Enjoyable By All Skill Levels

    He also made a point to emphasize that Destiny seeks to appease everyone from shooter neophytes to hardcore FPS players. “All core activities can be enjoyed by a novice player,” Jones promised. That, he intimated, is not hard. “What’s hard is keeping it interesting for your advanced players.”

    Pillar #7: Enjoyable by the Impatient and Distracted

    Destiny is alive whether you’re in it or not. But you’re busy can’t live there 24/7. To that end, a Destiny mobile phone app – shown as a prerecorded iOS demo this time – illustrated how the game could send you updates about new quests and what your friends are up to. Bungie also teased that you may be able to use the mobile connection to affect your friends’ games, but declined to provide any additional details.

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    This image is interestingly titled "Hellmouth." Can't imagine why...

    Within the game proper, Jones said they know that players “don’t want to work hard, they don’t want to read, and they don’t’ want to go to the Internet to figure out our bullpoop.” In other words, they understand that what they’re making is escapist entertainment.
    “This has led us to a huge investment in [user interface],” Jones explained. Clearly, Bungie has a story to tell and information to convey, but they don’t want to bog you down with any of it.

    Bungie and a Beatle

    Though seven pillars were given, I’d argue that an eighth is in order: Incredible music. Veteran Bungie music director and composer Marty O’Donnell – yes, he of the Flintstones Vitamins jingle and the legendary chanting-monks Halo theme – is already hard at work scoring Destiny.

    A full 50 minutes of soundtrack material is already in the can, recorded with a 106-piece orchestra in London at Abbey Road Studios. Oh, and some other material conjured up by O’Donnell, his longtime music writing partner Mike Salvatore, and rock god Paul McCartney.

    I heard several samples and it’s clear that O’Donnell is not only at the top of his game, he has no restrictions either, with pieces clocking in “as long as they need to be.” Most pieces, he said, are between five and seven minutes each, far beyond the 1-3-minute tracks he’s always had to adhere to in order to fit Bungie’s games.

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    Bad guys live here. That's all we know.

    I had to ask: can you even say no to Paul McCartney if you don’t like something he’s done? “I’ve never said no to Paul McCartney,” O’Donnell laughed. “[But] I can take a motive or theme” amidst some other stuff he might not deem appropriate for Destiny “and work with it.”

    For Beatles fans, O’Donnell also told an amusing anecdote about McCartney digging out the sound machine he used on the Beatles’ Revolver album and using it to do sounds for Destiny. “That is just so cool,” O’Donnell beamed.

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    Dibs on that spider-like tank vehicle back there!

    Though Bungie unfortunately wouldn’t yet provide any score samples for me to share with you, I can relay that some pieces had distinct echoes of Halo, complete with understated chanting voices. Others, though, were decidedly non-Master Chief. All, though, could easily be mistaken for something out of a big-budget Hollywood drama film.

    But does Destiny have a theme we’ll remember forever, a la Halo’s chanting monks? If not, does O’Donnell want to write one? “We haven’t released something yet that says, ‘And here’s the theme’,” O’Donnell said. “[But] there are a lot of themes in this music and one might organically become the theme that we hook everything onto.”

    What Else?

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    Talk about "dead space"...

    Bungie art director Christopher Barrett dubbed Destiny a “mythic science fiction” universe and shared a number of locales we can look forward to visiting: the Cosmodome Breach, the ruins on the edge of the European Dead Zone, the swamps of Old Chicago (likely a nod to Bungie’s original home city), derelict fleets floating in the rings of Saturn, the earth Moon’s Hellmouth, the uncharted depths of Reef, giant obsidian pyramid ships, mile-long tomb ships, and much more.

    Then there are the characters we’ll be encountering: fellow Guardians in at least the Titan, Warlock, and Hunter classes; the Fallen, the time-traveling robots known as the Vex, the aforementioned Cabal, Spider Pirates and their rusted machines, evil space zombies, the FOTC (apparently a Guardian faction of some kind) and...that's everything they'd cough up for now.

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    Say "Halo" to my Ghost-like vehicle...

    Building all of this, of course, has been quite the undertaking. “We’ve created more concept art for this game than all of our previous games put together,” he claimed.

    Talk About a Dream, Try to Make it Real

    At the end of my day at Bungie, that’s what Destiny’s unveiling was all about: concepts. I was shown next to zero gameplay footage – perhaps a cumulative total of 60 seconds of in-engine materials (for the record, what was screened was damned impressive from a technological perspective – including a haunting base on the surface of the moon and a few beauty shots of Guardians overlooking the Traveler’s city), and instead the vibe seemed to be more along the lines of, “We’re Bungie. Trust us. We’ve got this.” Bold proclamations were made and my imagination for what Destiny could become instantly began running wild.

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    Your Guardian character derives magic-like abilities from the globe-like Traveler.

    In truth, Bungie’s confidence in its new endeavor is warranted, given what it accomplished with Halo. Still, the team did seemingly direct one nugget of caution at itself before the day was done: “We need to earn a big audience,” Staten said. “What [we] did before doesn’t matter.” He’s right. But what they do from here, if it all works as dreamed up, could redefine everything for the next era of action games. We hope it does, because the first-person shooter future Bungie imagines is one we want to live in.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 17, 2013

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