The wait to see what Bungie would busy themselves with in the coming years has ended, having finally announced the setting and premise of Destiny. But despite the unveiling, the studio is playing their cards close to their chest; they’re not exactly new to this game, after all.
With an open world as big as any on the market, a blend of always-on multiplayer interaction and cinematic campaign, and a story that remains a mystery to all but the developers, Bungie’s Joe Staten helps fans get an idea of what to expect from Destiny. Since the console that will likely make the most of Destiny‘s potential have yet to be released (despite the studio’s optimism for current systems), it’s no surprise to hear the the game is one its developers feel will change gaming forever.
In an interview with X360Magazine, Staten explains that even though the development team is now playing Destiny on a daily basis, it was a long trek to get this far. The shooting mechanics and loot tables are simple enough to hone and refine on their own, but bringing them all together is a complicated process – not to mention a difficult one to explain to those not a part of it. But so far, the time seems to be paying off:
“It’s been in the last six months that we’ve taken these things, that have been up and running separately, and got them all working in concert. During that time when [Destiny] was in bits and pieces, I think it was challenging for us to explain to Activision, even people on our team, what the game is going to be.
“We can talk about it, we could have you read words, and walk through it in animated storyboards and sequences and say ‘this is what it’s going to feel like’. But it was all a little bit on paper, it wasn’t in your hands and playable. So, it’s been a challenge to describe what exactly it is. The important thing to remember about [Destiny] is that first and foremost it’s a Bungie game and those are the games we make and love…A Bungie shooter, but it has all these other great, great things added to it, which we think really think makes it a revolutionary experience in the shooter space.”
We generally advocate developers with as strong a track record as Bungie stick to what they know best. But that doesn’t mean that their fans will be thrilled if Destiny turns out to be a shooter following too closely in Halo‘s footsteps. Rather than resting on tradition and proven formulas, Staten explains that their next project all centers on challenging their own assumptions about first-person shooters, and the capacity for games to tell stories unlike anything else.
Not just for Destiny players, but for all shooters that may be created for the next generation:
“Certainly, we could make standard shooters, we’ve done that and know how to do it, it’s a genre that we love, but we wanted to look into the future and think hard about what’s the future of action games? Are they going to continue to be largely solitary, linear narratives that feel a lot like a Hollywood blockbuster or are they going to be something different?
“What can we do that makes them better and enriches the experience? And we thought a lot about our co-op history. Bungie games have always been highly co-operative if you want it and we wanted to really expand that…It makes you think of shooters in a totally new way. We wanted to push, not just what we’re good at, but what we think the genre can become, too.”
A revolutionary shooter that adapts to player choice doesn’t mean Destiny won’t feature plenty of cinematic cutscenes or narrative arcs carried through the entire game. Bungie has already spoken at length about their plans to infuse co-op with as much of a cinematic feeling as their standard Halo singleplayer campaigns, so fans of their brand of storytelling need not worry.
Exactly what type of story the last remnants of humanity will be caught up in isn’t yet known, but Bungie has promised that the experience will continue over the next ten years. Claims like those will get role-playing fans chomping at the bit – with a decade of character customization and investment putting even BioWare to shame – but Staten isn’t prepared to confirm or deny that character persistence will last from beginning to end.
Yet despite his dodgy responses, it seems that is precisely what the studio intends:
“For as long as that world exists you can be that person, we really want it to be in a situation that, yeah, the decisions that you make early on in the game, they matter and they stick with you and you really grow your character over time. That’s extremely important to us…You know it’s really important when you’re in a social shared world to have an identity that people recognize, that people can remember.
“And not just for your friends, but for the people you meet out in the world. ‘Oh, that’s that Hunter with that crazy cloak and that amazing spaceship. Is that a holographic sight on his sniper rifle, that’s crazy, where did he find that stuff? Who is that guy? I’ve seen him before, I’ve matched with him in public places, I see him in the city sometimes.’ You really are going to be identified by the choices you make, so it’s really important that your character sticks around for a long time.”
We’re still waiting to hear exactly how Bungie will bring something new to the already well-established hubs and zones of standard MMOs, but there’s no question that fans of extensive customization will have plenty at their disposal. With a memorable selection of races and character classes already detailed, Bungie seems to be giving an extension of their previous universes along with an entirely new fantasy/sci-fi slant.
Recent years have made customization a given in multiplayer shooters, including the Halo series. With such a strong pedigree in the online multiplayer space, does the studio have a strategy for revolutionizing that aspect of their game as well?
“We’re not talking about that part of Destiny yet, but you should assume that it’s a Bungie game and we love competitive multiplayer, if you love that then you’ll love Destiny, too.”
Competitive multiplayer will absolutely be present in Destiny, but how the developers will work it into the larger game world and social interactions is obviously not up for discussion, so expect more details at this year’s E3.
For now, let us know what you think about Bungie’s aspirations and likelihood of success. Will this be the MMO that finally convinces you to spend endless hours in an RPG, or will you wait to see how the shooting mechanics stack up? Will the sprawling singleplayer campaign with endless varieties of alien enemies be what draw you in, or the chance to work with friends online?
Destiny is without a launch date, but expected to release on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 (so far). Read the full interview here.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.