When Destiny launched in 2014, it was a commercial success, claiming the title of the World’s Best-Selling New Franchise Ever. But critically, the game garnered harsh reviews, being docked mainly for its bare bones, nearly incoherent story. Rumors have abounded since launch that Destiny’s story had been reworked very late in development. Now it appears those rumors were true, with the original narrative being completely thrown out in late 2013, having to be rewritten and Destiny itself being completely reshaped in the last year of development.
Multiple members of the Bungie development team, who remained anonymous, talked to Kotaku about what went on during this turbulent time in Destiny’s development. According to the article, in the summer of 2013, the story team at Bungie led by veteran writer Joe Staten showed a “supercut” of Destiny’s story, a two-hour video of cinematics showing the game’s major story beats. The leadership team at Bungie did not approve. Their decision? Toss out everything Staten and his team had done and start over. Staten left Bungie soon after.
Most of the lore remained, but the original plot was tossed out. Staten’s original story was a more linear affair, taking players on a hunt for the warmind Rasputin, who was kidnapped by the Hive. The journey would have involved meeting the Crow, a roguish hunter (a character not unlike what Cayde-6 became in the current expansion, The Taken King). The Crow would lead players to the character Osiris, who was the main guide for the rest of the game.
The Crow was the Awoken character seen in the Destiny reveal video from E3 2013. The character model was reused, as Destiny fans will recognize, as the Queen’s brother Prince Uldren. That’s not the only model that was reused, either; the original character model for Osiris became the Exo Stranger.
In the original plan for Destiny, the end of the game would send players to the Dreadnaught to rescue Rasputin who had inhabited the body of an Exo (seen in the concept art below). The Dreadnaught was cut completely from the original game and moved to The Taken King while Rasputin was completely rebooted.
That reuse of assets and restructuring is emblematic of Destiny‘s major changes over the last year of development. It was during this time that the main navigational interface known as the Director took shape. A small group of senior designers met together to figure out how to piece together the missions and content they had created over the past few years of development with a new non-linear plot.
For anyone who played the game at launch, this was quite obvious. Critics and fans complained of an incoherent story, and as it turns out that’s because it appears it was cobbled together in just a year to make some kind of passable sense. Gamers may be quick to get upset with Bungie that content was cut, moved, changed, and delayed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Bungie was malevolent in the situation.
Game development is not an easy undertaking and part of the process involves cutting and reworking sections to get the game in a shippable state. It appears that Destiny’s development was much messier than what was let on. Recently, Creative Director Luke Smith said even Bungie didn’t really understand what Destiny was, or could be, when it shipped. But the bright side is that Bungie seems to have now hit their stride with the game, understanding what players want, as The Taken King has improved upon the original Destiny in almost every way.
Would you have preferred the original plot of Destiny or the game that shipped?