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Delving Into Bungie's Vision

William Murphy Posted:
Interviews 0

MMORPG: The demo we saw at E3 hosted the first gameplay for Destiny. What was it like finally showing gameplay? Were there some parts you were worried about when premiering the game in front of the world?

Eric Osborne: We excessively worried about all the parts! Putting gameplay out there for the first time was definitely equal parts exciting and terrifying, but when we made the decision to do it live on Sony’s stage, in front of millions of players, with not just one, but seven players, we knew we were in for a challenge. There’s just something so unique and electrifying about premiering something live for the first time. If there’s anything in gaming that could be likened to walking a tight rope without a net, a live demo would be it.

We hope fans liked the show. We’re all really exciting to be a part of this project. As a studio, it’s our first new universe in over a decade, and the vision we’re shooting for is something we don’t think anyone has ever attempted before. We really want to change the way people play shooters together. That’s a tall order, but it’s that kind of ambition that drives us to set the bar so high that the fall will kill us.

MMORPG: Destiny has a huge open world to rove about. How important is it to put players in that sandbox and allow them to change things over time? It’s not really worth it if things always stay the same, right?

Eric Osborne: With Destiny, we want to deliver everything that players expect from the very best action games, and some of those elements demand to be rooted in a familiar foundation. We’ll deliver a wonderful, cinematic story with a memorable cast of characters for players who love great narrative to immerse themselves in. But, yeah, we’re going to weave it into a large, living world with destinations worthy of exploration that can grow and change over time. We can add to Destiny’s dynamic nature with content like ongoing story chapters, but we can and will also focus on activities in much the same way we always had in Halo’s competitive multiplayer. The big difference, of course, is that we can deliver that promise for every type of player, no matter what mood they’re in, extending that sense of newness across story, cooperative and competitive multiplayer, character progression, customization, and rewards, and even the world itself. Once again, it’s a super lofty goal we’ve set out to achieve, but one that we believe is the natural progression of the genre.

MMORPG: We saw plenty of combat in the demo set against an amazing landscape of Old Russia. Will there be aspects of the game that allow players to explore and view the world you built? Instead of just having to battle all the time? Stop and smell the roses, as it were?

Eric Osborne: Behind closed doors with the press, one of the first things we did was head left off the beaten path, up and over the rusted line of derelict cars, to take in a picturesque view of a small lake and surrounding brush and stone and trees. We did that for a couple of reasons. First, we wanted to stop and show off more details of our new graphics technology: water with real-time reflections on the surface, caustics, and deformation; blades of grass that blow in the wind, and bend beneath player footfalls; player gear, customization, and cloth simulation to name a few.

Second, because we wanted to demonstrate a very important principle of our world-building approach. We want the destinations in Destiny to feel like places you visit. As the intensity of action ebbs and flows – and it will – we want them to draw players in with mysteries to solve and rewards to earn for exploration and inquisitiveness. That reward might be a treasure chest, a spectacular vista, or a small piece of deep story told through the environment.

There will be roses, just not where you might expect them.

MMORPG: At one point in the presentation the screen changed to a third person view, albeit briefly. Is that something we can expect to see in the game more often?  Can we choose to be in third-person, or is it only during the “space magic” skill uses and other cinematic parts?

Eric Osborne: The majority of combat happens in first-person. Destiny is a great first-person shooter, but we are certainly taking a lot of the things that sing for us from the RPG genre, like character creation and personalization. We believe players are really going to enjoy the deep customization offered in Destiny, so we do want to provide a lot of opportunities for people to see and show off their builds.

In the demo, that happened primarily when players used some of the more powerful abilities, like the Warlock’s Nova Bomb, which breaks the camera out for a dramatic third-person view. We’re also building fully third-person social spaces, like the Tower, that we haven’t dug too deeply into just yet – places for commerce and camaraderie that provide players the perfect opportunity to put on their finest armor and gear, and strut.

MMORPG: The artwork and story on the game are truly captivating. For those who aren’t familiar, can you give an overview of the story?

Eric Osborne: Players take on the role of a Guardian of the last safe city on Earth. It’s all that remains from our lost Golden Age, when our civilization spanned the entire Solar System. A mysterious sphere, known only as The Traveler hovers over the city, protecting society. You are taking this mantle at the dawn of a new era. As growing hordes of enemies swarm around us, we are finally rising strong enough to return to our lost worlds, explore our remains, meet our enemies face to face, and discover the lost wonders of our past.

MMORPG: And how will the tale progress over time?  Early videos had the team mentioning a ten-year long epic.  Do you know where the story’s headed, or will it be up to the players and their actions?

Eric Osborne: Our writing team, led by Joseph Staten, has been working on the story arcs for Destiny for years. The luxury of time gives us an unprecedented opportunity to build and plan for the future. That said, game writing demands a level of flexibility that most other creative mediums don’t. Destiny is a sweeping, cinematic story with a phenomenal beginning, middle, and end, but as you mentioned, the most incredible thing about interactive entertainment, we believe, is that players can construct their own story moments.

We’re not speaking about “Choose Your Own Adventure” style storytelling, but rather the sandbox and social aspects of the game. We’re going to build big, beautiful worlds. We’re going to fill it with great stories that take players on sweeping adventures filled with great action moments, but we’re going to fill it with your friends. We never want to lose sight of the fact that the players are our most important actors. In a lot of ways, once we invite them into the world, it becomes as much theirs as ours.

MMORPG: How much does loot factor into Destiny? Some of the weapons we saw in the demo were insane, like the wolf-headed bazooka… but when can I get my own lion-headed bazooka? I want one with lions, call me picky.

Eric Osborne: I’m not sure if we’ve built a rocket launcher featuring lions just yet, but if I put a bug in Tom Doyle’s ear (he’s our hard surface artist, owner of the best leather jacket at Bungie, and our resident gunsmith), you never know what might happen. He’s a mad man. I bet you’re referring to Gjallarhorn, though. Gjallarhorn is one of Destiny’s exotic weapons, and it defining visual characteristic is the gilded wolf heads decorating the frame.

Like all our weapons, armor, and gear, it can also be customized for combat. Just about all of your gear in Destiny can be personalized, tweaked, or upgraded in some way. We want to give players the opportunity to tailor their weapons and gear to their style of play, and provide them with storytelling channels that speak volumes about what kind of persona they want to put out there to other players in the world. So, when someone finally walks out of a Raid alive and drops into competitive multiplayer with their spoils, other savvy players will instantly recognize the accomplishment.

MMORPG: And every weapon levels up and has its own skill-tree?  Or is that reserved for the rarer weapons only?  Can you explain that system at all?

Eric Osborne: Every weapon, piece of armor, and other pieces of gear can be upgraded via a skill tree. The more advanced and rare items will often feature more elaborate and unique trees, while basic, lower level items might be more straightforward. We’ll have a lot more to say about these systems as we get closer to launch. We’re at pre-alpha, we play every day, and we’re iterating and tweaking every aspect of our loot system to make certain it’s satisfying for new players and seasoned vets years on.

MMORPG: A lot of the “space magic” skills seemed out there.  How many will players have to choose from, and are they all class-specific?  Do they level up alongside weapons?

Eric Osborne: The super abilities we showed off in the E3 demo are class-specific, and they can be upgraded. We’re not slapping a hard and fast number on skills, abilities, and weapons today, but we are definitely looking to provide players with a wealth of valuable choices, both aesthetic and combat-affecting, that allow them to build unique characters with abilities tailored to their preferred combat roles.

MMORPG: Peter Dinklage is voicing the AI companion “Ghost”… besides that being awesome, what sorts of things will Ghost do for the player?  Can they fight alongside them if they’re solo?

Eric Osborne: The Ghost plays a central role in the story, and within our gameplay sandbox. Every Guardian is given a Ghost. You’ll essentially take it with you wherever you go. At E3, for example, it helped the player illuminate a dark, open space, and became a lighted beacon when Player 2’s Hunter fell in combat and needed to be revived.

MMORPG: Can you tell us a bit about the Fireteams and the Public Event system?  How does that work, exactly?  Are players notified when there’s one going on nearby, or…?

Eric Osborne: Fireteams are small groups that players opt into in order to stay tethered as they move through different activities in Destiny. Throughout the game, you’ll encounter public spaces where you’ll cross paths with other players, and other Fireteams, going about their own business. Within these crossroad areas there are dynamic events that offer players the option to engage in a variety of challenging cooperative experiences. Each player and Fireteam chooses to engage in these events, or not. They’re not mandated. 

If you do join in, as we showed at E3, it’s a chance to fight alongside people you may have never expected to meet, working together toward a shared objective or taking down a common enemy, after which everyone is rewarded with their own private rewards. There’s no loading or lobbies when you’re in these areas. These events just happen automatically on-the-fly. Our goal is to make all the technology driving the experiences in the Public Space disappear. It’s something we’ve worked hard to develop and we’re really excited to let players experience it for themselves. 


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.