Examining Destiny – Bungie’s Ambitious New Shared World Shooter
Bungie’s pedigree for building amazing sci-fi shooter experiences is well known in the gaming industry. The Halo franchise helped to revolutionize the modern first person shooter, and launch Xbox Live to it’s current status. Now that Bungie has finished it’s time creating stories in the Halo universe, the developer is setting it’s sights on a notably higher mark.
Destiny will be Bungie’s first multi-platform title to come to our current console generation, as well as the Playstation 4. The aim with Destiny is to give players across all platforms the ability to share their collective experiences. Players will take control of Guardians – specially equipped protectors of Earth’s final safe city. The Guardians are able to harness powers the Traveler once used to protect humanity. There’s likely to be several Guardian specializations were not yet aware of, but so far there’s three character types confirmed. Based on your personal play style you’ll choose from Hunter, Titan, and Warlock classes. The names of these classes give insights into their specific abilities. The Hunter will most likely be a scout sniper type, while the Titan will harness heavy armor and weapons, and the Warlock is said to have the most access to the Travelers abilities. Once a specialization is chosen you’ll upgrade abilities, weapons, and even a personalized space ship.
Bungie has referred to the fact they want transitions between in game experiences to be seamless. Gone are the “lobbies” we’ve begrudgingly grown accustomed to in our current online shooters. The time before going into combat will now be spent in special areas like the “Overwatch District“, a safe meeting area for Guardian’s to gamble, restock supplies, and socialize. Bungie’s aim for a seamless experience seems to be a goal of next generation gaming in general. Developers on the hardware and software end are working hard to kill the intrusive loading screen with fire. Several titles available in this console generation were able to do so in the single player arena, but it would be a welcomed addition to the multiplayer space if our collective experience wasn’t broken by matchmaking lobbies. Bungie is going so far as to say that even travel will be a compelling experience. Something that’s simply a necessary evil in any game that has a large scope will hopefully become a less tedious task.
Bungie will lend the player a vessel and tools necessary to carve out their own story in the shared player universe. In a recent interview with OXM Joseph Staten said the development team took cues from episodic television as their inspiration for creating the universe of Destiny. Bungie wanted to offer locales the player would frequent while creating a brand new experience every time they visited said location. Reference a great television show like FX Networks Justified. Many times throughout a season we’ll return to the U.S. Marshal’s office in Justified, but no two visits are the same. That’s Bungie’s intention with many of the Earthly and alien locations the player will visit.
Another interesting aspect of Destiny is the adding of players on-the-fly during game sessions. This isn’t a revolutionary concept in gaming, but it will likely lead to some interesting experiences. In an example given during the same OXM Report, a two person team found themselves in over their head with a group of combatants, and a third player entered the fray unannounced to help the duo turn the tide of battle. It’s Bungie’s hope that by giving players more freedom that their experiences will turn out to be much more memorable. It’s possible in the future that the two person team would become a trio based on their prior experience. Gambling is also said to be present in Destiny, so it’s possible to take the bounty you just earned, and roll the dice against other hopeful Guardians. All of these aspects will hopefully help to create the connected experience Bungie is envisioning. The important thing to remember is that Activision will be publishing Destiny, and that means Bungie will have access to the publishers 10+ years of experience with their cash cow WoW. It’s the partnership of the two companies that makes this kind of ambitious project believable.
Another dimension of Bungie’s expertise that makes the prospect of Destiny’s enormous game universe believable is their newest development tool appropriately titled “Grognok Creator of Worlds.” Which is a beefed up world creation tool similar to Halo’s Forge level creator. Halo’s “Forge” mode allowed gamers to use the design tools Bungie themselves employed to publish user created maps for use in custom multiplayer modes. Destiny is poised to have one of the deepest rosters when it comes to unique locations in video game history.
In my mind I don’t see another partnership that could make this idea a reality. We still don’t know exactly how the “seamless” multiplayer mechanic is going to be pulled off. As well as how Bungie will ultimately control the storytelling in a shared online experience, but I can tell you I’m seriously excited to see how it all comes together. Destiny isn’t scheduled to release until 2014, and Bungie has it’s own internal user-research group hard at work pounding the game and it’s mechanics to near breaking point. It’s very likely that two of gamings best known entities will pull off this herculean task in spades.
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