Bungie’s Destiny Revealed

By Kevin Kelly

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"Destiny" has been one of the worst-kept secrets in the game industry, what with the Bungie/Activision contract leaking amidst the "Call of Duty" court case last May, the story/art leak in November, and Bungie itself even teased the game deep inside of "Halo 3: ODST". But those were all just small pieces of the puzzle, and now we’ve finally been able to sit down with the studio and officially take a look at the game.

Well, at least we’ve seen pieces of the game. It’s a bit like Leonardo da Vinci showing you a palette, some paints, a brush, and a canvas, and then saying, “Here’s what I’ll be using to paint the Mona Lisa.” Because this was a first look at their new creation, it was very top-level, explaining the story, and blasting us with a lot of concept art.  There were some brief glimpses of in-game footage, but not nearly enough to satisfy us. After all, we are gamers, and every time we see a new game teased, our trigger fingers immediately start itching as we want to try it out.

But you probably want to know what we found out. So here’s a handy guide to what Destiny is all about…. so far.

The Story

  • Destiny takes places far in Earth’s future, where forces bent on mankind’s ultimate desctruction were stopped at the last minute by a mysterious object/being known as the Traveler. That’s the name of the enormous sphere hovering over the planet, and it wasn’t made clear to us if that is just the name of the ship, or the being that may have piloted it.
  • Mankind has built a sprawling city underneath the Traveler, and has just begun moving back into the world when the game begins. But they are not alone, as strange alien creatures prowl the ruins of mankind’s golden age, still intent on wiping them out.

The Player

  • Players will step into the shoes of a Guardian, the defenders of mankind’s last safe city on Earth. As a Guardian, you are able to wield the technology and power of the Traveler.
  • Guardians have different classes, and while there will be more added later, we were shown brief glimpses of the Warlock, Hunter, and Titan classes.
  • There is a social space near the Tower where the Guardians dwell called the Overwatch District, where you can gamble for better gear, or “Gaze out over the Twilight Gap.” We aren’t exactly sure what the Twilight Gap is, but apparently it represents a big chunk of mankind’s history in the game.
  • “Return to the City” is “Destiny’s third person social space” where you can “refuel, repair, and rearm before going out on your next adventure.” We aren’t clear if this is part of the Overwatch District or not, but they sound similar.

 

The Gameplay

  • Loot is a part of the game, with tiered gear, and rare and exotic weapons teased to us with names like Super-Good Advice and The Fate of All Fools. The weapons mentioned were all standard shooter fare: pistols, shotguns, machine guns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers.
  • Players will have access to a hangar containing their own ship, which can be upgraded, or you can purchase a different ship as you gain experience.
  • You can explore the Solar System in your ship, visiting places like the Moon, Mars, Saturn and more. No word on if there will be space combat, although the dogfighting in Halo: Reach now sticks out like a sore thumb.
  • You will encounter a myriad of worlds, locations, and beings throughout the game. Tantalizing artwork flashed by as they teased us with things like: a derelict fleet adrift in the rings of Saturn, a time-traveling robot, mile-long tomb ships and the secrets they contain, space zombies, and more.
  • While we aren’t sure about quests, the game will feature bounties. According to story lead Joseph Staten, who was telling us the story of his in-game character, all based on real interactions in the game, he had performed turned in every possible bounty to The Queen of the Reef. The Reef is a large area in the game that we don’t know anything about.

The Open World

  • Destiny will exist as an online, persistent world that requires a constant internet connection in order to play. Fans of the traditional single player, offline experience, start your complaining now.
  • Bungie and Activision have made a large investment in back-end server technology in order to deliver a seamless, open world experience to the player. That meads no lobbies, no load screens, no “XXX wants you to join a party” messages, and so on.
  • Like Journey, you will encounter other gamers as you play Destiny, and you can team up with them, or ignore them. This will happen constantly, as there is no standard single player campaign. Instead, the game is built around a cooperative experience, and also contains competitive multiplayer.
  • Bungie isn’t trying to shoehorn as many gamers as possible into a space, so don’t envision places like the auction house in Stormwind that can be choked with WoW players. It will be server-based, although it isn’t clear how that will happen just yet.
  • Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg told us that Destiny is a “shared shooter” that takes place inside an enormous open sandbox universe. While he danced around the words “MMO FPS,” the game definitely contains elements of both. But also according to Hirshberg, “We have absolutely no plans to charge a subscription fee for Destiny.”
  • More concept art was created for Destiny than all of Bungie’s other games put together. The world is so large, that Bungie created a new piece of tech that they call Grognok: The World Creator in order to build large-scale environments quickly.
  • The game will feature changing weather cycles, and a day/night cycle with real-time lighting

You

 

  • Destiny is all about building your own story, and no two players will have the same story.
  • Based on the gear we were shown, no two players should look the same thanks to tiered gear and numerous weapons that can be researched on Bungie.net.
  • Deep iOS integration is shown in the video, promising more than just the ability to check your stats on a mobile device. In-game messages were being pushed to the device, encouraging you to get back into the game .
  • Bungie promises that Destiny will be appealing to all skill levels of players, and that there will always be something to do, either by yourself, or with other players.

In a nutshell, that’s about everything we learned. No, we didn’t get to play the game, although we were shown video of some testers playing the game who broke into broad smiles when they encountered each other. Unfortunately, we only saw their faces and not their actual game screens.

We were shown some live, in-engine footage that showed off the dramatic lighting, and reflections off of the scope of a sniper rifle. While it did look incredibly breathtaking, it was running off of a development kit, and will likely change somewhat once it hits a console. We were also shown a sped-up video of Grognok in action, creating a massive Moon Base with lighting and effects, which looked spectacular.

But until a controller is squarely in our hands with Destiny being played on a screen in front of us, we aren’t sure what the final product will be like. The promised seamless interactions with other players certainly seems like it will be exciting, and the sheer scope of the game with the incorporation of many of the tropes from science fiction sounds orgasmic. We just hope that the team can pull it all off.

Thankfully, Bungie has their own extremely strong pedigree to drawn on. The series only ever dipped below a 90% average game score (according to GameRankings.com) with "Halo 3: ODST," most likely due to the fact that the game didn’t feature Master Chief. Notably, it also dipped below 90% with "Halo 4," the first game in the franchise without Bungie at the helm. But is returning to the game space with a science fiction shooter resting on their laurels too much? Or does it mean they are applying everything they learned in order to make the best game possible?  We certainly hope it’s the latter.

Look for more Destiny news in the coming weeks, and cross your fingers for a late 2013 arrival. Because this already sounds like something we want to play.