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Bungie: "The launch of Destiny was the starting line"

By Rachel Weber

Bungie: "The launch of Destiny was the starting line"

Wed 26 Nov 2014 8:05am GMT / 3:05am EST / 12:05am PST
Development

COO Pete Parsons and the space shooter setting the standard for life beyond single-player

Ways to know if you're a Destiny addict: Friday is now Xur Day, you're clearer on the number of Ascendant Shards you have than the state of your actual bank account, your loved ones have to fit around your Vault Of Glass raiding schedule. This is not your average shooter.

"The launch of Destiny was the starting line," Pete Parsons, COO of Bungie, tells GamesIndustry.biz

For some, Bungie's Destiny ended when they finished the single player, but most will tell you that's where the real game begins. Players are happily grinding away, upgrading weapons, getting their characters to level 30, finding exotic loot, going on massive raids together. It's been said before but it's more MMO than shooter for these players, and for Bungie's development team too.

1

"We don't get a break, and that's also part of the bargain. We knew what we signed up for and so at no time in the studio are there less than a few dozen people managing the world itself," says Parsons, who is still playing the game himself.

"It's a whole new, really interesting aspect of running the business itself: making sure that people are getting right vacations, making sure that you've got teams that are focused on a specific topic. Our Destiny operations center team works around the clock in shifts. If you walk in to that room it looks like a NASA control room."

"At no time in the studio are there less than a few dozen people managing the world"

He describes giant screens with all the necessary information, how many players are online, where are they? What's the schedule for daily activities? What's happening with updates over the next three months? What's fascinating about Destiny is that as part of this ongoing support Bungie has decided to drop the mysterious and secretive act so common to the AAA development process and interact often and productively with the Destiny community. Parsons says their feedback is absolutely key to the game's continued success.

"Certainly, the highest priority is fixing things that are not working, making things that are working well work even better, like bounty slots, and then absolutely responding to things that people want," he explains.

"There are other elements where we continue to add to the game, specifically listen to the community and do entirely new work simply based on what the community wants. An example of that would be more slots for bounties or voice chat in matchmaking. Those are specific things that came directly out of the community asking for them. The new trick Sparrow, the Tumbler, is another one where the community wasn't asking for that but we observed how many people are having fun and taking video of doing tricks on the Sparrow."

2

That feedback loop goes from the gamers to the community manager to the very top of Bungie Towers.

"So from our most senior and our most talented people across the board we're sort of involved on multiple channels in terms of communicating directly with the community," says Parsons.

"The patch notes themselves are written by the core development team including Jason Jones, who is the the project lead and a founder of Bungie. He is personally taking great pains on making sure that things like the patch notes are really well understood, they're really clear for people, they understand the types of choices that we're making. Even if they're not always perceived as being the best choice."

"It's very difficult to sit down for nine hours, 11 hours, and write up a review of a game like Destiny"

Indeed, sometimes the fixes are popular, like tweaking the Cryptarch system (where players can decode mysterious engrams for loot), or not, like shutting down the infamous loot cave where players could farm resources.

"So the exciting part was it was this great moment when the community came together and they were doing something social together. That's the exciting part about it. The challenge is that this is an investment game, if you can overpower that investment game it's a real problem."

That feeling of investment seems to be part of the secret to this ongoing relationship players have developed with the game. Destiny hands out special weapons and armour... but not too quickly. Reward comes with hard work and a lot of luck, making it all the sweeter.

Perhaps that focus on a hard work ethic is one of the reasons the Destiny community is so gosh darn nice, unusually so. Most shooters aren't exactly friendly places for inexperienced players, in Destiny there's a culture of "sherpa-ing" where hardcore veterans will lead newbies through the dastardly Vault Of Glass raid.

3

"One of the things we've always said from the beginning was that anything that is fun to do is more fun to do with or in front of your friends and that we would always try to slope the floor to bringing people together, we put a bunch of systems in place - everything from the more obvious public events or co-operative matchmaking and maybe even to the less obvious where if you fire off a super, orbs come out and that literally brings people together."

Parsons even found himself being guided through the Vault Of Glass by an experienced player.

"I've been through before - but went through with a guy who was effectively an experienced guide. Just hearing the conversation he had and how he was managing the group was absolutely fascinating. 'OK everybody hold here, if you look over to your left...' It was kind of fun to just kind of go along for the ride and hear the conversation that was happening."

Of course, you wouldn't know any of this if you haven't played Destiny, even if you read the reviews. I asked Parsons about how you can ensure games like this are reviewed properly, and he's diplomatic in his answer.

"It is true there are a lot of those people who were sceptical that are still playing it now. I think it's very difficult to - as we see games like Destiny coming out - it's very difficult to sit down for nine hours, 11 hours, and write up a review of a game like Destiny right?

"We were very thoughtful about the kinds of technology that we wanted to create to make sure that we were future-proofed"

"If I were a reviewer it seems like a nearly impossible challenge to do because there's just no way you can experience... you barely experience sort of the campaign side of it and just PvP and no way you can get into all of the end game activities, and so it really asks a great question which is 'how are games like Destiny going to be reviewed in the future?'"

It's something Parson probably needs to ponder because Activision's recent financial reports revealed that Destiny 2 is already in production, no surprise considering the game has ten year roadmap.

"Part of being able to set off on a ten year journey was planning for it. We don't know exactly how over these years the story will play out or the kinds of activities we'll have but from the very beginning we were very thoughtful about the kinds of technology that we wanted to create to make sure that we were future-proofed and to make sure that players could have this ongoing journey," he says.

"We also left a lot open because once players got the game in their hands we learned a lot. In a way that we expected, we knew that we were going to have to change our plans from the moment the game went live ."

The first Destiny DLC pack, The Dark Below, is released on December 9.

From GamesIndustry.biz Recommendations by Taboola

14 Comments

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,448 1,810 1.3
Bungie had no inclination to advertise Destiny as the lootshooter it is and they sure took steps ensuring the press would not review it as such either. So how do you review games such as Destiny in the future? Obviously, not at all. Because even if you hear people talk excitedly about Destiny and you have no connection to loot driven games, you can't help but feel sorry for the guy. Bungie did what had to be done, sell people on one thing (world & story) and see, if they get stuck on the other (loot).

Personally, I am fine with loot driven games, I like my Borderlands, I still like playing Diablo3. Destiny, not so much. Is that what a review is supposed to say? If you never played a loot driven game, Destiny is a good entry level to get hooked on loot game, but if you are way into loot games, Destiny is not streamlined enough. Musing on how the game should be reviewed only makes it sounds, as if you are trying shield yourself from criticism.

My first Comment DLC pack, The Consumer Also Gazes, is released on December 9.

Posted:A year ago

#1

John Karageorgiou consultant

50 53 1.1
The lack of a dedicated SP campaign was the primary reason for me opting out from the sales queue.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

1,134 1,255 1.1
Destiny is a very very weird shooter. I love that the demo is out now so I can tell people to just download it and give it a go. Personally I feel that it is a correct game that I will keep playing as long as it keep me entertained. What I still not get is all the hate coming from those that do not like it.

Klaus: Since the first trailers they were talking about how loot and multiplayer would be the center of it. Not sure where that double-face selling tactic was or maybe I missed it. Could you elaborate?. I want to know :)

Posted:A year ago

#3
I think, to truly enjoy Destiny, you need a group of friends or associates.
Its esp fun working on a raid across different folks across the gaming industry, having to open the vault of glass, and then navigate to the final boss, working together and curbing egos and probably dying and falling all over till success appears. And, err getting the occasional good loot instead of ascendant E (s) only :)

Posted:A year ago

#4

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,448 1,810 1.3
@Alfonso
Compare and contrast the trailers for both Borderlands and Destiny. Borderlands will mention the loot and the important role it plays. Borderlands will show the character configuration screen. Borderlands will mention it has a story, classes and vehicles. The trailer is a vertical slice and to make fun of other trailers it tosses in the Moon Dance parody, i.e. advertising the game with something it is not: a dancing game.

Compare that to the Destiny E3 gameplay trailer, or the release trailer. On paper, Destiny draws its long term motivation from coordinated teamplay, the loot system and the character builds. Destiny only advertises the teamplay and fills the rest of the trailer with your usual suspects of trailer moments. There is no trailer which presents other game systems designed for long term motivation and player retention.

Just by looking at the trailers, you can see two approaches. Destiny tries to get people interested with the promise of epic story and teamplay moments. Once players bite, the game tries to make them believers of the loot and progression system. It is not a sinister bait and switch, but Bungie knew how not to scare away people and the acted accordingly. One result of this partial misrepresentation are the user scores found for the game. Sure, Bungie gave people a chance to play a public demo, but that is no miracle cure to the problems created by mainstream focused marketing and lootgame niche appeal.

A lot probably boils down to the time it takes for the epic story gameplay to end and the grindy loot game to take over. Borderlands and Diablo avoid repeating content for a long time, before they dare you to replay things. Destiny does not and that is a tough hurdle to take when you come at it from the advertised angle. Repeating a mission within the first three hours of playing the game is a tough pill to swallow.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Rafa Ferrer Localisation Manager, Red Comet Media

94 170 1.8
@Klaus - That was my case exactly. I was sold by an epic storyline primarily, and thought I would have a good time before the inevitable grindfest. It just took the public beta to discover how mechanic it all felt from the beginning and how the story could perfectly not have been there at all. It felt somehow disconnected and second-thought, but I didn't think their advertisement approach was foul play, I just thought they overestimated the story they came up with.
However, I don't feel any hate for Destiny at all, I just think I'm not their target audience. I hate grinding dungeons for better equipment for the rest of my life, but hey, other people hate jumping from one platform to another and I find that brilliant, so that's OK with me :)

Posted:A year ago

#6

Pete Thompson Editor

233 158 0.7
In reality It's almost like Bungie don't listen to the community at all. All people want is story related content, more co-op missions, better loot drops, and less grind, Yet the focus of most updates is the crucible and nerfing weapons to aid the few players who bother with Crucible matches. Out of the 15 gaming friends of mine who played Destiny I think I'm the only one looking forward to the DLC being released. And had I not bought the Digital Guardians Edition with the 2 expansions included I doubt I'd be interested at 19.99 per expansion and an additional 2 levels to grind through.

I cannot see how the end of the single player is just the beginning of anything but a major grind, and that is the problem Destiny needs to address..

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Pete Thompson on 26th November 2014 6:28pm

Posted:A year ago

#7

Spencer Franklin Concept Artist

107 151 1.4
@Pete

Exactly my feelings on the game. Bungie don't appear to listen at all...just go look at their forums, and especially the Friday posts by the supposed community manager. it's always followed by so much hate in the comments section. I returned the game after 2 weeks, when It became quite clear that the premise they sold me on (Epic Story driven..." was nowhere to be found, and no intention to add it.
It's a poor loot grind game with some MMO trappings, but mainly just a repetitive and lacking shooter. I've NEVER returned a game I purchased, but this was that bad. bad enough in fact, I will never purchase a game from this studio again, as the blatant falsehoods they perpetrated up until release, about what the actual game was like, have given me reason to think very little of, and to have no respect for who they are, regardless of what good them may have produced in the past.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Iain McNulty Software / Game Developer, Yanxen

56 127 2.3
Destiny has many problems. The plot (or rather almost complete lack of it) is lame. And the enforced grind to reach endgame content is equally not good. If people in general loved grinding then Bungie would not find themselves patching out loot caves and such due to people turning to such exploits out of desperation.

And the thing about them dropping the mysterious AAA studio thing, I am not believing that for a second. If anything it seems like damage control for a game which was over-hyped and given average ratings appropriately.

But there again, I like FPS games but hate having to grind to unlock stuff. Going off on a bit of a tangent here, but I used to love Halo 3 and the way various multiplayer armour unlocks were tied to (for the most part) well-written achievements in the game. I love unlocks like that, dependant on player skill. However, along comes Halo Reach and for the most part you had to grind and change one's usual playing style to adjust to completing daily/weekly/monthly challenges in order to purchase items to unlock. It is obvious why they implemented it, as a means to keep the playerbase consistently coming back in the hope of unlocking more stuff a la what CoD had been doing for a few years up until that point. Which is a problem, when you have to use unlocks to keep people coming back as a carrot on a stick rather than the quality of a game itself. Real shame, but it seems to be the way the industry has gone, it is all about the next grind unlock.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Jan Almqvist Senior Artist, Electronic Arts

40 26 0.7
I had a pretty good run with Destiny. Me and a mate started at the same time and got up to 27/28 before we stopped. (Ascendent Shards, enough said). But the core mechanics are really well done and the rewards for using them (sound, vfx, etc). It can get really crazy, which allows for great moments and that is what kept us coming back... Well, until it didn't.... Not particularly interested in the PvP stuff (as in not at all) and the "light = level" is pretty stupid and for those reasons I'm not currently eyeing the DLC. Also not tried the raid since I don't schedule my fun, I have one of those things called "a life" on the side... (and by that I mean other games ;))

Posted:A year ago

#10

Christian Slater DevilBliss Games Consultancy

28 46 1.6
Does the game grow a sense of humour at some point?

Klaus "My first Comment DLC pack, The Consumer Also Gazes, is released on December 9." - heh heh, nice. Maybe you should write their next script?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christian Slater on 27th November 2014 12:02pm

Posted:A year ago

#11
skip cutscenes...would be so much more of a optional improvement :)

Posted:A year ago

#12

Benn Achilleas CEO and Founder, Playabl

89 51 0.6
"To thoroughly enjoy Destiny you must..."

a) enjoy loading screens
b) enjoy pointless, time wasting intersections between doing what you want to do
c) not be too concerned about any promised Epic storyline

Posted:A year ago

#13

James Prendergast Research Chemist

771 483 0.6
Thing is, I quite like destiny but I think they failed on all aspects EXCEPT the mechanics of playing. That is great - the fighting and encounters.

The rest is pretty poor:

-As an MMO it's terrible. Very little interaction between players and content that requires you to have friends and no way to matchmake with randoms. Levels matter so much in this game that you can't play 28 content with a 26 unless you want to carry them through it. Something like City of Heroes sidekick system would be great here...

-As a story-driven world it's terrible. Virtually no story or driving force in the game... all lore and other story aspects are on a website...

-As a loot game it's terrible. I look at Diablo, Borderlands et al. and they are loot games. There just isn't enough "loot" in this game for me to call it a loot game. Three or four kinds of very similar armour for each class. A very few limited Exotics (no boots?!) and the legendary pool is quite small too. Ultimately, the biggest hurdle to overcome for any of the loot is the random number generator. If it's kind to you, you can have everything very quickly. If it's not, well good luck if you specifically want something.

-Every update is PvP-focussed. To the point where it seems that Bungie are ignoring the toolset they have in place to create more PvE content using the existing missions but by changing up the enemies to make them feel fresh,

-The content is bad for the price. The expansions are the worst at this. New missions in the same areas? One new raid and one (or two if you're a PS player) strike. I look at something like Borderlands and the length of the campaign in that and Borderlands 2 compared to Destiny and I feel let down.

Posted:A year ago

#14

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