Harold Ryan2 Interviews

Bungie talks Destiny’s universe: ‘We spent years on it’

Building better worlds

Destiny made an impressive impact at this year’s E3.

With gorgeous visuals, compelling new gameplay and some seriously cool advances into the MMO space (oh, sorry, shared world shooter space), Destiny is one of the most hotly anticipated next-gen games headed our way.

And launching a new IP has never been easy, especially one that’s attempting to build an expansive new fictional universe. Destiny has a small issue in this regard. With no central character to latch on to – say, someone like the Master Chief – Destiny’s world has to be strong enough to stand on its own two feet.

And that’s not as easy to do as you’d think. Despite the challenges facing Bungie, studio president Harold Ryan is confident its built an incredibly rich and detailed universe that players will easily be able to get lost in…

Creating a new science fiction universe is a massively intricate thing. How are you guys layering up the history of this universe?

“When we started working on the Destiny universe, the first thing we did was to write a fictional background. You start as you are now, a Guardian of The Tower, defending the wall that surrounds the last bastion of humanity, and the enemies are growing in strength. You start there and you start talking about how you ended up with that one last city, and what happened with peace.

“We spent years on it, with about eight or nine writers on the team, the editor for sci-fi from Tor [book publishing] is now our managing editor inside the studio, and Joe Staten who has been writing fiction for Bungie for fifteen years has been lead writer on it, and so we have a great team of guys that have just been writing and outlining and tweaking and tuning.

“We married the concept of the story and the fiction to visual concepts, and that’s how we ended up with things looking the way they do. They’re breathtaking. Sometimes I take them home and hang them on my wall. We have them all over the studio; people have our art up as their desktop.

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“It’s about finding that creative line and then we flash it out there, reams and reams of fiction for Destiny that back-up all aspects of it. The fun piece is when we plan the next story to tell and we go ‘Okay, so here we are, what’s the most exciting thing to pick?’ We pick the images we want, the activities we want, and then we think what stories relate to those and then pull it together.”

It can be hard for players of MMOs to feel that they’re having a real impact in the world, with respawning bosses, etc. How have you gone about tackling this problem?

“There will be a huge set of discussions to have about the activities you can engage in, in Destiny. The designers have the ability to make something an activity that you play through, and they control the frequency that you can play through it, whether you play through it once or multiple times, and they control whether you play it with two or three friends or whether you play it in a public space, where you might encounter it every time you land on Venus as you go through.

And so the type of challenge, the reward that comes from accomplishing that challenge, is something that is designed for the player as we go through it. We won’t present you with a situation where you slay the Devil Walker Lord and are glad he’s gone, and then he happens to just be back the next day. If we set you that kind of activity, you’ll actually accomplish it and then move on beyond that task.”

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