Well, I’m playing it every day at my desk; we’re deep into it and the great thing about the game right now is that you only really learn how the game works when it’s up on its feet and playable.
And Destiny is a pretty complicated game, it’s got an investment system and persistent characters, a big social shared world, so having it playable for real with all the systems running is a pretty big accomplishment and we’re learning a lot.
This is exactly where you want to be as designers, playing it every day with our friends at our desks, seeing what’s broken and fixing it. We’re definitely there now, that’s for sure.
It seems like you’ve had trouble actually defining what Destiny is?
It’s only been in the last six months that we’ve been able to play [Destiny] with everything running.
For a while we could play parts of the game; we could play the action shooter, the same old sandbox shooter that Bungie’s made and loved and does well. We’ve been able to play that for a while.
We could play, separate from that, our investment systems in a mock way, where we could just play through it in Excel tables with drops and loot and see how that part of the game played, but we hadn’t smashed them together yet.
We could play parts of our big open world, broken up into sections that import into our engine, but as our engine became more robust we could import large swathes of our world.
It’s been in the last six months that we’ve taken these things, that have been up and running separately, and got them all working in concert. During that time when [Destiny] was in bits and pieces, I think it was challenging for us to explain to Activision, even people on our team, what the game is going to be.
But it was all a little bit on paper, it wasn’t in your hands and playable.
So, it’s been a challenge to describe what exactly it is. The important thing to remember about [Destiny] is that first and foremost it’s a Bungie game and those are the games we make and love.
You’re in a big world that’s populated by other players, a living world where things happen even if you’re not there.
It feels real, it’s got time of day, big open environments, it has social places where you can gather and it’s got a persistent character, someone you grow over time.
You’re going to choose who you are in this world and every decision you make influences how you look or how you fight. It definitely has properties of what you’d associate with MMOs, but it is at its heart an action game.
A Bungie shooter, but it has all these other great, great things added to it, which we think really think makes it a revolutionary experience in the shooter space.
Innovating in the FPS genre seems to be the bottom line for Bungie and Destiny?
Absolutely, I think Jason [Jones] said it well.
When you’ve got a studio that is this size and with this amount of talented people here, what do you want to point it at, what’s the big challenge you want to tackle?
Certainly, we could make standard shooters, we’ve done that and know how to do it, it’s a genre that we love, but we wanted to look into the future and think hard about what’s the future of action games?
Are they going to continue to be largely solitary, linear narratives that feel a lot like a Hollywood blockbuster or are they going to be something different?
What can we do that makes them better and enriches the experience? And we thought a lot about our co-op history. Bungie games have always been highly co-operative if you want it and we wanted to really expand that.
Could we really make a world that’s not just shared with two or three other people on your couch, but could we make it shared with dozens, hundreds of other people? Is that experience possible, is it fun?
And for a long time we thought ‘well, we could do these innovations, but is it going to result in a better game?’ And what’s really great now, as we play the game at our desks every day, we really see that paying off. The investment is worth it.
When you run into someone in the big wide world you weren’t expecting and in the shared spaces you collide for a little while, overcome an obstacle, get rewarded for it and move on, it’s a really transformative experience.
It makes you think of shooters in a totally new way. We wanted to push, not just what we’re good at, but what we think the genre can become, too.
Sure, we talked about that when we first showed the game, but we think about the story as books.
In the straight-up campaign part of the game you’ll absolutely be experiencing stories that have a strong narrative spine, that have a beginning middle and an end.
There’ll be a cast of core characters that, like you, evolve over time.
We absolutely are going to tell good narrative stories and linear stories, but those are just part of what you can engage in with Destiny’s world.
We think of those as our ‘marquee content’ that gets you excited about the world and draws you in, but after that there’s a great deal more to be had in Destiny.
Does that mean players can expect to have the same character for the ten years that Destiny is planned for?
Well, the only thing we’re saying right now is that this is you character in the world of Destiny.
For as long as that world exists you can be that person, we really want it to be in a situation that, yeah, the decisions that you make early on in the game, they matter and they stick with you and you really grow your character over time. That’s extremely important to us.
You can make interesting choices and you can stick with this character over time.
You know it’s really important when you’re in a social shared world to have an identity that people recognise, that people can remember.
And not just for your friends, but for the people you meet out in the world. ‘Oh, that’s that Hunter with that crazy cloak and that amazing spaceship.
Is that a holographic sight on his sniper rifle, that’s crazy, where did he find that stuff? Who is that guy? I’ve seen him before, I’ve matched with him in public places, I see him in the city sometimes.’
You really are going to be identified by the choices you make, so it’s really important that your character sticks around for a long time.
Is it true that players will get their hands on spaceships, will there be space combat?
Well the only thing we’re sure of right now is that the spaceship is a thing that’s going to take you from place to place. Like other things that belong to you, you are going to be able to personalise it.
You’ll certainly have some choice over which ship you have. It’s another thing like your weapons or your armour that makes you you in the world of Destiny.
Will you also present the social action in a third-person style instead of first-person?
The stuff we’ve shown in the city there has been a third-person camera. I think it’s safe to assume once you’re in a social space combat is less important so it might make sense to break out to a camera that’s a little bit more social.
When you walk into a social space you want top present yourself and it’s fun of course to see how you look as well.
Yeah, absolutely, when you’re in the city and the Tower, combat isn’t a priority, it’s interacting with other players.
Will Destiny include competitive multiplayer?
Destiny is built on a strong foundation of co-op and competitive play and it’s a Bungie game. We love competition, we love that part of the gamer.
We’re not talking about that part of Destiny yet, but you should assume that it’s a Bungie game and we love competitive multiplayer, if you love that then you’ll love Destiny, too.
Some of Destiny’s innovations – persistent characters, upgrades – were used in Halo 4, what did you think of it?
We of course look at all kinds of games from Halo 4 to Call Of Duty and certainly more MMO games or RPGs where character customistion is an even bigger part.
I think for us and the shooter space, we saw that there was some experimentation with customistation, but the big thing about customisation in most games is that it’s really siloed by activity.
In Destiny, your character is your character. No matter where you go in the story or the co-operative activities or competitive multiplayer, you will always have that character and it will persist from one mode to another.
That is the big difference when it comes to character customisation in Destiny. You are you no matter where you go in the world.
Will there be any differences between the current-gen and next-gen versions of Destiny?
Anytime you get your hands on new hardware you’re going to try and take advantage of everything it has to offer.
I know coming up at E3 we’ll be talking more about the specific features, but just like with any hardware leap, absolutely, we’re going to push this game as far it can be pushed on whatever platform.
It’s going to look great on PS3, it’ll look awesome on 360 and it’ll look great on PS4 as well. You can bet that no matter where we are, we’re going to make the game look great.
Is there still ’30 seconds of fun’?
This is a Bungie sandbox action game, from moment-to-moment the choices that you make in combat are still just as important as it’s ever been.
If you love that fast cycle, sandbox gameplay that Bungie is known for you’re going to love this game. We’re tuning all the weapons and the combatants to make that a great 30 seconds of fun experience over and over again.