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The Mail Sack Festival

It’s time to deliver the weekly mail. We’ll pick up where we left off. When last we turned this blog into a post-modern post-office, we challenged you to create a movie poster that put the world of Destiny in a blender with the fruits of Hollywood’s labor. The results were delicious. According to the critics at Facebook, one of you rose to the top as the cream of the crop.

Once the likes were counted, it was artist named Matt who would boldly go where no one had gone before. He wins the prize for this week. One good poster deserves another. Since he put his special signature on his, we’ll do the same to ours.

We do love it when the Bungie Community puts their own spin on what we create. Seeing the work of other artists fires up the competitive spirit. It provokes us to keep our own brushes clean. Ironically, while you were turning our website into an art festival last week, one sprung up in the real world that surrounds our secure compound.

It’s been a beautiful summer here in the greater Seattle metropolitan area. The dewy ceiling that shelters us for most of the year has burned off to reveal a sky so blue that it’s hard to imagine it’s there all year long. New Hire Lunches are being taken outside, as developers nourish themselves on the fresh bonds of teamwork. The walk to pay a king’s ransom for coffee that’s free under our roof seems a bargain. Color has returned to our cheeks. Let us tell you, if the rest of the year were like this, we’d never get any work done. You should be as grateful for those clouds as we are to have a break from them.

Over the weekend, the plaza outside our dark palace of magic had become surrounded by a tent city filled with craftsmen who had gathered to hawk their wares. Like vendors in a public bizarre, each installation offered a unique brand of creativity – everything from welded folk-art to gourmet popcorn. After a brief visit to our studio to check in on the art contest that was brewing on, I found myself surrounded by people who had come to Bellevue to do likewise. 

Among the hoard of wanderers, one young man in a very familiar t-shirt caught my eye. He milled through the crowd with his family – a bored look painted across his face, and the flaming crest of Bungie’s 20th Anniversary logo splashed across his chest. Immediately, I was filled with the rush of kinship when you spot a fellow gamer loose in the wild.

Did he know how close this family outing had brought him to Bungie? Was the shirt a sign? Was he wearing a beacon to signal us that he was hip to our dreams of world domination?

In the blink of an eye, I could imagine what the next moments might be like. Would we share a handshake and start trading war stories from the digital frontier? Might we team up to overpower Jerome’s defenses and break out the memorabilia for a pretend firefight? Would I completely lose my mind, and breach the doors of the User Research labs to fire up a build of the game and show him what awaits a Bungie fan during our third decade as a creator of worlds?

He caught me asking myself all these questions. Our eyes locked in a moment of sudden acknowledgement. Instead of doing that thing where you look away and pretend you weren’t staring, I tried for a connection. “Right on man,” I said with a friendly nod. “Burn bright. Burn blue.”

And then the illusion shattered like a blown-glass trinket dropped on the hot asphalt of what is usually the street that leads to Bungie. My new best friend rolled his eyes and shook his head in disgust. His shrug seemed to say “Congratulations, you know what my t-shirt says. You don’t know what it’s like to be a gamer like me!”

We’ll probably never cross paths again, but the best public events can unfold that way – chance encounters between two explorers hunting separate objectives. It just goes to show you that, to have a truly great conversation about Bungie games, you need to open the sack.

modernarcher13  How do you decide what questions you are allowed to answer?

First, I read them. That’s right – I read all of them. Sometimes, there are hundreds of them, depending on how soon I synch the Sack and bring it behind closed doors.

Next, I pick the ones that might let our team share a small portion of the madness that fills the air we breathe. Sometimes, I try to run the blockade with questions that might deepen your understanding of what we hope to accomplish with Destiny. And, as many of you know, I dodge the bullets that would get me fired if I were to catch them in my teeth.

There are some tricks that are best saved for later. Some things need to be seen (and not just talked about) to be believed. For instance, if I told you that I could catch a bullet in my teeth, you’d say “Show me!” And then I’d do it, and you’d say “Wow! Although that would have been much better if you had just done it instead of talking about it first.” And then I would say “Exactly!”

(spits out bullet)

So, as you see, the process is totally scientific, with some myth added for extra flavor.

Mr6507  What is your favorite place at Bungie?

My favorite place is a conference room that overlooks most of the development floor. One wall is floor-to-ceiling windows. The view through all that glass makes you feel like you’re on the bridge of a fully operational battle-station. You can see hundreds of desks and even more screens – each with their own closely guarded secrets. When I interviewed to join the team at Bungie, they concluded the audition with a visit to that room, and asked me “Do you think this is a place where you might want to work?”  

It took every shred of restraint in my excited body to not say “Are you -blam-ing kidding me?”

There are many special corners in our studio. There is someone that loves each of them the most.

We have a vintage Joust machine in our arcade. The spot directly in front of that is probably one of my favorite places in the studio.
Josh Eash, Release Manager

The beer fridge.
Wesley Olson, Tester

The Fireplace.
Kyle Robinson, Web Tester

My desk, of course! I spend nearly 90% of my waking time right here during crunch, and there’s no place like home.
Lorraine McLees, Senior Graphic Designer

I don’t know if we can say this, but there are some circular couches where we gather on Friday’s at 5PM that we have dubbed “the Butthole.”  Because it’s round in shape and we sit on our butts.
Adam Williams, Artist
[Editor’s Note] We are adults! - urk

The Design pods. Seeing all of the insanely cool new stuff coming online always brings a smile to my face.
Kevin Yanes, Production Engineer

In any human dwelling, there is one place that exerts an undeniable attraction to us all: the kitchen!
Christian Diefenbach, Engineering Lead

The theater! I love watching things.
Jacob Meyer, Activities Tester

The open area on the top floor during a team meeting. Seeing brand new awesome stuff, surrounded by the rest of the studio.
Jake Lauer, Web Development Engineer

The Spec Ops Pod, cool things are happening over there on a daily basis.
Andy Xiao, Artist

I like our trophy area.  I don’t get to walk by it often because I work on the second floor, and it’s tucked away toward the back of the first floor.  But when I pass it by it reminds me of how far Bungie has come, and how far we’ve yet to go.
Alex Loret de Mola, Engineer

The Ivory Tower, whenever Marty isn’t around.  Oh the things I do in there….
Chris Owens, Test Engineer

There’s a meeting room named Pluto that I have a soft spot for. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who cares about poor Pluto, so I book meetings in there when I can. I love you, Pluto.
Scott Taylor, Associate Producer

Pluto is not the conference room I was describing. Pluto sucks. It’s not really even a conference room. It’s too small. It’s really more of a nook with a table. We should reclassify it.

Malfar  Can a Triple-A game title truly be innovative? Or is it the independent game developer that needs to innovate before a concept can be accepted by the larger developers?

You make us sound like an old, Favorite Uncle who can barely touch his toes anymore. Bungie is young and spry – barely into our twenties. We still have risks to take. Anyone who spends more time thinking about how things could be than how things are can innovate. Anyone who throws out their old way of doing things can innovate. Anyone who thinks they can float above the high watermark can innovate. Anyone with a refrigerator filled with energy drinks can innovate. 

The fact that we have a massive infusion of new blood doesn’t hurt either. Nothing makes an old dog learn new tricks faster than an eager puppy who tries to claim the ball.

Hazelnupie  For all those new Bungie employees who joined on your guys' Bungie day, is Destiny just what you imagined it to be or a thousand times better?

We let our imaginations run wild, just like you fine people. This is why we can be our own harshest critics. That’s a good thing. It keeps us honest, and forces us to always try and make yesterday our second best day.

I started the day of the Sony E3 press conference. I came in with just as much knowledge as you all have and was just floored.
Kevin Yanes, Production Engineer

You would not believe how much code goes into pulling the trigger.
Sean Chan, Engineer

Nothing can surprise me, except loud noises.
Kyle Robinson, Web Tester

Destiny is what it should be, not what I imagined it to be (and that’s a good thing!).
Leland Dantzler, Matchmaking Embedded Tester

Well played, Leland. Those are words to live by for anyone who has joined us for this journey to reach strange new worlds. 

Swasher  Will Bungie be at PAX Prime this year?

We’re at PAX Prime every year. You can’t scream in this town without a Bungie person hearing you. There are many of us, and we’re everywhere – lurking in every neighborhood. If you’re about to explore the Seattle Convention Center, we’ll see you there. Look for us in the public events.

Krieger  How have you changed since you walked into Bungie that first day?

Still wearing the same pair of underwear. 
Brad Fawcett, Engineer

I came in with more energy than ideas. Now my ideas are catching up to my energy. 
Kyle Robinson, Web Tester

I’ve got so much more gray hair. Did everybody just say the same thing?
Lorraine McLees, Senior Graphic Designer

I am still the fan boy I was when I walked in but I’m much less awkward around people I considered idols all these years.
Kevin Yanes, Production Engineer

I’ve lost about 30% of the remaining hair on my head.  I’ve also become a significantly better engineer, thanks to everyone else here being smarter than I am.
Justin Truman, Engineering Lead

I’m much more excited to go to work every day.
Ben Thompson, Engineer

I now respect every game ever made.
Leland Dantzler, Matchmaking Embedded Tester

My friends say that my sense of humor has become… more colorful.
Andrea Fonger, Engineer

I’m a lot lighter and a fair amount older.
Travis Pijut, Test Engineer

N7 Argo  As the creators of Destiny and Halo, how does it make you feel when you see people cosplaying from the games you make?

Secondary Question: How do you like ours?

Wait.  What?  You look badass! What’s that from? When did this happen? Were you at ComicCon? Why are we only learning of this right now?

Bravo, Guardians. You’re looking mean. Although you do need one more to complete your Fireteam.

Kvaener  What's the one thing you couldn't live without during Crunch time?

As you should expect, especially in Seattle, where coffee is a percentage of the blood that flows through our veins, a lot of us said something like:

Caffeine! But that’s true most of the time.
Jennifer Ash, User Researcher

Some other special needs were less obvious.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute and Snout & Co.
Adam Williams, Artist

Salad. During my first project, we had pizza non-stop for 3 months straight. So whenever it’s pizza night here, I beeline it to the salad.
Dawn Vu, Graphics Tester

I have chosen to answer your question in the form of a song
Josh Eash, Release Manager

I couldn’t live without you, Kvaener. The reminder that we are building something we want the world to enjoy is what keeps the fires burning for me. Without the community hungrily awaiting the game, it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting to come to work.
Daniel Auchenpaugh, Investment Test Lead

Perfectly clean and safe counter pickles.
Wesley Olson, Tester

Loco Cocoa9613  In Destiny, when you look down towards your feet, can you see your feet and legs?

Yes, but we don’t suggest that you spend a lot of time gazing at your shoes. That’s not where you’ll find the enemies who would just love to add you to their collection of dead Guardians. To survive the missions we’re laying out for you, it comes highly recommended that you look down the barrel of your gun.

Now stand back and watch me catch a bullet in my teeth.

Heracles FTO  What is the most common phrase or saying that you hear at Bungie?

One thing I hear a lot is “How are the natives, DeeJ?” If you’re wondering, you are the natives – the indigenous people who claim a home in our community. I tell them that you’re restless. Stay thirsty. 

We keep a quote book to document other pearls of vernacular. Here are some of the greatest hits.

“Chris Owens, you are by far the smartest, best looking and greatest athlete who has ever worked here or anywhere in the universe.”  I’m actually sick of hearing it.
Chris Owens, Test Engineer

Jake Lauer, Web Development Engineer

“Don’t fight it.”
Elliott Gray, Graphic Designer

“Don’t get latest!”
Lorraine McLees, Senior Graphic Designer

“Video games.”
Jim Levasseur, Cinematic Designer

“HEY EVERYBODY, IT’S (random name)’s BIRTHDAY!”
Adam Williams, Artist

“Did someone say spider?”
Kevin Yanes, Production Engineer

“Well, it should just work.”
Christian Diefenbach, Engineering Lead

Joe, our animation tech guru, was demonstrating a new tool he just wrote, and used it to setup a player ability example called “action_sausage.” He’s been reminded of that a few times now.
Rick Lico, Senior Art Lead

 “Get back to work!”
Alan Stuart, Senior Engineer

That’s great advice, Alan. There’s a reason why we hear that a lot. We have much work left to do. As much as we love these chats, all good things must come to an end. The cycle of the Mail Sack will begin again on Monday.

Between now and then, here’s a fresh challenge: Who is playing Destiny? Find an image of an unlikely player of our work in progress, and turn them into a legend in the making. The judges will favor those of you who manage to surprise us or make us laugh.

For instance, pictured above we see a Fallen Captain and his crew enjoying a romp through Old Russia. Now, it's your turn. Embed your contribution in a comment following this Sack. Take the weekend to make your mark. Try not to spend the whole thing in front of your screen. We certainly won’t.
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