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Bungie Weekly Update - 10/11/2013

This week at Bungie, we wiped the slate clean – again.

Our most recent crop of Guardians was harvested. We had loved them, and watched as they evolved, but they were cut down to serve the cause of progress. The reaping was swift and painless. The only screams heard were our own, as hundreds of characters were committed to the black void of obsolescence. 

Dawn Vu is a Graphics Tester at Bungie. Before her Titan became a memory from an old build of Destiny, she captured a keepsake so that she’ll never forget. Each of us mourned in our own way. This is not something you need to worry about, dear friends. Having a Guardian ripped from your clutches before they can truly become legend is on occupational hazard that’s exclusive to the development floor.

Fortunately, when Bungie closes a door, we open a window. Our sadness yields to elation as soon as the invitation to the Team Meeting lands on our calendars. Tonight, we’ll raise a glass to the old Guardians, observe our finer points of progress on the new build (projected on a screen that’s a full story tall), and rush back to our desks to create our characters all over again. The new breed will begin their reconnaissance of the new hotness, and we’ll have new ways to invest in their adventures.

Otherwise, progress marches on. Damage feedback was enhanced to make sure you’re never oblivious about a punch to the head. Our first steps into the frontier of the next generation, though simple in nature, left footprints in the raw space that awaits us all. learned how to better recognize which device you use to project your likeness into our community. Our team was biologically enhanced through a routine series of injections designed to propel them through a winter of development.

Testers conducted extensive scouting missions on Venus. Eyestrain was induced by prolonged inspection of new levels of polish. Personal visual diagnostic peripherals (you call them ‘eyeglasses’) were upgraded to aid in the search for scuffs and stretchmarks. Weary travelers returned home with renewed inspiration about a world you’ll want to visit again and again, warmed by a feeling that has nothing to do with the vents that blasted sulfuric gasses into their faces.

And, like we do, we played Destiny. We played at lunch, nourishing ourselves on the tears of the teammates who became, for a brief moment, enemy combatants. It’s all in good fun, and we always part as friends. But, when the lunch bell sounds, it sounds like a call to arms to many of us.

Most importantly, a select few of us even played Destiny at home. For the first time, they reached out and touched our datacenter from their couch.

Destination: Australia

No one ever achieved world domination without leaving home every once in a while. Planet Earth is home to millions of gamers. We suspect that many among them are worthy of protecting the City. To prepare for the future, we dispatch Guardians from our Tower on recruiting missions. 

Last week, Dave Dunn, Bungie’s Head of Art, volunteered to make the hop. We fitted him with a tracking device and a Fireteam, and aimed him at Australia to headbutt some kangaroos and spread a message of hope and bravery. Check out the images he captured in the wild, and hear from the man himself about his adventure.

It just so happened that the International Fleet Review was happening while I was there, to commemorate the centenary of the first entry of the Royal Australian Navy's Fleet into Sydney. They celebrated by blowing things up (fireworks!). It was a spectacular event, complete with an amazing video display projected onto the Sydney Opera House. I just wished that all those damn people hadn’t held their phones up to take pictures while I was documenting it.

I was supposed to emerge from a tunnel once I was introduced to the crowd. My fabulous PR ‘handler’ took this photo. During rehearsals, I struck this pose and asked if it would work. He said something along the lines of, “Yeah that’s great, but you do realize you’re wearing a Reach shirt don’t you, dumbass?” Thus, the pose was struck from the performance.

At the Activision offices, they were kind enough to “hide” most of the Call of Duty and Skylanders paraphernalia before the IGN event, but I found this and couldn’t resist. Nothing like a good selfie with Dolph to get you ready to talk to the community.

This was taken during my visit to the IGN offices. That’s Lucy, one of my interrogators interviewers. Lucy and the other nice folks at IGN were very hospitable and certainly showed off their skills at downing beers.

If you haven’t spent some quality time with Dave on IGN’s PubCast, pour yourself a frothy mug of your favorite beverage (Root Beer counts, kids) and give it a listen. Think of it as a Bungie Podcast, only outsourced to people who like beer as much as we do (were it so easy). This is a chance to hear some of the oldest stories from the Halo-era at Bungie, and get better acquainted with a guy who is leading the artists who are decorating the big, new, beautiful world you’ll explore in Destiny.

More of us are checking in with the quartermaster to obtain a ship and a flight manifest. Other destinations await. Are you out there? Will we meet you in a place that doesn’t share a border with the often-functional nation-state that serves as Bungie’s shelter and supply? Stay tuned. We just might be visiting you in the wild very soon.

The Rhythm of the War Drums

Yesterday, I found myself leading a member of the Bungie Community on a tour of the safe-zone in our studio (that’s downstairs where security breaches are minimized). He was a hardened veteran of many battles hosted in the arenas of Bungie games from years past. Once the initial shock of posing with The Chief wore off, the questions started to flow. They always do when you meet someone with an emotional investment in a game. We don’t mind at all.

“So, Destiny will have competitive multiplayer?” he asked, and I could tell from his nod that he knew the answer to that question.

“Absolutely,” I assured him.

“But, well, will it be…” and then he trailed off, as if he felt guilty for harboring doubt.

“Will it be FUN?” I prodded.

“Yeah,” he breathed through a sigh of relief.

“We think so.”

I could relate to his curiosity. While we’ve whispered the words “competitive multiplayer” during strategic moments, not much has been said about how the Guardians of Destiny will fight for prowess and bragging rights. A boy could worry, if left to his own imagination.

What I couldn’t tell him (lest I scoop myself) was that the architects of our next multiplayer arena take their work so seriously that they conclude every week with a battle royale to claim a prize that is far heavier to them than it’s weight in faux gold. At Bungie, the Weekend Champion is a new tradition – an exclusive cool table with a coveted centerpiece.

Some of the greatest competitive traditions grow out of momentary flashes of rivalry. They can become the things of myth, like an oaken bucket stolen from a college campus, or an empty wager of millions of steak dinners. During these salad days of Destiny, they guys who spend the most time in our PVP lab spend their free-time fighting over the right to display a modest trophy on their desk for just one week, only to claw their way through a squad of their coworkers to keep it.

This is their story.

It was a Friday afternoon, and we were feeling a little bit salty from our last playtest of the day. There were only a few of us left in the room at the time, and I believe I said something like “How about one more game. Let’s play free-for-all, and the person who comes out on top will be the… Champion of the Weekend!” People laughed, but I saw a few of them nod in agreement. Not a single other word was uttered.
Lars Bakken, Design Lead

And so it was that a small movement began. Eleven weeks later, you could say that the Weekend Champion is getting pretty serious. I mean, just look at that trophy! As a veteran of the Warthog Wars myself, I had questions of my own. Is this just more of the Bungie competitive spirit boiling to the surface? Or was this science?

Weekend Champion is a way to bang on our game, blow off some steam, and play with no thoughts other than victory. Designer playtests are more about seeing what’s working, and less about whether it’s “fun.”  Playing the game just for fun is a nice break. (SPOILER ALERT: It’s really fun.) As we add features and smash bugs, the game gets better and better, so the Champion becomes truer each week. 
Derek Carroll, Senior Designer

This week, the designer who spoke his lesson and said it true was Senior Designer Josh Hamrick. You’re probably sick of him by now. He was “Mr. Space Magic” at E3. He showed up in Destiny ViDocTM 2 to talk about the three-weapon system. We even had him on the comeback edition of the Bungie Podcast to explain how you’ll have your own chance to become a champion. They guy just won’t shut up.

Meet the challengers. From left to right: Coolie Calihan, Lars Bakken, Leif Johannsen, Josh Hamrick (Champion), Derek Carroll, and Jon Weisnewski.

As it turns out, when Josh isn’t talking about what he does, he’s proving that he knows what he’s talking about in the only way that matters. He picks up a controller and kicks a lot of ass. In a bid to share with you just a whiff of what these guys are cooking up in their lab, I invited him to talk some trash.

Go ahead and pad your legend, Josh. How did you win?

Josh: Handily.  I THINK it might have been the largest score gap in Weekend Champion history.  I laid the controller down before the timer even expired. Honestly, it was all patience and timing. A good free-for-all game requires you to choose your battles.

Which Gender/Race/Class did you employ?

Josh: My Male Exo Hunter.

What was the smartest tactic you employed?

Josh: I use grenades for a good mix of offense defense. You can get kills with them, but you can also use them to block an attacker and break away as necessary.

What weapon do you owe most of your thanks?

Josh: It really all comes down to the “Rambler Mk.33” Hand Cannon. It’s big, loud, and blood red (aka: perfect). While it requires patience, it allows me to hit hard enough to grab kills from fights in which I would not otherwise be involved.

Write some checks to cash. Why are you the best?

Josh: A combination of Natural Talent and Acquired Skill passed down through generations. I’ve been a Hunter since day one.  I called it my class the moment we started making it, and here we are.

Fact: They got the cape idea from my serious fashion sense. Basically, my father was a Hunter, his father was a Hunter, and his father before him was a Hunter. You can’t touch that many generations of skill.

Of course, no post-game commentary would be complete without some equal time from the vanquished. In the interest of balance, and letting some air out this inflated ego, let’s check in with the dead box for some revisionist analysis. Here’s what Josh’s opponents had to say about the fourth-generation Hunter who has left a vacant place of honor on their desk this week.

The sore loser answer is “because he makes the guns.” Josh never strays from his favorite class and weapons, so he has refined his skillset a bit more than others.
Jon Weisnewski, Designer

Josh won because he deafened all of the other participants in the playtest with his random screaming. I did see him outside of the lab slamming red bulls and green tea. I’m not exactly sure it was a fair game.
John Harris, PVP Tester

He’s a crack-shot with the Golden Gun. And he screams a lot, which can be disorienting. He had a good grasp on a few choke points that lead players into one of the map’s main areas, which became the hotspot this round. I already have a counter strategy brewing if we play the same map this week.
Coolie Calihan, Artist

Josh won because I wasn’t playing. 
Greg Requa, Tester

Sometimes Josh gets on a good streak, and Friday was his day to shine.
Lars Bakken, Design Lead

One thing is for sure: Josh is pretty good at stealing kills, especially when he adjusts the stats on weapons he favors.  Let him have this one.
Derek Carroll, Senior Designer

He’s sneaky. Dastardly. Fast. Loose. Scoundrel. Scruffy Looking.
Jonathan Chan, Tester

I see how it is, start the immortalizing the week after I win!
Andrew Weldon, Designer

Indeed, Andrew. Shit’s about to get real up in there. Now that the Weekend Champion program has been given prime time attention, the pool of competitors is likely to gain a shark or two. Maybe we’ll send egray up to pay you a visit next week – show you how we roll in our corner of the studio.

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Farewell. Thanks for reading. Thanks for demanding that we bring you along on this journey. Until we have a chance to do this again (SPOLIER: next week), let’s open the Sack.

DiPolarPilot  Any idea when we'll get the next Podcast?

We have a basic idea. This week, evicted from our previous accommodations, we invaded some sacred territory to give you a chance to eavesdrop on a conversation about Destiny. These things take time. Not everything we talk about makes the cut. The surgeons are hard at work.

Karen Vess I just went and pre-ordered for PS4. Will I only get the beta for PS4 now? Or will I be able to try the beta earlier on PS3?

When you redeem a Beta code, you’re doing nothing more than making a reservation to play. You still have a lot of time to decide which platform you’ll select as the target for the download. For the time being, all you need to ask yourself is: Do I want to be in the Destiny Beta? All other concerns will be addressed later, in their due time.

Verachi Question: How does one get to play in the Alpha?

Answer. Alpha enrollment has a slightly steeper curve. Follow your dreams.
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