Dancing in the moonlight.
BY: STACE HARMAN
JULY 1, 2014
The time for supposition and speculation is almost at an end. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been party to a slew of firm details and had extensive hands-on time with Bungie and Activision’s sci-fi epic, Destiny. Between IGN’s own deep dive into Bungie’s next great hope, the finer points of Destiny’s PlayStation exclusive content and the recent recent alpha phase, we’ve been spoiled for information in which to revel ahead of Destiny’s September 9 release date.
However, there remains one question that has gone unanswered and it’s an important one. So, when I sit down opposite Bungie’s vivacious community manager, David “DeeJ” Dague, I politely wait for his lively introductory chatter to cease before leaning in close to strike to the very heart of one of Destiny’s most pressing concerns.
“Why...,” I ask, pausing for dramatic effect “...can you dance?”
I expect my Putlizer Prize is already on its way.
“Well, you can dance if you want to,” answers Dague, quick as a whippet. “You can leave your friends behind,” he leans in closer still. “Cos your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance then they’re no friends of mine.” Well played, DeeJ, well played.
Quite aside from offering a mischievous community manager the opportunity to troll the press with a 1980s Canadian pop song, there is another, more relevant reason for being able to bust a move in 2014’s biggest video game sci-fi event.
“So, in actual fact, you can dance because the communication in Destiny is in some ways non-verbal; we have enough experience with online games to know that sharing voice chatter in games needs to be a very intimate, consensual agreement,” Dague answers more seriously but with a telltale twinkle in his eye.
“At the same time, this game is social and co-operative and so you will encounter people in the wild who you want to co-operate with. Now, maybe that’s to say thank you or to point to something or even just to sit down to indicate to someone that you’re fetching another beer, so the dance is just a little reminder that at the end of the day we are making a game and that it’s fun.”
For a company that’s spent much of this century involved in creating and evolving the sci-fi epic Halo franchise and is now responsible for building an even more ambitious proposition that’s costing an estimated $500m to launch, it’s refreshing that those involved can still find time to remember that games are meant to be fun - I can’t say for certain at this stage, but I’d be willing to bet that Halo 5 won’t have dancing in it.
You can dance because the communication in Destiny is in some ways non-verbal
Believe it or not, putting dancing in Destiny is not the pinnacle of Bungie’s achievements, of course. However, that simple, amusing act of pushing right on the D-pad to watch your formidable Hunter, Titan or Warlock go all Daft Punk for a few seconds, encapsulates Bungie’s attempts to surprise its players in unexpected ways.
It’s something that Destiny has been doing since its inception. For while we’re all obsessed with pigeon-holing things in order to better understand them, Destiny has repeatedly shown that this first-person, third-person, co-operative, competitive, single-player, multiplayer shooter-RPG-MMO-adventure has often defied such straightforward categorisation. Those initial glimpses that had Bungie’s devout following concerned that Destiny was a flashy-looking MMO have given way to something else. Now, there’s the experiential realisation that teaming-up with a random stranger for variable periods of time in order to achieve a particular task before once more going your own way brings to mind the likes of Journey and Dark Souls even more readily than it does World of Warcraft or Guild Wars.
It’s this constant ability for Bungie and Destiny to defy expectation that stands Destiny in such good stead and gives us reason to be very optimistic of its ability to delight and to draw players in with its impressively wide scope.
“I hope that Destiny’s ability to surprise will be emblematic for a lot of our players,” relays community manager Dague. “I want it to expose them to new experiences that they might not have imagined for themselves in the manner in which the game will be competitive, co-operative and social. So, for someone who might think of themselves as a certain type of gamer they’ll find themselves branching off into some of these new activities because they’re part of this world that they love to explore.
“However, the thing about Destiny that I think it’s important for players to understand is that they have full control over their level of social engagement. I don’t want people to feel that they can’t have that experience of ‘I just want to play a Bungie game, I just want to be told a great science-fiction story and feel like a badass and I don’t want to have to convince other people to co-operate with me to be able to do that.’
A Fireteam of one can go all the way through the story and experience every Eureka moment
“A Fireteam of one is always welcome in Destiny and that Fireteam of one can go all the way through the story and experience every little Eureka moment that’s secreted away. For those that really don’t want to engage online they’re totally empowered to be the strong, silent type.”
Evidently, Bungie is very aware that if it’s to succeed with Destiny in 2014 and beyond it must somehow find a way to be many things to many people. It must offer a thrilling and seamless multiplayer element while delivering compelling content for those playing alone. It must also maintain the high level of authored story-telling and the visual and aural fidelity that has long marked Bungie as a video game superpower.
Destiny aims to deliver on all these fronts straight off the bat and, in this respect, is the developer’s most ambitious title to date by far. Looking back all the way to 2001, Bungie was a very different animal and while the Halo series grew in scope, ambition and technical achievement, Destiny exceeds everything the developer attempted with its now iconic series.
Bungie has worked hard to earn its deserved reputation for excellence but with its achievements and increased ambition comes unprecedented expectation. That said part of Bungie’s own evolution has involved understanding that expectation and learning how to meet and even exceed it.
“I don’t think there’s anybody out there who can have as great an expectation of Bungie as Bungie itself,” insists Dague. “We’re our own harshest critic and our own fiercest competitor. When we say that we make games that we want to play ourselves that is a rock solid truth of our creative process.”
No doubt there will be many eyes watching what Halo becomes under 343 Industries’ guiding hand but Destiny stands an evolution of the sci-fi concept that Bungie has spent over 14 years developing and will spend many more years supporting.
Happily, no matter where Destiny takes us in the years to come, it looks as though one thing will remain true.
“We always need to ensure that we have a sense of humour about ourselves because while there’s this serious side: (and here Dague adopts a dramatic, film-trailer style voice over) ‘You’re going to go out into the stars to liberate everything that we’ve lost and face the unfathomable darkness...’” He cracks a smile, “You’re still going to have time to dance.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m sure in the mood for dancing.
Sourced Via IGN