This week at Bungie, we continued to sort through our findings from the recent Pre-Alpha test of Destiny.
You can learn a lot when a small delegation of highly-trusted testers inspects your brave new world for the very first time. Insights tumble from their unspoiled, eager minds like the luminous heaps of loot that litter the ground after a hearty battle. They teach you about everything from networking to weapon balance.
Sometimes, much to our surprise, they can even teach you about geology.
It all depends on the test subject. Each of them reacts differently to a mission. It just so happens that one of the vanguards we sent into the Pre-Alpha build was an actual explorer of our solar system. The Bungie Community might know Craig Hardgrove as one of the co-hosts of Guardian Radio. We’ve known him for some time now as a guy who’s helping to document the ongoing joyride of the Mars Curiosity Rover. Check out Craig’s other personal vehicle.
Hardgrove spends a lot of time studying terrain. He knows his rocks. While he was on his tour of duty in Old Russia, he studied ours. When he talks about them, we listen. I certainly listened when he started to transmit his feedback.
“I honestly think that staring at landscapes, terrains, and rocks is one of my favorite things to do in video games,” Craig said. “I know that sounds weird, but I just find that it immerses you in the world that much more, and if the landscape/rocks can tell a story I think that’s even more special.”
While the rest of his fellow testers were measuring the air that their Sparrows could catch on sweet jumps, our man Hardgrove was amusing himself with a virtual Geological survey. He even shared his findings.
“I was most impressed by the fact that there are massively-bedded, more resistant layers forming capping units that lie atop more thinly bedded, less resistant layers,” observed our science-wielding Guardian. “We’re clearly looking at repeating depositional cycles of layered mudstone with massive sandstones on top. The whole valley has, presumably, been carved out by a glacier.”
Most of this was going right over my head like an errant volley of slugs in a firefight. Still, I knew it was too good to keep to myself so I forwarded them to the Bungie team. Once Craig’s words hit our internal email lists, the people who actually worked on Old Russia started to take notice that their work had caught the attention of a purebred rock hound.
Rob Adams is the lead Environment Artist for Old Russia. He wields the powers of creation and erosion in Grognok. With a click of his mouse, he can bend millennia of landscape formation to his will. When he learned that he could swap notes with Hardgrove, a bromance of mountainous proportions broke out across the Internet. Like a mutual appreciation society, two alpha-geeks started to swap notes about laying the bedrock of the world of Destiny.
“I built a functional library of rocks for Cosmo,” Rob shared. “Rocks for general features, square-ish boulders specifically for combat cover, and cliff facades with no backs so they’d be less taxing on our engine when used many times. This ended up providing a good balance of memory storage and visual flexibility.”
According to Rob, designing terrain is about supporting both target acquisition and immersion: “Most of the rocks in the palette I built are designed to keep the overall visual noise levels down in any given scene. If noise-levels are too high, players have a harder time resolving the location of combatants with a glance.”
That’s the image Rob used to illustrate how terrain features can be too noisy for a combat destination. Can you spot the Guardian in that picture? Would you be able to do it at a glance, under the duress of bullets whizzing by your head? These are the sorts of things that our people think about.
Our goal is to build destinations where every last pebble tells a story. Every natural formation, every rusted structure, every broken road should lure your imagination deeper into a world that has moved on. Our tale of mystery and adventure takes place in settings that should spark your own curiosity to rove about in search of secrets or treasure.
It’s nice to know that even the most educated of minds can be drawn in by the scenery.
Next, we need a meteorologist to give us the sweet lowdown on our weather patterns. Anyone out there have a knack for Doppler radar and an itchy trigger finger?
We saw another batch of probing questions this week. Y’all are pursuing some master-level intelligence here. These are not the interrogatives of noobs. You’re starting to sound like citizens of the City. Ready to go to school? Let’s open the Sack.
Paragon: How much time in advance will we know about the beta? Will it be like, the day before, or will we know, say, a week or two in advance?
You’ll know well in advance. For starters, you might have heard that it will happen in July. You’ll discover more about exactly when it will be your turn to play in the Destiny Beta when we make announcements at E3. That’s a promise. The “when” will no longer be a mystery. Of course, we’ll keep the “where” and the “to what extent” closer to our vests.
Gnoizic: So, should we expect big things for Bungie Day this year?
Sure. Bungie Day is about the entire Bungie Community at large, so we’ll do something special that everyone can enjoy. At the same time.
Mr Arrows: I want to know if there will be a similar mode to Firefight in Destiny?
We hope you’ll come to find that Destiny isn’t exactly like anything we’ve created for you to play in the past. When you talk about Firefight, you’re probably enjoying memories of battling wave after wave of hostile aliens with your friends. We’ve got that in Destiny, but we wrapped some story around it. We also parked a nasty boss at the end of that stretch of bad road, and it will be defending a honey pot of loot. The act of taking that boss down will be its own reward, but it will not be the only reward. We call this experience a Strike.
Kaylski: I haven’t played any Halo games. Destiny seems much more my cup of tea. Will my lack of experience be detrimental to me becoming legend?
Absolutely not. Destiny is a totally new vision for Bungie. New story. New setting. New heroes. New ways to play and discover other players. For us, it’s been a next-gen exploration in every sense. There are those who loved Halo that have tried Destiny and described it as “coming home.” We’re glad to hear that, even though we still have plans to surprise them. The thing for you to remember is that you don’t have to grow up in a nice place to enjoy it once you move there.
Siffera: Dynamic Skyboxes?
Hell, yeah. The sun rises. The sun also sets. It all happens in real time, right before your eyes, assuming you have a quiet moment away from blood-thirsty invaders to drink in the scenery.
MokeyD: What can we be expecting as far as multiplayer?
The whole game has the potential to be multiplayer now – even though you can play as a fireteam of one. We’re going to assume that you’re asking about competitive multiplayer – what some refer to as PVP, or “player vs. player.” You can expect that your fellow Guardian will be among the most dreaded opponents you’ll face. You can expect that you’ll have to embrace that fight willingly. It will never ambush you when you’re battling the true enemies of humanity.
And, hopefully, you’ll be able to experience it first hand before the game even launches. We’re taking this show on the road. Next stop? E3, baby. The Battle of Los Angeles is on!
ziggychris24: So I see from the gameplay video there are burst guns that you guys seem to be fond of. Can we get a mod to make it semi-auto or full-auto? Personally, I hate burst.
I’m with you, ziggychris24 (even though we both know that’s not your real name). I’ve tried my hand at every modern console shooter of note, and a burst weapon is always the bane of my short-lived existence. Fortunately for both us, Destiny boasts a deadly arsenal of more weapons than you’ll be able to carry with you on your desired missions. You’ll need to choose your weapon carefully. Full-auto. Semi-auto. There’s a gun for you in there somewhere, with a firing pattern that will feel match-fit to your beating heart.
ChuckieJ: Do factions even exist? It’s weird that I bought a “New Monarchy” shirt two years ago and it’s still not confirmed that it actually exists.
Factions most certainly exist. Don’t use that shirt to spit shine your boots just yet. The real question is: Will you still love New Monarchy once you’ve had a taste of their politics? Perhaps you’ll start to develop an affinity for Dead Orbit and FWC as well. As a Guardian, you’ll be a free agent. You’ll decide whose bidding is worth doing, and you can be an equal opportunity killer.
Tegilant Prefect: Will there be any faction-specific gear like weapons and armor?
Factions will reward you for your service to their cause in a number of ways. You just mentioned two of them.
See the Hunter in the background of that image? What’s he carrying? Does it look familiar? Don’t make us force you to watch the Devils’ Lair strike again. Don’t make us send you back to the Drawing Board.
Tetragon: You said we will learn more about PvP at E3. Does this also mean we’ll get more information about the Factions, since they are integral to PvP lore?
Your assumption seems to root the factions in the competitive arena. In truth, each faction will have their own motivations for sending you into the wild on a variety of vital missions. They’re not just cheering sections for a competitive fracas. You’ll find their agents in their tower. You’ll discover their missions while you’re patrolling the wastes. You’ll detect their influence over other heroes of the City. Everything you do in the game will add to your understanding of the story and the world in which it takes place. Factions are colorful strands in that tapestry.
TheClawMan: Will my whole clan need to be in the same faction?
You’ll have a number of ways to express your solidarity with one faction or another – or all. One thing we do not want to do is give you a choice that would result in a barrier between you and your friends. Your clan is quite safe from the sectarian strife of the factions. Be excellent to each other.
That’s all we have for you this week from the land of Bungie. We’re spending a lot of time getting ready for E3. We hope you are as well. Should be one hell of a party.