Jonty Barnes, Director of Production at Bungie, talks with TSA about Destiny.
TSA: What kinds of things have you learnt from the beta? Is there anything that you’re thinking you might try and patch in?
Jonty: Well there were hundreds of little changes that we actually made. The most notable one that we’ve actually talked about was the Interceptor in competitive multiplayer that was too powerful, but we also had the Hand Cannon that was not powerful enough. We had lots of optimisations to do about making sure the best people are matched together and making sure they’re given the best experience in terms of skill and geographic match making.
And then there were weird things, like people wanting beards!
TSA: I think anything to make up for the little arm bangle for the Warlocks. If Warlocks could have beards, though…
Jonty: [laughs] But I mean, for some people it was very important for them as human beings to be able to have a beard, because that’s part of their personality, I guess, in real life. So that has started a very heated internal dialogue at Bungie about we do beards, what is the prioritisation of that and how we can accomplish that. So that’s been a funny one!
TSA: So it’s clear to me that we’ve just been scratching the surface, and there were those guys who even managed to break out of the map on Old Russia and find new areas.
Jonty: It’s true. There’s a lot of content there. I mean, it’s way bigger than anything we’ve made before.
TSA: Since you’ve got just the four or five locations to go to…
Jonty: There’s the Moon, Venus and Mars, and they’re the main destinations in addition to Earth.
TSA: Have you found it difficult to get across to people that these small number of locations go really deep?
Jonty: Yeah, I mean, when people think of it as being four things, it’s really hard for them to understand the real estate that is there and the complexity of all the different spaces that you can visit.
Then, when you add it to another layer, which is that you may be going back to places that are familiar to you, but there’s going to be completely different activities for you to participate in. So you’ll be getting a very different experience even though you get some familiarity. We actually like that property, because we want people to be able to navigate and go through things. So yeah, it’s definitely been very interesting…
You know, it’s funny. I feel like as an industry, people are caring less and less about numbers, which is great. It always used to be about graphics, and though 1080p and 60Hz are still out there, and as platform providers get competitive around those things it seems to magnify the importance of it.
But it isn’t about that, it’s actually what is an awesome gameplay experience for the player and anything that gets in the way of the best player experience is baggage. I’m quoting directly from Jason [Jones] there and, you know, as we’ve seen over the last few years, computer games are so much better, they’re so much higher quality, and it’s much more about the experience and less about those statistics.
TSA: Will there be the kind of custom modes which you had in Halo games?
Jonty: Um, I think we’ve been asked quite a bit about whether or not we’re going to do private games and things like that. It’s certainly an active discussion, but it’s really about how we wanted to make sure for launch that we had the best gameplay that we could offer for the core competitive multiplayer activity.
I think what you’ll find is that over time we’re going to see some things arrive, and I think players are going to inform our prioritisation of what features we update. We’re going to build on Destiny. 9/9 isn’t just launch and forget. We did a bunch of this with Hoppers [temporary playlists], I guess, in previous Halo games, but we’re on a much greater scale of potential change, if we choose to do it.