A Kotaku report released Wednesday seemingly confirmed what most Destiny players already believed – the PlayStation and Xbox game received a complete overhaul just months prior to release. While that is not necessarily news to those that have followed the game from leaked Bungie documents to now its second year of release, details of sub-par development tools and grinding hours may create larger concerns for the fanbase future of the franchise over what has already happened in the past.
As suspected, Kotaku‘s sources claim Bungie completely scrapped Destiny‘s initial structure just months ahead of the original September, 2013, release, which ultimately led to a one year delay in the game. A poorly received supercut of the shooter’s cinematics put together by Joe Staten was reportedly the culprit after studio leadership voiced disapproval.
This poor reception to the Destiny supercut presentation led to the entire story elements and characters being scrapped or repurposed. For example, the Exo Stranger was originally an assistant to Osiris and the Queen’s brother, Prince Uldren, was a character named the Crow that had a personality more like Cayde-6.
The changes to the story ultimately led to Staten’s departure from Bungie, and the parting was not amicable. Many other writers parted ways, as well. This led to Project Lead Jason Jones, Art Director Chris Barrett, and Design Lead Luke Smith to “cobble together” a less linear plot and focus on the game mechanics.
The stitched together story showed at Destiny‘s launch, and has been a common complaint up until the release of The Taken King expansion.
This “cobbled together” story may have hurt Destiny in the short run, but it may be the development tools that hurt Bungie and the game in the long run. Kotaku‘s sources claim the tools for level design, graphics rendering, and content creation are serving as road blocks.
“Let’s say a designer wants to go in and move a resource node two inches,” said one person familiar with the engine. “They go into the editor. First they have to load their map overnight. It takes eight hours to input their map overnight. They get [into the office] in the morning. If their importer didn’t fail, they open the map. It takes about 20 minutes to open. They go in and they move that node two feet. And then they’d do a 15-20 minute compile. Just to do a half-second change.”
Combine that with the grueling hours spent re-purposing the initial launch Destiny and you end up with the two DLC packs of The Dark Below and House of Wolves. Both steadily improved the basics and story of the game, but were heavily criticized for being light on content and other issues. In particular, the Crota’s End raid in The Dark Below was filled with glitches at launch, and House of Wolvesdid not launch with a Raid due to Bungie’s concerns that it wouldn’t be able to deliver a quality experience during the timeframe.
Additionally, there was the eight months between weapon balancing patches to address the overkill nerf of Auto Rifles and the ridiculous power of weapons like the Thorn Hand Cannon, and Shotguns in general, in Crucible multiplayer. These all add up to supporting evidence that Bungie has been taxed thin attempting to deliver the necessary expansions and DLC for Destiny to live up to its contract commitments with Activision.
It’s also a possible explanation of why Bungie is moving to a microtransaction model for Destiny, with the assumed goal of using the revenue earned from that to support free DLC releases. This takes the developer off the static two DLC releases in between major yearly releases, but it may still have problems as long as the development tools are holding back progress. Worse, the studio may still not have the time it needs to fix them.
“A lot of the problems that came up in Destiny 1, and that happened in development of The Taken King, are results of having an unwavering schedule and unwieldy tools,” said a Kotaku source. “Bungie is ravenously appreciative of the people that play their games, and they listen, they listen so clearly. But because the tools are s**t, and because no one can reach consensus on how to fix the game in the time that’s allotted, you get a lot of sort of paralysis.”
High Moon Studios, the developer behind Transformers: War for Cybertron and Deadpool, are reportedly assisting with the development of Destiny 2, which is due September 2016.
Destiny players have poured hundred of individual hours into the game over the last year, adding up to millions of hours of total play time. This news will have fans and industry watchers eyeing any signs of development missteps or improvements over the next year though.
[Images via Bungie]