Bungie COO Pete Parsons discovers his Destiny

Bungie has a hard act to follow—its own. With Halo selling over 50 million copies worldwide and still going strong under the new guidance of 343 Industries, Bungie has teamed up with Activision for a new transmedia shooter franchise called Destiny. While not an MMO game, Destiny is being designed using new technology from NVIDIA and a new game engine from Bungie to craft an overarching story that allows individual players to pave their own way through this sci-fi shooter adventure.

The gameplay will open up an experience that transcends different modes, including Destiny’s story, competitive multiplayer, and public combat destinations. At the heart of this unique adventure is a fully customizable hero that players can create and build up with a near limitless combination of armor, weapons, and visual customization options. The universe will also likely expand beyond gaming, just as Halo has embraced comics, novels, Web series and at one point a feature film.

Pete Parsons, COO at Bungie, talks about this new persistent online universe and how Destiny got the creative juices of his team flowing in all new directions in this exclusive interview.

Game On: Where did the idea for Destiny come from?

Parsons: After Halo, we asked ourselves some tough questions. What was worth doing? What comes next? How do we turn a genre on its head? We have a studio filled with incredibly talented and passionate people, and we could have pointed them at anything, but we wanted to do something ambitious. That ambition was Destiny—a universe filled with mystery and adventure set within our own solar system. 

What were your goals heading into this new project?

We took all of our combined talent and experience and set out to make a game that would entirely redefine how people play action games. It’s a Bungie action game set in a bold new universe. Players create their own unique characters that grow and change over time.

From the ground up, Destiny is built to be a social and cooperative game, but it’s also filled with a broad range of activities, from solo to group, casual to intense and cooperative to competitive.

What was it like starting anew after being immersed in the same universe for so long?

Creating this world is the most ambitious challenge we've ever taken on. It’s a new intellectual property with greater breadth of scope than anything we've done before. Huge worlds, larger than any we've ever built. And these are living, open worlds, with evolving stories, changing time of day, and plenty of players. That’s a bold vision, but it creates a lot of challenges, because Destiny is unlike any other action game.

How did this impact the creativity of your team for Destiny?

It’s an exciting time to be at Bungie and it started the moment we made the decision to commit the entire team to this single vision. That energy grows with each and every milestone. Every day I walk in the door I am inspired by the insane amount of talent that work and play within our walls.

What are the challenges that exist today in launching a new IP like Destiny?

We have a bold vision that requires a scary amount of art, design, technology, and creative focus to pull off. It’s a huge challenge.

For example, our technology has to take this great action game, fuse it with a richly simulated world that we fill with unique player characters, each with their own history and unique abilities and characteristics. Our technology has to create a seamless social world where those players can meet up and experience their own shared stories, and it has to do it all invisibly.

How do you hope Destiny pushes the shooter genre forward?

We want players to tell their own stories. We’re going to give them the ability to customize their character, and their experience. Then they’re going to go on epic adventures with their friends. You can play Destiny solo, but we believe that everything fun to do in Destiny is more fun when you’re playing with friends. It’s that unpredictable human element that will create the most important moments in Destiny.

Can you talk about the technology engine, Grognok, behind this game and what you feel it opened up for your development?

We had to rebuild our engine and tools to support Destiny’s enormous size, scope and vision. Our graphics engine, world builder, lighting engine, and more were all custom-built to support the team’s vision.

But all the tech doesn’t mean anything by itself. What matters is how it creates player stories. It’s been a huge challenge, but we’ve already begun to see huge rewards for all the hard work.

How have you utilized performance capture or new technology to work with the actors in this story?

Bungie has our own full-featured performance and motion capture studio on site, lovingly dubbed “Spandex Palace.” We’re not ready to crack the lid on the story, or our talented actors yet, but it’s something we’re looking forward to talking about in the future.

What are you most excited about gamers being able to experience with Destiny?

I hope gamers will put Destiny on the same shelf of great memories as they put amazing entertainment experiences like Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Lord of the Rings. I believe the efforts and talent of our team is creating a universe that will ultimately have deep meaning for the people who come and visit our world.

Halo has become a fixture in eSports. Have you thought of eSports (something Treyarch focused on with Call of Duty: Black Ops II) when designing the multiplayer of Destiny?

We’re not talking specifics about any of Destiny’s core activities at this time. We’re too busy playing.

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