Destiny: Going Co-op

Bungie's Eric Osborne shares more details about online play.

Destiny is part of a new breed of online game. Falling somewhere between a single-player RPG and a full-fledged MMO, Bungie’s latest game aims to provide a rich, evolving world where players can seamlessly group up and adventure.

When I spoke to community manager Eric Osborne as part of a round-table discussion, he felt that it was natural for the studio to be heading this way. “If you go back even before Halo, Jason Jones our founder and creative director, was shipping experiences like Minotaur: Labyrinths of Crete – these were all connected experiences before it was very well known. You had to ship a little instruction card for people on how to use your modem.”

Halo’s launch as a flagship Xbox title cemented that view even further, with Osborne recounting tales of students wiring up their dorm rooms to play each other. That experience later shifted online with the advent of Xbox Live and Bungie.net.

Osborne went on. “It really feels like a natural progression to take those features and make them the core of Destiny. I’m at a crossroads in a campaign mission, and then I just see three guys whip by on bikes, then a spider tank drops down in the middle. I can meet those people, I can form a party, or I can completely ignore them, but the world feels so much more different and alive. There’s this element of unpredictability that other players bring to a game.”

From what we’ve seen, Destiny is already on the road to becoming an action-adventure experience on an epic scale. It’s something that the studio knows the fans expect, after developing a strong legacy of cinematic campaigns and great multi-player with Halo. “We think that’s our foundation for delivering. For our fans to give us money […] that’s the bar we have to hit.”

While much has been said about the seamless drop-in/drop-out multiplayer experiences, Osborne stressed that players would need to opt-in to those things first. He mentioned having activities for every mood, so that Destiny would cater for the lone gunman as much as the social shooter. “In fact, you could fight the spider tank alone if nobody else joined in. You might have a hell of a time with it, but it could be fun. Some players might want that challenge.”

Destiny’s world will be littered with what Osborne described as “ambient encounters” to support light co-operative play. For those looking for a meatier challenge, other options will be available. “You might go do a Strike with friends, or a Raid with some of your best friends.” He added that raids would require “a higher number of players, much more planning and strategy and be much more focused for players who want that type of experience”

If you decide to group up with others, the great news is that you won’t sacrifice loot by doing so. Each player gets their own private loot stream which others in the group won’t see. It means that a low-level player gets loot tailored for their level and class, rather than pilfering higher level rewards from someone else.

Ultimately though, your success will be down to how well you fight. “It’s a shooter, so it’s a skill based game as well. It’s about targeting AI that’s fun and worthy to fight, and using your skills to overcome them.”

With Destiny having both a levelling adventure and end-game experience, Bungie’s biggest challenge will be in keeping us playing long after the game has launched. It’s something the studio did successfully during the Halo years when focusing on multi-player. “We think we have a really good opportunity now to provide the whole package, supporting people who love story, love cooperative, or love exploring.”

“There’re a lot of conversations going on in the studio right now between the frequency of lighter content, the novelty of some of the bigger rocks of content, and I think we have a really good first stab at what we think people will enjoy.”

As to what that post-launch content will include, Osborne stressed that it’s not set in stone. “A lot of it will be dependent on what the data tells us, what behavior tells us and what feedback we get from the community. The cool thing is we’re living in a world where we can give them frequent updates, we can stream data to them and change the world, and we absolutely want to do that.

“It’s one of the big reasons why you make a persistent world, so you can give them new gear, new things to go after, new treasure, new destinations and a whole bunch of fun stuff to make it feel fresh over time.”

Destiny is due out in 2014 on both current and next-gen consoles, with a PC version currently unconfirmed.

Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer, Senior Contributing Editor

Follow me on Twitter @Gazimoff

Tags: Destiny, News

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