For anyone building a game, this panel was a great lesson in building a world. Forget about games, if you are writing a book or movie this panel would have helped you as well. Joseph Stanten (writer) and Chris Barrett (art director) put together a panel about Bungie’s new persistent world shooter Destiny. It was great to see how they built the world that millions will play in over the next several years. Here is a little of what they had to say.
First, Destiny started as a fantasy game. After Halo they had gotten tired of sci-fi and wanted to build something different. Halo had such energized content but was only a slice of a much bigger universe. Destiny is allowing them to build an entire world where events happen, not just within one small game space. They based the universe on a series of design pillars. They wanted a game that was inviting and hopeful. As violent as Destiny is, there's hope for humanity in it. They also wanted an idealized reality, so the world had to be gritty and feel very down to earth despite being epic and mystic. They also wanted a large amount of mystery and adventure. Players need to discover and learn as they play and the aspect of unlocking secrets was very important.
The team at Bungie uses a lot of concept art to set the stage for building a game. Chris talked about his artistic influences from 1970s sci-fi art all the way to epic fantasy art of ancient ruins and castles. It was these images that set the stage for design. After going through the fantasy genre, the team agreed that a very hard sci-fi edge was still needed in the game. Therefore they came up with the term: Mythic Science Fiction. So even though it is set in a world of space ships and lasers there is an ancient feel to the history and locations. One of the styles of concept art they use is something called a “postcard.” The post card shown below is one of their first images.
This piece of art tells a very direct story for Destiny. It has the characters working together and the ship in the background is docked. They have weapons, armor and gear which they are using in the image. But the big thing is, it also has them on the verge of an adventure.
There are a lot of other postcards to the game that the team has shown in its concept art. Some of the cityscapes and locations gave a frontier look to Destiny which the team wanted. They used old Western movies as an influence to how characters looked or carried themselves. Styles like the lone gunman or rag tag group of outlaws doesn’t sound like Mythic Sci-Fi until they showed a picture of Han Solo as influence, then it made much more sense. They also drew reference from the movie “Time Bandits” with its map and portals to different worlds. All of these influences were added.
Next they went into the races and classes for the game. The humans were the first, because we're so different. Next came the Awoken which was a combination of elves, ghosts, and vampires. The Awoken seemed very eternal and mysterious. The other race they showed were the Exo. The Exo were a combo of undead, Master Chief, and the Terminator, a very sinister race with skull style visages.
The team didn't go into what each race could do. Rather, they only spoke about the concept design behind them. I'm sure we'll be getting stats and skills later on.
The classes were next and they showed off three of them, each with a different idea in mind. The first was the Titan class which was the pure futuristic soldier. The Titan was made up of images of Space Marines and Storm Troopers. They are the heavy armor wearing combat specialists of the future. The next class shown was the Hunter. These are the exploring, cloak wearing, frontier men of the future. The last class they explained was the Warlock or Space Wizard. They showed pictures of robed helmet wearing figures walking the frontier. They also showed Obi Won Kanobi as an influence.
The only let down of the Destiny panel at GDC was that they did not talk game design or mechanics. It was all about the art styles and world building conversations the team had. However, it was extremely informative on how they designed these pictures and universes we will all play in. I know for me the artwork and style of a game really does pull me in and get me going. The look of Destiny in itself is something to behold. I truly hope the Destiny plays a persistent universe that'll live up to the style and art of it thus far.