Bungie unveils Destiny: Shared World Shooter

Let us be very clear on one thing, Bungie does not want people to think that Destiny is an MMO. Instead they are describing it as a console-based first person shared world shooter that will require an internet connection. There’s also a hint of a 3rd person social hangout/city, and players being able to use space ships to travel round the solar system, with an implication that space combat may be supported. So, this thing is going to be big, the artwork is super pretty, and also they have already specified no subscription.

Also there will be evil space zombies to shoot.

Bungie invited a bunch of press in recently, so now we do know a bit more about the game itself. Although not a great deal about the gameplay, which wasn’t demonstrated. IGN have a large writeup, and also a shorter FAQ for people who just want the basic summary version. Here’s a sample:

What the heck does “shared world shooter” mean?

  • Basically, it’s an MMO, but you can play the entire game solo or in small co-op groups.

Give me an example.

  • You and a buddy could be fighting some bad guys on a planet, and another player could seamlessly appear, help you out, and then you could group up or all go your separate ways.

What does it remind you of?

  • A bit of Planetside 2, a dash of Borderlands 2, and of course some Halo.

Are you sure?

  • Nope. Bungie didn’t show any real concrete gameplay. We’re hypothesizing based off of everything they told us.

No doubt we will hear a lot more about this venture over the coming months (no release date as of yet, the journos speculate 2014). The current furore is around “How dare they not release this game for PC?” (There’s an interesting note in the comments there to the effect that pad-controlled shooters tend not to make as much use of vertical space because it’s so much hassle to adjust the camera for the player.)

I thought the more interesting point is that Bungie clearly feel that a large, immersive, persistent, game world is still really important to players. Important enough to hang an entire game around. In fact, world is the first of their seven key pillars (one upping Bioware’s four key pillars, I guess.)

  1. A world players want to be in.
  2. A bunch of fun things to do.
  3. Rewards players care about.
  4. A new experience every night.
  5. Shared with other people. They did specify also that no one will be forced to PvP unless they explicitly want to. So this sounds to be primarily a co-op game.
  6. Enjoyable by all skill levels.
  7. Enjoyable by the impatient and distracted.

This has been said before, mostly with respect to accessibility, but I wonder whether pillar 7 will be the weak link that brings the whole structure down. Because I’m not sure if most players really want to play with people who are constantly impatient and distracted (unless they match their own playstyle very closely).

But maybe ‘playing with other people’ is going to be a more flexible experience in general. Bungie were specifically comparing the multiplayer co-op to Journey (massive award winning emotional chillout exploring puzzle solving work of genius) of all things.

Really I was hoping to hear more about the space battles (not a pillar!) and what fun things there might be to do in their game (pillar 2) that don’t involve shooting things. I’m guessing that the bunch of fun things pretty much do mostly involve shooting stuff, but who knows? I liked the IGN comparison to Planetside 2, Borderlands, and Halo; I was getting that vibe from the descriptions too.

But mostly the intriguing thing about this game is that they aim to prioritise small group adventures, with a massive player base. How they fare may set the stage for the next wave of MMOs. And in particular, I imagine Blizzard are looking closely at Bungie’s offering because the basic layout (large 3rd person social area, FPS adventuring) has a lot in common with speculations about Titan. But then again, maybe that’s why Bungie is not planning to release Destiny on the PC…

Are Bungie working on a new MMO?

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Actual concept art, from the horse’s mouth

Big gaming news this week was that IGN got access to leaked materials about story details and concept art from Bungie, who confirmed that this document was an outside look at Destiny, which is their follow up to the Halo games.  It sounds to be a full on Space Opera Star Wars-esque science/fantasy futuristic setting and the take out quote about the gameplay is that it is to be “social at its core.”

Bungie had a particularly classy response to the leak, releasing the concept art shown above and saying:

Go ahead. Take a peek. It’s alright. We weren’t quite ready, but we will be soon, and we can’t wait to finally show you what we’ve really been up to.

We do actually know a bit more about Destiny than the above links would imply.  Polygon read through Bungie’s contract with Activision that was unsealed as part of the Activision/Infinity Ward lawsuit earlier this year. They described Destiny as a “sci-fantasy, action shooter” and list out a schedule for future releases and expansion packs.

The contract describes the Destiny franchise as a “massively-multiplayer-style,” detailing the genre as “client based mission structures with persistent elements.” The franchise plans to go beyond four games and four add-ons, comprising “a blend of retail packaged goods sales, subscriptions, downloadable content, value-added services and micro-transactions.”

While the latter sentence is a bit off putting, I doubt any game would sound attractive if you described it purely from a monetisation point of view. But  they do include subscriptions as a planned payment option, and “massively-multiplayer-style” with “client based mission structures” sounds more CoD than full-on virtual world.

So how about it, Halo fans? Does a space-fantasy mission based massively multiplayer shmup appeal? Because Bungie might well be going there. Is Space Opera going to be the new hotness, now that Disney is making more Star Wars films?

It does also make me wonder how Blizzard will plan to position Titan, given that best conjectures I’ve seen on that have been based on some kind of science-fantasy MMO shooter.

Gaming News: Bungie signs up with Activision, EQ2 removes starting zones, Fallen Earth Dev cuts staff, and Vote Norman!

It’s that time of the week again. I feel I should thank the entire gaming industry for coughing up interesting news regularly since I started this column! Especially since all news in the UK has been postponed until next Thursday because of the election.

Bungie signs soul away for 10 years to Activision

Activision will be have been pleased to distract investors from the continuing saga of Infinity Ward (can we start calling it Finite Ward yet?) by announcing that the highly respected studio – best known for the Halo franchise, as well as Myth and Marathon – has inked the deal on a 10 year exclusive worldwide partnership.

Bungie were however careful to retain ownership of their IP. And this is all good news for PS3 owners because future games are likely to be multi-platform.

But lest we forget about Infinity Ward, this week 38 members of the Modern Warfare 2 team launched a lawsuit against Activision in respect of unpaid bonuses.

More Obstacles for Starcraft 2

As if it wasn’t bad enough that SC2 was rated 18+ in Korea, Blizzard is now in dispute with KeSPA (the Korean e-Sports Players Association) about which organisation is in charge of managing the sport of SC2 in Korea.

I think this is likely a bigger story than it seems, and that we’ll hear more about this one. It also sheds some light on the tricky relationship between a developer and the third party organisation responsible for organised player events.

Blizzard sets up a Cataclysm in the WoW Raiding Scene

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Blizzard has also switched into full-on information mode about Cataclysm recently. As well as the well publicised announcement about raiding changes, they’ve also started to release screenshots such as the one above.

The substance of the planned raid changes is:

  • 10 and 25 man versions of all raid encounters. They will drop the same loot, and offer approximately the same difficulty.
  • 10 and 25 man locks will be exclusive, players will not be able to run both on the same character. Instead they will have to choose.
  • The aim is to make 10 man raiding seem like a stronger option rather than the lesser and easier way to go.
  • Class designers will also be tweaking classes to make 10 man groups easier to form (that means spreading out raid buffs and abilities even further). So if you are deciding what class to play in Cataclysm, at least wait a couple of months until they’ve announced all the details because they may yet surprise you.

A lot of bloggers came out either in favour or against the changes, and you can see from the comments on my post how strongly people feel about their raiding. I’ve been most surprised by the number of people who feel that they’re carrying half the members of their current 25 man raid and can’t wait to ditch them. Really? But if you feel like that, why don’t you just go apply to a more hardcore raid guild yourself that will do a better job at winnowing the chaff than your current leadership? I thought that was how it worked.

And also at the people who think that if people flock to 10 man raids it must mean that they hated the other ones. It might, but more likely it just means that players will always take the easiest available route to the rewards. If Blizzard decided to put the same loot on 5 man instances, they’d do that instead.

Still, the jury is still out about whether this change will actually make the raid game more accessible or not. Bearing in mind that any group of friends who just want to run 10 mans can do that right now. And that to my mind depends a lot on the accessibility of PUGs.

EQ2 cuts out a starting zone

The new EQ2 producer, Dave Georgeson, has already started to make his mark at SOE. A couple of recent changes in the latest test-patch have riled up the player base because they’re removing content rather than replacing or updating it.

If anyone tried the EQ2 trial, you might remember the Trial of the Isle. This starting zone involved players learning their trade on an island zone, before graduating and being transported to their respective capital city. Well, treasure those memories because that zone is due for a Catac^D^D^D^D^D to be removed.

As a former (albeit brief) player, my reaction is that they could have just nuked Qeynos from orbit and left the harmless newbie zone (which really wasn’t at all bad) to drift under its own steam towards happier waters. Ysharros claims that some players loved the saccharine Wood Elf village in Qeynos. I agree 100% with her view which is that the districts were poky little racial ghettoes and when I tried playing a (ugh, can’t remember the name of the race, slender bald magic using humanoids) I quit the character in disgust at how awful the city was. Say what you will about WoW, it has awesome racial starting zones.

And I think the EQ2 devs made the right call here, their newer starting areas are SO MUCH BETTER than those tedious old cities with the constant zoning. I still think an actual nuking would be the way to go.

Level up in your sleep in Age of Conan

Funcom announced a new feature this week for Age of Conan, which is a variant of rested xp.

With this new feature you will get additional levels gained over time that can be allocated to characters in the character selection screen if you wish. It is designed to earn and allocate additional levels to gain over time even while being offline and it’s only available to put on characters that are at least level 30.

Again, the blogosphere has exploded with collective outrage at the notion that you might be able to level up a character without playing it (*coff* WoW register-a-friend *coff*).

I actually think it’s a pretty good idea. Probably a super turbo charged rested xp bonus would have done the same job without ruffling as many feathers but if I’ve been playing a game for long enough to have accumulated lots of offline xp then I probably do want the option to skip any levels or zones I didn’t much like the first time.

Now if AoC wasn’t so boobs and blood oriented I’d be tempted to give it another look. I keep hearing good things about improvements that the team has made since last year, and they have an expansion due out on May 11th.

Fallen Earth Dev cuts staff

Icarus Studios announced a restructuring this week which involved laying off 75% of the original staff. That’s not good news whichever way you cut it.

And if you get bored of the real election, why not vote for William the Conqueror instead?

This is a great story. A teacher in Northamptonshire decided to use the election as part of a history lesson. He set up a 1066 election between Harold Godwinson, Harald of Norway and William of Normandy (guess they didn’t want to call him William the Bastard). Connoisseurs of English history will remember that what actually happened was that Harold beat Harald at Stamford Bridge before marching down to Hastings to take an arrow through the eye from one of William’s men.

Anyhow, he took the whole thing onto twitter and that’s where the rest of the universe got involved.

I think it’s adorable and p.s. vote Norman, for change you can believe in.