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AusGamers Destiny Interview with Senior Writer Eric Osborne
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 03:38pm 29/08/13 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with Bungie's Eric Osborne who is serving as both senior writer and community manager on Destiny. Read on or watch for what he had to say...

Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link

AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly, speaking with Eric, who has the good fortune of being both the Senior Writer, and Community Manager for Destiny, which is a game that we’ve been across from the beginning; a game that I’m absolutely champing at the bit for. And I’m going to ask a question: it’s trade event season now, we’ve had so many opportunities, and yet you’re only giving us the tiniest little bits of the same thing over and over again.

So let’s talk about what it means to maintain this level of excitement, while being quiet about everything.

Eric Osborne: Well we haven’t been really quiet. When we came to E3 back in LA, we had a nice piece to tee that up, Law of the Jungle, which was a Jon Favreau-directed spot with Giancarlo Esposito, so that’s pretty loud, and we wanted to make a big deal about our gameplay reveal.

Gamescom is all about bringing that experience to fans for the first time, so we built this super-huge theatre -- it seats 200, and is the largest theatre that’s ever graced the floor here at Gamescom, it’s got a really awesome projector and crystal clear HD and bass, and people are really digging it.

We wanted to make sure that we’re really getting the fundamentals across about Destiny and what it is, because we’re doing some new things with the genre. We’re doing this really interesting action game -- something that we really love doing -- but we’re blurring and blending the lines a little bit, so we want to make sure that people understand exactly what we’re doing before we start digging in and doing the info dumps; but those are coming.

AusGamers: As a senior writer, when you’re dealing with a game that has this persistent online world, what challenges do you face in making sure that it’s always engaging and there’s always something… when the world itself can’t necessarily dynamically change?

Eric: There’s a philosophy that we have in Destiny, a design principle called activities for every mood. So our minimum bar for it, the standard we hold ourselves to and that our fans hold us to with our legacy, is that we have to create a great cinematic experience, we have to create a great competitive multiplayer, and a great cooperative multiplayer experience. Then we’re doing a lot of fun things around that, like letting you create your own character and grow and change it over time.

We’re giving you outlets to explore the solar system and meet other players out there. So there are stories that we can tell the player -- the sort of cinematic grandiose things that you can have in private -- there are stories that you can tell about the gameplay moments that you’re having with your friends and other players, and we think those are super-potent. And those sort of activity streams, that cyclical content, like once you’ve done the story, and had a great beginning, middle and end, you can go back out into the world and explore more and maybe find additional story outlets.

Maybe those are cinematics, but they might be a raid, they might be competitive multiplayer, and they might be something like the Devil Walker.

AusGamers: Now you’re obviously pushing for co-op, which is a big factor, and then the public spaces, but then there’s been a lot of talk from you guys as well, about just being able to go off on your own, and explore on your own and just enjoy a single-player experience.

Can you talk about, I guess how much the game caters to those particular players. Are you going to get more out of the game if you do both? Which is a logical conclusion... but I’m curious to know, from a design perspective and a writing perspective, how you’ve approached that.

Eric: Yeah, so we want to make sure there’s activities for every mood. It’s super-important for us to not only recognise that there are players that just want to do one particular activity -- like there are players that just want to do story content, or just want to do competitive multiplayer, but there are a lot of players that do everything, they’re omnivorous, so they play the story, and then they go play competitive multiplayer, then when their buddies are online, they go and do the cooperative stuff.

So we’re making sure that everyone has this steady dose of really interesting and engaging activities that feel really knew and fresh, and the world feels like it’s alive and dynamic is super-important, and supercritical. So we can do that through cinematics and through writing, but we can do that in a lot of ways, by enabling players to be the most important actors -- giving them agency in the world, making sure the sandbox is crafted that it feels different every time, giving them worthy enemies that are fun to fight, giving them a sandbox of weapons that are fun to use and interesting to go after and pursue.

If I want to use a pulse rifle, or a sniper rifle, how different is this encounter? If I tackle this in vehicles or on foot, how different does that make it feel? If I fight the Devil Walker with three guys, as opposed to seven, how different is that? So there’s a bunch of ways we can tweak the world, and make it feel really interesting and fresh every time you jump in.

AusGamers: Do you guys have a schedule… it’s a stupid question; of course you have a schedule, but is there any particular time frame you can divulge in terms of when we’re going to see something beyond the Devil Walker and PvP experience? When is the next big reveal?

Eric: Right now we’re focused on Gamescom. We’ve got some days left to go, and there’s 300,000 people here that we want to make sure we can get them the opportunity to see that experience -- our gameplay reveal -- up close and personal. And I think there’s something really cool about the live experience, and interfacing with the developers and the community directly, so that’s a really fun experience for us.

I can’t really give you a date or a time, but there are a number of months and days between now and then -- we’re shipping in 2014 -- and we’ve got a lot of stuff planned that I think we’re going to satisfy you on that front.

AusGamers: Now obviously competitive multiplayer [in Destiny] is a thing that’s out in the world, in terms of knowledge. Because I kind of asked about, in the ViDoc video, how it actually works. Because you guys talk about seamless matchmaking, obviously when it’s competitive multiplayer you’ve got to elect to go and do that, as opposed to just walking around the world and it happens. Can you talk about player numbers, and at all how that will actually be implemented?

Eric: Player numbers is something that we’re not actually settling on right now. We don’t want to put that out there until we’re absolutely sure what those number counts are. Those sort of happen as we playtest the game and we figure out what those sweet spots are. Obviously we have some idea of where we want it to land, and we’re playing it every day, so we want to make sure that that’s the right call to make.

But you’re absolutely right, it’s player-choice whether you go into a competitive activity, we absolutely don’t want somebody to be running around in the world, and then some player just starts shooting them and aggressively forces them to have a competitive match if they’re just trying to do some story stuff.

So like the cooperative stuff, it’s opt-in and optional, so we’re creating some really interesting UI solutions to get people into the world, and it feels like it’s part of the world itself and stitched into the narrative. We haven’t really revealed and unpacked it; it’s something we’re looking forward to talking about, but we’re just not quite there yet.

AusGamers: The snippet of video that I’ve seen of the multiplayer human versus human is… there’s a big forum question going around with Destiny, as to if you’ll be able to jump in as any of the enemy factions in the game?

Eric: That’s a pretty good question [laughs]... the competitive multiplayer, we’re kind of not detailing anything of that at this point.

AusGamers: You can’t blame me for trying [laughs]. So the other bigger question that I have is: you guys talk about being able to go to all of these different planets, and to go into all of these exploratory things. How big is the initial game going to be? Because I know that there’s planned DLC, and there’s a planned sequel (if there game does really well, which it will; let’s be honest). Can you talk a little bit about how much of that promised exploration is going to be available from the outset?

Eric: The game is huge, it’s like the most ambitious thing we’ve ever done. I spent a good 45 minutes last week, just tooling around in a space, and marvelling at how big it is; it’s pretty cool to see. The slice that we’re showing off in the gameplay reveal is really just small fraction of a single destination in the game. So the scope and scale is pretty interesting. I think more importantly, the things that we can put in the world, and the way we make it feel fresh and unique also help it give players new looks at the world, make it feel vibrant.

Just changing time of day, in and of itself, is a really cool thing. If you touch down in old Russia and it’s at night, you might see an Aurora Borealis, and that’s sort of a nice way to make it feel fresh and interesting. And of course players, when you throw them into the mix, it starts to feel really dynamic.

In terms of content and activities, we’re trying to build something that looks a lot like a programming model. We want there to be something new every time you come back into the world, and that’s super-important for us to make the game feel fresh, and that’s absolutely something we’re going to deliver day one.

AusGamers: This is kind of a weird question, because I know you’re probably not going to be able to answer it anyway, but: is it problematic that you’re targeting current-gen and next-gen, when next-gen can clearly take on larger player numbers and do more from a tech side of things? Because I know that you guys are looking for a bit of parity across the experience for everybody, and there’s no guarantee how long the install base for the current-gen is actually going to last. So how are you guys approaching that, internally and philosophically?

Eric: Well from the very beginning, 2009, before we had any details about when next-gen was, we laid down the fundamentals “what are the design principles and pillars of Destiny?”, and those things have held throughout the design process. So those things hold across all platforms that we’re shipping on.

So whether it’s PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, those core design principles -- what Destiny really is -- has to live there; we have to satisfy that. That’s our bar for an experience, and if we couldn’t deliver it, then we wouldn’t ship it on those platforms.

AusGamers: And finally, I’ve got to ask the PC question. It’s been coming up so much, so often, that surely the discussion is actually turning into a conversation, and the conversation is turning into a whiteboard…

Eric: There are a lot of hypotheticals there, but I don’t have any announcements to make at this time.

AusGamers: Alright Eric, we’ll leave it there. Thank you so much for your time today. I can’t wait until you can actually talk to me about it a little bit more.

Eric: [laughs]

AusGamers: Thanks very much. Cheers.
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