BAFTA Games: Talking To Bungie's Jonty Barnes About Destiny's Achievements And Weaknesses
Destiny is one of the the most polarizing AAA games of its scale in a long time. Just mentioning the game in a busy room brings up mass cheers and boos, often dividing a space and creating a huge cacophonous argument where no one gets out alive.
I'm usually in the cheering side of the room. I believe the game to be a unique console experience and if I had access to it all the time, I'd be putting in a few hours into it daily. The core gameplay provides possibly my favorite shooting on the market. It's progression loops are addictive, but also very satisfying.
Now, I completely understand people's complaints of there not being enough content, the story being awful or putting up a barrier to hardcore progression.
That is why I was excited to talk to Bungie's Production Director, Jonty Barnes ahead of tonight's BAFTA Game Awards. We talked about that divide between players, the successes of the game, but also the weaknesses it has. We also pondered on the meaning of award shows and the industry as a whole.
With out anymore ado, here is the interview:
Patrick Dane: Do you think awards are important to video games? They don't seem to have as big of a public or cultural impact as they do in other mediums, i.e. the Oscars to Film. Why do you think that is? Do you hope that grows?
I believe awards are incredibly important. If game awards don't resonate with the public in the same way that the Oscars have, it's because games themselves have yet to become as established as film.
Also, as we're not a passive medium, the characters and the stories in our games are driven by the player. Players are the stars of our games, so a lot of awards focus on the craft we put into the experiences we create, and that's important to us as we take our art form very serously.
PD: Why do you think an institution like BAFTA supporting video games in this way is so important?
We appreciate the fact that BAFTA recognizes the importance of interactive entertainment. People are spending more and more of their time enjoying entertainment software, and BAFTA adds decades of credibility to evaluating the art of creating entertainment. Their traditions for assessing and recognizing quality drives people in our industry to strive for even greater accomplishments.
PD: Looking back on Destiny, what are you most proud of in terms of the achievement on the game?
Personally, I'm most proud of that fact that we've created a game that is best enjoyed cooperatively. I'm still playing with my friends, even after six years working on Destiny. I don't know of another action title that has had that effect on me. Many of the people on our team are also incredibly proud of the core gameplay mechanics. The game is fun to play, and we've worked hard to get where we are today and we're very proud of what we accomplished.
PD: It's no secret that Destiny is a divisive title that spurred polar opinions in some people. There are those who play it for three hours every day without fail and those who had quite strong negative reactions to it. Why do you think that is?
Games inspire strong opinions. The events that transpire in the experiences we create directly involve the player. We've seen a player-base rally around Destiny that has a lot to say about how the game can get better and we encourage this dialogue as it informs how we change our worlds. While we always have our own opinions on the matter, we always welcome a challenge from the player to improve upon our work.
From the start we wanted to create a hobby with Destiny. Something you could jump into for quick enjoyment or deeper participation and reward the player in both cases. To do this we believed we needed to slope the floor for people to play together, create character progression and create AI (not scripted) gameplay, so the experience was different over time. While building on the core action gameplay Bungie was renowned for. I believe that recipe is responsible for the games success.
PD: Looking back, what do you think the last year has told us about video games?
People expect an incredibly high standard of execution for console games now. You have to succeed on so many vectors. Fortunately, new hardware is giving us new opportunities we can use to push our craft for creating games. It's also been extremely interesting to see our audience grow in a game in which the world is persistent. This has already changed how we make games going forward, on all platforms, but also makes us think differently about the desires of the player.
PD: If you had the chance to add or change one aspect of the game's design, what would it be?
I think we'd make some different choices today on realizing our story.
Personally, I wish we could build more places in our universe faster. Fortunately, the systems we use to build those worlds is evolving right alongside the player, better enabling us to meet their demands.
PD: What should we expect from Bungie and Destiny going forward? What do you hope to see from the game's and your own Guardian's narrative in the future? How do you perceive the announced sequel to build upon Destiny?
Time and again, players communicate to us what they perceive to be the potential for Destiny. We're thrilled to have captured their imaginations with something new and bold and ambitious.
This moment in time we have a great problem: too many good options in front of us for the team to focus on. Ultimately, we'll choose the one which resonates with the studio. As we're all gamers at heart and we've consumed the fire hose of feedback from the community since we launched.
I'd like to thank Barnes, Bungie and Activision for taking the time to talk to us about Destiny. There is lots of interesting things in there, that as a Destiny player, I can relate too.
[At one point this interview was accredited to David 'Deej' Dague. That was a PR mistake that got mixed up in international transit. Sorry for any confusion]
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