Destiny: Bungie’s ‘little-big’ reveal leaves a sour taste

Monday, 18 February 2013 10:34 GMT By Dave Cook

Destiny, Bungie’s next ‘ten-year’ franchise was revealed last night, sparking enthusiasm and not a small amount of chagrin. Dave Cook calls for a reality check.

‘Shock and awe’ is king and transparency be damned, thanks to a methodically strategised, heavily-funded campaign of mystery and half-truths.

We’ve been seeing Bungie drop little hints about the next ten years of its new franchise for about a year. The Halo studio teased, so we were supposed to listen and get increasingly excited until the day Activision allowed open conversation on Destiny.

This is how the console industry works.

‘Shock and awe’ is king and transparency be damned, thanks to a methodically strategised, heavily-funded campaign of mystery and half-truths. The carrot and stick mentality is the norm. After yesterday’s Destiny reveal, the carrot seems slightly rotten.

Yesterday, a group of gaming press was corralled to Bungie’s studio in Seattle on Activision’s dollar to see the fruit of the developer’s labour – the grand plan for its next decade.

The atmosphere was thick with excitement on social networks and forums as gamers sat anxious, waiting to see what they’d been asked to anticipate for so long. First, a vidoc released, showing off some animated concept art followed by a few seconds of gameplay.

Bungie employees popped up every so often to wax lyrical about how incredible Destiny will be, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. What we know of the concept sounds brilliant, but here’s the problem: the concept itself hasn’t fully been established.

This was not a reveal.

Shock-tease

It was more teasing, more half-truths to add to the rumour pile. I was reminded of Nintendo’s half-reveal of the Wii U at E3 2011. Afterwards, the confused press spoke outside in sweltering LA sun, confused about what they’d just seen. What was it? How did it work? What can it do?

Without answering these questions, you can’t realistically claim you have revealed a product. The fundamentals are still muddied, the core pitch unclear. We know that Destiny requires an always-on internet connection, and that it takes place in an always-connected world.

So what is it? Is it an online RPG like Guild Wars 2, or is it a straight-up MMOFPS? Does it feature microtransactions? All of these key questions should have been answered, but they weren’t.

What did lend greater insight into Destiny’s world were the string of previews that came out after the initial video dropped. Talk of the last human city on Earth being bombarded by aliens, a sprawling world that can see squads of human-controlled players blasting off into orbit before travelling to mars and venus gave greater cause for excitement.

But given the general lack of detail, it’s little wonder gamers on forums and comment threads blasted the reveal as little more than show-boating. Some went further, blasting Bungie and Activision for creating a ‘shit’ game, for making online mandatory, and for creating something that just ‘looks like Halo.’

There’s little doubt in my mind that Destiny will be epic in scope, and will go on to be another solid franchise from Bungie, but by that token I think some gamers need to give themselves a shake.

It doesn’t just look like Halo. It’s an MMOFPS of sorts (seemingly), so of course it requires a net connection. Finally, no one’s seen enough of it to make a solid verdict on quality.

Activision and Bungie should have addressed this. We didn’t see enough of Destiny yesterday. There was no clear message. The event was merely the first drip in a year-long drip campaign being tacked on to a previous year of dripping. It’s true that it’s just a vocal minority of gamers which lashes out negatively in these instances, but surely, considering this was the first proper announcement event, we should at least know for certain what genre we’re looking at here?

We’re in the realms of cynicism, and that saddens me as a genuine fan of this intelligent, thought-provoking, entertaining and valid hobby. It’s true that both sides – Bungie’s weak reveal and the trash talking hate-mongers – should be wearing red faces this morning, but it’s time to admit that a “reveal” should be just that. Close-handedness treats everyone like suckers, and that’s never a solid policy.

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