|Thoughts on Bungie’s Debut Video for their New Game Destiny|
CC2K’s Big Ross reacts to Bungie’s big reveal, and explains why that reaction was so MEH.
So we’ve been hearing about Bungie’s Next Big Project for a long time now. Gamers have been speculating about it ever since Bungie officially handed the reins to their juggernaut Halo franchise over to Microsoft (who promptly commissioned 343 Industries to start work on new Halo games pronto, which they did and released Halo 4 last year). Bungie played things pretty close to the vest during the early stages of development, as one would expect, but earlier this week amidst all the excitement over the unveiling of the PS4, Bungie made waves of their own with the first major announcement video/trailer for their Next Big Thing, titled Destiny.
Check out the video, and my thoughts on it, after the jump.
The first thing you’ll notice is that there is far more talking about the game than actual gameplay. In fact, there is little to no actual in-game footage in the video; mostly what you see amounts to concept art with some admittedly cool motion effects to make you forget for a moment all you’re looking at is concept art. And while it’s clearly still early in the development process for this game, and Bungie would likely prefer to save a bigger, better, more informative trailer for a major conference like E3 or SDCC, Bungie still wants to begin to generate some buzz and excitement for their new game. And yet, watching this video my first and only reaction was “That’s it? Your Next Big Thing is another scifi/space opera with humanity threatened by aliens?” [YAWN]. The first problem with this video is the problem with all early teaser/announcement/demo videos for video games. Virtually all developers are guilty of it, and so many of us gamers fall for it each and every time, mistakenly thinking that maybe THIS time will be different from all the rest (SPOILER: they never are; they’re all the same). That problem is over-hyping one’s product. As we see and hear in this video, every time a developer really begins talking publicly about a game still in progress, they promise gamers the moon. They excitedly talk about their game “having no limits except their imagination” (Translation: we can do anything!, SPOILER: of course there are all kinds of limits like hardware, network, etc.) and how “innovative” it will be in “redefining how games are played and experienced” and how the developers are “blazing new trails” (Translation: Guys! NO ONE is doing what we’re doing!, SPOILER: Everyone is doing what you’re doing, that’s why it’s called a business model) and “building something alive, not fully in their control” (Translation: the AI is SO awesome you guys, SPOILER: probably not). All this amounts to little more than hype and rhetoric, which is a nicer way of saying it’s probably a load of bullshit. Maybe I’m a little too jaded, just a little too much of a pessimist. That’s fine. But I refuse to heed Bungie’s call to board the Hype Train to Destinyville. At least not this early in the game, no pun intended. I prefer a wait and see approach, but what I have seen so far isn’t exactly promising.
The second big problem, IMHO, gets more into the game Destiny itself. I heard developers use words like “crazy ideas” “completely new” and “scary is good” when talking about Destiny. They’re not totally oblivious given that one developer admitted Bungie is “playing to their strengths”, but seriously, are these guys listening to themselves? Bungie starts planning their next major game after putting Halo to bed, a game that we learn in the video is clearly intended to be the beginning of a new franchise they anticipate lasting a decade, something crazy and scary and new and what they come up with is...Halo. Only not Halo, and with what seems like a lot of Mass Effect thrown in (but certainly different than Mass Effect). It all sounded a little too familiar, didn’t it?
Humanity is struggling to survive with a retinue of various hostile aliens committed to our extinction. You are a guardian, a soldier who will undoubtedly find himself on the frontline of the war, and at the spear tip of the efforts to save the human race. There’s even a mysterious superstructure in space that you just know will play an important role in the game’s story, a structure we already learn you have an as yet unexplained connection to.
But at least it’s a sphere and not a ring, so there’s that.
Maybe I’m just getting burned out on this genre, maybe I’m in the minority in that respect. But after 5 Halo games and 3 Mass Effect games, these tropes are getting old, they feel tired and uninspired. There’s the “humanity threatened by aliens” trope. Check. There’s the mysterious scifi superstructure. Check. There’s the mysterious, lost to history events that bear on the game’s proceedings. Check and check. Shit, the video even blatantly states “something hit us, knocked us down..no one knows exactly what.” [GROAN].
The most revealing thing about this video to me is that Bungie is doing what it is doing because it makes money, plain and simple. Bungie is given its millions of fans precisely what they want, until their fans demonstrate they want something different. If it ain’t broke, and all that. Bioware has announced that while it is done with the Commander Shepherd storyline, it will make more Mass Effect games. While Bungie is done with Halo, it’s essentially giving fans more Halo. These games have made hundreds of millions of dollars. Why deviate from the formula? But you know, I remember when a little-known developer made a game that revolutionized the industry, a game that validated and sustained an entire console system, a “killer app” that went down as one of the most important video games in history. What was the name of that game again?
Oh yeah. Halo: Combat Evolved.