Bungie: Destiny can surpass Halo, sit alongside Star Wars

Pete Parsons talks to us about future-proofing Bungie and how the studio believes next-gen gaming is “no longer just about the hardware”.

Pete Parsons

Before 2001, when the first Xbox and Halo took the console industry by storm, redefining what a first-person shooter could be like with a controller (instead of mouse/keyboard), most mainstream gamers probably hadn’t even heard of Bungie. More than a decade later, Bungie is now respected as one of the top developers in all of gaming. The company will forever be remembered for the iconic Master Chief and putting Xbox on the map, but the entire team – many of whom are still present from Halo 1 – hopes to make an even bigger mark with its next monumental IP, Destiny.

GamesIndustry International caught up with Bungie COO Pete Parsons to talk about the studio’s grand ambitions for Destiny’s 10-year arc, how the company is future-proofing itself, what next-gen really means and more.

There can be no doubt that the investment in Destiny by Bungie and publishing partner Activision is absolutely huge. Committing to a brand-new IP for the next decade requires a lot of resources and certainly a lot of confidence. While Parsons would not disclose budget to us, he made it abundantly clear that Bungie and Activision are shooting for the moon. The goal is to create something fans are so passionate about that it surpasses even Halo.

We like to tell big stories and we want people to put the Destiny universe on the same shelf they put Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Star Wars”


“We like to tell big stories and we want people to put the Destiny universe on the same shelf they put Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Star Wars; we’ve already seen they do that with Halo. We were extremely proud of what we achieved with Halo… I’m pretty convinced we are going to do it again with Destiny in a way that maybe even Halo never achieved before,” Parsons said. “What excites me is a number of years ago we talked with Activision and Activision believed in that vision, and that’s why we like this partnership so much; these guys know big entertainment as well. They prove it over and over again.”

While Bungie’s dream is to reach a Star Wars-like frenzy for Destiny, the studio is making a game first and foremost. There are no plans to create novels or comics or movies… yet. If the property gets as big as Halo, though, Parsons isn’t opposed to it so long as it truly does enhance the universe Bungie is creating.

“If they happen in a way that’s exciting and helps propel the universe forward, I think that’s great. But it’s not the ambition and it’s not something we set out to do. The thing we set out to do is to build an entertainment universe that people want to be a part of and continue to invest in,” he noted. “And we didn’t think of entertainment in the Halo world either – it was never something that we set out to do. Now, do we think it’s exciting if we can help increase people’s experience and investment in that universe? Yeah I think that’s great. We have a number of talented friends who do more than make games and if there’s an opportunity there that helps better the universe or propel it forward, that’s awesome.”

At a quick glance, someone watching Destiny may think it looks quite similar to Halo, but the game’s focus on social connectivity takes the experience another step beyond Halo. It’s really just an evolution of what Bungie set out to do as far back as Marathon. It’s ultimately in Bungie’s DNA.

“It’s no longer just about the hardware. It’s about these wonderful networks on both PlayStation and Xbox… The hardware is absolutely subordinated to those communities, and that’s great for us because that’s what we’ve been trying to do for a long time”


“I would say it looks very Bungie-esque. I mean that sincerely. We made Marathon before we made Halo; that’s almost 20 years of making games, and when you look at our games I sure as hell hope that they have a Bungie look to them. Bungie created Halo, not the other way around. We love action games, we love the shooter mechanic. We’re ambitious; we were ambitious and we brought people online with Marathon… And we successfully brought a shooter to the console and changed the way people played, and we changed it again when we brought out Halo 2 and made it online. And much of the code that was in Xbox Live at the time was code that we collaborated on with the Xbox Live team,” Parsons said.

He continued, “And we did it again with Bungie.net in terms of bringing people together outside the game. And we did it with user created content for Halo 3. We have every intention on defining what the next generation of shooters look like – that it has a Bungie aesthetic to it to me is exactly what we want to be doing. What’s different though is we’re taking a huge, for us very logical, leap forward. We are saying, ‘How do we take the core mechanic that we’re known for, add to it elements like how do you use space magic, how you put deep server-side investment into that while retaining the visceral simulation of a shooter, and then how do we put that into a persistent world?’ Those are big challenges that we’re taking on, and how do you make all of that super complicated matchmaking happen completely under the surface?”

Parsons doesn’t want people to think of Destiny as an MMO, however, just because people are coming together in the game’s public space. “So when you think about the public space, we think less about MMO attributes and more about stringing together storytelling. Here are a whole bunch of people moving from one place to another but for a moment in time we all come together and say ‘hey should we take down the enemies together?’ I could just sit there and people watch. I don’t need to join in, or I can join and get a reward for it. So for us, it’s about how do we bring people together? How do we move social more to the center of what we’ve done? And I would argue we’ve been trying to do that for a long time, but the technology and learning wasn’t there,” he acknowledged.

Indeed, this social aspect may be the “killer app” of next-gen gaming, if you ask Parsons. Everyone knows that games look pretty nowadays. Improving the social connection, though, could be the next big step.

“For us, that is next-gen,” Parsons remarked. “We’re going to be on all consoles, and we’ve been working on this game for five or six years, maybe even longer, so long before there’s even been a thought of next-gen we’ve been thinking about what kind of universe we want to create. I would argue that next-gen games are going to be wonderful in terms of visuals, but I believe that unlike prior console generations that have really been about the hardware, it’s no longer just about the hardware. It’s about these wonderful networks on both PlayStation and Xbox; they created these wonderful, vibrant, gigantic communities.”

“The hardware is absolutely subordinated to those communities, and that’s great for us because that’s what we’ve been trying to do for a long time. Every advancement they make there just helps make our universe better. That’s what’s really exciting about next-gen. I think the big advancements are how do we keep bringing people together? How do we make a game that’s not just about ‘here are a bunch of people in the same room together’, but it’s about what we want to do, which is to give you really finely crafted storytelling and competitive multiplayer and remove the barriers between those two,” he added. “Think about all of our previous games in the LAN parties… Those were all attempts really to bring people together. At the end of the day we were shipping three separate games on the DVD – we were shipping campaign, cooperative and multiplayer, and they are arguably different games. Well, now we don’t have to do that; now we can actually have people crossing each other at different points. You can build your avatar for weeks, months or years while enjoying storytelling and then move into multiplayer in that same build.”

This focus on social interaction and merging the worlds of campaign and multiplayer have been somewhat liberating for Bungie as well. Instead of obsessing about what the next-gen platforms would be like, the studio was more concerned with preparing for the future and setting up the 10-year arc it has planned for Destiny. The future-proofing Bungie engaged in automatically meant that the company could be prepared for whatever platform was thrown its way.

“We knew we were making this game on a 10-year arc and we did a bunch of planning around that. We had to plan what our team would look for such an ambitious project, what we had to do with our technology to be future proof. We didn’t say we have to plan for the next-gen consoles, but we said we have to plan to be on any platform possible,” Parsons said. “We didn’t set out to think just about the consoles, so we actually changed our development philosophy. What we decided to do was make one central design build, and then understanding how we export that to each of the individual platforms – that’s the right way to future proof our technology, particularly when you’re making a much more living, persistent world. That allows us not only to think of the platforms of today and tomorrow but also other platforms as well.”

“We’ve always admired people like Pixar, and we are finally in that moment where we have this raw, amazing talent that I think rivals entertainment creators anywhere across any entertainment ever”


Part of that future planning involved developing a new, proprietary engine for the Destiny universe. Parsons noted that the investment in technology is already paying off, making development much smoother for the team.

“This is an enormous universe that we are building and that we will continue to build over time, so yes the engine helps us gain a lot of efficiency. The Halo set of tools was really powerful but really at times unwieldy, and we knew that we would need to be able to make content at a rate that was much faster and achieve much more collaboration between designers and artists. Now we can have designers and artists working in the same space. Really improving our workflows in our content pipeline was job number one. Also, every time we build a new object it goes into a library to be used or referenced at a later date, which is exciting for us,” he said.

The extreme level of preparation Bungie is able to commit to Destiny and its own future is a nice luxury, one that most studios don’t really have, and one that Bungie didn’t have either for quite some time. There was a lot of uncertainty during the Halo days.

“We have a pretty good understanding of what we want to do over a ten-year period with Destiny, which is not to say we know exactly where the gameplay and story will go, but we’ve future proofed ourselves on a number of levels with technology and how we built the team and how the team interacts, and what we think our narrative arc looks like. Imagine many many thousands of pages on how we future proof ourselves in a way we never did for Halo because we didn’t know what came after Halo 1. And we didn’t know what came after Halo 2. It was like ‘alright it’s Return of the King for Halo 3!’ That was the pitch to the team. So what happens is you’re not prepared in the way that you want to be, so you can do things like paint yourself into a corner with canon and do all these things that sort of set you sideways,” Parsons admitted. “So I think we’ve learned a bunch there, but were continuing to learn a lot and I don’t think you ever stop making mistakes and learning – it’s just the nature of our business.”

In the end, Parsons is just eager to let Destiny do the talking for Bungie. It’s being released at a time when there’s more interest in games than ever before, and the medium is able to stand toe-to-toe with just about any other entertainment out there. “We’ve always admired people like Pixar, and we are finally in that moment where we have this raw, amazing talent that I think rivals entertainment creators anywhere across any entertainment ever, and Activision is helping us bring that reality to life,” he said.



Drowning not waving: Ben Cousins on shooting, money and horror

The Scattered Entertainment head speaks as The Drowning gets its big UK and US release


GamesIndustry International spoke to Ben Cousins as his first title with Scattered Entertainment, a free-to-play horror FPS called The Drowning, was released in the UK and US. The game actually launched in a number of smaller territories, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia, back in April, and since then has also been released in the Nordics.

“We were never really under any pressure to launch the game on any particular fate and we were given a lot of freedom by Tokyo to really wait until the game was ready – we were going to be completely happy with it before we went live,” explains Cousins.

Ben Cousins

“It’s a fantastic luxury to be able to do that and that’s why we had a much longer beta. I think a lot of companies will go into a soft launch knowing that they haven’t really got time to fix anything so they’re actually probably just testing their server code, testing their back end and doing a bit of tuning but I think you need to go into a soft launch prepared to change stuff if you’re not happy with it. Our longer soft launch gave us the opportunity to do that.”

The game is a bit of a first on iOS: a true first person shooter with a horror theme and free-to-play monetisation, with a unique control system designed to try and deliver the speed and accuracy that has been missing from so many of the other iOS shooters.

“Every core gamer who likes shooters on console and had a mobile device and was playing games on it had exactly the same reaction, and I personally had the reaction as well, that I was never really satisfied.”

“And we kind of reached the conclusion that we were never going really going to unlock the potential of shooters on mobile until we’d solved this problem.”

It wasn’t until a market research session two years ago that Cousins watched an angry young man battling with virtual sticks that the seeds of a new control scheme were sown.

“I’d like to see other shooter developers take up the spirit of what we’ve done and maybe try to innovate a little bit further”

“This guy was expressing his frustration at playing with the sticks and he was saying ‘why can’t I just tap and swipe and do all of the stuff I do on mobile? Why can’t I just control the shooter just using taps and swipes?’ And that kind of set a light bulb floating about my head and we went into a fairly involved prototyping phase.”

The system does make for a slicker shooter experience, and is an improvement on what has gone before, but Cousins is pragmatic about its achievements, and hopes to see shooters keep evolving on tablets and mobile.

“I’d like to see other shooter developers take up the spirit of what we’ve done and maybe try to innovate a little bit further. It was good to see the Deus Ex game doing some interesting innovations around the control system, I don’t think it was necessarily an improvement of The Drowning but people are realising they need to at least explore this area and hopefully try and improve and innovate on what we’ve done.”

Another challenge faced by the team was to give the player that immersive sense of horror, even when they could quite easily be sat playing the game in Starbucks, rather than in a darkened room in a haunted house located on an Indian burial ground. The solution? Go for the psycho chiller chase feeling, rather than the creeping, there’s-something-in-the-shadows one.

“I don’t think they’re ever going to get the same level of immersion in Starbucks that you would have sitting in a darkened room on an iPad, but what we tried to do with The Drowning is focus on the emotions that can be conveyed in that environment, panic and time management and trying to get things done just at the last moment and overcoming overwhelming odds. That kind of aspect of horror, a lot of horror movies have got that panicking, you’re being chased, the enemy is coming at you and you’ve got to think fast, that’s kind of the element of horror that we tuned into with The Drowning.”

Of course from a business point of view these days the monetisation behind a game is just as important as, in some cases clearly more important than, the game play. Cousins says Scattered Entertainment has made the most of parent company DeNA’s massive experience in the free-to-play market to find a balance that works. The game offers gamers the chance to pay more to speed certain processes up, or to keep on playing when their energy runs out.

“Energy mechanics, if they’re done right, can be tuned really carefully, and generally not for monetisation. You’re trying to tune the game so that people don’t get burnt out on content, and when I first heard this theory or idea it really struck true to me because I’m the sort of person who, when I really love a game, will play until I’m sick of it. And I will down a play a session of The Last Of Us or BioShock until my eyes are literally hurting like I haven’t been blinking and I’m sore from playing the game. And honestly I didn’t enjoy the last 45 minutes of that four hour session and at some point I understood that maybe there’s a value in the game saying ‘you know what, you’ve had enough, why don’t you take a break and come back tomorrow?'”

The Drowning

“And that’s a very counter-intuitive motion for a core gamer, but when you look at the data it actually bears out quite well that if you control the session length for gamers you will get better long term retention of them. They will play the game for more weeks or for more days or for more months, even if their individual sessions are shorter. And you add monetisation to it simply because you don’t want to completely block people from playing the game for 8 hours if they want to – that to me would feel kind of crazy – so generally you will add a small monetisation element to that. Super-engaged players would probably buy the game as a premium product anyway and they’re not that bothered about spending a little bit of money to keep playing.”

He points, not for the first time in the interview, to Candy Crush Saga, a game he clearly likes and one that uses a similar mechanic through its lives system. When he’s playing terribly and is out of lives, the wait for more gives him a break from the frustration, and he comes back to it, happier and with a clear gaming head, later.

“We don’t want someone coming in and completing the game in ten hours and just spending their money on energy, actually then in terms of monetisation they’re not going to be a big spender really.”

Scattered Entertainment also has plans that will help extend the lifespan of the game even further, a job that is slightly more challenging than just adding another 30 confectionery based puzzles onto a technicolor ladder. Here there are special events, an asynchronous cooperative multiplayer mode called Boss Hunt that will require players to work together,

“A lot of our learnings from Japan is that you not only need content in the main game loop you need enough to keep people engaged by time limited events are great ways of re-engaging lapsed players or bringing an extra flavour for people who are in the main game loop,” says Cousins.

“We don’t want someone coming in and completing the game in ten hours”

“I think ideally you want lots of different stuff happening in the game, lots of choice, so you can play the main game or you can also jump into an event and ideally you want an event running at all times. But building up those different types of event so that it’s not too repetitive is actually quite a big job so if The Drowning proves to be a success post launch then we hope that within a couple of months we would be dropping in another type of event.”

Now for a difficult question, what if it doesn’t prove to be a success? DeNA displays a ruthless efficiency when it comes to cutting games that don’t appear to be hitting their targets, even when those games are the work of big names like Suda51 and Keiji Inafune. Does that keep Cousins up at night?

“I think the last thing you want to do as a developer is to continue to invest your time and energy in something which actually didn’t hit the target, because people, broadly speaking, aren’t playing as much as you want them to and don’t like it as much as you wanted them to,” he says, philosophically.

“And if that was the case with The Drowning then I wouldn’t have any objection to moving on to the next product. Obviously you need to do the products some justice and the audience who have been waiting for it justice, so don’t just turn things off after a week. In fact you never really turn things off. But I’m very excited about The Drowning – I think we’ve done a really good job and I don’t think that’s going to happen – but I do think you have to be realistic as a developer.”

The brutalities of live games won’t be a shock to Cousins, his CV mixes old school, AAA development at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and DICE with over two years at EA Games Label working solely on free-to-play titles. He joined ngmoco in 2011, which had been acquired by DeNA in 2010

“If you wanted to make games and to get paid for it [AAA development] was the only thing you could do, and I think its quite telling that as soon as another option appeared there’s been this massive influx of developers moving into other platforms,” he says of the trend for AAA developers to make the move to smaller, independent development on mobile platforms.

“Believe me on every major AAA game the vast majority of the team wants to be a hell of a lot more innovative than they’re able to be, and they’re being constrained by the publisher and the executives to play it safe. That makes sense if you’re holding the purse strings for a $200 million investment but the initial pitches for all of these big games are a lot more ambitious and innovative than the final finished product and I think you find a very large number of people on these teams frustrated with those constraints.”

Scattered Entertainment may be part of DeNA’s massive network of developers, but it has managed to mark itself out in two ways, a flat management structure and a team spread across the world.

Scattered Entertainment

Scattered Entertainment

“There are two things that we do, one is that we have quite flat management and the other one is that we allow you to work remotely. We don’t care where you are, you can literally be anywhere in the world as long as you work a certain number of hours,” he says.

“That’s the biggest area of innovation and that’s actually the one that had the least impact on development, it just kind of solved that problem and it’s just worked.”

The flat hierarchy had more of an impact, allowing the team to have a greater input on the finished game, and while he admits someone still has to have the final say on some areas, Cousins thinks it’s a methodology that has proved successful in The Drowning.

“It gave us a very different product to the one which I created the original plan for before. I think if you asked anyone in the company they would say ‘a chunk of my personality and taste is in this product and here’s where I made my mark.’ It’s a real collaborative effort and if you know our team well you could look at them and you could see bits of their personalities and their interests in the story or in the UI or in the way the it looks, or in the game play itself. That’s been interesting because a lot of products tend to just be the creation of one individual visionary whether its a Cliff Bleszinski or a Ken Levine or a Miyamoto whereas we’ve created a much more evenly spread amount of influence on the product from the team and it shows.”

For now, all Cousins can do is wait and see what the US and UK make of the game. The reviews are strong so far, the game is the Editor’s Choice on the UK App Store and is number 8 on the free apps chart, so it seems that he can stop worrying about what the team have served up.

“What the analogy would maybe be is a service based business like a restaurant or a pub, you know, like you’ve created a new type of cuisine and you’ve put your menu up and just nobody comes in to the restaurant.”



NRA blames games in wake of shooting

Brendan Sinclair


US gun lobby blasts “callous, corrupt shadow industry” as part of culture of violence, says the media encourages shootings

NRA blames games in wake of shooting

A week after the Newtown, Connecticut shootings that left dozens dead, the National Rifle Association has blamed the media in general, and violent games specifically. In a press conference today, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre cast the blame for the massacre not on guns, but on the media, and on games.

“There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt, and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against own people, through vicious violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, and Splatterhouse,” LaPierre said.

He introduced a crude downloadable game called Kindergarten Killers, a first-person shooter that depicted a schoolyard shooting. He suggested that the media was either lazy in not reporting on the existence of such a game, or intentionally keeping it a secret.

“They portray murder as a way of life and then have the nerve to call it entertainment,” LaPierre said in reference to media companies the world over. “But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?”

LaPierre said that the media rewards shooters with attention and wall-to-wall coverage, only encouraging further attacks.

As for how to prevent future tragedies, LaPierre called for armed guards deployed in every school in America by the time kids return from their holiday breaks in January, saying, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” He also suggested a national database of the mentally ill.

The conference was broken up twice by protesters, one with a sign saying the NRA kills kids, another yelling that the organization has blood on its hands.

Founded in 1871 to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis,” the NRA has long represented the interests of gun owners and manufacturers in US politics. It is a staunch believer in the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and now boasts more than 4 million members.





ZombiU is a first person shooter game for the Nintendo Wii U console. The game takes place in London in 2012, where humanity has been hit by a virus that turns people into zombies. ZombiU is based on the survival horror gameplay mechanics, where the player is tasked with missions fighting through hordes of zombies. Players will control a series of “survivors” in ZombiU, where they can switch from one to another as they are killed by zombies, where the objective is to survive as long as possible to clear the level. The game will include a series of different levels, ranging from tight indoor areas, to large open spaces in demolished cities and towns.

ZombiU features

ZombiU will make use of the new Wii U GamePad controller, and will use the tablet screen as the survival kit, where players stash their weapons, med packs, items, and more. The game will also features a unique death mechanic that puts the survivor into the body of a different survivor each time, and lets them recover equipment and weapons. ZombiU will also be fully playable using the Wii U pro controller, which doesn’t feature a tablet screen and is suited for old fashioned first person shooter gameplay.

ZombiU screenshots

ZombiU videos

The ZombiU videos include trailers, gameplay sections, and even developer walkthroughs.

New Gaming Record By Addict – 135 Hours And 50 Mins

New Gaming Record
(Photo : 4Cabling ) Okan Kaya sets a new gaming record – 135 hours and 50 mins

Okan Kaya, a gaming addict, has set a new record for the longest marathon first-person shooter gaming session.

Kaya, of Sydney, Australia, took seven days to beat the previous record for continuous gaming, which stood at 120 hours 7 minutes. Kaya’s record was 135 hour 50 minutes.

Kaya played Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 for the record, finishing it with a career ranking of 29 among 5 million players. He works as a sales manager for a computer cable company called 4Cabling. The company documented his progress on its website and its Facebook page.

“It took seven DAYS of mental and physical stamina & he crushed it!” wrote Kaya’s co-workers on the Facebook page.

He was allowed to take a ten-minute break every hour, eating light and drinking energy drinks.

“My hands were cramping up and I went through a lot of bandages. I even tried to ‘pad up’ my controller,”

There have been tragedies when gaming marathons go unsupervised. A Taiwanese man collapsed and died following a 40-hour Diablo 3 marathon at an Internet cafe. An American gamer suffered pulmonary embolism during his 20-hour Xbox session last year, Yahoo.com reported.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sold eight million units on its launch day. The game holds a record for the most money generated in a day for entertainment release.

Kaya, however, said he is unlikely to try breaking a record any time soon.

“This is it for the moment,” he said.

“If I told the wife I had to go away for a week again and smash another record, she’d probably file for divorce.

“It was a lot of fun, but I’m glad it’s over,” he said, according to News.com.