Video Games

What Destiny Tells Us About the Future of Video Games

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Bungie

Destiny, the new first-person shooter from Bungie, the company that until recently was behind the enduringly popular Halo series, just had the biggest first day of any new video game ever, with more than $500 million in retailer orders during its first 24 hours. A few other video games, like last year's Grand Theft Auto V (which sold a whopping $800 million worth of games on opening day), have posted better single-day numbers, but they have all been sequels to existing franchises. This is the best start for a new series in video game history.

It's also a game that suggests where the future of gaming is headed: customizable single-player experiences in the context of a massive social universe, with narratives that sprawl across years and continents of virtual space.

Destiny is essentially a mashup of the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) and the traditional first-person shooter (FPS). Just as in most RPGs, players customize the look and capabilities of their characters, but then embark on more traditional FPS-style missions. We've seen RPG/FPS hybrids before, of course, with games like Borderlands, but Destiny adds a larger social aspect to the game: Even when you're playing single-player missions, you're playing online, on servers populated by other players. They can play with you, co-op style, but often they'll just be nearby, pursuing their own interests. Maybe you'll join up for a moment to crush a massive boss, or maybe you'll just do a little dance and move on (yes, Destiny characters have dance moves).

There's an overarching story and mythology involving planetary conquest in a post-Utopian inner solar system, but unlike in a traditional single-player adventure, there's no clear end point. Instead, Bungie says the plan is to tell a universe-wide story, with literally game-changing events and new installments, over the course of a decade. Destiny is an attempt to create an expansive virtual universe, and allow each player to experience it in their own way—as whoever they want to be, and whoever they want to be with.

Reason

The result of this unique hybrid game design is a dual emphasis on personalization, in which players make choices that determine how they want to play and who they want to be within the game, as well as on player-driven social experience, in which players exist in large part in the context of their relationships to others in the world around them, determining for themselves what sort of social unit they want to be part of.

After finishing up with The Independents last night, I played for a few hours, and my early impression was pretty good. It's a great looking game, with solid shooting mechanics and a surprisingly deep character upgrade system, a lot of which I haven't even cracked yet. If you liked playing Halo, you'll like the gameplay here.

But what struck me most was the social aspect. It's not nearly as crowded as most of the traditional massively multiplayer games I've looked at, and since I was playing solo, there wasn't the same kind of tight, team-based interaction of typical team-based shooters and co-ops. Instead, there was the unusual sensation of being in the middle of some familiar single-player shooter mission—and then, unexpectedly, running into another player. Usually the encounters were brief; sometimes they lasted for several minutes. But each was a brief reminder that games—even the sort of video games that have long been thought of as strictly for anti-social loners—are social experiences, and that there was, in fact, someone else out there, doing his or her own thing, just as I was doing mine. Judging by yesterday's revenue figures, there seem to be a lot of them. 

Here's Reason's Nick Gillespie on why Grand Theft Auto V is the new Great Expectations. 

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  1. Now I feel old. I remember when playing a game was a matter of personal enjoyment rather than a compulsory social event.

    1. Destiny has both single player and co-op modes. They don’t force you to play multi-player.

      The only problem with it is that it’s not available yet to play on a real gaming system, only on kiddie toys.

      1. They don’t force you to play multi-player.

        Unmutual!!!

        1. I don’t do ‘social’ gaming so when I see any kind of mutliplayer support I just skip it because I know there is where all the focus is going to go and whatever single-player mode is on offer will suck.

          1. I feel you there. I like multi-player sometimes but I am at heart a solo player. Unfortunately multi is the way the wind is blowing. Hard.

            1. The key is co-op. That way you can actually play multiplayer but you don’t have to play it with every 10 year old brat and Russian hacker on the planet.

              1. Yes, that is an improvement but I prefer to game alone. Co-op usually means the game is less fun – or even unwinnable – alone.

      2. Destiny adds a larger social aspect to the game: Even when you’re playing single-player missions, you’re playing online, on servers populated by other players.

        SimCity did this too. Maybe I’m reading what I quoted wrong and you can play it without paying for a subscription and an ISP, though.

        1. Simcity did it as well, to massive fan outrage that killed a ton of sales.

          1. But developers keep trying the “always on” model. With the promise of micro-payment lucre dancing in their eyes why would they stop?

            1. Publishers like EA are into the always on model, but it keeps biting them in the ass. EA’s been losing money for years, they need to either adapt or die, and if they continue with that model they will die.

              One of the main reasons that companies like CDProjekt are rejecting DRM and always on models is because it’s great advertising for their companies. Micro-transactions aren’t going to go away but the ‘always on’ model isn’t required for those to exist (see Steam and its offline mode).

              Now, ‘streaming games’ seems to be the next stupid attempt at market control, but I don’t think that will pan out very well.

              1. We’ll see what happens. Until then I’ll keep playing Master of Orion from ’93. It’s deep, engaging and I don’t have to listen to anyone ranting about “fagguts” [sic] while I’m doing it.

                1. Masters of Orion’s spiritual successor has a new game coming out, no faggot yelling other people required. That being said the tread towards more ‘social games’ is more something being pushed by larger companies. There’s still a lot of single player games out there. Destiny is a half a billion dollar venture, that’s not really common.

                  1. I can only hope the trend blows over.

                2. MoO, great memories, especially the massive cluster-fuck of anger that surrounded MoO3. That was some epic fan butthurt.

                  1. lol yeah. Maybe I’m reading too much into this but it really seems like a push towards mandatory communal fun. As a player of WoW and TF2, I don’t mind OMP but the idea that gaming can be a personal, private experience seems to be fading a little.

                    1. Honestly, I think it’s less mandatory communal fun and more ‘blame the Millenials’. A lot of Millenials play games socially and that’s reflected in the sales over the past generation so companies are trying to capitalize on it. The result is attempts to shoehorn-in multiplayer with mixed results.

                  2. I bought MOO3 and within a couple of hours realized how much it sucked. I told a friend that, and he offered to buy it from me for half what I paid.

                    He emailed me a few days later telling me that he agreed that it did indeed really suck.

          2. Simcity did it as well, to massive fan outrage that killed a ton of sales.

            And they just gave up recently and now offer an offline mode. As a SimCity fan I can confirm the online mode was a complete clusterfuck and uninteresting to boot.

      3. The only problem with it is that it’s not available yet to play on a real gaming system, only on kiddie toys.

        Ha ha! Suck it, PC ubermensch! I’ve been playing for hours now! And it’s AWESOME.

        1. Well, if you want to play with your baby toys, there’s nothing wrong with that. I have to wait until it comes out on adult equipment. In the meantime, I have plenty of awesome games to play, like Divinity Original Sin.

        2. XB1 or PS4? I haven’t made the leap yet from the old 360. The lack of game catalog and no backwards-compatibility has made me gunshy.

          1. XB1, and honestly if I could go back in time six months, I’d probably change my mind about buying it, if only for the reasons you just mentioned. The games look gorgeous, sure, but there’s no serious game-changing (ugh, no pun intended) leaps between next-gen and last-gen. 64-person multiplayer games on BF4 are pretty rad, though.

            Once the platform starts getting more exclusive titles, I think it’ll be a worthy investment, but until then, meh. Doesn’t mean I can’t get my digs in at the PC master race.

          2. I went from PC to mostly console with the 360, but looking at the current generation, I’ll probably go back to PC. Both consoles appear to be underpowered for the cost. I expected a minimum 1080P 60Hz performance out of this generation.

      4. But it is always online, right?

        Man, I fucking HATE that trend.

    2. I still say that Super Nintendo was as good as video games ever needed to be.

  2. I’m a little pizzed they didn’t release this on PC.

    And I’m not buying a kiddy toy to play games on, so I guess I won’t be playing this one for a while. I’ve heard rumors of March, 2015, but nothing confirmed.

  3. “but it doesn’t there’s no clear end point”

    I think a word was either added or left out here.

  4. I feel so dumb for having liked “Pole Position”, “Galaga” and “Simon” (the latter ESPECIALLY when stoned – what a great stoner game).

    I don’t pretend to “get” any of these ASFKSDFN/FPS/QED games – my son loves them.

  5. Yeah but can I sell weapons for REAL money?

  6. It’s a great looking game, with solid shooting mechanics

    Sigh… no need for this for me then.

  7. “What Destiny tells us…”

    Why are we listening to a stripper about the future..

    1. *narrows gaze….changes mind, begins to applaud*

    2. Well played, sir.

  8. I’m a bit more interested in No Man’s Sky personally. Also, why Destiny is not on PC is just mind boggling.

    1. Between that, Star Citizen, and Elite, there will be lots of space goodness coming out.

    2. They are apparently convinced that PCs are once again, dead as gaming platforms. That mistake cannot seem to die.

      1. Meh, nobody cares about publishers anymore. If you want a game made, just do a Kickstarter. Money is surprisingly no object. Star Citizen sits on $42 million, I back Elite and Torment, those are in the millions as well.

        1. I’ve never backed a kickstarter, but have backed several games by buying them in alpha, such as Planet Exlporers, Seven Days to Die, The Forest, and RUST (biggest freaking mistake I ever made in backing an alpha).

          I didn’t back DOS, but I bought it on release day for full price and don’t regret it. As good as Larian has been, I might be persuaded to back a future project by them. There are MANY good looking games being brought to life by crowd funding.

        2. Though those guys all have street cred already. I mean, Star Citizen is the old Wing Commander guy’s project, and Torment is a sequel to one of the most acclaimed RPGs of all time. Wasteland 2 has Brian Fargo behind it, etc. I’m a little more concerned/skeptical about projects that don’t have major industry names behind them.

          1. That being said, I’m playing the shit of Kerbal Space Program right now, and that was made by weird no-name physics nerds, so what do I know.

          2. Yes, brand recognition and waiting for release are the main problems for Kickstarter route.

          3. I kickstarted FTL as my first game it was by nobodies as far as I know. One of the best games that year. Alot of the nobody projects are $10 for just the game so it’s not a huge risk.

        3. Shadowrun kicked ass. And they gave me an expansion and a half for free.

  9. So it sucks less than Sims 4?

  10. Wait, they’re still releasing new games for PS3 and Xbox360? Where’s the logic in that?

    1. Low adoption rate of Xbox One and PS4? If you have to sell X million copies and that would require every PS4 and XB1 owner to buy one, that’s a poor strategy.

      1. I’ve got a PS3 but will likely not buy a PS4 for quite some time, if at all. Not making it backwards compatible is part of that for me, but there’s also the truth the number of games will remain limited for a while.

        1. Agreed. Now that I have a kid and no time for serious gaming, the Xbox 360 is fine for me. I spend more time watching Amazon and Netflix than gaming.

          1. Yes, and both the Xbox360 and the PS3 serve double-duty as smartifying the TVs they’re attached to. And the latter is a Blu-ray player, too.

    2. They did that with the PS2 in the last console generation switch-over as well. Mostly because a lot of these games coming out now were being designed with those consoles in mind in the first place.

  11. It’s not nearly as crowded as most of the traditional massively multiplayer games I’ve looked at

    Suuuuure, Suderman. We all know you have more than a passing interest in MMOs.

    1. SF’d. Although I’m coming to think that reason’s dislike for my links isn’t entirely my fault.

  12. The result of this unique hybrid game design

    Quibble: Not quiet unique. See: Defiance.

    1. Good point, although Defiance was kind of a misfire. A B- game trying to be AAA.

      1. An object lesson in under-capitalized business ventures.

  13. I’m a backer for Elite:Dangerous project… I’ve been playing beta for a while now, same idea – it’s multiplayer, but in a 1:1 Milky Way galaxy, 400 billion star systems and all. You will see people, but if you don’t want to, you won’t have to.

    1. I’ve never seen a good space game before. For me, they have all sucked. I have hope for Planet Explorers, but it’s still alpha and the development is very slow, although it still has potential.

      1. What? Wing Commander, bitches. Fucking loved that game. Naturally, it’s long gone with no talk of resurrection, because it was only awesome and a big seller. Though I understand that the guy who created all of the Wing Commander and Privateer games is working on a new project called Star Citizen.

        1. Star Citizen looks promising. I’ll probably try it if it ever gets released.

        2. Star Citizen looks a bit too flashy and small for my taste, I prefer British design style. On the flip side, critics say Elite is too big and boring. Anyway, final release for both should be awesome.

          1. I still don’t understand how Wing Commander and the related games just vanished. Those were very popular games–heck, a crappy movie was made from them!

            1. It was mid 90’s… One word: Quake. Don’t get me wrong, great game, but publishers decided everybody needed more Quake. We got more Quake, good and hard.

              1. Yes, but there’s not much like Wing Commander today. Why not? Can’t imagine it wouldn’t sell, and they used to be heavy into story and cinematics, so they would be like Mass Effect, except with ships that you fly around and blow shit up with.

                1. Well, i guess they figured EVE was the only game space geeks needed. Plus, resources allocation inertia – if you know how to make FPSes, and they sell well, why change?

      2. Try Elite, or Star Citizen, No Man Sky, or Eve, gotta be something for your taste 🙂

        1. No Man’s Sky looks interesting. But they don’t say on their site, at least where I could find it, what platforms the game will be released on.

          1. I think it’s PS3/4… Hopefully they’ll release PC version too.

            1. The developers say it will be out on PC but at a later release date.

      3. Freelancer. Impossible to find a version that runs as best I can tell.

        1. Oh shit! No, its around! Goodbye, family. See you in six weeks.

        2. Wasn’t it Freelancer 2 that starred a young Clive Owen? And other name stars?

          1. There was a 2? Goddammit.

            1. My mistake–I was thinking of Privateer 2.

  14. my best friend’s mother-in-law makes $87 /hr on the computer . She has been laid off for six months but last month her income was $16759 just working on the computer for a few hours. navigate to this website…….

    ================= http://www.netjob70.com

    1. His mother-in-law is working 48 hours a week, buddy. She should be well compensated.

  15. …customizable single-player experiences in the context of a massive social universe, with narratives that sprawl across years and continents…

    How is that different from your real life?

    1. You can shoot people without going to jail. Not everyone can be a cop in real life.

  16. No talk of #gamergate?

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