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19 Features

The future of Destiny: Bungie talks contracts, sequels, side projects and Halo

DOP Jonty Barnes on the 2010 agreement with Activision, Marty O'Donnell's departure and more

The prophesied "best-selling new IP in history". A new take on the idea of persistent online. The largest multiplayer console beta ever. An estimated 10 years of work, including post-launch support and possible sequels. Bungie's first new game since quitting Microsoft and Halo. Activision's most significant investment since the original Call of Duty.

There's an awful lot riding on Destiny, suffice to say - and yet, director of production Jonty Barnes is the epitome of calm and control when I run into him at Gamescom. Scroll down for a gargantuan chat about the franchise's future as laid out in a 2010 agreement with Activision, how it feels to see Halo reborn on 343's watch, the possibility of side projects and more.

Zoom

Once upon a time, developers would go on holiday after shipping a game. That's harder to justify when you're making an online-dependent title like Destiny. When do you get to take a break? 2020?

Well, I think we're a big enough studio now that we can simply rotate people, but everyone's going to be around for launch, and we want to be there and make sure everything works well and we give the great player experience that we intend. It's pretty exciting though, it's very exciting.

It's kind of lonely, though. We're walking around the world that is Destiny at the moment, but it's unpopulated and so you know it's sort of deserted - you run into a couple of members of the team, but not the 4.6 million players that it's very much designed for. Did you play the beta?

Yes I did, and very much enjoyed it - I loved the art and the music and your orbital spaceship lobby, which struck me as a lovely way to introduce players to the world.

Thank you. We tried to make it so that we never took you out of the universe, so you're always living in the world that is Destiny rather than being reminded that you're in a computer game.

It's interesting, because one of the things you were repeatedly asked about was space combat and travel between planets. As a fan of Colony Wars, I was quite keen on that. But now, strangely, I don't feel the need for it - the orbital lobbies seem to scratch my itch.

Yeah, we put all of our effort into making sure that the ground combat and experience was pretty great, and then as soon as you're out of there you're in a safe place and you have somewhere to sort of take a breath and take in the scenery, so yeah - it worked out really well.

Zoom

So is this still the first game in a four-part saga?

Four part?

Sorry, there was a contract from 2010 that made mention of four games, which is probably now completely obsolete.

So what I'll say to you is: we said that we were a ten-year game, and both Activision and Bungie have committed to being wholly behind the large effort, and it's a large investment for both sides. I don't think there's any set date - ten years is just representing the go-forward presence and the way that we think about doing things.

So what you can read in a contract isn't always as agile as what we need to do for players, and I think that that partnership between ourselves has always been good about making sure we're doing the right thing, and so... I wouldn't talk any more about the legal side of things, but from a game developer standpoint - we always prioritise what is the best experience for the players. We believe that's going to result in the best game, and Activision believe that's going to result in the best sales.

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