How Halo helped create Destiny

Destiny is hitting stores late tonight, marking Bungie's first new franchise in more than a decade. By paying close attention to Bungie's output in the waning days of its Halo development, we can see the seeds of Destiny starting to blossom.

4

Destiny is hitting stores late tonight, marking Bungie's first new franchise in more than a decade. The developer has been eager to stretch out and explore new settings and characters, but like any creative endeavor, it didn't happen overnight. In fact, by paying close attention to Bungie's output in the waning days of its Halo development, we can see the seeds of Destiny starting to blossom.

Though various parts of the Halo franchise have taken place on or near earth, Halo: ODST was the first game to be set entirely on-planet. This is a significant detail, as Bungie has stated that it wants Destiny to feel more at home in our solar system. Even the New Mombassa in ODST was abstracted by the presence of futuristic technology, and it didn't very much resemble the actual modern-day Kenyan city at all. 

Destiny aims to change that, albeit slightly. Set in a single city with a moon-like presence hovering overhead, this one is also abstracted by futurism. However, many missions have taken place in the wreckage of established areas like Chicago, Mumbai, and parts of Russia and Europe. More than just set amid familiar locales, though, the raids and missions take place on surrounding planets like Venus and Mars. All of this attempts to accomplish the goal that Bungie only had moderate success at before: grounding the story in familiar areas to make it feel more personal.

Halo: Reach is an even closer analog. In it, players create their own Spartan, choosing a gender and customizing armor types. This was a cosmetic touch, but is very similar in most respects to the character creation in Destiny. Bungie's latest has more options, naturally, because as an MMO-hybrid it's more important to make the characters extremely distinct. We now have three races to choose from, rather than just one, and plenty of options between them. 

More significantly, Reach introduced Armor Abilities. These were preset in the single-player game, with their utility defined by the story and scattered as drops around levels similar to weapons. Those abilities, though, were extremely similar to the kinds of differentiated class abilities coming in Destiny. From Titan-like abilities like Armor Lock and Dropshield to more mobile Hunter-like abilities like Jet Pack and Evade, Reach was the beginning of Bungie attempting to balance disparate abilities.

Even more comparable was the addition of Loadouts. These combinations of weapons, Armor Abilities, and Grenade types let players set their own playstyle. These were limited to multiplayer in Reach, but again accented the notion of differentiated characters to suite different play styles. Depending on your loadout, you might have even been playing a character similar to one in Destiny.

Finally, Halo: Reach was the first Bungie game to merge single-player and multiplayer progression. Though certain divides still existed, like the Loadouts and story-based Armor Abilities described above, Rank progression was kept constant across all modes. This attempt to blur the line between single- and multiplayer modes is continuing into the current generation, and seems likely to become commonplace. Halo: Reach wasn't the first to attempt such a thing, but it shows Bungie was starting to dip its toe into the inevitable future even then.

Destiny's launch is mere hours away now, and we'll get to see Bungie's next step for ourselves. In the meantime, though, it's worth remembering the stepping stone that got us here, and how Bungie started to test the waters for what would become Destiny years ago.

Editor-In-Chief
From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 8, 2014 2:00 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, How Halo helped create Destiny.

    Destiny is hitting stores late tonight, marking Bungie's first new franchise in more than a decade. By paying close attention to Bungie's output in the waning days of its Halo development, we can see the seeds of Destiny starting to blossom.

    • reply
      September 8, 2014 2:08 PM

      Interested to see if they do one of their deep-dive podcasts into networking and tuning controls. Destiny feels quite different than Halo to me, so I'd like to hear about what they changed and why.

    • reply
      September 8, 2014 4:31 PM

      Has Bungie ever made a game that completely cut away from their past works? Halo has a bunch of things from Marathon (particularly the "magnifying glass" logo and the overshield, but also arguably the low gravity).

      • reply
        September 8, 2014 4:34 PM

        Oni?

        • reply
          September 8, 2014 4:43 PM

          I don't really count Oni, since it's an odd duck. Oni was developed by Bungie West, whose employees disbanded or moved to Redmond shortly after Oni's release.

      • reply
        September 8, 2014 4:35 PM

        Oni perhaps, haven`t played it.

      • reply
        September 8, 2014 5:34 PM

        Myth

    • reply
      September 8, 2014 5:23 PM

      Oni was awesome. Anyone know of a hack to play Oni on win7?

    • reply
      September 9, 2014 8:38 AM

      I believe Marathon and Halo were to supposed to be loosely based in the same universe. I think that changed a bit after Microsoft buying the rights to Halo. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Bungie intended all their FPS games to have a shared or coherent universe.

Hello, Meet Lola