How The Destiny Beta Made Bungie’s Sci-Fi Shooter Even Better

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To say that we were all pretty much ‘wowed’ by both the Destiny Alpha and Beta is an understatement, but the one thing that transcended all the amazing gameplay, stunning graphics and intense shooter action, was how well the game actually ran.

For those who are unaware (I assume you’ve been hiding under a moon) Destiny is an online only game. The beta alone saw over 4.6 million unique players hop on and try out the game. On the Saturday of the beta weekend Bungie and Activision unveiled a new area for players to roam. That area was the moon and over 850,000 people logged on at once. The biggest surprise was that there were little to no server or connectivity issues whatsoever. In a world were online game launches are fraught with problems Battlefield, Call of Duty and Sim City to name a few, to walk away unscathed is practically unheard of. But this is all part of Bungie’s 10 year mission. Yes, Bungie are hopeful that for the next 10 years you will all be playing this game and one way to ensure it, is to make sure no one has any issues playing it.

At Gamescom, Playstation Blog managed to sit down with Jonty Barnes (creative director), Derek Carroll (senior designer) and Jesse van Dijk (lead concept designer) as to how it all worked out.

“From the very beginning, the Destiny beta was a very big test for us – we put a huge investment into our online infrastructure and we needed to make sure it worked” said Jonty Barnes.

We tested every part of the game, and each group at Bungie was able to analyse the data and take what they needed from it,” added Derek Carroll “On the gameplay design side we got heat maps from all the multiplayer maps to see where the kills were made, where people died and if they fell off the map for example. Also, if there was an area with particularly high traffic, or an area that we thought should have high traffic but didn’t – we could really dig into that data and see if we could make simple changes to help improve things.”

Jesse van Dijk went on to add, “More than anything we wanted to test our infrastructure at scale and we were really excited to see how everything held up. During the beta we deliberately knocked over a number of systems to see how that would work and if we could handle it.”

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Derek Carroll went on to explain the reasoning behind having the moon as a playable area and why making a big song and dance about it was actually worth the while, “The number of concurrent players during the moon mission was higher than any other Bungie game in history. Having that many people allowed us to test better, to kick over some of the systems so that we could get some meaningful data – we can ensure that certain problems, some of which we created on purpose – would not occur at launch”

“In the past you would make a game and ship it, and only a catastrophic failure would be something that you’d patch. With Destiny we’re making a commitment to tune this and grow for a long time to come. It’s great to have those second chances where if we made that one tweak we’d be that much happier.”

All of this data will help improve the game as a whole. We aren’t just talking about connectivity issues here, but seeing player behaviour. Level design is key to any online game and hours spent designing a wonderfully crafted level, only to find a majority of player never venture to a particular area can be disheartening. However, this data indicates low traffic areas and designers can add new events or pathways to encourage players to venture elsewhere, thus expanding the overall experience.

Obviously, a large portion of gamers won’t be aware of their contribution, but now they finally realise what Destiny is all about. Bungie were having a tough time explaining what Destiny actually was and they have 4.6 million players who can do that job for them.

Destiny is available on PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360 globally from the 9th of September.