Theory Thursday: You had me at Halo, but I realized it was Destiny

The following represents the writer's opinions and does not necessarily represent fact.


Seriously, read that first disclaimer.



In the past couple of years there have been many games that were released that just did not quite live up to their hype.  It’s easy to start to wonder the ‘whys’ of why some of the games did not quite make meet expectations.  Often it was simply an over abundance of marketing, but it comes down to missed expectations.  Before I go further I want to preface with the fact that in no way to I believe either of the following games are the leaders in disappointment, both games have taken many many hours away from me and I would never want them back [unless to sink those same hours back into the games].  That said, most would agree that Halo 4 and Destiny left us yearning.  Let’s take a look at both games and their biggest shortcomings.

Halo 4 promised to be a return to being the man [tank?] himself, Master Chief.  343 Industries, the developer, promised that they would take more from the Halo novels in creating the story for Halo 4, and boy did they bring their 'A' game.  Halo 4 had a really driven story that really made you feel like Master Chief, and I guess it really made you feel in general.  You were no longer just a Spartan II with the worlds sexiest voice, you were John 117, one of the last remaining Spartan II’s doing what you did best, surviving.  Beyond the Master Chief, Halo 4 also introduced story driven Infinity missions that furthered the story left off by the main campaign with episodic missions.  These missions were mixed with some amazing cutscenes, like that time Infinity dropped out of slipspace and went BGEERRSHHHH straight through that Covi cruiser….erhm….sorry… like I was saying, the cutscenes were amazing.  All of this seems like a great game right?  For it’s amazing story, Halo 4 was just missing that Halo feeling.  The polish many had come to love and even the art aesthetic were absent.  At the end of the day, the gameplay, specifically the multiplayer gameplay, just did not feel like Halo.

Destiny was genuinely pleasurable to interact with. It felt right.

Destiny, Bungie and Activision’s 10 year franchise was seen as the golden child coming back into the limelight by fans.  Bungie, the original creators of Halo, had a strong track record for producing well put together games. With it’s impressive ad campaign hopes were high for Destiny.  Loaded with promises and dreams Destiny finished up it’s beta with an impressive 4.6 million registered users.  Many whom played through, got to level 8, and tinkered around like giddy little kids fantasizing about how the full game would look.  It was fun.  Unlike 343’s Halo 4, Destiny was genuinely pleasurable to interact with.  It felt right.  Then the full release came out.  Millions of players logged on and started playing Destiny to see what new worlds they could explore, only to find that the ‘limited’ interaction and game world from the beta, was the same as the full release.  Destiny did not have open vistas (or a frozen tundra) that the players were expecting.  More so, the story was...  I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain how bland it was.  For all of its fantastic gameplay, the story in Destiny really didn't deliver.


As I’m sure you have started to realize, it’s easy to see that if you combined the best parts of Halo 4 with the best parts of Destiny, you wind up with a terrific game.  Where one falls off, the other delivers.  So what happened?  

From this point on the theorizing begins. Again, the following information is rooted in opinion.

Back in the day the Halo franchise was developed by Bungie.  The games had their problems but they were still loved.  It was clear that Bungie put a lot of research into how the player’s felt while they were playing, monitoring player eye movements and seeing which direction people liked to run out of doors.  In 2007 however Bungie decided to split from Microsoft, who happened to be the owners of the Halo IP meaning that Bungie would have to start fresh with a new IP.  It could be assumed that one of the bigger reasons that Bungie left would be wanting the independence to work on whatever projects they wanted instead of just Halo games.  This split would have left many employees with a decision.  They could either stay with the company they had been working for and move on to their next IP, or they could stay with the world they had been working on in Halo and move to the newly created 343 Industries at Microsoft.  If you think about it, the people who are most connect to the lore and the world are going to be the story oriented people.  This would mean that the people to transferred 343 would be those invested in the story, and therefore the ones who would make it their primary focus. I theorize that this is the reasoning behind the fantastic story of Halo 4 and the lack of story in Destiny.  Since most of the lore oriented people would have left for 343, Bungie would have been left with plenty of people who know what kind of a world they would want to create, but lacking in some of the experiences needed in making an interesting to follow story.  That said, Joseph Staten, Bungie’s lead writer, also left Bungie in 2013 to pursue new creative challenges.  Now there is a lot that could be read into this, but in 2014 Joseph rejoined Microsoft, and it’s easy to start thinking that it’s to return to the world he helped shape.

That brings us to gameplay.  If Bungie left Microsoft to pursue different games it’s reasonable to assume that those that design gameplay are going to be the most affected by this departure.  Halo was always going to be Halo.  The game’s design would not allow for too much flexibility because you would risk alienating fans.  This is why I believe that the majority of gameplay designers would have stayed with Bungie, wanting to design something fresh.  While the gameplay of Destiny is certainly not perfect, looking at you RNG, neither was Halo’s and yet it’s easy to look back at the Halo franchise and think “That was fun to play” and many have the same sentiment about Destiny.  


So what does this mean for the future if true?

Both games will get better. Bungie and 343 are populated with developers who truly care about the game they are giving to you.  They may have frustrating time constraints and money will always be a factor, but they both want to deliver a fantastic games.  It can make you bitter to think, "If they were all still together we could have either the Halo or the Destiny we wanted right now." We need to remember that the changes brought out new IP and more importantly more new games for us to enjoy and the competition keeps things from getting stale.   At the end of the day it comes down to voices of the players and the developer response to these voices.  Player’s have been vocal on both Halo’s and Destiny’s shortcomings and we will just have to wait to see how well they get addressed in the future.  Some changes can be seen in the most recent patch for Destiny, while Halo 5: Guardians is set to release October 27, 2015.