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Interview: We talk Bungie's Destiny with Senior Environment Artist, Jason Sussman

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Posted by: Matt Liebl

Prior to last weekend's Destiny First Look on PS4, we sat down with Bungie's senior environment artist Jason Sussman for a brief interview. Some of our questions have since been answered by the alpha, but Sussman did reveal quite a few surprises to us as well.

Matt: Some of the previews early on, were a little on the negative side, like the world was too barren and empty. Are you guys taking those and addressing them, or what are you guys doing in terms of feedback.

Jason Sussman: We've been absolutely addressing-- I mean this is an alpha, the one we had internally for a while, the one we've been working on. And the whole intent of the alpha is so people can look at this, so we can get feeback from them, and not just personally, but also how they're playing our game, what weapons they like to choose, what armor they like to wear. We do this to deliver the best possible quality game on all consoles. That's what the beta's all about. It's not a publicity stunt and we're going to actively make adjustments the best we can.

Lance: As far as coming off from Halo, is this a drastic departure from that, or did you want it to feel a bit like Halo?

Sussman: Bungie's legacy is in the game right? It is first and foremost-- We're going to take our foundation, boots on the ground First Person Shooter, and then it was all about, 'how do we expand upon that?' This is just the core, there are a lot of other elements. Not only by making the world bigger and more exploratory, and having all these dynamic things happen, and making the world living by having players seemlessly coming in and out of your space, but also giving you true personalization and customization of the character that you're playing.

We want players to really own their character. In Destiny, we want you to own your Guardian in a totally different way. Your armor actually affects your character, and you can level up that armor, and your weapons. All the weapons, all the weapons in the game, which are three primary classes, and each one of those- say you really like that weapon, you can keep playing with it, level it up with perks, give it a better sight. You really like that helmet, level up that helmet, to give you extra abilities. We're allowing players to personalize their experience.

Lance: Are there multiple perks to choose from?

Sussman: Some have multiple, and some have a certain chain, but it's totally up to you to turn them off and on. Some are like, if you have this one on, you can't have this one on, while some you can have this and this one on. So it's totally up to you.

Matt: Is there multiplayer that's accessible through a menu? Or how do I access it?

Sussman: There is a thing called The Director, and you ask yourself, 'What do I want to do today?' and that's where you back out and you can go to The Tower, to Earth, to the Moon, to Venus or go to Mars, and when you drill down each one of those, you can see all those different options like the Strikes, or campaign. The Crucible is outside of that. All the personalization you've done to your character, based on all your experiences in the world, you bring that right into the Crucible.

Lance: When you have any game with a multiplayer heavy emphasis, it seems like recently, launches tend to be a little rough with servers. Are you guys taking any precautions for this?

Sussman: Absolutely, that's also a part of the alpha. We have a redundant system, and we're doing some proprietary things on the backend to make sure out network is as solid as possible. So the alpha's that phase, launching on the PS4 and we monitor that, see how it goes. Now the Beta, which we're treating as a fully fledged launch, and that's going to be the real deal. All of our systems are in place, and we're feeling pretty confident.

Lance: How did your relationship with Sony flourish, and what made you guys give Sony exclusive content.

Sussman: What people should know is that we're dedicated to all four consoles. This is the first time Bungie's been this inclusive, we've always been on one console. Sony was super excited to have us jump on with them, and they wanted to do anything they could to assist us with that, and it's been a pleasure working on the PS4, but we're absolutely making sure that there are no discrepancies between any systems, and want to make sure people have the most fun and get the most out of the game on all consoles.

Lance: How much of an adjustment was it to develop the game for four consoles instead of a single one?

Sussman: When I first started at Bungie, there were about 80 guys working there, and now there are 500+, and there is a massive team of guys, really talented individuals that are making sure that we can launch on all these consoles. We learned a lot along the way, and a lot of efficiencies that are doing much better. And because it's a 10 year cycle, we're looking at a very long life with this game, and every lesson that we learn, we put it in the bank.

Matt: So you have post-content planned in the works?

Sussman: Yeah for 10 years. We're keeping it open so we can keep growing this franchise.

Matt: Are you guys making use of Microsoft's cloud servers?

Sussman: We're not really ready to talk about that yet, we're doing a lot of our own proprietary systems on the backend, and that's pretty much all that we're saying right now. We might announce more at launch.

Lance: Being the environment artist, can you describe the various destinations players will visit.

Sussman: So I'm actually the destination lead for Mars. Cosmo, the Moon, Venus, and Mars, each one of these are their own massive destinations, where there is tons to explore on each one of those and the story progressess in that way.

Lance: Since exploration is such a big part of the game, will there various things you'll stumble upon like loot, items or even Achievements/Trophies for finding a certain area.

Sussman: Absolutely, there are certain areas, like going down this dungeon where you find a chest, and there are different kinds of chest that are not always in the same location. That's the very base level. There are also various explore modes where you can actually go into a public space and customize your on adventure based on various faction quests. Then there are public encounters, which vary from space to space and destination to destination. There is always something new to find and explore.

Matt: I'm a little unclear about how the persistent world work. Do you see everyone currently on, or your friends?

Sussman: Each public area, you go from public to private area, they're interconnected. When you're in a public space, you're going to see people seemlessly transitioning in and out of that space, and we're still determining the right number of people. But right now, it feels really good. And there can be quite a number of people within a space, running through missions, completing a strike, or just roaming around and collecting things, and we make it so you can push the right stick, and go through the options menu, join them, or even use emotes to communicate with people in the world.

Lance: Our fans on Twitter wanted to know, as far as the HUD is concerned. Is it going to appear like you're in a space suit, like Halo?

Sussman: Our HUD is going along with our visual style, so it's specifically designed to look nice and clean, and out of the way, so we didn't want to force anything like that on the player.

Matt: Are you doing any specific specs for each console, like resolution or framerate?

Sussman: I'm happy to say that both Xbox One and PS4 will be at 1080p and 30fps.

Matt: Is that the same for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3?

Sussman: We're still fine-tuning those, but they're within the same specs. We've been driving really really hard to make sure that across the board, the game was even as possible.

Matt: So no fanboy argument.

Sussman: Right! I mean, I play both consoles, I have friends on both systems. I personally own Battlefield on both systems, the Premium as well. Call of Duty on both systems.

Matt: You think there is ever a chance, since the game is a console exclusive, that Destiny will ever make it to the PC?

Sussman: We have a lot of PC gamers within the studio, and my wife works at Valve, so I love PC games. But right now, as a studio, it's a challenge to launch on four consoles. Who knows what the future holds, but right now we're so focused on the four consoles.

Lance: How long has your wife been working on Half-Life 3?

Sussman: (Laughs) I'm going to break it right here! I should have worn my shirt that she gave me, that said 'Half-Life 3' and I was like, can I talk about this, and she's like 'It's a troll.' I wore it to work one day and everyone was like 'Whaaaaaa?!' because they know my wife works there, and I had to break it to them that it was just a joke.

Tags: Bungie, Interview, Jason Sussman

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