This week at Bungie, we're bringing the year before Destiny to a close.
Because you are not Vex, you can count the remaining days of December on your fingers. That leaves just enough time to land a few more shots on targets before the holiday cease fire renders all of us completely useless with its honey-glazed charms. Here in our studio, a bold red line has been scribbled across our calendar. We've been warned that we'll be locked out for a mandatory break, and sent on our separate merry ways to consume our share of hot cider and peppermint candy.
"That's an order!" insisted Patrick O'Kelley, our intrepid Executive Producer, as he brought our year-end Team Meeting to a close.
Soon, each of us will reach deep into our stockings and lay claim to a personal inventory of yuletide loot. In the final moments before that ritual begins, we're scrambling to put some extra-special finishing touches on a gift we greedily picked out for ourselves. On the last "official" day of operations for this year, we'll be playing Destiny.
So as not to miss out on the action, I wrapped this last bundle of joy yesterday. As these words assembled on one screen of my fully operational community management battle station, the opening cinematic of Destiny played out on another. Once the blog was prepped for launch, I created my new Guardian in a fresh build of the game. Quite literally, I stayed late last night to jump the gun - in more ways than one.
As the last Bungie Weekly Update of 2013 goes live, the entire studio will be fighting for survival in the wild frontiers we've wrought from new ideas. I'll be engaged in a dangerous mission with a Fireteam assembled in my immediate vicinity. I like to keep my friends close. Lukems tells us that we'll need to collaborate if we are to outsmart his endgame scenarios.
Wish us luck.
The Final Bash
For the past two days, the entire studio has been feasting on a spicy blend of work and play. We've taken all our best work-in-progress and smashed it together into a construct we've been calling the Winter Build. Yesterday, every viable meeting space in the building was converted into makeshift console gaming lounges. Today, we're back to hunting down bugs, and other hostile enemies, on shiny dev kits.
It's not easy hosting a LAN Party attended by hundreds of people, but we have bugs to bash. All hands were placed on a controller. In the words our studio president, "...if you work here, you should be playing." So, why is Harold so adamant that we drop everything and close out the year with a grand playtest?
Patrick O'Kelley finds the whole process reminiscent of final exams. "It's like finishing a draft of your term paper before going away on school vacation," he tells us. "You can enjoy the time off more knowing the progress you've made." That doesn't mean the game won't be on our mind as visions of sugar plums dance in our heads. "Over winter break, we'll all be thinking about the millions of things we want to do to make the game better."
As our Executive Producer, one of his charges is to hold us to our time-honored standards for precision. "The Winter Build creates focus. It continues a Bungie tradition in the year before a launch: We rally the team to make a full build of our game before holiday break," Patrick explains. "People put a lot of pride into the build. That was evidenced in our final team meeting, where several of the design leads were recruiting people to play their newest activities."
Focus. That's just one of the perks. Another one of the perks are those unexpected moments when you meet a teammate like Lars Bakken in the wastelands of Old Russia. I cast him a wave. He flicked a salute. After that unspoken moment of solidarity, we transmitted the matter of our personal vehicles to the ground before our feet, hopped aboard, and blasted off across the rusty plains in search of a Fallen Captain who had been separated from his escort.
The Year of the Tiger
2013 was filled with as many surprises for us as it was for you. At the beginning of the year, we spent a lot of time behind the curtain, dreaming up game plans for the reveal of Destiny. We filled what feels like a million square feet of whiteboard with ink. Our carefully laid out calendar became a manic web of notes, and then notes about those notes. Time and again, those notes were subsequently erased, giving way to even better, more majestic plans.
As the sun sets on this year, as it does so vividly on the worlds that we've wrought from bold ideas, we're pretty pleased with what we've accomplished. Some of those events occurred because of our best laid plans (some in spite of them). If you've been following along from the first act, you just might have a favorite moment or two. We certainly have ours.
My favorite was the "Out Here in the Wild" VIDOC. We were able to show off our game in real-time, and go in-depth into a lot of things we're trying to achieve. That was very satisfying.
Chris Butcher, Engineering Director
The Moon trailer. It showed off one of my favorite locations in Destiny.
Sean Glynn, Boot Flow Tester
The Game Informer article. I finally felt like we were talking about what it's like to play Destiny.
Thad Steffen, Artist
Sitting with the rest of the studio and watching the E3 gameplay reveal live with bated breath.
Andrea Fonger, Engineer
The Weekend Champion tradition on Fridays. Jon Weisnewski's face when he won for the first time was completely worth money spent on that trophy.
Lars Bakken, Design Lead
Seeing the [redacted] on Bungie.net hooked up. I'm sure that will be redacted, but whatever. It's still my favorite thing I've seen because it's something nobody will expect.
Tom "Achronos" Gioconda, Bungie.net Engineer
Seeing something that I saw only as text come to life in the engine.
John Favaro, Production Engineer
Bungie day was epic proportions of fun. It was amazing to simultaneously experience two of my absolute favorite things: playing our game, and beer.
Anastasia Mercer, Environment Test Lead
Too much fun was had by us Testers with a bug that allowed you to slide into a wall and get launched hundreds of feet in the air.
Ian Eller, Graphics Tester
Playing the Alpha on my couch while drinking a fine IPA.
Luke Timmins, Senior Engineering Lead
Meeting fans at PAX. It doesn't really register until you're standing face-to-face with the fan you were before being hired.
Jake Lauer, Web Development Engineer
Watching the reveal ViDoc on spotty 3G from the parking lot of a hybrid gas station/Taco Bell in the middle of cold and windy Wyoming. I was on day three of a four-day drive from Texas to Washington on my way to my new job.
Andrew Weldon, Designer
The Year of Destiny
New Year's resolutions are a tiresome cliché. More than life-changing vows, they tend to end up in a pile of empty promises that fill up gyms and empty out salad bars for a week or two. Nevertheless, we have big plans for 2014. At the risk of running afoul of some superstitions, I'm going to venture a daring promise or three.
Next year, Bungie promises:
There will be a steady ramp from New Year's Day to September 9th. Before the year is out, perhaps some of you will have already become legend. As it always does, time will tell.
It's been an honor and a privilege serving you these last twelve months, Bungie Community. Let's do it again next year. Until then, we're dark, bro.
Be safe. Be Brave.