Kotaku’s Jason Schreier just published an in-depth look at the development of Destiny. It’s a fascinating read about the development of Bungie’s latest game. I’m going to focus on one aspect of it. Destiny’s game engine.
The following quote perfectly highlights why so many developers opt to use third-party engines instead of designing their own.
“Let’s say a designer wants to go in and move a resource node two inches,” said one person familiar with the engine. “They go into the editor. First they have to load their map overnight. It takes eight hours to input their map overnight. They get [into the office] in the morning. If their importer didn’t fail, they open the map. It takes about 20 minutes to open. They go in and they move that node two feet. And then they’d do a 15-20 minute compile. Just to do a half-second change.”
Yeah, I’m sure Bungie didn’t want the engine to turn out that way – but it’s one of the potential pitfalls of building your own engine from scratch.
Jason goes on to report that Destiny’s engine is great for player matchmaking, but not for creating the actual content. That makes sense. Bungie initially touted Destiny as a “shared-world shooter.” Player matchmaking is one of the core pillars. But, the problems with creating new maps perfectly illustrates why business is booming for third-party engines.
Many of our favorite games are built using Unity, Unreal and Crytek. These three engines are favorites for development studios ranging from indie to AAA. From Pillars of Eternity (Unity) and Ori and the Blind Forest (Unity) to Batman: Arkham Knight (Unreal) and Star Citizen (Crytek). Developers may tinker with the engine, but the base foundation is there.
These third-party engines offer developers stable workflow and allow them to focus solely on creating game content.
I’m not hating on proprietary engines like the one used for Destiny. It gives us beautiful games like Uncharted, The Order: 1886, Battlefield, Halo and more. But, Schreier’s article highlights the problems developers can run into when developing their own engines.
We also see problems other engines have, notably on consoles. DICE’s Frostbite engine offers an impressive amount of destruction in the Battlefield series and looks incredible, if you have the hardware to back it up. Frostbite games tend to struggle most on Xbox One where the resolution typically sits at 720p. PlayStation 4 versions of the same games sit at 900p.
And who can forget the graphical glitches of Assassin’s Creed: Unity? That game ran on AnvilNext 2.0. We’ll see if Ubisoft fixed the many issues that plagued Unity when Assassin’s Creed Syndicate releases on Friday on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.[divider][/divider]
The big question for Destiny fans is will these engine issues persist into Destiny 2? A significant engine redesign probably isn’t in the cards. Instead, Activision is giving Bungie more hands to assist with development. Activision subsidiary High Moon Studios will help Bungie with future Destiny development. According to Schreier, that includes Destiny’s full-sized 2016 sequel.
Despite Destiny’s problems, both under the hood and in the game, Bungie managed to release a solid shooter. And made Activision a ton of money in the process. Destiny didn’t grab me like it grabbed millions of you, but I will be keeping a close eye on the sequel to see what the future holds for Destiny.
Be sure to check out the entire Kotaku article. It dives into what the hell went wrong with the story, why Bungie approached Activision about microtransactions and more.