Tag Archives: Bungie

Destiny’s Optimism Is Desperately Needed

If the majority of science-fiction is to be believed, the future isn’t all that great. While the circumstances are always different — evil mega corporations, alien invasions, depressing dystopias, war and pollution — science fiction has a history of making the future out to be mighty bleak. Authors, filmmakers, and game developers always count on humans to never learn from their mistakes. We will continue to kill our planet. We will continue to wage war against our fellow man. We will continue to fail.

Destiny, then, is a breathe of fresh air, but not necessarily from a gameplay perspective. It’s a shooter with RPG elements, a fun and addictive combination of gameplay that will no doubt keep players hooked for a long time. But that isn’t what has me excited for the game. What makes me excited and what I find so refreshing about Destiny can be described in one word — optimism.

It can be found everywhere in Destiny: from the game’s fictional past to the purpose of the Guardians, to the sun filled environments and the NPC dialogue. Humanity once lived in a golden age, where they expanded to the cosmos and unlocked the secrets of the universe thanks to help from the Traveler. Human life span tripled.  It was a time of miracles. This was a future where humanity lived up to it’s utmost potential and shined.

When players start their journey in Destiny that future is no longer the case. Humanity has been pinned down into one city, protected by the power of the traveler, and their cosmic civilization has crumbled. Darkness encroaches on all sides and it is unclear for how much longer the Traveler will be able to protect humanity.

Rather than wallow in the bleakness of the situation, Bungie takes a different approach to their new universe. The darkness can be fought back they say. Hope is not yet lost, and humanity can once again reach their potential and reclaim the civilization that was at once lost. Fight back the darkness. Unite.

That optimism is a far cry from the majority of other sci-fi shooters. The future presented by popular third person shooter Gears of War is about as bleak a future as you can get, with humans waging endless wars over limited resources only to be decimated by the monster like Locusts from deep beneath the earth. The world of Gears of War is brown and gray, filled with despair, hardship and a never ending sense of doom and pointlessness. None of the characters feel like there is much reason to continue fighting, other than to simply survive and keep their friends alive. Bungie’s own Halo series is a constant uphill struggle, with humanity at the brink and the Master Chief really being the only force strong enough to fight back against the seemingly unstoppable Covenant and the horrific Flood.

All three franchises — Halo, Gears of War, and Destiny — have a similar core theme of humanity being on the edge of destruction, but the way they go about presenting them are wildly different. Destiny is bright, vibrant, and filled with the hope that Earth’s heroes, the Guardians, can fight back the darkness and lift up humanity once again. That isn’t present in Halo, Gears of War, or most science fiction for that matter.

That’s because Destiny embraces an older idea of science fiction, one that isn’t about predicting one of humanity’s potential dark futures but about capturing that special kind of wonder that can only come from gazing up at the stars and wondering “What’s up there?” This kind of sci-fi is about exploring colorful alien worlds and discovering the mysteries of the universe. It’s about a humanity that isn’t grounded on Earth where it is destined to stagnate, but about a humanity finding it’s place in a wide universe filled with mystery, danger, and adventure.

It’s refreshing. In an industry where dark, gritty and hyper violent Mature rated games are far too often the norm, Destiny is a Teen rated game that can be played and enjoyed by nearly anybody. Destiny embraces optimism, the idea that humanity’s best days are not behind them but ahead, the idea that maybe we can overcome our faults and our challenges and rise to the occasion. Maybe, just maybe, we can take to the stars and carve out a new destiny for the human race rather than suffer the bleak one that so often is presented as our future. I don’t know about you, but I think the game industry could use a little more optimism.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Story of Griffball

Griffball can be summed up easily in two simple sentences spoken by the Halo 4 announcer at the beginning of every match: Smash enemies. Score points.

On the surface, that’s about it. Each match of the popular Halo gametype is raw, adrenalin pumping fun as you bash the enemy team with gravity hammers or run for dear life as the ball carrier, bobbing and weaving between opponents to reach the goal. It’s easy to see why the virtual sport is popular, but there is another reason as well, a more symbolic one. Griffball represents the creativity and the connectivity shared between the Halo fans and Halo developer Bungie and now 343 Industries that at the time was something new for console gamers.

Griffball Logo

The origin of the gametype goes back to Rooster Teeth productions, the creator of the popular Halo mahinima Red vs. Blue. In one episode of the show the red Spartan Sarge is taking pot shots with a sniper rifle at Orange Spartan Griff. Sarge , enjoying himself, exclaims “This is the best game since Griffball!”

Griffball didn’t actually exist at the time, but Rooster Teeth began wondering what exactly a game of Griffball would be like. What they came up with was a game similar to rugby, but with more hammers. Also, an exploding bomb.

The objective is simple – pick up the bomb and plant it at the enemy’s goal. Each player is equipped with a gravity hammer and an energy sword to help kill the enemy team and protect/ kill the ball carrier, depending on which team has the ball. Whoever acquires the ball becomes “Griff” turning orange in color and receiving a speed boost and an over shield. Matches are divided into 5 rounds, resetting the map after each point. The first to score 3 wins the match. Upon scoring, everything near the goal explodes, including Griff. True to the initial idea of the sport and character of Griff, no matter what happens, whether he is hunted down and beaten to death by the enemy team or arms the bomb and scores a point, Griff loses.

As with anything though, there is an abundance of hidden strategy, tactics, and teamwork required to be a successful team. Gravity hammers can help launch teammates across the map to score, or if you aren’t careful can accidently catapult the enemy ball carrier into your own goal. Knowing the right time to swing the hammer or when to swap to the energy sword is essential and requires on the fly thinking from every player. Every point scored is a huge team effort. Players not in possession of the ball serve as blockers for the carrier, keeping enemies at bay and attempting to forge open a path for the carrier to sprint through and score a goal.

Griffball League

Rooster Teeth crafted the sport using Halo 3’s Forge gametype and map builder and debuted it to the Halo community. The simple fun of bashing players with hammers combined with the surprising depth of the game led to competitive leagues for the sport, such as the National Griffball Association and American Griffball League of America, popping up all over internet. It didn’t take long at all for the “disease” to spread. Griffball was a huge hit.

So huge a hit, in fact, that developer Bungie took notice. Bungie created a specific Griffball playlist in both Halo 3 and Halo: Reach to accommodate the demand for the sport. The rest as they say, is history.

So why is this important? One word – community.

Community created gametypes and mods were nothing new to the PC gaming crowd. They’d been doing it for years, but consoles weren’t so lucky. Never before had console gamers been given the tools to contribute to their favorite game. Bungie was among the first console developers to allow gamers to not only modify the game, but to improve it. This sense of community and sharing of the game made many a loyal Bungie and Halo fan, myself included.

Griffball and other popular community game types such as the zombie gametype Infection, continue to be some of the most popular gametypes in the Halo matchmaking.  The Halo 4 Griffball playlist launched just last week. Developer 343 Indsutries took Infection to the next level with Halo 4, turning a gametype that for over 7 years games existed as one team of Spartans versus another team of Spartans into Spartans versus actual flood infected zombies.

343 Industries, like Bungie before them, understands what makes Halo so special to so many. Without the great community created maps, movies, gametypes, and more, Halo would be just another shooter. Instead, it’s something more – it’s a community. And Halo is much stronger, better, and important than it would be otherwise because of it.

Tagged , , , , ,