updated 08:10 pm EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bungie decided to preserve the experience for players, not push each console
Bungie took on the difficult task of developing its latest game Destiny for four different consoles across two generations of technology. While this isn't uncommon near the end-of-life cycles for consoles, Bungie decided to craft the experience for each console according to their vision rather than hardware limitations. However, hardware does keep the game from advancing into cross-platform play territory, an area of play that gaming is moving into.
Speaking with Digital Trends, Bungie engineer Roger Wolfson talked about some of the technical challenges surrounding the company's upcoming multiplayer shooter. Rather than trying to shoehorn the game into an experience that pushes the limits of technology in the different consoles, the studio is attempting to create an baseline experience.
Players of the game will find that they cannot mingle with other players on consoles from the same manufacturer. PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 console owners, for example, won't be able to play together. The same goes for Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners. The limitation isn't tied to an unfair advantage based on controls or differences in hardware, as is often pointed to in cross-play discussions between consoles and PCs.
"I'll speak for the hypothetical player," said Wolfson. "I have a disadvantage sniping across the map because [my opponent with a next-gen console] is only two pixels on my screen and I'm four pixels on his. You see that in the world of PC gaming, where people are always racing to the best video card to give themselves the advantage."
As Wolfson points out, it's about preserving the player experience even in the light of differences in perception above that of technology. While frame rate, an increased resolution and powerful hardware might not be an advantage on a practical level, the perception associated with the advantage could ruin the online experience. PC gamers currently battle with the same stigma, as upgrades like RAM and GPUs could be the difference between loss and victory, even though components are only part of the equation.
"Regardless of where the reality is, there's definitely a perception among gamers that better hardware means you have an advantage," added Wolfson. "We don't want to have to enter that fray, so to create the best, most level playing field, both actually and perceptually, we separated it by platform."
Intermingling between hardware updates and new games doesn't appear to be entirely out of the question for future games in the Destiny franchise. According to the 10-year plan developed for the series, the character that a player creates in the first game is intended to be carried forward. Given the current state of console renewal cycles, at least one new console could be released before the end of the plan is reached.
The future challenge, according to Wolfson, is going to be crafting an experience for new players joining the Destiny universe later on. Bungie wants to create something that doesn't make new players feel like they need to play catch-up, but also gives them the means to access older content if they choose.
"We've done a lot of planning for how that's going to work, to not make people feel like they have years worth of leveling up to do," said Wolfson.