Activision would have you believe that nearly everyone who tried Destiny's beta had a positive response. That may or may not be the case, but what does seem to have universally lauded are the game's gorgeous skyboxes (the development term for 3D backgrounds). Bungie has taken note of the adoration the skies have received, and in a post on its website, posed a series of questions to one of what it calls Destiny's "skywriters," which might just be the coolest (unofficial) title you could ever hope for.
"We treat the sky as another character in a game," said principal artist Mark Goldsworthy. "We understand the high impact they can have and we give them the love they deserve. The term 'skybox' is a bit of a misnomer. 'Sky art' at Bungie includes the sky, mountains, epic vistas stretching before you--everything from underground caverns to planets in space, and more."
Being a bigger game than anything in the Halo series (which was no slouch in the good-looking skies department, as this YouTube video demonstrates), Bungie had the opportunity to do some new things with the skies in Destiny. "We'd created great skies in [Halo] Reach, but we wanted to incorporate ever-changing lighting and atmospherics in Destiny," Goldsworthy said. "Transitioning from day to night with clouds, sunrises, and sunsets was the goal. We wanted them to be visually stunning and unique to each planet. Additionally, we layered in unique planetary sky and terrain elements to expand our universe. Above all else, the skies needed to be epic."
Although you might think of them as nothing more than eye-candy, the skies actually serve a further purpose, according to Goldsworthy. "Sky and atmosphere really help establish the mood," he explained. "The sky needs to be dynamic. It's made of many individual components that move and change as celestial bodies travel from horizon to horizon. They feed player immersion and enable us to flesh out the worlds we create on a broader canvas."
Destiny's beta wrapped up late last month after providing 4.6 million people with the opportunity to alternate between shooting and staring up at the sky. No "major changes" are planned for the game before its release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 on September 9, though there will be some small refinements. Despite being a PlayStation-oriented game (with those versions getting exclusive content, and Sony releasing a Destiny-themed white PS4), Bungie insists the Xbox One version is not "dumbed down."