Bungie Aimed to Make Destiny's Beautiful Skies "Epic" and "Dynamic"

A Bungie artist discusses what went into making those gorgeous skies you might have spent some time staring at during the beta.

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."

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX
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63 comments
joshsmith16
joshsmith16

Yaaay, pretty skyboxes. Great job Bungie, rather than spend all your time coming up with an original story, or working on new innovative gameplay, you spent your ridiculous budget on Peter Dinklage and pretty skyboxes? Yeah, sorry, I'm a gamer, not a sheep. Even though I had fun with the Destiny beta, there was nothing innovative or revolutionary about it. It's still using game mechanics that were revolutionary 15 years ago, I mean seriously. There's nothing special about Destiny, aside from pretty skyboxes. No, really. I've played this game before, as Borderlands, Halo, Titanfall (minus the cool wallrunning). The multiplayer is just, once again generic in today's FPS standards. I loved Halo, heck I'm getting the Master Chief Collection for the sake of Nostalgia. I seriously don't need Destiny for that. :/


http://www.gamingrebellion.com/2014/07/the-retro-inactive-gamer-plays-destiny-beta/

Gravity_Slave
Gravity_Slave

Seriously... The sky? How about addressing the stale gameplay and compartmentalized world areas.

How about getting an actor who's actually good at voice overs instead of wh0ring out a popular Game of Thrones character to sell copies?

I'm amazed how many gamers are eating the shovels of shlt they're being fed and still saying it's good. I just don't get it man...

mattress805
mattress805

Especially when we were running around on the moon at night. I think on the the last Saturday of the beta. The night skyline was gorgeous.

Pewbert
Pewbert

Well if you are going to copy Defiances gameplay you might as well make the sky look different I suppose.

Zarkhaine
Zarkhaine

Don't know what's wrong with all you boners. For me, having really cool, 'epic' looking sky just adds to the immersion, and makes the world(s) more believable. 

wookiegr
wookiegr

Make it a static image that slowly moves in one direction and call it a day. Worked for Forza 5 and people rave about it.

Zloth2
Zloth2

About time somebody paid attention to the sky!  We're lucky when we get a static skybox these days.

xantufrog
xantufrog moderator

I know and agree that gameplay should come first, but I'm honestly surprised about how people jump on anything about pretty graphics these days. I know it's the "hip thing" to not care about graphics, and as someone that frequently plays old DOS, NES, Genesis, etc titles I can appreciate that there is beauty even if simple graphics. But the fact is there is nothing wrong with these skyboxes. They are fantastic. And guess what? They didn't take anything away from the gameplay to make - games like this have a special group of people working on these types of features that have absolutely nothing to do with aim bob and loot drop frequency etc. So if the gameplay sux, you can't really make comments like "well maybe they should have spent less time on gfx and more on blah blah"


I'm just saying: it's just good skies.

Pyrosa
Pyrosa

I was too busy looking down hallways and intricate labyrinths and underground moon-dungeons for loot that simply wasn't there.  Giant, gorgeous, EMPTY areas.

airmankoller
airmankoller

All I hear is hate, hate, hate.  If you don't enjoy the game don't buy it.  If any of you think you can make a better one, by all means please do so.  I thought the beta was great.  The graphics, music, mechanics coupled with Peter Dinklage as your companion all made for pleasant experience.  So to everyone spewing your negative banter, guess what.....I'm still buying the game.  

flexappeal
flexappeal

Didn't really pay much attention about the skies in this game tbh. Graphics were good but not great. Played on my PS4. Gameplay however was fun. Can't wait til it's out.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

I was playing on the PS3 in the beta and I won't lie I never really looked closely at the sky. What I will say is though that if the game puts plenty of those moments in the game like in the beta where the ship drops out of warp and the shock wave knocks over buildings and things I will be totally happy. Such an awesome moment.

amaneuvering
amaneuvering

Maybe it's just me but at times I think the skyboxes really do just look like big paintings wrapped around the level and that's not exactly the perfect way I think these skies and backgrounds should look. I actually think Nintendo often does sky and clouds better than most other developers with dynamic moving and morphing volumetric looking clouds that actually look believable and properly 3D, even in their more cartoony games. Bungie's skyboxes are certainly pretty pictures but the issue I have is that it's sometimes a bit too obvious that that's precisely what they are, flat pictures with a few additional flat layers. Maybe I'm just being hyper critical but if they're going to make such a big deal about them then I think it's fair to point out things like this.

TheDoovdePlayer
TheDoovdePlayer

I'm actually sad that I feel this way, but I'm thoroughly disappointed with this game. Sure the shooting mechanics are decent and the MP aspect is fun with friends, but the game-space: the world players will inhabit, is utterly dead and boring. Where is the lore? Exploration just to look at gorgeous vistas and views is meaningless and shallow: I'd rather go outside and do that for real. Fair enough that this is a shooter, but it's not epic (like it is being marketed as) if there's nothing in the world to draw us into the lore, apart from the constant spawning of crappy AI. Take The Last of Us as an example, which in my opinion was the best game of the last gen. Sure, fundamentally it was a 3rd person survival zombie game, but the way it was crafted, the level of detail that was applied to the game space, made you so much more invested in it because there were meaningful things to look at, to find, to take notice of. You felt as though you were really in a post apocalyptic urban jungle. Signs on the wall, notes to find, people's stories, dead bodies and empty houses with people's things around: small things that made the world believable. Skyrim is another example where the game really draws you in with an incredible amount of immersion. Destiny lacks any of that, especially in the free-roam/exploration department where there's nothing else to detract you from "go this waypoint and press this button while shooting lots of AI" apart from the freakin' sky? Seriously?! This was meant to be the game that sold the PS4 for me, but I refuse to buy one yet since the two best games so far that are (or will be) out on the PS4 were last generation remaster (TLOU and GTA V) which I still play on my PS3. Sigh. Rant over.

isshiah
isshiah

It did look good, but it reminded of Rage, in that it was all...flat. I don't know how to describe it, or if I'm imagining things, but if you've played Rage, you'll have noticed the vapid good looks don't stand up to closer inspection.  Just there in the background and unapproachable. .

Revenant_K
Revenant_K

If I want to look at the sky, all I need is open the window...

Bellum_Sacrum
Bellum_Sacrum

Screw gameplay, here's some graphics for you monkeys.

Guimengo1
Guimengo1

I think the sky is quite pretty but the clouds stick out in a sore manner. It's too much to ask for volumetric clouds I assume, but clouds like those in pCARS would be fantastic. Anyway, it's one aspect I'd gladly overlook if the game is quality.


Edit: The clouds really stick out only in motion not in screenshots.

so_hai
so_hai

Again, the fetishization of secondary and tertiary aspects of modern games... This sky detail is something that can only ever be supplemental to something already worth playing.

Zazabar
Zazabar

MAN, THOSE SKIES LOOK SO EPIC. I MEAN, THEY LOOK SO EPIC, THAT YOU CAN'T EPICLY DESCRIBE THE EIPIC EPICNESS OF EPIC EPIC EPIC!

Good thing that word isn't overly used anymore, LOL

SNESNOSTALGIA2
SNESNOSTALGIA2

The biggest thing that stood out to me during my extensive beta time were the gorgeous skylines. You have some magnificent artists Bungie!!!

gokartmozart89
gokartmozart89

I have felt, since playing Halo:CE on PC, that Bungie has the best sky box artists in the industry. Destiny reinforced that. 

bldgirsh
bldgirsh

Coming in a DLC near you. DYNAMIC SKIES. Next-gen in full use.

Veenox
Veenox

WOW! SUCH SKIES! MUST BUY GAME, not.

jessie82
jessie82

sure because we all want to be looking up when we play a game..

digitm64
digitm64

Those skies were sometimes responsible for my death in that game

Rotondi
Rotondi

But, Bungie, you're just teasing us if we can't get into a ship and zip up into those sky's.

silversix_
silversix_

Late night, when i feel lonely, i look at the sky and touch myself. I will enjoy Destiny.

themc_7
themc_7

@Gravity_Slave thank you for expressing your opinion, which is exactly what it is, your opinion.

Gravity_Slave
Gravity_Slave

The sad thing is, you honestly thought this was clever. How long did it take you to come up with that mess?

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

@wookiegr  Agreed.  I don't even notice the sky in most games, I don't spend a lot of time looking up.  All that a sky needs to be is something cool to look at in the few moments here and there when gamers actually do look up.

TheDoovdePlayer
TheDoovdePlayer

@Pyrosa i had the exact same experience. the game is gorgeous to look at but outside the shooting, there was nothing. Immersion doesn't come about with amazing graphics alone. Graphics wane over time... Destiny looks gorgeous now, but it won't always. I believe that immersion in games comes from the developers actively engaging the players in the game-space, and like you said, aside from the core mechanics and the breathtaking visuals.... there's nada going on here. Hopefully they change that and add some stuff in the world for players to actually feel as though its alive and not just one big grinding shoot-fest. 

imajinn
imajinn

@Pyrosa I do have to agree with this comment. Everything looked gorgeous, but outside of the occasional rare gold or normal treasure chest, there was just nothing to find. I want to say well "it was just beta" but I think that is how its gonna be in the final.

Kinguard73
Kinguard73

@airmankoller  Hate? Who mentioned hate? People wanting content for a game they want to like but having difficulty with it. If you like it you want to fix it. I think the social/grouping options is absolutely horrible so I hate now to? Simply pathetic.

Zloth2
Zloth2

@airmankoller  OMG!  You're so un-hip it's a wonder you buns don't fall off! ;)

Some people will like it, some will hate it.  All games are like that.  Unfortunately, a lot of folks have it in their head that a game is absolutely good or bad and it's the people who like/hate the game that are to be judged.

xeidog69
xeidog69

@TheDoovdePlayer @Pyrosa  Well it isn't exactly going for Fable cause and effect in the world but more MMO meets FPS. The story campaigns are more directed and action oriented. The open exploration where Pyrosa kept finding empty spaces is 1) yes its a beta. 2) some of those dead ends that are empty are rooms where random spawned chest will appear etc. I hardly ever found chest in these rooms until I found those nice ideal farming spots and just kept going in and coming out of rooms at which point I quickly made over 20k glimmer. made a big circle and hit about 6 different rooms repeatedly.


The skies and vistas were beautifully done, me and a group of friends would farm and then chill or seek out crazy stuff in the ?? level monster zones. When chilling in open world and the Tower we would dance and goof off and Pose to take screenshots etc.We would occasionally play with the soccer ball and giant purple beach ball. We would jump on a roof in the tower and others would activate the fan on the roof.


Lots of fun there in the game and more depth than any other FPS I have ever played. Period.


xeidog69
xeidog69

@Kinguard73 @airmankoller  Yes...especially because of the nature of the End Game Destiny really should have KB support and auto team chat once grouped. We have to form a manual group for end game raids. Even if we grouped with strangers the only person whom knows what your about to do is whomever did all the invites etc.


Horrendous design for chat functionality is my only gripe with Destiny. I would much prefer texting in the tower and open world until a raid group is formed than once grouped we can discuss which raid we wanna do and how we should prepare etc. Also we can make sure everyone is going to be able to dedicate the time needed to complete a raid so we don't experience drop outs and in the event someone must go we should be able to text in chat bar/public or LFG channels and find a replacement on the spot. Not sure we can even have someone join Raids midways through.


I did remember another gripe I had and that was at the end of a strike. A timer comes up and eventually boots you and your party out, Why cant we do like any other portions of the game and go to orbit. I remember sitting there watching the timer count down and noticed someone found a Golden Chest near the end of the strike and I didn't move fast enough to get it on that go.


It would be ideal to be able to stay grouped and goof off after having completed a mission with others, be able to add one another as friends if it was a good group. Pose and take screenshots together and be able to adventure further with said group later on.