Bungie On How Destiny Beta Is Like a Full Product Launch

Community manager Eric Osborne discusses "massive undertaking" that is beta period for upcoming shared-world shooter.

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Bungie's first post-Halo project--the shared-world shooter Destiny--doesn't launch until sometime in 2014, but gamers can go hands-on with the new game earlier in the year through its just-announced beta.

It's the first time Bungie is allowing the public to try out the open-ended sci-fi shooter and it's not something the studio takes lightly.

The upcoming Destiny beta, in a number of ways, is being treated like a full product launch, according to Bungie community manager Eric Osborne.

Speaking with GameSpot about the Destiny beta, Osborne outlined Bungie's vision for the "massive undertaking" that is a pre-launch trial. Check out the full conversation below.

You first sent out calls for beta testers in 2010, after Halo: Reach had shipped, and before Destiny was announced. How extensive has your beta testing process been prior to this upcoming public beta?

During our 20th anniversary, we invited a few hundred thousand fans to sign up on Bungie.net, and enroll in our User Research program. Over the past few years, we involved that kick ass collection of core fans through programs ranging from simple online surveys, to full blown onsite studio playtesting.

We've learned a lot about what players expect from a great shooter, and from us, but there's nothing quite like throwing the doors wide open to the public and seeing what people do when you set them off on an epic adventure with their friends.

Bungie obviously has a strong and enviable legacy when it comes to online shooters, but Destiny is something altogether new. How are you preparing to beta test something the parameters of which have not been seen before?

"The Destiny beta, in many ways, is being treated like a full product launch. We can't just carve out three competitive multiplayer maps this time around."

We supported some pretty big, enduring gaming communities over the past decade, but we haven't sat around giving each other high fives these past few years. We went out and recruited some of the most talented and experienced people we could find. We brought in hundreds of fans to play embarrassingly early builds of Destiny in our labs, collecting millions of data points. We've built technology specifically suited to deliver Destiny's core pillars, enabling living worlds that feel like places you visit, filled with great action and adventure that gets your heart pumping, and offering up persistence of character that lets players become legends.

The Destiny beta, in many ways, is being treated like a full product launch. We can't just carve out three competitive multiplayer maps this time around. We'd only be gathering data on one facet of the overall experience--one that is arguably the least resource intensive and most well understood by our team. Destiny demands more.

How will this beta compare to the ones offered for Halo 3 and Halo: Reach?

Our ambition is to build big, rich destinations that players can visit over and over again, to fill them up with great story and moments that they can share with their friends, and to deliver face melting action that leads to treasure, challenge, and discovery. We want to pour all of that secret sauce into the Destiny beta. It's a massive undertaking, but one that we believe will pay huge dividends for us, and for our players.

What goals do you have in place for this beta?

We want to ramp up to a pretty massive scale, prior to launch, on all four shipping platforms. We can, and do, perform a lot of small to large-scale testing, but nothing beats a turbulent sea of gamers smashing up against our code, services, and content. No amount of prediction and intuition can account for the delightfully random human element that will ultimately define Destiny.

Your past betas for Halo have had millions of players. What kind of uptake are you expecting this time, especially considering you're on multiple platforms?

We have achieved some pretty significant scale in the past with our betas, and those experiences have afforded us with a small amount of confidence. So small, in fact, that we're conducting another public beta for Destiny, with the hopes of attracting millions of players again, just to be sure!

What do you think has changed in the online multiplayer space--in terms of technology and/or player expectations--since you shipped Halo: Reach in 2010? And how have you adjusted your processes as a result?

Players have a lot more choices when it comes to online entertainment. They demand richer, shared experiences. With Destiny, our approach has been to focus on how we can create a kick ass game world that offers players a super fun on-demand experience that they can share with friends, no matter their mood or play style.

What kinds of new technologies do you have today that you didn't have in the Halo days to track player behavior? And how will these help assist in data gathering when it's over?

We're fortunate to be building from data analysis bedrock that we first started working on more than 10 years ago with Halo 2. For Destiny, we built out a brand-new User Research team in-house here at the studio. They've not only brought in a lot of experience working in the field, they've been able to shape the tech we've been able to build to support data gathering and analysis.

We're not digging too deeply into the proprietary practices or technology they've built to support Destiny, but we think there's a pretty cool story to be told about how we track and strive to better understand player behavior. They have wonderful toys.

Will the beta be offered on all platforms, current- and next-gen?

The Destiny beta will be available on all four announced platforms--PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. Players can reserve their spot by preordering the game at a participating retailer while supplies last.

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Eddie Makuch

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.
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