Guards respond to distress signals, they do not transmit them.
You are here. Slowly approaching an abandoned ship in dead space after receiving a distress call….. from the Guardian. The closer you get to the hull, the more unusual sensations cut into your impenetrable armor. What is it? Hesitation? Scared, maybe?
You are a Guardian – a bastion of light, a champion of the gods, armed to the teeth and ready for any challenge.
But the moment you step into the sparsely lit driveway and the silence envelops you, you know it’s something new. Of course, it’s always possible that whatever is in the bowels of this floating tomb is no threat, but every step you take from your ship, you wonder if you’re above your helmet.
Ignore that thought for as long as possible.
In any case, ignore it if the walls of the room you’re in start moving.
You have this.
The pyramid ships have left their mark, and everyone – humans, Exo, Awakened, Elixni, Cabal; even the Hive – will do anything to save themselves. Among those who seek the darkness, some will find a hidden power that can be used as light. Others are disappointed by a mysterious voice hiding in the darkness.
But power comes in many forms, and in the season some players were introduced to an exciting new enemy that offered the Vanguard an alliance with the powerful Cabal Empire. Empress Cabal Cayatl, however, betrayed her aversion to compromise by overplaying her hand and sparking a conflict between the two factions.
While this conflict is the focus of the season, Bungie knew it was important to acknowledge that just because the Cabal and the Vanguard can’t get along doesn’t mean Darkness’ story is over.
In a universe as large and complex as Destiny, there are always multiple stories going on. Sometimes these stories are small, inconspicuous and hidden at the edge of the room. In these cases, the investigation falls on the shoulders of the players, because – well, let’s face it, it would be a shame if, while everyone was watching the Cabal capsules, something terrible was going on in the shadows.
And so we go into the shadows.
THE SHIP HAS RETURNED TO THE WRONG PLACE.
Robbie Stevens, creative director of Season of the Chosen, explained where the seeds for the mission were planted: We found out early on that although Hive and Darkness are used as reasons for Cayatl to partner with Vanguard, we don’t really tell the story of Darkness. When he realized this, he and the team at Bungie grabbed this Darkness story thread and started pulling it out.
Senior director and lead designer Matt Hand recalls how the team discussed the far-reaching implications of the coming of darkness. They knew they were only just scratching the surface. In front of us, Hand said, there was a big elephant in a tutu tap dancing and a big neon sign indicating that all those planets had just disappeared. So we wondered what we could do about it. Because there’s a story to tell here.
The brainstorming that followed turned into a lightning situation. In a casual conversation about how the story of darkness might be expressed in a small seasonal mission, an abandoned ship was mentioned as a possible target. Then someone asked a question during a conversation: What if the ship goes the wrong way?
That’s all it took. It was like a sci-fi horror mission on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and it only took those words to end the thought. What ship? In what way? Each question asked resulted in many inspired answers, based on the team’s decades-long shared love of horror.
Hand recalls that Nikko Stevens, senior narrative artist at Presage, could hardly contain his enthusiasm about the idea. I could have told Nikko to fuck off so he could start writing. There were so many possibilities and they all came in like a tidal wave. Nikko’s brain nearly exploded, his jaw was on the floor, and everyone on the team was breathing out the energy.
The result is a story of failed communication, a voice in the dark, and the price Calus pays for his wounded pride. The damaged and overgrown rooms bear witness to what happened on Glycon’s last journey. He will sail there, waiting for someone to answer the distress call – the only clue the players will have about the fate of the ship’s captain.
I think if the boat comes back bad … that was a statement that really got things going, Nikko Stevens said. This is a subliminal mission, and you, as the Guardian, come to find her and see the consequences of this terrible decision by Calus. All the pieces of this decision are slowly unraveling – the pieces of exactly what happened, who is to blame, and why they did it.
Within the first 15 minutes of brainstorming, the team knew exactly where they wanted to go, and before they knew it, help poured in from all corners of the studio.
I sent the bat signal, Hand said. We have to scare the ship! And all around the studio, people were offering to join us for short sessions. Overdose testing, overdose audio, overdose world art and overdose lighting – all overdoses. It was just a great experience.
Besides the dedication to making good games, the team’s passion for horror also shines through here. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning, says Robbie Stephens.
There is something very simple and compelling about the horror sci-fi that the team has tapped into. It’s like they’ve spent most of their lives working on this. They spent countless hours together consuming content that inspired their work. It seems like everyone who worked at Presage (maybe even everyone at Bungie) has seen movies like Alien and Event Horizon more than once. Much more than once.
I love any opportunity to bring scary things into play. That’s my favorite part, said Eve Astra, a senior artist at Bungie who has worked on several creepy parts of Mission, including the final room. I was so concerned about the admission of our young people! As I worked on the final piece, I had to send over 10 emails to the team as they became increasingly unpleasant. I add tentacles coming out of this character’s face and say: Can we still air this? He’s still a teenager! ?
Stories like this were everywhere, and the interaction that followed seemed incredibly mundane:
- Person 1: Hey, look at this thing I added to the ship.
- Man 2: Wait, can we do this?
Head audio designer Jenny LaBonte remembers the first time she saw a pile of dead hoon in one of the rooms and thought to herself: Okay, let’s do this.
Although she’s already a huge horror fan, LaBonte watched The Descent with another audio designer to get a taste for it. They wanted to give the impression of a closed atmosphere in which sounds can come from all directions, and show how this can stimulate the imagination.
The team played with the dialogue lines you hear during research – as if they were in your head, LaBonte said. I think these moments are really cool for the players who are wondering if they really heard something or if something is wrong with them. How? Is it in your head? Does anyone else hear this? Is someone watching me? Wait, who did I just hear? What the hell is going on here? Just another layer of uncertainty and confusion.
While epic space terror was always the goal, the first draft mission wasn’t exactly terrifying….. until now.
When they started working on Presage, LaBonte and senior audio designer Zach Thomas combed the mission to find areas that would benefit from ghostly jumps. Each time they found a good spot, they recorded a temporary sound to mark it for later.
We recorded both Boo’s. Like a literal boo. Boo! Just a little different versions. Then, during the mission, it was a really scary moment, and then you heard one of us say the word boo. It’s been around for a while, and I’d like to think of it as Easter eggs.
That’s funny, Robbie Stephens said. If you’re in an early version of these levels, the lights aren’t off, are they? And you’re running around, not 100% sure where this thing is going to land. Then I remember the first time I saw the plants; they really consumed an entire room and killed some Cabal units. Kabal was floating in the air with those spikes. I remember the first time I saw it and thought: Yeah, it’ll work.
All team members believed in each other, which made for a unique experience. But at this point, a little imagination was required. That same imagination led to the design of some incredible set pieces that almost didn’t make it into the play due to their complexity.
The trash compactor is one of my favorite things, says senior artist Todd Juneau. It took coordination between artists, effects designers, designers, and a lot of other people to get the time and everything right. There are a lot of technical tricks because you don’t want players to be pushed through a wall, so there are a lot of things that make it look like you’re being crushed.
Astra, which was also working on a range of waste compactors, feared that the project would be abandoned due to the difficulty of construction. She was very happy when she heard he was staying and got the message to perfect the art. And when the sound came on and the screen shook and stuff, when it closed, oh man, that was really funny.
More than one person had to pull together to make it work, and because the theme – as Hand said – resonated so well with the team, everyone outdid themselves.
It’s just as well, because the team would be devastated if all that work had been for nothing.
As befits the horror genre, some of the most intense parts come towards the end of the mission. In fact, the last two volumes will leave a lasting impression on anyone who manages to brave the dark corridors that precede them.
In the penultimate room of the mission, the final boss (affectionately called Freddy Krueger, because of the boiler room he lives in) presented the team with an interesting challenge. The original idea was to go to the boiler room and be harassed by the boss, Juno said. There were traps to catch players, but since there are some things that are hard tied to the final boss, it didn’t fit well with the setup. It was impossible to get the right feeling.
So while Ripley tied the two weapons together, the team improvised. This results in an upper/lower collision where the player can move freely at the top, but ends up in the limited high-pressure space at the bottom… multiple times.
We’ve done raids where you get separated by district, Robbie Stevens said. Some types have very little, but there’s really nothing like it. In fact, you have to go down into the boiler room. And then, when the boiler room is back online, you must escape quickly.
Juno, who has iterated a lot in this area, said he has pushed everything to the limit. I made the ceiling as low as possible. There are certain thresholds we have to work with, and they are as low as I can bring the boss and as high as I can make it. For example, if I… B. would put the pipe a little deeper, it would interrupt the path.
When audiophiles saw the gathering, they liked it, but they also had a problem with the piping. I know it was Zach’s job to make the sound relevant, LaBonte says. Because everything in this room is on fire. The boss is on fire. Contempt burns and has fire attacks. And then: Oh, and now the whole room’s about to go up in flames. It was very difficult to read. He managed to make the pipes sound like they were heating up in the confined space where all the other flaming elements were.
If you’ve learned not to burn out and are willing to spend zero minutes in the boiler room, there’s only one area left to explore.
Robbie Stevens recalls being inspired by a disturbing moment at the end of Annihilation. (Golf spoilers approaching destruction. Go to the next section to avoid this). Watching something alien destroy someone’s humanity was horrifying. Rearrange that in the Fate universe and the target of that destruction should be the Guardian. Being a creative mind, I understood this and told Matt and Nikko: Hey, build it up.
Yes, there was a lot of work in this last piece. He would land at that point, add to the terror, introduce the players to the captain of the ship and give them a reward: Exotic Scout Master Deadman.
Astra remembers talking to art director Jason Sussman about the destruction and being inspired by it. I thought so: What if these plants grow outside the Keeper? And the ideas start flowing in all directions.
While working on the compositions, Astra faced the challenge of making the player immediately understand that there is a guard in this incredibly dark room and that he is holding what the player is supposed to be carrying. But Astra landed on the inspired choice that was the final resting place of the mysterious Captain Glycon.
It was very difficult, says Astra. And I thought: What if they hang it in the middle of the room? Where you can really see it. When I put it there and added some movement to swing it through the vines, I thought: Oh, that’s really scary.
Oh, what the guards would do for an exotic scout’s rifle.
On paper, Presage’s world building is incredibly compact and asks more questions than it answers – the magic of a good mystery.
Where’s Calus now? He made contact with the darkness… or maybe something else entirely? Was this his only attempt? What is essence and does its existence change our understanding of darkness? What kind of plants are they? What does the drifter know about them? Could what happened on this boat happen anywhere? Can this happen in the last city?
All of these problems stem from one mission, while a completely different branch of Destiny’s story unfolds throughout the rest of the season.
Nikko Stevens brought up a point that resonated with him and is perhaps the essence of what makes missions like this so special.
Little stories, like what happened between Raven and Spider in Season of the Hunt, he said. You could say that it might not matter. Not in the grand scheme of things, right? But you need to know who these people are in the universe. Not knowing who you’re fighting for destabilizes – at least for me – why you do these missions.
And so the Bungie team gave players an innocent distress signal – one, like so many others. One that introduced you to a Guardian you never met, one that was defeated by an enemy you never met, in a small corner of the universe you didn’t know existed.
Thank you for putting your courage where it is needed most.
2020 will satisfy both classic and modern players. To be on the list, the game must be confirmed for 2020, or there must be a compelling reason for it to be released that year. Upcoming games that are only announced and do not have a major release date are therefore not eligible.
By 2020, there will be a ton of… in the world of video games. Here are fifteen games to look forward to in the first half of 2020.
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