Destiny 2's first Fortnite-style live event ended today, and unfortunately it wasn't quite what some players expected. Instead of being something monumental and game-changing for an important part of the game world, it was more of a slow alternative to a standard video game cutscene. And instead of delivering a strong narrative payoff for a season's otherwise boring and repetitive activities, the Almighty event ended without a significant change in direction or surprising new development.
In recent months, developer Bungie has been building a conflict between the Rasputin artificial intelligence supercomputer of the Destiny world and a large planet-destroying ship called Almighty. All of last season's activities revolved around communicating with the AI character, a largely mysterious part of Destiny lore before this season, and a series of revised game modes and resource gathering to serve as the eventual showdown between Rasputin and the Almighty . Last month, players were asked to take part in a series of public events to unlock an old Destiny 1 weapon and short story mission, with the promise that more will be added at the end of the season.
Some players expected the Almighty to actually plunge into the social center of the game Tower. Others expected a cutscene, or maybe some kind of real-time space battle, that would destroy or alter the tower in any way. What we actually got was a very understated form of the latter, in which the image of the Almighty changed with incredibly slow motion with new animations and finally a short scene of its destruction and crash landing. Still, the whole execution felt a bit sloppy and overwhelming.
The event had a bumpy start when nothing seemed to happen at the scheduled start time at 1:00 p.m. ET. The delay, whether intentional or not, lasted more than 20 minutes, but gave the players enough time to load into the tower and join other collaborative antics in which other players were involved.
In my case, a number of well-decorated guards put on holographic staffs as if to form a final line of defense with the "None Shall Pass" emote, a reference to Gandalf's legendary line when they look at the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings.
Eventually, the players noticed subtle changes in the sky in the form of large accumulations of laser beams aimed at the Almighty. The process seemed to be dynamic, so the lasers approached over time, but at a painful pace that made it difficult to track movements from minute to minute.
The lasers made contact around 1:50 p.m. ET, almost an hour after the supposedly first start of the event. (It's unclear whether there was an initial reality at first, or whether Bungie deliberately made it as slow as it actually was.)
Screenshot by Tom Warren / The Verge
As we approached almost 90 minutes after the event started, the ship began to explode in slow motion. But then one exciting part of the event began when the Almighty fell on the surface of the earth and pieces of debris flew away. This was the only actual dynamic part of the experience, as everything else felt like a series of subtle screenshot changes in the sky in the game.
It ended up with an exciting crash landing and shock wave, and now the almighty landing site appears to be an integral part of the tower's background. When the players end up inspecting some of the crash garbage (after being reclassified), Bungie awards an emblem.
Screenshot from Nick Statt / The Verge
Still, the conclusion, which lasted less than 10 minutes, required 90 minutes of construction and only resulted in an emblem, and not much more clearly illustrates the mismatched expectations that Bungie may have accidentally cultivated.
I think that's cool, but you need to give more an indication of how much time people should plan. I thought it wouldn't take more than ten minutes
– Paul Tassi (@PaulTassi), June 6, 2020
We have never seen Bungie try something so ambitious with Destiny 2, and the end result was certainly exciting considering what might come next. The studio came closest to expanding Forsaken in 2018, where the game's new location, Dreaming City, underwent a transformation after the very first raid team defeated The Last Wish activity. But it wasn't on the scale of the Almighty Event, and this is Bungie's first real attempt to build a month-long narrative that culminates in some form of shared experience for the player base.
Although Fortnite is best known as a popular Battle Royale game, it has developed into an industry leader in live events in recent years that can only be described as simultaneous live events. These are in-game events that take place in real time and are experienced only once by every single player who signs up and is present for the show. Fortnite is not the first of its kind to do this. Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and online sims like Second Life have been experimenting in this department for years. But Fortnite undoubtedly offers the most impressive and technically sophisticated versions of these events in all games.
Bungie's approach was nowhere near as sophisticated as that of industry leader Epic
Starting with a rocket launch in the game in 2018, which gets more and more ambitious every few months with more complex and evolving events like the black hole stunt last fall, developer Epic has proven that he has the technical prerequisites to do video games too just do justice just five years ago as almost impossible. More recently, Epic hosted a stunning Travis Scott show, in which the rapper was projected as a superhuman skyscraper-sized hologram for more than 12 million players, and last summer closed a story of several months with a Pacific Rim-style mecha monster showdown from.
Part of what makes Fortnites Events so entertaining and feels unprecedented is that they get so complicated over time. Epic can subtly change its map and add clues to find teasers almost every day through all the technical achievements it has developed under the hood of its Battle Royale game (the developer has never told how it triggers these events) expand major events without having to shutdown the server for maintenance. One of the most successful accomplishments was a live event, in which players can go straight to a brand new, changed game card without the need for an update.
Bungie's approach is nowhere near as sophisticated, at least not yet. But the developer is trying something new and it is clear that the studio took plenty of notes while watching Fortnite. The Almighty got closer and closer to the sky last season, and players who log into the tower on Saturday morning noticed that all unplayable characters had shifted their positions to get a clear view of the ship's descent. These changes were minor and it will be interesting to see if Bungie can improve his game for future live events if he actually tries again.
Regardless of the overall quality of this Almighty Event, experiments like this show for the first time that Destiny 2 lives up to the series' original promise to create a shared, vibrant, and ever-changing world. They help the game to better cross the line between shooter and MMO, even if it took a few years and almost two full games to get there.