When we had the opportunity to get our hands on the Destiny alpha this week, we wanted to do something special. Anyone who has played a Halo game can attest that, when it comes to delivering breathtaking scenery on a massive scale, Bungie is a true master of its craft. Our initial steps on the ruins of planet Earth in Destiny call to mind those moments when we first emerged from the escape pod back in the original Halo. Just taking a moment to pan the camera slowly around and take in the scenery before us reminds us why this developer is one of the best in the business.
One of Destiny's many firsts for Bungie is its take on a fall day/night cycle. Translating its mastery of light and shadow into something that could dynamically transform the environment as the player is engaged in exploration and combat is an exciting proposition indeed. A full day in the world of Destiny lasts one hour in real time, giving us a great opportunity to bathe in the glorious world they've created. As a result we've decided it would be an excellent choice for the next instalment our irregular series of time-lapse videos.
It starts with a collection of independently rotating layers representing various cloud formations, which move and transition seamlessly between one another. Sunlight realistically permeates these layers producing a heavenly outline around the swirling clouds as the sun passes beneath. Both the sun and the moon take turns bathing the world in the appropriate light. The soft orange glow of evening gives way to a clear, crisp night only to be transformed by the incredible sunrise that follows. Light shafts, emanating from both the sun and the moon, filter through the swaying trees and navigate building facades with ease, once again recalling the earliest moments of Halo.
This warm natural light is further enhanced by the use of a subtle fog which creeps realistically in, out and around distant valleys. The clouds above cast majestic shadows on the world below enhancing the sense of scale the game strives to deliver. These strong atmospherics are backed up by an excellent implementation of real-time shadows, which smoothly stretch across the world until the daylight is extinguished behind the mountains.
Large bodies of water encircle the world of Destiny. While the implementation of the water itself isn't particularly striking, the reflections of both the world and the sky above within it further cement the sense of cohesion within the world. The shores along these bodies of water also interact neatly as to avoid a harsh contrast between land and sea. Rivers and small ponds also receive and interact with light.
When everything is taken as a cohesive whole we're left with the next-generation in Bungie's game-craft. The knowledge the studio has amassed over the years is consolidated into a razor-sharp vision depicting a world gone by. The beautiful time-of-day transitions play a huge role in this and help create one of the most striking presentations we've experienced in a shooter.
Building this video required some time and effort due to the lengthy 60-minute cycle. At this stage in development at least, Destiny doesn't make it easy to capture its world. There is no option to disable the HUD and the standard first-person view includes a large on-screen weapon. For this reason we decided instead to use a 21:9 aspect ratio and crop the image removing the bottom HUD From the picture. This also helps accentuate the wider shots.The best PC graphics cards Digital Foundry on the GPUs that can match or exceed console visuals.
We quickly discovered that, by pressing down on the d-pad, the camera would jump to third-person and your character would switch to a sitting position. By sitting directly next to a wall or object, however, it was possible to adjust the camera to give the impression of a first person perspective free from the presence of the view weapon.
We spent time exploring the alpha build looking for shots to line up for our photoshoot. After finding each one we would plop down and record at five frames per second, allowing us to record up to a full hour of video. From there it was possible to adjust the speed of the recording to produce the time-lapse effect. Most shots were converted to 60fps but we also utilised up to a 400 per cent increase in speed to allow for faster transitions during key sequences.
Keeping in mind that this is an alpha build, we were limited to a select few areas to sample for this project. The latest E3 trailer shown at the Sony presser this week hints at so much more to come. Until that date comes, however, enjoy the first glimpse of Destiny's world in motion. Also keep an eye out later this week for a full Digital Foundry analysis of the alpha code.