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Screenshot: Bungie

In its seventh year, the writers of hit sci-fi war game "Destiny 2" have implemented— and mastered —the ability to tell players an interesting, episodic story that advances week by week.

Why it matters: Storytelling in games is often an afterthought, but two of the game’s lead writers tell Axios that one of their keys to success has been the narrative team’s work with the rest of the game’s creators.

  • “It's very much a collaborative effort,” senior narrative lead Julia Nardin said, citing brainstorming sessions with the franchise and design teams as well as “the rest of creative leadership.”

Between the lines: Bungie maps its seasons out in yearlong chunks, deciding which characters and story arcs will play out across the year’s four seasons.

  • Seasons are ascribed themes, such as Season of the Splicer’s “hacker fantasy,” or the current Season of the Lost’s focus on mysticism as well as narrative themes of broken familial trust, according to Bungie senior narrative designer Nikko Stevens.
  • The writers point to “Destiny 2”’s 13th season, which ran from February through May, as the one in which they nailed an episodic model that Nardin likens to "tuning in to a TV show every week.”
  • That so-called Season of the Chosen kicked off with a peace treaty, led to an assassination attempt and then a big climax, all offered through a mix of playable activities, audio files and text documents that were doled out to players week by week.

The two seasons since Chosen have followed a similar cadence.

  • “I think we've got it down to a science, and we're really confident and comfortable with the way that we're handling things,” Nardin said.
  • But, she notes, “while we have a formula that's working well for us, that doesn't mean we won't switch it up to keep things fresh.”
"Destiny 2" player ally Saint-14, recently rethinking how he describes the many aliens he's fought. Screenshot: Bungie

Bungie’s successful implementation of weekly storytelling in “Destiny 2” has been accompanied by a more complex in-game worldview, one in which some members of enemy alien species have proved friendly, and the actions of the player and their allies have been called out.

  • “What we've tried to do is show that not all of the enemies are bad and not everyone in the Last City is good,” Nardin said, referring to the player’s base of operations.
  • An example of these changes: the enemy faction “The Fallen” is now often referred to as “The Eliksni,” the word it uses for itself. That's happened as players have been shown the Eliksni’s perspective of the game’s ongoing conflict and even encountered Eliksni war refugees.

Bungie is one of the few game studios whose leadership is visibly political and overtly inclusive, but the writers focused more on in-game reasons for this evolution.

  • The war between the game’s hero factions and computer-controlled enemies had started as an us vs. them, Stevens said.
  • “Everything is very black and white and the sense was like, ‘We're being attacked, we’re defending ourselves. That's a very easy thing to convey. But as conflicts go on, you kind of start to hit these ruts of nuance where decisions need to be made about things that aren't so cut and dry.”
  • “We were definitely having conversations about, ‘how can we do this universe justice and paint with all the colors in the palette that we've created over the last six or seven years,’” Nardin said.

What’s next: The writing team is well into working on next year’s batch of seasons.

  • While each season is locked in as it begins, player feedback can impact future ones.
  • The character Crow was showcased more in this year’s later seasons because fans responded to him well in November 2020’s Season of the Hunt.

Go deeper

The big face-off between Halo, Call of Duty and Battlefield

"Halo Infinite." Image: Microsoft

The video game horse race to watch this fall is between “Call of Duty: Vanguard,” “Battlefield 2042” and “Halo Infinite,” three shooter games from giant franchises that keep bumping into each other on their way to release.

Driving the news: Two of the expected mega-games will intersect tomorrow, as Activision’s “Vanguard” and EA’s “2042” both run online showcases at 11 a.m. ET to reveal new modes.

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children are among a group of 17 missionaries kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, per a statement from Christian Aid Ministries Sunday.

The latest: "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children," the Ohio-based group said. Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne on Sunday identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.