Adjusting to life in the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone as it’s disrupted our lives, both at home and at work. For game development in particular, those challenges have seen games delayed by weeks or even months as teams struggle to find a new normal. Stevivor recently sat down with Katherine Walker and Chris Proctor of Bungie to talk about how they handled the pandemic, and what unexpected challenges they faced with Destiny 2 Beyond Light.
“One thing that was huge at Bungie was going out for lunch with people, to the point where Bungie has this new hire lunch policy where people can take you out for lunch at the company’s expense for quite a while after you start,” said Chris Proctor, Staff Designer.
“This is none of that, right — people have to explicitly organise to do lunch chats or whatever, but sitting there eating your lunch while the other person is there over a webcam – it feels really weird.”
Organising lunch catchups was the least of the team’s worries though, with the move to working from home throwing up all kinds of unexpected roadblocks. For Chris, the biggest challenge has been properly playtesting weapons.
“We started working from home at the start of March and initially we didn’t have a playtesting strategy – for a couple of weeks we weren’t doing any playtesting at all,” He said.
“Getting weapon balance right and getting the feel of the weapons right – you really need to do that (playtest) a lot.”
Thankfully for Chris and his team a certain game streaming service launched late last year to help remedy their playtesting woes.
“Shortly after that we switched to using Stadia for all of our playtests, and since then we’ve managed to do four or five playtests a week. A mixture of remote builds on our own computers versus playing on Stadia.”
Katherine and her team had similar issues while producing the Beyond Light campaign and Deep Stone Crypt raid, though for her team Stadia wasn’t the saviour it was for Weapons.
“Not everybody actually had the capability to do Stadia stuff just because the setup was a little more complex then just going to a playtest lab,” she said.
“I didn’t actually get to playtest the game very much at all, I would watch other people playtest the game. We came up with a lot of internal streaming solutions so that the people who were able to playtest were able to stream so everybody could make sure they’re watching and getting information.”
For both Katherine and Chris’s teams the move to working remotely had a large impact on the social aspect of their teams. Gone was the free bouncing of ideas between desks and workstations, now replaced with zoom calls and group chats.
“It’s really important to overcommunicate in this sort of environment as well,” Chris said.
“I have to make much more of an effort to reach out to everyone on the team and ensure I’m getting all the information I need. You can no longer rely on absorbing it via osmosis because you happen to sit near a whole bunch of people.”
Naturally that communication had to extend outside of work-related stuff too.
“The hardest thing at least for my team was that there wasn’t a lot of non-work overlap, you just couldn’t sidle up to somebodies desk and talk about sports or whatever new game has come out,” Katherine said.
“There’s a really big importance to group and team chats that are less work-oriented just so that people are happy and being friends with each other and then they’re more likely to also share information.”
All of that hard work will be be on show now, as Destiny 2 Beyond Light launches on all platforms November 10.
10 Nov 2020 (PC PS4 PS5 Xbox One Xbox Series X)