Destiny, the latest effort from Halo creator Bungie, was one of the most successful and divisive video game releases of 2014, but one of the largest controversies surrounding the title was still ongoing until yesterday. In spring of last year, several months before the game itself launched, longtime company composer Marty O’Donnell (who created Halo‘s iconic score) was dismissed from his post and had the large amount of company shares he owned revoked in the process as well as being denied access to the company’s profit participation plan. O’Donnell, claiming this termination was without cause, sued and after almost a year and a half long legal battle, a court-appointed arbitrator issued a final ruling yesterday.
The arbitrator found that Bungie had breached its contract with O’Donnell and instructed the company to return the composer’s shares, while a second lawsuit in which O’Donnell sued to recover unpaid wages was also decided in his favour, with the court awarding him $95,000.
Of most interest to Destiny fans in all of this, however, is likely the numerous details of the game’s troubled development and behind the scenes friction at Bungie. Following the famous studio’s departure from Microsoft and their historic Halo franchise with the release of Halo: Reach in 2010, the company signed a deal with publisher Activision (best known for also publishing Call of Duty) to produce the Destiny series, a new tentpole franchise that would span multiple games and downloadable expansions. Marty O’Donnell, the company composer, was asked to create music for the entirety of the franchise at once rather than one game at a time and did so, recording the score in early 2013 and dubbing it the Music of the Spheres.
Over time O’Donnell became increasingly frustrated with Activision’s refusal to allow a release of the music as a standalone work and the tensions came to a head in June of 2013 when Activision exhibited the game at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), the largest video game press event of the year. A trailer had been made to showcase the game, and O’Donnell’s Music of the Spheres was set to score it, but Activision stepped in and replaced the music with a soundtrack of their own.
Enraged, O’Donnell publicly tweeted that the music used was not his and threatened Bungie employees in an attempt to prevent the trailer’s release on the internet. Over the duration of E3, he also interrupted press briefings all of which understandably angered Activision. While O’Donnell wasn’t immediately terminated, his next performance review was not positive and after a perceived drop in work ethic from colleagues, Bungie dismissed the composer, igniting the ensuing year and a half long legal battle.
While this troubled tale is interesting enough on it’s own, the court documents also revealed that Destiny‘s release was initially set for September 2013, but was delayed until March 2014 and again to September 2014 after Bungie elected to heavily redesign the story in August 2013. Considering that a common criticism leveled at the game was the poor quality of it’s threadbare and barely comprehensible story, these revelations would appear to confirm the theories expressed by gamers that Destiny‘s story was altered relatively late in development.
Lastly, the documents also describe the Destiny franchise as a five-part series, and with that new tidbit of information as well as the previously announced 10-year planned lifespan of the franchise, I can’t help but wonder if a second installment is too far off.