Destinys new writer proves Bungie is finally taking its story seriously

Christopher Schlerf sure loves space. The games writer has just joined Bungie, presumably to get a head-start on the just-announced Destiny 2 (opens in new tab), or perhaps even work on shaping up this year’s expansion. Before that, he was helping chart a new course for humanity and Bioware as Mass Effect: Andromeda’s lead writer. Before that he was lead writer for Halo 4 at 343 Industries.

To confirm what some folks asked about a few months back, I am no longer working on ME:A at BioWare Montreal.February 16, 2016

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All that said, very happy to be back in Seattle, working with this scrappy little company called Bungie that some of you may have heard of.February 16, 2016

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Yes, Christopher Schlerf loves space. But his appointment at Bungie is interesting for more than superficial reasons. Looking at the projects he’s worked on reveals a pattern – here we have an expert in wrangling expansive, sometimes muddled lore into brand new story arcs.

Halo 4 was 343’s attempt to turn an iconic trilogy into a fully-fledged, Star Wars-aping universe with more stories to tell. We know little about Andromeda – other than the fact that it takes the incredibly focused storytelling of the first three games, and turns it into a brand new narrative, set within a familiar universe.

Destiny, of course, has had its problem with pulling the same trick. Even putting its troubled development aside (apparently, the entire story was scrapped 12 months before release (opens in new tab)), Bungie’s approach to carving a story out of its techno-magical future has been mostly sub-par, cryptic in-game lines colliding with app-based encyclopaedias to make for an uncomfortably sparse experience.

Perhaps to Bungie’s surprise – they may well have considered their stellar gameplay enough – it impacted on people’s enjoyment pretty heavily. That led to The Taken King expansion’s well-received foray into actually explaining who hell everyone is and why they’re fighting living black hole people.

And now we have Schlerf, seemingly just the man to work his established magic and take all of those Grimoire entires, bits of flavour text and unintelligible burblings from Eris Morn, and them into something resembling a narrative thrust for the next instalment, or the 2017 sequel. It seems like Bungie is learning from its mistakes.

That tallies with new studio head, Pete Parsons’ (opens in new tab) appointment – Bungie seems to be slowly shifting its focus, and getting Schlerf on-board could well be the first of a series of high-profile dev moves to the Seattle studio in order to make for a more cohesive, or just less beleaguered, second game.

As for Mass Effect: Andromeda, it’s not entirely clear what Schlerf’s departure means. The series of tweets he used to announce his move – as reported by Kotaku (opens in new tab) – indicates that the game is in pretty good shape (“excited like a lil kid to play the final when it’s out”), but that doesn’t necessarily mean the story is done and dusted, and Bioware’s made no announcement as to who, if anyone, is stepping into his lead writing shoes.

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