December 8th, 2014
TTL Cozmo23

Operation Vanguard

Eight long months ago myself and twenty three other Gunslingers from three continents descended on Seattle, Washington. We arrived under the guise of visiting friends, attending Comic Con, or whatever reason we could come up with to explain to friends and family inquiring about why we were flying across the country, or in some cases, the planet. Why the need for secrecy? Our mission was different than usual. In the past we have mobilized in large numbers to travel to LAN events. That however, was more of a social endeavour. We always look forward to sharing beers with fellow clanmates, but we had a clear purpose for making this trip to the west coast. Bungie had called on us to act as crash test dummies in their most diabolic creation… Destiny’s first Raid.

We had to guard three plates to open the door.

We had to guard three plates to open the door.

This blog post complements the recent episode of TTLPartyChat that released today featuring DeeJ and Luke Smith joining us to unveil Operation Vanguard, make jokes, and discuss Destiny’s Raids. Give it a listen if you have the time, there is some great content. I never actually thought I would be writing this post, as the NDAs we signed were specific as well as indefinite. I was surprised to learn that DeeJ was granted special permission to come on our podcast and help us share this story. So if you too have been a part of Bungie user research and are thinking about sharing your experience, make sure you secure the same special permission from Bungie that we have garnered.

Bungie user research reached out to DeeJ asking him if he knew of a group who as he recalled on the podcast “understand social gaming, have pre-existing friendships, and value teamwork, problem solving and coordination as a group.” DeeJ knew of such a group, and began coordinating what was referred to internally as “Bring your clan to work day”.

"Territory  Controlled".

“Territory Controlled”.

Before work began, fun was had. Tied The Leader has always been known for locking down maps and locking down bars. Each night we arrived en masse at several Seattle pubs to break bread and catch up over a beer. The drinks and stories both flowed through the night. It had been several years since so many of us had gathered in a single setting. The morning bus rides from our lodging in Seattle to the studio in Bellevue was an event in itself. The group was hungry for the challenge, and excited to finally visit the factory and see where the sausage is made.

Bus Ride copy

Talk about the wrong stuff.

 

Walking into Bungie studios is reminiscent of walking into a museum. Glass cases are filled with weapons and relics from Bungie’s past titles. A life size Master Chief towers over you in the hallway. As a clan created by Halo 2 it felt like completing a pilgrimage and arriving at our gaming Mecca.

 

I can only describe the smell as "awsome-sauce".

I can only describe the smell as “awesome-sauce”.

We were brought in to test the “End Game” component of Destiny: An activity most would go onto tackle after leveling their character up to twenty six. None of us really had any idea what Destiny was except for what had been shown in videos and the previous E3. We created a character and played a few missions, some strikes, and then about 5 hours later we were thrown into the lion’s den.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDXPNtaD6ZY&w=475]
A dramatic depiction of our introduction to Destiny.

The specifics of our trial by fire in the lab are still heavily guarded. I can tell you that having three raid teams in the same room with open speakers creates an atmosphere of chaos. This came to a crescendo when all three teams were at the Oracle phase and their unceasing tones overlapped one another. Our hosts were kind enough to keep morale high with food and drinks at periodic breaks, only to lower it again in the next soul crushing encounter.

Our observers offered no assistance to solve the problems at hand and we had no online guides to aid us. All we had was each other. Heavy sighs of frustration were later followed by triumphant screams of victory. It was a surreal feeling playing through the Vault knowing it’s very architects watched from monitors in the other room and at times, from over your shoulder. They studied us like the lab rats we were, recording our habits to later dissect for valuable data.

I wish I could tell you we conquered Atheon and emerged victorious, but we fell short on time. It was fitting that perhaps our biggest enemy in the Vault of Glass was “time” itself. With our limited supply ticking down, two of our groups were able to decipher all of the necessary mechanics needed to defeat the final boss. Both saw him under 25% but needed a few more wipes to smooth things out.

Defeating Atheon was never our mission, only a secondary objective on which we just missed. Our goal was to provide Bungie the player behaviour data to make their final tweaks on the encounters before launch. Our success was evident in the smiling faces of the design leads thanking us as we gathered in the lobby to say our goodbyes. The work was done, it was time to have more fun.

Luke Smith basking in his victory.

Luke Smith basking in his victory.

Our gracious host Deej had arranged for an after party in the clubhouse of his apartment complex. Pizzas were ordered, beer was drank, stories were shared. Several Bungie employees joined us in the celebration, entertaining us with behind the scenes stories about Destiny and their time on previous Halo titles. You could hear the passion in their voices as they spoke about this game they had poured their hearts into. It was an amazing experience and a fitting end to the weekend.

The drinking was also determined by RNG.

The drinking was also determined by RNG.

I’m glad we were able to share our secret with you. I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the curtain, I know we did. Big thanks to Bungie for being great hosts and giving us an opportunity to assist them with their design as adrenaline fueled test pilots. If you would like to learn more about Tied The Leader, please feel free sign up on our forum and leave a comment.