Destiny's Sparrow Racing "could be the first of many"

We talk to Bungie about their experimental new racing mode.

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Sparrow Racing is here, and we've been fizzing around the tracks on our agile speeders since it went live last night. There's two stages, and although Mars is slightly the easier of the two, we probably prefer the winding track on Venus.

Both come complete with twists and turns aplenty, as well as liberal amounts of bunting to decorate the courses. There's booster gates that players need to aim for as they kick you forward with increased velocity, but a nice touch is the further back in the pack you are, the bigger the gate is for you to aim at; it's a helpful leveller that ensures even stragglers can get back in the three-lap races.

We enjoyed a few competitive matches, and the GRTV team grabbed some gameplay capture which you can see below. We also had the opportunity to talk to Bungie's Derek Carroll, who had a few interesting tidbits to tell us about the experimental mode, and how the new races may well end up being the first of many.

GR: For uninitiated, tell us how Sparrow Racing first came to Destiny.

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DC: So early on when we were developing Destiny we wanted to hit that core experience, and limit ourselves to what we thought Destiny was all about, so racing didn't really fit in there. But when you give someone a vehicle, or maybe when you give two people vehicles, they're naturally going to want to race them.

So people really liked the way the Sparrows drove, and they were fooling around in Patrol spaces and things like that, and informally racing. It's something that the community has been asking for since basically the pre-alpha.

And so about last year or so we had an internal hackathon with small teams putting together stuff they're interested in, and one of the teams did a Sparrow Racing prototype that was a little more formal, racing game style. The team played it, we really liked it, so we put it on the books as something we'd like to develop in the future. And so the Live Team that we've created to support Destiny as it's running was able to create this experience and put together this event that'll give everybody that owns The Taken King a cool racing experience this December.

There was quite a bit of spontaneous Sparrow Racing during Year One wasn't there?!

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Yeah definitely. It's just human nature to want to race pretty much any vehicle you get on, you wanna test the limits and compete. It's just a very natural desire. So being able to channel that into a fun acitivity is cool for us.


What can you tell us about the two custom tracks you've created?

So Campus Martius is the Mars track and it was created by Todd Juno, one of our artists. As with everything in Destiny a bunch of people had a hand in this, but I would say that it's his track. A bunch of our artists have experience on racing games, it's just the nature of working in games, you try a lot of things, and so our artists are able to create these racetracks.

In terms of which areas, and how they pick them; Mars is just one of our destinations, and racing around the buried city in Mars is fun, just in patrol, so he created a track with lots of twists and turns that starts off in the dunes and ends up in the city. It's a really fun track and it's designed to be more accessible, easier.

The Venus track is called Infinite Descent, and Josh Markham was the artist responsible for that one. And it's interesting because he mainly uses Vex architecture and the Venus terrain, and it's constantly descending, you're always going down hill, and at the end of the track you go through a Vex teleporter that brings you back to the top. It's a little more challenging than the Mars one but it's still a good track for many skill levels I'd say.

So the racing us up running now, right?

Yeah, it started when the update when live [yesterday, on December 8th], so depending on the platform and the territory.

And when's it running up until, is it three weeks?

Right, it's running up until the 29th [of December].

What are people going to be doing during this three week period? What are they going to be working towards?

So they'll be racing on the two tracks that we've shown. And you start off by going to the Tower and talking to Amanda Holiday, the shipwright, and you'll get a quest from her that will give you your first Sparrow Racing license.

And so by racing you increase your reputation with her and that allows you to get cool racing-focused gear from the end-of-match loot drop. The more rep you have, the better the gear will be. Up to, you can get an end game helmet and there's a class item that can drop up to 320 [Light], so it's another avenue to get powerful gear, but it's all about the racing.

There's a different skill bracket for matchmaking, so the better you are the more challenging opponents we'll find for you. It's not necessarily players who are great at PvP, the racing skill is on a different axis. We'll match good racers together.


If feels like a nice change of pace, new end game content for players to enjoy. Is this merely the first time that we'll see Sparrow Racing events like this, or are you just taking it as it comes?

This could be the first of many Sparrow Racing series. This event is an experiment in certain ways, and it's an attempt to give the community what they've been asking for. As well as an experiment internally, this is the Live Team's first big gameplay event that's a very different experience from the other things in Destiny.

I think we've proven that we can create these new types of gameplay that are kinda different and new and exciting for players. And if community feedback is extremely positive then it can definitely come back in the future. We'll see what people respond to, what they want more of, what they want changed, and we can go from there.

Do you feel that Destiny is in a place now where Destiny can cater for more experiences than it was perhaps originally intended to? You've got a hardcore community of players, and do you think that the game is really primed to deliver new experiences for them?

Yeah. I think we've built a solid foundation for Destiny for the future. It's always something that we intended to start off as strong as we could and then build upon, and in a way we've never been able to do in the past. In the olden days you'd make a game, you'd ship it, and that was it. And if you had a terrible game-breaking bug you could release a title update or something, but that was pretty much the extent of your support.

With Destiny we're able to do sandbox tuning patches and balance patches, and give new maps out and things like that. The latest patch is part of the update that's going out with Sparrow Racing League. We have a major sandbox overhaul, for PvP especially, touching all the weapons and stuff. We're definitely in a place where we can review the data, review all the experiences we offer, and target different moods and different play-styles.

Racing is something that I think everyone can enjoy, and it's really fun. I think it can be a really casual, low key experience, especially when compared to things like Raids and Trials of Osiris. But you can also, at the same time, bring five other friends, you can bring a Fireteam of six to it, and be as competitive with it as you want. When it's bragging rights among your friends it can get pretty heated. So yeah, we definitely want to offer fun, exciting new experiences in Destiny for all the players.


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