If you’ve been playing Destiny since the very beginning, or even since the beginning of Destiny 2, the opening moments of your guardian’s story have probably taken on the sepia tones of a faded memory. The space game has woven a story across two titles and a whole catalogue of expansions and seasons – a lot has happened. But one videogame filmmaker has set out to recapture those first few moments, using techniques usually associated with pre-release marketing.
Gage Allen, the creative director at Player One Trailers, has recently debuted the first episode of a new series of Destiny videos called Solas, which traces the story of a single guardian – a hunter named Vero Solas – from the moment he awakens with the light of the Traveler outside the Cosmodrome.
Solas uses a blend of filmmaking and capture techniques to create something that’s somewhere in between a ‘let’s play’ and machinima. Allen calls it ‘Immersiplay,’ and it manages to recapture what Destiny feels like rather than what it’s actually like to play.
Episode one begins just like Destiny’s introduction does – unless you’re paying close attention, you might even think that’s what you’re watching. A guardian awakes amid the rusted hulks of countless automobiles. A giant metal structure, the Cosmodrome, looms in the distance, and the curious, synthetic voice of a ghost coaxes him out of his daze.
But while the view is the familiar first-person perspective of Destiny, the story beats hit slightly different notes. There’s dialogue between the hunter and the ghost now, which fills out a lot of what’s happening in the broader world, and gives us some insight into what a newly minted guardian might be feeling. He reacts to taking hits from Fallen enemies inside the Cosmodrome, and talks with the fireteam he meets after fighting a tank outside.
Allen explains that much of this had to be recreated from the ground up, not merely through gameplay capture, but by rebuilding entire audioscapes and creating new HUD designs for perspectives that weren’t shown in the 2014 game, like that of the different fireteam members during the tank showdown. You can tell how old some of the footage is when you see primary ammo bricks drop from downed enemies – Allen says this project has been in the works for around six years, and has taken nearly 1,000 hours of work to produce.
“It’s extremely difficult, and it’s an enormous amount of work, just because I get a little obsessed over the tiniest details,” Allen tells us. “With Destiny, in some ways it’s easy, but in some ways it’s hard, because they didn’t build the game with Immersiplay in mind.”
Without access to Destiny 2’s devtools, Allen and his team had to work out creative solutions to get some of the shots they wanted. “A lot of the stuff is just, what can we do with the game? Are there any workarounds to maybe break the engine and do this?” he says.
A key moment in the episode comes when Vero first uses his super ability. Popping a super in Destiny 2 feels incredibly powerful, and the film conveys that perfectly thanks to the use of additional visual effects, dialogue, and audio processing work that Allen’s team created.
Allen says Bungie’s announcement that it was vaulting parts of Destiny 2’s world to clear out room for new content led to some panic-fuelled days during the production of Solas.
“It was literally all hands on deck, it was terrible,” he laughs. “The story followed the lore [step by step], and when they vaulted the Red War Campaign, there was all this stuff we were going to use and had started using. It forced rewrites, it forced me to look at this and go, damn it, how do we make this work now, because all this stuff is gone. So it was this huge process of trying to shift the direction and look at what is available, and how we tell the story with that.”
Another episode of Solas is in the final stages of production now, and Allen says it’s “a lot closer than I think people assume.” He estimates that it’ll be ready to debut sometime this spring. Allen has also produced a short documentary about the making of Solas, which you can watch here.
“It’s kind of this giant Frankenstein’s monster of different things that I’ve had a fascination with for a long time,” he says. “And the result – at least the start of it – is the first episode of Solas.”