Jesse van Dijk on the Art of Destiny

Published on: Sep 15, 2015 @ 16:08

Enjoying The Taken King so far? While you’re eagerly waiting to get back into the world of Destiny, you might want to take a moment and read this interview that Jesse van Dijk, Bungie’s lead concept artist, had with the Dutch newspaper Metro. If you’re not fluent in Dutch, we’ve translated it, to save you some time.



A year after the release of Destiny, a new expansion sees the light of day: The Taken King. We (Metro) spoke with Jesse van Dijk, lead concept artist at Bungie.

At its release in 2014, Destiny provoked mixed reactions. The science-fiction universe, created by developer who previously created Halo, was praised, but the gameplay itself was considered questionable. The ambitions for an online shooter-RPG (or “Shared World Shooter” as it has been named by Activision) were sky-high. Through an ever-expanding universe, it is Destiny’s goal to create a committed player base for the coming ten years.

oryx concept art

The Taken King hits the stores today; the largest expansion for Destiny since its release.

For the past year, we’ve learned so much at Bungie. You can come up with all these ideas and plan ahead before the release, but you won’t know if everything actually works until the consumer gets their hands on the game. We experienced that ourselves as well, at home on our couch, when we started to play online with other gamers. It’s different from testing something in a studio.

Has your way of doing things changed?

At its core, no. My team and I get involved in creating the environments and the characters and weapons that are a part of those environments very early on. The development, done by the teams who actually build and program the game, comes afterwards. Of course there is a continuous interplay between our teams, but as a concept artist you are always working on creating the future.

Destiny has its own look, its own style. How do you safeguard something like that?

Simply being very critical of our own work and playing the game ourselves, for one. With everything we make, we ask ourselves the question: „does this fit in with the world we are trying to create?” Additionally, we want to make the players feel like Destiny is a welcoming, remarkable universe to explore. We need the player to want to play our game. And it’s important that the Destiny universe, regardless of the threats and dangers, portrays hope.

Darkness gun concept

So it’s safe to say Destiny has a canon?

Oh for sure. Now we know what works and what doesn’t, what feels right and what just doesn’t fit in. Before we got started, we marked certain influences. Classic films such as Solaris and Stalker by Russian filmmaker Adrei Tarkovsky and Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits fit that profile. The seventies’ Sci-Fi as created by John Harris, Zdzilas Beksinski and Peter Gric also served as inspirations.

Destiny is a ten-year project. Doesn’t that frighten you? Knowing that you have to work on this project for at least another eight years?

Yes and no. On one hand, you want to hold onto the continuous increase in quality. Besides, the near infinite amounts of possibilities and stories that we are yet to explore spark so much inspiration and creativity.

At the same time, it’s a little intimidating. How are we going to raise a bar that is already so high? How are we going to keep these worlds rich and the stories told in Destiny alive? At Bungie however, I think we can fulfill that task.

What’s the most fun part of working at a renowned studio such as Bungie?

Regardless of its size (some 600 employees) Bungie is a very open studio. Everyone can deliver input, from manager to junior, of all disciplines – and that input will always be taken seriously. Everyone adds something to the equation.

Original article by Jan Meijroos, translation provided by Aron Beijl.