The Skywriters of Destiny

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In the Destiny Beta, some of you spent all of your time fighting to restore the glory of our Golden Age. That’s all well and good. It’s a world worthy of heroes, after all. There were some among you, however, that preferred long walks at sunset. We saw you coming from miles away.

There is an entire team at Bungie that’s creating art that entices you to look up at the sky when you’re not looking down the sights of your weapon. Before their work dawned on you, Isaiah Sherman told the tale of how he came to build the elements that live beyond your reach. Now that (some of) their work has been on full display in the Beta, we’re catching up with Mark Goldsworthy to learn more about how they created a beautiful and dynamic canopy that lives above our lost worlds.

Hey, Mark. Tell us about your team and the contribution they make at Bungie.

Mark: We treat the sky as another character in a game. We understand the high impact they can have and we give them the love they deserve. The term “Skybox” is a bit of a misnomer. “Sky Art” at Bungie includes the sky, mountains, epic vistas stretching before you – everything from underground caverns to planets in space, and more.

Since this is the biggest world we’ve ever built for our players to explore, was your work on Destiny different than what you created in previous Bungie games?

Mark: We’d created great skies in Reach, but we wanted to incorporate ever-changing lighting and atmospherics in Destiny. Transitioning from day to night with clouds, sunrises, and sunsets was the goal. We wanted them to be visually stunning and unique to each planet. Additionally, we layered in unique planetary sky and terrain elements to expand our universe. Above all else, the skies needed to be epic.

Eventually, those epic skies meet the horizon. How do you work with other artists at Bungie to combine heaven and earth?

Mark: We work closely with the world environment art team, iterating and evolving the skies and landscapes alongside the playable areas. As the worlds develop, so do the skies. We can bounce ideas off one another and react to new work that enters each build. We prefer to hand-craft the landscape and cloud arrangements rather than use large, static photo wraps.

In your opinion, how does your work impact the overall experience of the player?

Mark: Sky and atmosphere really help establish the mood. The sky needs to be dynamic. It’s made of many individual components that move and change as celestial bodies travel from horizon to horizon. They feed player immersion and enable us to flesh out the worlds we create on a broader canvas.

Personally, what’s your favorite location to skygaze in Destiny?

Mark: I really enjoy those wonderful color gradients you see on a clear sky at dusk. The Destiny Martian pre-dawn and sunrise sequence was a lot of fun to create.

There’s a rumor that you’re looking to hire a certain someone to join you in creating new aerial scenery for us to enjoy when we’re not fighting for our lives. What would be the qualifications of your ideal candidate?

Mark: A keen eye for light and composition. A love of the sky and epic vistas. And an open mind for the awesome challenges Bungie throws at you.