Bungie is using Google Stadia to power Destiny 2 playtests while rules to slow the spread of COVID-19 require the development team to work from home.
Destiny 2 developer Bungie is using Google Stadia to run internal playtests while its staff works remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. Located in Washington State, the site of some of the earliest coronavirus cases in the U.S., Bungie was quick to institute remote work measures for its staff and share its preparedness plans with the public.
The novel coronavirus outbreak is forcing radical changes in how companies do business in order to slow the spread of the deadly illness. For some businesses, it means shutting down completely, while for many others it means using tools like Zoom and Slack to work remotely. While many aspects of game development can be done remotely, the shift to remote work can be difficult for many people, and a distributed team can be more difficult to keep organized. While companies like Sony have said that their release dates aren’t being affected, the potential for game delays related to COVID-19 is still there.
If developers aren’t able to keep up with their regular schedules, live service games will likely be the first to feel the effects, as their typically frequent updates slow or stop. Whenever a new Destiny 2 update is rolled out, it first has to be playtested by the development team, which is much easier to do from one central location. Speaking to IGN, Bungie COO Patrick O’Kelley said that the developer turned to Google Stadia to help handle the massive amounts of data involved in remote playtesting.
In Bungie’s case, the developer was already prepared to shift to remote work even before the coronavirus hit the U.S. O’Kelley told IGN that Bungie has work-from-home policies in place due to its location. Bellevue, Washington, where the studio is located, is prone to both heavy snow and earthquakes, so it has measures in place to allow staff to work from home for short periods of time. He also said that he spoke to colleagues in China about the situation there early and started preparing for the impacts of the virus by mid-February. In early March, Bungie was able to reassure fans that Season of the Worthy would still be starting soon, and it later shared its coronavirus response plans to help other developers with their own.
While keeping game development on track may seem trivial in light of a global pandemic, studios like Bungie finding ways to let staff work from home is essential to both keep workers safe and ensure that their jobs are secure. For the millions of people now sheltering in place, games like Destiny 2 can also be a vital way to keep in touch with friends and bolster mental health in an extremely stressful situation.