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Destiny's lawsuit reveals why the composer was fired & the story makes no sense

Halo and Destiny composer Marty O’Donnell has won a legal battle with former employee Bungie after he was suddenly and surprisingly fired, during Destiny's development.

The court findings are that Bungie violated its contract with O’Donnell, by sacking him and stripping him of company stock and profit share. He's now getting most of that back with the documents (opens in new tab) stating he'll receive 192,188 shares and an initial payment of $142,500. But the music he wrote, which seems to be behind all the trouble, belongs to Bungie and O’Donnell will need permission to do anything with it. Seriously, he can't even upload it to Dropbox without asking.

So what happened?

It all seems to tie back to the Music Of The Spheres, an eight-piece suite the former audio director wrote for the game. The music was originally intended to "inspire the development team" and be released separately ahead of the game. Activision wasn't that fussed on the idea though, and that's where things start to go wrong.

Destiny's E3 showing was meant to have O’Donnell's music underpinning everything, until Activision took over the trailer and added in its own choice. That was a move that angered O’Donnell (on top of resistance to publishing the music separately), who thought the publisher had "overstepped its role". When O’Donnell went public with his frustrations - including tweets, interrupting press demos and trying to prevent the trailer being released - Bungie's management decided it had hurt the company and this ultimately lead to a rift, and the breach of contract used to fire him.

So, that's a super short take on the 'why'. Now, the interesting stuff. Here's a paragraph about the background of the case from the court documents:

"Although Destiny was planned for release in September 2013, the story was substantially revised beginning August 2013, requiring a new release date of March 2014 and edits to much of the work previously completed. After a brief vacation/sabbatical in early fall, O'Donnell returned, worked on the story and recorded dialogue, but no wrote no additional music. His supervisor and audio team did not consider him to be fully engaged in the work of Audio Director."

What those substantial revisions might be aren't covered in the court documents, but it's telling they seem to tie into two of Destiny's oddest aspects - Peter Dinklage's terrible lines/delivery, and the garbled plot that read like... well, huge chunks of story were cut out last minute and the bits hastily stitched back together.

The popular belief is that Uldren Sov, the brother of the Awoken Queen, was originally a much larger character called The Crow (he's still called The Master Of Crows now). According to threads Destiny fans have picked out, the original plot saw the player working with The Crow and eventually revealing The Traveller, supposedly the thing that saved the Earth, was actually behind the Darkness that destroyed it. While The Hive were trying to reactivate the giant sphere to finish the job.

Whether that eventually happens or not remains to be seen. It might have been cut completely, or held back for later games. The documents talk about the ten year deal between Activision and Bungie, and mentions "five Destiny releases". Although whether that latter phrase refers to full games or DLC is unclear. There's a lengthy breakdown of the court documents from Venture Beat here (opens in new tab).

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Leon Hurley
Senior Guides Co-ordinator

I'm currently GamesRadar's Senior Guides Co-ordinator, which means I've had a hand in producing or writing all of the guide and tips content on the site. I also write reviews, previews and features, and do video. Previously I worked for Kotaku, and the Official PlayStation Magazine and website. I'm a big fan of open world games, horror, and narrative adventures.