Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a fascinating trend out of Seattle: developers leaving Bungie to make their own games.
This shift is not uncommon in the video game industry, of course. The grind of AAA game development has led many people to go independent as they try to get away from the perpetual crunch, layoff cycles, and other challenges that big game developers face.
But since 2014, an unusually high number of ex-Destiny devs have left the company to make their own titles. Whether because of standard AAA burnout or Bungie’s unique issues, it’s become a trend, and it’s led to some really cool-looking games.
Here are some of the notable games made by people who have left Bungie over the past few years:
Director Jaime Griesemer and composer Marty O’Donnell were both longtime employees of Bungie. O’Donnell was fired from the company in 2014 and later successfully won a lawsuit over unpaid benefits. Now they’re working together on a promising-looking indie VR game called Golem at the studio Highwire Games, which also employs several other former Bungie people including artist Vic DeLeon.
A successfully Kickstarted metroidvania that’s still in development, led by Bodie Lee, who left Bungie in 2014. Incredible animation.
This fascinating mindfuck was released last month to mixed reviews. Niles Sankey, who directed the game, left Bungie in early 2015.
Described as a cross between Secret of Mana and Pokemon, Gaimoria is still in development and takes in around $600/month on Patreon. Director Isaiah Sherman was an artist on Destiny and left Bungie in late 2014.
House of the Dying Sun
Former Bungie employee Mike Tipul led development on this space shooter, which Kirk digs quite a bit. It channels PC classics like TIE Fighter and Freelancer.
Gary the Gull
This Pixar-ish “interactive movie” was headed up by Tom Sanocki, a technical art lead on Destiny who left Bungie in 2015. He and his team showed Gary the Gull at GDC earlier this year.
Veteran game artist Tom Doyle, who left Bungie in 2015, founded a company called Endeavor One with some other former employees. Their first VR game, Jump, came out on Steam last year.
Former Destiny sandbox engineer Ryan Juckett designed Inversus, an action-strategy game that’ll be out on PS4 and PC next month. Juckett left Bungie earlier this year.
Other indie companies founded by recent Bungie employees, like Polyarc and V1 Interactive, have not yet shown off their games. Some of the other Bungie veterans who have left over the past few months are still figuring out their next moves and may have more games to reveal in the near future.
It’s a trend we’ve seen before in AAA development. Veteran employees might go independent for a variety reasons—maybe they’re frustrated by the bureaucracy; maybe they’re burn out; maybe they want more ownership over the creative works they make. Studios like 2K Marin (Bioshock 2) had diasporas that led to indie gems like Gone Home and Eldritch. It’ll be fascinating to watch the progress of all these ex-Bungie vets’ games and to see what else emerges from Destiny developers who are ready for something new.