Our Destiny Clan's MOTW Honorable Mention: How We Got There and Why We're Thrilled
Once upon a time, there was a clan from the LDSGamers group that loved to play Destiny. In particular, a few of them would break out into song, making parodies while Raiding, Striking, or getting their tails whipped in the Crucible, Destiny's PVP experience. One user in particular, Mirelinde, would comment frequently that we needed to make Destiny: The Musical. While that dream still hasn't been realized, and we doubt Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice are available, we did all come together to create a fantastic musical parody and montage, set to Dumb Ways to Die, a PSA conjured up by creative minds associated with Metro Trains in Melbourne.
It all started over a year ago. I had gained a number of friends from the LDSGamers clans after searching for a Mormon or LDS group that could provide a safe haven for me where I could play this game I truly enjoy. It was a relief to play Destiny with people that omitted inappropriate trash talk and foul language from their gameplay, and also shared a core set of beliefs and values. Never had I played with people who were so accepting of someone new and at a different level of skill than they were. It has continued to be a hallmark of our group that people of all skill levels play together and you never hear, "Get lost scrub." ("Scrub," being a pejorative term for n00b or player that doesn't measure up to the elite standards of some.)
Shortly after joining the clan, I started making up random songs while playing; it kind of became my "thing." I learned to do this with my family. We would often create parodies of songs and poems while driving around California and across the country to pass the time, and it is still an art form I enjoy today. I decided to tone it down a bit after a few months of playing because I think the incessant chatter/singing started to get to some, especially when I would break out one of my "classic" accents. Well, eventually some of the team members started to join in and contribute lyrics when I'd get stuck. It was a fun time for all; more accurately, I should probably say, most.
Last Spring and Summer, I was getting destroyed in the Crucible. At the time the meta was all about sniper rifles, and my thumb skill is pretty dreadful. I had also tried my skill at the most elite PVP activity in Destiny: Trials of Osiris. If guardians weren't completely healed after every revive, I am sure my head would have resembled an overly bleached towel. It was painful and fun at the same time. I also would get revived by my teammates, but at the moment of revival I would get sniped again. This is called by the community a "res snipe." During this same period, and even last night frankly, there were instances where I would line up a perfect shot with my rocket launcher and just when I was going to "Cry havoc and let slip [my] dogs of war," a teammate would walk right in front of me and well . . . I was dead instead. Ouch! It was, at times, infuriating. So, to calm myself down I would make up songs. These were such stupid, annoying, DUMB ways to die!
During those moments, a parody started to gel and the creation rapidly took form. I wrote stanza after stanza. It just flowed. Then I previewed it for a couple select friends to make sure my hubris wasn't blinding me. People thought it was funny. Really funny. I spent the next couple lunches and evenings online searching for footage of the Dumb Ways to Die that I had written about in my song and I recorded a couple of them myself. If you're familiar with the original, it has a very catchy chorus, and for my parody to be a proper parody the video would require choreography and well-timed dancing.
One random night I formed a troupe of very capable Destiny dancers who were game for the next couple hours to run Crota's End, Destiny's shortest raid, so we would have a static stage, and where I could capture take after take of them dancing and jumping to the same chorus, over and over. We all had a blast doing it. A couple days later, Dumb Ways to Die: Destiny Edition was born. The video was posted on Reddit and Bungie, and was submitted as a Movie of the Week. Many posted on the video's page and on reddit saying that it was a shoe in for MOTW. Now keep in mind that the internet is not the most forgiving place, so I was convinced we were headed for the top prize of Destiny's Creation Contributor's. While the community seemed to love it, our offering was never given the honor of Movie of the Week or even an Honorable Mention. We were bummed, but still loved the process of making it and the community was super supportive.
When I reflected on what might have kept the video below the bar of greatness required for top honors, I realized that 1) We didn't use our own material for the vid. I borrowed from others, and while I asked permission to use every clip in the video, it wasn't material of our own creation. 2) I also used my own vocals. There are better singers out there, but I was reticent to ask others to contribute because we artists can get a little protective of our talents. 3) I used sub-par software to make the video. 4) Our timing was not good. We did it right before the release of a new Destiny Expansion and an event called Gjallarhorn day eclipsed the release of the video. 5) It wasn't a sniper montage. . . (insert snark here)
Months passed. Christmas happened, and then I was left at home while my wife and son decided to go visit family out of state. It was Groundhog Day, just over two weeks ago, when the creative process started again in earnest. I had been getting feedback on the lyrics I'd been gradually working on and this time I was going to approach the video differently. 1) I was going to collaborate. 2) All footage was going to be of our own making. 3) Someone else was going to do lead vocals. 4) I was going to use better video editing software. 5) It was NEVER going to be a sniper montage; I have principles you see.
We all got together, and for me it was some of the best days of playing Destiny I have ever had. We had to stage deaths, but make them look natural; for the most part we succeeded. We had to play through most of the Raids to capture our footage. We had to do take after take of dancing, but this time we did it in more exotic locations. We had tons of fun. Some of the footage actually came from grueling deaths that were painful for some of the participants, but they sacrificed and shared their failures, that others might laugh. This time Mirelinde volunteered (voluntold?) to do the lead vocals, while I offered some takes for backups. I had no idea how hard it would be to do musical recordings thousands of miles apart. Wow, lesson learned.
After a weekend of recording video and audio, I started to compile our footage from nearly every facet of this game, but I didn't have better software. I reached out to the community and cympaul90, better known as Paulchritude here, pointed me in the direction of HitFilm 4 Express. Shameless plug. Use it if you don't have good video editing software or don't have money to spend. It's free and exactly what I needed. Just be sure to save all your video clips in mp4 format as it doesn't like other file formats very well.
After the initial compilation of the video I used my vocals as a demo track and sent out a preview to the creative team. A good deal of constructive feedback was received. Another edit was made and apparently the director (moi) had over-compensated. On the audio side, Mirelinde was cutting awesome track, after awesome track. After a few days of various iterations, it was finished. The timings were on, the introduction wasn't laboriously long, and we had a final edition. We submitted it to reddit, Bungie and anywhere I could think of to get traffic going to the video. Only this time, as Destiny has been out for years and is at the end of its lifecycle, the viewership was far less than it had been for the previous one. I will freely admit, I do like public recognition. One reason that Destiny has been personally enjoyable for such a long time is that it thrives on a loot-based reward system, and by what armor and weapons you carry into battle you get to show how elite (l33t) you are. I find it very rewarding. This time though, with regards to the video, all of us had created it with so much combined effort that I wanted it to be shared with and loved by as many people as possible. It hadn't occurred to me that the player base had dwindled so much. Some might say I just needed to give it more patience and time, but I was worried the video might get buried. Out of nowhere, the thought then occurred to me, "What if it just sucks?"
Feeling down and doubt is a horrible thing to experience. I felt like our video was better in every single way than the original, but what if the public thought it wasn't? I am sure Kevin Costner was proud of what he accomplished with Waterworld, but it was not embraced as a cinematographic masterpiece. Well, I was proud of what we'd accomplished and I tried to hide these fears from the creative team until now. Time went on, we got a number of views but reviews were slow in coming. The video got uploaded quickly to the Bungie Community Creations page, so the community manager, Cozmo, had seen it at least. That was good, because most of all we had to make him laugh. He would have the last word, as he would be the fatebringer of our video.
Well Thursday, Feb. 16th, was the moment of truth. On Thursdays, Bungie releases an article called, "This Week at Bungie," where they talk about the state of the game, future content, if any, and reveal the movies of the week, of which there are only three. At about noon (look, a palindrome) I was sorting through my spare change for lunch and remembered that today was the day. I tried to put it out of my mind so I could stay focused at work. As the day wore on, I actually forgot about it for a few hours and when 5 o'clock hit, I was glued to my phone refreshing the Bungie homepage. Nothing showed up. I finally decided to watch some TV and dozed off, dropping my universal remote. At 6:26pm I heard my phone alert me to a Discord message KaiserHughes sent to a few of us involved with the video. He asked if we'd read the Bungie update. I was in disbelief. Could it have actually happened? My hands were trembling. My heart was racing faster than a hunter equipped with Radiant Dance Machines doing the waltz.
WE GOT AN HONORABLE MENTION!!! Now, some of you might be curious as to why we were so excited about that. We didn't win. Well, imagine if you will, you are at the Olympic Games. You just got third place and you are awarded a Gold medal. That's how Bungie does it! Whether you're the MOTW or an honorable mention, you get the same reward. We were ecstatic. Cozmo liked our video! The community liked our video. Most of all though (cue Hallmark movie music) we liked our video.
If I were to give some super good advice from this experience, it would be, don't do it for the reward. When that became the focus, the creative process transformed from joy to drudgery. I am super stoked that we got acknowledged. I can't wait to have that emblem (I have it now! B-D [3/1/17]), but more than that, wonderful things were created. I created something with awesome people, and the amazing thing about all of this is that I have never even met any of them face-to-face. What brought us together? A video game. Before this process, I had never done any video editing or audio recording. I had never directed people in a film-type setting. Now, I have new talents because of this. What led to our success was the desire to make something fun. Something we could be proud of. We also wanted to create something together and share the collective talents we had, and it resulted in not just a great video, but strengthened bonds as a group.
Thanks to all of you I got to work with in these two videos. Thanks to those of you who watched them. Thanks to Bungie for creating a game worthy of the dedication required to make such a fun video. I hope you enjoy it.