#189: Eyes up

Whether we wanted it or not...

I wasn’t playing Destiny 2 when I found out Lance Reddick had died — that would’ve been too perfect, I suppose — but I was watching someone else play it, which is close enough. Last weekend saw the return of Trials Of Osiris, an endgame PvP activity at which I absolutely stink, so I was watching my favourite PvP streamer in a bid to experience success vicariously. Suddenly his chat started moving even faster than usual. One message caught my eye: ‘RIP commander zavala’. At first I simply didn’t believe it, but a quick Twitter check confirmed it. Zavala’s voice actor, Lance Reddick, had died aged just 60.

Reddick was probably best known to you as Lieutenant Daniels in The Wire; maybe as Charon in John Wick, from Bosch or Fringe, or one of his surprising number of videogame roles. But to me and several million others he is — was? The weird thing is, he still is, at least for now — and always will be Zavala, Titan leader of the Vanguard, the elite crew of Guardians that leads humanity’s last stand in Destiny and its sequel.

When the original Destiny launched in 2014, Reddick was just one member of a starry ensemble cast. Over the years, the rest of the ensemble have been recast, or killed off, or in the case of Nathan Fillion, recast then killed off. Reddick, though, remained until the last. He was a rare constant in a game that has spent the best part of a decade in a constant state of change. New content arrives in the game every few months, old stuff retired to make room for it. Reddick saw it all.

He played it all, too. The reason for him sticking around all this time, it seems, is not because he was better, cheaper, or easier to work with than his fellow 2014 headliners — though he may well have been — but because he loved the game. I remember one of my Bungie friends telling me how stunned they were when Reddick, who had never previously given any indication that he played games, turned up to record his lines for one of Destiny’s early expansions, and spent his downtime between takes pestering them for info on the new guns. He apparently played the game the night before he died.

“Although I play Destiny almost every day — I’m even part of a clan now — once I’ve played through each iteration of the game, as time goes on I kind of forget about the story and just focus on powering up and getting cool weapons and grinding through playlists,” he told Polygon last year in the run-up to the release of the Witch Queen expansion. “At the end of the day, I’m just a big fan who also happens to voice one of the characters.” Gosh, it’s a bit dusty in here, isn’t it.

Over the years he became more than just a Destiny voice actor. He was part of its community too, memeing around with fans on Twitter, repping the game at events, reading in-character fanfic on TikTok. In that same Polygon interview D2 game director Joe Blackburn talks about this side of Reddick’s contribution to the game, calling him “such a prominent Guardian.” It’s little wonder, given all that, that Destiny players took Reddick’s death pretty hard.

If I’m honest, I did too. Once the kids were in bed on Friday evening I loaded up Destiny 2, went to the Tower and headed over to the place Zavala has stood since the sequel’s 2017 launch, doling out bounties, quest rewards and sagely intoned counsel. He was surrounded by a phalanx of other players. Some used a shield emote to form an honour guard. Others knelt before him; I lined up at the back, next to three other players, and offered my salute. I’ve never seen anything like it in a game, and daft as it may sound, I got a bit choked up by it.

The game feels strange now, a virtual world invisibly, but irrevocably transformed by the real one. When Reddick’s voice plays over mission intros, these speeches I have heard a thousand times are suddenly rendered both sweetly reminiscent and jarringly morbid. A new weekly story mission released yesterday; it ends with the death of another long-serving character. In the debrief that follows it is Zavala on bended knee by his fallen comrade’s corpse, paying solemn tribute, doing for them what, only a few days earlier, I and many others had done for him.

The crowd at Zavala’s feet are long gone — there are guns to be chased, after all, and a galactic war to be won — but I still see the odd player stop to pay their respects. I went to do the same last night, but forgot I was on another character whose emotes are set up differently. I baked you those pretend cakes in tribute, Commander, I promise. Destiny won’t be the same without you. In fact it already isn’t, even though you’re still sort of there.


  • It’s GDC this week, and Ubisoft has acted early to kill off any happy-clappy party vibes by unveiling a suite of generative machine-learning tools it has designed for its narrative teams. To be fair, the suitably dystopian-sounding Ghostwriter is being pitched as supporting a human workforce, rather than replacing it, and is designed to greatly improve the variety of NPC barks in Ubi’s stock-in-trade open-worlders. Which sounds… okay, actually, but no doubt at least one Paris executive is asking probing questions about the software’s future savings potential. We’ll see.
  • EA is delisting and ending the online services for Battlefield 1943 and the two Bad Company spin-offs. A blog post announcing the closure originally said Mirror’s Edge was also for the chop, but EA has since said its inclusion was “an error… we currently have no plans to remove Mirror’s Edge from digital storefronts.”
  • Microsoft has told the UK competition regulator that it is only offering Sony a decade-long licensing agreement for Call Of Duty because “a period of ten years is sufficient for Sony, as a leading publisher and console platform, to develop alternatives to COD.” It has also sought to reassure the CMA over its concerns at potential disparities between the Xbox and PlayStation versions if the acquisition goes through, citing the PS5 controller’s haptics as evidence that, if anything, the PlayStation version will be the better one. I mean, fair point — the rumble on the Series X controllers is appalling — but this anti-marketing nonsense has to stop.
  • Meanwhile, back at GDC, Microsoft has unveiled new tools that let developers monitor a game’s energy consumption in realtime. Pretty cool.
  • In ‘fools and their money’ news, CCP has raised $40m for the development of a “triple-A blockchain game” set in the EVE Online universe, in a round led, predictably, by Andreesen Horowitz. “With advancements made within blockchain, we can forge a new universe deeply imbued with our expertise in player agency and autonomy, empowering players to engage in new ways,” parped CCP CEO Hilar Veigar Pétursson.
  • Twitch has laid off 400 staff and revealed an 8% dip in viewing figures just days after founding CEO Emmett Shear left the company. A nice welcome gift for his replacement, Dan Clancy.
  • Sifu publisher Kepler Interactive made $50m in revenue in its first full year of business, which is nice. Congrats to the handful of Hit Points chums over there, they’re a fine bunch.
  • Amazon’s cloud-streaming service Luna has finally launched in the UK, Canada and Germany. Don’t all rush at once, now.
  • Respawn Entertainment has opened a third studio in Madison, Wisconsin, which will be tasked with supporting Apex Legends. I had never thought of the dairy state as a hotbed of dev talent, personally, but studio director Ryan Burnett says it “is quickly becoming a central development hub” so I’ll shut up.

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