Earlier this week, as part of the ongoing Season of the Deep, Destiny 2 released a cutscene that casually pulled back the curtain on some of the deepest mysteries in its nine-year-long history. The three-and-a-half minute video is packed with revelations, finally explaining the origin of the current arc's major villain, the Witness, as well as the exact nature of The Veil—arguably the most infuriating story beat from Lightfall's mess of a campaign.
While some players are thrilled to have finally received answers, others are puzzled as to why such a major story beat has been delivered in a seasonal update, which will be removed when the next expansion, The Final Shape, launches next year. And over on Twitter, another controversy emerged. Accusations of plagiarism surfaced when Julian Faylona—professionally known as ELEMENTJ21 designs—made a Twitter thread highlighting the similarities between a piece of fanart they made two years ago and a specific image found within the cutscene.
I just realized Bungie took inspiration from my piece for this week's cutscene. Certainly took me by surprise when I watched the cutscene.#destiny2 #DestinyTheGame #Lightfall pic.twitter.com/aSpZ4SzFL0June 20, 2023
The similarities are striking, for sure—the composition is near-identical, with the only major change being an adjusted style to suit the rest of the cutscene's aesthetic. The response from the community has been animated. "The cutscene where we find out the origin of one of the most important characters in Destiny history has plagiarism. Plagiarism," wrote streamer Zavalr, directly tagging the Destiny 2 team in a prior tweet. Such reaction is perhaps understandable, given the importance of this moment in the game's wider story as well as the fact that Bungie's been in hot water for this kind of mishap in the past.
When I reached out to the artist themselves, however, they had a different perspective.
"To be honest, I'm genuinely excited and happy that the piece I made 2 years ago—which, even back then, I fully acknowledged is based on the Destiny franchise—made it into the cutscene," Faylona told PC Gamer. "It was totally unexpected and completely caught me by surprise. So much so that I wanted to make a shoutout about it."
In a statement to PC Gamer, Bungie says it's taking steps to repair the situation, which we were told was caused by a mix-up from an "external vendor".
"Bungie has reached out to ELEMENTJ21 about the art piece from this week's cutscene and are planning to compensate and credit them for their work. We discovered that an external vendor that helped to create this cutscene mistakenly used this art as a reference, assuming it was official Bungie artwork. We are currently waiting to hear back from the artist to take the necessary steps to remedy this situation."
I'm relieved to hear they're planning to compensate and credit Faylona for their work. At the very least, having your creation be mistaken for official Bungie artwork is some form of compliment. Still, making a mistake like this at such a crucial juncture is rough, especially for fans who had their initial reception of this story beat soured by the misstep.