Destiny Composer Marty O’Donnell Wins Case With Bungie, Full Conflict Detailed In Court Documents
Former Bungie composer Marty O'Donnell settled one of his lawsuits with his former employer last year, but a separate lawsuit with Bungie was recently settled in O'Donnell's favor.
For some background, O'Donnell, known for his music composition work on the Halo and Destiny series, was fired from Bungie in April 2014 "without cause." In June of last year, O'Donnell sued Bungie president, Harold Ryan over unpaid benefits. The following month, that case was settled with more than $95,000 awarded to O'Donnell. It did not, however, settle O'Donnell's ongoing conflict with the studio. That lawsuit was settled in arbitration this week, and the court documents reveal the full story of the disagreement. In arbitration, lawsuits are settled outside of court by a judge without a jury present, but the results are legally binding.
This lawsuit in particular is related to O'Donnell's stock shares in the company and establishing that he should be considered a Bungie founder, which the arbitrator did find in O'Donnell's fair. This rulings allows him to hold on to company shares as a founder, even though he is no longer employed by Bungie.
The conflict stems from a dispute between O'Donnell and Destiny's publisher Activision. When beginning work on Destiny, O'Donnell composed the music for the entirety of the planned Destiny franchise as opposed to creating new music as each new entry released. O'Donnell wanted to release the soundtrack after completion in 2013 as an album called The Music of the Spheres. Activision was not enthusiastic about releasing Music of the Spheres, which frustrated O'Donnell. In planning for E3 2013, Bungie prepped a trailer for the game featuring O'Donnell's music, but Activision took over the trailer, and changed the soundtrack. This angered O'Donnell and he objected internally and later publicly by tweeting that Activision had composed the trailer's music – not him.
O'Donnell believed he was maintaining Bungie's artistic integrity, but Activision and Bungie's president, Harold Ryan, saw it as an act of aggression saying he drove a "negative online discussion" about Destiny, and hurt the team. Other internal complaints stated O'Donnell was not contributing to the game's audio work enough as he was waiting for the game to be playable before completing work. It was these complaints that led to O'Donnell's termination.
Below, you can find an interview with O'Donnell about Music of the Spheres from 2013 when Destiny was featured on our cover.
Ultimately, O'Donnell got what he was seeking, in terms of stock in the company, and has since started a new game development studio, Highwire Games, which you can read about here. We've reached out to Activision and Bungie for comment on the story, and will update if and when we receive a response.
This is a complicated, difficult case and I don't envy the position of anyone involved. O'Donnell's work is incredibly important to the history of Bungie and it's too bad he had to part the studio this way. It's rare that we see the full story of these sort of disputes within the video game industry, and it's fascinating to hear all sides of the conflict.
This story was originally published on September 05, 2015 at 12:33 PM.