This is what happened between composer Marty O’Donnell and Bungie


Last year, Halo and Destiny composer (and Bungie co-founder) Marty O’Donnell got into a legal spat with Bungie. He had been fired shortly before the release of Destiny and after he had spent time creating an orchestral soundtrack for the entire game series with legendary Beatle member Paul McCartney.

O’Donnell won a number of the arbitrations and legal proceedings between himself and Bungie, but that didn’t stop things from being appealed over and over. Now, however, the case is finally closed, and O’Donnell has still won.

As we reported last year, O’Donnell was paid out double-damages for unpaid leave, and was given back his co-founder shares after Bungie had taken them away. The final ruling has also shown that O’Donnell has received a further $142, 500 in profit sharing for his work on Destiny. The most interesting thing that the final court ruling documents have revealed, however, is exactly what happened to sour the relationship between O’Donnell and Bungie.

O’Donnell was asked to compose the music for the entire Destiny series shortly after Bungie inked their deal with publisher Activision. O’Donnell collaborated with Paul McCartney and composed an eight-part score that would prvide the music for all five parts of the planned Destiny saga. The score was called the “Music of the Spheres”. The plan was to also release “Music of the Spheres” as a standalone album, however court documents indicate that Activision was not happy with that idea. O’Donnell apparently got really frustrated by this, and felt that Bungie was doing too little to fight Activision on withholding the music’s release.

Shortly before E3 2013, when Destiny was set to be demoed for the first time, Activision removed O’Donnell’s score from a Destiny trailer, and replaced it with music that the publisher had developed instead. Needless to say, O’Donnell was upset, as was Bungie CEO Harold Ryan. Ryan vetoed Activision’s decision to remove O’Donnell’s music at E3, but the publisher overruled the CEO’s objection and ran with their own music anyway.

O’Donnell, according to the court documents, was furious about this and went as far as threatening Bungie staff so that the trailer would not go live on the Internet. O’Donnell believed that Activision had overstepped the mark as publisher, and was taking creative control away from Bungie.

Things spiralled from there, and O’Donnell began making it clear that Bungie’s relationship with Activision was hurting the company and its close-knit ethos. It wasn’t long until CEO Ryan was making calls to Bungie shareholders to have O’Donnell fired. O’Donnell, in the meantime, made the final months of Destiny’s development very difficult, and in the end his employment was terminated.

If you want further sordid details of the nasty breakup between O’Donnell and Bungie, then head over to VentureBeat, which has an in-depth look at the court papers from this final ruling.