Halo creators unveil massive new game, Destiny

Destiny (Credit: Bungie/Activision)Is there life after Halo?

The ace game developers at Bungie Studios, best known as the folks who turned Master Chief into a household name, believe there is, and they’ve poignantly named it Destiny.

At a recent event at their sprawling headquarters in Bellevue, WA., Bungie and publisher Activision finally pulled the curtains back (a bit) on their first non-Halo project in a dozen years. And while Destiny shares some general sci-fi themes with Master Chief’s expansive mythos, the creators believes their new shooter is significantly more ambitious.

“It has elements of a first-person shooter, it has elements of an open-world sandbox, and it has elements of a persistent world. And it brings them all together in a new way,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, during a presentation.

Destiny is the first collaboration between Bungie and Activision, who know a thing or two about building successful franchises (see: Call of Duty, Skylanders). They're looking at the long play here; Destiny is one 'book' in a story arc that will span the length of a 10 year-deal. In other words, this is simply the beginning of what both companies consider an unprecedented undertaking.

It’s set in a pretty familiar place: Earth, or at least what remains of it after some sort of cataclysmic event hundreds of years in the future. Players are ‘Guardians’ of the last safe city on the planet, which sits beneath a massive, otherworldly sphere called The Traveler that somehow protected humanity from extinction. Of course, the game picks up when that safety net is threatened -- it’s more fun that way -- and off players go on a quest to fight back against creatures determined to stamp us out once and for all.

That means zipping around the solar system, including future takes on the Moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and more. You'll have the chance to pilot your own ship as well, though Bungie balked at answering whether or not you'll actually get to engage in dogfights.

Rather than force players to hop into a specific hero’s boots, Destiny will allow full character customization, from cosmetic appearance to weaponry and vehicles. A progression system will give the game role-playing-like depth, as players upgrade their characters over time. Three character classes were revealed: the brutish Warriors, the mystical Warlocks and the nimble Hunters, though Bungie is holding back specifics.

Destiny (Credit: Bungie/Activision)

Destiny is also built from the ground up as a social experience, one that aims to bring several disparate play styles under one cohesive roof.

“I think what Bungie is creating with Destiny is the world’s first Shared World Shooter,” Hirshberg said.

The company is still being a bit vague as to exactly how that plays out, but the gist is that you’ll hop in and out of play groups organically and seamlessly. For example, you might be blasting through an enemy base on Mars alone, only to find a second player turn up to offer support in the middle of a combat scenario. You'll interact with both AI and real players, but the matching is all happening behind the scenes, Bungie says, turning what’s typically been a choppy menu hunt into one big, persistent world in which anything can happen.

The emphasis is on persistence. Destiny will feature a full day/night cycle. Events will be occurring at all hours, similar in a sense to what you might find in a massively multiplayer game. Bungie is quick to point out that Destiny isn't just another World of Warcraft, however, so don't expect to be flooded with thousands of other players at once.

That sort of persistent world design isn’t without its drawbacks. Destiny will require an online connection to function – even if you’re just playing solo. That particular design decision went over like a lead balloon in last year’s Diablo III, though Bungie seems convinced it won’t distract from the experience. At the very least, Hirshberg confirmed that the game won’t require a subscription fee, though he didn’t specify how the game’s pricing structure will work.

While certainly promising, it's unclear how Destiny's brave new world will play out -- or even on which platforms it will play, period. Hirshberg confirmed it will run on the Xbox 360 and PS3 and acknowledged that it could well appear on next-generation systems as well. It's also been confirmed that there will be an associated mobile version so that you can access the world while sitting on the bus. The game currently has no release date.

More Destiny info will be revealed in the coming months. In the meantime, check out the game’s concept art.

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