Feature Article

Destiny Unveiled: What Bungie's Next Game Is (And Isn't) All About

The wait is over. It's time to dig into Bungie's ambitious successor to Halo.

The cat is out of the bag. After years of silence, Bungie has finally begun to open up about its long-awaited (and occasionally leaked) successor to Halo. The new franchise, known simply as Destiny, is the product of a publishing partnership with Activision that will span 10 years and multiple sequels. It's both hugely ambitious and noticeably Bungie, seeking to break new ground with the type of technology and social experiences a console game can offer while bearing the familiar stylistic trademarks that the studio has refined over the years.

So what is Destiny? It's a lot of things. It's a new sci-fi universe where humans are once again up against an alien threat seeking to rid them from existence. It's an open first-person shooter with a commerce system allowing you to buy a ship and travel to other planets. It's…you know what, why don't I just run down the full list?

Destiny is social

Like Halo, Destiny will feature a story campaign that allows multiple players to get together and fend off alien scum as a group. But unlike Halo, Destiny's approach to social interaction is far more focused on happenstance and serendipity. While you can still buddy up with players from your friends list, your journey through Destiny's various locales (both on Earth and other planets in our solar system) will be populated by total strangers brought together by chance. Well, chance and some robust networking architecture.

Destiny's co-op is intended to be very seamless in the way it has players running into each other out of the blue.

Destiny is constantly talking to its servers to see if there are other people out there playing the same mission or simply navigating the same geography as you. When it finds a good match, it combines each of these players into a single shared experience. Bungie insists there's no co-op lobby, no "waiting for player to join" pop-up, none of that--it's intended to be very seamless in the way it has players running into each other out of the blue. Bungie wants you to feel like these are "chance encounters" where you can forge a lasting alliance, or just go your separate ways once you've collected your loot after a successful mission (more on that in a bit).

On top of this, you've also got dedicated social hubs that allow you to interact with other players outside of combat. This includes things like trading goods, gambling, or just taking a break from the game's optional "activities" that draw you away from these safe havens with the promise of adventure and loot. It's a lot like an MMO in certain respects. Which brings us to the next point…

Destiny is not an MMO

At least, that's Bungie's insistence. While the overall structure of social hubs, dynamic environments, and optional missions promising adventure and wealth sounds a lot like an MMO, Bungie is quick to argue that this is something different. "These are living, open worlds with evolving stories, changing time of day…and every one is full of players," says engineering lead Chris Butcher. "Destiny is an always online experience, but it's not an MMO."

Reading between the lines, it sounds like Bungie wants to make an online shooter that borrows certain ideas from the MMO genre without requiring the usual sort of legwork and coordination found in assembling guilds and raids. Take this quote from project director Jason Jones, for example: "Destiny knows you're tired, impatient, and distracted. [Players] don't want to work hard. They don't want to read. They don't want to go to the Internet to figure out our bullshit."

And there's also no MMO subscription fee. So that helps.

Destiny is dark

Destiny bears some similarities to the Halo universe, in that it's focused on human beings dealing with a hostile alien threat. But the world of Destiny feels somehow darker. Humanity is in far worse shape this time around, holed up in the one remaining city on Earth as they fight to avoid extinction. The rest of the planet lies in ruins, with nature reclaiming what the alien invaders haven't. You play as one of the "Guardians" of this last remaining city, venturing out to salvage these devastated remains whether they're on Earth or distant locales like the jungles of Venus or the lost human civilizations of Mars.

Looking at the concept art for Destiny, it's clear that Bungie is aiming for a more ominous style of sci-fi this time around. From derelict ships floating through space to the imposing design of alien cities (see the Citadel concept art above), everything feels slightly more threatening than Bungie's previous efforts. Combine this with a new graphics engine that employs real-time lighting to further emphasize the contrast between light and shadow, and you can see how things might get a little spooky in places.

Destiny is not bleak

Yet for all this, Bungie used the words "hope" and "hopeful" more times than I can count while describing this new universe. Here's how story lead Joe Staten sees it: "At its core, Destiny is a hopeful world. It's a place worth spending time in. It's a place worth fighting for."

Combining this sense of hope with such a dire setting is a tough balancing act. But looking back, this was something Bungie was able to do well with Halo. Those games were filled with dangerous but ruggedly beautiful environments that inspired an odd sense of inspiration to save these places from destruction. As long as Bungie continues its habit of building those starkly beautiful worlds with their majestic skies and fleshed-out histories, I'm inclined to believe this is a balancing act Bungie can pull off.

Destiny is a current-gen game

At this point, the only two platforms Bungie and Activision have confirmed for Destiny are Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Is it coming to PC? No comment. Is it coming to next-gen systems? No comment.

At its core, Destiny is a hopeful world. It's a place worth spending time in. It's a place worth fighting for.

Joe Staten

So how does it look? Well, that's tough to say. Bungie's introduction to Destiny was much more of a high-level run through the game's creative vision than a tour through full-on combat or gameplay. As such, the only in-engine stuff I saw was a brief walk through one of the game's environments intended to show off the new real-time lighting engine. The lighting effects were undoubtedly impressive, with that greater contrast between light and shadows I mentioned before, as well as a full day-night cycle that should make for some interesting changes in mood when the sun drops below the horizon. But this tour was free of any other characters besides the player, so I can't really say how well the game holds up during intense action scenes.

In other words, we'll have to wait and see whether Bungie has been able to work its magic on Sony and Microsoft's aging hardware. They did point out that this new engine is built to be highly scalable for more powerful hardware, though. Take that how you will.

Destiny is not just a piece of 360 and PS3 software

In some ways, Destiny is more a platform than a game. In addition to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 software, you'll have access to your Destiny character through mobile apps and Bungie.net's community portal. Details on how these services connect with your game are vague right now--all we can tell now is that you can get game invites pushed to your mobile phone--but Bungie is eager to claim that Destiny is the sort of social, connected experience that you'll want to have access to on the go. Here's hoping these services add a more meaningful contribution to your game than simply another Call of Duty Elite or Halo Waypoint.

Destiny is more than a first-person shooter

This is where things get interesting. As in previous Bungie games, there'll be both a traditional competitive multiplayer mode and a "highly crafted" story campaign. But as I've touched on a few times now, that story campaign will be a far more open experience than anything the studio has done with Halo. Players venture from hub cities out to optional missions and activities on forgotten parts of Earth as well as remote planets. You might get there in a rinky-dink spaceship you bought by cashing in on the odd bounty, or in a highly customized interstellar luxury yacht you purchased after consistently dominating in competitive multiplayer. (Yes, there seems to be a shared currency between the various modes.)

Once you're out on those missions, you might team up with a bunch of other players you run into out of the blue, or just tip your proverbial hat as you all cross paths. One of the missions Bungie described was a raid on a "Cabal exclusion zone" on Mars, an intimidating red fortress manned by hulking alien beasts called War Rhinos. If successful, your raid will net you not only a valuable piece of ancient machine intelligence to help humanity's dire cause, but also some rare loot to pocket for yourself. This includes new armor and equipment that changes both your appearance and attributes, as well as rare weapons. In typical Bungie fashion, these rare weapons bear names ranging from the serious, like The Fate of All Fools, to the silly, like Super Good Advice.

Destiny is not set in stone

As if building a game that blends epic sci-fi first-person shooters with role-playing games weren't enough, Bungie is also promising dynamic worlds that are constantly changing over time. "We want every night to be a new experience," says Jason Jones. "Our goal is that every time a player sits down to play Destiny, they have a different experience from the last time. [This] led us to create emergent activities, rare activities, time-limited activities. So you get distracted from doing the thing you wanted to doing something you didn't expect."

Destiny is very much a Bungie game

Part of Destiny seems very alien. After all, when a developer spends a decade making games set in the same universe, it's bound to feel strange once that same studio ventures off toward the wild frontier of original IP. And yet, Destiny is also the sort of game you couldn't mistake for any other studio. There's just something about that combination of exotic sci-fi landscapes, Marty O'Donnell's sweeping orchestral score, and a social-first approach to first-person shooter action that immediately screams Bungie.

And yet, Destiny is also the sort of game you couldn't mistake for any other studio.

There are still a lot of things we don't know about Destiny--and in fact, those things definitely outnumber the details we do know at this point. How many players can be grouped together at once? What does the game look like in a full-on firefight? What's the deal with those time-traveling robots? Oh, did I mention that Destiny has time-traveling robots? Because it does.

But for all the unknowns, Destiny still feels very much like the product of Bungie. More specifically, it feels like Bungie taking what they've done well over the years and moving in a new direction, with new technology, toward something well beyond Halo. I know I can't wait to see what else Destiny is.

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1201 comments
Barrakas21
Barrakas21

lol another rage only this one is online pls start the hype start the pre orders in the end it will be just another fps lol

Gwarpup
Gwarpup

So how does PVP fit into this system?  We're just going to group together or solo killing Monster/bots?   Hopefully there will be a way for players to be the monsters sometimes too.  Even if it's just drop-in randomly controlling one of many monsters in a quest battle.


charliekilo225
charliekilo225

"Destiny knows you're tired, impatient, and distracted. [Players] don't want to work hard."

which is the mentality that is ruining gaming today. it's that attitude of "i want it NOW!" and "this is too hard! i don't have the time!" that really sucks the feeling of accomplishment out of games and makes them easy and boring. game devs just hand you  your food pellet. 

go play cod if you want instant gratification and dont want to think. stop ruining these IP's that deserve to be challenging, stimulating, and rewarding. if you don't have time, then don't play video games.

macca366
macca366

Looks awesome to me. The Journey-esque random player/s dropping into your adventures seamlessly is what I was hoping for. I have to wonder what the depth behind your own ship is, though, and if there is space combat etc.. I'll admit, what they want to do is ambitious, I have high hopes though

Szminsky
Szminsky

wow.. Bungie going for P3 aswell? Guess I'm late to the party :)

TotalWarHero
TotalWarHero

I am actually excited to see games like this.  While I'm right there with the rest of you thinking 'buzz words, hype, its gonna fail', it's been quite some time since I've played something really innovative, particularly in the FPS genre.  That's not to say that you can't make a case for any number of previous games being innovative; I'm just saying I am all for a big company giving something ambitious a shot.  After all, what do I have to loose?  Not like people won't buy it and report in how good or bad it is.

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

I've had way too many bad experiences with teaming up with unknowns in games resulting in a complete lack of any kind of cooperation. It seems more likely that the social interaction will result in two 12 year old something's jumping in and arguing the whole time like, well, 12 year olds do. Man this could be a big gamble, at least in this specific regard, but hopefully it doesn't end up really detracting from the larger experience or freedom to choose to play another way.

vadagar1
vadagar1

wow wow WOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW


the art looks so F****ING AWESOME, as an artist my brain just imploded with joy

terminus
terminus

Another console game in the PC section, I swear "gamespot" is like the media, always adding fuel to the fire....keep console crap in the toy selection where it belongs.

Lets put info about Star Citizen in the console sections too while we're at it.

Codester_41
Codester_41

I'm just hoping this isn't gonna be known as HALO for playstation... and I hope it doesn't turn into that either.

kohle36
kohle36

Really liking the art direction for this so far. The pervasive multiplayer seems potentially intriguing, but I hope they balance / scale difficulty depending on how many players are dropping in/out of your session. I prefer co-op multi to competitive (most of the time), but it can be enormously unsatisfying when an ally with super-gear saunters into your world and annihilates every enemy before you even know they're there. Also, instanced loot. Borderlands was way more fun in co-op, but frustrating to the point of unplayable with random allies

Starhopper4
Starhopper4

You unappreciative, spoiled little brats. The game isn't even out. You're never satisfied or happy. Don't buy it. Don't play it. But shut the F up because you all sound like entitled little turds with all the criticism and whining.  I suppose you'd all be happy if they just stopped making games instead? Unbelievable. Get a job. Get a life.

squidmeyer
squidmeyer

I'm tired of cyberspace hipsters. All the hate and prejudices against companies like bungie is just silly. It's ok to dislike a game, but being a troll about it doesn't help anyone. So please if you're that person get a life . . . and help those of us with one.

HAL5000
HAL5000

Bungie's title Destiny should be called the Halo’s Homeworld, because if they claim this is new and ground breaking, they better listen to Homewold’s narration within the game. So they don’t understand how anything can be bigger than Halo….Rome was at one time bigger but their own conceit and pride ushered in their own demise. I like Bungie and wish them well, but I have played epic games that make Halo appear small and unremarkable in comparison. So before they claim fame within the PC gaming world without intent on releasing this game for the PC they need to put more than words to gain that throne. I would even dare say that console gamers would contend Bungie’s claim as well. How many developers claimed this place of excellence before they released a game and when it was released it became the instant unremarkable release of the decade. So Bungie, a word of the wise….excite the gaming community with facts not fiction with demo's not an artist’s stroke. 

I will hold final judgment until the games release.

ApolloAegis
ApolloAegis

PS3, PS4, Xbox 360.... Uh oh wait. What about the next xbox, please don't tell me this will be released and then the not able to be on next xbox. That would kill almost 1/2 the market for this game. Why does bungie make these choices?

tushwacker
tushwacker

This sounds like a lag-fest waiting to happen if it's on current consoles. Halo4's spartan ops mode is laggy enough an that is in small environments with only 4 players. They really should put this on PC. Also, I'm not really a fan of being forced to run into strangers during your co-op. Why? Because the only way the game will remain a challenge is if the difficulty of the enemies scales with how many players are present. However, if you are about to take on a tough fight with your friends, I don't want some random kid on the internet hopping into the action and screwing up our strategy. If I was forced to leave my Borderlands game open for random people to constantly join, I wouldn't play it much.

jemoedr
jemoedr

Nothing about a PC version? The PC looks more obvious for this to me then other systems.

This_Random
This_Random

"But unlike Halo, Destiny's approach to social interaction is far more focused on happenstance and serendipity."

It's destiny...

nasser_m200
nasser_m200

rly I wish 2 see Soulblighter again :\

AzatiS
AzatiS

I hope this is NOT the TITAN title from blizzard all waiting for.... Anyone can verify ?

bamarolltide16
bamarolltide16

So it's gonna be like a Halo/Mass Effect mix, I'm def gonna buy it...hope it lives up to it's expectations.

Crush_Project
Crush_Project

Marathon used to be one of my favorite games of all time, but halo was made for the lowest common denominator players possible (aka noobs and retards).  And they rose to epic sales levels while never even bringing anything new to the genre at all.

Bungie can take a long walk off a short peir. 

redbat41
redbat41

Well all I can say is were going to have to wait and see Halo was a good serious but idk if they will pull this off

UpInSmoke0803
UpInSmoke0803

Two words: TOO AMBITIOUS....

I will say though that only certain well established developers could even hope to attempt something like this, and Bungie just may be a company that can do it.  That being said, my expectations for this game did lower a bit once I got to the part where it said they were trying to make this for the current consoles.  Good luck to you, based on what I've read, you're sure as hell going to need it.

Vinyl_Spartan
Vinyl_Spartan

Did anyone else keep thinking of destiny's child every time they said destiny in the video?

arruu2000
arruu2000

i hope they change this "i wanna be the strongest" motive for playing, replacing it with the "i wanna have fun while playing with other people" motive. Because, even though being the strongest IS fun, only a few can be the strongest... which means the majority is weaker, which means the majority may not be having as much fun as the strongests... Games should be designed for a majority, not for a minority.

Trotul
Trotul

"Destiny knows you're tired, impatient, and distracted. [Players] don't want to work hard. They don't want to read. They don't want to go to the Internet to figure out our bullshit."

 wtf is this

Aleperez75
Aleperez75

@charliekilo225 business is business. They will want to have the highest profit possible. Most people that buy their own sfuff and do not rely on their parents for housing food and games have limited time. So by simplifying all the chores associated with guilds, raids and setting up games it will appeal to way more people. If you don't like this approach don't buy it.

macca366
macca366

@charliekilo225 I don't think he means in terms of skill, I think he means in terms of UI and systems. I.e. Seamlessly being connected with players online whilst still playing, as opposed to pulling up menus and waiting 5 minutes to be match made or going out of your way to organise a raid. If he was talking about gameplay, I believe he meant the extra fluff in MMOs that is convoluted, unexplained and needlessly frustrating. Personally, I don't think games being 'challenging, stimulating and rewarding' have to be mutually exclusive from being intuitive and user friendly.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

@Codester_41 

I dont think you've anything to worry about, as im sure Bungie will want to ensure that Destiny is credited on its very own merits, im sure they will want to segregate this from Halo as much as is possible.

kohle36
kohle36

@squidmeyer They posted it on the PC page, so...take that as you will. Cyberspace hipsters lol

CP2077
CP2077

@HAL5000 Bungie acts like they invented First person shooters. there is nothing Special about halo they just happen to be the 1st to bring FPS to consoles and do it well. I never got the hype for Halo way back when it came out. and never will get it i guess. half life 2 or half life one impressed me a lot more. I'm looking forward to this game looks something like a mix of borderlands 2 and a MMO with some halo art direction I hope it has a good story line that you can follow and play single player if you want. 

the story line of halo was vary uninspired space marines. never seen that before I hope they can add some more depth then the halo games.

I do hope this gets a PC release I will be buying a PS4 but I wont buy this game on that platform, it looks like the kinda game I want to play on PC. It just makes more sense as a PC game to me mouse and keyboard support  is almost mandatory if its primarily a co-op style of game or even slightly MMO like.

kokoalea
kokoalea

@ApolloAegis they will probably going to add next xbox to the list when its announce it. duh dum

jemoedr
jemoedr

@AzatiS Bungie is not Blizzard, so how could it be the same title?

twisted_outlaw
twisted_outlaw

@ccusick they can't sell pre-orders without a release date. common sense would tell you that's why they put the last day of the year as the release date.

Poodlejumper
Poodlejumper

@Winchester01 Because they like to dangle bright and shiny things in front of our eyes.

I don't know if they're mocking us or just overlooking just how underwhelmed PC Gamers are by Bungie and the Halo series.

twisted_outlaw
twisted_outlaw

@arruu2000 That's a pretty communist way of thinking about things. Only a few can ever really be that good at it, so it needs to be dumbed down so everyone else can be just as good.

RemtechLD
RemtechLD

@arruu2000  Maybe it's real. Somewhere out there in the cosmos, a troubled race is training and recruiting worthy Humanoid Mech Pilots, all from the comfort of your living room. The stage is being set.

halfmoon_
halfmoon_

@Trotul 

reads: "we understand you're all disgustingly lazy idiots.  we're trying to make a game that doesn't require you to think or try."

i hope they mean: "many people don't want to have to commit to the research that some games require.  nor do they want to dedicate the time and patience required to plan and assemble groups to take out difficult encounters.  we're trying to make a game that removes those elements but is still challenging, fun, and engaging."

V1cTheBu7cher
V1cTheBu7cher

@CP2077 @HAL5000 Never have I actually heard or read anywhere that they've made this claim. Perhaps you have mistake innovation for invention?


twisted_outlaw
twisted_outlaw

@halfmoon_ @Trotul i hope this is what they meant. either that or they realize "HEY! we couldn't beat the mindless challenge that is "Call of Duty" with our "Halo." It was just too easy for everyone to play. Therefore we abandoned Halo to create something even more dumbed down, but still original, so that all the retards in society can enjoy the game while their brain is turned into an even thinner goo.

Merlinblaze
Merlinblaze

@twisted_outlaw @halfmoon_ @Trotul Wrong. "Destiny knows you're tired, impatient, and distracted. (of current mmo , rpg traditions) F reading meaningless lines of text and  then being given some chore that requires little skill, or thought for that matter, just time. I.E. :  [Players] don't want to work hard. They don't want to read. They don't want to go to the Internet to figure out our bullshit." Means a quest or mission should not require enough work to earn a salary. (Or shortcut to google to find a quest walkthough) Which some of you obviously do not understand.