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Bungie's Destiny awaits

The Halo creator finally unveils its incredibly ambitious new franchise - but leaves many questions unanswered

As the lights dimmed in the presentation theatre deep within the bowels of Bungie's development studio in Bellvue, Washington, the journalists in the room knew we were in for something special.

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Here, at last, was the first look at the newest creation - the newest IP - from one of the industry's most celebrated and innovative developers. An early PR leak had primed us about what to expect to a certain extent; we knew, for example that Destiny was going to be a shooter, that it was going to be a space opera, and that in its universe there's a massive spherical contraption floating about earth called The Traveller.

What we weren't prepared for was just how huge it was going to be, both in its scale and scope, and in its ambition. In a way, we probably should have expected something along these lines. After all, Bungie is the developer who created Halo - the critically acclaimed and multi-million-unit-selling FPS sci-fi shooter that helped establish Microsoft as a force in the console wars and cast its influence wide over both its genre and the industry as a whole. This is a developer that has deserved a reputation for innovative, groundbreaking entertainment.

It was interesting, however, to see how much Bungie held back in its presentation. While it's understandable the developer would wish to keep as many details about its new game under wraps ahead of release, some of the journalists in attendance couldn't help but be a tad frustrated about how Bungie's personnel ducked the lion's share of the questions fired at them. Questions, one might add, that they probably saw coming, as the way the presentation was laid out it was bound to prompt them.

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Furthermore, precious little in the way of gameplay footage was shown off. Much of Bungie's reveal about Destiny was accompanied by (admittedly beautiful) concept art. What footage we were shown of the game involved the intricate detail into which the studio's art team habitually delved in order to create Destiny's wondrous universe.

There was a small section of video in which we were shown a snippet of the face of the moon from the view of the game's HUD, but, apart from seeing some character models rendered by the game's new engine, that was about it. It's never a good sign when, after an information dump of about three or so hours, one audience member can be heard muttering that they still aren't sure how to describe the game to their readers.

Here's what we do know: Destiny is a first person shooter designed on a scale that's been unheard of until now. While one is always wary when a creator announces that their latest branchild defies categorization in current terms, in Destiny's case that might just be fair.

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Activision's CEO of publishing Eric Hershberg was on hand to take a swing at it; he said that calling the game an MMO was underselling it to players, since it's set in a persistent world and the publisher has no plans to charge any subscription fee. He said, instead, that in Destiny, Bungie has created the world's first 'Shared World Shooter'.

What this means is that Destiny has been built from the ground up to be played cooperatively. Bungie co-founder Jason Jones was on hand to talk about the game's design philosophy and his pitch for the game was as ambitious as anything we've ever heard. Destiny, he said, was created to be a world players wanted to be a part of, filled with rewards they'd care about and items they can create and invest in personally.

He also said that it was designed to be an immersive, massive open sandbox world in which players could have a new experience every time they entered the game. To top it all off, Destiny was being made to accommodate players of all skill levels, and designed first and foremost to be a shared gaming experience.

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The world of Destiny is set in the distant future, hundreds of years after a golden age in which the human race spread across the galaxy, colonizing worlds and building something of an empire. Then, we are told, an enemy attacked mankind.

The identity of this foe is lost in time, but what we do know when it attacked, its objective was to wipe the human race out of existence completely. Very few humans survived and those that did owe their lives to The Traveller, a spherical spaceship hovering just above the surface of the world where it made its last stand against the mysterious genocidal menace.

Over a lengthy period of time, mankind has started to rebuild. A vast city, which also happens to be the last safe haven for the human race, has been built beneath the traveller and from there, humans are starting to take their first tentative steps back out into the galaxy. What they've found, however, is that they're not alone either on or off the earth. Alien forces are still ranged against them, picking at the walls of the city and probing for a way to wipe mankind out once and for all.

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