Introducing Destiny, “the world’s first shared-world shooter”

All we’ve seen of player customisation as of yet. In the centre is a Warlock, combining magic with guns.

Second on the list: “we wanted to have a bunch of fun things to do – we wanted to make these pillars simple, don’t expect fancy here… We do this at Bungie by creating a sandbox of great tools that a player can learn to use, and then putting the player in an environment that contains enemies that they can use those tools against.” Well, Jone’s story checks out. You can’t fault the Halo series for not providing you with genre-defining tools and the appropriate environs to unleash them. Sadly though, no-one outside of the Bungie team’s seen any combat in Destiny – these are just words until hands-on time.

Number three’s a simple one too: “we’re gonna give you rewards for playing. Imagine after a hard day of work or school where you feel like you’re going backwards, imagine if you could come home and spend an hour with a world that you feel like you’ve accomplished something in.” In practice? Lots of guns, lots of armour, new spacecraft for hopping between planets. Since character customisation is such a big deal, expect /some/ form of XP progression, stat-building and perk accumulation too.

Destiny’s a “hopeful” world despite humanity’s near-extinction.

“We want every night in Destiny to be a new experience,” says Jones, underlining Destiny’s fourth pillar. “And we’re not talking about content here, that doesn’t work. Even with Activision behind us that game would be too expensive. The goal is for every time you sit down to play Destiny they have a different experience than the last time. This experience of novelty is so powerful.”

That’s going to be driven by the online community. The other players that pop into your game, like it or not (there’s a pillar for that coming up). The moments of genuine bonding that made Journey such a marvel, and likely the inevitable griefing too. There are raids for big parties, missions designed for parties of two, and a competitive multiplayer element. “We’ve created emergent activities, things that are time-limited, things that are rare,” adds Jones.

Did we mention there’ll be shooting?

Here’s the pillar that really defines the project: “we also made sure that Destiny is focused on interactions with people, because people are so awesome and unpredictable.” They sure are. Who’d have predicted the widespread practice of tea-bagging opponents in Halo? On a more serious note, some of gaming’s most exciting, incendiary games have lived and died by co-op. If anyone could make Borderlands 2′s teamwork look prehistoric, it’s a Halo dev with time to play with and Activision’s money to spend.

The final two values for the project: “Destiny must be enjoyable to players of all skill levels” and “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” are reassuring enough, but they don’t articulate what’s so exciting about this game.

Bungie excels at driveable vehicles, and there’s a lot of ground to cover in Destiny.

It’s not the promises – it’s the people who are making them. This is Bungie’s first game on PS3. It’s first game outside of Halo since 2001. And it’s being funded By Activision, who know the money from World Of Warcraft and Call of Duty isn’t going to last forever. That’s a pairing that can make this “shared world shooter” happen on the scale they’re describing, with a social space and competitive multiplayer on a scale of Halo and COD.

But holy damn, there are so many intangibles. What does a ‘mission’ play like in Destiny? What’s the level design like? Is there an ecosystem? Can players form factions and fight for territories? How will we all communicate? What’s to stop the griefers ruining a game that lives and dies by social interaction? In Bungie we’re forced to trust.

Let’s finish on one very encouraging tangible. Destiny takes a lot from the great MMO playbook, but a subscription model it does not. “We have absolutely no plans to charge a subscription fee for Destiny,” says Hirshberg. Neither is it free-to-play. That’s the only run-of-the-mill aspect of Destiny – it’s a boxed copy console shooter.