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Bungie's Destiny: the Xbox 720 game that's taking on Halo

Can the studio that created Master Chief top its own work?

As we approach the end of the Xbox 360's life, it's easy to forget that the developer to which it owes its existence is nowhere to be seen. Having built its considerable reputation on Halo - still the archetypal console shooter - Bungie hasn't shown itself in public since the 2010 launch of Halo: Reach.

Now, first clues are starting to sneak out - some intentionally, others not - about its new game, Destiny: a new "sci-fantasy action shooter" that could be for the next Xbox what Halo was for its ancestor.

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The game is officially unannounced, but Bungie has been teasing us for a long time - as far back as 2009, two years after it split from Microsoft. Way back then it registered the 'Destiny' trademark, complete with logo, at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office under 'Computer game software'. It's been renewing that trademark ever since.

It'll be published by Activision as the studio's 'new universe', which doubtless means plentiful spinoffs similar to Halo's roster of comics, books, animated series - and probably more, given Activision's own toy success with Skylanders.

Activision's contract with Bungie lasts ten years, and recent filings during its lawsuit with CoD creator Infinity Ward revealed that Destiny will cover at least four games to be released every other year from 2013 - with the first being exclusive to Xbox for a year. In the gaps in between we're getting DLC to tide us over. This is currently codenamed 'Comet'. A theme emerges.

To infinity...
It's all but certain that Bungie plans to take us into space once more. Rumours about the game being an MMO lead the studio to explicitly deny it's going to be 'World of Warcraft in space,' but it's definitely going to have an online element and an ambitious one at that.

The phrase 'Per Audacia Ad Astra' - Latin for 'Boldly to the Stars' - keeps cropping up everywhere you turn. Then there's the Frankenstein's monster that is the Destiny Map, a jigsaw puzzle put together from images that Bungie has been drip-feeding recently.

Alongside that, Bungie employees have been seen wearing Destiny t-shirts featuring what are being referred to as 'faction' logos. It's thought they link to pieces of 2D art Bungie has already copyrighted, named things like 'Dead Orbit', 'Osiris' and 'Seven Seraphs' (all info that's been collected by diligent fans at destinypedia.net).

A senior graphics engineer said in an interview with Game Developer magazine that different areas of the game conform to a distinct design "depending on which faction they belong to". He also went into detail on how Bungie is working hard on rendering a believable dynamic world that responds to weather, time of day, and what the player does to their environment.

Whatever form the game takes, its 2013 launch and Xbox exclusivity mean it's all but certain to be one of the big, if not the biggest, launch titles for the next Xbox. Which makes perfect sense - what better developer to introduce it than the one who got the console off the ground in the first place?

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That would also tie into the rumours about its MMO-like nature: Microsoft will doubtless want newer, grander Xbox Live experiences and Bungie's got the space to dream some spectacular ones. Expect great things at next year's E3.

For more about the MMO rumours in particular, check out Ed's original Destiny piece.

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