Bungie, the company best known for its work on the Halo series of games, has announced its latest title: Destiny, an unsurprisingly gun-filled sci-fi shooter-adventure game with a fully persistent on-line world.
Founded in 1991 by Alex Seropian following the popularity of his Pong clone Gnop, Bungie had a string of successes developing games for Apple's Macintosh platform before hitting the big time with Marathon - a game that would directly influence the plot and style of Halo, the company's best-known release. Originally developed as a third-person shooter for PCs, Microsoft would pick up Bungie in a multi-million dollar deal to shore up the launch offerings on its Xbox console by turning Halo into a platform exclusive - a move that would make the company a vast quantity of money.
Things didn't go entirely smoothly with Microsoft at the helm, however. Several sequels to Halo were launched to great success, but Bungie would split off from Microsoft in 2007 and return to private ownership - albeit with its former master retaining a minority stake in the company and, crucially, the rights to the Halo intellectual property.
So, having largely coasted on the success of the Halo franchise, Bungie needed a new schtick - and Destiny appears to be exactly that. Learning from its past mistakes with Microsoft, the company has announced a deal with Activision Blizzard that will see the games publishing giant taking on responsibility for publishing the new game for the next ten years, but with Bungie retaining full ownership of the associated intellectual property - meaning the company can move away from Activision Blizzard at the end of the contract with its years of work intact, unlike its split from Microsoft and loss of the Halo franchise it had built.
But what of the game? While Bungie has spoken of reinventing gaming, the teaser trailer for Destiny reveals a somewhat familiar theme: be-suited space marine types doing battle on a fantastical world with armoured enemies of various sizes. So far, so Halo.
That's perhaps being a little unfair to Bungie, however: although it appears to be sticking to what it knows in terms of genre, the underlying game mechanics are a fair way away from those of Halo. Rather than a single-player adventure and a serious of plot-free multiplayer game modes, Destiny will instead connect players to a persistent and ever-changing world - meaning, as if the involvement of Activision Blizzard could leave any doubt, that the title will require an always-on internet connection.
It won't exactly by a massively-multiplayer on-line role-playing game (MMORPG,) however: unlike World of Warcraft, Activision Blizzard's biggest money-maker thanks to a subscription requirement to play beyond a certain level, Destiny won't be subscription-based, requiring only the purchase of the game. The company is also avoiding cramming thousands of players into small areas, preferring instead to spawn instances where players within geographic proximity will be brought together in localised public areas before heading off into their own 'dungeon' instances.
With hints of mobile support, linking the game to an app that allows players to track progress even away from their PC, it's clear that Destiny is a pretty big deal for Bungie - and this time it's partnering both with former paymaster Microsoft and its rival Sony with a planned simultaneous launch on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 before the end of the year. What the company hasn't yet mentioned, however, is whether there is any plan to support PC gamers - something the Halo franchise has neglected.
If you're curious, the teaser trailer is available below.