In the lobby of Bungie's vast studio, incongruously located in one corner of an urban entertainment complex in the Washington city of Bellevue, there hangs a 2006 Penny Arcade comic listing The Levels of Game Development Hell.
First comes creating licenced games, for watches. Second is being torn apart by MMO fans. Third is "creating Halo game after Halo game after etc". It's as close as the company gets to showing its feelings at not being shackled to the Xbox's biggest franchise.
The team is unfailingly polite about the juggernaut it created, complimentary about the new instalment from 343, and clearly proud of its work - the comic is surrounded by statues, weapon replicas and awards dedicated to Master Chief. But the cabinet filled with toys and statues has a new addition: an unfinished clay model of a four-armed alien with a respiratory mask, four spikes on its head and a weapon in each hand. This is the first member of a landing party that's going to sweep Master Chief out of the lobby, and - according to Bungie - change the face of shooters forever.
The pitch, delivered with a down-to-earth self-assurance by Bungie founder Jason Jones, is that Destiny is going to reinvent the genre as emphatically as Halo's did twelve years ago. "The truth is that if you enjoy first-person shooters, and play them on a console, Destiny is going to be the best one you've ever played," he says. "That's our goal. We've learned our lesson from MMOs, we've learned our lessons from Facebook games, but Destiny is a console first-person shooter. It's the type of game that we love to play, that our fans love to play."
In the literal sense of the term, Destiny is a massively multiplayer online game: it's online-only, requiring a broadband connection to function, and its magic is in the interaction with other players and the ability to customise your character. But it doesn't really compare to what you know as an MMO. There's no subscription fee, for starters (Activision won't comment when asked if it'll be free-to-play; we'd put a few quid on there being microtransactions in there somewhere) and the focus is absolutely on co-op.
"We've built this game as a co-operative social experience," says Jones. "Everything that you do in life is more fun if there's other people around doing the same thing with you. Imagine the gym, imagine college, imagine if those experiences were solitary - that sounds crazy but that's the experience we've had for decades with these solo video game experiences. That's not the kind of campaign we're buildling with Destiny."
You start on a future Earth, in the ruins of a great civilisation that once spanned the solar system, but now exists only in a single hub city protected by The Traveler - a giant orb of unknown origin that arrived just in time to save humanity from extinction. Hovering just above the planet's surface, a new city called the Citadel has sprouted in its shadow, and it's from here you and other human-player Guardians board your customised ships and head out to planets and locations that were once human domain, but now have alien forces encroaching from all sides.
You face them in company - even if you're playing solo, you'll meet other players in the world - and in scenarious that are constantly evolving. "We want every night in Destiny to be a new experience," says Jones. "I'm not talking about content here, that doesn't even work - even with Activision behind us that game would be too expensive for us to make. Our goal is that every time a player sits down to play Destiny they have a different experience than they did last time. This lead us to throw away the main menu entirely, and come up with a whole new way of players engaging in activities."