Take a Peek at What’s Next from Halo Creator Bungie

Instead of going dark, Halo creator Bungie has chosen to embrace leaked concept art and story details from its first major game, post-Microsoft.

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You know, Bungie, right? The guys who made Halo? Surely you haven’t forgotten. I mean, it has been five years since they split from Microsoft, two-and-a-half since they signed a 10-year publishing contract with Activision Blizzard and their last big game — Halo: Reach — came out back in September 2010.

Still, they’ve been anything but idle, quietly soldiering away as an independent studio on their next big thing for new publishing partner Activision Blizzard.

Because information about the project surfaced during Activision’s legal wrangle with former Infinity Ward captains Jason West and Vince Zampella, we know that it is, or was at some point codenamed “Destiny.” We’ve heard that it’ll initially be exclusive to the Xbox platform (whether the 360 or whatever’s next), that it might or might not be an MMO, that it’s intended to be the first in a series — a series that’ll eventually go multiplatform — and that installment numero uno arrives sometime in late 2013.

And now we have an official wink from Bungie. That’s it up top, the concept art shot of a vaguely Helghast-like soldier giving us the evil eye (or would that be a Chimera-like four?), tromping along in some craggy, arctic alien-scape, a giant harnessed presumably biological creature trundling along in the background with what looks like a howitzer strapped to its back.

Here’s what the company wrote on its website accompanying the picture:

Go ahead. Take a peek. It’s alright. We weren’t quite ready, but we will be soon, and we can’t wait to finally show you what we’ve really been up to.

Stick around, we haven’t even started yet.

The artwork and a few story details originally leaked to IGN. Surprisingly, Bungie confirmed the art and document were indeed its own (according to IGN) and that the material was prepared by an advertising agency.

Here’s the game overview snippet IGN posted from the document:

Our story begins seven hundred years from now in the Last City on Earth, in a Solar System littered with the ruins of man’s Golden Age. A massive, mysterious alien ship hangs overhead like a second Moon. No one knows where it came from or what it’s here for, but only that it’s our protector. Meanwhile, strange, alien monsters creep in from the edge of the universe, determined to take Earth and the Last City. We are young ‘knights’ tasked with defending the remains of humanity, discovering the source of these monsters and — eventually — overcoming it.

According to Bungie’s Jason Jones, “Destiny is designed for your inner seven year old. We want to make it feel like a mythic adventure.”

Would that mean a toned-down, family-friendlier franchise? Or is “less mature” even the right way to think about it? While the Halo games all received Mature ratings for “blood and gore, violence” (Halo Wars being the one exception), they were pretty tame, really — no more violent than Boba Fett sliding into a sarlacc’s gullet or gorier than Luke lightsabering open a tauntaun’s belly (the nonsensical ratings disparity between the video games industry and every other form of entertainment continues).

By working to, as the document puts it, “create a universe as deep, tangible and relatable as that of the Star Wars franchise,” it sounds like Bungie’s actually sticking to comfortable turf (see all the Star Wars analogies when Halo first appeared — isn’t “designed for your inner seven year old” exactly what Halo was when it first appeared?).

What else do we know about Destiny? No much, but Paul McCartney‘s working on it in a musical capacity — no really, the ex-Beatle who sometimes goes by “Sir.” And: You can sign up to beta test it (well, maybe) by following Bungie’s instructions here.