Halo: Fandom Evolved
January 31, 2011 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Contrary to a lot of idle criticism, Bungie's Halo series of video games has a surprisingly rich backstory -- a universe complex enough to support seven bestselling novels, a wiki with over 7,000 articles, and one of the most successful ARGs in history (including a full-fledged radio drama). The series has also turned out sweeping audiovisual work, from the games' cinematic cutscenes and epic music (lots of free previews) to top-shelf anime and the Hollywood-quality short films -- ODST, Believe, Deliver Hope, Landfall -- that were made to promote the games (the latter of which, produced by Neil Blomkamp, inspired District 9). And that's apart from all the material produced by Bungie's dedicated fan base: genuinely hilarious machinima from Red vs. Blue, professional-level graphic novels (table of contents at the top), gorgeous artwork, hours of recorded dialogue, complete transcripts of hidden apocrypha, and more factual analysis, story speculation, and casual discussion than you can shake an energy sword at. But most of these pale in comparison to the latest and greatest exercise in Halo beanplating: the Svmma Canonica, a 40-page, 17,000-word formal treatise on the nature of canon in the world that Bungie built, and how it will fare once Bungie moves on and the franchise is managed by 343 Industries. Discussion over at Bungie's official site, or at decade-old fan forum Halo.Bungie.Org.
posted by Rhaomi (71 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Halo was a great game. Then I discovered there was a whole world of people who were willing to beanplate beyond anything I had ever seen. I was in geek heaven.

(sadly, I'm in broke geek heaven and have not played the last 2 Halo games.)
posted by yeloson at 4:47 PM on January 31, 2011


Oh wait. Never mind.
posted by hippybear at 4:50 PM on January 31, 2011

As I understand it, Blomkamp's short film "Alive in Joburg" caught Jackson's attention, and led to him bringing Blomkamp on for the Halo film. After Halo fell apart, they started adapting "Joburg" into District 9 instead. The collapse of Halo maybe led to District 9 in the sense that they wanted to start working on something else together, but I think it's a stretch to say that the former "inspired" the later.

posted by brundlefly at 4:51 PM on January 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

Halo is inspired by Iain M. Banks (spoilers). I've longed for an Iain M. Banks movie, but Hollywood can't even seem to get a Halo movie made.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:52 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Bungie has a history of rather involved backstory going back to the terminal messages in Marathon.
posted by juv3nal at 4:52 PM on January 31, 2011 [8 favorites]

The True Halo Canon is a great and magnificent thing, and we have enjoyed its presentation hereunto this point at which concurrent canonical manifestations would lessen and diminish the greatness of our canon if indeed representational of the same canon: they are not; let not anything diminish one’s proper vision of Halo Canon; let not these blasphemous artifacts of the Denigrators of our Magnificent Canon succeed in persuading the ignorant of their canonical status; let them fail in their efforts to convince the beliefs of Halo to be something it is not; and let this Great Plague not dissuade any of us Students and Doctors of Halo Canon from our righteous purpose and vocation of study and reverence.

Oh, okay. Let me break that 40-page treatise right on down:

posted by Phyltre at 4:54 PM on January 31, 2011

Ooh, quick math note: 7 x 7 = 49th post. :P

He said, in the 7th comment.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:56 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

You beat me to it, juv3nal. I've never really gotten into Halo, but I love me some Marathon. The Marathon's Story page kept interested for a long time. I still go back to it now and then when i want to see some great game writing.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:59 PM on January 31, 2011

The Svmma Canonica is a joke, right? It's like someone created a super mad-lib bullshit tautology generator. For all that text, there's absolutely no information.
posted by hanoixan at 5:00 PM on January 31, 2011

Halo should win an award for most appropriate and most appropriately-named song ever.
posted by curious nu at 5:00 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

juv3mal and BlackLeotardFront beat me to it as well; some of my prouder moments were getting on Hamish Sinclair's wonderful site.

And I still have one of my Marathon stickers from the collector's pack thing, what was that called, with the "Making of Marathon" book. Maybe my laptop will have to become the Celer Manus Dei.
posted by Earthtopus at 5:03 PM on January 31, 2011

I swear, sometimes I think I must be the only person on the planet that didn't like Halo all that well. It was a good game, in my view, but not a great one. It was just so, so, so damn repetitious... walk through a corridor, fight some enemies, walk through another corridor, fight almost the same set of enemies, repeat ad nauseum. It was occasionally wonderful, but it was just so damn boring getting to the wonderful bits.

I haven't even bought Halo 3. Just didn't have any particular interest. Yeah, I'd like to see the story unfold, I did enjoy that part, but I was so terribly bored with the basic Halo mechanics after 2 that I never bothered.

There's no doubt that it's had a huge impact on gaming... most FPSes now seem to use the Halo shield mechanic, for instance. But despite its influence and popularity, I found it mostly tedious.
posted by Malor at 5:09 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Tru7h is out there.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:10 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Halo is inspired by Iain M. Banks

In a sense, sure. But they've used some of the trappings of his work while discarding the soul of it. I'm not criticizing Bungie, the world they did make is interesting in its own right. But the essence of Banks' science fiction has little to do with interesting ship names and such. Not that I don't love me some funny ship names. Hell, in context does it get any better than the GCU Grey Area ("Meatfucker")? No it does not.

I dunno, I guess I'm nitpicking beyond all reason. I just don't want anyone to get the impression that Banks and Halo have anything in common. They have the same amount in common as, say, the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas has with Venice, Italy.
posted by Justinian at 5:13 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

hanoixan: "The Svmma Canonica is a joke, right? It's like someone created a super mad-lib bullshit tautology generator. For all that text, there's absolutely no information."

I thought the same thing at first, like he auto-generated it or did a find-and-replace on an existing document, but it addresses specific points in the series, and Googled phrases turn up zero hits. Plus, he's answering questions on Bungie's site:
For a simpler explanation of this, read my parable in the reply to the first Relativist objection in the Apology to Part II "A Definition" in "Pars Secunda".

IMHO, this is the product of somebody on the fringes of the community (I don't recognize his name) who takes the story very seriously -- like, Star Trek-level seriously -- and dressed up all the bubbling fanboy rage about the future of the franchise in some fancy formal logic with a Latinate sheen to give it an air of legitimacy.

I think it's a fascinating piece of work, a great example of the depths someone can delve into defending something they love, even obsess over. But I'm glad the broader community on HBO and elsewhere isn't quite this... driven. (And that's coming from somebody who made this.)
posted by Rhaomi at 5:14 PM on January 31, 2011

I preferred Marathon to Halo. It might have been an age thing though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:22 PM on January 31, 2011

What strikes me about the backstory to Marathon is that it's interesting even though I never played any of the games (although I understand some(?) of them came to Windows later, they were originally Mac titles), but the story is fascinating because it does neat proto ARG stuff (including a hidden map that required copying and pasting hex code terminal messages and messages that could only be read using a map editor).
posted by juv3nal at 5:30 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

For those who haven't the time or patience, I ran it through Word's extremely useful and not at all pointless Autosummarise function a few times - ECCE!

Summa(rised) Canonica:
We enjoy our affected and idealized Canon greater than the Pure and True Halo Canon you define; therefore, this is the Halo Canon to us.
The True Halo Canon obeys no hierarchy: there is that which is canon, and that which is not canon.

posted by Sebmojo at 5:34 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am in a loving, fulfilling marriage with both Marathon and Halo. We are very happy, and we need some private time now.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:42 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

My husband is also in a loving, fulfilling marriage with both Marathon and Halo.
posted by andlee210 at 5:50 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

brundlefly - I reckon a solid chunk of the early FX work for the Halo movie ended up in District 9... off the top of my head the prawn movement style and animations were unmistakably based on Elites, and the battle suit animations were very reminiscent of a Hunter... etc, etc...
posted by russm at 5:57 PM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

Halo just seems so... characterless to me, compared with Marathon. Like an assemblage of generic FPS parts.
posted by Artw at 6:14 PM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

Halo is inspired by Iain M. Banks

And Iain was inspired by Larry Niven.

We all owe a debt to those who preceded us. This is awkward for those who want to stake claims in the plains of originality, though.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:15 PM on January 31, 2011

I swear, sometimes I think I must be the only person on the planet that didn't like Halo all that well.

I'm not a fan, but that's related to dissatisfaction with first-person shooters in general than any real fault with Halo. Generic spacesuit guys blasting their way through a future war? SEEN IT.

I'll admit this is a prejudice, but I can't bring myself to apologize for it. It takes something wonderful to get me to open up enough to give a FPS a chance these days, like Serious Sam (sheer overkill), Team Fortress II (brilliant balance and sense of humor) or Metroid Prime (sense of exploration).
posted by JHarris at 6:20 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I still play Halo 1 quite a bit, because it's the only version that runs on a Mac. Microsoft really went out of their way to give Apple the shaft, by buying Bungie just after they previewed Halo at a Macworld Keynote with Steve Jobs.

The online Halo 1 players are insane. They are almost all from poor latin american countries with lousy connectivity (making online play almost impossible) and they ALL cheat by using hacks. It's ridiculous, it's almost impossible to find a clean game without people using aimbots and other hacks. Since none of those hacks work on a Mac, I am always at a disadvantage. The connectivity issue is always annoying, typically the home server user is about 2 seconds ahead of everyone else, it's known as the "home server advantage." I'm always shooting at where someone was 2 seconds ago, and the home server user can kill me 2 seconds before my death appears on my screen. This may be why the game is so popular in areas with bad internet, it gives them an advantage.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:22 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I swear, sometimes I think I must be the only person on the planet that didn't like Halo all that well.

No. There is another.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:26 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Microsoft really went out of their way to give Apple the shaft, by buying Bungie just after they previewed Halo at a Macworld Keynote with Steve Jobs.

This is an unfair characterization of what happened. Microsoft approached Bungie, and Bungie agreed to be acquired because they (Bungie) felt it was in the best interests of their current and future projects. They appear to have been correct.
posted by secret about box at 6:30 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Generic spacesuit guys blasting their way through a future war?"

Never played Halo, but I like the trailers above, because I think that's what this planet is going to look like when we're done with it. Minus the aliens, of course.
posted by sneebler at 6:31 PM on January 31, 2011

I swear, sometimes I think I must be the only person on the planet that didn't like Halo all that well.

I made it through one and a half, but the Flood drove me off. What an awful poorly conceived enemy.
posted by graventy at 6:41 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a big nerd and I make halo costumes(marines).
They weren't mentioned in the post, but there's a lot of people doing it.

Here's a couple people who are good at it
Sean Bradley
Shawn Thorsson

And there's a lot of them at this site, which
is sort of poorly moderated, breaks a lot, and seems to be populated by many children, but still
contains most of the serious halo costumers out there.

They even make fan films sometimes.
posted by vrogy at 6:53 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I loved HALO, the second was ok, and the third I could have lived without (largely because of gameplay not plot...the Arbiter was a nuisance). I still play the first one regularly...but Reach made up for the lapses in 2 & 3.


Apologies for the link, but this is one of those classic moments that made the games all worth it.
posted by ironbob at 7:07 PM on January 31, 2011

This is an unfair characterization of what happened.

No. It may have been in Bungie's best interest to be bought by Microsoft, but Microsoft was most certainly motivated to deny Apple any access to the sequel to the Mac-only hit Marathon. The fact that they bought the company just after Jobs keynoted Halo was just adding insult to injury. Still, it is not certain that Bungie was best served by an overlord that denied them the ability to sell on Xbox only, rather than PCs, Macs, and Playstations. And now Bungie is out of their contract with Microsoft and has gone independent. If the MS deal was really in Bungie's best interest, they'd rush to sign back up.

No, face it, the Bungie purchase was business as usual for Microsoft, at the height of their monopolistic excesses.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:12 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

graventy: I made it through one and a half, but the Flood drove me off. What an awful poorly conceived enemy.

Yeah, I think that's what put me off the series. I did finish Halo 2, but I've been completely uninterested in everything since. Now that you reminded me, I think the Flood is why.
posted by Malor at 7:17 PM on January 31, 2011

They appear to have been correct.

For me, I never had an issue with the acquisition by Microsoft. I can quite understand holding onto it for awhile, so that it could be an anchor game for the Xbox. What did bother me that the release of Halo 2 (I know Halo 3 was Xbox only, for good reason) was not even brought to market for the Mac, even when it was released for Windows.

If you're really into gaming, you either have a Windows PC or a console. If you want to play Halo, you're console has to be the Xbox. I can't see Microsoft losing a significant user base and revenue to Apple with just that game available, only taking existing Mac user's money, which would have been significant, as the Halo series would have been The Game to Have if you're on a Mac, considering the proven popularity of the Marathon series. Mac gaming back then was quite limited, and having a lock on that market could have been a smart move.

The market now makes that argument less relevant, with being able to run Windows on a Mac when necessary, porting games to the Mac being much easier, and the widespread success of the Xbox 360. A few years ago, it was a much different scene, and I think Microsoft made a small business error back then.
posted by chambers at 7:45 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Remind me... the Flood is that race of monsters that "corrupts" races it touches and make them into more Flood, right? What an original idea. I'm sure I haven't seen that a dozen times before.
posted by JHarris at 7:48 PM on January 31, 2011

I've been completely uninterested in everything since

I agree the second half of Halo 2 was not as good as the first Halo game, but Halo 3 did have a much better and involving storyline for the player, and it had that old Halo magic, where it gave you the feeling that what you were doing really mattered, in respect to the overall story arc, rather than just getting bogged down as a FPS with mountains of monsters to kill.
posted by chambers at 7:50 PM on January 31, 2011

(probable spoilers below)

I've always enjoyed the Halo story/universe even though I've not delved much further into it than the games (minus Wars) and the anime and lots of wiki reading. Reach's campaign is uneven (the voice acting often sucks), but it captures well the feeling of loss - expected an unexpected - that stands in contrast to the optimism (cautious and otherwise) that motivates the other games. Consider the minor plot points of the deaths of Noble Team:

George, a sentimental and literally weighty character for whom the adjective "earthy" could have been coined, a guy who can barely jump, dies in orbit above a planet he always said he'd never leave.

Kat, a master of encryption and preternaturally skilled at anticipating both intelligence reports and combat tactics, is killed by a single opportunistic shot from a passing dropship.

Carter, the reputedly rock-solid leader of the team and the leash on the others' tendencies toward overconfidence (Kat) or brutality (Emile), trusts enough in the remaining members of the team to sacrifice himself before the finale. Contrast his death also with his dedication to bringing everyone back alive from past missions. Carter is most notable for bulding teams, but resolves himself to watch his disintegrate.

Emile ("eager") is described in the canon as having an umatched zest for life (read: killing), and when the time comes approaches his own death with characteristic equanimity. Emile is killed from behind, an unusual death for the member of Noble Team most likely to charge in head-first and also an unusual tactic for the Zealot team that kills him.

Noble Six dies as he (or she) started: as an enigma. You play through the whole game as this character and learn only that Six is called upon to resolve the most difficult situations. Six's body is glassed and seems destined to join Six's file as a reminder fragment of a much more detailed history.

Arguably the most poignant outcome goes unremarked in the game:

Jun, notable primarily for talking too much, is left with nobody to talk to.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:56 PM on January 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

JHarris: "Remind me... the Flood is that race of monsters that "corrupts" races it touches and make them into more Flood, right? What an original idea. I'm sure I haven't seen that a dozen times before."

You should check out HBO's interactive archive of Halo 3's terminals from the post when you get a chance -- click the bars in the bottom-left for each chapter, then the green arrows next to them to turn the pages. It tells a Marathon-style story through corrupted databanks about the doomed Forerunner campaign against the Flood -- communications with the controlling intelligence, manipulations of rogue AI, the way two lovers enact the final solution, etc. It gives better insight into their existence as a utopian, post-human hivemind rather than the mindless space zombies the games portray them as (Gravemind notwithstanding).

Bungie excels at nontraditional behind-the-scenes storytelling like this that further enriches the game world; it's a real shame they're usually so hard to find.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:01 PM on January 31, 2011

There's nothing idle about the criticism that Halo's protagonist is an unrelatable cypher, it's general tone absurdly melodramatic, and it's plot portentously overinflated.

What's more, after what Verhoeven did to Heinlein's "Starship Troopers", you just can't write a throwaway space marines plot and not expect people to snigger at the unintentional undertone of camp homoeroticism and camp fascism.

This is why videogame companies need to hire real writers - to tell nerds these things - because they're clearly incapable of gleaning it from their own cultural observations.
posted by macross city flaneur at 8:02 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've mentioned a lot of this before, so forgive me for that, but: I am apparently alone in thinking that ODST is far and away the best version of Halo out there, but I'm OK with that; I've got your plate of beans right here.

In a lot of ways Reach reminded me of Douglas Adams’ “Mostly Harmless”. Clearly in the same vein as its predecessors, clearly the best technical work of the series and just as clearly secretly and quietly hated by its creator. Want to know what Bungie really, secretly thinks about working for Microsoft on Halo sequels?

Here's some symbolism for you: despite your being some super-marine and unlike the rest of the series, in Reach you spend most of the game scavenging for weapons and ammunition in the pockets of the dead marines or locals you stumble across who've clearly died covering the path you're walking again. You get no choice in what you carry or use, and tools you carefully find and equip routinely get replaced by the cheapest, weakest ones in the game at any arbitrary cutscene.

You spend a lot of this game watching soldiers, NPCs and civilians get killed, and there is exactly nothing you can do about it - at one point you’re even ordered to stand your ground and defend your position, and even if you manage to keep any of the civilians (who'll run mindlessly directly towards enemy fire if they have a chance) from getting butchered the very next thing you do is jump into an elevator and abandon them to their fates. You’re occasionally given similarly incompetent, unusable soldier NPCs to assist, who are just as mute and just as dumb. You get a little roster of them, can't talk to or direct them in any way, and get watch each of their little nametags flash red and then disappear as they get killed.

Everyone on your team is accorded a noble, self-sacrificing death with the exception of the team’s smartest member and only woman, who gets shot in the back of the head in mid-sentence while questioning orders. Which was particularly classy; I wonder who she was meant to represent, really.

There’s no reward for saving, or even way to save, any of them. But it’s the final chapter of the game that really shivs it home; you’re dropped, with no transition and no explanation, into ruined shell of a military base under a burning ochre sky; there’s nowhere to go, you don’t know how you got there or why, and you can’t do anything but fight endless waves of aliens until you run out of ammo, at which point you are summarily slaughtered. And right after that, the escaping Pillar Of Autumn starts its random skittering flight away from the doomed planet that's getting burned down to glass, to try and regroup and save whatever's left of humanity.

I may be wrong, but I'm thinking Bungie's pretty glad to be out of that relationship.
posted by mhoye at 8:06 PM on January 31, 2011 [12 favorites]

The major reason I enjoyed Halo Reach so much more than any of its predecessors (though I only played 3 and 1 until just after the LIBRARY) is because it largely discarded all talk of Forerunners and the Flood and Prophets of Indefatigable Sorrow and whatever the hell, instead focusing on the fall of Reach in the face of overwhelming odds. That's a story I can actually relate to and understand on some level; trying to figure out why there's a schism in the Covenant where the Demagogues of Fortitude are fighting the Sovereigns of Dutiful Patience for control of the Magnanimous Assailant Vessel of whatever is somehow less interesting.
posted by chrominance at 8:49 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love the Halo games. The story is often obtuse, but when that game hits its "moments", it hits them hard. Usually, it's when you're tearing over a hill in some vehicle and the theme music starts playing.

I also really love Reach, and while I don't share mhoye's view of the symbolism, I'm fascinated by it. I thought Bungie really did a good job of creating a truly futile situation and still making it compelling, and the very ending of the game is sort of heartbreakingly beautiful. That might be overselling a game that features Giant Space Muppets a bit, but I stand by it.
posted by HostBryan at 8:54 PM on January 31, 2011

Also, Inspector.Gadget just warmed my heart and made me a little sad at the same time.
posted by HostBryan at 9:00 PM on January 31, 2011

I am really not a video game player, but I love Red vs. Blue. So thank you Halo for that.
posted by hippybear at 9:11 PM on January 31, 2011

Everyone on your team is accorded a noble, self-sacrificing death with the exception of the team’s smartest member and only woman, who gets shot in the back of the head in mid-sentence while questioning orders. Which was particularly classy; I wonder who she was meant to represent, really.

Despite its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed Reach, as much for reasonable story-telling as anything else.

But that particular plot point irritated me. Everyone else in the team needs some incredible odds to put them down, and dies with courage and distinction. Except Kat. Why bother having a token woman, if you are going to undercut the symbolism of equality by implying that she's weaker and less noble than the other members of the team?

At least she wasn't wearing pink armour.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:14 PM on January 31, 2011

So, let me see if I've got this straight. The Humans are Terrans, the Covenant are Protoss, the Flood are the Zerg, and the Precursors are the Precursors.

(Or should I say Humans = Imperium, Covenant = Eldar, and Flood = Tyranids...)

Dear Space Opera Game Writers: please think of more than two types of alien. Heck, go replay some old Star Control at least...
posted by jet_manifesto at 9:41 PM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

I just spent an hour an eleven minutes re-watching the first season of Red vs. Blue.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:50 PM on January 31, 2011

Pfft. Bungie's best work is still the first two Myth games.
posted by Copronymus at 9:58 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Red vs Blue: No. Seriously. Where did he get the hands?
posted by SPrintF at 9:59 PM on January 31, 2011

I'm not the biggest fan of Halo as a game or franchise, but there is one thing I will always give it credit for: its use of a wide colour palette. There are far too many interchangeable 'space marine grey' and 'dungeon brown' shooters on the market at any given time. Halo was not afraid, from the first iteration, to set events in bright green environments with colourful enemies, weapons and effects. Its a great franchise to look at even when it strays to the more po-faced and (literally dark) ODST or space ship interiors.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:51 AM on February 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

Pfft. Bungie's best work is still the first two Myth games.

Despite his name, he's not talking shit. Well, either best or most masochistic.
posted by ersatz at 3:23 AM on February 1, 2011

I've played, and completed, all three Halo games, and I couldn't tell you a single thing about the 'story', such as it is. Generic Space Bastard shoots cartoonish dwarves in face, rinse and repeat - I'm continually baffled that anybody gives a shit about the Halo backstory on any level whatsoever. I mean, is there a cottage industry of Unreal Tournament novels? Actually there probably is isn't there :/
posted by influx at 4:36 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

If the MS deal was really in Bungie's best interest, they'd rush to sign back up.

That doesn't follow. Could easily have been the right thing then but not be the right thing now.
posted by jonnyploy at 4:51 AM on February 1, 2011

Watching the Halo series move in the gaming consciousness from "refreshing console take on a staid PC genre" to "gold standard of console gaming" to "father of endless copycats" always reminds me of Final Fantasy 7. Just as the popularity of Square's flawed but enjoyable game led to a horde of shameless shoddy ripoffs- convincing many gamers it was to blame for the problems of its imitators- many gamers today consider Halo the source of poorly lit "cinematic" shooters like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2/Battlefield: Bad Company 2/Medal of Honor/etc. that now dominate the market, regardless of whether it deserves it or not.

As slimepuppy points out, the places seen in the Halo series are quite beautifully designed; as the FPP points out, there is a solid backstory. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for what the Halo series brings to mind nowadays.
posted by Maxson at 6:17 AM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oddly enough, it was the Halo game so much that sold me, but the multiplayer aspect that really hit it out of the park. For a while, I thought Blood Gulch was my actual home. The level of fun and teamplay was great, beyond anything I had experienced in a game.

The actual game itself? Assault on the Control Room is my fave, just for all the Marines and Grunts. The Flood, along with the Library, marked a real low point in the game. It's odd that they had all these great characters with Jackals, Grunt and Elites and then just shunted them offstage to deal with mindless enemy with no character in the most boring levels ever. BUT the soundtrack was great and wonderfully synced with the game play.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:48 AM on February 1, 2011

As far as the Flood goes, I think it's a mixed bag. Cortana was the worst level in Halo 3 and arguably the worst in the series: there was nothing redeeming about the design or gameplay. On the other hand, levels like Quarantine Zone and Sacred Icon in Halo 2 were great for vehicle combat (largely due to the presence of the bigger sentinels) and the contaminated lab on the mining station was neat as a spec-ops mission (keeping the other Elites and the one remaining Grunt alive in the elevator was HARD).

The level Halo in Halo 3 was neat as a homage to the final level of Halo CE, but the playthrough versus the flood was nothing special.

In total, I'm frustrated that John 117 was never able to directly fight an incarnation of the Gravemind, and I'm glad Bungie didn't include the Flood in Reach. I think in Reach it allowed much richer enemy development: the savagery of the Brutes came out when Halo 3-style pack tactics were scaled back; the tactical cunning of high-ranking Elites became more obvious; even the pain-in-the-ass Skirmisher specialists and heroes using Hologram were interesting to fight.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:03 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

And Iain was inspired by Larry Niven.

Perhaps. And yet functionally an Orbital doesn't resemble the Ringworld nearly so much as it does the standard SF-design cylindrical space habitat which is spun for gravity; it's just very short in the axial direction and very broad in the diameter, to accommodate getting the sun via axial tilt rather than needing windows in the floor or a piped-in light source. Unlike the Ringworld it doesn't need the perplexing shadow-squares (and who knows how you keep those positioned correctly coaxial over time) or an elaborate and fragile stabilizing mechanism like Niven was forced to retrofit. It may not even require exotic matter. In terms of speculative designs you don't need to go through the Ringworld to get to an Orbital and in doing so you'd actually throw a lot of head-scratchy things away. There's a much more direct route to it in older, simpler ideas.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:16 AM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Myth I and Myth II were two of the best computer games of the 90s. I have yet to find another RTS game that engrossing.

Myth provided epic LAN parties for me and friends, and evolved in an unexpected way with the MythII WWII mod that was fan made. Bungie ended up selling out and the buyers, Take 2 Interactive, via microsoft, never followed through with a sufficient sequel, dropping a unique game engine and game 'world' opportunity.

and with that, a little part of my youth was still and grew dust.
posted by ilovemytoaster at 10:15 AM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was at the Macworld show where Bungie ran the original Halo trailer. It showed, among other things, one of the Covenant surrendering to one of the soldiers, which suggested all kinds of awesome gameplay ideas. Sadly, it turned out to be just a traditional FPS, though a very polished one.

My username comes from my old Myth days, and I still have a collection of screenshots from Bungie.net on the day that they announced they were being bought by Microsoft. Spoiler: it did not go over well. I should really clean them up and post them again.
posted by Sibrax at 11:34 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, that would be cool to see.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:54 AM on February 1, 2011

Other than CE I have to say I was very disappointed with the Halo series. I generally stick to the SP experience and am not interested in getting sworn at and called a fag by some 14 year old turd who plays 8 hours a day in the MP realms. I never minded the Library sequence and have never understood the moaning about it. So the building is a bit cut'n'pasty? Wow. Imagine that. The problem I had with the series was when the story just got awful in 2 & 3 with the introduction of the Arbiter and the schism. Utter crap it was and it pretty much ruined the games for me thereafter.

ODST suffered from having to use the last squeezings of 3's game engine but it was a dark and bloody terrifying romp through an abandoned city and having still not even finished it yet (on single player Legendary - gimme a break!) I can safely say it's one of the toughest games about. The sense of dread whenever I saw a team of Grunts and a single Brute is palpable. I'm looking at my ammo situation and I'm down to 80 rounds for the SMG and another 20 or so for the pistol and my last grenade and thinking "Can I just bypass these guys or will I need to come back this way?" Very few other games have had me avoiding trouble or worrying about whether I'll survive any particular encounter.

Still - even Halo 3 is better than Gears of War which is the fucking stupidest looking shite I've ever seen. The main characters look ridiculous and apparently consist of 300lbs of muscle and "attitude". God I hate GoW. Oh, and chainsaws. Frankly I'm surprised Games Workshop never stepped in with their GrimDark Legal Team.
posted by longbaugh at 12:02 PM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Please do not taint WH40Ks awesomely baroque and nusto grimdark with GoW's boring ass emo grimdark.
posted by Artw at 12:21 PM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would never offer offence to the Imperial Throne Artw. I was merely offering surprise that Epic have never, to my knowledge, been on the receiving end of a C&D from the notorious GW GrimDark Legion of Copyright Enforcement* after the wholesale theft of gigantic gun+chainsaw wielding space marine maniacs.

*International Chapter of Enforcement AKA "ICE Weasels" - chapter symbol a small furry mammal passant with a Power Fist (dexter) and a Storm Bolter (sinister) over a rotting Ork skull and a copy of Introduction to Copyright Law for Beginners 40K edition.
posted by longbaugh at 12:45 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not the biggest fan of Halo as a game or franchise, but there is one thing I will always give it credit for: its use of a wide colour palette

This was something I really liked about Halo 1 that they didn't do such a great job of keeping in 2 & 3. Making the enemies mostly neon colored meant I could focus on tactically run and gunning my way through, instead of trying to figure out what brown thing in an brown area sniped me. Halo 2 removed a lot of the neon, and naturally, there's sections of the game that bug me because it's about creeping around trying to figure out where the enemies are, instead of dealing with them.
posted by yeloson at 1:30 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Heh. The funny thing being that WH40K is itself started out as a grabbag of whatever SF the Games Workshop folks could bolt onto their fantasy setting.
posted by Artw at 3:29 PM on February 1, 2011

I was keeping myself out of this thread since it's focused on the series backstory which is something I don't care about, but since the discussion has derailed into the game proper I'll drop my 2 cents.

Halo 1 is still by far and away my favourite first person shooter, the combat in single player is the most fun I've had in any game of the type (which, in all fairness, isn't saying much, given that I haven't played that many FPSs, or indeed games in general, to have any sort of a well-informed opinion).

I can't quite pinpoint what made it work so well, and I don't think Bungie can either, considering that since Halo 2 they've been trying to replicate it but never got there again. Supposedly Reach is where they came closest, though I can't confirm nor deny it since I quit after a couple of levels to play something else. Perhaps I'll return to it later, but by now I've pretty much given up hope of it topping the first game.

> It was just so, so, so damn repetitious... walk through a corridor, fight some enemies, walk through another corridor, fight almost the same set of enemies, repeat ad nauseum.

If you don't enjoy the core mechanics it's understandable your feeling this way, yet for me the repetition was a feature, not a bug - I'd sometimes kill myself before checkpointing in order to be forced to go through the same combat section again. However, Halo CE must be played in Legendary in order to shine, any other difficulty it's just not the same game. I also heard that the PC version is not as good because the gameplay was optimised for the Xbox, and the k+m setup makes it easier than ideal.

I was so terribly bored with the basic Halo mechanics after 2 that I never bothered

2 was crap, all the additions Bungie made (dual wielding, enemy snipers) crippled the game and it never recovered fully, but if you were already bored by 1 than not buying 3 was probably for the best.

> Other than CE I have to say I was very disappointed with the Halo series.

Same here. Not that some weren't enjoyable in their own right, but for me none came close to the first. They're good, just not essential.

I never minded the Library sequence and have never understood the moaning about it.

I don't hate the flood, throwing some old fashioned mindless enemies to the mix midgame was a nice change of pace, though I do think the Library was too long and tiresome.

Still - even Halo 3 is better than Gears of War which is the fucking stupidest looking shite I've ever seen. The main characters look ridiculous and apparently consist of 300lbs of muscle and "attitude".

I actually like GoW as a game but I'm with you in loathing the aesthetic. As an antidote, I'll once again prescribe EDF 2017, with its winning mix of colourful visuals, ludicrous physics, comical dialogue (I'm fond of the "naive optimism" description of the delivery, I don't know whether it was deliberate or not, but I do know it fits the game like a glove) and simple but addicting gameplay (it's ace in split-screen co-op but I played most of it alone and I still found it hugely entertaining).
posted by Bangaioh at 3:39 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't quite pinpoint what made it work so well, and I don't think Bungie can either, considering that since Halo 2 they've been trying to replicate it but never got there again.

Since I've played 1-3 and 1 is also, still my favorite, I think it comes down to two things:

1. The bright color factor, as I mentioned above, means the game is about fighting the enemies and not trying to figure out where they are

2. The holy trio of gun/grenade/melee, which they talk about in their design videos, but never managed to balance again.

Melee got nerfed because of what it did to deathmatches, but it was fine in the campaign mode (oh, desperately trying to melee hunters!), and it also was overshadowed with dual wielding. They tried to bring it back, a bit, with the sword, but honestly, having a rifle that does decent damage long and melee is more interesting and fun in play.
posted by yeloson at 4:33 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Following up on what yeloson said, I do think Halo, especially the first one was a fluke in the sense the designers wanted to make something good, and accidently made something great and never quite figured out how they did that. So they continued to make good stuff, but that magic mix that was Halo CE was never really duplicated.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:39 PM on February 1, 2011

Great post, but yeah, Important Internet Opinion ahoy: I reckon Halo 1 was a pretty terrible game with flashes of brilliance, on PC at least. The others? I don't even know if they got ported, and if you play FPS games with a controller, you are just a big stupid dumbhead.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:28 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Goldeneye, man, Goldeneye!
posted by Artw at 6:00 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Paul Maravelias, author of the controversial Summa Canonica piece, has posted some reactions to the HBO forum. Here are some excerpts -- I cut out HBO-specific stuff and split it into a few paragraphs (because while this guy definitely believes in Halo, he apparently doesn't believe in carriage returns):
First and foremost, I need to talk about these suspicions fraudulent/satiric intent. [...] I didn't take this from somewhere else and replace words, I didn't use and autogenerated crap or whatnot, and none of this was written by anybody else but me, with the exception of a few quotations. (I believe there are two of them in the Summa) That being said, I am serious, and I do not intend to satire canonical Purists and fervidly anti-343 xenophobes, even though that'd be a little bit tempting.


Here is my big problem that I need to get out of the way: the accusations regarding the style and length of my "mega-rant" (I'll call it that to be lighthearted about it). Like some of the other unfair accusations in this thread, it is hard and redundant to reply to someone who hasn't read the entire thing. This I regret: I foolishly excluded some sort of disclaimer at the beginning that said "If you don't read the entire thing, please don't complain to me." I understand the length; it actually took me about an hour to read when I sat down I went back through it to fix spelling/grammar errors. So, I will entertain these accusations and provide a general defense.

I anticipated these specific accusations, and therefore wrote what I did in the second addendum at the end. It's really short; please read. It builds off of what I say in "Idealism and Implicitness" and "Question of Identity", but at that point you should just read the entire thing. Please do that - that's a request. But when you accuse me, it is sort of an accusation. Again, I'm cool about it; I'm not offended, and I'm just going to ignore statements like "guy who wrote this Summa Canonica needs professional attention".

I wrote how I wrote to A. communicate the info I needed to in B. the most concise way possible, WITHOUT sacrificing detail, specificity, and important subtle meaning. I chose my words very carefully; there's a big difference between "talk" and "speak" in popular usage the way I see it. Granted, I had a little fun. I had a little fun with the name and structure on the first page, making it seem like it was something much more important than it really was (although I do think it is importance) by using fancy Latin mottos and throws to St. Aquinas, etc. The fun ended there. (Even though it did have the effect of establishing the style and effect I was going for).

Let's actually examine the meat, the body text, and not some affected legalese ostentation that I obviously had fun with on page 1. It ended at "Overture... to be oversimplified" and continued in seriousness until the end of the "mega-rant". If in the actual content, I included language or a word that was unnecessarily verbose and could have been condensed without shrinking the meaning... I made an error and do apologize. I am not perfect. The ironic thing is, to all you people who criticized me for this but didn't read the Summa in entirety, I discuss the utter uselessness of choosing a language other than the common vernacular for the communication of ideas. That was part of one of my biggest arguments!


Back to the topic of my apparent bad style, I must admit I am somewhat embarrassed. For me, whenever I see a paper or something that was obviously written by some kid but tries to sound all smart by thesaurusing every single word... it just looks like the most stupid and juvenile thing in the world. Its awkward. And it is wicked obvious that this kid was just using a thesaurus to find longer words to make him look smart... which makes him look dumber, but most of all, makes him look young and immature. So, that this perception is taken in regards to my work is a source of embarrassment to me, however I know that this is inaccurate. I did not slave over this; I have a life. I started this thing over 1.5 years ago. I would work on it when I'm being driven somewhere in the car, when I got some free time, or when I could spend a day or two off from everything else. I chose my words carefully. I did not sit there and try to make them sound "fancy" because I know how stupid that sounds. But then I read Erasmus for example, and I'm just struck by how ingenious the use of language is. Not just words, but constructions. I profess: I will likely never be that good a writing, nor do I think I am the best writer as I stand. But I just spent more time perfecting sentences that a better writer would have needed to. So you can attack SC on that account, but until you've read the entire thing and can find an instance where I used an unnecessarily verbose word (btw I'm sure you could, a few times), then I'm not very interested in entertaining that discussion. But your complaint is heard and I have a completely open mind.


As for Frankie [Ed.: Frank O'Connell, head of 343 Industries], I fear you might have got the wrong message if you read the document. While I'm at it, I will beg that you do read the document. Heck, I was actually going to print off a copy and mail it to you guys, but now I estimate that this will be unnecessary. I have faith in you. I know you're a cool guy. I don't think you're evil, no matter how I portrayed 343. (Which was, by design, a bit exaggerated) I don't think you're there to milk it and get rich; I know you really care. For that reason, please don't dismiss me or my argument. I respond very well to logic and reason; I have put together my thoughts in such a way, and to be met with "the hand" does not go over very well with me - not that that is what you have done or intend to do. Just read it, and most importantly, don't be offended. I had to exercise this to a degree no greater than what I am asking of you when I read through this thread. Hey, maybe 343 ain't so bad after all. I'm all open to that! I can promise everybody here an open mind. Sure, Legends really ticked me off, but you know, Cryptum and Evolutions were excellent. I am most pleased. If that is the direction you guys will go in... I'm all for it. I wish you luck, if that is the case. But you won't be successful in retaining what Bungie has made unless you understand some things, which is why I'd love for you to read and fully comprehend my "mega-rant" because it backs up what many of us think. But at least around here, it looks like I'm speaking mostly for myself.

One last thing. I haven't really even talked about why I wrote this thing in the first place. Here the biggest reason: I became endlessly annoyed by frustrating professions of abandonment and despair. "343 has gone downhill and now Bungie... I'm jumping off the Halo bandwagon before it is too late" "Look at all this crap from 343... and now Bungie has lowered their quality too? I'm outta here" I've observed this many times, and those statements anger me a bit. Those who speak them need to learn that no matter what 343 or Bungie or ANYONE produces, it cannot negatively affect the True Halo Canon - whatever it is. Yeah, I know what you're all going to say to that statement. I've heard 'em all, and I've addressed them all in SC so people hopefully won't say things like that anymore. So, to address the arguments here would be redundant and unnecessarily lengthening a post that I now realize is far too long, over 10% of SC itself. Just please read Summa Canonica, and accuse me then. Of course I'd prefer if you do it in a civil manner, but in the end, I'd rather be right and corrected than wrong and confident. Thanks.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:20 PM on February 1, 2011

« Older RIP Milton Babbitt   |   Overthinking a plate of cannoli? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments