A few questions on the Halo universe and franchise itself…

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How would you compare Halo to other major science fiction franchises?

This is where I’m going to get lynched, I think.

It’s a video game franchise, so I cut it a lot of slack.  Again, the Nylund novels do a wonderful job of presenting the Chief as a character, but frankly, he’s not that interesting.  Then again, neither is Gordon Freeman.  As a whole, the characters aren’t the greatest, but they work together well in a way that holds my attention.  As compared to, say, Prey, where I had to force myself to finish it.  I’m still trying to get through Dark Void.

…frankly, [the Master Chief] is not that interesting. Then again, neither is Gordon Freeman.

Halo has some great world building, though.  Smart dialogue, great world building, and top-notch presentation can make up for characters and cliches, and boy does Halo more than compensate for its flaws.  Solid gameplay, few moments where it feels like something was cut out wholesale, and purely entertaining.

I think that’s what draws me back every time.  It knows how to be entertaining.  From Grunts making jokes to solid gameplay to old traditions, every time that I turn it on, I’m completely entertained.  As compared to some science fiction franchises where I feel that they’re done by people who aren’t good with people so they focus on the tech, I can honestly say it’s like a breath of fresh air.

It’s sad when a tech guy who loves his sci-fi hard thinks that they need to inject more human elements.  Halo does that, in spades.  There’s a ton of personality there, beyond set dressings and action.  Little things that don’t change the game in the slightest, but make all the difference in the world.  My credit to the team!

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What part of this universe do you think is prime for deeper exploration in future stories and/or games?

Humans.

I know that sounds trite, but I like underdogs.  I may be a puny geek what hates all sports but one, but I love sports movies because they’re about the guy who picks himself up.  I also don’t like stories that are depressing for the sake of being depressing.  Or gritty simply to be gritty.  (I’m looking at you, Black Library.  No, not you, Sandy Mitchell.  You keep doing your thing.)

I’d like to know more about the government, the ODSTs, and the Joe Soldier as he faces things that would make Lovecraft wet himself.

I like swells of emotion, both good and bad.  I like to see mistakes made, sometimes stupid ones, because it’s honestly how the character sees the situation.  So long as the audience can understand that, naturally.  I like to see people who are flawed go through the universe.

The Spartans don’t interest me too much currently because of that.  I’d like to know more about the government, the ODSTs, and the Joe Soldier as he faces things that would make Lovecraft wet himself.  (Because, let’s face it, Lovecraft couldn’t have come up with a quarter of the Halo universe.)

I make no qualms about the fact that ODST was my favorite Halo game, and part of that was due to the dynamics.  There was bickering, and camaraderie.  But not in a “I watched Aliens last night” kind of way.  Romeo was a jerk, but it’s fairly easy to see why.  Dutch was religious, but not in an obnoxious way that overly religious people are often portrayed.  Mickey took his happiness in the little things.  And the big things.  Buck pulled them all together, and had a nice little romance plot to boot.

I want more stories like that.  Not necessarily an ensemble like ODST was, but one where you can really appreciate the personalities of the characters, and get to experience their strengths and weaknesses.

And more awesome music.  And more moments where I feel badass just for having gotten to the next checkpoint.  Does that make me sound shallow?

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If the official Halo movie were to arise out of limbo, “development hell”, what sort of story would you love to see told?

More than they can realistically offer?  That’s the best way that I can put it.  I have a lot of faith in the franchise, and can see thousands of stories that could be told.  The We Are ODST short alone is a great piece.  Somebody could make a movie out of that and I’d be a happy man.  Keep it in Hungarian for all I care, I’ll gladly take the subtitles!

The Believe campaign…  That’s another one that I desperately hoped would get expanded.  It’s a mix of everything that I loved about World War Z by Max Brooks in the Halo franchise.  There are moments in those “interviews” that are honestly haunting.  They feel like they were told by real vets.  Give me that.  Give me that and I will give you all my money and any internal organs you want.  You didn’t need action for those to have them be compelling and keep me on the edge of my seat.  “It doesn’t feel right.”  I’ll never forget that line.  Nor the guy explaining the situation he went through in the hushed darkness, echoes of fear creeping in his voice.

Give me this, and I will be a happy man.

But as for the movie itself…  I’m not sure.  I have to put my faith in the filmmaker on that one.  Partially because I want it to surprise me and have me leaving the theater suggesting this to people who aren’t fans.

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How do you feel about 343 Industries’ adopting of the Halo property from Bungie? Do you think they can do the Halo mythology justice?

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought here lately.  I think that they can, in their own way.

They aren’t stupid.  They obviously care about the property.  So they’re going to do what they can.  But I’m also not expecting a Bungie game.  I’m expecting a game set in the universe that Bungie created.  Even if they have former Bungie employees, 343i is a different creature.  It’s unfair to hold them to the same standards.  I don’t think that they’ll do worse than Bungie, but I think that they’ll end up doing things slightly differently.

I want them to be able to prove that they can make a good game simply because they can make a good game. …something that they can call their own.

Let’s be honest, Bungie has wanted to do something else for a long time now.  Now they have the chance.  343i now has to try and make fans who don’t understand this happy.  That’s a problem for them, and one that I hope that they can overcome it.  But I also don’t want them to continually walk in Bungie’s footsteps.  I want them to be able to prove that they can make a good game simply because they can make a good game.  Yes, I want it to feel like a Halo game, but I also want it to be something that they can call their own.

I hope that the other fans can understand that.  Right now, I’m not sure that they can.

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Of the Halo creations you’ve read, watched, or played previously, which one(s) have impacted you the most?

I can’t answer that.  Not with an honest answer.  The best that I can give you is everything.  Everything has an impact, everything has ripples.  I wasn’t fond of Halo 3, but I respected it.  Some of that transferred to my gut reactions to Reach, which I regret.  But every single game, book, story, short or ad that I’ve seen has impacted how I view the franchise.

But every single game, book, story, short or ad that I’ve seen has impacted how I view the franchise.

Two exceptions:  The novel The Flood and the level The Library.  Both were a grind for me, more of a chore than anything.  I don’t blame William Dietz for The Flood, though.  He tried, and how!  I’ll never begrudge him his efforts to turn a game into something readable.  If you pay attention, he paid a lot of attention and care to little things that, despite my difficulty reading the book, still warm my heart.

Meanwhile, The Library is just a grind fest.

…Which, now that I think about it, means that they left quite an impact on me.  Go hypocrisy!

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If you could read one page of the ‘Halo Bible’, which would it be?

287.  And while they’re flipping to that page, I kick them in the shin, steal the book, and run away cackling madly.  Because I know I couldn’t stop at one page.

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Is there anything else you’d like to share that I haven’t asked about?

Just my heartfelt thanks to all those who made this possible, and all those who enjoyed my work.

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Thanks to Dagoonite for taking out time to answer these questions in depth. I’m sure he has much more he’d love to share about his experience than already provided here! If you want to know more, you can find him on Args.bungie.org and the HBO forums.

As an exclusive gift, he offered a segment of dialogue that didn’t make it into his ARG – check it out at the end of this article.

Other related links

Be sure to check back tomorrow for interview #3, with a faithful storyteller! Here’s a teaser:

Halo, to me, is about the Spartans. This is the main element of warfare which differentiates Halo from so many other sci-fi franchises. If we’re focusing on the marines/ODSTs, this is essentially a Starship Troopers story, bystander humans would likely turn this into more of an alien invasion horror genre – the backbone is and must always be the Spartan.

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F484:  [Unused dialogue]

(AUTHORITATIVE TONE) Gentlemen.  Right now, I am to tell you that I am taking operational control over all of you and give you our orders.  (BEAT)

(SOFTER, KINDER) But I’m not.  I’m giving you the option to come with me.  Because I know what you’re thinking.  That I’m going to use you as meat shields.  That I’m going to sacrifice you to get Lord Hood to safety.  (BEAT) I don’t blame you.  Orions get soldiers killed on missions like these.  Everybody knows it.  We do the insane missions that nobody else can, and anybody dragged along for the ride goes down with us to an early grave.  (BEAT) Bullshit.  Am I asking you to go through territory with heavy enemy presence?  Yes.  Am I asking you to risk your lives?  Yes.  I am.

(STERNLY) But I will not ask you to die.  I’m asking you to live.  Lord Hood needs to be carried.  I can’t do that, scout, and ensure his safety at the same time.  I need able people, and if you all have survived this long without dying…  Hell, maybe you deserve to be wearing this armor as much as I do.  Maybe more.  And I need men and women who can help me right now, and I need the best.  I’d like to think that I’m looking at them.  (BEAT) I can’t ask you to die right now, because humanity needs every good soldier, leatherneck, swabbie, and stick jockey that they can get.  I can’t ask you to die because I need you alive if I want a home to go back to.  I need you alive because I can’t do this alone, and if I go throwing you to the grim reaper, it leaves Lord Hood that much more vulnerable.

(SOFTER) My orders are to take him to meet up with a fireteam of Orion IVs.  From there we move to an extraction point.  He gets pulled out, and then we leave.  I need you to help me move him to the fireteam, then assist us in getting him to the extraction point.  (BEAT)

(STERNLY) And then I need you to get the hell off this mudball with him while we Orions move on to the next objective.  Now, I don’t know what you’ll do if you decide to stay here.  Maybe you can help some civilians escape, but that window is closing very fast.  Maybe you can dig a hole deep enough so that you won’t die in the glassing.  I don’t know.  But I do know this.  I am personally promising you that I will do everything that I can to keep you alive so long as you’re with me.  I am personally promising you a place on that bird even if I have to start ripping out equipment with my bare hands to make you a place.  And if that isn’t enough…  (BEAT)

(SOFTLY) Then I don’t know what to tell you.  Because anything else would be a lie, and I am not a liar.  (BEAT)

(AUTHORITATIVE TONE) So those of you coming with us, gear up!  You have five minutes before we move!  I have plenty of split lips that I want to turn into mush before I dust off, and I can’t do that until the old man’s on the bird.

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Other articles in the Halo Tales series:

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