A letter to 343 Industries:
I consider myself a casual Halo fan.
I was introduced to the series with Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001, and have been playing it ever since. That being said, I never got as deep into the lore as other fans did.
I knew people who could tell me all the details of the war between the Precursors and the Forerunners, and the war between the Forerunners and humanity, while they said names like “Mendicant Bias,” “The Domain,” and “Bornstellar-Makes-Eternal-Lasting” as casually as if they were referring to close friends of theirs.
I myself was of the mindset of: Where are the Covenant? Where are the Flood? And how do I kill them?
The reason why I never have gotten as into the Halo lore as others have, is this:
To me, the Halo lore seems over-complicated.
When I heard 343 Guilty Spark’s words to Master Chief in the final level of Halo 3, “You are the child of my makers. Inheritor of all they left behind,” this is what I thought:
The Forerunners, before firing the Halo Rings, took steps to ensure the safety of the human race so that all life in the galaxy wouldn’t be killed.
Humans must be descended from Forerunners. Hence why humans are able to use their technology (for example: fire the Rings), and why that technology (for example: the portal to the Ark) is on Earth.
But then Halo 4 happens, and I learn that neither of these thoughts is the case.
Examples of what I learned in Halo 4: The Forerunners were, in fact, at one point engaged in a war with humanity. The Forerunners were not the most advanced species in the galaxy. Or, at least, hadn’t always been. And the Precursors, not the Forerunners, were the species most deserving of reverence by the Covenant.
And it is at that point that my eyes glaze over.
The reason why is because much of this lore seems superfluous. Like you could cut it out of the canon and still have an epic story.
These are the changes that I would make to the Halo lore:
1) Get rid of the Precursors, and get rid of the war between the Forerunners and ancient humans.
2) The Flood would be inadvertently created by the Forerunners. Seeing that their species was being consumed by the Flood, the Forerunners would prepare to fire the Halo Rings, but not before making sure a species of cave-dwellers on a little blue planet called Earth were safe.
3) The Didact, angry that lives and resources were being spent to protect a primitive species when the Halo Rings were all ready to be fired and end the Flood, and angry that, with the Forerunners gone, a primitive species would now essentially rule the galaxy, starts a war with the Librarian, who is the one who insisted that humans be kept safe so that all life in the galaxy would not be killed. That is where the Didact’s anger for humanity comes from in Halo 4. His mindset is: “My people sacrificed so much for you, human. You will pay for all the lives you cost.”
Regarding Halo 5, these are my thoughts on its story. Specifically, my thoughts on its ending:
I feel like Cortana being evil now does nothing more than drag her good name through the mud.
At the end of Halo 4, Cortana died a hero. In Halo 4, and in the past, Cortana was someone who did her best to protect not only those she served (like Master Chief and Captain Keyes) but all of humanity, too. Cortana was selfless, strong, smart, and witty, but she wasn’t without her flaws, which in Halo 4 and in the books and short stories she did own up to.
Now with Halo 5, my memory of Cortana is tainted: She’s now just another A.I. that has turned evil — like Skynet or HAL 9000
Cortana was the rare A.I. who wanted to protect humans, not kill or enslave them. And now she’s not.
After all Cortana had been through — rampancy, the realization that, no matter what, she’ll never be human, and torture at the hands of the Gravemind — she, after dying in Halo 4, deserved to be remembered fondly by those who knew her: To have the peace in death that she did not have in life. And now that’s no longer possible.
There were many aspects of Halo 5 that I liked, though:
I liked the interpersonal relationship that the Spartans of the two teams had. The Spartans of Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris came across as human beings, not blank canvases that the player fills in themselves like Chief in Halo: Combat Evolved.
All of the characters came across as actual people. Whether it was Lasky trying to keep the Infinity safe, Halsey trying to gain control of a situation that was spiraling out of control, or the Monitor Exuberant Witness helping Locke find Chief, to give a few examples, none of the characters came across as cliche, one-dimensional, or blank slates. Halo 5 has a diverse cast of characters, and they all — hero and villain — have their reasons for doing what they do or feeling how they feel. Bravo, 343.
The audio logs. In addition to the skulls and power weapons, audio logs are hidden throughout the levels. These audio logs give us little snippets of daily life in the Halo universe. The audio logs are an effective way of telling the player, “There is more going on in this universe than the story that you are currently participating in.” I’ll also add in the attention to detail in the environments. The little things — for example: a logo on a gun — make the science fiction world of Halo 5 feel like it could actually exist
Exuberant Witness. I like this character. Cortana will always be my #1 favorite character in the Halo series, but Exuberant Witness is now #2. She’s the kind of character I didn’t know I wanted in a Halo game. 343: More Exuberant Witness, please!
The game mechanics. In terms of graphics, gameplay, music, voice-acting, and sound, Halo 5 delivers. I shouldn’t take these aspects of a game for granted, but the Halo series has excelled in these aspects before, and Halo 5 is no exception.
The set pieces. Halo 5 isn’t short of moments that made me go “Wow.” A sense of wonder has been, for me, one of Halo’s greatest strengths. I’m glad that Halo 5 retains that sense of wonder.
Regarding the future of Halo — where the Halo series goes after Halo 5 — these are the choices that I would make.
The following choices will:
1) Increase profits.
2) Increase employee productivity and morale.
3) Give fans of the Halo series a better sense of community.
Regarding interacting with the Halo community:
Have a weekly Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Halo Waypoint with the employees of 343 Industries, so that Halo fans can:
1) Get insight into how 343 Industries runs.
2) Get insight into who the employees of 343 Industries are as people.
3) Get a sense that they are making a difference to the series that they are a fan of.
Regarding how business is done at 343 Industries:
1) The book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is required reading for all employees.
2) 30 minutes outdoors a day, for all employees, is mandatory.
3) Have a jar where employees can anonymously, on slips of paper, air their grievances against 343 Industries and Microsoft. Every week, the CEO Bonnie Ross will empty out the jar and read the grievances aloud to the assembled employees of 343 Industries.
4) A dummy and a pair of boxing gloves will be placed in an appropriate part of the premises. The reason for this is so that, during times of stress, employees will be able to let off steam.
5) The CEO Bonnie Ross will set aside 30 minutes every day to talk to employees who decide, for whatever reason, to drop by her office. The reason for this is so that employees will gain a better understanding of who the person they work for is, and Bonnie Ross will gain a better understanding of who those who work for her are.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you for reading.
A Halo fan