A More Complete Look At The Halo Franchise
Written, Researched, Produced And Published By Halo-Nation member "Synth Samurai"
Always A Stranger, In A Strange Land
Written, Researched, Produced And Published By Halo-Nation member "Synth Samurai"
I was talking to a buddy of mine over coffee a few days ago, he is a fairly well known science fiction author and the subject of Halo came up. Now, I'm a fanatic to the core. If you've seen my previous posts that is abundantly clear. Hell, it's what inspired me to work in the games industry as a consultant for design and narrative. But what my colleague said during our conversation really made me ponder the franchise I love so much, in a very interesting way. My memory is pretty awful, so a somewhat accurate recap of what he said was...
"Halo is very interesting, the franchise is for sure a great one in terms of hard science fiction but it needs more depth in terms of impact and narrative. Especially to delve deeper into it's buried themes."
I consider Halo to be one of the grandest hard science fiction narratives in the medium of entertainment, but after percolating on what my friend said. I came to the conclusion that Halo needs an impacting, hard hitting and emotionally charged title in its history.
I want you, if at all possible, to blank your memory of every single shred of Halo lore save for the Forerunner/Ancient Humanity/Flood bits. Now think back to the novels by Greg Bear, and how charged those novels were page by page. You could see, without the filter of the ESRB the horror and terror of the Flood. More importantly you could really witness that beneath the surface, Halo is not this brightly colored science fiction narrative. It has the same themes that Joe Haldeman penned in Forever War. Halo, under its surface is about the inevitability of war, and that each war is a link to another in a long chain of missteps and ignorance. Ancient Humanity was stripped of everything by the Forerunners, their memory, their way of life and their technology. How fitting then, that The Flood gave no less back to the Forerunners. The endless cycle of war continued.
Now bring back the Halo lore of present, the Master Chief and such. Now recall the scene in the Halo:CEA terminal of Jacob Keys having his memories erased one by one by the Gravemind. Not only taking his body away, but his essence and individuality as well. The Flood are horrifying not because they take entire systems and galaxies but because they take, *everything*. What Halo needs, not only to revitalize its narrative ties, but to also ,truly, once and for all show why exactly The Flood are so horrifically terrifying To underline the themes of war's never ending stretch that Halo has buried under its layers of narrative motifs.
I need you all to have the full power of your imagination activated. Full afterburn.
Emphasize heavy hitting gameplay, brutal weaponry which includes disintegrating hardlight weaponry on the Forerunner side and laser weaponry capable of melting targets or shearing through them on the ancient Human side. Movement is fluid yet hindered, players can use all the stable Halo controls such as jump, melee and grenades. Two weapon carry limit is still in effect. Combat is far more brutal, weapons leave body parts either partially disintegrated or melted. Flood combat is far more terrifying. Flood can "consume" friendly NPCs, turning them against you while they are still conscious. They will beg you to kill them or beg you to help them during. Environments will be equally brutal, outdoor environments will not be pristine landscapes as in previous Halo's, but instead battlefields littered with dead, dying or frantic battles. Indoor Flood environments may have NPCs attached to walls consumed by biomass writhing in pain or screaming.
Players, depending on circumstances, will have a small set of NPCs in their squad to aide them. But these NPCs may become a liability when the Flood is encountered. Flood combat is far more terrifying. Flood can "consume" friendly NPCs, turning them against you while they are still conscious. They will beg you to kill them or beg you to help them during.
Indoor environments use a new mechanic which involves "wanderers." Those in these environments who have not been consumed or fallen wander around in shell shock or disorientation. Players have the choice to eliminate these "wanderers" to preemptively take another potential Flood combatant off the battlefield, or digitize them on the field to spawn Promethean soldiers to aid the player as non-controllable NPCs. The final option is to simply kill them. This mechanic can be used as long as "wanderers" are present but presents the player with a moral choice. Let the Flood consume them, put them out of their misery or consume them yourself with the forerunner method. Each has consequences, leaving a wanderer to be consumed by the flood means that the Flood may become stronger in future areas. Killing them means that less Forerunner units may be present in future areas to aid you and digitizing them may lead to a chance the NPC will turn on the players due to lack of refinement of the digital bridging process as outlined by the Didact. These mechanics can be used against NPCs as well if they are (as outlined above) a liability.
Main narrative theme underlines the hidden themes and concepts of the Halo universe such as the endlessness of war, ignorance, and the cycle of species egotism that they are "reclaimers" to the throne of the galaxy. Player is not a hero but merely a soldier. Difficult choices will force players to view themselves as not a hero, but one cog in the machine of war simply trying to survive. Two sample level scenarios follow...
SAMPLE FIRST TWO LEVELS
343i logo fades in, pure white
Comms chatter in the background, unintelligible
Microsoft Game Studios logo fades in, also pure white...Begins to turn a sickly brown, orange and black. Fades out. Screen fades in, player is an ancient human standing on a rain soaked battlefield littered with mud and dead bodies (think Passchendaele circa WW1) with a massive, sprawling city in the background (Charam Hakkor.) Hardlight beams and red laser weaponry etch across the sky as ships in the distance explode or crash. There is no dialogue, no speech, just the sounds of war. Player's character takes a deep breath and places his helmet on, the HUD lights up, player can now control the character. To the left and right flanks, fellow soldiers begin to rush towards the city.
(Player is tasked with taking back the core city. The first two levels of the game focus on this task, the first taking place in the outskirts wastelands the battle has created and then in the urban sprawl of the city.)
SAMPLE FLOOD LEVEL
Player is walking through a derelict vessel of ancient human origins, left over from the war. Task is to investigate an unknown biological signature aboard the vessel which the first team sent in to investigate did not report back on or return. This is the beginning of the first encounter with The Flood near the outer systems. Squad leader is an NPC denoted as "SL"
SL: "Thermal is...Active on multiple frequencies. Heat signatures detected in through the next bulkhead. Break the seal, lets get in there."
Player uses his Ancilla to scan the bulkhead and retrieve the access codes. As a hiss of air laves the door, small yellow particles begin to drift out.
Forerunner Promethean: "Sir, reading biological particles. Made of an unknown substance, seems to be powder or some form of dust."
SL: "Move in, lets see what we can find."
Players and NPCs move into the airlock, room is only lit by small blue lights on the ceiling.
SL:: "Switch to digital UV."
Players is prompted to activate a Forerunner ability, Digital UV. Allows players to see in dark areas, through walls and peer into other rooms via a digital scanner. Player navigates their view down the ships corridor, as player navigates their vision further screams, moaning and whaling begins to grow louder. Player navigates view into a room with a massive Flood biomass with the previous team in thrall. Previous team have been consumed, some arms, legs and a head is visible without armor or a helmet writhing in agony. Player's character backs out of digital UV and begins gasping for air.
SL: "What is it? What did...
Squad leader is interrupted by the familiar Flood scream. A red beam of energy from a Human weapon streaks across the darkness and glances the squad leaders face (Flood have also consumed ancient humans and have access to their weaponry), half of the face melts away onto the floor as the rest of the squad begins to be hit and infected by infection forms, screaming and transforming. Consumed NPC squad begins to walk towards the player, begging for help. Players must either shoot their former squad or run to their boarding craft to escape. Shooting the squad mates has no impact on the mission, but is more a choice of morality. END SAMPLE
The idea here is that you are witnessing all paths, all views of the Halo verse and the inevitability of endless war. First through the fall of ancient humanity, then the Forerunners struggle against The Flood. Ideally, the last mission of the game will take place in the modern day Halo universe in some fashion to tie the over arching narrative themes into a full circle. My idea for the ending mission would involve Master Chief somehow, as is my view he is the only one throughout the Halo timeline who has a chance to break the cycle of endless conflict so the game would end on a somewhat hopeful note with players taking control of the Chief in some fashion.
Note that these concept are (in my mind) in an early phase and it is a long shot that 343i will ever 1) implement them 2) Hire me to help implement them or 3) Even see this post. Hell, Halo Nation may hate the idea of a more mature, visceral narrative experience for Halo. And I mean narrative, this theoretical game would have no multiplayer, but would have co-op in some form.
I hope you guys got something out of this jumble of thoughts, ideas and concepts from a very dedicated Halo fan.
A Halo fan since the beginning, 2001. Also a games industry consultant, writer, and educator. These are my thoughts, praise and advice concerning the past, present and future narrative of the Halo franchise.
Halo, all assets within, characters and merchandise are property of the Microsoft Corporation and is developed by its subsidiary 343 Industries.
I do not own, claim to own or retain any rights to the Halo franchise. This is a fan based work, and is strictly non-profit.
All other images, articles linked, materials and franchises that are not strictly specified as my own are property of their respective owners.