Chronique:Canon Fodder - Foundations
Happy new year, faithful fiction fans—oh, we’re somehow about half-way through January already? We’d better get moving with some Canon Fodder!
For those of you who need a quick refresher: Issue 122 was the final entry from the fastidious Jeff “GrimBrother One” Easterling before passing the mantle of responsibility for Canon Fodder to me, who you may know as Haruspis.
Before being drawn from the depths of the Domain to take up the pen as part of 343 Industries, I spent many years writing about Halo as a member of the community, becoming known for various literary analyses of Halo 4 and the wider lore of the Halo universe. It’s been quite a journey, and frankly one that still doesn’t quite feel real, but here we are...
The year is 2022. Halo Infinite is out at last, the Banished are here, and there are endless mysteries to dive into concerning the past and present of Zeta Halo—and beyond.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t say you should check out our end-of-year community livestream if you missed it! Grim talks about all things Halo Infinite: Memory Agent (which tells a unique story about the heroism of the Master Chief and the hope he’s brought to humanity from various—and, in some cases, familiar—points of view) , but we all know it’s worth rewatching just for Halo’s very own Santa, James Monosmith, going through our consumer products of 2021 in a truly chaotic fashion.
THE START OF THINGS TO COME
We’ve got a tremendously exciting year ahead of us, not just looking to the growth of Halo Infinite, but to the expanded universe as well.
Shall we take a bit of a peek at what’s coming? Maybe give a hint at a new announcement?
The Art of Halo Infinite
When it comes to video games, the final product is obviously the main thing that players get to explore, but art books can take you on an in-depth journey through the evolving process of visual design, which connects to a key creative pillar for Halo Infinite concerning the iconic legacy of this legendary franchise.
We partnered with Dark Horse to bring you The Art of Halo Infinite, containing 200 pages of straight up, imagination-brewing dee-vine intervention! Within these hallowed pages lies the artistic evolution of the Master Chief and other major characters, the weapons and vehicles, the villains and vistas, alongside commentary from Nicolas “Sparth” Bouvier and other folks from 343 Industries.
With two decades of stories behind us, spanning games, books, comics, graphic novels, live action and animated films, and so much more, the Halo universe is vast in scope and rich in detail.
In celebration of that legacy, our partnership with Dark Horse enabled us to craft a new definitive encyclopedia, offering the most expansive look into the Halo universe yet. Featuring never-before-seen art of characters, ships, worlds, weapons, vehicles, and technologies, there has never been a more comprehensive guide to learning about it all.
Releasing on March 29, you can pre-order the Halo Encyclopedia here, or grab the fancy cylix-covered deluxe edition (which also features an exclusive lithograph) here.
You’ve definitely not heard the last of this momentous monument!
Halo: The Rubicon Protocol
The esteemed Kelly Gay returns! After following Rion Forge’s story from Halo: Smoke and Shadow, through Renegades, to last year’s Point of Light, Kelly has her sights set on Zeta Halo once more, but with a very different cast.
After the UNSC’s defeat at Zeta Halo following the Banished’s strategic ambush, both the Master Chief and UNSC Infinity were lost. Scattered forces made ringfall, only to find it occupied by this brutal, unrelenting faction—led by war chief Escharum himself. Halo Infinite’s audio logs dive into some of the events that took place in the six months that led to the Master Chief's unexpected return, for in that time it was up to the Spartan survivors to protect humanity on this cursed wheel.
Last year, we showed you the absolutely stunning cover created by William “Pixelflare” Cameron., and while you’ll have to wait a bit longer for more details, we can confirm that the characters on the cover are Spartans Horvath, Stone, and Kovan, each of whom had some presence in Halo Infinite’s audio logs.
Halo: The Rubicon Protocol will release June 28, 2022—keep a weather eye out for future issues where we’ll have more to say about this exciting new entry.
This is where your knowledge ends and I get to do the dramatic pause before giving you all a sly look and saying there’s at least one more thing...
We’ll have more details to share later this year, but Troy Denning’s next project is something you won’t want to miss. The premise alone had my jaw drop to the floor when it was described to me. We’ll be returning to a location from one of Troy’s previous books and seeing this story told through some familiar eyes. Let that one cook in your brains for a little bit!
As mentioned earlier, The Art of Halo Infinite is available now! To better articulate the talent and passion that has gone into this art book, here’s an excerpt from Sparth’s foreword:
“Halo is a world of stories and memories that resonate for the millions of players who have passionately lived and felt each moment of the saga. The power of those memories, along with my own healthy dose of fascinating war games and epic storytelling, is something I became obsessed with during the early production of Halo Infinite. The tangible goal was to make sure we would put the best elements of that invaluable nostalgia at the forefront of our visuals, while keeping intact and respecting the new soul of the game we were about to deliver.
A franchise is a balancing act. And the most precarious balance is between the familiar and the new—the past and the future. Applying this thought process to Halo and its lore, we took the time to ask difficult questions and provide the right answers for the next generation game and engine.
As a studio, we offer the player new worlds to explore through visual styles and aesthetics that need to make sense for players expecting complete immersion and instant believability, and deliver within an established timeline. In the execution of that challenge, we mobilize all our efforts into craftsmanship. The hurdles are real, often daunting. And in the process, we also have to balance the ingredients—using too much or too little of any of them can make you lose track of the recipe you set out to follow.
Following the release of Halo 5, we jumped back into a profound analysis of what represents the core visual DNA of Halo even outside of technology or generations: What is Halo’s quintessence and how do we best and most seamlessly preserve and nurture it into our future releases? And this is where we landed.”
As you dive into The Art of Halo Infinite, it is useful to keep in mind that not every piece of concept art is necessarily indicative of something that was cut or is even being saved for later. The process involves a lot of exploration, utilizing our incredible art team to bring certain characters, places, and imagined scenarios to life for our own inspiration.
Indeed, some pieces exist purely to convey things like mood and tone as we go about establishing our creative pillars and getting everybody on-board with the vision of what kind of experience we want to build. Game development covers so many disciplines with hundreds of talented creative folks, these pillars are essential to ensuring everybody is on the same page by creating artwork that evokes our broad goals and intentions.
We wanted to note this because it can be easy to give the wrong idea that, as a player, you “missed out” on a particular thing. What we want to do here is provide a glimpse into the development process, showing some of what goes into the creative ideation of pre-production that ultimately shapes the final product.
Speaking of concepts, one of the great aspects about having so many overlapping projects is the ability to leverage ideas for more than one original purpose. For example, during the development of both Halo Infinite as well as the Halo Encyclopedia, we worked with our concept team on fleshing out some further corners of the UNSC fleet.
As with almost any project, sometimes you don’t quite have the proverbial room to fit everything in that you would like to. But we still wanted to share some initial information on some of the new additions for you here (reminder, “new” doesn’t always necessarily mean “recent” in a fictional sense), so here are a couple of UNSC vessels we weren’t able to squeeze into the Encyclopedia’s already-overflowing pages.
SCHOLTE-CLASS MISSILE CORVETTE
MANUFACTURER: TanSec AB
LENGTH: 846.4 feet (258 meters)
ARMAMENT: 1x M50 Guardhouse autocannon turret; 2x M58 Archer missile pods; 2x M44 Ares missile pods; 4x M870 Rampart point defense guns
A lynchpin of CMA fleets at the height of the Insurrection, the Scholte-class replaced older Osa and Akita vessels. Fitted with a good mix of cannon and missile batteries, backed by a comprehensive sensor system, the Scholte was classified—at the time of introduction—as a state-of-the-art frigate. As larger ships entered service both its classification and stature diminished, but it remained a vessel that could be counted upon to punch far above its tonnage class.
Now known as one of the main ship classes that UNSC Navy recruits operate as part of their training deployments, the Scholte-class has an unenviable reputation as being reliable, heavily-armed, and rarely utilized in any fleet engagements until the final months of the Covenant War due to its slow boost speed and limited slipspace capabilities.
LANCER-CLASS FAST-ATTACK CORVETTE
MANUFACTURER: Kuushan Shipyards
LENGTH: 1,118.8 feet (341 meters)
ARMAMENT: 1x 5D7C2 Magnetic Accelerator Cannon; 6x LNT-450 naval coilguns; 4x M390 Streak-II point defense missile pods
Lancer corvettes were the fastest warships available to the CMA and UNSC at the time of its introduction. Long and sleek, they evoked speed even when docked.
Over-gunned and under-ranged for most Insurrection-era deployments, the Lancer-class found its calling in the months and years following the Covenant assault on Harvest. The primary armament of the Lancer are rapid-fire naval coilguns, which allowed it to harass large Covenant ships from a relatively safe distance, and eliminate smaller vessels before they could get into plasma torpedo range. Its relatively small magazine capacity means that a typical strategy is for Lancer squadrons to "dump rods" early in the engagement and then attempt to disengage to behind the main fleet and replenish their stores.
The class’s limited endurance (both in terms of ship stores and fuel) restricted their use in wartime expeditionary operations, and most were relegated to internal patrol and planetary defense picket duties. Many were even stripped of their slipspace drives, with the extra space used for additional ammunition and crew comforts.
MAPTACULORE, PART 2
In Issue 122, we covered some of the background lore behind many of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer maps, but there were a few more for us to explore. As I understand it, our lore gatherers were blinded by the majesty of these maps and have only just stopped staring at some of their skyboxes—I'm sure you understand!
When the members of the 511th Infantry Division felt the first tremors beneath their feet, they had no idea just how different this mission would turn out to be compared to any they had been through before. Installation 07 began to come apart all around them, as both sky and ground seemed to change all at once. They were part of the UNSC Infinity’s resistance effort, and most were simply lucky to be alive after making ringfall following their harrowing escape from the massive human starship when it was ambushed by Banished forces. Now the survivors have taken to surveying their local fragment and attempting to make contact with any other UNSC personnel that might be within comms range, all while battling Sentinel patrols and trying to steer clear of Banshee talons on increasingly frequent scouting runs.
Arcane energies of untold purposes have coursed through these networked seams for millennia, seemingly unfettered by the passage of time. Zeta Halo is all at once barren yet teeming with life, though some breaths are drawn more freely than others. These installations remain as much monuments of majesty as mystery, with myriad systems and protocols carrying out long-laid purposes beneath the tending of their cold-willed curators. The Forerunners’ masterful engineering endures on this ring, unyielding and undaunted, but its past is not without ample trial and tribulation—nor is its future.
Aquarius Terraforming Solutions is an industry leader in returning life to glassed colonies and transforming marginally habitable worlds. Their largest and most profitable facilities cultivate new food crops, but other divisions provide critical infrastructure and ecological management solutions for a wide range of worlds, often under extraordinary environmental conditions. Prior to the awakening of the Guardians and the devastation of key UEG transportation routes and infrastructure, Aquarius was a prime candidate for consideration in the restoration project for Reach, favored over the Liang-Dortmund Corporation whose approach required territorial and resource concessions that would have proved politically problematic.
Taking a page out of our old playbook, we thought we’d assemble a team of internal lore writers and open the floor up to address a selection of queries from the community! Whoever has a question, please raise your han— oh, a lot of you, okay then!
MintPrince8219: How would someone who's new to the lore get into it?
This is a great question, and one that doesn’t necessarily have a ‘right’ answer, but there are certain common ‘entry points’ many deem to be most accessible.
Halo: The Fall of Reach is a novel that released in 2001, several weeks prior to Halo: Combat Evolved. It was a foundational text that established many of the most enduring concepts in the Halo universe—Dr. Catherine Halsey and the origins of the Spartan-IIs, humanity’s struggle against the Covenant, the titular fall of Reach itself, and the Master Chief’s fateful meeting with Cortana before heading to Alpha Halo.
More recently, in parallel to this, Troy Denning’s Halo: Shadows of Reach returns to the home of the Spartan-IIs with the Master Chief leading Blue Team on a critical mission that could change the tide of the war against the Created. Fighting against Banished forces, who are themselves searching for something on Reach, this book is the perfect lead-in to Halo Infinite without being ‘required reading.’
Of course, with so many Halo stories in so many different mediums, you’re bound to find something that matches your sensibilities. It could be the live-action web-series Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, or the anime anthology Halo Legends, or even our upcoming television series. Maybe you crave the deeper science-fiction elements of Greg Bear’s Forerunner Saga, or you want to see Linda-058 go on her own character journey in Anne Toole’s Halo: Lone Wolf comic series. There’s something out there for everyone.
MendingMercy: What are these [on Escharum]? Cool armor pieces?
343: The brutal but ornate vanes that protrude upwards from Escharum’s chest armor are adorned with the story of the Banished, depicting the rise of Atriox and their defiance of the Covenant. This serves as a reminder of the Banished’s legacy, a story that sets the fire of resilience in the hearts of their allies and inspires fear in their enemies.
CIA391: Here’s a fun one! Who is present on the cover of Halo: Ghosts of Onyx?
343: The cover for Eric Nylund’s fan-favorite Halo: Ghosts of Onyx features Kurt-051, who is ostensibly the book’s main character, clad in Semi-Powered Infiltration (SPI) armor. During a critical moment in the book, Kurt makes an important choice to wear the armor of his fellow Spartan-IIIs as a show of unity and uniformity—thinking of himself as one of them.
Beside him stands Kelly-087, clad in Mjolnir Mark V armor because she was taken out of action by Dr. Halsey during the events of Halo: First Strike, prior to the Spartans’ return to Earth and the beginning of Halo 2 where the Master Chief would receive his upgraded Mjolnir Mark VI suit.
As for the third Spartan? Well, because I’m mean, I’ll let you speculate about whether that’s Fred or Will for a few more years... two out of three is a good answer rate, right? 😉
Tom_Jurassic: I've got a weird one which you may or may not be able to answer: The UNSC Infinity in Halo Infinite is equipped with the same Bumblebee Lifepods we first saw in Halo Combat Evolved. Are these the exact same model, or have the UNSC upgraded them since the Human-Covenant war?
343: The Bumblebee is built to a particularly rigorous set of design parameters to ensure compatibility with legacy and contemporary lifeboat installations for both military and civilian ships. The Bumblebee pods in Halo Infinite are not identical to those we see in Halo: Combat Evolved, though most of the differences are superficial from a visual perspective. New construction techniques, better autopilot, safer boost thrusters, more robust airbreaks, etc. are more systemic design upgrades that you won’t necessarily see visually reflected in the in-game model.
Henrybadger19: Would really love to know the exact rank names of all the enemies in the games!
343: Folks who are interested in this particular topic would definitely do well to keep an eye out for that Encyclopedia we were just talking about. 😉
Here’s one confirmation for you though. Those rad-looking purple Sangheili in the sleek armor? They’re classified canonically as Spec Ops, not Zealots. It’s important to remember that oftentimes enemy or character tags that you might find within game files are development shorthand and not necessarily final.
In fact, how about we dive into the Halo Encyclopedia and pull up a fancy new render of the Spec Ops Sangheili right now?
Natariliz: Who were the lovely designers and builders of the Mulsanne-class frigate?
343: The Mulsanne-class frigate was designed by Bernard Kristensen and Jacques Thomas and manufactured by SinoViet Heavy Machinery. You’ll be able to learn a bit more about this type of vessel in the upcoming and oft-mentioned Halo Encyclopedia.
SamTheFro: The question that’s on everyone’s mind: Any status on that cryo pod floating around in space, that has a man and his 3-legged dog in it?
343: Like Mabel herself, this question must remain on ice for now.
Palterchief: What about Craig? We know he had a tour through Zeta Halo, but he forgot his instrument. Does he have a new one? What inspired him to write grunt!grunt!grunt! and does he plan to make an unplugged concert?
343: Don’t let the deadpan façade fool you, Craig’s as savvy on the stage as he is on the battlefield—perhaps more so. The instrument loadout atop ol’ Chak’s Tower wasn’t the only set of axes in Craig’s stable. When the Chief made his unsettlingly abrupt entrance back into the fray, Craig loaded up what he could in a hastily-packed trailer pulled behind a Banished war-sled. Gathering his manager and trusty Unggoy sound engineer, Riffslap, Craig decided to wait things out and continue his tour in calmer conditions. 'Grunt!grunt!grunt!' is one of Craig’s first forays in the post-flip groove-core genre.
Mr Evil 37: Did Chief's armour keep him alive during the 6 months he was floating in space? Was he hungry when he woke up?
SidSaber: Where is the planet Zeta Halo orbits?
343: As Kelly Gay explored in Halo: Point of Light, the Halo rings were strategically placed in the orbit of ‘anchor planets’ when sent to their final destinations. These were typically gas giants, mitigating the possibility of life arising in the shadow of these infernal wheels, but—as the expression goes—Zeta Halo is different to the others. The nature of that world we saw it orbiting (cataloged as Ephsu I), and the subsequent displacement of Zeta Halo after the UNSC’s crushing defeat following the Banished ambush, is alluded to in audio logs and other sources throughout Halo Infinite’s campaign. Keep an eye out for those stone rings...
And with that, our first Canon Fodder of 2022 comes to an end.
We’ve got an incredible year ahead of us, whether it’s with a controller in your hand or one of our upcoming novels or reference books (or both, if you’re feeling especially ambitious). A new great journey awaits you all and we couldn’t be more excited to have you along for the ride!
Until the next time.