10 September 2016

FWS Topics: What the Hell Happened to the HALO Franchise?!

Five billion dollars. That is the hard classification of the collective power of the HALO franchise in terms of sales and effect. From 2001-2015, this little military science fiction shooter about a cyborg, his AI friend, ring space stations, ancient alien technology, and a band of religious zealot aliens has generated five billion dollars in sales; becoming of the one of the most iconic gaming franchises in history and an ambassador for the entire military sci-fi genre. It spawned toys, action figures, knock-off Lego sets, books, and comics, along with rumors of a major motion picture in the works. It was a titan and proof positive of how successful video games could become. Given the heights of the HALO universe around the time of 2010's HALO: Reach, it looked like the party would never end...but then 343 Industries took over the mantle of HALO. Like all gods, empires, and heroes, it seems that it is HALO's time to fall. Today, with fans extremely upset by the recent 2015 release of HALO 5: Guardians and sales down, the question is raised: just what the hell happened to our HALO?

What Used to be: The HALO Legacy
Before we sit on the ground and tell sad stories about dead A.I., hero SPARTANs and franchises; we must look back at why we fans of the HALO series are so angry and broken up about HALO 5: Guardians. At one time, anything with the HALO brand got my money and Bungie could make it rain....but that was back in 2010. With the launch of the Microsoft commanded 343 Industries and their stewardship of the hallowed HALO name, nostalgia has hit the ranks of HALO fandom hard, as they remember fondly back when the launch of the latest game was a mass media event. HALO  was much more than an Call of Duty in space, it was a solid military science fiction story combined well-worn story elements that Bungie somehow made fresh and compelling.
So compelling was those core games, time-and-time again, we came back to play the original games,to enjoy the experience and seeking shelter from the hardships of life as our favorite SPARTAN warrior. It was not just the games, HALO books were also solid military science fiction stories that could stand on their own as independent novels. Adding to overall experience of HALO at its apex, there was also the HALO house LAN parties, where you brought your own Mountain Dew, Red Bull, and hardware to slaughter your friends and teabag their digital dead bodies. Those where the days.

The Current Status of the HALO Universe
Every year, the American President stands before a joint session of Congress to inform them and us on the State of Our Union. Well, what is the State of HALO? Battered, fragile and losing ground to other shooter franchises including Bungie's new girlfriend: Destiny. Traffic is down in the lobbies, the Master Chief Edition launch was botched hard, the comics and books are not selling to previous levels, HALO 5: Guardians is widely panned and hated by the community, and the once meteoric sales decline reflect the mood of the gaming community towards the new 343 vision of HALO. To solve some of these issues. 343 continues to deliver new updates and content promised in the original release date. In addition to the stats on HALO 5: Guardians, there is the reduced popularity of the recent books, comics, and toys. So much so, that MacFarlane's HALO 5 figures were met with lower than expected sales (I have two), causing cancellations of further development (I wanted a Vale figure!) and the toyline was shifted to Mattel. HALO as a whole is hanging in the balance as HALO 6: We're Sorry! and HALO Wars 2 being the next critical stage for the continued survival of the once hallowed franchise. Personally, I take no pleasure in this task. I love HALO and one of the reasons I write in the genre of Military Science Fiction is due to HALO...and Future War Stories owns some of its existence to HALO. So, here are the core 10 reasons why HALO is in the state it is in. 

First Blow: No HALO Movie or TV Show
Back in 2004, there was much buzz surrounding a HALO major motion picture. Expectations were high for the HALO film to be the best and natural videogame-to-film adaptation that could be a great film in its own rights. Then there was delay after delay as HALO crested in popularity and then trended down. Now, in 2016, the film adaptation of HALO is DOA and that has hurt the overall franchise. If anlive-action HALO film had been released around 2005, it could added another layer to the HALO media empire, as well as another product to continue the longevity of the overall brand, creating new fans via another introductory product than just the games. HALO films could have built another creation stream and outlet for products that may not be associated with the video games...think Harry Potter. All of these points can also be applied if there had been an HALO television show that went beyond the two limited series.

Second Blow: Microsoft Wanting More and Breaking the Natural Cycle of HALO
In the summer of 2000, the profitable marriage between Bungie and Microsoft began, keeping Bungie new flagship title, HALO, away from Apple. It had always been an marriage of convenience and business, but Bungie had never liked it and Bungie was eyeballing a way out, despite the massive success of the franchise. Bungie was running out of money back in 2000, and it risked the very future of the promising HALO game. Microsoft wanted HALO as a launch title for it new home console system, and it paid for the entire Bungie kingdom to get it. In 2007, Bungie announced that it was leaving Microsoft as well as HALO, spinning of HALO to 343 Industries. The reason behind the split was the cultural difference between the studio and the computer company, as well as farming out the HALO name to whomever it wanted. This was seen in the non-Bungie development of HALO Wars. Also, Bungie wanted to be more than just the endless creator of new cash-cow HALO titles...it had new stories to tell outside of the HALO military science fiction universe, namely Destiny. Bungie liberated itself from Microsoft and HALO to explore new worlds and new sources of cash. Some believe that one of the major reasons for the divorce was that Microsoft wanted more beyond HALO 3 and HALO: Reach.
It was speculated that Bungie itself had developed somewhat of an idea for another trilogy of games featured everyone's favorite SPARTAN-II around the time of the media firm Starlight Runner being hired by Microsoft to write the HALO bible. Starlight Runner began to help probe future opportunities for 343 Industries across all media. However, there was critical element...the events of HALO 3 and HALO: Reach left us feeling rather complete, and another trilogy would feel forced for the sake of cash. After all, the Master Chief had embodied the Arthurian hero archetype at the very end of HALO 3 with the husk of The Forward onto Dawn falling towards the planet. To some fans, the entire concept of the new trilogy was a naked, greedy cash grab that was an hollow attempt by Microsoft to the keep cashcow alive and we fans could see through that. This was not applied to the twin Anniversary releases though.

Third Blow: HALO 4
Many of us die-hard fans of HALO entered into HALO 4 with high hopes mixed with icy fear that our beloved franchise would be ruined by the relativity 343 Industries in its effort to extend the adventures of Master Chief and Cortana pass the Arthurian ending of HALO 3. The familiarity of the Human/Covenant War was replaced by an oddball Forerunner world called "Requiem", new history concerning the origin of mankind, and new enemies called Prometheans that looked like TRON rejected concept art.
At the close of the campaign, we fans wept the "death" of Cortana, wore heavy hearts at the pain of our hero, and wondered at the story of the next two games. This was the high point for the new trilogy for many of us fans and it added a layer of humanity to the seemingly stoic warriors in the armor of the SPARTAN programs. The introduce to HALO 4 is hands down a great opening that set a bar that the rest of the game could not rise to. While HALO 4 is not as bad as HALO 5, it is somewhat of a serious departure from the core experience of the original trilogy. Gone are the complex enemy of the Covenant that generated a rich story rather than "shoot the aliens" of most generic  space shooters. In the place of the Covenant is the "Storm Covenant"(?) and these ancient digitized humans cyborgs called Prometheans that do not possess a military organization that we understand nor relate to in the same way as the UNSC and the Covenant.
Then there is the previously unknown ancient advanced  human empire that fought against the Flood and the Forerunners, lost, and was punished by being dumbed down technologically and then some were converted into Promethean Knights for the Flood War manpower needs. This also added layers to the Forerunner history, creating the half-baked idea of the "mantle of responsibility" (sounds like something my wife would come up with). While I like some elements of the ancient human history, it was unneeded in the game itself and it felt forced and wrong to inject these ancient factions into the 26th century. Unlike the easily accessible "advanced alien conquerors" stroyline that formed the basic architecture of the original HALO games and stories, this new storyline was muddled. It also cheapened the Forerunners and their titanic war against the Flood. If ancient humans had to be in the storyline, could it not have been done in an more organic manner? While it was a beautiful game with some great mechanics, its story, so central to the enjoyment of HALO games past, was flawed and ill-explained. For the first time in HALO's history, there was talk of the entire HALO franchise being in serious trouble and there was no clear direction in terms of story. What would become of our beloved armored super-soldier hero?    


Fourth Blow: SPARTAN OPS
I'll admit it, I liked some of what 343 was trying to do with SPARTAN OPS. I thought it was innovative to showcase the badass mothership/carrier that was the UNSC Infinity and her SPARTAN-IV super-soldiers on a mission to the shield-world of Requiem and no sign of Master Chief. While the game, maps, and Commander Palmer were repetitive as shit, it did feature an amazing story and solid cut-scenes. However, overall it there was too much in the way of lackluster situations for the player(s), generating a flat mood instead of excitement, and it did not help that SPARTAN OPS mined the setting of HALO 4, instead of offering us more of a window in the shadowy world of future unconventional warfare.
My main admiration was focused on the story, which I felt was a stronger narrative than HALO 4's and could have been a shining moment for the wider HALO franchise....could have been being the object term. Overall, the game failed to keep players excited and engaged in HALO 4, and while the story was met with positive response, the overall game traffic slumped beyond the figures for people still playing HALO: Reach! This was seen as a blackeye to the new identity of 343's HALO and the sequel to SPARTAN OPS was cancelled by 343 during HALO 5's development. 

Fifth Blow: The Advertising Campaign for  HALO 5: Guardians
For months prior to the October release of the fifth Master Chief game on an Microsoft console, there three major marketing ventures: Hunt the Truth podcast, the two live-action trailers, and the E3 2013 trailer. In March of 2015, the Hunt the Truth podcast was an excellent audio drama story premiered telling from the perspective of reporter/journalist Benjamin Giraud hired by the ONI to do a story on the hero of the war, John-117, but the truth was a lie and Ben dug until he exposed too much and ONI took him after the hack of a live broadcast. The story was damned interesting and it focused on the struggle between the UNSC and the outer colonies with showing us the aftermath of the war. The podcast audio drama was effective. well-written, and let us glimpse into the rogue Master Chief storyline being hinted by the advertising campaign. I rather enjoyed them and I could not wait to see how this would populate into the game itself...but, it didn't.
The same holds true for the live-action twin trailers that show either an Agent Locke or Master Chief finding their prey on the ground, wounded and awaiting judgement from the pistol of their enemy. This only increased the aspect that the game would be centered around the hunting down of a rogue chief searching for Cortana by Agent Locke, with the apex being a SPARTAN-II vs. SPARTAN-IV fight! It seemed that this would be the critical moment of the game...who would be on the ground and what would happen next?
Once again, that never happens in the game itself. We felt lied to...heavily. This betrayal was even more reinforced by the new opening to the Anniversary edition of HALO 2. None of this appears in the game, and the original teaser for HALO 5 showing an cloaked Master Chief walking into an alien desert as an massive Forerunner war machine rises from the sands. Yeah...did not happen either. When the game was released, the story we were promised did not materialize and we fans felt honestly lied to by 343 and out $70.

Sixth Blow: HALO 5: Guardians
Let us be upfront and frank: HALO 5: Guardians is a shitty uneven expensive mess that never lived up to the hype, nor the advertising campaign, and was besieged with one of the worst campaign stories in the entire HALO franchise. Centrally, the 5th game broke the trust of the fans and was like the iceberg-to-the Titanic to the entire HALO franchise.Where to begin with this mess? As we all know, the story is just weak from every angle, especially if you consider the stilted, seemingly incomplete dialog and character interactions. Adding to the difficulty to the game to communicate its story is that the lack of explanation to key events, forcing players to read supplementary material, like the tie-in books, to simply understand the whole story of the game they paid $60+ for. Exhausting.
At key moments in the game, as when Locke and the Chief square off in fisticuffs, it is via a non-interactive cutscene...destroying that almost interesting encounter. I almost treated it as a "fucking of course they did that" explanation to myself at that point along when I encountered Eternal Warrant for the 3rd damn time or when I was knocked down and waiting on a NPC to heal me. After awhile of playing this "game", I was just bored and tired of the hiccups of the story by the end of the campaign, which was mercifully soon. As the credits rolled, I was numb to the whole experience. I tossed that disc out, inserted Destiny and up until the writing of this article, I had not played HALO 5 again. One of the worst things about HALO 5 is that it is forgettable unlike its predecessors. I had to replay the game to write this because I had forgot pieces of information about the plot and that has never happened before to me with any other HALO game. That is the single worst thing about it, I felt like it wasted my time, and that is previously something I could never say that about HALO.
Adding to the disgust I felt for Guardians is that information has leaked out that the original concept of HALO 5 by the Youtube channel LateNightGaming and it seems that parts were closer to portions of Destiny, and it was believed that HALO 5 was not going to a direct sequel to HALO 4. It is likely that it was going to be titled HALO: Guardians or HALO: Manhunt. If that was indeed the truth...what would the fifth mainstream HALO game been like? Originally, the 5th game would be centered around characters from SPARTAN OPS, including Thorn, Palmer, and the rest of the Fireteam. However, the cold reception of SPARTAN OPS by the gaming public meant that the concept of using characters from the failed game was out. This gave birth to SPARTAN-IV Locke and the rest of Fireteam OSIRIS. Much like the social spaces in Destiny, portions of UNSC Infinity would be accessible to the Fireteam, and you could chose three planets to hunt the evidence of why the Master Chief is missing, interact with NPCs, and there would be space for expansion and exploration.
During the evidence gathering missions, you would scans important areas and piece together the clues leading to John-117, unlocking the end levels of the game. You could play this according to your style and interest, allowing for a flexibility/dynamic experience. None of this made it to the final game. Along with this complete change of gaming dynamics, there was several major rewrites that were never buffed out and collected into a single narrative prior to game development. That is why the game's story seems uneven and lumpy because it was never altered due to the rewriting and changes. In the end, what does all of the money, time, talent, and drama invested by 343 into Guardians equal out to? A pitiful campaign that lasts a few hours and inspired deep feelings by the fans of being ripped off  to the tune of sixty-five bucks and the trust in 343 and HALO in general, being shattered and eroded. It some ways, HALO has we knew it was taken from us forever along with that sense of trust.

Seventh Blow: DESTINY
The relationship between Bungie and 343 is closer in proximity  to a husband having a midlife crisis, divorcing his wife of many years and marrying a younger and different (hotter) woman and tooling around with her in his new red sportscar. While Bungie's new relationship is going well, 343 is not so lucky. Nothing is working and their mutual friends have chosen Bungie over 343. To put it plainly, Destiny is cutting into the new HALO trilogy popularity, action, and its market share. I own both HALO 5 and Destiny, and I ran through the campaign of Guardians in about two weeks when I got the Xbox One for Xmas 2015. Then I started on Destiny in January of 2016, and I am still playing it. Still. That is the longest I've very played a video game continuously in my entire life. That says something about the attraction of Bungie's new girlfriend and it longevity that eclipse's 343 Industries' current HALO offering. While HALO 5 is dwelling in popularity due to being more stagnate and stale, Destiny continues to be more compelling, innovated, and being more current due to expansion packs and questing. While Destiny is not perfect, it is still better than HALO 5 and most gamers I spoke to, agree with that assessment. If someone like me that had a burning love for HALO invests more time, thought, and energy into playing a rival to HALO 5: Guardians, then tells you that 343 has firmly and deeply, fucked the pooch with HALO 5.

Eighth Blow: The "Twisted" Cortana from HALO 5: Guardians
Throughout the fourteen years of HALO's evolution, there have been two central core characters that have serviced as the Ying and the Yang of the player's experience: the Master Chief and Cortana. Both are aliens to the normal human society at large, are "property" of the UNSC, and they related on each other like family. To the Chief, Cortana is many things: sister, mother, fellow soldier, friend, and adviser. She guides us, the players, throughout the games and events, and she has become one of the faces and icons of the entire franchise of HALO.
While this female A.I. construct based on Dr. Catherine Halsey has evolved in appearance over the course of the core games (HALO 4 is my favorite look for her), however, she has remained a pillar of strenght to the Chief and the UNSC. By the time the Chief emerges from his cryopod onboard the damaged Forward onto Dawn, Cortana is in a bad state. A.I. constructs have a limited lifespan until there is a mental breakdown that leads to a pantheon of mental health issues and illness that you could look up in the DSM: IV.
Throughout the stress and hell of the events of HALO 4, her condition deteriorates resulting in manic episodes and confusion. At the apex of the game, the Chief is confronted by the superior Didact as the Composer spins up. In her final act as Chief's friend and protector, she sacrifices herself to save him and help him destroy the Composer. With the last of her presence, she says goodbye to John and disappears. Not a dry eye in the house. Her "death" as gone down as one of the most shocking and iconic deaths of a core video game character, ranking up there with the death of Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. With her gone, the pillar of John's world was shattered and so did he. In the final moments of HALO 4, the Master Chief stares out a window towards Earth, a place that is not his home, and he is truly alone, a shell of the warrior we once knew. We fans of HALO wondered where our heroes were going from here and who they would be in the next game. Boy, did we find out.
Originally, Cortana was indeed to be gone, on orders from the masters of 343, Microsoft. They wanted use the name "Cortana" for their personal assistant for Windows 10. In order to separate the HALO Cortana from Windows 10 Cortana, one of them had to die. It was the fans that wanted her back, and Microsoft bend their knee to the voices and granted permission to 343 to resurrect our Cortana. I wonder what the original story of HALO 5 would have been if her death stood instead of being redacted. But, our blue electric lady was indeed resurrected, and that rise from the dead altered the story for HALO 5. However, Cortana was not who we remember. Instead, 343 twisted this legendary character darker using two tired tropes of fiction: robot revolt and hero-turned-traitor.
No longer a loyal UNSC A.I. construct, Cortana was now advocating that the entire A.I. "race" was the true inheritors of the Forerunners' Mantle, not the ugly meatbags of humanity. She has gone from one of the heroes to the primary enemy of the latest game. In essence, Microsoft and 343 grossly mishandled the Cortana character in HALO 5 to the degree that she became an "Skynet Benedict Arnold" that seeks to control the galaxy and assume the mantle of responsibility from the Forerunners. If and when you are going to take a core character of the franchise and play the traitor card, there has to be a foundation to it, hell, just a hint. In that regard, there was no indication of Cortana's betrayal sown into the Cortana of the core games. None. This is just another betrayal to the core fan base inflicted by 343 and Microsoft, that breaks the trust we gamers have entrusted to these companies and this character.

Ninth Blow: The Botched Master Chief Collection

HALO is one of the rare video game franchises that has been preserved from console generation to generation via updates and re-releases from the publisher and developer. There was even a Day One backwards patch for your Xbox 360 to play HALO:CE and HALO 2. There was even two anniversary graphic updates to keep the original two games flying. That says a great deal about the popularity of the series...and yet that tradition was twisted and mishandled by 343 with the Xbox One Master Chief Collection. In one single disc, there was the core four games that starred John-117, along with tons of content and abilities to jump around the four games...like playing all the levels with a tank or Warthog.
The icing on the SPARTAN cake was the anniversary edition of HALO 2. However, when released, the matchmaking was broken in crippling ways. leading to apology statements, patches, an lame "Stick With It" reward, and an apology gift of an remastered HALO 3: ODST. The joy and promise of everything we loved about HALO on one disc was greeted with massive Day One bugs, glitches, and oddly missing content coupled with a 20 gigabit middle finger patch. Some sites claim that even 100 days after the botched launch, 343 is still patching issues. This is just another nail in the coffin of fans' collective trust of the HALO name and to a larger extend, 343 Industries.  

Tenth Blow: What is and What Should Never Be: the New Trilogy
Constructing a story around central issue or problem with all other story elements, characters, and events supporting that central problem is storytelling 101. The original core HALO games did this and did it well; with the Covenant War and preventing the spread of the Flood and stopping the rings from lighting. But somehow 343 has not obeyed this central story tool...but the problem is larger than just that. It is the entire new trilogy. It is something that just should not be. The very plot violates the Arthurian symbolism of the end of HALO 3 and completely feels forced and inorganic to the original trilogy. I believe that is one of the essential and central problems with the HALO franchise and why the entire franchise in is a downward spiral.
Some games can survive a lackluster or broken story...hell, Call of Duty has been doing that for years, but HALO, Mass Effect, and Half-Life cannot. These HALO games were more than just pitched multiplayer battles and teabagging. The Chief, Cortana, and the entire universe of HALO are things we fans care deeply about, and this new trilogy cannot carry that heavy load with a cracked foundation. There is also something else that is hidden behind the anger, defense, and mockery of the new HALO trilogy...the sad fact that a professional game company with DNA gifted from Bungie did this and they worked hard to construct this two game tsunami of disappointment. As the title of this section capsulizes, 343's planned trilogy is something that should not exist, but it does, to the horror of longtime fans.

Adding All of the Sins Up Together...
Bottom line, how did these blows add up to the current sad state of the HALO franchise? Simply put, it broke the trust that fans invested into the series, the characters, the setting, and the online community. For older fans like me, HALO came out when we were adults and it means something different than younger fans that embraced the Chief in the same vein as gamers of my generation embraced Mario, Pac-Man, Lara Croft, and Sonic. And that level of trust in video games is an symbolized by an investment in time and money.
We fans invested our hard earned money in games and merchandising along with time forging a bond of love and respect. To some of us HALO became part of our lives helping us explore and connect. We made friends and met lovers because of the game. Some of us found a voice to write and create. When someone breaks that trust with sub-par games and lackluster stories, that hurts us and hurts the longevity of the entire franchise. So, what the hell happened to the HALO franchise? It hurt us, betrayed our trust, and it continued on hurting us, causing some of the HALO community to turn away towards other games and/or mistrust any future release of HALO from 343 Industries. As the immortal Sylvia Plath once said: "Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through".   

How New Coke is Connected to the New HALO Trilogy

Some might say, and some have, that why does the failure of HALO 5: Guardians matter to the entire franchise of HALO? I believe that the failure of the new trilogy, especially HALO 5: Guardians, is the canary in a coal mine of the wider HALO franchise. In every company, there is an iconic product that is both the measure of the entire company as well as the symbol or ambassador of the entire company to the consumer public. This what the 911 is to Porsche, Mario is to Nintendo, what Coca-Cola Classic is to Coke, what the Mustang is to Ford, and the 501 Jeans are to the Levi's...and this is what the HALO games are to the entire franchise. While the HALO franchise is much more than just games, they are the iconic, highest selling product that drives the rest of that military SF empire.
This is akin to Coca-Cola when they reformulated their foundational, bedrock product: Classic Coca-Cola to be sweeter to counter rival Pepsi Cola. In some ways, Coke adjusting themselves to the increased popularity of Pepsi, is how 343 adjusted HALO to meet the popularity of Call of Duty. Much like HALO 4 and HALO 5: Guardians, the advertising arm of the soft drink empire bombardment 1980's media with the virtues of this "New Coke". 343 and Coca-Cola believed that their new product would embark their companies on a new age of success, breaking with the old. Within a few months and unbelievable backlash, Coca-Cola was faced with one hard truth...they seriously screwed up. The old formula was resurrected and this is when the iconic red cans of Coca-Cola got the moniker of "Classic". New Coke was not pulled off of shelves, but rechristened "Coke II" and sold until 1992 in the American market. This is a story that 343 needs to pay attention to. Is the new HALO trilogy by 343, instead of Bungie, going to be the "New Coke" of HALO? Could they be killing the Chief in the same way Coca-Cola killed the original cola? Time will tell.

Can HALO be Saved? Two Examples of Icons from the Past
Like it or not, the stories, events, and issues of HALO 4 and 5 are part of the official HALO canon and lore. For better or worse, the next game is going to have to be built upon this shaky foundation because video games cannot retcon the last two games without a massive expense and embarrassment. Does this mean that HALO is beyond saving? Maybe...but, 343 Industries has to make the right move to be more like the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot or else HALO will be relegated to the ash pile of forgotten video game mascots and failed franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog. Yes, it can happen to HALO. So, let us examine the dangerous path HALO must take by reviewing the similar crossroads of the reboots of two iconic franchises: Sonic and Tomb Raider. 
During the Japanese video game invasion of America starting in 1985 with the NES coming to our shores, SEGA was always in the shadows. Its "Master System" could not compete with the power or popularity of the NES, but SEGA Corporation was hopeful that its 16 bit system, the Genesis, would propel it beyond the reach of Nintendo. However, the hardware lacked a face to rival Mario. It was deemed that Mario had helped spread the popularity and sales of the NES. While Nintendo had several iconic characters on their proprietary games, SEGA did not, despite trying to market Alex Kidd, and the hunt was for their iconic mascot. That would arrive with a blue over-caffeinated hedgehog in 1991. Throughout the 1990's, Sonic was a mascot for a generation of gamers, the symbol of SEGA, and was a firm hit for the company, allowing for his wide acceptance in society. SEGA transfer Sonic to the next console: the Saturn. Few games were released and they were received with mixed results. Then came the Dreamcast, the final venture into making SEGA dominant over Sony and Nintendo.
Here is where Sonic made his final stand with SEGA hardware in all of his new 3D glory, and it was a bitter defeat for the 1990's icon when the Dreamcast died in 2001 taking the entire SEGA hardware side of the business with him. On the contrary, Mario was able to transfer 3D platforming which much success and this was a kick to balls for the fans of Sonic. From 2001 onward, the blue hedgehog was on various other hardware and attempting to stay relevant. To do this, Sonic was pushed and pulled into several massive changes, including have a human girlfriend, having weapons, and being placed into a medieval setting. The mere thought of Sonic having a human girlfriend is nightmare vomit fuel and seems more like a very dark fan-fiction that would make for a disturbing CSI episode. But no, this was a real game released in 2006 to the horror and confusion of all of us. These games were not greeted kindly by the gaming press or the gaming community. This spelled the bloody and dirty end of the experiments in re-branding Sonic. Even today, there are attempts to reintroduce the blue Hedgehog.
If Sonic is a prime example of the failure to save an iconic character, what is an example of an success story with the saving an icon of video games? Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider franchise. For many of us gamers, Lara Croft was a storm in heaven and one of the best fictional Archaeologists since Dr. Jones. Her games were a cultural touchstone of the 1990's gaming and pop culture scene. I personally had an Lara Croft action figure on my desk and I played these games for a time. Much like Sonic, our British Bombshell Tomb Raider was running a little thin on popularity and sales by the time she was imported to the next generation of gaming consoles. Then Angel of Darkness hit on 2003 and it hit hard on its face, sealing the fate of our beloved heroine by poor reviews. The backlash by fans was bloody, and Eidos Interactive suffered as a whole, causing the cancellation of an proposed trilogy and later a sale to Square Enix.
From 2003 to 2006, the character was on life support and there were attempts to bring Lara Croft back to her core experience and gameplay with several releases...but none recaptured the magic or the profit. It looked like she was done for by 2010, like Sonic in 2006. In 2013, Lara Croft was given her date with destiny to be resurrected. And it worked brilliantly. Tomb Raider of 2013 was greeted with critical praise, strong sales, and Lara Croft was the on the cultural radar again with a solid game. The integrity of Lara's return was tested with the 2015 sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and once again, it was a success.
It seems she is back and better than ever. These are two examples that 343 has to examine and learn from or else the world of HALO is going to fade and it will not be painless or pretty. We fans will have to watch, like Sonic fans, the good name of our franchise will be dragged through more shitty half-baked games that cannot hold the mantle of the original releases. It will not be a clean, good death for our beloved Chief. It will be dishonor and we cannot have that. 343 has to follow the model of Tomb Raider 2013 and give us a great, mind-blowing game in HALO 6...or else.

What Would I Have Done with HALO 5: Guardians?
It is okay to bitch about something, but then the question becomes: what would you have done? 
If HALO 4 had to exist along with SPARTAN OPS, I would taken the concept of the elite SPARTAN-IV Team OSIRIS and designed a game or DLC to HALO 4 via the HALO 3: ODST Model. So, between HALO 4 and HALO 5, we would have had gotten HALO 4: OSIRIS, HALO 4: Manhunter, or HALO 4: Hunters of Legends.You would have played as Sgt. Buck, a newly minted SPARTAN-IV, and then jumped into the role of Locke at some points and some members of BLUE Team in the later portions of the game. Here the UNSC Infinity is tasked on covert support black ops during the Elite Civil War. 
The UNSC, on the down low, is supporting the Swords of Sanghelios of the conflict. You do assassinate the leader of the Storm Covenant and a Promethean construct (like DESTINY's War Minds) helping the SoS and robbing the Storm Covenant of a source of manpower and support. This would have been a covert direction action operations with both BLUE and OSIRIS team conducting this war until the Chief, on a black ops assignment of his own, goes missing He is tasked with something secret and this is attempted to rehab the Chief after his recent trauma. 
There would have a cutscene with an psychiatrist explaining the mental health of the Chief. Towards the end of HALO 4: Hunters of Legends, OSIRIS and BLUE are tasked with CSAR on the Chief via a few missions and intel would have been gathered. This natural leads into HALO 5 and how the Chief is used by the losing Promethean forces in a false promise of saving Cortana. The end of HALO 4: Hunters of Legends, Sarah Palmer (who would be playable in one special section of the HALO 4: HoL game) and Captain Lasky would have briefed both teams on what the gathered intel on the Chief points to ... the Chief is being missing and suspended of being used by Prometheans. This would have been a game its own right and served as a stop gap to allow time to prefect the story and mechanics of HALO 5 and HALO 6.

Nicholas Mew's Semi-Coherent Thoughts on HALO
When I read that post asking, “What Will The Next Military Sci-fi Franchise Be?” I saw that you considered HALO to be in decline. I, of course, replied and posed the following questions in that shoddily written comment response of mine: From my observations up to that point it appears that people have been saying that HALO has been in decline or been ruined before or after HALO 4 or 5 came out. The internet is awash with flame wars between the splintered factions of the HALO community. Spend enough time with anything HALO related on the internet and you will find those arguments. (Although the little discussion I had with Zues67 in that post was actually nuanced and productive for all involved.) But I will answer my some of my own questions that I posed and in doing so explain my thoughts on HALO.

How did you feel about Halo when you first came across it and became a fan?
Like I said in my comment, my obsession with HALO for me in the 5th grade. It burned brightly until about the 8th grade and in that time I read the books and played the games. (Except HALO Wars and HALO 2, HALO: Reach was my favorite at up until HALO 5’s gameplay took it from the top for me) I really liked the games despite my complaints about things here and there but it was the universe that ultimately drew me in though. Rich and with depth I loved it.  

What did you like, what did you dislike or hate?
But I always dislike the lack of realism in certain aspects of gameplay. While I know that headshots are actually not guaranteed on-hit-kills (unless sufficient amount of brain matter is destroyed or the brain stem is hit) (especially with helmets), the inability of the AR or other weapons to headshot was off putting to realistic immersion. Especially in campaign. Bullet damage was scaled weird and IMO stupidly from game to game. 50BMG from the Warthog Gatling gun was like 5.56 in HALO 2/3 and while better in recent games, is still unacceptably weak for such a round when things like DMR’s kill in 5 shots while 50BMG requires similar amounts or even more. 
The bullet damage scaling is just wildly unrealistically done and wreaks immersion for me. The more I learned about guns, the more everything fell apart. DMR’s and AR’s shooting 7.62 NATO but do wildly different damage!?!? Pistols that nobody but Spartans are physically capable of handling. M79 style grenade launchers that can’t shot grenades father than you could throw them. The use of an AR that is okay to useless and a BR that is just a more effective AR with the fire-selector set to 3-round burst. (Useless redundancy). A peek at the list of human weapons on Halopedian confirms that they have absolutely no idea how to design guns.
The old use of slow moving projectiles for energy bolts for plasma weapons that felt more like tools than weapons did not help either. (And rocket launchers that can’t be used effectively passed 10 meters) The use of many old gun play tropes is just annoying and need to die. Things like weapons handling in weight/bulk, ergonomics and such seem poorly thought out at times. And while in Halo 5, the details on certain weapons like the safety and selector markings, the texture of the polymer cheek pieces and anodized finish of the titanium receivers on the MA5D and BR55 are beautiful. The artists did not use the new abundance of pixels wisely with other weapons, others look… absurd. That and small arms against vehicles have suffered from power-creep. How tanks and such can be harmed/blown up by small arms fire… just… *sighs*
I could go on but I think I spoke enough about weapons. Way Too Much in fact. Many are not actually that bad compared to weapons in other games but still too many things exist that ruin them for me. Vehicles also suffer from the same issues of illogical thinking and rule of cool instead of logic and immersion. The Scorpion is just too big, heavy and complex for little benefit. The use of an exposed gunner that would get killed by the cannon muzzle blast. A crew of two instead of three at a minimum and using WW2 style APCBC shells instead of bigger guns with APFDS-T or HE-Frag. 
All vehicles lack a serious punch in the firepower department and adequate crew protection (especially against NBC contaminates) and in many like the gungoose just make no fucking sense. Your mileage may vary, but I find it all mostly unsatisfactory. TL;DR, there are too many things that are unrealistic and illogical about the weapons and vehicles that break my suspension of disbelief. The other part would be the canon but since I have basically been under a rock when it comes to HALO canon since HALO: Evolutions, I can’t say all that much. While I found good discussions regarding the latest in HALO canon discussions on HALO Archive http://www.haloarchive.com/; I on the whole did not like the controversial impact that Karen Travis’s books and the Forerunner Trilogy had. They threw the canon and probably 343 into quite the loop on what to do. (More explained by my discussions with Zues67) Weaving the expanded universe canon and games together is a good thing IMO. But like many things, is extremely hard to do. 

What would you Change? 
Overall I would change everything about the weapons and vehicles to be logically thought out and as realistic as possible for maximum immersive value. Gameplay would also be changed accordingly. Maybe my liking of tactical shooters like Red Orchestra 2, Project Reality and ARMA is making itself felt but my dream HALO would be more like them to some extent instead of what we have. YMMV but that is just me. I would also scrap the whole Ancient Humanity spheel… that was never needed; and the Flood should have remained a mystery. A terror beyond understanding. I would focus less on the Forerunners and instead focus on the fragile state of humanity and the post war universe. Create Cold War like setting of espionage and grey morality. Of rampant lingering fears, both legitimate and illegitimate. This is a setting more relate-able than what we currently have in my opinion. 



How are Your Feelings Towards HALO changed over time? How much have you changed and how does it impact how you feel about Halo?
Overall I changed too much to enjoy HALO like I used to. (As one my gleam from above) The books/fan-fiction are more immersive experiences and allow me to mentally substitute things for better immersion. Ever since I discovered good HALO fan-fiction in 2011 I was hooked by them and never looked back. I can enjoy playing the games, but I cannot do so while griping about poor friendly A.I and picking apart everything I see as a flaw that must be fixed. (I am very good at that) 



How has HALO and the community changed over time and how does that effect the game and community?
Overall HALO has simply aged and changed. Things were added as the universe grew and like all things that begin they will end. Halo will never truly die but it will decline. There is nothing anyone can do about it. As one of my favorite authors said:
“Is the Halo franchise in decline? Yes, but that's not necessarily a bad thing so much as it is a natural phenomenon. It is impossible to keep a franchise fresh forever, and Halo has been around for 15 years. This 'decline' is really not worth bemoaning because, ultimately, nothing (not even new material called 'canon' by those who own the franchise's rights) can take away the love and nostalgia which colored our early experiences of the Haloverse.” 
I have changed, Halo has changed. I like many others have life and cannot play as often, leading to lower player numbers. Our views on what Halo should be are different, 343’s are different, and the new crowd’s views are different. These demographic discrepancies will create friction. Times have changed and Halo has changed, for better or worse depending on how you view it. Nothing is perfect and nothing really lasts. 343 IMO is in a no-win situation, they will be hated regardless of what they do now.

The Dialog: HALO Fan-Fiction Authors Sound Off (Thanks to Nicholas Mew!)
FWS Reader Nicholas Mew reached out to FWS with interviews he conducted with six HALO fan-fiction authors to gauge their options of what is going with the HALO universe and what is wrong. Speaking to formatting of the next sections, here it is:
-Nicholas Mew's sections of text will be in BOLD and italic
-Author responses will be in BOLD and LIME GREEN

AUTHOR #1
Hello Author #1,

I hope that I am not bothering you in any way but I am curious as to your thoughts on Halo as a whole. Recently I was reading a post called, FWS Topics: What Will the Next Military Sci-Fi Franchise Be? It is post on a blog called Future War Stories; A Blog Devoted to Exploring and Explaining the World of Military Science Fiction. An excellent blog by the way, I love it. 

In that post he said that "With the continued downturn popularity of the HALO games, books, and comics, it seems that our once hallowed franchise that served as an ambassador of the entire universe of military sci-fi, is in critical condition and fading quickly." I wrote back in the comments section stating my own views on Halo's decline from my perspective alone. (I suggest that you read the post, it also has my comment response in the comments section)

I wrote basically that new contentious canon material, my increased maturity and knowledge of military and science topics (which helped finally destroy what little immersion I had with the Halo games), changing preference of game-play and good fan-fiction that usurped the games and books as personal canon are what made me no longer care for Halo as much as I did before.

I am curious as to your thoughts on this idea that Halo has in his words, "HALO has lost the crown of being the primary MSF franchise, and the search is on for the successor." Everywhere I look I see negativity but never logical and nuanced debate or explanations as to why they say Halo has died other than blame 343.

(With your permission I would like to share that you have to say about this with William) Wither or not you want your identity tag shared is up to you but by default it is redacted)

Nicholas Mew

Nicholas

Great to hear from you man, and apologies for my prolonged absence - I recently jettisoned the girlfriend and have been on something of a fitness drive, so writing has taken a back seat to the gym. Writing is resuming in September!

HALO lost momentum with the release of HALO 4. SPARTANs went from being military hardware to thinly veiled superheroes, and the basic nature of combat in the franchise has shifted from a sense of army vs. army to what is essentially a horde mode vs. holographic super robots. We have talked about the armour design of HALO 4 before, and HALO 5 has represented a correcting step back in the direction of something a little more practical, but many of the zanier elements remain. I think HALO Reach had the right idea, combining realistic carry pouches and bolt-on gear with the more exotic elements of the MJOLNIR suite.

Consider also the differences in Covenant vs. Forerunner. In the original HALO trilogy, hostile elements were deployed via dropship or naturally arrived on the battlefield from logical entry points. Now they beam in via teleportation. Instant, cheap to code, gamey. Immersion is naturally broken.

The subtleties in hierarchy between the new Covenant enemies is far less defined than before as well. Gone are the distinctions between an Elite Ultra and a Minor; replaced instead with a generic headdress that is often indistinguishable from one enemy to the next. 

The stakes are far lower in the new trilogy as well. Yes, Cortana is now the convenient universe ending threat of the month, but humanity in the original trilogy were perpetually on the back foot. Extinction was a looming threat, which fed into the gameplay mechanics - you were picking up weapons from discarded wreckage, scavenging all and every tool available to turn the encroaching tide. Against the largely faceless (dare I say bland?) Forerunner, there's little sense of a species ending event. 

Halo has a few avenues available to it. The SPATAN IV's are hyper advanced, fine. But let them get dented up; let their gear be more rugged and hands on as the campaign against the Reclaimers rolls on. Bring back the Brutes, a resurgent Faith Militant Prophet. Bring back localized warfare and a real sense of tactical deployment - then, and only then, will Halo will save itself.

Hello Author #1,

Nice to hear from you too man, better luck with the next girl. I myself have been just doing running on the treadmill and doing push ups, sits ups lately. I have finally taken my dads advise on just just do some form of excersize lately. Thankfully it seems my asthma is not really a thing now like it used to (except for seasonal allergy induced asthma.) I can do at least 3 pull ups now!!! I look forward to more chapters later. :)

I am in complete agreement with what you said overall. I must say that making the Forerunners and their creations enemies that we can destroy with ease is off putting to say the least. I always expected them to be nigh unbeatable in battle and the "natural army of organic beings vs other army of organic beings" all with comparable and similar technology usage is what we are most used to and immersed by. Forerunners can teleport yes but then if they can do that why can't they do more? By making more of them as underwhelming mooks and making them easy to kill, this super race is no longer awe inspiring and frightening. Same applies with weapons that are not god level IMO. 

As I say about the recent armor designs, "just because they now have more pixels to play with does not mean they use them wisely." Same applies with the weapons and vehicles, many are looking absurd.

TL:DR, I agree with all you say. (BTW yay or nay on sharing writing identity with William, I did not get an answer) If not I will just redact your name from it all.

Nicholas


AUTHOR #2

Hello Author #2,

I hope that I am not bothering you in any way but I am curious as to your thoughts on Halo as a whole. Recently I was reading a post called, FWS Topics: What Will the Next Military Sci-Fi Franchise Be? It is post on a blog called Future War Stories; A Blog Devoted to Exploring and Explaining the World of Military Science Fiction. An excellent blog by the way, I love it. 

In that post he said that "With the continued downturn popularity of the HALO games, books, and comics, it seems that our once hallowed franchise that served as an ambassador of the entire universe of military sci-fi, is in critical condition and fading quickly." I wrote back in the comments section stating my own views on Halo's decline from my perspective alone. (suggest reading the article to find my comments in the comments section)

But I basically said that new contentious canon material, my increased maturity and knowledge of military and science topics (which helped finally destroy what little immersion I had with the Halo games), changing preference of what game-play I prefer and lastly good fan-fiction that usurped the games and books as personal canon are what made me no longer care for Halo as much as I did before.

I am curious as to your thoughts on this idea that Halo has in his words, "HALO has lost the crown of being the primary MSF franchise, and the search is on for the successor." Everywhere I look I see negativity but never logical and nuanced debate or explanations as to why they say Halo has *declined* other than blame 343. (Especially on Youtube and such.)

(With your permission I would like to share that you have to say about this with William (the site owner)) Wither or not you want your identity tag shared is up to you but by default it is redacted) I am doing this so I can let William know what other people, particularly writers like [Redacted] think of what is up.

Nicholas Mew

Hi!

To be honest I wasn't aware that the Halo franchise is considered to be in "decline". But then I don't hang around its comment pages that often and I'm not familiar with this particular blog.

I have heard a lot of flak for Karen Traviss' contributions to the franchise (justified, in my opinion. I don't like her opinionated style of sci-fi, be it on the Jedi or Dr. Halsey), but by and large the universe still gets a positive response from where I stand. Case in point, Hunt the Truth was one of the most highly downloaded podcasts.

And even if the games decline, I suspect the franchise itself will live on. The whole thing has gone way beyond a video game. I personally love the universe more than the game itself - I'm not one of these people who just play it for multiplayer. All franchises decline eventually, and I'll stay a fan regardless.

And I wouldn't buy all that negativity - I see positive comments too. For my part, I'm looking forward to Halo Wars 2 coming out on PC. The beauty of fan-fiction is that it allows a universe to expand and have gaps filled by the fans - so good fan-fiction will continue to surround Halo.

Hope that helps!

And while I don't like Traviss' books, I have been reading 'Broken Circle' and 'Shadow of Intent', which came out recently. Both stories inspired me to return to fanfiction and write this story. The latter is by Joseph Staten, author of 'Contact Harvest', one of the best books in the franchise in my opinion. So there is still good Canon material out there for fans like us. :-)

Well I take your word for it and I very much prefer your outlook on it all. I must say that I do not pay much attention to most comment sections and discussions about Halo as well. 

The game's decline like you said was inevitable and I said the same thing when responding to someone in that article. Halo is like you said, now bigger than the games and is now a full blown universe like Star Trek. It will out-live the very games that spawned it and live in our hearts. Your stories and the likes of others will allow it to live on and fill what others will not. You have done so masterfully so far and I thank you for that.

Thank you for taking some time to respond to my question. 

Nicholas

I must also say that while I have no doubt that good canon is still being made, I am in complete agreement with Author #1 that the history of the Forerunners and Flood should have been left a mystery. They were more powerful and mysterious that way and the whole Ancient Humanity thing just felt so wrong to me. The Forerunners feel bland with how they are being characterized.

As he said to me in a message a while back: 

"By explaining the Forerunner, and characterizing them and - for pity's sake - bringing them back; 343 have only succeeded in making the universe smaller, not bigger. Likewise with the Flood. They were a Lovecraftian Horror, whose origins were better left unsaid. Let the audience's imagination speculate and fill in the gaps. Suggestion can be oftentimes more powerful than anything you as a writer can create. They should have remained a dark horror beyond time and understanding... not dust of the Precursors, who as a concept should have been made redundant - that's what the Forerunner should have been. Oh well, we'll bring Brutes and Prophets back into the mix in The Enemy's sequel; border skirmishes, ho!" – Author #1 That is just me though. That and Karen Travis's books were troublesome as a whole.

Yeah, agree with Author #1’s assessment. To be honest I haven't read the Forerunner trilogy, only tidbits and its rough summaries in Halopedia. Even then, I find that part of the universe confusing. The concept of the Forerunners was that they were always meant from the beginning to be mysterious - their absence alone, with only their constructs left behind, defined their character in the Haloverse. 

Whilst I personally thought 343 did a reasonable job in world-building the Forerunners, the whole thing with an Ancient Human civilization also felt wrong to me. I always preferred to see us humans as underdogs, upstarts in a universe dominated by gods and demons.

The Covenant history and world-building was always beautifully done though - Bungie had the most influence over that from the beginning. That was why from the moment I decided to write a halo fic, I wanted to write about the Covenant. They need more love, however much we hate and kill them :-). That was also why I enjoyed those two novels I mentioned.

I have not read those books either but I have read the plot and summaries on Halopedian like you as well. 343 did a fine job with what they had on hand; but I feel that the Forerunner Trilogy, while interesting was ultimately not a good fit and sullied the mystery of that aspect of the universe. It just does not sit well with me. I am in complete agreement with you and Author #1 on this issue.

But the Covenant history like you said is beautiful though. And you and Authors #1 and 6 are building the best fan-fic stories from the Covenant's perspective. Adding beautiful, descriptive and logical expansions and additions to their cultures and histories. The best I have ever read. 

Boy I have to go to bed now, Three AM here in California. Good night from America, good sir.

BTW I did not get a clear answer earlier but Yay or Nay or having your pen name shared with him?

I'd prefer to stay anonymous. Thanks!

Okay. Trying to help maintain some form of plausible deniability for you should others try to tie me with you.

Given that your stories and my favorite stories list and reviews are public I hope this anonymity works. I am finding that I do not plan these things well. 

It'll be fine - I looked at that blog and your posts. I would have had no way of knowing you were quoting Author #1. :-) And if people do trace it, that means more readers. I delete any inflammatory material that comes my way.
As promised, I will continue with [Redacted] after dissertation hand-in at the beginning of September. I'm also having thoughts of writing a one-shot on the Prophets. In 'Shadow of Intent' it is revealed some San 'Shyuum survived the Fall of High Charity in a huge refugee fleet, whose whereabouts and destination are unknown.
I was thinking of writing a kind of 'confession piece' a lot like 'Wages of Sin' in HAL Evolutions, from the point of view of one of the survivors. She reflects on the Covenant, everything her race has done and what the future might hold.
Notice how I said 'she'. I'm thinking that it will be the Prophetess of Obligation, one of the three Hierarchs overthrown by Truth, Mercy and Regret. We didn't really hear what happened to their predecessors after they were overthrown.
What do you think?

Well with more readers comes more trolls. Based on how rabid the Internet mob can be I do not want others exposed to it if I can help them. They can harass me but I cannot accept if I exposed others to the mob.

But your new idea is intriguing. I do not remember much from Contact Harvest to remember all the details regarding the triumvirates rise to power. But I would eagerly gobble that up knowing how beautifully you write. I look forward to it and more.



AUTHOR #3

Hello Author #3,

I hope that I am not bothering you in any way but I am curious as to your thoughts on Halo as a whole. I recently read a post called, FWS Topics: What Will the Next Military Sci-Fi Franchise Be? It is post on a blog called Future War Stories; A Blog Devoted to Exploring and Explaining the World of Military Science Fiction. An excellent blog by the way, I love it. 

In that post William (the site owner) said that "With the continued downturn popularity of the HALO games, books, and comics, it seems that our once hallowed franchise that served as an ambassador of the entire universe of military sci-fi, is in critical condition and fading quickly." I wrote back in the comments section stating my own views on Halo's decline from my perspective alone. (I suggest reading the article to find my comments in the comments section for the whole debate that was actually productive and nuanced)

But I basically said that new contentious canon material, my increased maturity and knowledge of military and science topics (which helped finally destroy what little immersion I had with the Halo games and books), changing preference of what game-play I prefer and lastly good fan-fiction that usurped the games and books as personal canon are what made me no longer care for Halo as much as I did before.

I have already asked other writers Authors #1 and 2] for their thoughts on this. Author #1 said while 343 have stumbled it is not all that bad and can be recovered from; while Author #2 was more positive,

"To be honest I wasn't aware that the Halo franchise is considered to be in "decline". But then I don't hang around its comment pages that often and I'm not familiar with this particular blog.

I have heard a lot of flak for Karen Traviss' contributions to the franchise (justified, in my opinion. I don't like her opiniated style of sci-fi, be it on the Jedi or Dr. Halsey), but by and large the universe still gets a positive response from where I stand. Case in point, Hunt the Truth was one of the most highly downloaded podcasts.

And even if the games decline, I suspect the franchise itself will live on. The whole thing has gone way beyond a video game. I personally love the universe more than the game itself - I'm not one of these people who just play it for multiplayer. All franchises decline eventually, and I'll stay a fan regardless.

And I wouldn't buy all that negativity - I see positive comments too. For my part, I'm looking forward to Halo Wars 2 coming out on PC. The beauty of fanfiction is that it allows a universe to expand andhave gaps filled by the fans - so good fanfiction will continue to surround Halo."

"And while I don't like Traviss' books, I have been reading 'Broken Circle' and 'Shadow of Intent', which came out recently. Both stories inspired me to return to fanfiction and write this story. The latter is by Joseph Staten, author of 'Contact Harvest', one of the best books in the franchise in my opinion. So there is still good Canon material out there for fans like us. :-)"

- Author #2

That we all say that we disliked The Forerunner Trilogy and Karen Travis's books while quite telling though. 

I am curious as to your thoughts on this idea that Halo has in William's words on another post, "HALO has lost the crown of being the primary MSF franchise, and the search is on for the successor." Everywhere I look on the internet (Especially on Youtube and such) I see negativity and rage but never nuanced debate and discussions as to why they say Halo has *declined* other than blame 343. I know that you and I were disappointed in Halo 5's story as I learned in earlier messages and since the games and other canon material affect your stories, I would like to know what you think and share what you have to say with William. 

Wither or not you want your pen name shared with him privately in my message back to him is up to you but by default it is redacted. (gotta maintain some plausible deniability and secrecy if needed) I am doing this so I can let William know what other people, particularly writers like Author #1 and you think of what is up.

Sincerely,
Nicholas Mew

Thanks for letting me know about this blog. Looks like something I'd be interested in reading if I find the time. [Redacted Info] recently so I'm running on very little sleep, I'm not sure how coherent this response will be but I'll try.

I'm on the fence as to whether or not HALO is on the decline. Certainly I feel that the canon material is, but I think that's a product of changing times/interests more than the franchise itself suffering from fatigue. At this point, HALO was released what, 15 years ago? I was 12 and I'm now 27, so that gives you an idea of how long it's been out and how the demographic has changed. I definitely look for different things in a game and have different life experiences now and expectations than I did as a kid, now that I'm a young adult [Redacted]. So I think the issue is that the HALO franchise is now divided between oldies who liked how it used to be, and new players who are into the action and multiplayer and not so interested in the rich, engaging universe it formerly was. This is true for many games in this day and age, by the way - there's a larger premium placed on twitchy shooter mechanics and MP than on good storytelling and a solid campaign. It sucks, but it is what it is.

I agree with Writer #2 that it's the universe that ultimately captured me about HALO. I loved the games up till HALO 5, I even loved Halo 4 which several of my friends panned, and I enjoy the multiplayer too. To me HALO 5 was just bad all around, but that's a story you've heard from me before. Anyway, the expanded universe is what made it something larger than just a good game to me - the books that came out early on were fantastic, and some of the best reads I'd had up to that point (and since). To me the books started dropping off in quality a lot sooner than the games. That said, I've picked up some of the more recent ones to try again, but I haven't gotten around to reading them yet, so no opinion there. 

And yes, I feel Traviss did a lot of damage to the tie-in novels. I was also very irritated with her open contempt for Halsey, who I think made a tough choice during a brutal time for humanity and doesn't deserve all the harsh ragging her character gets from Traviss. I've also read a ton of Traviss's other work; she actually used to be one of my favorite authors up until she started writing Halo books. I read most of her Star Wars: Republic Commando series and her original series as well (Wess'Har Wars, I think it's called?) and loved them. I did eventually give up on both though because yes, she's a very opinionated writer and doesn't separate herself from her fiction very well. She likes to hammer her own ideology onto the reader, whether or not the character in the book would actually do that, and that really turned me off. 

I'd also agree with Author #2 that Hunt the Truth was flat-out amazing, and honestly it's one of the reasons I was so terribly disappointed in HALO 5's story. I mean with material like that to work with, I thought it was impossible to go wrong. Instead they (343) ignored their best narrative and just had this mess of a campaign that I didn't really know, or care to see, where it was going. Sad.

I'd say at this point Halo still ranks among the top, if nothing else then for its past greatness, its undisputed position as a classic, and Hunt the Truth's immersive storytelling. 

To me the top military sci-fi franchises will always be HALO and Mass Effect; HALO 5 bombed (for me) so I guess to see who comes out number one, I'll have to play the forthcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda. For now, though, as I play through the original Mass Effect trilogy *yet* again, I'd have to say that's surpassed Halo for me as well. Mass Effect 3 had them in a tie for me, HALO 5's utter crappiness sealed the deal. (I'd throw the reimagined version of Battlestar Galactica in here as well, but it's a TV show, not a game, so I won't compare.)

I guess we'll see where things go from here. For now, I still enjoy the HALO universe itself enough to continue to mess around in its sandbox and have it be a backdrop for my stories and characters. But I'm eventually looking to go solo going forward, unless we get some amazing new canon narrative in the future. And HALO 5 has really rattled my confidence that the next HALO game will be any good.

Hope all this was readable/made sense. I will be getting back to [Redacted] soon as well.

Till then,

Author #3

[Section Redacted]

What you said about how we changed as time went on as did HALO since its debut in 2001 was very good. Nailed it. We are simply no longer the people that we were back then and Halo has changed since as well. We look for different things in the games we play. I myself value more realistic, authentic and immersive games and experiences. HALO never really could meet those expectations and now as I said, I can no longer immerse myself in the game and universe when I end up picking it apart. But I value a good story and lore as much as you do but written stories like yours would always outclass the games in story telling. HALO 5 plays well (never quite to my liking but whatever) but while making the game competitive is good, focusing so much on making it MLG friendly is just annoying.

The Karen Travis novels did a lot of damage as you and everyone noted. So much that as Tvtropes on Fanon Discontinuity put it, "with many fans preferring to pretend the entire trilogy never happened (even HALO's main creators have seemingly revised or retconned away many of their most contentious aspects)." I think while representing and exploring the gray shaded gritty politics of humanity, especially with ONI essentially turning into a monster after doing monstrous things in order to allow humanity to live would have been a great starting point to work from and explore, 343's writers had other ideas. (game stories tend to work differently than book stories after all) Much of this new grittiness feels forced and unnatural, the result of Travis's work I suppose. I don't like it. Writer #1 has done a great job though in his stories. (would recommend his over Travis's books)

Not to mention that the Forerunner trilogy that just felt so wrong to me, Authors #1 and 2. The mystery of the Forerunners and Flood should have been left alone, that Ancient Humanity shpeel... just no. Those books have left the universe just feeling so much smaller and shallower as a result. 343 appears to be in a no-win situation right now IMO.

HALO remains my favorite military sci-fi series but as I already said; your stories and those of other writers are now what I care about from Halo the most.

BTW for little sleep, your reply post was excellent. Compared to me I can spend hours, days or even weeks working on it, only to find afterwords that I published a shoddy comment/post. A tip of my hat to superior writing ability and intellect.

Will be waiting for new [Redacted] chapters. :) But take your time.

Sincerely,

Nicholas


AUTHOR #4

Hi, Mr. 125

I hope that I am not bothering you in any way but I am curious as to your thoughts on Halo as a whole. While checking one of my favorite blogs (Future War Stories; A Blog Devoted to Exploring and Explaining the World of Military Science Fiction. An excellent blog by the way, I love it), for updates I read a post called, FWS Topics: What Will the Next Military Sci-Fi Franchise Be?

In that post William (the site owner) said that "With the continued downturn popularity of the HALO games, books, and comics, it seems that our once hallowed franchise that served as an ambassador of the entire universe of military sci-fi, is in critical condition and fading quickly." I wrote back in the comments section stating my own views on Halo's decline from my perspective alone. (I suggest reading the article to find my comments in the comments section for the whole debate that was actually productive and nuanced)

But I basically said that new contentious canon material, my increased maturity and knowledge of military and science topics (which helped finally destroy what little immersion I had with the Halo games and books), changing preference of what game-play I prefer and lastly good fan-fiction that usurped the games and books as personal canon are what made me no longer care for Halo as much as I did before.

I have already asked other writers Authors #1, 2 and 3 for their thoughts on this. Author #1 said while 343 have stumbled it is not all that bad and can be recovered from, Author #3 is on the fence and Author #2 was more positive saying,

"To be honest I wasn't aware that the Halo franchise is considered to be in "decline". But then I don't hang around its comment pages that often and I'm not familiar with this particular blog.

I have heard a lot of flak for Karen Traviss' contributions to the franchise (justified, in my opinion. I don't like her opiniated style of sci-fi, be it on the Jedi or Dr. Halsey), but by and large the universe still gets a positive response from where I stand. Case in point, Hunt the Truth was one of the most highly downloaded podcasts.

And even if the games decline, I suspect the franchise itself will live on. The whole thing has gone way beyond a video game. I personally love the universe more than the game itself - I'm not one of these people who just play it for multiplayer. All franchises decline eventually, and I'll stay a fan regardless.

And I wouldn't buy all that negativity - I see positive comments too. For my part, I'm looking forward to HALO Wars 2 coming out on PC. The beauty of fanfiction is that it allows a universe to expand andhave gaps filled by the fans - so good fanfiction will continue to surround Halo."

"And while I don't like Traviss' books, I have been reading 'Broken Circle' and 'Shadow of Intent', which came out recently. Both stories inspired me to return to fanfiction and write this story. The latter is by Joseph Staten, author of 'Contact Harvest', one of the best books in the franchise in my opinion. So there is still good Canon material out there for fans like us. :-)"

- Author #2

That we all say that we (Authors #1 and 2) disliked The Forerunner Trilogy and Karen Travis's books (Authors #1, 2 and 3) is quite telling though.

I am curious as to your thoughts on this idea that HALO has in William's words on another post, "HALO has lost the crown of being the primary MSF franchise, and the search is on for the successor." Everywhere I look on the internet (Especially on Youtube and such) I see negativity and rage but never nuanced debate and discussions as to why they say Halo has *declined* other than blame 343.
I would like to know what you think and share what you have to say with William. 

Wither or not you want your pen name (any possibly confidential info really) shared with him privately in my message back to him is up to you but by default it is redacted. (gotta maintain some plausible deniability and secrecy for you if needed) I am doing this so I can let him know what other people, particularly writers like you think of what is up.

Sincerely,

Nicholas

Hey Nicholas,

Thanks for the note! I'm not sure if this will be helpful at all, but I'm in your boat more or less. 

I've all but checked out of the modern Haloverse, and haven't actually read anything since The Cole Protocol, and I was already much less impressed by (or engaged in) those Tor books compared to the original three. So I wouldn't say the decline strictly began with 343i, but they haven't done all too much to draw me back in either. Once Nylund stopped writing, everything began to lack that sense of focus. Added to the fact the HALO: Reach story seemed to fly in the face of everything I once knew? At that point I felt like the series left me behind, even though I've played 4 and caught up on 5 on Youtube.

And that's okay, because like you, I have fanfiction as my fallback. My favorite authors on the site have a seemingly distinct and unique vision of the universe that comes down to tone, style, and aesthetic that's very different from and IMO superior to the official media. Author #1 captures the spirit of adventure and camaraderie with a healthy dose of throwback to the epics and classical grandness. Author #5 takes you through the life of soldiering and existing on a functioning military base, the ups and downs of that, all working to present the universe in a gritty, almost documentarian way. As for myself, removed from Halo my characters (their uniforms, their rifles and helmets, their lingo) would be more at home in the jungles of Cambodia and Vietnam in the late '60s or island hopping in the 1940's Pacific... veritable Hells; and for me, the Human-Covenant War isn't some heroic, great crusade but the apocalyptic end of righteousness and slow prevalence of hatred bred into generations to come. That's what interests me about the universe, and that's my interpretation. It'll exist that way for me regardless of whatever happens in HALO 6 and beyond. As far as I'm concerned, in the space I'm at head-canonically, the timeline hasn't advanced past 2552. So in short I haven't felt the need to read the newer novels because I'm really not that interested in the post-war period (or maybe just not yet) nor do I care about the Forerunners and the fantasy iteration of the universe.

Regarding legacy, the original HALO games will forever be spoken of highly on Reddit, inevitably followed by a recommendation of The Fall of Reach for the uninitiated. Halo will never fade away but it is in a slump currently. The things that made the series iconic are missing in the newer HALOs (over a few days, Reddit users once quoted the entirety of Halo 2's script in turns and managed to move onto HALO 3). Still I'm a HALOfan the way somebody is a fan of the Stones: their golden years come first. Some Girls is a pretty good record, but I'm without a doubt going to throw Sticky Fingers or Exile on the platter long before. No Halo thing will ever come close to my reverence of Combat Evolved and The Fall of Reach, my memories of exploring of the ring and soaking up the mystery and atmosphere, the mindblowing LAN parties, and my first foray into writing actual stories that began with fanfiction.

(Feel free to quote me if you'd like bud. Not sure I added anything new to the discussion though. I will say if Author #5 hadn't kept writing into 2013, I probably would have stopped as well and never done Though Hell Should Bar The Way. I enjoy the universe but mostly stick around to complete the story we've been wanting to tell since easily 2008. The real pleasure is the collaboration aspect and our mutual love of storytelling.)

I agree that the latest official stories were lacking in focus and in some cases relatable characters and such. The last good book was Contact Harvest IMO and parts of Evolutions. And while Halo Reach unfortunately did create some canon-retcon issues, I would say that it was not all that bad and was recovered from nicely. Contact Harvest and HALO Reach formed integral key parts of one of my favorite fics, [Redacted] (currently being rewritten) and content from HR was expanded greatly upon by Author #7 in his smashing story, [Redacted]. Good stuff came from it and ultimately I was never all that impacted by what Halo Reach did.

But my boredom with HALO began after that and so I began scanning this site for good fan-fiction until I found [Redacted] by Author #3. From then on I was hooked and dove deeper, searching for more stories to read and ever since. From then on I ignored all the books and other material and have never looked back.

By "Feel free to quote me if you'd like bud" do you mean that I can say your pen-name and that you wrote Though Hell Should Bar The Way? I am looking for a clear answer and I do not want bad shit to happen to you and anyone else, I will take any shit but I will allow others to take it. I fear the Reddit crowd as much as I respect them, the fanatics can and have at times proven dangerous.

But kudos for sticking around and writing, I love how your stories stand out from the rest that I read and I look forward to more.

Sure thing, go ahead and mention me and Though Hell. Go forth and write beautiful things about it :)
I think my peak HALO interest was the We Are ODST trailer. After playing that my 360 RRODed and I didn't replace it until about 2012 so I actually missed Reach (though I own it now). The Deliver Hope trailer was cool but man not being hyped up for a game + not having a console actually really fizzled out my interest in the series for a few years there. That's really the main reason lol, canon I'm not extremely concerned about. In fanfic especially I like seeing interesting writing and interpretations over meticulous accuracy and detail.

Thanks for the clarification.
AUTHOR #5
Hi Author #5,

I hope that I am not bothering you in any way but I am curious as to your thoughts on Halo as a whole. While checking one of my favorite blogs (Future War Stories; A Blog Devoted to Exploring and Explaining the World of Military Science Fiction. An excellent blog by the way, I love it), for updates I read a post called, FWS Topics: What Will the Next Military Sci-Fi Franchise Be?

In that post William (the site owner) said that "With the continued downturn popularity of the HALO games, books, and comics, it seems that our once hallowed franchise that served as an ambassador of the entire universe of military sci-fi, is in critical condition and fading quickly." I wrote back in the comments section stating my own views on HALO's decline from my perspective alone. (I suggest reading the article to find my comments in the comments section for the whole debate that was actually productive and nuanced)

But I basically said that new contentious canon material, my increased maturity and knowledge of military and science topics (which helped finally destroy what little immersion I had with the Halo games and books), changing preference of what game-play I prefer and lastly good fan-fiction that usurped the games and books as personal canon are what made me no longer care for Halo as much as I did before.

I have already asked other writers (Authors #1, 2 and 3) for their thoughts on this. Author #1 said while 343 have stumbled it is not all that bad and can be recovered from, Author #3 is on the fence and Author #2 was more positive saying,

"To be honest I wasn't aware that the Halo franchise is considered to be in "decline". But then I don't hang around its comment pages that often and I'm not familiar with this particular blog.

I have heard a lot of flak for Karen Traviss' contributions to the franchise (justified, in my opinion. I don't like her opiniated style of sci-fi, be it on the Jedi or Dr. Halsey), but by and large the universe still gets a positive response from where I stand. Case in point, Hunt the Truth was one of the most highly downloaded podcasts.

And even if the games decline, I suspect the franchise itself will live on. The whole thing has gone way beyond a video game. I personally love the universe more than the game itself - I'm not one of these people who just play it for multiplayer. All franchises decline eventually, and I'll stay a fan regardless.

And I wouldn't buy all that negativity - I see positive comments too. For my part, I'm looking forward to HALO Wars 2 coming out on PC. The beauty of fanfiction is that it allows a universe to expand andhave gaps filled by the fans - so good fanfiction will continue to surround Halo."

"And while I don't like Traviss' books, I have been reading 'Broken Circle' and 'Shadow of Intent', which came out recently. Both stories inspired me to return to fanfiction and write this story. The latter is by Joseph Staten, author of 'Contact Harvest', one of the best books in the franchise in my opinion. So there is still good Canon material out there for fans like us. :-)"

- Author #2

That we all say that we (Authors #1 and 2) disliked The Forerunner Trilogy and Karen Travis's books (Authors #1,2 and 3) is quite telling though.

I am curious as to your thoughts on this idea that Halo has in William's words on another post, "HALO has lost the crown of being the primary MSF franchise, and the search is on for the successor." Everywhere I look on the internet (Especially on Youtube and such) I see negativity and rage but never nuanced debate and discussions as to why they say Halo has *declined* other than blame 343.
I would like to know what you think and share what you have to say with William. 

Wither or not you want your pen name shared with him privately in my message back to him is up to you but by default it is redacted. (gotta maintain some plausible deniability and secrecy for you if needed) I am doing this so I can let him know what other people, particularly writers like you think of what is up.

Sincerely,

Nicholas Mew

Well, firstly I'm flattered that my opinion is being sought. Thanks for the opportunity to speak out in such a conversation as well.

I'll preface by stating I don't have quite the legs to stand on as much as others when stating my opinion on things HALO because my intake of canon and other mediums produced by Bungie/343 has been in full decline itself ever since Legends aired. I was devout prior to Legends. I was always dropping by the local comic book store inquiring when they'd start receiving the next issue of the first HALO comic series, Uprising. It was an exciting time in the HALO universe: the first novels since the Nylund era were being unleashed, HALO swag items like those H3 mylar plaques were hard to come by and were expensive for the time, etc. etc.

You get the idea.

Then they opened the flood gates. Quantity was more valued than quality. And that's about the time Legends aired. I started to really comb through what Bungie was relaying to fans, Frank O'Connor in particular. I didn't like what I saw. He (and Bungie) seemed more concerned about money. I remained interested in lore and future games, and that was about it. And even that was starting to seem shaky. This was late 2009.

ODST was fun, especially Firefight. It really helped with those nights while deployed. Playing with others was so much fun at night there in the desert. Reach was a year later, was fun. And then that was it.

The only thing that kept me going with HALO was the enjoyable and productive brainstorming sessions with Mr. 125, another author whose opinions should be prized. Great guy, great writer, actually met him in person a year and some change ago.

There's a coming of age happening with HALO in multiple senses. HALO storylines are maturing (thank God). We all loved the original games, and I think 343 is going in the right direction. That brief falter was unfortunate for them. HALO 4 was just amazing in every single way. It was the best game and story ever for HALO, in my opinion. And in my opinion, it will likely be the best ever. And so HALO's audience is also maturing. All the original fans are now 15 years older. It's admittedly harder and harder to grasp their fandom each time they publish a game.

I will always buy their games, but all the other media seems to freely clash with what's already established. They kind of dissed Nylund when they re-created certain parts just to retcon their mistakes after the fact. I haven't read any canon since Contact Harvest. There were a couple of stories that would probably interest me, but I just haven't gotten around to them. Maybe I never will. I've matured over the years, and other priorities have taken hold. The kind of plot premises that Traviss makes seem very interesting, and she's surely a very accomplished author. I would like to give Greg Bear's trilogy a try first if in fact I ever do have them time for another HALO novel.

HALO might very well be in decline. I wouldn't know for sure. I'm not nearly as plugged into the community as I was pre-2010. I'm not behind that power curve as far as canon, community, etc. Doesn't matter much to me, though. I play the campaigns, I finish what I promise in the fanfiction realm (or at least I always try to and state reasons why I can't at the moment), and I believe in 343i after what they've accomplished with H4 & 5.

There's a lot of other great titles out there that steal people's time as well.

Me...I simply can't keep up with all the novels, comics, short films, etc. I did give the FoR short film a try. I thought it missed a lot of opporunities to really shine, and they once again (multiple times, actually) directly contradicted their prior canon as well as fans for that matter. Oh well. Money walks the walk with big business. Microsoft and all under its control would do the same, it seems.

I am glad that you feel honored that I asked you this, I felt that I should get as many writers thoughts on this as possible. 

HALO is definitely maturing but I myself feel that the way that it has matured with all the awkward haste of a teenager. Travis's books felt to forced and excessively dripping in her ideology from what I have observed. Wide swaths of HALO fans pretend that her books simply do not exist, I myself feel that while some of the ideas are interesting; the execution has been far off. Author #1 and Mr. 125 have captured the complexity of human society and military matters much better in my opinion. 

But you are not the only one who noticed that the original fan base has aged along with the games. Another writer Author #3 wrote in her reply to this question,

"I'm on the fence as to whether or not HALO is on the decline. Certainly I feel that the canon material is, but I think that's a product of changing times/interests more than the franchise itself suffering from fatigue. At this point, HALO was released what, 15 years ago? I was 12 and I'm now 27, so that gives you an idea of how long it's been out and how the demographic has changed. I definitely look for different things in a game and have different life experiences now and expectations than I did as a kid, now that I'm a young adult [Redacted]. So I think the issue is that the HALO franchise is now divided between oldies who liked how it used to be, and new players who are into the action and multiplayer and not so interested in the rich, engaging universe it formerly was. This is true for many games in this day and age, by the way - there's a larger premium placed on twitchy shooter mechanics and MP than on good storytelling and a solid campaign. It sucks, but it is what it is."

Author #3

Times have indeed changed.

Overall while there are things that I do not like, I am not all that angry at 343i. They have been handed some new canon material and if something has to be retconned then they will have to do it. I would say that they are in a "no-win situation". I am not 343 though and cannot possibly speak for them. 

But thanks for sharing what you have to say, thank you very much and I look forward to you and Mr. 125's next story [Redacted]. I eagerly await that story.

Yea, there's many opinions out there. I'm ok so far with what 343 has done since 2012. I absolutely loved H4 and H5 was pretty decent. For me, it's sad to see the stuff that really catapulted it all (Eric Nylund's original works) get tarnished and retconned by other works of that medium. I'm sure with a little more effort, they could've preserved the dignity of those novels. And his works very much deserve dignity. Most people don't know that The Fall of Reach was published one month before HALO: CE was!
Ah well.
Thanks, BTW. We eagerly look forward to [Redacted] as well!

Take care and stay tuned.


AUTHOR #6
Hello Author #6,

I know you are very, very busy in virtually every meaning of the word but I am curious as to your thoughts on HALO as a whole. While checking one of my favorite blogs, Future War Stories; A Blog Devoted to Exploring and Explaining the World of Military Science Fiction (An excellent blog by the way, I love it), for updates I read a post called, FWS Topics: What Will the Next Military Sci-Fi Franchise Be?

In that post William (the site owner) said that "With the continued downturn popularity of the HALO games, books, and comics, it seems that our once hallowed franchise that served as an ambassador of the entire universe of military sci-fi, is in critical condition and fading quickly." I wrote back in the comments section stating my own views on Halo's decline from my perspective alone. (I suggest reading the article to find my comments in the comments section for the whole debate that was actually productive and nuanced)

But I basically said that new contentious canon material, my increased maturity and knowledge of military and science topics (which helped finally destroy what little immersion I had with the Halo games and books), changing preference of what game-play I prefer and lastly good fan-fiction that usurped the games and books as personal canon are what made me no longer care for Halo as much as I did before.

I have already asked other writers Authors #1, 2, 3, 5 and Mr. 125 for their thoughts on this. Author #1 said while 343 have stumbled it is not all that bad and can be recovered from, Author #3 is on the fence and Author #2 was more positive saying,

"To be honest I wasn't aware that the Halo franchise is considered to be in "decline". But then I don't hang around its comment pages that often and I'm not familiar with this particular blog.

I have heard a lot of flak for Karen Traviss' contributions to the franchise (justified, in my opinion. I don't like her opiniated style of sci-fi, be it on the Jedi or Dr. Halsey), but by and large the universe still gets a positive response from where I stand. Case in point, Hunt the Truth was one of the most highly downloaded podcasts.

And even if the games decline, I suspect the franchise itself will live on. The whole thing has gone way beyond a video game. I personally love the universe more than the game itself - I'm not one of these people who just play it for multiplayer. All franchises decline eventually, and I'll stay a fan regardless.

And I wouldn't buy all that negativity - I see positive comments too. For my part, I'm looking forward to Halo Wars 2 coming out on PC. The beauty of fanfiction is that it allows a universe to expand andhave gaps filled by the fans - so good fanfiction will continue to surround Halo."

"And while I don't like Traviss' books, I have been reading 'Broken Circle' and 'Shadow of Intent', which came out recently. Both stories inspired me to return to fanfiction and write this story. The latter is by Joseph Staten, author of 'Contact Harvest', one of the best books in the franchise in my opinion. So there is still good Canon material out there for fans like us. :-)"

-Author #2

That Authors #1 and 2 disliked The Forerunner Trilogy and Karen Travis's books (Authors #1, 2 and 3) is quite telling though. Mr. 125 did not really seem to care and Author #4 seemed fine if saddened by retconning but understanding of 343's predicament.

I am curious as to your thoughts on this idea that Halo has in William's words on another post, "HALO has lost the crown of being the primary MSF franchise, and the search is on for the successor." Everywhere I look on the internet (Especially on YouTube and such) I see negativity and rage but never nuanced debate and discussions as to why they say Halo has *declined* or is *ruined* other than blame 343.

I would like to know what you think and share what you have to say with William. 

Wither or not you want your pen name shared with him privately in my message back to him is up to you but by default it is redacted. (gotta maintain some plausible deniability and secrecy for you if needed) I am doing this so I can let him know what other people, particularly writers like you think of what is up with Halo.

Also it is okay to not answer this question if you are too busy or do not care to do so. There is no pressure for you to do so.

Sincerely,

Nicholas Mew

I'm not sure how relevant my views will be, as I have largely tuned out from the Haloverse over the past couple years. Partially due to my limited access to Xbox, partially due to the franchise's transition to Xbox One, which I have no intention of purchasing.
During my gaming phase, I stuck mostly with Halo 3 and HALO 3: ODST. Both games are personal favorites of mine - Halo 3 primarily due to rosy nostalgia, ODST for its somber rainy tone in stark contrast with the operatic spaceventures of the main trilogy. Also because it was the first game where we played someone who was not a Spartan, which I highly appreciated.
The books of the HALO franchise were what really sealed my love for the Haloverse at large. While I was involved in HALO, I gobbled up the early stories by Eric Nylund, which I adored, especially Ghosts of Onyx. The Flood by William C. Dietz was so-so, but I read it vigorously to research the Battle of Installation 04 because I intended on bringing [Redacted] there eventually. I think Joe Staten's Contact Harvest was my favorite, however - the ideas which would eventually become [Redacted] began swimming around my mind while reading Contact Harvest. I owe a lot to this one.
I'm not an avid gamer. I enjoy shooting Covies every once in a while, but my love was for the Haloverse at large rather than any individual game or book. Keep in mind, though, that during this time (5 - 7 years ago) the Haloverse was much smaller than it is today. These were the post-HALO 3, pre-HALO 4 glory days when Master Chief was still drifting in the Forward Unto Dawn's cryo chamber towards a mysterious cosmic sunrise. This is the era of the Haloverse during which I wrote my Halofics.
So when I think of the Haloverse, this period of time is where my mind goes first, when my experience of the franchise was richest.
I've had a tough time investing myself in the newer material. It has become painfully obvious the franchise is now being milked for as long as its udders continue to produce. I wonder if the Haloverse has lost its charm, or if my tastes have simply changed with maturity. Probably both.
Karen Traviss's Kilo-Five Trilogy was mildly interesting, but it did not grip me. I read her books primarily because I was researching the Sangheili for [Redacted] (which ultimately deflated when I moved to [Redacted] for [Redacted]), so in that regard even though these stories were hardly gripping, they were very useful. I actually fell madly in love with Greg Bear's Forerunner Trilogy. Bear's writing style can get abstract and difficult to follow at times, but he perfectly captured the VASTNESS of the Forerunner Ecumene, and there were many mind-bendingly horrifying moments in his stories (like when the Didact watches over the course of a few minutes as the Primordial experiences a billion years of decay). I love to be utterly freaked out like that. Also, I was dying to get to know more about the Forerunners, who had lurked in the shadows of the Haloverse's deep lore for so many years, revealed only in the tiniest of bits and pieces.
Ultimately, however, these two Trilogies were commissioned to support the storyline of the then-upcoming Reclaimer Saga (HALO 4, HALO 5 and beyond). The storylines of these games make little sense to those who have not read the books. And while I think it is very cool the franchise is coalescing, knitting together its many parts into a more cohesive whole, I wonder if the Haloverse is growing too big for its own good. 
The life-or-death stakes we enjoyed during the Human-Covenant War are no longer present in the newer material. In fact, the new material seems to have done all it can to invalidate the sense we all had during HALO 3 of Humanity holding on by the barest of threads, having lost the vast majority of its colony worlds and population. We are meant to believe that losing Earth would spell the end of our species. Admiral Hood even claims in Halo 3 that "Earth is all we have left." I don't believe Hood was being literal, there, but it conveys the idea that we are so very screwed.
But since then the franchise writers have made a habit of plucking shiny new unscathed fully populated never-before-mentioned colony worlds out of their a*** in order to keep the storyline going, and now we find ourselves in a Haloverse where Humans actually aren't so bad off and the horror of the Human-Covenant War is completely glossed over. This is retroactive writing, and it is sloppy. I get it, though. Ultimately the Halo franchise revolves around its games, and a video game about rebuilding a shattered species might not be as interesting to play as a game about shooting aliens.
Okay, let's wrap this up before I start rambling. Is the Halo franchise in decline? Yes, but that's not necessarily a bad thing so much as it is a natural phenomenon. It is impossible to keep a franchise fresh forever, and Halo has been around for 15 years. This 'decline' is really not worth bemoaning because, ultimately, nothing (not even new material called 'canon' by those who own the franchise's rights) can take away the love and nostalgia which colored our early experiences of the Haloverse.
If anyone is feeling too down in the dumps about the state of the Haloverse, then I recommend you reconnect yourself with whatever it was that made Halo great for you in the first place. Get some friends together, get on Halo 3, and do the warthog run together. Have fun, and be sure to sabotage each other's warthogs as frequently as possible.

Lovely hearing from you again, by the way. I am still working on [Redacted], despite my best efforts to sabotage myself. Writing this story isn't as fun as it used to be, and I'm figuring out how to embrace that and keep going. Chapter 86 will be released soon (probably).

Sorry I am only just responding now, I saw your reply when I was at work but had no time up until now to respond. 

I must myself say that while I very much enjoyed HALO 4 and 5 and many of the things they brought, Halo Reach however was the game for me when I played frequently as a teen with time to spare. Problems and all, I loved it. But while the game (HALO PC) hooked onto HALO, the books reeled me in. I still remember when my HALO obsession was in full swing reading all the Eric Nylund books and The Flood. All were very good in my opinion. I can also say that Contact Harvest though was the last great Halo book I truly enjoyed. I never really enjoyed what came after, never cared for Cole Protocol, I enjoyed a few parts of Evolutions but after that I just moved on to Fan-fiction out of boredom and never looked back. Like you I have been out of the loop for quite a while and can’t really invest myself with the new material. I have been too far behind and out of the loop to make catching up feel worthwhile and what I have been hearing about some of the recent books (Kilo Five and Forerunner Trilogy) the contentious nature of those books have already colored my view on them. That and I do not like reading comics, will never really like the comics that they make. I won’t hate them but if HALO needs to transition to a more gray on gray universe setting, then they are not doing the best job if their work is this contentious. 

But Author #1 and I both agree that bringing the Expanded Universe and Games together is a good thing. While it does make me (the type who has not kept up) a little confused, it is good overall. My fault for not keeping up. But it is only a matter of time before the retcons happen and begin to pile up, for contentious material to make itself felt. For the passage of time to make its impact.

Author #1 also made a similar point about the lack of overriding sense of urgency, depression, resignation or some other pressure or feeling to the new plots. Gone were the battles to the death. That war of annihilation, the familiar and fairly realistic combined arms battles against another similar adversary. The horrors and impact of such a war have as you noted been glossed over. As Author #1 summed it up:
“The stakes are far lower in the new trilogy as well. Yes, Cortana is now the convenient universe ending threat of the month, but humanity in the original trilogy were perpetually on the back foot. Extinction was a looming threat, which fed into the gameplay mechanics - you were picking up weapons from discarded wreckage, scavenging all and every tool available to turn the encroaching tide. Against the largely faceless (dare I say bland?) Forerunner, there's little sense of a species ending event.“
-Author #1

The whole retroactive writing has not worked as you have noted, the inability of the games to describe the worlds, the people and the feeling and atmosphere is crippling to the potential that they could use. I am not sure if the new books have this problem but Author #1 certainly does not. He builds worlds that are alive with all the vibrancy and problems that surviving post-war worlds would have. Such worlds could have been used quite well in games but alas it would be difficult to do so. 
Thanks for taking time answering this question, now I am just waiting for Author #7 before I send these message logs (personal info redacted of course) to William. He would benefit well from knowing what we think. And I am happy to talk with you again as well, it is always a real treat to get something from you in, wither a new chapter, update or a message. I love it all. I am so sorry that writing is also no longer as fun as it used to be for you. I am unsure how or why that would be other than guess that it feels like it has become a chore for you or writers block; but I have the utmost faith and patience with you. I will wait as long as it is necessary. I hope we are not pressuring you to write, that would just be bad to all involved. But I look forward to Chapter 86 and to more great things and discussions should they ever occur.

Sincerely,
Nicholas

AUTHOR #7 


On other news, HALO 4 is out! And I finished it in Legendary co-op! Which means that now I have to finish it solo! Fuck yeah I'm going to die so many times! I also get new weapons, equipment, and lore to play around with! No, seriously, HALO 4 was great, I have to say that it was pretty much everything that I expected of a HALO game, perhaps even better than Combat Evolved. If you haven't bought it, I can tell you that the price is worth it, and the multiplayer is still theHALO we all love so much despite its "CallOfDutyfication."





"Oh, quick note Karen Traviss (the one that wrote the Kilo-Five Trilogy) is a skilled writer, but she butchered previous characterization. Although I have to admit, the way she wrote things did set an interesting foundation for the second HALO trilogy, even if it did go against pretty much everything that had been established before that. Sorry for that little rant, but even though being a writer is about expressing your ideas through written word, it's not about changing everything about a universe just so that you can express those particular ideas more easily."


Next Time on FWS...
For centuries the most powerful weapon on the battlefield was the almighty artillery cannon. It shook the walls of castles and pounded back the cavalry...but its dominance began to be questioned after World War One with the invention of the tank and the airplane. Today, modern artillery is still on of the most deadly heavy weapon systems, but despite all of this: it is poorly represented in science fiction. In the next installment of FWS, we shall discuss Artillery in all of its forms. Watch for it in about two to three weeks!



LINKS:
-The ACT MAN Youtube Channel. Here a super-HALO fan details in a video series the sins of the new games. Worth checking out!

-Late Night Gaming Youtube Channel. Here is another channel devoted to HALO and its current state. 



24 comments:

  1. Heh, I still have a PC Gamer that says Halo was coming out for PC. When it didn't I never got into it, so I've never played any of them.

    On a different note, I too like the Red Orchestra 1/2 games. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If only I had a good PC to play those games on. :(

      Delete
    2. Uhhh... but the first two DID came out for the PC.

      Delete
    3. Yea, but it was a couple years later and at the time I generally didn't play console ports.

      Delete
  2. There is only one way to save halo: the dallas retcon.
    You are confronted by Cortana after another op in which you must sacrifice your own to win...only to awaken to a new reality. The Aliens won and Earth was occupied. The past is an AI indoctrination lie. You are in the Arena (mmorpg) fighting for survival.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  5. You know when you said in our messages that, "Seriously, I felt that my own writing was rather underdevelopment compared to them." That did not seem to be the case to me. Your thoughts and opinions were just as good and from many other angles generally not considered by the authors. But I would like to address your point as best as I can.

    First Blow: No HALO Movie or TV Show

    With how I tend to pick things apart I am sort of happy that they do not exist. I am not opposed entirely but unless they go all out, it will feel meh like Forward Unto Dawn was to me. Also unless Halo is changed to how I want it, it will not be perfect in my opinion. However some of the greatest Halo fan-fiction that I have read deserves not only canonization IMO, but to be turned into a movie or mini/long term live action series. Such is the quality of their work.

    Second Blow: Microsoft Wanting More and Breaking the Natural Cycle of HALO

    I agree with you on this. It is possible to bring in a new trilogy but considering the state of the universe that they live in at that point, the games should have been designed around a different narrative direction. One of mystery, of tension, of rampant fears and local brush fire wars and pitched battles where logical.

    Third Blow: HALO 4

    While a fine game in its own right, the impact of the Greg Bears Forerunner Trilogy made itself felt. The whole Ancient Humanity and fleshed out Forerunners made this feel just wrong. It was clear that the writers of Halo 4 were in a rut on what to do with such new canon and how to design everything. The universe instead of being grander, felt tainted by those books. The power of the Forerunners should have been felt in presence alone and left mostly a mystery for the time being. (Hell explore a little bit them but leave Humanity as the oddball species so similar to the Forerunners that they were deemed special to inherit the Mantle) As a result you keep the old mystery and just get slight peeks. Imagination is more powerful than anything we can write or create. (No offence to Author #6 but I really disagree on the Forerunners with you on that) By shooting and destroying them in battle... they no longer felt like the Galaxy spanning race that they were. But lame racist, power hungry humans that are truly no different than humanity. A race of such power should have been more like gods instead of aliens. The mystery was spoiled.

    Fourth Blow: SPARTAN OPS

    Spartan OPS I liked, but it was needlessly repetitive and at times the plot was... illogical. More care and investment of resources could have made it good. Each set of episodes should have felt more like whole games in their own right. Episodic releases like The Walking Dead, that sort of deal. Not an A.I shoot em up in the same campaign environments.

    Fifth Blow: The Advertising Campaign for HALO 5: Guardians

    This was a case of trying to advertise to not only drive up hype but to make any potential plot-twist more powerful. But they failed to make a campaign that could fully exploit the hype, mystery, tension and misdirection that the advertising created. That much was evident.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sixth Blow: HALO 5: Guardians

      Indeed while game-play wise it is good, the best Halo game-play so far if I must say; the campaign was a disappointment for the reasons you have stated. (Although how you would make a Spartan Locke vs. Master Chief fight in game work well without resorting to old boss battle tropes would have been difficult/impossible to do IMO) A cut-scene is all they could muster but even that fight was rather lack-luster.

      This is what author #1 had to say about Halo 5's story,

      "The A.I. are rubbish unless you designate targets, in which case they become... slightly less rubbish. Player agency is a difficult tightrope, but funnily enough Halo 1's AI managed it best: Reach was also appalling, if you recall - at least in 5 they can manage to kill things. I imagine the competence (or lack thereof) is more noticeable in 5 on account of the game being explicitly designed with coop in mind.

      As for Halo 5's story? I thought it was a marked improvement on Halo 4. You had an explicit villain with a discernible motive, and the storytelling was self-contained within the game itself: there was no need to read a Forerunner Trilogy or expanded universe comic in order to get a handle on who the Didact was, for instance. Frame composition and cinematography was also excellent - in particular the scene where Master Chief has a vision (itself a rather silly notion but anyway), I like how they frame Cortana with a backlit moon and it's all framed within a frame.

      The exposition wasn't strong I agree, and oftentimes in my playthrough (I had [Redacted friends] with me, so there was a lot of chatter we might have missed); oftentimes I found myself wandering through a level saying "Why are we on Sanghelios again?" or words to that effect. It's worth noting that the marketing was strongly at odds with the story itself - there was no Chief/Locke hunt, no real rivalry beyond a moment of "handbags" (as they call it when a fight breaks out in rugby) in a brief cutscene. This was likely intentional on their part to avoid speculation on Cortana and the prospect of her revival (itself something that was hand waved - "I fell into the Mantle, and it cured me of Rampancy!").

      To sum it up - the narrative as a whole was improved, but the plot (i.e. the stepping stones bridging the narrative) felt a bit out of sorts.

      Most aggravating is the ending sequence, which is where all the parallels with Halo 2 are being drawn: we have a galaxy wide black out, as Cortana reaches out to every alien species, but it ends so abruptly we don't know if power comes back or if we're in a new dark age pending Halo 6 resolving matters. This makes it difficult for me to start writing anything beyond the end of [Redacted], as I don't know what the canon state of the universe is until the Expanded Universe confirms what I can and cannot do.

      Overall I was happy with it - there's no big "Scarab Moment", but then no Halo game beyond 3 has delivered in that regard. Here's hoping they build upon what they already have and keep the flow of new content coming; Big Team Battle is great!" (Author #1)

      What you have said about what Halo 5's campaign could have been like as LateNightGaming's video pointed out is telling though. It appears that they were struggling to pin down something with the resources on hand but were for whatever reason unable to do so. I actually feel sorry that the writer’s original idea never came to fruition and this disappointment was all that was mustered. Most likely time and resources are to blame if that is the case.

      Delete
    2. Seventh Blow: DESTINY

      Have nothing really to say about that.

      Eighth Blow: The "Twisted" Cortana from HALO 5: Guardians

      I can see where this comes from and I have no real reply to this. But I have found a good article, again from the Halo Archive about this. http://www.haloarchive.com/partners/halo-meta/canon-created-cortana/

      But I agree with those saying that Cortana should have died forever. No respawns for her.

      Ninth Blow: The Botched Master Chief Collection

      This was from my view, just a case of Overly Ambitious Goals and not enough time to sort out bugs and hammer things down. Not surprising as of late but I can forgive them for this. Four games in one disk and a matchmaking system to boot is going to have many, many things to address. They did not have the time from what I can see.

      Tenth Blow: What is and What Should Never Be: the New Trilogy

      I myself as I said about the need for the new games to reflect the state of the universe that they are in. The paranoia, the fear, the rampant hatred created by the total war of annihilation. The tenuous state of galactic affairs. The UEG and colony strife, black ops assignments, shadow wars, the rebuilding of humanity and so on. So many things, topics, facets and emotions to explore but alas we are stuck with team of hero’s save the universe again… quite frankly the Spartans we have been getting lately have been flat as paper as characters.

      In my opinion the games should have actually branched away from the Master Chief and Blue team. Explore the rest of the universe with new characters. Spartan, regular human and even alien. This would have been the fresh air and blood are IMO what would have better suited this new setting. The fan-fiction I am reading certainly supports my views that these would have been a better choice.

      Even go backward, play as the Covenant during the war, as the average Marine and so much more. There is potential there too as I have read.

      343 has mishandled things badly and recovery will be difficult if not impossible. But I am not so sure what will happen and quite frankly I sort of don’t care. The fan-fiction to me is what I care the most about.

      BTW your ideas on what you would have done with Halo 5 are excellent, would happily pay to play that.

      And I am happy to have helped contribute to this post.

      Delete
  6. Thank you for the time and tireless effort for the gathering up of those interviews and allowing this blogpost to be more well rounded than just my one POV and opinions. Together, we can make HALO great again. The reason I put the lack of an HALO film and TV show was that I personally felt wronged in the entire genre of MSF not getting an a solid MSF film that was based on the excellent HALO universe. One point I have have included was the shake up of personnel at 343 and the original writer for HALO 5 leaving or being fired.
    What did you think about the two examples of the iconic video game characters and the New Coke segment?
    Thanks to everyone for pushing for this blogpost, this helped me get some of my thoughts, feelings, and opinions out of my head.
    BTW: You don't play DESTINY?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "One point I have have included was the shake up of personnel at 343 and the original writer for HALO 5 leaving or being fired."

      Huh I did not know that the original writer left. Seems to explain the cobbled together nature of the campaign.

      Your sections on iconic video game characters and New Coke were good but I did not really have much to say in response.

      And again I am happy to have sort of inspired you in someway to write this blogpost. And I have played Destiny but I myself do not have a copy for my new Xbox. The living room Xbox has Destiny though. I am thinking about getting a copy for my new Xbox to have something else to play instead of Halo and Battlefield 4 in the meantime, but IRL can get in the way at times.

      Delete
  7. That is very enlightening indeed. I'll admit, after Reach I did not do much to keep track of the franchise save for one or two points here and there. This does make a great deal of sense however, and your level of research does show the serious downwards curve in quality both in terms of overall lore and quality of work. I might need to show this to a few friends just to help explain a few details.

    Oh, and thank you for highlighting the miserable failures of the Travissty. She's one of the few scrawlers of words I refuse to call an author as it would be both wrong and an insult to anyone who desires to craft actual stories over screaming messages at people. All too often i've seen people trying to avoid saying anything negative about her works for one reason or another, even when she continually wrecks every franchise she's attached to.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Now I will talk about the 10 issues exposed in this post:
    1. No Halo Movie or TV-Show: Thank [insert favorite deity here] for that! Hollywood has demonstrated time after time that it does not know how to make a successful movie based on a game franchise. I am very certain that Halo would have suffered a lot more from this since it is a FPS. There are several examples of Halo movies:
    - The Forward Unto Dawn web series was the best they could do and I frankly found it lacking.
    - Halo Nightfall was better but this was a movie designed to introduce Agent Locke, so no Master Chief. Still it has the feel of a cheap production.
    - Halo Legends I believe is the best despite, or perhaps because, it is a series of animated shorts.
    - Halo The Fall of Reach, which I believe is just the game cutscenes joined together to make a movie. I have not seen this one. Yet.

    2. MS wanting more and breaking the natural cycle of Halo: I think that I explained why this is both true and false. Yes, MS wants more from Halo and no, they did not break the natural cycle of Halo. They broke the entire Halo paradigm. For MS, Halo's main reason to exist is not by making people purchase the game, but by making people buy Xbox Gold subscriptions in order to play MP battles.

    3. HALO 4: As I said before HALO 4 suffered from the focus switch of creating a really good solo campaign to the MP as the franchise cash cow.

    4. Spartan Ops: This was the unveiling of the new Halo Franchise. Multiplayer Baby!! It failed and thus it gave us HALO 5: Guardians.

    5. HALO 5: Guardians advertising campaign: Actually I cannot find fault in this. Every single game in the last five years have been overhyped to the point that most of them are disappointing on release. The last fracas is No Man's Sky.

    6. HALO 5: Guardians (a.k.a. We are sorry): Actually no. They are not sorry. They are desperate. They still are trying to wrap a story in a multiplayer game and failing.

    7. Bungie's DESTINY: Actually Bungie played smart here. They knew that there is no way that HALO can be converted into a multiplayer/solo player game. I am quite sure that MS wanted Bungie to start the butchering of Halo. Instead Bungie said "I am out" and left, not looking backwards. And they did what MS/343 should have done: They created a specific multiplayer centric game: Destiny.
    I wonder if Bungie pitched Destiny to MS.

    8. The "twisted" Cortana: I have not played Halo 5, but I have seen the story in YouTube. I see Cortana's resurrection as both a surprise and a lame attempt at creating shock value. Similar to Superman's death (and by now every single superhero's death). I can almost feel that in Halo 6, the Master Chief will "save" Cortana from herself and everybody will be happy together again.

    9. The Botched Master Chief Collection: These things happens, specially when the sales/marketing department decides to ignore the realities of software development and sticks to a draconian time table and do not allocate enough resources to make it. Again, I blame more MS than 343.

    10. The New Trilogy: Well, the main problem is that they don't have a new trilogy. They had an idea set forth in Halo 3's ending but then they never went to work on that. It glaringly shows in Halo 4's focus on the Forerunners and the switch in Halo 5 to Cortana and they want us to believe that Halo 4 was all about Cortana, when it wasn't. Yes, she was having a break down and then she died, but that was part of Master Chief's difficulties: trying to save Cortana, saving the Infinity, saving Earth (again) and defeating the Didact. And then at the end of Halo 5 they show a Halo ring with a whistling Monitor that suspiciously sounds like Guilty Spark. To me this reeks of "We don't know what to do".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can HALO be saved?
      No, it cannot. As long as Microsoft wants Halo to be their COD, WOW, Diablo III and Destiny combined, it cannot. You all blame 343 as if they were the ones calling the shots, when in reality it is Microsoft the ones who do that. I am sure this is reason number one why Bungie called it quits. 343 is only the slave doing the heavy lifting under the command of their masters. In this case Microsoft is the Hollywood producer that introduces a car chase scene with a shoot out in a romantic comedy because that shit brings the 18 to 35 men to the movies and romance brings their girlfriends. Everybody wins baby! Now where did I put my coke?

      343 is guilty of not having an idea of what story to tell in Halo. But they are stuck with MS's directive of making Halo a multiplayer experience over the story. So they just throw mud at the wall to see what sticks and they got a major setback when Halo Spartan Ops tanked. I wonder what new multiplayer experience they will try to create for Halo 6.

      Delete
  9. Note: I don't know why this was not published. But this is the first part of my ran/manifesto.

    Hello Nicholas. I want to thank you for mentioning our little talk. I also appreciated the conversation you had with your author friends. Now I will expose my two cents on Halo's "decline".

    1. Halo, as originally envisioned, ended with Halo 3. The Human/Covenant war was over. Earth won, not by itself but with the help of the Sangheili. That made a lot of sense since by this time it was established that Earth was outgunned and outnumbered and thus could not win the war.

    Of course everybody, including yours truly, knew that wouldn't be the end of Halo the Franchise. After all, there was that dark world seen at the end of Halo 3 credits.

    So, I put my imagination to work and came up with an answer: The next Halo quest would have to do with the Forerunners. The Forerunners were going to contact humanity and something dire would happen. What I did not know, but something.

    I have the first four Halo books: The Fall of Reach, The Flood, First Strike and Ghosts of Onyx. I enjoyed them all but never felt the need to read the others: Cole Protocol, Contact Harvest, etc. I wanted to move forward with the story. Not backwards.

    Then Greg Bear's Forerunner trilogy appeared and that gave me the signal that I was right. The Forerunners were going to be the focus of the new Halo adventure.

    And finally Halo 4 came out. I bought it within 2 weeks of release and ... was disappointed. Not by the combat mechanics themselves, they are pretty generic, but by how 343 botched the story. The game barely has one. It feels like a generic MP game with a bolted on single player campaign as an after thought. All the efforts and resources went into the MP experience. Unfortunately for me, I don't have time to invest into MP games. For me they reek of a unpaid job. Instead of being fun they start to feel like a job and frankly I already have one that pays for all my fun stuff.

    And in my view this is the core issue that wounded Halo. The economic decision to go for a multiplayer experience. New Maps! New Spartans! New Coop Missions every week! Hey! Remember Blue and Red? Now you can play as them, choose red or blue team and do battle!

    Microsoft chasing the elusive pot of gold at the end of the MMOG rainbow. They included the typical MMOG staples of micro transactions like purchasing a cool new helmet, cammo, etc.

    They killed the Flight Simulator franchise with that chase and they have severely wounded Halo with the same.

    So what we have in Halo 4 and 5 are MMOGs that are marketed as single player games and thus has a second rate story bolted on. Most of the marketing hype is geared towards the multiplayer aspect not the solo campaign. MS ordered 343 to convert HALO into COD. The rest follows.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In other words a botched attempt at maximizing franchise monetization by setting what I believe is the wrong goal: To focus on multiplayer because the multiplayer payout is larger than the single player one.

      Remember the shoot in the foot that MS self-inflicted when they presented the Xbox One:
      The need for constant online connection.
      Subscription based games.
      No game sharing.
      No more disk, all games would be delivered via download
      And more.
      And to the complainers, the reply was: "If you don't like it get a Xbox 360."

      So I find it hard to fault 343 for Halo's problems. They probably were given a set of stupid directives from MS and they had to make the best of it.

      Delete
    2. Reply to Point #1

      Reply to Point #1: To me and to some like author #1, having the Forerunners explored more though has its problems. They may be alien in a sense but compared to the species of the Covenant, they seem bland. By making them enemies that can be killed, their power and mystique is diminished. How could a race that controlled the galaxy with such ease be essentially cannon fodder in game? The Promethean Knights are showed to be capable of taking down Flood controlled ships but then seemingly unable to stop a single Spartan. I can’t stop thinking about this sort of dissonance. Instead of being god like, they are essentially super advanced humans; and don’t get me started on the stupidity of having an advanced Ancient Humanity. That was to me and others just completely out of place for Halo.

      About Halo and Multiplayer:

      Like you I do not have much time for multiplayer gaming any more myself due to having to work and other matters in life. But I felt that Halo 4’s multiplayer was okay but nothing special. The gameplay was meh overall in that game to me. I felt that Halo 4 had a fine combination of campaign and multiplayer. But while it had no real improvements that Halo 5 had, they made the multiplayer linked to the canon. But and this is a big but to me, they failed to take such a thing seriously. It did not feel like an actual part of the universe and the same goes with Halo 5. Unless you go balls to the walls with making the multiplayer actually feel like actual simulations that would make sense (a la ShackTac with ARMA), they would just feel like a thin layer of paint to a multiplayer that did not need canonization.

      Spartan Ops like I said just felt like a great idea but let down by repetitive environments and gameplay. I felt that more resources should have poured into making them varied and more like standalone games that together would make up one whole game. I am sure others could have made it better, those are just my thoughts and ideas.

      But I do not really like how much 343 is aiming at the MLG Twitch Gaming community. While some involvement is not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. Making the game seemingly designed to be played by such players is not good for everyone else. It felt like catering and restricted what the multiplayer could be. A multiplayer does not need to be a fast twitch like shooter all the time; varied playstyles and experiences could have been accommodated and IMO should have been accommodated for varieties sake. Those MLG players can be good testers, but not necessarily the best for directing how things should go. (Not like I am any better though)

      I myself am not all that broken up by how Halo 5’s micro-transaction system works myself. It is not necessarily needed in order for one to play anyway. But I felt that the system could have been different. Hard to explain though so I will not talk about it.

      "So I find it hard to fault 343 for Halo's problems. They probably were given a set of stupid directives from MS and they had to make the best of it."

      Like LateNightGaming’s videos showed, Microsoft's interference (and fan backlash) has forced 343 into a no-win situation. If that info is true, then they were forced to make more shoddily build and illogical content. Nobody wants to do that especially 343 but it appears that they had no choice.

      BTW your welcome for mentioning that talk. Such talks are much better compared to what I have been seeing elsewhere online. Very productive and we can actually learn from one another compared to the shouting fests I see elsewhere. Thank you for being such a nice person to discuss this with.

      Delete
    3. BTW your own replies to William's list of Ten Things Wrong with Halo was most logical and succinct. I agree with you overall on all your own points.

      Delete
    4. Hi. About the Forerunners. I have no idea what they could be used for. Even at the end of Halo 3 the only story I could think of would be exploring the relationship between Cortana and MC. Because let's face it, Cortana was MC's wife, girlfriend, confidante, doctor, etc.

      I imagined that the Forerunners in the dark planet would give Cortana a physical body but then both her and MC would have to do something to pay for it.

      Halo 4 was setup as the beginning of the release of MC from the franchise. The old soldier would be given his Honesta Missio* and then somebody else would come out and take his place. And then Spartan Ops, the replacement tanked and 343 found itself in a dinghy with no oars and in the middle of a tropical storm. So they created Agent Locke and decided to recreate Team Blue with Team Osiris and now the tropical storm has upgraded to a Cat 3 Hurricane and the dinghy has sprung a leak.

      As an amateur story teller, although never published, I can tell that both 343 and MS have lost control of the franchise. They don't know what to do. In my opinion the worst thing they could do was convert Dr. Halsey into a futuristic Mengele. And Karen Traviss hates her with a passion worthy of a nazi hunter and it shows in her books. The worst part is that it does not make sense. Story wise, Halsey did all she did under the orders and with the help of the UNSC government. She wasn't a rogue doctor doing hidden experiments. She was the head of a super soldier research department and the government did not bat an eye nor did say "Wait a minute! No, you cannot kidnap children. Hell no!!" when she proposed how to "recruit" people for her program.
      It seems that 343/MS have belatedly recognized this and are trying to rebuild Halsey's reputation if Halo 5 is any indication.

      The desperation of having the franchise sinking is showing. I saw the trailer for Halo Wars 2. The big reveal: Covenant Spartans. Basically a Brute with the covenant version of Moljnir armor and a super gravity hammer that he can use to crush spartans. So basically they have created HALO's Doomsday.

      I think the only way to fix things is to pull a DC Comics here: Disavow everything from Halo 4 and 5 and start something new. Kill Halo 4 and 5 with nuclear fire. It never happened. Have MC wake up in the Forward Unto Dawn's crio chamber yelling because he just had a nightmare. And they must hire somebody who can give them a solo player campaign. A road map that 343 can follow.

      This comment that I found in LightNightGaming YouTube's channel speaks a lot about MS goals:
      "I don't understand why people are bagging on Halo 5. The multiplayer is pretty much flawless (aside from the REQ system, which I honestly don't mind now that I've unlocked everything haha), with balancing that's better than it's ever been. Sure the campaign was a little underwhelming, but hell...so was Halo 2's if you really look at it. "

      This is the market that MS wants, unfortunately that is not Halo's market. And MS is killing the franchise.

      (*) Honesta Missio: It was the bonus given to Roman soldiers when they retired from the legions. It usually consisted of a land grant in the new conquered territories.

      Delete
    5. Halo 4's E3 gameplay demo got me excited for that game of which I was apprehensive about. The mystery surrounding everything after that was its strongest points for me; but while the campaign was okay it was nothing to write home about.

      I am not sure that the powers that be would even allow the Master Chief to retire unless necessary, but I think that the newest games and books should have focused a lot less on him. The Reclaimer Trilogy should have focused more on other characters with Halo 4 being the send off for MC and Cortana. More areas of the universe should have been explored instead; there is much potential that could have been explored.

      But unfortunately their plan did not quite bear fruit. As you pointed out the new series lacks direction and focus. The damage done by Karen Travis's books making themselves very apparent and difficult to repair and work with. Even they (343) have attempted to revise and retconn what they could about the portrayal of Halsey in Halo 4 and 5. And their most contentious aspects as well. As Tom Clancy once said,

      "The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense." - Tom Clancy

      And many ideas and parts of her books made no sense. Parts and ideas which could have been interesting to explore, were not done well. Her ideology (which every writer leaves in their work) being so obvious and glaring in comparison to previous Halo books as to be disgusting. Her books and some aspects of the Forerunner Trilogy are what the Swordfish Torpedo bomber torpedoes were to Battleship Bismark. Crippling and leaving the great ship that was Halo turning in the wrong direction and out of control.

      Overall I would salvage what we could out of what we had from this trilogy so far and scrap everything else as you said. I would rather have some of my favorite Halo fan-fics cleaned up and canonized. And from their works gain parts to construct a new post-war universe, and consult them on how Halo should go.

      Halo 4 and 5 were not bad, but the effects of troubled development from unforeseen issues regarding canon material and the sudden shift in narrative direction at the last minute were crippling. There is not much that can be done without possibly sinking the ship.

      Delete
  10. Since I'm not a gamer I can't comment on gameplay; but on story I think the issue is one of trying to move on to the next story. The problem facing 343 is there job is maintaining HALO. It was fine with Bungie because they were doing the original trilogy; with 343 they have to do a continuation and that's harder. The players involved with HALO have changed and that brings inevitable change; some good and some bad.

    ReplyDelete
  11. this seems a nice game but why this game is still not launched?
    please take a few minutes to check this out http://titanicmovie.org/

    ReplyDelete