343 Industries on building the Halo universe
Comic-Con 2010: Creative director Frank O'Connor talks with Greg Bear, Karen Traviss, Peter David, and more to discuss upcoming novels, comics, and animated films set in Microsoft's acclaimed franchise.
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Who was there: 343 Industries' creative director Frank O'Connor was joined onstage by a host of contributors to the Halo-dedicated establishment. Among them were novelists Greg Bear and Karen Traviss, Tor Books editor Eric Raab, and famed comics writer Peter David. 343 Industries producer Alison Stroll and managing editor Kevin Grace rounded out the panel.
What they talked about: Bungie's Halo: Reach panel, which delved into user-generated content and new modes for the September 14 release, wasn't the franchise's only presence at Comic-Con 2010. Microsoft's 343 Industries was also on hand to provide a deeper look into the developments and people behind the Halo universe, in a panel titled, aptly enough, "Halo Universe Panel."
The session opened with a brief trailer recounting some of Halo's non-gaming exploits, ranging from the Halo novel The Fall of Reach to the Halo Legends anime. Of course, it also showed previously released footage from Halo: Reach, the final Bungie-developed installment in the franchise.
Stroll, who moderated the session, asked panelists what it was that kept them wanting to contribute to the Halo universe. Raab led off, saying that world building offers the ultimate sandbox, because it lets a writer take a universe that is self-contained and flesh out the limitless stories within it. David concurred, saying that the nice thing about Halo in particular is that all of his contributions are canonical, and its satisfying to be part of something that's bigger than himself.
Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Bear then discussed what brought him into the fold. He said that the Halo universe offers the classic hard-boiled military sci-fi that he grew up on and that it is entertaining for him to carry on the tradition of writing about extraordinary characters accomplishing extraordinary feats.
Traviss, who is also a primary contributor to Microsoft and Epic Games' Gears of War story, noted that her draw to the universe is that there are very dark, disturbed characters in the Halo universe, and those are exactly the types of stories that she likes to tell. She said that she feels like a tribal storyteller and feeds off the way people react to her stories.
David was then asked about the process of taking the Halo universe from the realm of games and bringing it to another medium--in his case, comic books. He said that it was actually quite easy, because Halo was born as a visual experience and was geared for being conveyed in such a manner. The Halo universe is especially nice, he continued, because of the massive amount of feedback he receives from the people who created the lore.
The conversation then turned to some of the upcoming releases in the Halo universe, with Raab noting that Tor will be reissuing all of the Halo novels with bonus content, the first of which will arrive by the end of August. He also said that a new collection of short stories will arrive in November and December.
The next new novel, which is being penned by Bear and focuses on the Forerunners, is expected to arrive this holiday. Delving into what fans of the novels can expect, Bear said the story focuses on humanity's origins in the Halo universe, as well as the construction of the massive space rings themselves. The story will be told over the course of three novels.
With Reach due on September 14, Grace said that gamers can also expect to get more information on Dr. Halsey (who created the Spartan program) with the game's limited-edition package. Included in the release will be Dr. Halsey's journal, which will recount her experiences with creating the supersoldier program, of which the iconic Master Chief was a member.
Stroll then queued up the next animated film in the Halo franchise, which will be titled The Mona Lisa. The brief trailer showed a group of humans happening upon a pod structure near the remnants of a destroyed Halo space station. On full alert and guns raised, the soldiers pop the seal, and out bursts a humanoid figure, blood-soaked and screaming. Stroll indicated that the flood will be central to the film.
Quote: "We would have to be the world's biggest a******* to not follow through. You're all applauding, but I didn't say we weren't the world's biggest a*******."--Frank O'Connor, responding to whether Master Chief's story will continue after the cliff-hanger ending of Halo 3.
Takeaway: The Halo universe is one that offers near-limitless possibilities for those who want to play in the Bungie-created sandbox. And Microsoft has certainly tapped some of the top sci-fi writing talent around to ensure that those stories come to life. Those who want more Halo beyond just the games should have a lot to busy themselves with for some time to come.