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6 March 2013
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The Halo Bulletin: 3.6.13

03.06.2013 19:00

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I am a jeans and t-shirt sort of girl. In fact, if I'm not covered in denim on the lower half of my body and a Halo hoodie on top, that means either the entirety of my closet has been worn both inside and out or I'm getting married - and yes, one of those things is significantly more likely to occur than the other (don't judge; it's a legitimate clothing strategy).

As Bulletins are my stomping ground, they have adopted the same style: Unadorned, simple and leaving a little - or a lot - to be visually desired. While my trademark geek'd-up-from-the-feet-up look is not going anywhere, we have decided to take a stab at improving the appearance of your favorite recurring newsletter. So along with today's special interview with legendary science fiction author Greg Bear and your usual weekly Matchmaking update, we hope you enjoy your fancily formatted new digs.

Now, since there's a lot of action in today's sack, let's get down to Bulletin business, shall we?

An Interview with Greg Bear
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Greg Bear

When I string words together, the end result is typically an awkwardly-phrased pile of text that traumatizes anybody who has the misfortune of stumbling upon it. Acclaimed author Greg Bear, on the other hand, is truly gifted when it comes to the art of writing. Tasked with composing a three-book arc set in the era of the Forerunners, the final installment of that saga is slated to hit a shelf near you on March 19, 2013.

Here to talk about the fiction of Halo, along with all three of his Forerunner books - Cryptum, Primordium and the soon-to-be-released Silentium - is none other than Greg Bear.

Halo 4 Didact

Greg Bear and the Forerunner Saga
Greg Bear and the Forerunner Saga

Thanks for joining us today, Greg. Your trilogy provides incredible insight into the Forerunner race. Do you see their civilization as grand? Tragic? Admirable? Evil?

All civilizations, all extended cultural groupings, are predatory and self-involved. The Forerunners have had a very long run as the dominant race and dominant culture in our galaxy. But over that period of time, they've become both inner-directed and self-satisfied, something which irritates the Librarian no end. She understands the ebbs and flows of living history better than most Forerunners, and sees their larger-scale blindnesses as both unnecessary and counterproductive - and in the end, fatal.

What kinds of inspiration did you look to when you were imagining Forerunner society and their amazing technological and architectural abilities?

Looking at the Forerunner environments and designs gamers have experienced, it became obvious that Builder/contractors would be very important. And looking at the destructive power of the Halos and the history of the Flood, it was equally obvious that we are dealing with a warrior civilization near the end of its history and power. The contrast between the warrior Didact and the gentler Librarian, savior of humanity and other species, gave me the remaining clues I needed to begin filling in their social structure and relationship. Science fiction pioneers such as Edward E. "Doc" Smith and his Lensman series, Olaf Stapledon's vast future histories, Arthur C. Clarke's expansive City and the Stars and Childhood's End, and the extraordinary works of Asimov and Heinlein, as well as the wonderful technologies and aliens imagined by Larry Niven and Iain Banks, helped shape my own fictional universes over the last forty years, and no doubt helped me imagine the Forerunners as well.

Can you describe your process for conceptualizing amazing worlds like Charum Hakkor or the Capital on paper?

It's a kind of waking dream, I think, wherein I mix and match archaeology, technology, cutting-edge science, extreme architecture - and the requirements of the story. Nothing the Forerunners come up with can really surprise me anymore! But there were many moments in Halo 4 that knocked my socks off. It's one thing to imagine and describe in words, quite another to see those visions come roaring to vibrant life.

Halo 4 Didact

How do you feel about the way the Didact is portrayed between book and game?

The fierceness of the original Didact is absolutely appropriate to Halo 4. Halo: Silentium documents the reasons both historical and immediate for his transformation.

Totally related, who would win in a fight: Bornstellar Didact or Ur-Didact?

Remember, Bornstellar is much younger... But the question must be, with or without armor? Bare-knuckle? Blasters at ten paces? Using ancillas as seconds? And would the Librarian step in and break them up?

Clearly I didn't think that question all the way through. While I battle the specifics, let's chat about Riser. Since he's quite different than a lot of the characters we have in the Halo universe, how did the extraordinary and clever Riser come into being?

Riser was inspired by the discovery of the so-called "Hobbits" on Flores Island in Indonesia. These diminutive humans - apparently related to Homo erectus - were about three feet high, made tools and apparently hunted small elephants and other game. As well, they may have survived until comparatively recent times - eighteen thousand years ago, perhaps later. My supposition is that they are the foundation beneath reports of many small races reported on the Pacific islands and perhaps elsewhere. As well, I bring in other recent anthropological discoveries, such as the Denisovans. It's an incredible time in modern anthropology.

What was your favorite event during the course of the trilogy (outside of Silentium, so we don't spoil it for anyone!) and why is it your favorite?

I think the interaction of our feisty humans with Bornstellar and the Ur-Didact remains one of my personal highlights. It was painful to remove them from their homes and sweep them off to high adventure and ultimately tragic transformations... But a few at least come to a good end. And about that, no more - until Silentium is published and the easter eggs are solved!

Speaking of Bornstellar, how did you want to resolve his arc when you first started the trilogy, and did that change in the process?

Bornstellar was always a poor fit for the Didact's imprint. That said, he does become the Didact, feels both the Didact's history and his emotions - understands his mentor better than any other Forerunner - and yet remains his own individual. He could be considered the Didact's imago, as the Didact himself might have been, minus the extraordinary stresses of Forerunner history.

Now that the final book of the trilogy is almost here, what can fans expect from Silentium?

A real roller-coaster ride! Revelations abound as we fill in the history of the Precursors, the preparations made for the final solution of the Halos, and the conflict and contrast between the Ur-Didact and his imprint, the Bornstellar Didact. As well, I introduce a new class of Forerunners - the chroniclers and legal investigators known collectively as Catalog. Humans, both ancient ancestors and in their Forerunner-recovered forms, also play key roles. And there's a surprise reprise of one of our favorite characters - but that's telling too much! Suffice it to say there's a kind of easter egg in Silentium waiting to be discovered and opened.

And we can't wait to do just that! Before you go, tell me one more thing: What's it been like interacting with Halo fans and how do you feel Halo fans compare to other sci-fi fans you've encountered over the years?

Halo 4 Concept Art

Halo fans are terrific. The science fiction readers I've met over the decades are similar in many respects to Halo fans - the groups definitely intersect - but the youth, enthusiasm and attention to detail of Halo fans is amazing. It's been a privilege to work in their shared universe!

I'm pretty sure the community has enjoyed it just as much as you have, Greg. Thank you so much for chatting with us today, and we'll see you (or Silentium, at least!) on March 19.

Next Week's Matchmaking Playlist Update
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We have been adding a plethora of playlists to the Halo 4 Matchmaking experience over the past several weeks (Extraction and Team Throwdown and Majestic! Oh my!). While the number of additions will soon slow down so we can focus on improving and freshening up the existing playlists, the augmentation tradition continues for at least another week with Action Sack. Check out Bravo's update below for more information about that and the other things that are coming on Monday.

Legends in the Dark

Week of 3.11:

Bravo here with the Matchmaking update! On Monday, Spartan Ops continues with an encore presentation of episode 7. In War Games, we'll be premiering the Team Action Sack playlist. This 4 vs. 4 playlist is guaranteed to bring explosions, laughs and just the right amount of chaos with non-traditional starting weapons and pre-set game loadouts. We have been building a number of these game types over the past few months and will be adding new variants on a regular basis. While we haven't locked down what the playlist will launch with, here are some of the game modes you can expect in the near future:

Binary Slayer

As IGN showed off in December, Binary Slayer features decreased gravity, increased speed, sniping and lots and lots of thrusting [bs angel note: You had me at thrusting.]. Check out the link above to learn how to build this game type through custom game options and play with your friends before the playlist goes live next week.

Lightning CTF

Your starting weapon is the LightRifle and one shot - anywhere - kills. With a 5-second respawn, touch Flag return and no motion sensor, Lightning CTF brings an entirely new Capture the Flag experience to Action Sack and Halo 4. Also, the Flag carrier keeps the LightRifle out when running the Flag!

Rockets & Rails

This new game mode features 3 things: Rocket Launchers, Railguns and Jet Packs. Oh, and it also has lots of explosions.

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Team Fiesta

Everyone loves parties - especially big parties with lots of random weapons. Fiesta is back, so you can now kill and be killed by the entire Halo 4 sandbox in one single game.

We're currently building many more Action Sack game modes, some of which will launch with the playlist on Monday, and others that will be introduced in upcoming weeks. Be on the lookout for the final Matchmaking update on Monday, which will detail all of the playlist's modes and maps.

We know many of you have been excitedly awaiting this playlist, and we look forward to not only hearing your feedback, but also your suggestions for crazy and new Action Sack-ish game types. Head to the War Games feedback section and let us know what you think next week.

We are also in the process of finalizing our FFA playlist, which will feature both Infinity Rumble and Rumble Pro on a wide variety of maps, including specifically tuned on-disc and Majestic DLC map variants. We'll post additional details closer to the playlist's launch.

If there's no Matchmaking Update next week, it's because I'm at home playing Action Sack. But seriously, I'm going to be at home playing Action Sack.

Fan Question of the Week
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From Dr Dorado: When do we get some info regarding BTB Objective? My clan has been waiting since launch! Please! Some info!

We are currently brainstorming different ways of bringing a large party-friendly playlist option for objective-based game types into Halo 4 Matchmaking. It's not coming immediately; however it is something we're actively working on and looking forward to implementing when officially ready.

Also, please tell your clan, and your dad, I said hello.

Halo 4 Screenshot Spotlight - Armor Abilities

Last week we shined the spotlight on community screenshots that doubled perfectly as wallpapers. This week we're going with an Armor Ability theme. Take a gander at the gorgeous shots below, then capture your own for your shot at being featured in next week's Bulletin.

For your chance at being in next week's spotlight, take a sniper-themed screenshot. Then tag it with "Sniper" and "Halo Waypoint", and maybe, just maybe, yours will be featured in the next Halo Bulletin!

And with that, this week's Bulletin comes to a close. Thank you, as always, for hanging out and reading my drivel. I'll see you next week, for more of the same.

bs angel

P.S. Discuss.