When is an egg not an egg?
An Easter Egg FAQ, of sorts
So you wanna find an easter egg, huh? You want your name in lights, you want everyone on the HBO forum to realize that you're the bee's knees, that nobody looks for secrets like you do. Well, fine, bucko... but there are a few things you gotta get straight first.
An 'Easter Egg' is an undocumented surprise hidden by the programmer in the game. Finding it has no effect whatsoever on gameplay - it's there for fun. Key features: it's hidden (though sometimes in plain sight), it's undocumented, gameplay does not depend on it. And, oh, yeah - it has some relevance in the Bungieverse. Let's look at some examples.
On the bottom of the Master Chief's right boot are the letters 'MRL'. This is nearly impossible to see in regular gameplay - even with a sniper rifle, you've got to get a decent angle. However, just finding the letters doesn't mean you've found an easter egg - all you've found are 3 letters! Finding the meaning of the letters defines the egg. (In this case, they're the initials of the artist who created the MC skin.) So, if you run across random letters in a level of Halo... you may or may not have begun the process of finding an egg. Until you discover the MEANING of the letters, you definitely haven't finished.
Similarly, there are six numbers on the front of the Scorpion tank. Anybody's who's played multiplayer has at least had them on the screen - but few gave them a thought, until someone suggested they looked like a date. Some digging proved that the numbers did, indeed, signify a date - in this case, the birthday of the man who drew them. Again - noticing the numbers is only the beginning. (They were there for everyone to see.) Finding out what they stand for... that's the egg.
On the other side of the coin, there have been literally dozens of people who have mailed us breathlessly (amazing, we can read the breathlessness in typewritten words!) to tell us that there's a shovel inside the left front tread of the tank... folks, this is not an egg. This is an example of Bungie's attention to detail. Shovels can be of use to people driving tanks - maybe not in the game itself, but in a real tank.
All over the game, you'll find Marathon symbols. There's one on the side of the Pillar of Autumn... there's one on Keyes' uniform, and another on his pipe. The front of 343 Guilty Spark outlines one. There MIGHT be one on the back of the Scorpion tank (it could easily be a coincidence)... hell, there's even one in the Halo logo itself. These aren't eggs. These are a friendly way for Bungie to remind you where they came from - and to say 'Hi' to long-time fans. Maybe - maybe - taken as a whole, the Marathon symbol could be considered an egg of sorts; after all, it's there for fun, it's undocumented (mostly), gameplay does not depend on it. They're not really hidden, though - not even in plain sight. They're pretty obvious. For example, the one on the side of the PoA is actually focused on by the camera as it swings around the downed ship at the beginning of the Maw - the only way to miss it is to close your eyes during the cutscene.
There's writing all over the ammo and weapons of the Halo universe. The rocket launcher, for example, has this text written on the side: ' SPNKr M41 SS MAV/AW Attention: Hold like this'. On the shotgun shell packs can be read '8 GAUGE MAG 15P - 00B'. On the pistol ammo, 'M225 12.7x40mm SAP-HP PULL TAB'.) Should this writing be considered easter egg material? For the most part... no. It simply describes the item, and should be considered standard military procedure. There IS an exception, however... the hippo found on the side of the shotgun shell is decidedly NON-military, and was added purely for its easter-egg value. To know this is an egg, you must know enough Bungie history to know about Matt Soell's fixation on hippos.
But wait, you scream... if the hippo is an egg, why isn't 'SPNKR' on the side of the rocket launcher an egg? After all, the name came directly from Marathon, where a similar rocket launcher had a similar name! Well... yes, except that Bungie has made zero effort to hide this - in fact, in early screenshots (from years before Halo was released), the reference was prominent. It's not an egg.
If you stay on the pelican at the start of 343 Guilty Spark, you'll find yourself on top of the level. There are all sorts of weird things up here... like dead Flood, and access to guns with no operators... but the one that gets most people is the lone marine standing at the top of the level. (Ben Kane and Greg Mouland turned in a shot of him in early January 2002 - though he'd been noticed a couple of weeks before that.) Folks - he's not a egg. We don't know exactly why he's there (though my hunch says it has to do with trigger points and friendly symbols on your motion detector)... but he's NOT AN EGG. Yes, it's true, he meets the 'hidden' criterion - but he adds nothing that someone familiar with Bungie would appreciate any more than someone NOT familiar with Bungie. Finding him doesn't give you that warm little glow of knowing that Bungie put him there just for you... because you don't KNOW why Bungie put him there.
There are probably dozens more examples of non-easter eggs... and we'll update this page as incoming breathless email warrants. For the time being, though, before you send in that frantic note, think about what it is that you're suggesting, and whether it's really an egg, or if it might be something else.