Last week, as I was preparing for a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles, I was told two very important things: One, it’s always sunny there, and two, it’s always sunny there. Guess what I learned, though, on my second day in that city. It’s not always sunny there. Go figure.
Thankfully my business (which was also quite pleasurable) was inside a studio, so my interaction with the precipitation was fleeting. Speaking of which, I’m reminded of another lesson I learned while in LA: When you walk into a hotel with a video camera, a lighting kit, and an armful of tripods (because your videographer doesn’t want to leave his equipment in the car overnight), the valets won’t believe you when you tell them you’re there for a Halo 4 shoot. At least, that’s the impression I got when they exchanged furtive glances and attempted to conceal their smirks. Again, go figure.
Unfortunately, as of right now that’s the extent of what I’m allowed to talk about in relation to that trip. Fret not though, because one day not so soon, you’ll hear or see more about what happened under the bright lights in that particular studio. I sense you quietly grunting in protest, which is oddly appropriate considering our next subject is everybody’s favorite bipedal vertebrate. And yes, that’s me moving on…
Meet Your Halo 4 Enemies– Part 1: Grunts
The Unggoy, a low-ranking species in the Covenant hierarchy, will be one of the enemies you face in Halo 4. If you are not yet familiar with our cannon fodder friends, below you will find a somewhat cursory introduction. And fodder for canon friends.
Grunts, as they are often referred to by humans, are bipedal vertebrates with spotty exoskeletons (some spottier than others depending on the game), appendages and movement typical of primates, and quite simple (yet often dull) eyes. We could talk about their elaborate circulatory system (also more vertebrate than arthropod in nature), but ONI’s classified all enemy autopsies and we don’t have clearance. How convenient for us.
The Grunt is not really a traditional arthropod in the 21st century Earth-native scientific understanding of the term. That being said, the Grunt’s high resemblance and similar evolutionary structure to arthropods on our planet illicit that prima facie nomenclature. However, they might be more accurately referred to as xeno-arthropod-type vertebrates with substantial (and hypothetical) genetic influences from primate-type organisms, as well as some unclassified aphotic-dwelling amphibian-type organisms.
What does this mean? Only that poor Carl Linnaeus can’t adequately classify sentient organisms originating from other planets and we shouldn’t necessarily expect him to. Until we develop perfect xenobiological classifications for rival and ultimately, very alien sentient species, humans of the 26th century, in the middle of trying to survive the Covenant War, might use ad hoc, makeshift terminology loosely based on the Earth’s own organisms—and that’s exactly what ‘arthropod’ is when it appears in the definition of the Unggoy.
As for how the Grunts of past Halo games and Halo 4 compare: Are they different species, a result of natural mutation, selective breeding, or genetic mutation within a single species? We’re not ready to show our cards here just yet. We can say that there are certain species on Earth which exhibit extraordinary differences within their kind (Great Dane vs. Pomeranian) and that there are vastly numerous species similar enough to categorically lump them together (look up Plover). And this is just on our planet, five hundred years before the events of Halo, and without the masterful technology wielded by the Covenant during its reign. So there’s plenty of room for speculation as to what those differences mean genetically, biologically, historically and even philosophically. But, answers to those questions are for another day.
That said, one of the biggest challenges to the hardcore fans of Halo’s massive and ever-expanding fictional universe (for us too) is that there is a normal, almost universal, tendency to try to force any and all contents into a carefully and intricately crafted box based on all that’s come before. These fans (again, ourselves included) are all-too comfortable with lateral and linear progression on top of foundational rules that we can track, label and say, “Yeah, that makes sense because of X and Y and Z”. But when it comes to longitudinal, exponential changes which restructure what was only perceived to be the foundation, that’s when folks tend to get nervous (again, ourselves included!).
The game is evolving. The technology we use to render the game is evolving. Decisions that made sense for 480i TVs back in 19-oatcake may need to be adjusted in 720p, and who knows what other resolutions in the future. We’re not recategorizing a species, upsetting an apple cart, or changing the canon. We’re doing what we always do. We’re layering detail, evolving the art, pushing the universe onwards and outwards. We’re making change for holistic reasons, never for change’s sake.
The bottom line, however, is that the last ten years have only been a keyhole into the enormous canyon that is the Halo Universe and there is so much more out there than we could ever fit in those boxes, as well-intended and finely-crafted as they might be. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface.
So the next time you see an enemy that looks a little different or a weapon/vehicle that doesn’t match its predecessors verbatim, or even a backstory that doesn’t appear to be the “whole story”, understand that the Halo Universe is big enough to hold all of them safely and securely together, and will do so with a smile on its face. And whenever you doubt that, just take the incredible variability you find in our contemporary world and multiply it by a thousand. Then you’ll get a hint of just how big a 26th century, galaxy-spanning Halo story is to us. We’re hoping that in the coming months and years, you’ll get to see just how big that really is.
(Spoiler: It’s really big.)
Forward Unto Dawn Wallpaper
Last week we announced Forward Unto Dawn, an upcoming live-action web series featuring new characters and stories that tie directly into Halo 4. Accompanying that announcement was an image depicting the back of a certain Spartan super-soldier. Many of you asked us to wallpaperize that image (clicks “Add to Dictionary”), so we did just that, and not just because we wanted to make sure you could never say we have yet to do anything for you. But primarily because we wanted to make sure you could never say we have yet to do anything for you. Ha, we win! And you can, too, by clicking your desired size, right clicking on the image, and then selecting “Set as background”.
Custom Challenge of the Week
Grunt dialogue is often humorous and none so much, in my opinion, as the classic one-liner, “Please enjoy my bright blue spherical projectiles!” At least, that’s what I think the quote is, anyway. How exactly does that relate to your Custom Challenge of the Week, though? It would be my pleasure to explain the connection, my Credit-loving friends!
From now until next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, setting up a Custom Challenge with Catch and then turning that skull on in-game will result in three times the usual multiplier (normally this particular gameplay modifier adds a 10% boost to your total Credit value for a challenge). Please note that when you set Skulls as a Constraint, you must activate ONLY those skulls for games to count. No more, no less.
With that being said, I do believe it’s time to play ball. Here’s to hoping you don’t strike out! In-game, anyway.
Super Jackpot Weekend
If the aforementioned Custom Challenge of the Week doesn’t quite quench your big grunty thirst for credits, perhaps this will: starting on Friday and ending on Sunday, hopping into the Team Objective playlist will present you with the chance to receive a 24,000-credit bonus. That particular playlist had a credit stimulus based on win-scaling added recently (you can find additional details about that in the Matchmaking section of the 4.25 Bulletin), so if you like capping flags, arming bombs, or hunting heads, May 11-13 is the time to do it.
And with that, it’s time to officially call this sucker done. Tell your mother we said hello (we’d recommend Sunday after you tell her Happy Mother’s Day), and we’ll see you here next week, when we’ll be serving up another teeny tiny piece of the Halo 4-related informational pie. Until then…
P.S. It turns out I owe you two Friday Caption Fun images today (since I was out of town last week). After you select your favorite, hit the latest installment to contribute your witty quip. Off you go!