Guide to Canon in the Halo Universe

Note from January 2012:  Bungie Inc is no longer in control the Halo franchise.  This makes this document fairly redundant as it is focused solely on what Bungie (and it’s employees) had to say about what is considered canon and what isn’t.  However since 343 Industries is now controlling the franchise it is up to them to decide what is canon and what isn’t.  I won’t be updating this document any further.

This is version 1.03, which is also available in PDF, MS Word and over at Bungie.net in the original thread.

Please do not copy or reproduce this document without my permission.

Contents

  • Introduction and Notes                                                                                                   
  • Halo Canon General                                                                                                       
  • List of canonical material in ascending order                                                              
  • Halo novels are canon                                                                                                    
  • Cortana Letters are not canon                                                                                     
  • ILOVEBEES is not canon (disputed)
  • Halo Wars is canon                                                                                                         
  • Spartan 458 – Nicole (from Dead or Alive 4) is not canon                                         
  • IRIS and other Halo 3 PR and Marketing                                                                     
  • Halo Legends is Canon                                                                                                  
  • Halo: Reach and problems associated with it                                                           
  • Conclusion, thanks and acknowledgements                                                            
  • Links

Introduction and Notes

This is a pretty definitive post that specifies exactly what is considered canon in the Halo universe.  It has been put together using quotes and posts from various Bungie and Microsoft employees, as well as some external people such as Eric Nylund.  Sources have been listed where appropriate and possible.

The sources listed in this document include the following people:

  • Joseph Staten: Bungie’s Director of Cinematics and Lead Writer
  • Peter Parsons: Executive Producer of Halo 2, current Studio Manager
  • Frank (Frankie) O’Connor:  Former Content Manager/Bungie.net Team.
  • Eric Nylund: Author of Halo novels, including Fall of Reach, First Strike and Ghosts of Onyx.
  • Chad Armstrong (a.k.a.Shishka):  Ex-contract worker and former Playlist Designer.

Due to the large number of quotes used in this document it has become necessary to use different fonts and sizes to differentiate between text.  All text that was written by me is in the usual larger font.  Quotes are in italics and use a slightly smaller font size and a different font so that it becomes easier to differentiate between something official coming from a Bungie employee and something that I am saying.

Halo was originally developed by Bungie Studios and is owned solely by the Microsoft Corporation.  Ensemble Studios developed Halo Wars while a number of authors have written novels.  Graphic novels have been created by Marvel Comics and a DVD of anime shorts has also been produced.   The Halo universe is now overseen by 343 Industries, an in-house studio set up by Microsoft to control and manage all things Halo.  Frank O’Connor has a key role at 343 Industries.

If you would like to get in touch or leave feedback please visit the Bungie.net thread: http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=33630397.  Any additional information you have regarding Halo canon would be welcome.

Version: 1.03:  Updated structure and content to take into account Halo: Reach and other recently released materials.

Updates may be made to this document in the future.  Please visit the Bungie.net thread above to get the latest version.

Halo Canon General Information

“Halo ‘canon’ can quite easily be viewed in a similar way as the kind of canon system in place with Star Wars.  A certain hierarchy of priority.  In other words, different levels of canon where the higher levels will override the lower ones whenever there is a contradiction.

Everything that Bungie has ever approved is canonical. But even then, certain things trump others. In order of canonical influence:

– The games rank first

– Published materials (books, comics, soundtrack liner notes etc.) rank second

– Marketing and PR materials third

And there’s one codicil: the more recent items trump the older ones. So, for example, if some aspect of Halo 3’s fiction contradicted Halo 2’s, Halo 3’s would be the gold standard.

Bungie doesn’t like to retcon (i.e., deliberately change previously established facts), but sometimes it’s necessary. Take for example the issue of the number of human worlds. The truth about the “800+” number? That was made up by a non-Bungie employee and never approved by us before the Halo: CE promotional website went live.

As for some of the other issues raised, chiefly Jenkins’ age and UNSC foot-dragging on fielding the BR55? I will only say that some marines have spent a very long time in cryo-sleep and that putting an entirely new weapon into service during a war — especially a war that spans multiple star systems — is no small order.

That being said, I’m constantly impressed by how close attention you all pay to the details. Don’t ever stop keeping us honest! And we’ll do our best to keep you reliably entertained :-)

– Joseph”

Halo.Bungie.Org | Joseph Staten’s Post (http://forums.bungie.org/halo/archive28.pl?read=847640)

The important information to take from this post by Joseph Staten is the order of canonical material.  This goes in order:

  1. The games
  2. Published materials (books, comics, soundtrack liner notes etc.)
  3. Marketing and PR materials

Also of note is that the more recent the item the more canonical it is.  So Halo: Reach would be considered above Halo 3.  So if something in Halo: Reach contradicts something that is said in Halo 3 then the Halo: Reach information comes out on top and is considered canon.

List of canonical material in ascending order

This is a list of all published material from the Halo universe, ordered in terms of the influence each items has on the canon.  The list is in ascending order so the higher the item the more influence it has over the Halo canon.    If two items have competing or contradictory information regarding something in the Halo universe then a general rule of thumb would be to take as canon the information from the item that is highest in the list.

  1. Halo Reach
  2. Halo 3: ODST
  3. Halo 3
  4. Halo 2
  5. Halo: CE
  6. Halo Wars
  7. Halo Legends
  8. Halo: Evolutions
  9. Halo: The Cole Protocol
  10. Halo: Contact Harvest
  11. Halo: Uprising
  12. Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
  13. Halo Graphic Novel
  14. Halo: First Strike
  15. Halo: The Flood
  16. Halo:   The Fall of Reach
  17. Birth of a Spartan (Marketing)
  18. ONI Candidate Assessment Program V5.02A (Marketing)
  19. Superintendent Viral Campaign
  20. Iris (Marketing)
  21. I Love Bees

Please be aware that this list may be incomplete and its accuracy will be contended by some members of the Halo community.  I have created this list using the information available to me from various sources and as such it is not a definitive list.  However for simplicity you can use it as a general rule of thumb if you come across contradictions or inconsistencies between two published works.  Halo Wars has been listed as 6, although it was released after the Halo trilogy of games.  This was simply because it was created largely outside of Bungie’s control.  Some may dispute that it should be higher or lower than it is listed.

Halo Novels are Canon

GameSpy: When you were writing the game’s script, did you want to tie the whole universe together, including stuff that was in the two books?

Joe Staten: The books are full of wonderful, complex elements that would be hugely problematic if we included them in Halo 2 in any meaningful way (e.g. the existence of other Spartans). That being said, I did my best to be take the books into account as I wrote, and there are definitely common themes and characters. The opposite is true as well; Eric Nylund and I spoke often as he gathered his thoughts for the third Halo novel, “First Strike.”

Gamespy | Interview with Joseph Staten (http://uk.xbox.gamespy.com/xbox/halo-2/562962p2.html)

How Stuff Works: Was the “Halo” story fully realized and segmented into different games, or did you take the story as far as “Halo 1” and when it came time for a sequel, build the story from the ground up?

Pete Parsons: The “Halo” universe has an overarching story that is well thought out and was well thought out before “Halo 2.” We have roughly 600 years worth of “Halo” fiction, and we know what happens inside of that universe at any given time. The [“Halo 2”] story itself only existed as notes and was really fleshed out. We know ultimately, at least in the “Halo” universe, where humanity came from, where it’s going to, at what point in time it comes in contact with The Covenant [the villains in “Halo”] and what happens well beyond that. “Halo 2” picks up literally right after “Halo 1.” But there is still plenty of story in and around that. And you can see some of that in the three novels we have.

How Stuff Works: The novelization of a video game is, well … novel. Where does Eric Nyland <sic> get the background for his books?

Pete Parsons: We work closely with him on all the stories. So what we do is we have these story arcs of the “Halo” universe, and Eric goes in and says, “Well that’s a really good piece to take and here is in a microcosm what I think that story will look like.”

How Stuff Works: Are you guys very conscious to make sure that everything fits together — that the books and games don’t contradict one another — so that everyone can look to any source and say, “This is very consistent, fully realized world”?

Pete Parsons: Yes, but not in the marketing kind of way. We do it because we want the “Halo” universe to be manifold. You can certainly probably pull out some inconsistencies, but as a general rule we really try to keep it manifold. Because we think that ultimately we are doing this for ourselves. And after that, we’re doing it for our fans, and we want them to really believe in this place that is the Halo universe. I think the reason Halo has captured so many imaginations is because we care a lot about what’s going on in that universe and how believable that universe is. We have this high level myth that we understand very well.

How Stuff Works | Interview with Pete Parsons (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/halo1.htm)

EGM: You mention Reach; have you read all of the Halo books?

Pete Parsons: Yeah, obviously the Halo fiction. The overarching Halo universe is crafted here, and then guys like…particularly [Halo book author Eric Nylund] has the job of really fleshing out the bones of that particular story arc.

EGM: So somewhere there’s a Halo bible that has the basic storyline, including what goes on after Halo 2?

Pete Parsons: Yes, from the present day to the future.

Electronic Gaming Monthly | Interview with Pete Parsons

HBO: As the Halo storyline has evolved, have you made changes to Halo: The Fall of Reach, or have you kept it going in the direction you started?

Eric Nylund: By the time writing began, the storyline of the Halo game was more or less finalized. An outline for the novel was approved by Bungie before I began writing-only very minor changes were made to the novel.

HBO: Have there been changes to the GAME (that you know of) due to the book, or due to research instigated by its writing?

Eric Nylund: Not that I’m aware of, no. I relied on the Story Bible quite extensively. The whole idea behind a Story Bible is that if you create a document that accurately describes the universe in which a game takes place, you can use it as a guide for writing a novel (for example) without needing to constantly check the developing novel against a developing game.

Halo.Bungie.Org | Interview with Eric Nylund (http://nikon.bungie.org/misc/nylund.interview.html)

GameSpy: Also in regards to the “Halo universe,” who has ultimate control over where and how the storylines intersect?

Joe Staten: Bungie. Specifically, myself, Jones, Parsons and our community team. And we’re very careful about the opportunities we pursue.

Gamespy | Interview with Joseph Staten (http://uk.xbox.gamespy.com/xbox/halo-2/562962p2.html)

GameSpy: When it comes to the expansion of the Halo universe, we’ve seen books come out, action figures, things like that. Was this a conscious decision by Bungie, or did it just start to happen as the Halo snowball rolled on and got bigger?

Frank O’Connor: You know, if you come by the Bungie offices, the place is absolutely filled with action figures, toys, and other stuff like that. The cool thing about working at Bungie, and I can’t speak for the other studios at Microsoft, is that they let us do what we want, and they let us have complete control over our intellectual properties. So, we get to make the things that we want to make. That why I think people like the Halo action figures. They’re fully posable, they’re really high quality, and they’re really detailed, and that’s a direct result of us having control over them. It could have been possible for us to just hand that off to some factory and say, “Just make something that looks like this,” but every toy, model, and even cups and T-shirts, that come back here, we get final approval over. It’s not just approval, though, we also get to make changes like, “No, that’s not detailed enough, make it more detailed.” That’s a really cool thing about working in this studio.

Gamespy | Interview with Frank O’Connor (http://uk.xbox.gamespy.com/xbox/halo-2/562370p6.html)

Shishka: The Fall of Reach, The Flood, and First Strike are official books. Yes, Bungie had say in their writing. Yes, the writers did some of their own work nothing was published without first receiving Bungie’s approval.

However, what you fail to realize is that the books act as flavor for the hardcore. Guess what? Out of the millions that have bought and played the second Halo, only a tiny handful have actually READ these books. As such, it’d be unwise to reference the books directly in the game, as the reference would be obscure and misunderstood by the majority of players.

The books enhance the games, not the other way around.

The mistake in your thinking is that Halo 1 doesn’t “reference” anything that happened in The Flood. It’s the other way around. And, Halo 1 didn’t reference anything that happened during Fall of Reach, just as Halo 2 didn’t reference anything that happened in First Strike.

Bungie.net | Post made by Shishka in the forums

Halo Story Page: Would the books make the cut?

Joseph Staten: The books are, for better or worse, part of the canon. In the future we may choose to revise or flat-out ignore some of the less appealing ideas (Johnson’s biological immunity to the Flood, for example), but folks should treat them as defining elements of the Halo universe.

Halo Story Page | Interview with Joseph Staten (http://halostory.bungie.org/staten102204.html)

The Cortana Letters are not canon

ShishkaSomething I must point out, now that this thread has grown…

The Cortana letters are not canon. They’re a relic of a time when the first Halo wasn’t even a first person shooter, yet. I suggest you do not read too deeply into them to find secrets about the games- there’s nothing there to find.

Bungie.net | Post by Shishka on the forums

HSP: The dialogue from the Halo 3 trailer bears obvious similarity to the Cortana Letters from the early Halo days. Given that they have been discouraged as canon over the years, are they now to be afforded greater consideration? Additionally, the Letters themselves were strongly reminiscent of the messages from Durandal, the rampant AI from Marathon. What are your thoughts on “rampancy,” AIs in the Halo universe, and Cortana specifically?

Joseph Staten: Canon is tricky (see my controversial statement about “I Love Bees” – believe it or not, we’re actually working to answer the “is it, or isn’t it?” question right now!). The Halo story has as many loose threads as influences. And we do our best to sew the former into canon as we find them – are reminded of their potential. The Cortana Letters are an excellent example of this phenomenon. For all sorts of reasons, they lingered in canonical purgatory for years. But when we needed some compelling dialog to remind folks what’s at stake in Halo3: Bam! Newfound utility! Alas, I’d have to say that, as of now, the only canonized parts of the letters are the fragments we pulled for use in the announcement trailer.

Halo Story Page | Interview with Joseph Staten (http://halostory.bungie.org/staten083106.html)

I Love Bees is not canon

HaloStoryPage: If you were to define what is and isn’t Halo story canon, would the I Love Bees stuff make the cut?

Joseph Staten: The Bees would not make the cut.

Those guys basically did their own thing with very little Bungie input (save for massaging and approving the initial plot-treatment). While we helped define the boundaries of their fiction, we let them do what they thought best. And I think the game turned out great.

Halo Story Page | Interview with Joseph Staten (http://halostory.bungie.org/staten102204.html)

Halo Wars is canon

GP: Do Bungie consider the story of Halo Wars to be a part of their official canon?

Jason: Yes, Halo Wars is canon. Frank O’Connor is the Halo “canon overseer” and we have his official signoff!

GP: Did Bungie reject any of Ensembles ideas?

Jason: The Bungie guys were great partners during the development of Halo Wars, and we all take the Halo canon very seriously. Ensemble consulted Bungie throughout the development of Halo Wars, and those guys were instrumental in helping us make sure the game was a genuine Halo experience. From the game standpoint this is 100% an Ensemble creative project, however it’s fair to say that Ensemble had great feedback from Bungie, but Bungie didn’t provide creative oversight for the project.

Gamerplanet | Interview with Ensemble Studios (http://www.gameplanet.co.nz/features/132939.20090304.Halo-Wars-Q-A-session/)

There is quite a bit of concern regarding how we’re going to fit the Flood into our game and keep it in canon which surprised me, but I promised them all that the Halo 1 canon is intact and that they would have to wait and see how we integrate the Flood.

HaloWars.com | News Post from Ensemble Studios (http://www.halowars.com/news/articles/archive/2008/10/14/Hello-from-TGS.aspx)

Halo Wars is considered canon in the Halo universe. All plot elements and similar features of the game are for all intensive purposes are seen as “fact”. However some features of Halo Wars are not considered canon and were included to allow for balanced gameplay or for other reasons. This includes some characteristics of the armour worn by the Spartans in the game.

Spartan 458 – Nicole (from Dead or Alive 4) is not canon

Here’s a list of things Nicole, Spartan 458 is NOT .

* She’s not a character who’s ever been described in other Halo fiction.

* She’s not a character from our next project.

* She’s not one of the Spartans from Fall of Reach.

* She’s not a character from the Halo movie.

* She’s not returning my calls. I blame time bubbles.

In short, she’s a fictional means to an end that we gave careful thought, but with a jaunty tip of our hat and a wry wink in the general direction of levity.

Bungie.net | News post made by Bungie Studios (http://www.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?cid=7349)

In short Nicole was created simply to conveniently allow a Spartan II to appear in the 21st century. She is not a part of the Halo universe, but actually the Dead or Alive universe.

Iris and other marketing and PR materials

AvateurConsidering what you stated about the two-part episode covering the Forerunner’s first encounter with the Flood all the way through Halo 3, will the Alternate Reality Games ilovebees and Iris be taken into consideration at all?

Frankie: Absolutely

Comic-Con Panel | Video available at Halo.Bungie.Org (http://carnage.bungie.org/haloforum/halo.forum.pl?read=934649)

This to me shows that Frankie, and 343 Studios by association, are willing to use information from both ILB and Iris.  I’m unwilling to outright commit to saying that any PR or marketing material is canon but back to the rule.  Unless it contradicts something from the games or novels (or any other canon for that matter) then take you can read into it anything you want.  Just take it with a grain of salt.

You have to remember that although Bungie approve and probably direct to a certain degree, those materials are the work of other studios who often come up with their own material after being given a basic outline.  So Bungie may have provided documents that outlined what they thought should be included but I imagine the studio would then have had free reign to a certain extent to be creative.  Bungie/343 Studios might decide to use that material in the future or may choose to discard it.

Halo Legends is Canon

Mid7night: Where in the gradient of Halo “cannon” will this fall? In the realm of the current-released books, or more like “published fan-fiction” ?

Frankie: It’s canon, like books. Except for Toei. But there IS interpretation – armor styling etc. It’s art, after al.

Halo Story Page | Interview with Frank O’Connor (http://nikon.bungie.org/misc/frankie_legends_qa.html)

Halo: Reach and problems associated with it

Halo: Reach was released on the 14th of September 2010.  It brought with it a lot of new content and story elements, some of which contradict with previous stories and published works.  Although the general rule would be to simply take Halo: Reach’s story as the most canonical, in this case I have decided to list some of the major contradictions and the problems they have caused as Halo: Reach’s setting is a time and place that has had a great deal of storytelling from various sources in the Halo Universe.  Some of these contradictions and errors are still being disputed and discussed within the Halo community and as such may not be completely up to date.

  1. Halo: Reach states that the planet Reach was invaded on July 24th.  However all other material has always stated that reach was invaded on August 30th, and that it fell in one day.  Ghosts of Onyx, First Strike, and the Fall of Reach (as well as some other media) all list the date as August 30th
  1. There are no Orbital MAC’’s shown within Halo: Reach yet all other sources have stated that Reach has a number of Orbital MAC’s to protect the planet from invading fleets.  The Fall of Reach and First Strike both state that the MAC’s were present on the August 30th when Reach fell, yet they were not present during Halo: Reach especially in the mission Long Night of Solace.
  1. The Pillar of Autumn should not be on the planet’s surface during the time that Halo: Reach is set.  For more information on the implications of this please see this thread at Bungie.net: http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=49053700
  1. According to the Cole Protocol if any planet or ship detects Covenant forces or is in any danger of being attacked by Covenant forces then they should immediately purge all NAV data and information from computers in order to protect the location of Earth and the other inner colonies.  How is it that Covenant forces are known to be on Reach on July 23rd yet a month later during the events of The Fall of Reach NAV data with the location of Earth is still stored on computers.  If the Cole Protocol was carried out then that data would have been destroyed and Blue Team would not have been sent to the station in order to destroy the data.

There are other problems and contradictions that have arisen since the release of Halo: Reach.  For a full discussion and debate of this topic please visit this Bungie.net thread: http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=49053700

Conclusion, thanks and acknowledgements

In conclusion then the canon can be summarised as follows:

– The games rank first

– Published materials (books, comics, soundtrack liner notes etc.) rank second

– Marketing and PR materials third

I hope that this will help those on the forums who want to discuss plot elements and theories and that it can be useful to them.  The original version of this document provided the outline for the current form.  This form has been heavily modified and formatted from the original, and now includes links to the source material as well as extra content.  As I was unable to find my previous thread (it was posted two years ago) I decided to simply re-post this in the new Bungie Universe forum, as it has had much added to it since then.

Acknowledgements and thanks must go to The Watchers (http://www.bungie.net/fanclub/watchers/Group/GroupHome.aspx) and specifically to opogjijijp for much of the source material which was painstakingly collected.  Various members from Bungie.net, especially regulars of the Bungie Universe forum, contributed in various means.  My thanks to all those people.

Halo is © Microsoft Corporation 2010.

Links

Comprehensive List and Details of the Halo Novels and Comics – Max2107
Complete Halo Timeline – Halo.Bungie.Org

Unexplainable errors in the Halo canon – Bungie.net
Halo Reach did not destroy the canon – Bungie.net
Halo: The Fall of Reach (Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
Halo: The Flood (Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
Halo: First Strike (Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
Halo: Contact Harvest (Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
Halo: The Cole Protocol (Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
The Cortana Letters (The Cortana Letters | Wikipedia Page)
ILOVEBEES.com (I Love Bees | Wikipedia Page)
Halo Wars (Official Page | Wikipedia Page | Xbox Page)
Dead or Alive 4 (Official Page | Wikipedia Page | Xbox Page)

Contents

Introduction and Notes… 3

Halo Canon General… 4

List of canonical material in ascending order… 5

Halo novels are canon… 6

Cortana Letters are not canon… 9

ILOVEBEES is not canon (disputed)… 10

Halo Wars is canon… 11

Spartan 458 – Nicole (from Dead or Alive 4) is not canon… 12

IRIS and other Halo 3 PR and Marketing… 13

Halo Legends is Canon… 14

Halo: Reach and problems associated with it… 15

Conclusion, thanks and acknowledgements… 16

Links… 17

Introduction and Notes

This is a pretty definitive post that specifies exactly what is considered canon in the Halo universe. It has been put together using quotes and posts from various Bungie and Microsoft employees, as well as some external people such as Eric Nylund. Sources have been listed where appropriate and possible.

The sources listed in this document include the following people:

–Joseph Staten: Bungie’s Director of Cinematics and Lead Writer

–Peter Parsons: Executive Producer of Halo 2, current Studio Manager

–Frank (Frankie) O’Connor: Former Content Manager/Bungie.net Team.

–Eric Nylund: Author of Halo novels, including Fall of Reach, First Strike and Ghosts of Onyx.

–Chad Armstrong (a.k.a.Shishka): Ex-contract worker and former Playlist Designer.

Due to the large number of quotes used in this document it has become necessary to use different fonts and sizes to differentiate between text. All text that was written by me is in the usual larger font. Quotes are in italics and use a slightly smaller font size and a different font so that it becomes easier to differentiate between something official coming from a Bungie employee and something that I am saying.

Halo was originally developed by Bungie Studios and is owned solely by the Microsoft Corporation. Ensemble Studios developed Halo Wars while a number of authors have written novels. Graphic novels have been created by Marvel Comics and a DVD of anime shorts has also been produced. The Halo universe is now overseen by 343 Industries, an in-house studio set up by Microsoft to control and manage all things Halo. Frank O’Connor has a key role at 343 Industries.

If you would like to get in touch or leave feedback please visit the Bungie.net thread: http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=33630397. Any additional information you have regarding Halo canon would be welcome.

Version: 1.03: Updated structure and content to take into account Halo: Reach and other recently released materials.

Updates may be made to this document in the future. Please visit the Bungie.net thread above to get the latest version.

Halo Canon General Information

“Halo ‘canon’ can quite easily be viewed in a similar way as the kind of canon system in place with Star Wars. A certain hierarchy of priority. In other words, different levels of canon where the higher levels will override the lower ones whenever there is a contradiction.

Everything that Bungie has ever approved is canonical. But even then, certain things trump others. In order of canonical influence:

– The games rank first

– Published materials (books, comics, soundtrack liner notes etc.) rank second

– Marketing and PR materials third

And there’s one codicil: the more recent items trump the older ones. So, for example, if some aspect of Halo 3’s fiction contradicted Halo 2’s, Halo 3’s would be the gold standard.

Bungie doesn’t like to retcon (i.e., deliberately change previously established facts), but sometimes it’s necessary. Take for example the issue of the number of human worlds. The truth about the “800+” number? That was made up by a non-Bungie employee and never approved by us before the Halo: CE promotional website went live.

As for some of the other issues raised, chiefly Jenkins’ age and UNSC foot-dragging on fielding the BR55? I will only say that some marines have spent a very long time in cryo-sleep and that putting an entirely new weapon into service during a war — especially a war that spans multiple star systems — is no small order.

That being said, I’m constantly impressed by how close attention you all pay to the details. Don’t ever stop keeping us honest! And we’ll do our best to keep you reliably entertained :-)

– Joseph”

Halo.Bungie.Org | Joseph Staten’s Post (http://forums.bungie.org/halo/archive28.pl?read=847640)

The important information to take from this post by Joseph Staten is the order of canonical material. This goes in order:

1.The games

2.Published materials (books, comics, soundtrack liner notes etc.)

3.Marketing and PR materials

Also of note is that the more recent the item the more canonical it is. So Halo: Reach would be considered above Halo 3. So if something in Halo: Reach contradicts something that is said in Halo 3 then the Halo: Reach information comes out on top and is considered canon.

List of canonical material in ascending order

This is a list of all published material from the Halo universe, ordered in terms of the influence each items has on the canon. The list is in ascending order so the higher the item the more influence it has over the Halo canon. If two items have competing or contradictory information regarding something in the Halo universe then a general rule of thumb would be to take as canon the information from the item that is highest in the list.

1.Halo Reach

2.Halo 3: ODST

3.Halo 3

4.Halo 2

5.Halo: CE

6.Halo Wars

7.Halo Legends

8.Halo: Evolutions

9.Halo: The Cole Protocol

10.Halo: Contact Harvest

11.Halo: Uprising

12.Halo: Ghosts of Onyx

13.Halo Graphic Novel

14.Halo: First Strike

15.Halo: The Flood

16.Halo: The Fall of Reach

17.Birth of a Spartan (Marketing)

18.ONI Candidate Assessment Program V5.02A (Marketing)

19.Superintendent Viral Campaign

20.Iris (Marketing)

21.I Love Bees

Please be aware that this list may be incomplete and its accuracy will be contended by some members of the Halo community. I have created this list using the information available to me from various sources and as such it is not a definitive list. However for simplicity you can use it as a general rule of thumb if you come across contradictions or inconsistencies between two published works. Halo Wars has been listed as 6, although it was released after the Halo trilogy of games. This was simply because it was created largely outside of Bungie’s control. Some may dispute that it should be higher or lower than it is listed.

Halo Novels are Canon

GameSpy: When you were writing the game’s script, did you want to tie the whole universe together, including stuff that was in the two books?

Joe Staten: The books are full of wonderful, complex elements that would be hugely problematic if we included them in Halo 2 in any meaningful way (e.g. the existence of other Spartans). That being said, I did my best to be take the books into account as I wrote, and there are definitely common themes and characters. The opposite is true as well; Eric Nylund and I spoke often as he gathered his thoughts for the third Halo novel, “First Strike.”

Gamespy | Interview with Joseph Staten (http://uk.xbox.gamespy.com/xbox/halo-2/562962p2.html)

How Stuff Works: Was the “Halo” story fully realized and segmented into different games, or did you take the story as far as “Halo 1” and when it came time for a sequel, build the story from the ground up?

Pete Parsons: The “Halo” universe has an overarching story that is well thought out and was well thought out before “Halo 2.” We have roughly 600 years worth of “Halo” fiction, and we know what happens inside of that universe at any given time. The [“Halo 2”] story itself only existed as notes and was really fleshed out. We know ultimately, at least in the “Halo” universe, where humanity came from, where it’s going to, at what point in time it comes in contact with The Covenant [the villains in “Halo”] and what happens well beyond that. “Halo 2” picks up literally right after “Halo 1.” But there is still plenty of story in and around that. And you can see some of that in the three novels we have.

How Stuff Works: The novelization of a video game is, well … novel. Where does Eric Nyland <sic> get the background for his books?

Pete Parsons: We work closely with him on all the stories. So what we do is we have these story arcs of the “Halo” universe, and Eric goes in and says, “Well that’s a really good piece to take and here is in a microcosm what I think that story will look like.”

How Stuff Works: Are you guys very conscious to make sure that everything fits together — that the books and games don’t contradict one another — so that everyone can look to any source and say, “This is very consistent, fully realized world”?

Pete Parsons: Yes, but not in the marketing kind of way. We do it because we want the “Halo” universe to be manifold. You can certainly probably pull out some inconsistencies, but as a general rule we really try to keep it manifold. Because we think that ultimately we are doing this for ourselves. And after that, we’re doing it for our fans, and we want them to really believe in this place that is the Halo universe. I think the reason Halo has captured so many imaginations is because we care a lot about what’s going on in that universe and how believable that universe is. We have this high level myth that we understand very well.

How Stuff Works | Interview with Pete Parsons (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/halo1.htm)

EGM: You mention Reach; have you read all of the Halo books?

Pete Parsons: Yeah, obviously the Halo fiction. The overarching Halo universe is crafted here, and then guys like…particularly [Halo book author Eric Nylund] has the job of really fleshing out the bones of that particular story arc.

EGM: So somewhere there’s a Halo bible that has the basic storyline, including what goes on after Halo 2?

Pete Parsons: Yes, from the present day to the future.

Electronic Gaming Monthly | Interview with Pete Parsons

HBO: As the Halo storyline has evolved, have you made changes to Halo: The Fall of Reach, or have you kept it going in the direction you started?

Eric Nylund: By the time writing began, the storyline of the Halo game was more or less finalized. An outline for the novel was approved by Bungie before I began writing-only very minor changes were made to the novel.

HBO: Have there been changes to the GAME (that you know of) due to the book, or due to research instigated by its writing?

Eric Nylund: Not that I’m aware of, no. I relied on the Story Bible quite extensively. The whole idea behind a Story Bible is that if you create a document that accurately describes the universe in which a game takes place, you can use it as a guide for writing a novel (for example) without needing to constantly check the developing novel against a developing game.

Halo.Bungie.Org | Interview with Eric Nylund (http://nikon.bungie.org/misc/nylund.interview.html)

GameSpy: Also in regards to the “Halo universe,” who has ultimate control over where and how the storylines intersect?

Joe Staten: Bungie. Specifically, myself, Jones, Parsons and our community team. And we’re very careful about the opportunities we pursue.

Gamespy | Interview with Joseph Staten (http://uk.xbox.gamespy.com/xbox/halo-2/562962p2.html)

GameSpy: When it comes to the expansion of the Halo universe, we’ve seen books come out, action figures, things like that. Was this a conscious decision by Bungie, or did it just start to happen as the Halo snowball rolled on and got bigger?

Frank O’Connor: You know, if you come by the Bungie offices, the place is absolutely filled with action figures, toys, and other stuff like that. The cool thing about working at Bungie, and I can’t speak for the other studios at Microsoft, is that they let us do what we want, and they let us have complete control over our intellectual properties. So, we get to make the things that we want to make. That why I think people like the Halo action figures. They’re fully posable, they’re really high quality, and they’re really detailed, and that’s a direct result of us having control over them. It could have been possible for us to just hand that off to some factory and say, “Just make something that looks like this,” but every toy, model, and even cups and T-shirts, that come back here, we get final approval over. It’s not just approval, though, we also get to make changes like, “No, that’s not detailed enough, make it more detailed.” That’s a really cool thing about working in this studio.

Gamespy | Interview with Frank O’Connor (http://uk.xbox.gamespy.com/xbox/halo-2/562370p6.html)

Shishka:The Fall of Reach, The Flood, and First Strike are official books. Yes, Bungie had say in their writing. Yes, the writers did some of their own work nothing was published without first receiving Bungie’s approval.

However, what you fail to realize is that the books act as flavor for the hardcore. Guess what? Out of the millions that have bought and played the second Halo, only a tiny handful have actually READ these books. As such, it’d be unwise to reference the books directly in the game, as the reference would be obscure and misunderstood by the majority of players.

The books enhance the games, not the other way around.

The mistake in your thinking is that Halo 1 doesn’t “reference” anything that happened in The Flood. It’s the other way around. And, Halo 1 didn’t reference anything that happened during Fall of Reach, just as Halo 2 didn’t reference anything that happened in First Strike.

Bungie.net | Post made by Shishka in the forums

Halo Story Page: Would the books make the cut?

Joseph Staten: The books are, for better or worse, part of the canon. In the future we may choose to revise or flat-out ignore some of the less appealing ideas (Johnson’s biological immunity to the Flood, for example), but folks should treat them as defining elements of the Halo universe.

Halo Story Page | Interview with Joseph Staten (http://halostory.bungie.org/staten102204.html)

The Cortana Letters are not canon

Shishka: Something I must point out, now that this thread has grown…

The Cortana letters are not canon. They’re a relic of a time when the first Halo wasn’t even a first person shooter, yet. I suggest you do not read too deeply into them to find secrets about the games- there’s nothing there to find.

Bungie.net | Post by Shishka on the forums

HSP: The dialogue from the Halo 3 trailer bears obvious similarity to the Cortana Letters from the early Halo days. Given that they have been discouraged as canon over the years, are they now to be afforded greater consideration? Additionally, the Letters themselves were strongly reminiscent of the messages from Durandal, the rampant AI from Marathon. What are your thoughts on “rampancy,” AIs in the Halo universe, and Cortana specifically?

Joseph Staten: Canon is tricky (see my controversial statement about “I Love Bees” – believe it or not, we’re actually working to answer the “is it, or isn’t it?” question right now!). The Halo story has as many loose threads as influences. And we do our best to sew the former into canon as we find them – are reminded of their potential. The Cortana Letters are an excellent example of this phenomenon. For all sorts of reasons, they lingered in canonical purgatory for years. But when we needed some compelling dialog to remind folks what’s at stake in Halo3: Bam! Newfound utility! Alas, I’d have to say that, as of now, the only canonized parts of the letters are the fragments we pulled for use in the announcement trailer.

Halo Story Page | Interview with Joseph Staten (http://halostory.bungie.org/staten083106.html)

I Love Bees is not canon

HaloStoryPage: If you were to define what is and isn’t Halo story canon, would the I Love Bees stuff make the cut?

Joseph Staten: The Bees would not make the cut.

Those guys basically did their own thing with very little Bungie input (save for massaging and approving the initial plot-treatment). While we helped define the boundaries of their fiction, we let them do what they thought best. And I think the game turned out great.

Halo Story Page | Interview with Joseph Staten (http://halostory.bungie.org/staten102204.html)

Halo Wars is canon

GP: Do Bungie consider the story of Halo Wars to be a part of their official canon?

Jason: Yes, Halo Wars is canon. Frank O’Connor is the Halo “canon overseer” and we have his official signoff!

GP: Did Bungie reject any of Ensembles ideas?

Jason: The Bungie guys were great partners during the development of Halo Wars, and we all take the Halo canon very seriously. Ensemble consulted Bungie throughout the development of Halo Wars, and those guys were instrumental in helping us make sure the game was a genuine Halo experience. From the game standpoint this is 100% an Ensemble creative project, however it’s fair to say that Ensemble had great feedback from Bungie, but Bungie didn’t provide creative oversight for the project.

Gamerplanet | Interview with Ensemble Studios (http://www.gameplanet.co.nz/features/132939.20090304.Halo-Wars-Q-A-session/)

There is quite a bit of concern regarding how we’re going to fit the Flood into our game and keep it in canon which surprised me, but I promised them all that the Halo 1 canon is intact and that they would have to wait and see how we integrate the Flood.

HaloWars.com | News Post from Ensemble Studios (http://www.halowars.com/news/articles/archive/2008/10/14/Hello-from-TGS.aspx)

Halo Wars is considered canon in the Halo universe. All plot elements and similar features of the game are for all intensive purposes are seen as “fact”. However some features of Halo Wars are not considered canon and were included to allow for balanced gameplay or for other reasons. This includes some characteristics of the armour worn by the Spartans in the game.

Spartan 458 – Nicole (from Dead or Alive 4) is not canon

Here’s a list of things Nicole, Spartan 458 is NOT .

* She’s not a character who’s ever been described in other Halo fiction.

* She’s not a character from our next project.

* She’s not one of the Spartans from Fall of Reach.

* She’s not a character from the Halo movie.

* She’s not returning my calls. I blame time bubbles.

In short, she’s a fictional means to an end that we gave careful thought, but with a jaunty tip of our hat and a wry wink in the general direction of levity.

Bungie.net | News post made by Bungie Studios (http://www.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?cid=7349)

In short Nicole was created simply to conveniently allow a Spartan II to appear in the 21st century. She is not a part of the Halo universe, but actually the Dead or Alive universe.

Iris and other marketing and PR materials

Avateur: Considering what you stated about the two-part episode covering the Forerunner’s first encounter with the Flood all the way through Halo 3, will the Alternate Reality Games ilovebees and Iris be taken into consideration at all?

Frankie: Absolutely

Comic-Con Panel | Video available at Halo.Bungie.Org (http://carnage.bungie.org/haloforum/halo.forum.pl?read=934649)

This to me shows that Frankie, and 343 Studios by association, are willing to use information from both ILB and Iris. I’m unwilling to outright commit to saying that any PR or marketing material is canon but back to the rule. Unless it contradicts something from the games or novels (or any other canon for that matter) then take you can read into it anything you want. Just take it with a grain of salt.

You have to remember that although Bungie approve and probably direct to a certain degree, those materials are the work of other studios who often come up with their own material after being given a basic outline. So Bungie may have provided documents that outlined what they thought should be included but I imagine the studio would then have had free reign to a certain extent to be creative. Bungie/343 Studios might decide to use that material in the future or may choose to discard it.

Halo Legends is Canon

Mid7night: Where in the gradient of Halo “cannon” will this fall? In the realm of the current-released books, or more like “published fan-fiction” ?

Frankie: It’s canon, like books. Except for Toei. But there IS interpretation – armor styling etc. It’s art, after al.

Halo Story Page | Interview with Frank O’Connor (http://nikon.bungie.org/misc/frankie_legends_qa.html)

Halo: Reach and problems associated with it

Halo: Reach was released on the 14th of September 2010. It brought with it a lot of new content and story elements, some of which contradict with previous stories and published works. Although the general rule would be to simply take Halo: Reach’s story as the most canonical, in this case I have decided to list some of the major contradictions and the problems they have caused as Halo: Reach’s setting is a time and place that has had a great deal of storytelling from various sources in the Halo Universe. Some of these contradictions and errors are still being disputed and discussed within the Halo community and as such may not be completely up to date.

1.Halo: Reach states that the planet Reach was invaded on July 24th. However all other material has always stated that reach was invaded on August 30th, and that it fell in one day. Ghosts of Onyx, First Strike, and the Fall of Reach (as well as some other media) all list the date as August 30th

2.There are no Orbital MAC’’s shown within Halo: Reach yet all other sources have stated that Reach has a number of Orbital MAC’s to protect the planet from invading fleets. The Fall of Reach and First Strike both state that the MAC’s were present on the August 30th when Reach fell, yet they were not present during Halo: Reach especially in the mission Long Night of Solace.

3.The Pillar of Autumn should not be on the planet’s surface during the time that Halo: Reach is set. For more information on the implications of this please see this thread at Bungie.net: http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=49053700

4.According to the Cole Protocol if any planet or ship detects Covenant forces or is in any danger of being attacked by Covenant forces then they should immediately purge all NAV data and information from computers in order to protect the location of Earth and the other inner colonies. How is it that Covenant forces are known to be on Reach on July 23rd yet a month later during the events of The Fall of Reach NAV data with the location of Earth is still stored on computers. If the Cole Protocol was carried out then that data would have been destroyed and Blue Team would not have been sent to the station in order to destroy the data.

There are other problems and contradictions that have arisen since the release of Halo: Reach. For a full discussion and debate of this topic please visit this Bungie.net thread: http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=49053700

Conclusion, thanks and acknowledgements

In conclusion then the canon can be summarised as follows:

– The games rank first

– Published materials (books, comics, soundtrack liner notes etc.) rank second

– Marketing and PR materials third

I hope that this will help those on the forums who want to discuss plot elements and theories and that it can be useful to them. The original version of this document provided the outline for the current form. This form has been heavily modified and formatted from the original, and now includes links to the source material as well as extra content. As I was unable to find my previous thread (it was posted two years ago) I decided to simply re-post this in the new Bungie Universe forum, as it has had much added to it since then.

Acknowledgements and thanks must go to The Watchers (http://www.bungie.net/fanclub/watchers/Group/GroupHome.aspx) and specifically to opogjijijp for much of the source material which was painstakingly collected. Various members from Bungie.net, especially regulars of the Bungie Universe forum, contributed in various means. My thanks to all those people.

Halo is © Microsoft Corporation 2010.

Links

Comprehensive List and Details of the Halo Novels and Comics – Max2107
Complete Halo Timeline – Halo.Bungie.Org

Unexplainable errors in the Halo canon – Bungie.net
Halo Reach did not destroy the canon – Bungie.net


Halo: The Fall of Reach (
Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
Halo: The Flood (
Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
Halo: First Strike (
Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (
Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
Halo: Contact Harvest (
Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
Halo: The Cole Protocol (
Publisher’s Page | Wikipedia Page)
The Cortana Letters (
The Cortana Letters | Wikipedia Page)
ILOVEBEES.com (
I Love Bees | Wikipedia Page)
Halo Wars (
Official Page | Wikipedia Page | Xbox Page)
Dead or Alive 4 (
Official Page | Wikipedia Page | Xbox Page)

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