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|Welcome to Halo|
By Ferrex (Dead)
If you're reading this article, then there is a good chance that you're a newbie. There is no shame in this. Ignorance is another matter, though. Ignorance is a necklace of raw meat when swimming in shark infested waters, an email without spam blocks when posting to a newsgroup. You might get away with it once or twice, but nothing in life is certain.
However, if you're making an honest attempt to learn before you get involved, then kudos to you. You have taken that first step along the detour around the minefield... we may let you keep your limbs.
History in Brief
First, some background. Bungie Software, the megalomaniacal company both creating Halo and plotting world domination, has its roots in the Mac platform. Before you wrinkle your nose at this (and get it punched by someone), Bungie is now staunchly cross platform. Halo is being developed for Macs and PCs at the same time, and Bungie has stepped past the platform wars.
Bungie is a small company with a reputation for high quality games. Being a small company, it has a lot more character than most, as detailed by some of the lore floating around them. Things like the number seven, mind control lasers, and world domination. Don't be afraid to ask about these things, but be sure you can handle the tru7h when it comes.
Bungie's first runaway hit was a Macintosh series called Marathon. This first person shooter trilogy was heavy on action but far heavier on storyline and plot. To this day, people are still examining it, trying to understand every last intricacy of it (an impossible dream, as we tend to create more as we go). Even if you're a PC user, you might want to steep yourself in some Marathon lore, as Halo appears to borrow heavily from it. More on doing that later.
Myth was Bungie's second series, and its first (and very successful) cross platform and online gaming venture. A ground breaking tactical strategy game, Myth and Myth 2 spawned a vibrant online community and dominated thousands of lives for well over two years. A large part of that community is now coming to Halo, so expect to see a lot of Myth references if you run with this pack.
Finally, your reason for coming here: Halo. Initially codenamed "Blam!", after a popular saying around the Bungie office, Halo was first demonstrated at the MacWorld New York expo in June 1999. Having its roots in a third generation Myth engine, the stunning Halo engine was instead developed as a third person shooter. In it Bungie has returned to the science fiction, action gaming roots of Marathon. Among the still lively Marathon community, there was much rejoicing.
Community is a word you will hear a lot around here. Fans of Bungie's games have tended to form tightly knit online communities, due in no small part to the continuing efforts of those players to foster such communities. This is accomplished in a large part by Bungie's centralized online gaming service bungie.net, and the host of websites that have grown up around it.
These websites have a lot to offer new Halo fans. One resource in hot demand (and never enough quantity) is news about Halo and all things Bungie. Just keeping an eye on a few news sites for a few weeks will likely give you a better introduction to the game and community than any article or FAQ can. Find a news site or two that you like, and check in every day or two... they tend to be fairly competitive, and readers benefit from that though fast and frequent news updates.
Public forums are another resource for Halo fans. These online discussion boards can be found at almost any major Bungie fan site, and are the second home of many of the community's sages. A lot of the activity in the community occurs on these boards, and new readers are generally encouraged to watch the messages for a day or two and then dive on in. If you ask nicely, you can find the answer to virtually any question in these places... you can also lose fingers if you fail to heed local customs. If there is a rules page, read it.
For the old school netizen, two active newsgroups are also available for learning the ins and outs of the community. While there is no alt.games.halo yet, the newsgroups alt.games.marathon and alt.games.myth are frequently the sites of Halo discussions, their native topics being sibling games.
Lastly, a few FAQ's exist now, and more will certainly appear later while the older ones grow more and more complete and accurate. Keep an eye open as for these as you look around the sites... they are out there.
As mentioned above, the Bungie community and games are rife with their own lore and culture. Much of this comes from the Marathon series, which boasted a storyline so engaging and deep that some people have spent nearly half a decade deciphering it.
The center of Marathon culture is probably Marathon's Story, a venerable site that contains tomes of information on Marathon and Bungie in general. Not only does it make for a fascinating read, it is a locus for Bungie lore and history. Since Halo is expected to have not insubstantial ties to Marathon, knowing what makes that series and its surrounding community tick can greatly increase your enjoyment of Halo and your understanding of the community.
While a similar site does not exist for Myth, the Myth community is still going strong, and you can still experience first hand the culture and community built up around it. Frequenting Myth sites and forums is informative and often amusing, though not necessary. Halo draws mostly from Marathon, and while Myth players will definitely bring their culture with them, the end result will be a hybrid of the two.
A few parting shots for readers about to explore the websites and forums. First of all, the early Halo community is a fairly mature one, drawing from the Marathon and Myth communities before it. While it is also tolerant, do try to to behave in a civil manner towards others.
You will also find that, among Halo fans, complaining about Halo's currently planned third person perspective is not welcome. The matter has been discussed at great length, and the general feeling is to wait and see how Bungie implements it before complaining about it. Ranting and raving about how third person sucks and first person is the only way to go will not attract a lot of sympathetic responses... we're sick of it already, and the information is there for newcomers to study before harping about it. It is an important topic for some people, true, but if any company can make third person shooters happen, it's Bungie. Wait and see.
Lastly, the Bungie community may have its roots in the Mac platform, but it is unabashedly cross platform now. While a platform war will flare up every now and then, and discussion of the merits of either platform is not unwelcome, blatantly bashing platforms will usually not be tolerated. Use what you have, play who you can, and ignore what they have. It really doesn't matter that much what OS they are running.
The community around a Bungie game can swallow you. This is a good or bad thing, depending on how much free time you have. It is a fair and people oriented community, and you will find no end of stories, comrades, and help if you know how and where to look. Just remember to treat the people in it as peers if you expect to be treated in the same manner. As with a real community, we are not without our champions and our villains... whether or not you fall into either category depends entirely upon how you treat the rest of us.
Make yourself at home, and enjoy the ride.
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