Joe Staten's interview at the HSP

There's a brand new(as of typing this) interview with Joe Staten on the Halo Story Page. Not only does it answer a few questions, it tosses out a lot more in typical Bungie fashion, and is quite revealing about the covenant- Jackals in particular.

First, concerning Jackals. This is pretty damn interesting.

HSP: One of the HBO forumgoers noted an interesting description of the Jackals on the Joyride site:

"The Jackals are unique among Covenant species. Rather than faithful followers of the Prophets' religion, they are mercenaries working for the Covenant and pay only the barest lip service to 'the cause.' Human encounters with Jackals have been brief and poorly documented. Rumors and fragmentary evidence point to incidents of Jackal piracy against civilian human vessels. It is assumed Jackals' Covenant masters tolerate or condone this privateering."

But for one Prophet of Regret sound clip in Halo 2, there has previously been no mention of any financial incentive for a race to ally themselves with the Covenant, or even that any race had the choice. Could you comment further on this?

JS: Unlike races such as the Unggoy, the Kig-Yar were space-faring long before joining the Covenant. While it would be more accurate to call Covenant Kig-Yar ship captains "privateers" (with commissions granted by the Ministry of Tranquility), yes: they have been know to engage in acts of piracy on human ships. But these events haven't always helped the Covenant cause...

Joe hasn't really mentioned if Jackals are truly unfaithful or a bunch of mercenaries. But the very fact that the Covenant Ministry of Tranquility grants them commissions for piracy implies a more mercenary nature to the Jackals, as does the fact that the things they do don't always help the 'cause'. The specific mention that the Unggoy were not space-faring seems to explain the relationship between the Grunts and the Jackals closer. Both are of equal ranking in the Covenant military, but Jackals are semi-independent, while Grunts are essentially slaves.

Further, their piracy does not always help the covenant cause. Perhaps the Kig-Yar had something to do with the whole human-covenant mess up? Of note is the fact that, in Fall of Reach, the covenant corvette that the Commonwealth fights is crewed by Jackals(Spartans go into the covenant ship and nuke it from inside); there are no elites on board, and none of the Elites are seen until Reach. If they were in the pay of the Ministry of Tranquility, perhaps Truth or another sneaky Prophet paid them to bait the UNSC into starting the UNSC-Covenant war? It would be a real twist if the war was actually initiated by humanity, sick of Jackal piracy.

This casts new light on the Covenant as a whole. Frankie said that Hunter society was actually highly complex and that we have seen only the combat form; now Joe Staten himself makes it clear that the Jackals are pirates. The Covenant isn't entirely the military monstrosity or religious heirarchy that it's always been made out to be, it's a conglomerate of races held together by various incentives, including financial. The financial control of the Covenant would be in the hands of the Prophets, the Ministry of Tranquility is headed by Prophets(Look below), why shouldn't the Jackals have joined the Civil War on the side that had always financed them?

More on the Cortana letters. Narcogen stands vindicated!
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?

JS: 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.

There. That's settled. Now to something that's caused plenty of head scratching. Are we any closer to the next?

HSP: Humans (SPARTANS, specifically) have been shown in both the games and the novels to have an innate understanding of Forerunner glyphs, symbols, and controls. Is this something that will be elaborated on in Halo 3? Is there a Forerunner alphabet or language that can be at least partially deciphered from currently available sources? What would those sources be, specifically?

JS: I mentioned the Ministry of Tranquility earlier, and it just so happens to have an extensive library of Forerunner glyphs - though Ministry Prophets (even with the help of their Huragok librarians) have nothing approaching a full understanding of the Forerunner language. At least, they've never told anyone if they do...

Yes, some humans (Doctor Halsey, for one) have an almost preternatural ability to discern the glyphs' meanings. Given what we've revealed so far about Halo3 - that there's a very large object buried in the Kenyan savannah with distinctly Forerunner architecture - it's safe to say we'll elaborate on all things Forerunner in Halo3. Although some would say we've already made things perfectly clear.

The stuff about the Spartans having an innate understanding of Forerunner glyphs is anything but new. Halsey was able to understand something in First Strike. Given that Halsey did her second doctoral thesis at 15(As revealed in First Strike), and types in several line commands she had learnt back then without even looking at the keyboard, we now know that she's a special person. How many others come in her category? Reclaimers? The mystery deepens.

Note this intriguing statement about the Ministry of Tranquility and its understanding of forerunner glyphs. "They have nothing approaching a full knowledge of the Forerunner language. At least, they've never told anyone if they do..."

At first, Joe is very firm that the Prophets and Engineers together know very little about the forerunner language. And then he makes it appear as if they do but are keeping the lid on it. After that, he mentions humans, Dr. Halsey in particular. We've previously speculated about James Ackerson, Dr. Halsey's utterly vile rival. Does he come under the same category of humans? If so, what did he do with the forerunner facility under Menachite mountain, a secret he had been sitting on for a while? Does he have any ties with the Ministry of Tranquility, and if so, did he decipher the Forerunner glyphs for them? I'm pretty sure he's helped someone out there.

Finally, the case of the Great Journey itself.

HSP: When did the Forerunner die off - in human years?

JS: Inscrutable alien beings with problematic ethics never die... they just fade away. But if what you're asking is: when did the Forerunner take their "Great Journey," that would be about 100,000 years ago - around the time our Homo Sapien ancestors decided to migrate out of Africa. Mind you, that's a hotly debated paleontological theory.

Whenever humans left Africa in real life, there's no doubt about the correlation of events in the Haloverse. Questionable ethics or not, the fact that the forerunner don't die but fade away brings to mind Tolkien's elves, and the Great Journey of the Elves across the sea during the coming of the age of Men correlates with that of the Forerunner Great Journey all too closely. But if the Forerunner don't truly die... a freaky whispering voice in a cavernous space station should bring a few more shivers down the spine.