Recurring characters from the science fiction media franchise Halo are organized below by their respective factions in the fictional universe. The franchise's central story revolves around an interstellar war between future humanity under the auspices of the United Nations Space Command or UNSC, and an alien theocratic alliance known as the Covenant. The artifacts left behind by an ancient and mysterious race known as the Forerunner play a central role, particularly the massive weapons, dubbed Halos, built to contain the terrifying parasitic Flood. Beginning with developer Bungie's 2001 video game Halo: Combat Evolved, the franchise expanded to include the sequels Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo Wars, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach; as the novels Halo: The Fall of Reach, Halo: The Flood, Halo: First Strike, Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, Halo: Contact Harvest, Halo: The Cole Protocol; and the Halo Graphic Novel, among other works.
In the foreword for a collection titled The Art of Halo, Bungie founder Jason Jones noted that bringing together the elements of a video game is unmistakably "art". However, Jones also noted that the character designers and artists had to make a "living, breathing world" and populate it with interesting characters and places. The game's development which spanned four years brought numerous evolutions and revisions to the character's designs and personalities. Characters were also updated to take full advantage of new graphics technologies; for instance, the Master Chief's armor was redesigned in a lengthy conceptual process and the final model was bump mapped. Each video game offered opportunities to refine the character's appearances and designs.
Halo s commercial and critical success has led to large amounts of merchandise featuring the franchise's characters to be produced. The Master Chief, the most visible symbol of the series, has been heavily marketed, with the character's visage appearing on soda bottles, t-shirts, and Xbox controllers. Other merchandise produced includes several sets of action figure, produced by Joyride Studios and McFarlane Toys among other manufacturers. Halo s characters have received varying reception, with characters such as the Chief, Cortana and the Arbiter well-received by critics, and Gravemind and derided as clichéd or corny.
Halo s characters were continually refined through development, as the company was bought by Microsoft and the platform shifted from the Macintosh to the Xbox. Other Bungie developers would often add input to the progress of characters in Halo, even if they were not working on the game itself. For example, an outside artist, Shi Kai Wang, developed the early concept sketches of what would eventually become the Master Chief. However upon developing a 3D model, the artists decided the Chief looked too slender, almost effeminate, and subsequently bulked up the character. Early Covenant Elite had a more natural jaw rather than the split mandibles they would later sport; at one point, Jason Jones was also insistent about having a tail on the Elites, but this idea was eventually dropped.
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