Bungie's storytelling introductions to upcoming games have become classic, with the most recent example being the Haunted Apiary alternate reality game (2004, funded by Microsoft, developed by 4orty2wo Entertainment, and approved by Bungie), also known as "ilovebees" (ILB).
Introduced in a movie trailer, "ilovebees.com" appeared to be a simple site about beekeeping that had been hacked. Players quickly determined that the site, and the messages that appeared on it, were connected to Halo 2. Story wise, the activation of a mysterious artifact in 2552 caused a military ship's A.I. to split into multiple personalities. One of these personalities traveled through space and time to land on a web server in the year 2004.
After landing, the A.I.'s mission to repair herself involved players worldwide, who answered payphones and searched websites to gain clues and, together, put these puzzle pieces together. This game culminated in a live event spread across four cities (San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Austin) - a chance to play Halo 2 before the official release on November 9th.
One of the many links between Marathon and Halo is a common term called "rampancy," used in both series to signify when a computer A.I. goes "insane." Rampancy occurs when a computer A.I.'s self-awareness is enhanced to the point when it learns and develops greater mental abilities. In Marathon, all three A.I.s of the UESC Marathon become rampant. To announce Halo, the "Cortana Letters" featured a Halo character that talked about her reality. The A.I. in ILB - the "Operator" or "Melissa" (the name, incidentally, comes from the Greek bee nymph who nursed Zeus) - demonstrated the effects of rampancy in a "smart" A.I., after she continued to function after her theoretical lifespan of seven years. Regardless of the fact Bungie has not considered the ILB material to be Bungie/Halo canon to date (yet approved the ILB material), this recurring theme has proven to be solid enough to forge a connection between these games for hardcore fan and casual observer alike.
Bungie, Mythology and ARGs
Bungie made a name for themselves by creating a rich backstory to Marathon and they let it known they were doing no less with Halo. Well before Halo was released, they had even dabbled in viral marketing type ideas by releasing the Cortana Letters - which were supposedly by some still somewhat unidentified AI from the future. While the Cortana in the letters is not the Cortana of Halo, and the letters are not considered "canon", they show Bungie dabbling in ARG-like methods with their audience in the past.
Bungie has also maintained a fuzzy kind of description to describe the relationship between Marathon and Halo. Many recurring themes pervade through both, including instances of Marathon's logo. Halo is not considered a true sequel, though, and may best be considered a "second draft" of Marathon.
Despite early thoughts that ILB may not relate to the "Haloverse," references to Halo recur in the game. These include:
ONI, A Haloverse military organization, is mentioned in shipboard conversations.
The Operator's description of her ship matches that of an ONI stealth ship.
The Operator remembers a joke that mentions SPARTANs and " Covies".
Various references to slipspace/slipstream travel - the Faster-Than-Light travel of the Haloverse.
Sorenson refers to Troy's destruction as "glassing" - a method of urban renewal unique to the Covenant.
A reference to "Seraph class" ships in the Phase 2 Operator's Monologue; the Covenant posess fighter-craft dubbed "Seraph class" by Earth intelligence.
Vague references refer to Reach and CASTLE, specific locations known in the Haloverse, though these may be allegory and not literal.
Direct reference to Jericho VII and Sigma Octanus IV in alt_burgundy.wav (http://transmit.ilovebees.com/outbound/alt_burgundy.wav). Jericho VII was glassed in the first chapter of the Halo novel, The Fall of Reach. Sigma Octanus IV was the scene of a major Human victory in The Fall of Reach.
Of course, it should be noted that in addition to these ILB references to Halo, there's also a pretty big Halo reference to ILB (http://files.bungie.org/halo2_teaser-trailer.mov) (watch the URL at the end carefully).
These have more or less confirmed that the events described on ILB are attached to the Haloverse. It's generally accepted though, that knowledge of the Haloverse will probably not be necessary for solving the puzzles and plots ILB presents. It can, however, help frame certain speculations and possibly curb some wild speculation if something simply isn't possible in the Haloverse.
Halo Novels and their Themes
Halo: The Fall of Reach
Halo: The Flood
Halo: First Strike
For more insight into ILB many players turn to the three novels about Halo: the prequel titled The Fall of Reach which explores the background of the Master Chief, the conquering of Reach by the Covenant and the escape from Reach which brought the Master Chief to Halo; the sequel called The Flood which describes a new enemy which Halo was built to contain and the eventual destruction of Halo by the Master Chief; and the sequel called First Strike which explores a Holy Relic of the Covenant, a mysterious sapphire blue crystal which can distort both space and time, shows the Covenant preparing to attack Earth and details a heroic effort by which a large part of the Covenant fleet is destroyed.
The novels themselves do reflect certain themes which may be relevant to ILB.
There are many instances of characters taking enormous risks or performing suicidal acts in order to protect others. These are not done on impulse or by reflex, as would a mother's instant lunge after a falling child, but after thought and reflection; all those who have done so have seen the consequences and accepted them. This is not portrayed as glorious, but more as a regretful necessity or a noble but sad choice.
Individual vs. Group
A recurring theme in the novels is that the needs of the group must be weighed against the cost to the individuals; and that the individuals should ideally be aware of the cost and concent to it.
In this light the SPARTAN project can be viewed as a horrible crime. It started by abducting preschool or early-primary school children from their families without the families' knowledge (let alone consent) and replacing the children with fragile, flawed clones. It then trained those children to think almost exclusively of war and inculcated the idea that games must always be won, never explaining that the cost of victory can be very high. Then it used experimental surgery, with an extraordinarily-high failure rate, to augment them physically again without their informed concent. (Hippocrates would be spinning in his grave at the idea.)
The cost to all individuals in the SPARTAN project is appallingly high, and none of them truly consent to pay that cost.
The project leader, Dr. Catherine Halsey, saw all this as a necessary sacrifice at the project inception. She saw that the cost of not going ahead was the collapse of the UNSC in a series of bloody and brutal civil wars. However, as time progressed and the consequences of the project became clearer, she began to doubt her earlier reasoning and showed feelings of guilt.
When a similar dilemma comes up (in reference to Sgt. Johnson's medical condition) Dr. Halsey leaves it up to the Master Chief to decide whether to sacrifice the rights of an individual for the potential benefit of a group... and the Chief chooses the individual.
It will be interesting to see if this theme is reflected in ILB.
Self-determination and maturity
The story of the Chief seems to follow an arc of increasing self-determination; at the start of the story he is a child, resentfully following the instructions of adults and forced to learn how to be part of a team. He then becomes a superb leader, but other than tactical decisions makes very few choices of his own during training. It's only upon entering into active service (in his teens) that he starts to understand that there is more to life than blind obedience of orders, and as he ages and gains more experience he questions the reasons behind his orders more and more.
To sum it up, now that the Chief has learned how to fight, and learned very well, he's starting to learn why he's fighting. And sometimes he's not too happy with the answers. Again, it'll be interesting if this gets advanced at all in the ARG.
I read a longer, and more detailed report in a gamers' magazine that was mailed to a friend. he introduced me to the relation between Marathon and the Halo trilogy. After reading the Article, found on page 15, and later on page 108 in the "Gameinformers" August 2007 issue, the connection is clearly made between the two games. Halo takes palce hundreds of years before Marathon. But, if you beat Halo 3, you will notice that the Master Chief, Spartan 117, was frozen in a Cryo Tube, and was floating in space. Bungie's Studio is planning to bring back the Marathon series, but with a unique twist.
The cyborg that was the main character in the popular Computer game Marathon will most likely be the Master Chief, and the AI that helps the main character will be the sleeping Cortana that was with the Master Chief. Exact details are unknown to anyone, except the script plotters and other staff members that are creating this game.
You may add your own information and details to this topic, since I didn't go very deep into the subject.
Note: please, make only worthwhile posts to this topic, and please resist the urge to spam.
Just got done moving. So tired. I need a beer...