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Planetary Physicist Tries To Work Out The Science Behind Halo

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The temperature is dropping and it’s threatening to snow, so why not cozy up with Worth Reading, your weekly guide to the best in games writing? C’mon.

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This is an old piece, but I love stuff like this. Kevin Grazier takes the ridiculous fiction of Halo and tries to make sense of it from a scientific perspective. Specifically, he focuses on how the massive, awe-inspiring halos would work—how space ships would dock with it it, the (imaginary) materials needed to construct one, and where it would make sense to place one in the universe. Grazier treats this topic with a deadly seriousness, and you expect him to back down after the third page. Instead, he goes for six pages, and it’s a total delight.


Here’s an excerpt:

“Although Forerunner Halos are also huge ring-shaped habitats, they are comparatively smaller by several orders of magnitude: the radii of the Halo megastructures are a “mere” 5,000 kilometers—more similar to Earth’s average radius, 6,371 kilometers, than that of a ringworld. In fact, because the Halos we have seen to date orbit gas giant planets instead of encircling stars, they are less ring worlds than they are ringsatellites.

A 5,000 kilometer radius would yield a circumference of roughly 31,400 kilometers. If the Halos had a width-to-radius ratio similar to that of Niven’s Ringworld, they would be approximately 5.37 kilometers wide. They are significantly wider, though, at 320 kilometers. The Halos, then, would have a surface area of 10 million square kilometers— slightly larger than the surface area of Canada, and approximately 2 percent of the surface area of Earth. Of course, since we know that there are lakes, seas, and rivers on the Halos, the livable surface area would be fractionally less.

What raw materials would it take to construct a Halo, and in what quantities? In order to determine the amount of raw materials required, and what elements may exist in the necessary abundances, we first must calculate the volume of the structure. While a Halo is proportionally wider than a Niven Ring, it is thicker in absolute measure. Niven proposed that a Ringworld be 1 kilometer thick, whereas the Halos are quite a bit sturdier at 22.3 kilometers thick. The total volume of a Halo would be roughly 224 million cubic kilometers, a bit more than 0.02 percent of the volume of Earth.”


It’s hard to remember, but the original Assassin’s Creed was not a universally loved video game. I was working at 1UP when the first reviews hit, and EGM gave it a notoriously low score. The series didn’t come into its own until Assassin’s Creed II, but Michelle Ehrhardt argues the series had lost some of its radical nature by then. While the sequel was a better game, Assassin’s Creed was proposing some radical ideas for a game released in the middle of America’s “war on terror” in the post-9/11 years. (The first game came out in 2007.)

Here’s an excerpt:

“While Assassin’s Creed is not a shooter and does not literally take place during the War on Terror, it’s difficult to avoid drawing connections between the two, given Altair’s place as part of a small, idealistic group of freedom fighters led by a manipulative leader staving off Western invaders looking to establish themselves as the dominant power in his Middle-Eastern homeland. When taken in light of the the time of the game’s release and the elements it borrows from Alamut, Assassin’s Creed’s Crusades begin to feel like an allegory for the War on Terror, intentional or not. It seems as if the game’s designers were aware of this reading of its story, which may be the reason for the disclaimer about the developers being a multicultural team seen at the beginning of the game. After all, whereas titles such as Call of Duty 4 and Battlefield 2 had the player fighting to take down local rebel groups, Assassin’s Creed arguably casts the player as a member of one of said groups. In this way, it switches the perspective usually seen in games about the War on Terror to one hardly explored—that of the local militia members which are the equivalent of goombas in so many other titles.”


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Oh, And This Other Stuff

  • Adam Saltsman interviewed Davey Wreden about The Stanley Parable, The Beginner’s Guide, and what it’s like to make games while being a bartender.
  • Leigh Alexander weighed in on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and how it’s a video game about video games, more so than Kojima’s past work.
  • Adam Boffa argued Double Fine’s greatest contribution to gaming culture may be a documentary about the messy process of making video games.
  • Sloane Cee spoke with Ashly Burch, who voiced Chloe in Life Is Strange, and touched on the game’s queerness, surprisingly dark subjects, and more.
  • reddit users shared the worst things they’ve ever done to characters in The Sims, and it made be feel both better and worse about the human race.
  • Caroline Sanders, one of the panelists whose SXSW session was cancelled over supposed threats, shared what the past week has been like for her.

You can reach the author of this post at or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.