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Plugged In

‘Halo’ facts you might not know

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It spawned a multi-billion-dollar franchise, turned the Xbox into a household name and managed to make the awkwardly-named Master Chief a legit pop-culture icon.

But how much do you really know about Halo?

With Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary --  a remastered HD take on the 2001 original -- hitting stores next week,  it's as good a time as any to dig a little deeper into Microsoft's first-person flagship. Did you know:

It didn't start off as a shooter.

Though Halo is synonymous with first-person shooting, that wasn't always the plan.

Originally, Halo was conceived as a real-time strategy game, a booming genre at the time thanks to the likes of Warcraft, Command & Conquer and Bungie's own hit series, Myth.  It still featured the familiar Spartan and Covenant units, but instead of running and gunning, you doled out orders from high above the action.

Why the change? Credit that to game engineer Charlie Gough, who in an act of prescient curiosity decided to tinker with the game's camera by jamming it on the head of one of the units. The resulting first-person view was immediately riveting to the design team, who abruptly headed off in the new direction…and the history books.

Steve Jobs was stoked about it.

As the company's most famous icon, it's impossible to separate Master Chief from Microsoft. But back in the day, Microsoft's biggest competitor was Halo's biggest backer.

Back in 1999, the in-development game wasn't planned for release on any game console, partly because no console could handle its cutting-edge graphics. The other reason? It was built specifically for simultaneous release on the PC and -- wait for it -- Apple Macintosh. At the time, it made perfect sense. Bungie Studios was primarily a Mac developer and had enjoyed some modest hits on the platform with the influential Marathon and Myth franchises.

In fact, Apple was so enamored with Bungie's work that CEO Steve Jobs trumpeted Halo's arrival at the 1999 MacWorld Expo and singled out the title as an example of his company's technical superiority. It would be a brief win, as only a year later, Microsoft would purchase Bungie and convert Halo to the premier launch title for their Xbox console. Jobs was reportedly furious.

It's a wax pioneer.

You know you've made it to the big time when the weirdos at Madame Tussauds craft a wax likeness in your honor. Typically that's reserved for real, flesh and blood types, but occasionally a fictional character gets the green light. And very, very rarely, a video game character.

Amazingly, however, legends like Mario, Link and Lara Croft were beaten to the punch by Master Chief, who became the first video game character in the museum's 250-year history to get the wax treatment. The statue, which was unveiled in 2007 to celebrate the launch of Halo 3, stands over 7 feet tall and weighs a solid 275 pounds.

By the numbers

A decade is a long time for a hit franchise. Check out some of Halo's crazier stats.

-          A big ring
A Halo ring -- the kind that, when activated, will obliterate all sentient life in the known universe -- is 6,214 miles in diameter and 198 miles wide.

-          Weighing in
Wonder how Master Chief can take all those hits and keep right on ticking? Give some credit to his MJOLNIR armor, which technically weighs 995 pounds with him inside.

-          Food for thought
Making video games involves countless overtime hours -- and lots of pizza. During the three-year development of Halo 3, the team at Bungie reportedly put away over 20,000 pounds of cheesy goodness, 24,000 gallons of soda and a half ton of bananas.

-          The older they come…
Master Chief is no young buck. According to Halo lore, the Spartan soldier was already in his 40s during initial Halo trilogy, having fought on the front lines of the Covenant conflict since he was 14.

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