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Community Spotlight

Community Corner: Katarn343

Issue 014
Community Corner cover image of Katarn343 with several Halo novels
Photo of Alex
  -  2 months ago

Welcome back to the Community Corner, the series where we spotlight and interview individuals in the Halo community about all things to do with (you guessed it) Halo—and their specific niches as creators.

This year thus far, we have spoken with artist Eva "Isodidacta" whose illustrations have brought characters and scenes from the Forerunner Saga to life, along with Grassroots member and streamer Alyek to learn about her journey with Halo and memorable HCS moments.

For this month's issue, we're joined by Katarn343 who is a pillar of the Halo LATAM community, an expert in all things lore, and whose creative work in bringing scenes from Halo's expanded universe to life can be found on his YouTube channel.

Welcome, Katarn! Thank you for joining us for this issue of the Community Corner. Tell us a bit about who you are, what you do in the Halo community, and where we can find you online.

Thank you for having me!

I’m Alejandro González Ledesma, the person behind Katarn343. You can find me under that name on both YouTube and Twitter. If you speak Spanish and you like Halo, well, that’s sorta what I do. Long-form lore videos covering everything Halo.

How did your great journey with Halo begin?

Same as most, I started young (though I skipped the kidnapping bit). When I was in elementary school, some of my classmates were obsessed with this game called Halo 2. I eventually got to play the game at a friend’s house party, and I was hooked. I was playing multiplayer and I found my calling; I loved the alien and esoteric feeling of the game maps, I wanted to learn more. What kind of creatures live here? What is the purpose of this structure? What are these ruins? Why are we fighting here?

Though the first Halo game that I owned was actually Halo 3. I remember long sessions with my brother and sister when we were kids, and then taking the action over to Reach once that launched a few years later.

Photo of Katarn343 with Unyshek

What are some of the areas of Halo that you particularly enjoy and why? Campaign and story, multiplayer, Forge, the expanded universe, etc.

I enjoy the campaigns very much, and I consider them to be the backbone of the series. All the extended media is an addition to that building block that holds Halo together. Having said that, my heart lies in the expanded universe. The way the novels and the games pull from each other just enthralls me. The Weapon using the Mjolnir’s sensors to smell the Banished just like Black Box kept up with Phillips’ scent in The Thursday War? Yes, please. I live for those kinds of details.

Halo has a special way of telling very grounded and personal stories in a bigger universe. You have Sadie Endesha trying to enroll into the UNSC military and dealing with her loneliness, whilst shipmaster Rhul ‘Salmutee is invading her city aboard the Solemn Penance. And all of this ties back to an ancient war that led to the burial of an advanced slipspace portal leading to the Ark. That kind of stuff excites me. A lot.

What are some of your favorite pieces of Halo media (games, books, and so on!) and why?

Truly, I love them all.

A while back, I animated the first act of the novel First Strike (and I intend to finish the whole thing—someday!), so it holds a special place in my heart. It’s the book I’ve re-read the most, easily. In many ways, it is a very unique novel because of its irreplicable setting. You are at the turning point of the Covenant War, Blue Team, the Master Chief and Cortana are reunited, Reach just fell, and the Hierophant is moving closer to Earth. If you are a Halo fan, it’s just a very packed setting, filled with important characters each playing a pivotal role.

For similar reasons I really enjoyed Shadows of Reach and The Rubicon Protocol. When the games and the novels intertwine in complementary narratives, you know you have a very special universe that allows these vast stories to exist in parallel. I love Rubicon Protocol giving very poetic descriptions of scenes and structures I have already visited in Infinite’s campaign, now showered in a context that makes a ship’s debris have so much feeling and intent.

Who are some of your favorite characters in Halo?

Man, it’s going to feel so generic for me to say this, but probably the Master Chief. I admire his temper, the way he carries himself through anything just to complete his objective. Speaking of First Strike, I’m thinking of the segment in which Dr. Halsey describes to the Chief the long-list of injuries he sustained in Reach, the battle for Alpha Halo, the duel against the Sangheili swordsman aboard the Ascendant Justice, etc. And for him to just shrug them off as non-important because he is so set in stopping the Covenant invasion force before he can allow himself some R&R. The same level of hyperfocus he exerted against both Escharum and the Didact. He’s the protagonist for a good reason.

I also really liked the Pilot and hearing him speak Spanish during that brief moment in Outpost Tremonius. I normally play the games in Spanish, as it allows me to capture footage in the language of my content, but for my first go I played Infinite in its original language, and that immediately caught my attention. It’s faint and very brief, but it’s there and I love it!

Halo Infinite screenshot of the Master Chief kneeling next to Fernando Esparza

Let’s talk about content creation. You’ve been running your YouTube channel since the Halo 4 days, well over a decade ago. How has that evolved for you over the years?

Man, it’s been a long time. My ‘contributions’ to the Halo sphere predate even those very old videos. I was an admin on the Spanish version of Halopedia, and I used to both write articles and run a Halo news blog that covered Halo: Reach’s updates and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, well before Halo 4.

It just made sense to grab a mic and start doing those blogs in an audiovisual format, right? So I started to make Halo news videos. Actually, thinking back, most of us Halo YouTubers got our foot in the door that way. I kept at it for the better part of five years, usually taking unofficial months-long hiatuses when I was busy with high school or just felt like playing Halo without making content about it.

It was around 2018 that I started to pivot to another direction with my long-format content. The first was a video about New Mombasa: ‘Who lives here? What do they do? What’s New Mombasa’s economy? Why is there an Old Mombasa? What’s up with their corrupt police department?’ I started to add some dimension to the worldbuilding that I always loved, but that I couldn’t quite understand before. I had made long videos before that, to be sure. My most watched video is a two and a half hour monster covering all the Easter eggs in Halo up until 2016 (a video that I intend to remake this year—now featuring a working microphone!). But the kind of well-structured and narratively complex videos that I do now are somewhat of a new offering. At least, new relative to the age of my channel. 

I also started to dwell with some simplistic animation to add matching visuals to what I am presenting, which has opened many opportunities to broaden the scope of my videos. For instance, I animated the segment from Ghosts of Onyx covering the Incorruptible’s survival against the Flood and the Governors of Contrition. It’s a little rusty, but I am quite fond of that video.

Are there any videos that you’re particularly proud of?

Aww, thank you for asking me that!

A few months ago I made two videos, back-to-back, detailing every single rank of the Covenant, almost three hours in length between both parts.

Beyond the games, the research took me a lot of reading to make sure I covered pretty much everything—from the Worldmaster rank mentioned in Halo: Oblivion to the Oracle Master mentioned in Ghosts of Onyx. And then making a visual representation of those unseen Sangheili ranks stitching together some models in 3D software. And then there’s learning how to use the Halo modding toolkit for me to capture in-game footage of NPCs just hanging around. I like to make the image visually appealing, too, which means capturing the NPCs in different settings, across different games. From Halo 3 to Spartan Assault, I captured footage from virtually every single Halo game for those two videos, in a documentary-style presentation.

I am also quite proud of my video detailing the Flood and its multiple corrupt forms and its biology and science, or the one I made about its growth cycles and evolution. I enjoy making these videos a lot. I hope it’s something that I can continue doing for a long time.

We have been absolutely thrilled to see some of the incredible work you’ve been doing with videos like “The Complete History of the Battle for Zeta Halo” and your visual adaptation of Sunrise on Sanghelios. A lot of work has clearly gone into the mixture of historical lore research, machinima, animation—tell us a bit about the making of these videos.

Thank you!

A lot of work does go into those videos, and I appreciate the observation. I take a multidisciplinary approach to my content, and I pride myself in working in all parts of it. Though it can slow down my output sometimes, it does grant me complete creative control over what I want to do.

When you’re making a video like the ones you listed, you have to weigh your options and pick your battles. Take scriptwriting for instance—what can I show on screen? What needs to be shown? What type of timeframe am I looking at? If I want a monthly upload cadence, then I should probably start the two hour video whilst I’m still developing the shorter content, and work both in tandem.

My brain has been replaced with a big box of Halo knowledge, which really does facilitate me skimming through a novel to find the reference I’m looking for, or knowing exactly where in game, in each game, I can find the footage that I need.

Do you have any upcoming video projects that you’re excited about that you can tell or tease us with?

I have so many!

The biggest one that comes to mind is a personal passion project. An insanely long video dissecting each one of Halo’s 200+ multiplayer maps, across all games. I love the little stories and small love-letters from the developers in those highly curated battle arenas. What long-forgotten enigma are the skycrypts from Solitary safekeeping? To whom are the cenotaphs in Sanctuary and Forest dedicated to? Have you noticed the work tools and equipment for the Unggoy blamite miners on Prism? I want to make four hours of just that. A certain recent novel may or may have not added some rich lore to a few multiplayer maps, in fact.

There are many videos that I want to make. I want to continue my Iceberg series, in which we talk all about the Sedaaro people, slipspace anomalies that make people vanish, or some bootleg Spartan armor found adrift in deep space. I want to remake my Easter egg hours-long compilation. I’d love to explore the Covenant’s eras. There’s so much to pull from, I can’t even articulate it. 

Halo has fans all over the world. What does being a member of Halo’s LATAM community mean for you, and are there any fellow Spartans you'd want to give a shoutout to here?

I feel uniquely privileged to even have this space to talk about Halo’s incredible popularity in Latin America. There’s a huge contingent of very dedicated fans of the series that are Spanish speakers, and I’d love to slowly blur that language barrier. Halo should go back to localizing its newer (and amazing) novels. I’d love to volunteer for it, too!

Microsoft was one of the first big studios to localize their games to Latin America Spanish, too, and I do believe that played a big part in capturing our devoted attention to the series. The dub has remained consistent since the very first game to receive this treatment (Halo 3), and that has been a nice treat.

Al final, Halo es para todos. Sus historias, sus personajes, sus momentos de aprendizaje resuenan bien con todos nosotros. Quiero mandarle un enorme saludo a todo fan de Halo hispanohablante que esté leyendo esto. ¡Estamos en Waypoint!

What are some personal highlights you’ve had over the years as a member of the Halo community?

When I got the DM to join the Pilot program for Halo Infinite, I was so excited. And then I got to try the full campaign a few weeks in advance—that was an amazing moment. That’s probably the biggest and prettiest feather on my cap, in relation to my channel.

Other than that, Halo has really given me a lot. All of my close friends come from Halo, be it because of my content or relationships I made playing multiplayer. It is a privilege to have a dedicated audience willing to hear me ramble about some lore deep cuts.

What advice would you give to folks out there who might be looking to start content creation?

Be consistent.

Discipline and consistency are key to success at everything. Though they do not guarantee success, not being consistent does guarantee failure, in my experience. Find your niche within the ecosystem you want to base your content around, and grow a personal identity and formula. Be kind, respectful and inclusive towards everyone, man. There are a lot of mean content creators. Be a nice person and make a difference.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I love biology! Though I majored in Public Health. Back when Halo Infinite released and I was still in undergrad, I had two midterms due on Dec 8th, 2021. Which, as you may recall, was the launch of Infinite’s campaign! I did not attend those exams—but I did pass both classes.

My dog is named Maruchan. She dons her name from a popular brand of noodles.

Thank you again for giving us some of your time to talk about all things Halo, Katarn! Do you have any parting words to share before we let you return to the Domain?

Thank you for having me, Alex. I appreciate everyone who has ever worked on Halo. From the games to the novels, web articles, toys, localization and flavor text within the games, I appreciate each contribution, big and small, to a game series that I really love.

Y muchas gracias a mis suscriptores por permitirme continuar creando el contenido que me gusta, y que aparentemente a ustedes también les gusta.

Halo es para todos.

Don't forget to go and follow and subscribe to Katarn343 on Twitter and YouTube.