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Halo Wars 2: Just like Cortana, its AI characters will need to worry about rampancy

Halo Wars 2 Narrative Director, Kevin Grace, has told Stevivor that artificial intelligence (AI) inside the real-time strategy isn’t immune to rampancy.

AI rampancy, in which a construct’s processes become too powerful and lead to endless, fatal feedback loops, is an important concept within the core Halo titles. In Halo 4 and 5, the Master Chief’s AI, Cortana, struggles with the concept of, essentially, death.

“We don’t just ‘shut down.’ Our cognitive processes begin dividing exponentially according to our total knowledge base,” Cortana herself says, describing the concept in Halo 4. “We literally think ourselves to death.”

Generally speaking, AI characters in Halo can last about seven years before the onset rampancy.

“That concept — the role of AIs in the Halo universe has been strong from the very first game,” Grace explained. “The idea that in the Halo universe, a smart AI — these kind of creative, free-thinking really powerful AIs — only are supposed to live for about seven years before they start to fall apart and go crazy. They’re an AI that can control innumerable systems, have access to all knowledge everywhere. If the internet went crazy, we’d all be in trouble, and all of these smart AIs pose that same kind of threat — that’s why that seven-year lifespan is a really important factor.

Luckily for her, Halo Wars 2‘s primary AI, Isabel, is practically an infant.

“Isobel is pretty young for an AI. She’s technically about two years old, so she’s pretty advanced for a two-year old, but from an AI perspective, she’s still got some more time to play,” Grace continued. “We created her and we’ve got some details of her story that are actually already out in the wild a little bit for fans that are putting the pieces together, but we plan on hanging out with her for a good long while.”

Sadly, as Halo Wars 2 is set 28 years after the events of the original Halo Wars, that title’s primary AI, Serina, seems like her best before date has long since passed.

“There are some other questions that other fans have brought up, obviously,” Grace teased. “Cortana, she’s passed her seven-year date, but we’ve seen the kinds of trouble that that’s caused on the other side of the universe. And there are some question about Serina, but we’re not getting into that just yet.

“That’s something that players are going to have to get into the game to find out how that works out.”

Halo Wars 2 heads to Windows PC and Xbox One as part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program on 21 February 2017. Keep with Stevivor for more from Grace and Art Director, Jeremy Cook.