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Here's the official, Halo lore explanation for why Cortana is naked


Halo franchise chief Frank O’Connor was asked recently why Cortana is naked. It turns out, developer 343 has thought about this, and there’s an actual lore explanation.

O’Connor says Cortana chooses to appear naked in order to gain the upper hand during conversations.

Really.

Here are the quotes, which I’ve transcribed from a GamesRadar video interview, below.

  • Firstly, she’s not actually nude, because she has neither clothes nor private parts. She’s effectively just wearing a kind of holographic body stocking. That’s the conceit. However, like you said, that’s what it makes you think of.
  • We’ve backed into the canon and had this conversation even before we ever showed pictures of Cortana. Why is she doing that? Why would an AI pick that? Well, we have other AIs. We have one who dresses like a wizard. We have one who dresses like a World War 2 pilot. They do it because they feel like it’s a part of their personality.
  • In Cortana’s case, because she’s illegally cloned from a real human brain, she’s a little bit different than other AIs.
  • One of the reasons she does it is to attract and demand attention. And she does it to put people off so they’re on their guard when they’re talking to her and that she has the upper hand in those conversations.
  • It’s kind of almost like the opposite of that nightmare you have where you go to school in the nude, and you’re terrified and embarrassed. She’s kind of projecting that back out to her audience and winning intellectual points as a result.
  • That’s not why she was designed like that. That’s how we’ve backed into our fiction. But that’s the conceit and that’s why she does it. She expresses that in her other behaviours and we’ve invested in that aspect of her persona.

Right. Okay. That’s a lot for a Halo fan to take in. Let’s go through each point one by one.

  • Firstly, she’s not actually nude, because she has neither clothes nor private parts. She’s effectively just wearing a kind of holographic body stocking. That’s the conceit. However, like you said, that’s what it makes you think of.

Right, this sort of makes sense. Cortana can’t be naked because she’s not really real. But her hologram can be naked, right? So…

  • We’ve backed into the canon and had this conversation even before we ever showed pictures of Cortana. Why is she doing that? Why would an AI pick that? Well, we have other AIs. We have one who dresses like a wizard. We have one who dresses like a World War 2 pilot. They do it because they feel like it’s a part of their personality.
  • In Cortana’s case, because she’s illegally cloned from a real human brain, she’s a little bit different than other AIs.
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This is Roland, the AI in charge of the UNSC Infinity during Halo 5. He’s the AI O’Connor refers to as the one who dresses like a World War 2 pilot.

Right, so, Cortana is a special case because, unlike other AIs, she was created using a flash cloned copy of Dr. Catherine Halsey’s brain. Still with you there.

Here’s the meat of the explanation:

  • One of the reasons she does it is to attract and demand attention. And she does it to put people off so they’re on their guard when they’re talking to her and that she has the upper hand in those conversations.
  • It’s kind of almost like the opposite of that nightmare you have where you go to school in the nude, and you’re terrified and embarrassed. She’s kind of projecting that back out to her audience and winning intellectual points as a result.

So, Cortana appears naked to gain the upper hand in conversations. 343 has come up with an actual Halo lore explanation for this.

Pretty much everyone who reads O’Connor’s quotes will think, actually, Cortana appears naked because Master Chief having a sexy sidekick probably goes down well with Halo’s target audience.

It seems O’Connor acknowledges that this inspired Cortana’s original design, but, it turns out, 343 decided to come up with an in-universe explanation when it took over Halo development duties.

  • That’s not why she was designed like that. That’s how we’ve backed into our fiction. But that’s the conceit and that’s why she does it. She expresses that in her other behaviours and we’ve invested in that aspect of her persona.

Cortana’s design has changed over the course of the Halo games. This handy image shows how.

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343 came under fire when Halo 4 was released for making Cortana’s boobs bigger than they were in Bungie’s Halo games. She also had a more realistic design, less a hologram, more a… naked blue girl.

Now we know why.