The Superintendent is an artificial intelligence construct in the Halo universe created to run the various services of the city of New Mombasa. The Superintendent seems to control almost all civil technologies within the city, including electronic billboards, cash points, trains, roadblocks, medical stations and refuse vehicles. It even seems to have some amount of control over civilian vehicles, as seen when it sets off car alarms and flashes headlights in order to get the Rookie's attention. The Superintendent is a 2nd-generation "dumb" AI, meaning that it is merely a very advanced computer program and not truly sentient, in the manner of "smart" AIs like the famous Cortana. As such, while it is pre-programmed with certain knowledge, it is incapable of truly learning new information even though it can acquire data.
The Superintendent is represented on screens as a small green circular face, outlined by white, and with two white circles for eyes. It is also sometimes depicted with a black box around it's 'circle', and holding a plunger while giving a thumbs up. It is capable of conveying emotion through a small number of different eye expressions, which it commonly switches through on the fly during conversations. The Superintendent, as a municipal AI, has full access to city-controlled equipment, giving it access to cameras, microphones and speakers throughout New Mombasa in order to monitor the city, but it only seems to be able to speak (through electronic speakers) using a series of pre-recorded phrases, which aren't very specific, so must be adapted to non-municipal use; when trying to protest the demolition of a bridge during the Covenant invasion of New Mombasa, it used the phrase "Please respect public property." One of these phrases, "Keep it clean!", became his catch phrase.
Halo 3: ODST
Shortly before the First Battle of Earth the Superintendent was carrying out a scheduled seismic scan on the city when it picked up a seismic disturbance caused by a Forerunner artefact, the artefact that eventually allowed the Covenant to open a portal to Earth in Halo 3. With the Forerunner artefacts being considered of great military value to the UNSC and of great military and religious significance to the Covenant, both the Covenant and the UNSC were given strong motives to recover the data from the SI.
On October 20th 2552 the Covenant invaded Earth and the SI was severely damaged in the attack, causing it's data to be corrupted. However, it did manage to issue a city-wide emergency and evacuated New Mombasa. Notable in this evacuation was Vergil, a subroutine of the SI created by Dr. Endesha to protect his daughter Sadie Endesha. Vergil used New Mombasa's various services to not only help Sadie leave the city but also to help her escape from Commissioner Kinsler, a corrupt official who had attempted to rape and kill Sadie. However, Kinsler shut down the SI so it would stop aiding Sadie.
Instrumental in helping Vergil was a Covenant Engineer who was one of seven that had broken away from the Covenant forces, rebelling against the race that had made them slaves. The other six Engineers had given their lives so that the seventh could live and driven by instinct the Engineer wandered into the core of the SI, brought it back online, and began repairing it. The Engineer also downloaded part of the Vergil subroutine into itself, essentially giving Vergil a physical body. This Engineer continued to help Sadie until she had successfully escaped the city. The SI also made a number of audio logs chronicling Sadie's escape.
As detailed in the news posts from the Superintendent ARG (see below) the UNSC Prowler 'Tokyo Rules' had discovered that the SI was unable to deliver its data on the seismic activity and so needed to send a squad in to recover it manually. Section 1 ONI operative Veronica Dare then requested a squad from UNSC Heavy Cruiser 'Say My Name' to carry out the recovery. The team sent to recover the SI consisted of Dare, Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck, Corporal Taylor "Dutch" Miles, Lance Corporal Kojo "Romeo" Agu, Private First Class Michael "Mickey" Crespo, and a Lance Corporal referred to only as ' the Rookie'. The team were told that it was their mission to land on the Prophet of Regret's Cruiser in a counter-attack to the Covenant invasion and were unaware that Dare was leading them to the true mission of retrieving the SI's data.
As the SI's dropped into New Mombasa the Prophet of Regret's Cruiser engaged its slipspace drive to retreat from Earth, causing a lethal release of energy over New Mombasa known as a slipspace rupture. The slipspace rupture scattered the drop pods of the ODSTs across the city and further damaged the Superintendent. Shortly after this the Prophet of Truth dispatched a fleet led by Brutes to recover the SI for himself. The SI helped the team of ODSTs and The Rookie in particular find their way through the city and fight of the Covenant forces. He also directed The Rookie towards a number of the audio logs relating to Sadie's escape.
The SI's systems, located underneath the ONI headquarters in New Mombasa, were raided by Covenant forces, however The Rookie descended through the seven sublevels where the SI's systems were situated to recover the SI's data. Here the Rookie met back up with Dare and they both cleared the complex of Covenant forces, eventually reaching the core of the SI. The Rookie and Dare found the Engineer in the SI's core just as it finished repairing and fully downloading the Vergil subroutine. The Engineer disconnected from the SI, immediately shutting it down, but with all the SI's personality and data transferred into the Engineer, the Super essentially "lived on" through the Engineer.
Dare and The Rookie escorted the Engineer (referred to as Vergil from here on out) out of the complex and eventually met up with the rest of their squad, evacuating Vergil out of the city. After the credits of the game it is revealed that Sergeant Major Avery J. Johnson communicated with Vergil as it accessed the Covenant battlenet and it is implied that this is how the UNSC were prepared to counter the second Covenant attack on Earth in Halo 3. If the game is completed on legendary difficulty it is also revealed that the Covenant glassed the SI's systems to reach a Forerunner complex buried underneath.
The Superintendent Alternate Reality Game
The Superintendent first appeared on the t-shirt of a then Bungie employee, Frank O'Connor, in a picture posted on the official Bungie website, Bungie.net. The Superintendent later appeared on the T-shirt of another Bungie employee, Luke Smith, when he visited MLG San Diego and announced the release of the Halo 3 map Cold Storage. A profile was created on Bungie.net under the name of 'Superintendent' in early May 2008, however it wasn't until seven new Superintendent profiles appeared in late May that the Super came to the particular attention of the Bungie community. All profiles used a variation on the name '|||||||' and six of them had avatars of the Superintendent conveying a different emotion, while the seventh profile had no avatar. The Super's profiles all had signatures consisting of the phrase "Keep it clean!".
The Bungie.net Forum Posts
The Superintendent made a number of posts on the Bungie forums where it had the unique attribute of its nameplate and text appearing in green. It would reply to people's threads in all-caps, often using the phrase "KEEP IT CLEAN" and like the forum moderators could not be reported. It also posted in Bungie.net's discussion forum on the Superintendent at 9:52 a.m. PDT, on 18th June 2008, with the phrase "PLEASE REMAIN CALM!". Bungie.net user, Duardo, attempted to make contact with the Super by replying to it in the thread at 10:58 a.m. PDT, saying "Why? Is there something wrong?", and sending it a PM with the same message. At 11:10 a.m. PDT the Superintendent replied to Duardo's PM, saying "IN CASE OF FIRE, USE STAIRS". The Super also made a number of posts on the forum where it used the phrase "KEEP IT CLEAN" but replaced a single letter in the phrase with a number. Bungie themselves also started a contest on July 3rd 2008 called 'Recon Road Trip', part of the objective of which was for Bungie fans to seek out an anonymous Bungie employee wearing a T-shirt with the Superintendent on it.
The Original Countdown
By putting the numbers used in the Superintendent's forum posts together, in the order they were posted, the Bungie.net community received the date and time of 07/14/08, 10:30, the time and date of the E3 2008 Microsoft keynote speech. While it was originally believed by the community that some light would be shed on the identity of the Superintendent during the keynote presentation, Microsoft made no mention of the Super whatsoever. However, shortly before this the Superintendent appeared to hijack the homepage of Bungie.net and at the time of the keynote, a countdown was started on the home page, set to end at 07:07 a.m. PDT on July 16th 2008. On June 15th 2008, at 7:00 p.m. PDT, the countdown was replaced with a message from Bungie President Harold Ryan. The message stated that while Bungie had been building up to the announcement of a project they had been working on (presumably Halo 3: ODST) for the past few months Microsoft had stepped in and prevented the announcement of the product.
The SI made a number of appearances for some time around and after the cancellation of Bungie's announcement, but ultimately remained inactive on Bungie.net. The SI appeared in such places as Bungie's G-Phoria Game of the Year acceptance speech video, their Edge 'thank you' video, on the shirt of an unknown man at a Halo Wars E3 demo, when asked what he was working on as part of the August 16th 2008 Bungie update Halo writer Joseph Staten said "KEEP IT CLEAN", and for some time the logo at the top-left of Bungie.net would change to a picture of the SI for a split second.
The Bungie.net News Posts
On September 19th 2008 at 7:07 p.m. PDT one of the SI's accounts made a news post on Bungie.net under the title "KEEP IT CLEAN". The post appeared to be classified data taken from the Office of Naval Intelligence databases, being accessed by a " V. Dare", and detailing a conversation between the SI and a Duty Officer aboard the UNSC Prowler-class ship 'Tokyo Rules'. The transcript began with the SI repeating the phrase "METROPOLITAN EMERGENCY" to which the Officer replied that they were aware and that they needed the SI to give them a communications line to Commissioner Kinsler. The SI did not co-operate and continued to only reply using it's pre-recorded phrases (presumably due to damage) even when the Officer told the SI they had reports that it's data had been corrupted and they needed it's logs for the past 24 hours. The Officer told the SI that the UNSC were sending a team to him and that the officer needed the SI to relay all future communications to him. The SI repeated two more of his pre-recorded phrases which the officer took to be a positive response, at which point the transcript ended.
On September 22nd 2008 at 7:07 p.m. PDT the SI posted a second news post, entitled "PARDON OUR DUST". It appeared to be another transcript from the ONI databases, this time of a conversation between Dare and an Admiral aboard the UNSC Heavy Cruiser 'Say My Name'. The admiral appeared to be giving battle orders at the time of the communication, however Dare was requesting a squad of soldiers from him, a request to which the admiral complied.
The ODST Reveal
On September 24th 2008 at 7:07 PDT a countdown much like the previous once appeared on the Bungie.net home page, starting with a time of 12 hours. When the countdown ended Bungie released a trailer for Halo 3: ODST (then known as Halo 3: Recon) which showed the SI witnessing a slipspace rupture over New Mombasa from the Prophet of Regret's Cruiser entering slipspace during the First Battle of Earth, a team of ODSTs dropping into the city, the SI declaring a city-wide disaster, and finally the SI witnessing a single ODST emerging from his drop pod alive and guiding him forwards using street signs. At this point the ARG ended and the Superintendent was not seen again until April 1st 2009 when the lights on the population map for Halo 3 made up the image of the SI's avatar.
During June 2009 the SI was finally seen in-game as Bungie revealed gameplay footage for Halo 3: ODST at E3 2009.
- The Superintendent is voiced by Joseph Staten, writer of the Halo games and author of the book Halo: Contact Harvest, as well as providing the comical voices of the Covenant Grunts in every Halo game developed by Bungie.
- Many parallels have been drawn between Halo 3: ODST and Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, and many of these revolve around the SI. Each of the audio logs the SI made can be associated with one of the seven deadly sins, The Rookie has to descend through the SI's 9 sublevels, just as Dante descends through the 9 circles of hell, Dante is guided through hell by a poet named Virgil while Sadie and The Rookie are guided through New Mombasa by the subroutine Vergil, and while Virgil couldn't ascend to heaven Vergil appears very reluctant to ascend into the ship which lets him escape New Mombasa.
- Although the Halo IP is owned by Microsoft, the SI's avatar is legal property of Bungie.
- After the original cancellation of the Halo 3: ODST announcement, the website Loading, Ready, Run released a video called 'The Superintendent's Sorrow' which featured the Superintendent's avatar singing about its sorrow over Bungie's announcement cancellation.
- The Superintendent's role in Halo 3: ODST has been compared with the role of Cortana in the Halo trilogy. They are both artificial intelligence constructs who guide the protagonist through the game, often aiding them indirectly. All Halo games have also featured an AI as a main character, while the SI happens to be the AI from Halo 3: ODST and Cortana appears in the Halo trilogy, Auntie Dot is the main AI in Halo: Reach, and Serina is the main AI in Halo Wars.
- The Superintendent ARG was the third of three ARGs themed around Halo. The previous two were the 'Iris' ARG promoting Halo 3, and the 'I Love Bees' ARG promoting Halo 2. The 'Cortana Letters' published before the release of Halo: Combat Evolved are also not dissimilar.
- Players can choose the SI's avatar as an emblem for themselves in Halo 3: ODST's firefight mode. It was also available as an Xbox LIVE icon as part of the Bungie Day '08 picture pack.
- Including his off mode, the SI is capable of displaying 7 different expressions, a reference to Bungie's continued use of the number 7 in their games. The Engineer that repaired the SI was also part of a group of 7, the SI's name on the Bungie.net forums was comprised of 7 vertical lines, the SI made 7 different accounts on Bungie.net at the same time, the SI often made posts on Bungie.net at 7:07, and the original SI was shut down on October 21st 2552, with 21 being a multiple of 7.
- The SI's "PARDON OUT DUST" post on Bungie.net was made on September 22nd 2008, exactly one year before the release of Halo 3: ODST.
- There is a theory that Superintendent is not the name of the AI but in fact his class, due to Kinsler calling him a "Superintendent-class" AI at one point. It has also been theorized that Vergil may be the SI's real name and that the subroutine that is known now as Vergil is nameless or has a name we don't know about. This would also mean that the Engineer did not just download the Vergil subroutine, but the entire SI.
- In the original Halo 3: ODST trailer the SI can be seen using the phrase "Maddie, where are you?". Maddie was actually the original name of Sadie Endesha, the main character character of the "Sadie's Story" videolog series in ODST. The name was changed after the trailer because of the unfortunate connections between the message and Madeline "Maddie" McCann, an English child who disappeared in 2007, and was heavily reported on in the media at the time.
- The Superintendent has been characterized not only by it's repeated use of stock civic phrase but also by it's "chimes", two sets of four notes that it will play in certain situations.
- The credits and loading screens in Halo 3: ODST appear as if taken from the SI's point of view. At the end of the credits the SI can be seen displaying a happy face.
- The Superintendent icon can be seen displayed on a large screen on the Halo: Reach / Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary remake of Headlong, a multiplayer map from Halo 2.
- The SI's security cameras are reminiscent of those used by the AI HAL 9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, but featuring a blue "eye," instead of HAL's red.