Bungie May Have Outed The Jovians Back in 2013
At a GDC panel in 2013, Joseph Staten detailed the creative process of Destiny, which had just recently been announced. Early in the presentation, titled "Destiny: Defining the Center of Your World," they showed off a series of "postcards" from the world of Destiny. At the center of this world, they explained, was a beautiful fantasy world and in the center--a space ship.
But inhabiting this world? Staten explained:
"So in Halo, we had one main enemy. And to fill out a world as big as Destiny, we actually needed a lot more than that. We needed many. We wanted this place to feel exciting, with lots of different characters to fight. So we wanted them to feel harmonious as well. Like puzzle pieces, to carve out different thematic buckets for them. So what we did was, we lined them up and created a mood board."
The first three races are immediately recognizable: The Vex, the Fallen and The Cabal. But the last two?
I immediately speculated the first was the Hive, but there was too much off. The environment imagery, brambles, and the uniformly gangly bodies, are too far from the hierarchical nature of the Hive. At some point in the Destiny creative process, this species may have become the Hive. But Staten and Barrett's comments on this species lead me to believe it was a distinct species, at least in conception.
Staten describes his experience--as Halo Reach was in full-speed development and Destiny's base ingredients sat on the backburner. CG Barret approached him with his artwork of the species.
Staten describes his immediate reaction:
"What’s up with the green guy, with the light shooting out of his head. What’s that?
'That’s his soul ripping out of his body.'
He explained further:
"And that’s not the sort of thing that would easily fit into a Halo game, definitely not into a modern military shooter. But exploding skulls, soul catastrophically evacuating the body, is great for mythic science fiction. And at this point, we were still really struggling with what this genre really meant."
Staten further describes the species, claiming that his original idea was that these species' life cycle was based around their consumption of Noble Gases (Helium, Krypton, Neon, etc…)
This species, in conception, was likely based on Jupiter or Venus, the two planets with the highest quantities of Noble Gases.
Nonetheless, I don't believe these are "The Jovians." The Jovians are described as an extremely influential and intelligent species. In the final story for Destiny, they have a diplomatic relationship with The Reef. The Queen gifts them their prisoner, Skolas, after Prince Uldren's Crows entered Jovian space. Not only are they intelligent, but they're considered the dominant force within the region.
Ultimately, they reject the Queen's gift, freeing Skolas and allowing him to return to unite The Fallen and attack Earth. They're withdrawn from the affairs of their neighbors; while the Reef and The Vanguard maintain a tenuous alliance, the Jovians have little interest in our inner realm of the Solar System.
So the "Soul Exploders" probably aren't the Jovians. They're portrayed as wild, among brambles, and wandering in a herd. But check the next panel of the Mood Board.
Drenched in yellow, a dark, slender figure appears behind a plume of pitch black gas:
What makes me say this? The imagery. Specifically, the gas, and the triangle iconography.
The Jovians are humans who were stranded in the furthest realms of the Solar System. While the Awoken were slowly transformed by radiation, the Jovians are believed to have been transformed by The Nine. Additionally, this change is thought to have been an intentional choice.
The imagery present in this panel focuses on gas--the primary composition of the gas giant Jupiter--but also a symbol of ephemeral nature.
Most importantly, gas is matter, transformed. Matter is heated to become gas, changing its very nature. The Jovians, likewise, exist in a gaseous world and are embodied in a state that is not their own. Within the world of Destiny, this imagery belongs to the Jovians.
So let's look to the iconography. A large triangle; a small triangle; a group of triangles.
Among Bungie's artistic strengths is their brilliant use of iconography. It permeates all their games, but Destiny most of all. Every activity, vendor, character, location, subclass or race can be abstractly represented by Destiny icons. It's an intentional art design for a world soaked in myth.
It's an artistic method that functions on extremely specific rules. The number and groupings of the triangles, the simplicity of the triangles and the presence of the triangles relative to the Jovian figure, all tell a story.
Take the Vex. Beneath a hulking, Lovecraftian creature, a regiment of identical Vex troops stand in rank and file. They are robotic troops, manifest of a singular, inscrutable and incomprehensibly monstrous vision.
The Fallen only present a singular scout, rifle slung over its back, wandering with a roughshod cloak. At its side, a patrolling mechanical warden, and above it--far into the sky--two ships, in opposite directions. The Fallen nomads, but military occupants of a foreign, unfriendly land.
The Cabal stand in rank, albeit in smaller numbers than the Vex. They're flanked by advanced, but spartan technological structures. Above them, pods drop into the surface. The Cabal are advanced and stalwart invaders.
Back to the Jovian.
He stands alone, behind a wisp of heavy gas. Rather than technology, gods or weapons, he's surrounded by symbols. The imagery is Lovecraftian itself, but of a different nature than the Vex. This man is not the apparent servant of unspeakable evil--he has become the monster itself.
The theme of transformation is underpinned by simplistic, monolithic symbolism. The triangles are presented in three states: Large, singular; small, singular; grouped, singular. This is an advanced society, where biology has transcended individualism, but not engrossed it. Unlike the Vex, this is a lone man, with a singular will.
He is subservient to The Nine. He's been transformed, of his own will. And in turn, he's become something greater.
In Lovecraftian myth, the heroes who dare to confront the forces that be are either destroyed, driven to madness or are consumed by the force itself. The Jovian has been consumed, willingly, and become part of the sinister, aloof will of The Nine.
Take Xur, for instance, and his recognizable phrases:
"My will is not my own."
"Some of these cells in this body began on this world, so strange to return."
"Bodies come and go but the cells remember and if they forget the Nine remember it for us."
"Some of this body’s ancestors were born on this world but we were greatly changed to live in the outer worlds."
"The Awoken did not make a choice...but we did."
"My movements…are not predictable even to me."
And most importantly,
"I feel a great many consciousnesses impinging on my mind and all of them so small and lonely."
Who the Jovians are:
As previously believed, the Jovians are humans who were trapped in the outer regions of our Solar System during The Collapse.
I believe that--facing certain death--they turned to The Nine, who offered to transform the bodies to allow them to survive. In return, though, they were in turn, consumed. Their wills (or souls) became one with the wills of The Nine. It's possible, even likely, that The Darkness in involved. The Nine may very well commune with The Darkness, and it may the source of their powers.
Further, I don't believe their minds are connected via a hive mind like The Vex, or by a biological heirarchy as The Hive are. I believe that the Jovians are all connected--like a blockchain. Xur mentions "a great many consciousnesses impinging on my mind and all of them so small and lonely."
These are not words that describe masters, or of a collective. Xur experiences distinct voices, and while his will is no longer his own, the voices themselves are small and distinctly individual. Xur also possesses a sense of identity, himself.
The Jovian minds are connected, like a blockchain. I believe The Nine influence them by inputting their will into this chain, causing individual Jovian actors to obey them. They maintain their individual identity, commune with their fellow Jovians and answer to The Nine. To explain their mental condition, the explanation must satisfy all three of those conditions, because we know these to be true of Xur.
The speculated Jovian artwork from the 2013 Mood Board further embodies all those characteristics in its portrayal of its final race.
We won't know exactly who or what The Jovians are until Bungie decides we're ready to find out. But by examining Xur and past artwork, I believe Bungie may have inadvertently let information slip through their invaluably informative art design. Much has changed since 2013. But at the very least, I believe the mentality and identity of The Jovians has been glimpsed already.