The Halo Bulletin: 9/8/11
This suit is not a natural formation.
Sometimes, when attempting to find the figurative needle in a haystack, you have to pay attention to the specifics in order to achieve success, and a recent situation I found myself in at Halo Fest is proof of that fact. It was the evening of the VIP party, and the cake-cutting festivities were rapidly approaching. A certain Spartan was supposed to assist with divvying up the Halo-themed dessert but I quickly discovered he was missing in action. There was a costume contest going on at the main stage, so—using my sharper than average sleuthing skills—I approached the steady stream of super-soldiers on parade. Instantly confronted with numerous green, near identical cosplayers, I focused my attention on the lower half of the costumes. Within a split second, I found who I was looking for, and quickly escorted the Halo 4 Master Chief to the appropriate destination. I even provided him with a weapon. Assuming you consider a long, serrated knife a weapon, that is.
If you had the pleasure of laying eyes upon that suit, sans or with cutlery, you were undoubtedly impressed by its craftsmanship. That’s because the team behind the creation—collectively known as Blue Realm Studios—have perfected the art of making Spartan armor. Not many people are familiar with the process of bringing fictional Halo items to life, so I sat down, virtually of course, with Adam Grumbo—one of the talented people that make up that particular prop-fabricating group. Here’s what he had to say in response to my numerous awkwardly phrased inquiries.
The only thing I know about armor making is what is being made, which is armor. Can you tell us a little about the creation process? Also, is it super hard, super easy, or somewhere in between?
“The process is a difficult one. Lucky for me, Devin—who was leading us on the project—had to think of all the tough stuff. Since there was only a certain amount of time to plan, start, and finish this project, everything had to be put into overdrive from day one. We created the suit in much the same way as a lot of the existing suits are made, with the exception of a few time-saving methods, including CNCing some parts. CNC is computer numerical controlled milling, which is great for scaling quickly and getting the proportions correct. It does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean it makes life easier for detailing the build, as we had to refine and clean up some parts for at least a week to get them ready for molding. The final suit was cast out in urethane plastic, and some parts in urethane rubber. There was more molding material used in this than any previous Blue Realm costume project.”
You had me at urethane. Well, either that or rubber. But back on-topic, how long did it take you to complete this project, and how many people worked on it?
“Devin and Charlie put in the most hours and really got to know this armor inside and out. It took us right around two months to get the project done. That was some feat for us, as the original Halo 2 Blue Realm suit took around two years to complete. For the Halo 4 suit, there were up to seven or eight people working around the clock on it.”
That is an impressively short time frame! What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome, and did anything go wrong?
“There were so many challenges, I don't even know where to begin. The first and most obvious was the fact that not everyone working on the suit lived in Dallas where the operation was taking place. Charlie was from New York, Walter from Houston, and I came up from Austin. It was a big slumber party without the slumbering. There were a few points of frustration with the suit, including masters that floated in the silicone, gold visors coming out too dark to see through, mother molds getting fused on, and much more. There were lots of problems one weekend with moisture contamination of the plastic, which turned the urethane into a foamy mess. You might not understand all the details of what that means, but it equaled many hours of lost time and money—something that can happen from time to time when you're under a deadline and don't have the luxury to wait for weather to cooperate. We documented as much of the process as we could on video, so hopefully that will be out soon for everyone to enjoy. With so many cooks in the kitchen, the only accident that was pain-worthy was when Charlie dripped a good amount of liquid plastic onto his hairy legs. Upon removal of said plastic, needless to say, they weren't hairy anymore.”
I was wondering why his legs were smoother than mine. Do you have any other fun stories, either about making the armor or transporting it to Seattle?
“The funniest part to me was the night Walter and I arrived. For some reason, we thought it'd be a good idea to sleep in the airport until Devin and Charlie arrived with the suit. I wimped out, and we got a hotel room and ordered pizza. It’s sad and funny to think that while Devin and Charlie were putting the final touches on the suit at 3 am, Walter and I were watching TV and chowing on pizza in a nice comfy hotel. With some help from other members of the 405th, we picked them up at the airport at 1 am Seattle time. Their flight was delayed, and they were completely beat. Knowing there was a long weekend of PAX-ing ahead of them was probably not a great feeling but hey, who sleeps during PAX, anyway? The suit was checked as luggage and arrived safe and sound. We did wonder for a bit, with the last minute modifications, how well the suit would fit me. They did well though, and the suit looked and wore exactly how it should.”
I thought it looked amazing. Minus the mass amounts of ogling by yours truly, what were some of the reactions people had upon seeing it?
“This is the interesting part. The pressure was certainly on when we had our Halo 4 suit, standing feet away from the masterpieces Legacy Effects created. Plus, the Halo 4 suit is so new, not everyone recognized that it was a new variant of Mjolnir. Those who did recognize it as Halo 4 were blown away. We study the look of armor probably more than most communities out there so for us, it's very cool to see that certain parts of the armor translate into real world applications. What I mean is you can see where ammo might clip on or where armor might disassemble or connect. Those things make a difference to those of us who really appreciate seeing Halo in the real world. When Frankie made the announcement of the suit on Sunday at the Halo 4 panel, people cheered loudly, and that was a good feeling—knowing that the fans appreciated all the hard work that went into it.”
Speaking of sporting the suit during the Halo 4 panel, what is the best and worst part of wearing this particular costume?
“The best part about wearing the costume is the same great part of wearing any Mjolnir armor, and why we love to do it. Putting it on totally makes you feel like a super-soldier. It feels like so much more than a costume. You feel like the Chief. People come running up and look at you in awe. I'd compare it to when kids first see a life-size T-Rex statue. It's something they've seen photos of, read about, and thought about. But when you see it in real life, it really brings you into the Halo Universe. That, combined with Weta's Warthog, really completed the experience for many Halo fans. The worst part about it is when the fan inside the helmet runs out and the visor fogs up. It's only moments before you can't see two feet in front of you!”
I imagine that last part is probably a good thing if I’m standing in front of you. Regardless, I’d like to thank Adam for giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of the Halo 4 Master Chief suit. Semi-related, I’m pretty sure that interview is equivalent to a year’s worth of Halo 4 information. I now consider us good on Halo 4-related news until September 2012. Man oh man, this job is getting easier every day!
This map is not a natural formation, either.
While I managed to mark releasing news about Halo 4 off my to-do list for an entire 12 months, there’s still Halo: Anniversary, so I won’t be calling it a day quite yet. We’ve already taken an in-depth look at the Beaver Creek and Damnation remakes, so how about joining me for a relaxing stroll through one of the upcoming cooperative Campaign modes? I heard the ring is gorgeous this time of year… assuming the year isn’t 2552, anyway.
Selecting the six traditional Slayer maps for Anniversary was a challenge. There were several different questions we asked ourselves when attempting to determine what playspaces would work best for Anniversary: Could the map be easily Forged? Then it’s out. Is it in Halo 3? Then it’s out. Does bs angel like it? Then it’s out. When it came time for the Firefight meeting with Certain Affinity though—the one where each side was slated to present their respective Firefight map proposals—it went smoother than expected because we discovered our independently formed ideas reflected the same area: Installation 04.
It was the only map out of the seven choices that didn’t create even the slightest amount of contention. Both groups immediately agreed the aptly named level “Halo” was perfect because its encounter design is quintessential Firefight. There’s a defendable base, and the fictional premise is trying to survive several waves of Covenant attack. The only decision left to make was which specific encounter should be built into the Firefight map. The Cliffside tower was the clear winner for several different reasons: the size of the space, the room you have to maneuver, and the flexibility of the area in regard to where the AI can enter. It’s also the most malleable of the spaces. Thus, the decision was considered final. Installation 04 was in.
This particular area didn’t require a lot of design changes. It was pretty much provided for us. With Slayer maps, you have to consider equipment and Armor Abilities and their ability to dramatically change how a map plays. But when you’re fighting AI, the differences are not as significant as when it’s a player vs. player situation. The encounters needed to be customized, but the groundwork was there for us in the design of the map itself.
Certain Affinity added an extra challenge, though. Along with needing to create a beautiful hi-res version of ten-year-old content, they also wanted to take things to the next level by introducing friendly AI. They had been toying with the idea since the Defiant Map Pack but didn’t have time to implement it then. Designing a Firefight space is different, and more challenging, than designing a Slayer map because of all the stuff running under the surface. Among other things, you have to set up flight paths for AI drop ships and script complicated events while making sure they play nice with each other. Most of the time with Unearthed was spent making it Firefight compatible so with that out of the way, Certain Affinity then had more time to experiment. The most important part was making sure the friendly AI functioned almost as well as the enemy AI. Of course, we couldn’t make them too smart, or they’d simply play for you. So they now help in convincing and useful ways.
If we’re being honest though, there was failure before success—the process has not been full of pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers. Halo Fest, in fact, had some builds where the AI did not want to cooperate. They would start at the defend tower, and throughout the weekend, they decided to stay stationary on that platform. The night before Halo Fest, Chad, who was checking over everything, noticed the peculiarity and said, out loud, “Why isn’t the ODST moving?” The ODST must have heard him because he answered with a point animation toward the Covenant enemies. Hard to argue that logic.
At other points during the design process, the AI behaved much like me. Sometimes you would catch one of them unable to path find and thus running courageously into the nearest corner. Other times they just seemed lost. During one particularly entertaining session, an ODST launched himself, via the gravity lift, back up to the tower where he started. After making his way back down, he then decided to do the same thing. Over. And over. And over. Let’s just say he didn’t get much done that game. It’s really easy to break AI but quite a bit harder to make work properly. And Certain Affinity definitely deserves kudos for achieving the latter.
If you find your curiosity piqued about this particular playspace, here are some brand new screenshots of Installation 04 that will hopefully quench your Anniversary-inspired thirst.
If, by chance, the pretty pictures didn’t satisfy your craving for more Anniversary news, keep your ears to the ground during the week of this year’s Tokyo Game Show. I can neither confirm nor deny the rumor that we’ll be releasing some tasty tidbits, both about Anniversary and the upcoming Halo: Reach Title Update, during that time frame. However, I can tell you we’ll be releasing some tasty tidbits, both about Anniversary and the upcoming Halo: Reach Title Update, during that time frame.
My fingers are exhausted from the turtle-like pace of my typing, so today I will only be answering one community-submitted question. Thankfully it’s something almost every single member of our forums has asked.
Where’s mah Gamma?!
At this time tomorrow, you just may be the alpha tester of the beta version of our Gamma forums. Actually, before then because around 10 am Friday morning, the test phase of the final iteration of forums will begin. One of my general philosophies is the more, the merrier, so should you want to try to break our new software, I encourage you to do so. Pertinent information, such as the specifics on how to participate, will be posted here.
And with that, I bid you adieu. Until next week, anyway.
PS: Not only do I have a Friday Caption Fun wallpaper-type image for you this week, but I also have a few fan-made Halo 4-themed Mister Chief creations. Enjoy all the fun pictures, and hop in and participate if you so desire!