Monday, July 11, 2016

One Last Time

Comic & Concept has evolved. But this version of it will remain as it was, now as the 'Classic' iteration. If you want to know why my brain needed a full refresh to kick my inspiration into gear, you can read this.

There's still some good stuff here though, so it'll stick around as a back issue (until the paper dissolves). It served as an oft-forgotten journal from the end of my college days to years later as a somewhat-freelance illustrator. It covered fan-art and ambitious fan-projects like A Fistful of Arrows to original creations like the first issue of my comic, Mayflower. Each entry is a signpost along what I think is an important transition in (and perhaps maturation of) my art. I still don't know what I'm doing now, but I do know that it is at least a significantly different thing that I'm doing.

So it's time for this blog to rest and lay still, making room for something new - which isn't an easy thing to do.

Enjoy a half of a decade below. If you want more, follow the sign.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mayflower Process: Vilnius Aflame

The first spread of the first issue of my first original series was... important, to say the least. After an opening page full of dialogue and vague shots of a city through clouds, I needed to grab the eye of the readers as well as give them some space from dialogue but at the same time make sure they see the explosion that was happening on the page. That explosion subsequently leads to the events in the following pages so it needed the highest attention, but at the same time, needed to be somewhat withdrawn so the rest of the scenery could be soaked up and the comic didn't say "Look, explosions - great, huh?"

I thought using 'letterbox' bars would create that panoramic view I was going for, as well as a cinematic one, which often doesn't hurt. It adds a focus, it sets the table. The black is the basic canvas in a way- it's what happens when you don't make art, so it brings attention to what is there and makes it seem important. At least, that's one idea. Maybe it's just because we have the black bars so associated with films that we just expect it to mean some benchmark of quality.

Either way, I began with some soft morning colors. I quickly blotted some cloud rolls in to show me how high these spacescrapers were going to be. I also started to play with different building designs.

Here you can see some of those buildings getting detailed. The tallest building on the right had already received its design years ago in sketchbooks as I came up with this universe. It's the District Control tower and it's shape is iconic to the Mayflower story. Especially because it's the one that gets blown up.

But the problem with all that art was: I hated it. I started again almost completely from scratch and set up a much more interesting cloud system. I was worried about the sun, as when I would eventually get to that said explosion, and it would be competing with it. So I kept it subdued for now. Eventually I'd add a few freckles of intense white where it breached the cloud line.

It was also at this point in the creation of the comic that the beginning sequence switched to dusk as opposed to dawn, for various story and visual reasons, hence the much darker image.

Re-inserted the District Control tower here and began adding flying transports to give the composition scale and flow.

This can especially be seen once I got to the engine glows and trails, and began to add in more details across the whole image. The little bridges and suspension structures in the mist really helped it feel expansive and interconnected.

The explosion itself was fairly easy, but towards the end of it you have to find that perfect balance of contrast to make the explosion look active and dangerous without making the colors just white and orange. There has to be some gradation in there or else it's simply not very pretty to look at it. That's a mistake I was making across all my art not long ago.

You can also see above that the letterbox bars became slightly transparent and grabbed hold of the title text for the story arc. This version was used for the preview edition of issue #1. 

After extended viewing, I wasn't quite happy with it and had the opportunity to revise it for the release of the full issue. As I said, this image was more important than almost all of the other pages, so it required my obsessiveness.

I detailed the ships a bit more, tweaked the fireball, and added more convincing sun glares on the metal and glass buildings. You can also see that tweaked sun that I mentioned above. The sun also go its own ray of light heading down between the farthest clouds to add another diagonal to move your eye around the pages.

The clouds themselves had the most important revision. By simply becoming far more detailed, they were able to convey more scale to the image. These are massive, dynamic clouds, and these spacescrapers are breaching them. It needs to be impressive.

The transparent letterbox became white like many of the paneling frames of the full issue. White borders seemed to match the style and themes of Mayflower better, because of its association with optimistic, golden age sci-fi.

Here you can see the final pages with new, more subtle title text overlaid on the art.


You can find out more about Mayflower and read this first issue for free at

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Brothers In Arms" - Destiny Fanart Walkthrough

I've been working with Claude Errera (Louis Wu of Halo.Bungie.Org) and a great team on Destiny.Bungie.Org, a fansite dedicated to Bungie's new IP, "Destiny".

I pitched the background and basic design of the site. They'll be more to it in the future as we learn more about Destiny.

Lately I was tasked with creating a background for the DBO Twitter feeds the staff was readying. My first step: procrastinate and work on other things.

... After that, though, I sat down and got my butt into gear. I was going to be out of town in a few days and I wanted the piece done by then so that the Twitter-addicted Mr. Errera could have his account as soon as everything else was prepared.


I started sketching, obviously inspired by the amazing concept art Bungie has posted, especially this piece and this piece. I was also trying to think in terms of a Twitter background; since the center would be obscured, I would need the best parts of the picture on the left and right.


Originally, I was just going to do this piece in black and white and match the news sketches I've been doing for the front page. "Fast and easy" and then I could get onto other things. But then, logically, I made it a hundred times harder and started playing around with colors.

I got rid of the good-guy in the middle and replaced him with more incoming Vex robots. I also moved away from the ship graveyard I was imagining in the original sketch's background and towards a Martian volcano (not sure if it really ended up in Mars...).

One thing I stressed upon myself was to work more (and more unexpected) colors into my landscape that would still look natural - and thus make the piece more interesting to look at in the end. You'll notice blues and purples in the dark side of the mountains as evidence of this attempt.


I continued solely on the background for a while. I find it relaxing to paint happy mountains, rivers and waterfalls and it's one thing I consider myself decent enough to the point where I'm not constantly criticizing every move I make.

I smudged the clouds with my custom brush, added cracks and highlights to the nearby rocks, and enjoyed playing around with where the lava-falls would carve into the mountainside.


I switched back to the characters and had a lot of fun fleshing out the Vex on the right. The action and posture from the initial sketch yelled 'drama' so I tried hard to not kill that as I laid the digital paint atop it (I also don't always capture that kind of action in my non-comic art so I'm trying to get more of that dynamic movement in my concept pieces these days).

Some laser blasts were added on the left for more diagonals to draw your eye in. I started experimenting with colors and new designs for our left hero. He started to look a little like a Carter/Jun hybrid! :)


Continued to design-as-I-painted this attacking (or fleeing?) soldier as well as carve out the background Vex. The soldier's gun started to pick up some of Halo's assault rifle but I thought the bayonet and extended barrel would pull it away from that.


More work on the left soldier. Hard to see in this format, but I also shrunk him down a bit.


Here I made the middle Vex bigger, trying to create a better rhythm for your eyes (I went back and forth a lot on this - I eventually made him smaller in the latest version).

The left soldier also received a nice heap of texture and scratches on his armor at this point. His weapon grew a number of crooked wires which at first seemed strange in my mind's eye but as they were implemented I fell in love with them. I'm going to be using them on more of my artwork, I can guarantee you!

I also tried to bring his cape to life at this point and got distracted for a while by trying to melt the rocks directly behind him on the left. I think it might have worked...

A moon was dropped in above and I added a few spaceship/missile trails to help it feel like more of a battle.


By this stage, it was late into the night before my trip and in a few short hours I needed to drive to St. Louis. After a few more refinements, I spent an hour or more tweaking the levels and colors of the entire image (I can get stuck in this stage for way too long). The main thing I settled on was an orange filter to 'heat' up the piece. I uploaded the piece to DBO_tweets and fell asleep.


The artwork had been posted for a week, but I was looking at it again the other day and found myself dissatisfied. It felt too washed out in some areas and too dominated by the orange filter in others (although I did like the 'heat' of it).

Hesitantly, I worked more purple into the background and covered our closest soldier with a rough coat of blue paint. I also shortened his gun's barrel and elongated the bayonet to make it more practical.

I also refined a number of little things here and there across the piece that I probably didn't need it and were completely impossible to see by the viewer... I have a problem with doing that!:)

Then, today I looked at the piece again. I was happy with the changes...

But it needed more damnit!


Here's the final piece (At least, that's what I'm saying right now).

I kept the heat of the orange but tempered it with lighter and cooler colors at the top (I especially liked how the blue drifted in on the top-right). I also redrew some of the cliffs in the middle as well as our hero on the right (almost completely).

I pushed the middle Vex further back and changed the posture of his arm a bit to make him seem like he was reacting to the scene instead of motionless. I also motion-blurred the right Vex's flying, dismembered arm as well as the rocks he was knocking off the sinking boulder.

The hero on the left received more contrast to make sure he was the first thing you see and to make sure he appeared closest to you. I blurred the entirety of the background just a hint as well.

Happy for a few brief moments, I quickly saved and ran away to something else!

Thanks for reading all the way down. :)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Future: "Mayflower"

Originally titled "Over 70,000 profile views... And Beyond" on my DeviantArt Journal. Going to try and keep that and the blog unified from now on.

I thought I'd update everyone on my projects and prospects.

2012 was a terrible year. Besides two deaths in the family, and dealing with extended-family drug problems, I had a lot of promising career outlooks fall through. Every month things got crappier, to the point where it affected my outlook on my art-making ability. And this meant a lot of staring at paper or the screen, trying to start something and then deleting it, etc. Eventually it meant I wasn't even doing that, and just staying away from the pen and pencil altogether.

But I've now gotten another 'day' job and finally moved out of the parent's house after college. While this means I have less time to do art, it also means I now have a little room dedicated to art-making (I'm looking forward to hanging up some whiteboards and corkboards on the wall soon to cultivate more creativity). It's helped things.

I've been able to do art a bit more consistently now - especially the main project that was intimidating me for so long: Mayflower. I want it to be exactly what I've been envisioning, but it never felt like I could get there last year. In the last month, I feel like I'm getting a little closer, at least. Enough time has passed since the the worst of last year that my brain now throws a few encouraging thoughts at me from time to time.

Mayflower: The Seeker did not win that contest that I posted about last time in my journal. We got REALLY close. In fact, we actually DID get in the top 5 who would win grant money. But then oddly enough, a few of our votes were disqualified after the contest ended and we fell from 4th to 6th place, leaving space for a team who paid for their votes, and a team who magically got votes after the contest ended, and even more oddly, had team members who were involved in the running of the contest itself. As one might imagine, me and my friend, Mike, who's doing all the programming, were not happy campers.

The positive note though? Since we didn't pay for out votes - we saw that we had managed to scrounge together a huge heap of earnest, kickass support from people, like the person reading this right now. That's really encouraging! So The Seeker is still quietly being toiled on at the moment, despite our loss and lack of resources. Expect more on that front in the future!

Until then you'll have to deal with Mayflower the comic! I've been planning this universe for 3 and a half years now, and now the first story within it is finally becoming a reality. I'll be posting preview pages in the coming weeks on my DeviantArt and this blog, and I hope to have a printed and digital copy for sale in April, when I'll begin setting up shop at a few nearby comic conventions. I hope I'll have your support in this new venture, or better yet, I hope Mayflower will earn your support.

More to come...

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Studio Library at the Moment...

What the title said: books. Specifically, art books. Here's a list of the ones that I've delved into recently and in the past that have assisted me in my goal of taking over the world through funny-books. Keep in mind, even introductory books can continue to help the artist who considers himself proficient, because you simply can't know everything, and sometimes you forget the things you do know.

-Drawing Foundations-


Combined with the book below, Dynamic Figure Drawing gives you a great layer of facts and images to keep your brain powering through all the terrible sketches an artist makes before finally finding that halfway-decent one. This book is more on the text side, but it's easy to pick up and read as you learn the human figure and all its weird littler intricacies. Even if you don't find yourself a huge fan of the nude figure, learning to master it is just about the best way to become a great drawer or anything in this universe.


Compared with Hogarth's work, Anatomy for the Artist is almost entirely pictures, including a few hundred beautiful sketches of the skeletal and muscular systems, each segment noted with their names and purpose, as well as plenty of depictions of humans with their skin actually on. This book was given to me by my art teacher in elementary school and it slowly fed into my work as I began to delve deeper into art as I grew older. By the time I was in college, it was required reading. Literally! This was the textbook for my anatomy drawing classes at the University of Missouri. I still reference it constantly and it's always on hand.

-Digital Art-

BOLD VISIONS by  Gary Tonge

Like the first two books were great on helping you master putting the pencil on paper, this book is a great little intro to putting the stylus on the graphic tablet. Photoshop, Painter, Layers, Filters, and all the other important elements of digital art is presented here, accompanied by plenty of beautiful art. Tonge gives different ways to approach the empty canvas and also touches on color and light and finding references. A number of step-by-step walkthroughs are also presented. Seeing the steps an artist takes, even just visually, without the details, has always helped me think up new ways to approach my own art.


Another great introduction book that helps you tackle digital art whether you're new or just find yourself intimidated. This is almost a more simple approach than Bold Visions, as its solely focused on comic art. There are a lot of nifty tricks Freddie E Williams shows you in this book that helps you speed things a long so you're not repeating yourself or struggling with annoying details. He also talks about your desk, your workspace, and backing up your work. Williams also shows a few different ways to do digital comics, whether its completely digital or a synthesis with your penciled work.

MECHANIKA by Doug Chang

Doug Chang follows in the footsteps of Ralph McQuarrie and other great concept artists, as he knows when to go crazy and when to be subtle. This book is a series of walkthroughs of his process, as he takes on robots, cars, jets, and builds up to more epic battle scenes. Besides Anatomy of the Artist, this was one of the first art instruction books I bought and I fell in love with it. I still return to it and Chang's work to help figure out challenges I'm having with my current work.


This is one volume from a series of books that tackle the processes of many different and talented digital artists. It's basically an anthology of sorts, tackling custom brushes to matte painting and more. It's fun to just pick up and read a section randomly. It's also a great introduction to all the artists featured within.

The walkthrough that led to the cover art displayed here (by Daarken) acted as the guide to painting this piece a few years ago.


That's all I've got for now. Got plenty of more books on my Christmas List so perhaps I'll post an updated list later on. I also plan to post a guide of the "art of" and "visual guide" books in my collection sometime soon.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Shield and Sword: The Final Threads

Mission Eight:

Master Chief stands on a black hill looking out helplessly as the UNSC Keyes drifts into a quaking sea as it disintegrates into heaps of metal and flame. A dozen Pelicans and lifepods  flee from the fire, as a cruiser in the background is obliterated by another controlled pulse from the Halo. Reconciled ships push forward as the Sangheilli Corvette covers the retreating UNSC fleet.

Cortana: "What can we do against that?" A shot of the Halo, as the rip in the Shield World grows and distorts the fabric of the sphere.

Master Chief: "Fall back; regroup. And find a way to strike back."

Cortana: "There's nowhere to fall back to. And no way to fight back. I may still have control of the Sentinel Army, but it is no match for a Halo. It's destroying this world... Emergency procedures will use all remaining power to retain gravity and atmosphere local to the surface, but that will only last for a few hours. "

War Sphinx: "My father, the Begotten, can help us."

Cortana: "And where is this prodigal savior?"

War Sphinx: "Not far."


A purple atmospheric light. The world slowly shattering above, the War Sphinx touched down upon the peak of a small city of towers bound together by hard-light walkways. A heavy fog infests it and Sentinel factories and Reconciled sentry-ships drift between the towers, battling.

War Sphinx: "The Life-shapers and Builders that created and studied this world and its machinations lived here."

Cortana: "The Forerunners are dead or gone. This place is nothing but a tomb."

War Sphinx: "Yes, but death to my kind does not fit within your narrow definitions. Follow."

Master Chief disembarks from the War Sphinx as the two explore the Forerunner City, starting from the high balconies and then weaving around the structures toward the dark fog below. The Reconciled are present, arriving in dropships and sentry-ships that drift between the skyscrapers.

As mentioned before, Sentry-ships are basically massive dropships - a huge exposed deck atop it carries a handful of plasma batteries. The ship can be jumped to with boosters or reached with a vehicle. Banshees tend to populate the deck if you need to get away quick after destroying it. It's sort of a flying Scarab. Or a Covenant pirate ship...

Though departed from the UNSC for the moment, Sentinels are still on your side and will stop the large enemy forces from focusing solely on you.

You'll explore a museum at one point, with a massive hall full of holographic recreations of a number of sentient species from the galaxy: Ungoy, Sanshyam, Sangheili, Human, and even a Drinol. Beyond this hall lies another grand room where different forms of Forerunner life are presented on one side, and on the other stand the various versions of the Flood.

Reaching the ground, you'll exit out into a garden area. The fog is heavy here, but above, you see that a storm is rolling in. Lightening is striking the towers now high above. Beyond that, a web of cracks spread through the Shield World’s structure.

That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Lie…

This is a garden of tombs where black featureless wings float a foot above the grass, marking the tombs of the fallen Forerunners. A path between these monoliths lead you to a hill with a vault set into its side. Stairs lead down into the ground until you hit a wall.

Upon close inspection, there appears to be no door in the deep black metal-stone. But after a few moments, the wall begins to change and adjust. A door is outlined and a panel forms outwards. A holographic projection appears, indicating a Reclaimer's hand.

War Sphinx: "This Cryptum requires a Reclaimer to activate the waking protocols. It is fitting that it is you, the one who brought him here in the first."

As the door opens...

Master Chief: "I didn't..."

War Sphinx (ignoring him): "Before my father's race took their Great Journey, you entombed my dying father here, where he would serve his penance under the eyes of the Monitor."

Master Chief: "… Wait, the Monitor we just disabled?"

Silence. The War Sphinx is moving forward into the structure, into darkness.

Inside, John activates revival protocols in an upper control room as the War Sphinx watches over the process inside an inner chamber. Upon activation, the lights in the lower room begin to brighten blue. A dome is raised out of the floor as mechanical arms bend down from the walls. They begin to unweave the dome. There is soon a bright light from inside as this casing is dismantled; a figure as well. But it is too bright to see exactly what it looks like. Tentacle-like wires inch towards the figure now suspended in the air, wrapping themselves around the figure, becoming the figure. Metal armor floats toward the Forerunner and encases him in a new, living "casket".

A strange groan.

The process is failing. It’s been too long. The Begotten is weak. The War Sphinx initiates an emergency process. A hive of legeklo are released into the pool. Together they wrap about the humanoid forming a parasitic hive, bounded in form my the living Forerunner armor.

Forerunner: "Why was I awakened? Does he wish to taunt me - embellish my failure?"

War Sphinx: "The Array was activated and the Flood defeated. Your swords succeeded where the shields could not. And the Forerunners are gone. It is but his echo that remains."

Forerunner: "Only a geas? Then let him rot in his descendance." The armored Forerunner leaves the lower room, though still struggling to move. The War Sphinx follows him.

Cortana: "Chief... I think we need to leave."

Master Chief: "This is what we came for."

Forerunner (over a comm system): “Your hopes to achieve a balance with the Mantle was in error, old friend. It is either acceptance or obliteration.”

Cortana: “This man, this Forerunner, I think I know who he is. And I don’t think he will help us.”

War Sphinx (over the comm system): "My father will want to meet his wakers. Do not be frightened."

Cortana (over the comm system): "You said he was serving a penance, Sphinx. What was it for? What crime did he commit?"

War Sphinx: "His crime was only confidence. He built the Great Array. He showed us the way... But we would not listen. We could not grasp his designs and we declared him 'traitor'. And then he was lost to Bias and the Flood. But not long after, he was discovered and brought back here on the edge of life and death."

Cortana (pausing for a moment): " I know their history, John… This is the Master Builder, the one responsible for the greatest weapons ever made. We need to get as far away from here as possible."

Cortana opens the exit to the control room and leads you back out through the darkness, all the while voices enter your mind and disrupt your HUD.

War Sphinx: "Lay down your will beside him, he will take the Halo from the miscreant's hands. He will show humanity their place in the void."

Cortana: "As slaves?"

Faber: "Such harshness in your code, such trouble and anger in your core - an ancilla should never be allowed so much freedom. I learned this the hard way."

Cortana finds you another route out of the garden of tombs, escaping through a series of dimly lit tunnels as Faber continues to speak to you, declaring his intent on reclaiming his rings and belittling you as if you were an old rival. Cortana takes this time to ping the UNSC’s battlenet to try and find some remaining forces able to assist you in your new mission: stopping Faber, along with everything else.

You resurface into the fresh air some distance from the towers into a deserted field as a smoking Albatross finds you. Inside, Buck and a group of ODSTs and Marines, falling back from a failed skirmish.

Buck: “What the hell is that?”

A Forerunner ship launches from between the weaving of towers, heading towards the Halo.

Master Chief: “Trouble.”

Buck: “Yeah, we really needed more of it.”

Mission Nine:

The shot slowly fades in from black. The Master Chief has returned to the Monitor’s core. Cortana displays near the hard light ring. A few marines stand in the background. Lights are coming back on in the room. The Monitor’s eye rises and awakens. By now, most players have probably recognized his voice actor for sure: Tim Dadabo.

Monitor: “Faber has been released. A Halo will soon be in his command. And the Shield World is dying… Oh my, and I was only asleep for a day. You have been busy.”

Cortana: “We need your help to stop him. You’ve been studying the Flood, studying his tactics and trying to find a way around the activation of the Array. He’s been resting here under your nose for thousands of years. You must know something we can use.

Monitor: “With the Shield World inoperable, my… your Sentinel Army remains the only active weapon. But the odds of mounting a successful attack on a Halo… are not in your favor…“

Cortana: “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

The Monitor stares silently at Cortana, then turns to the Chief. Then, back to Cortana.

Monitor: “You must call for aid.”


The Signal Station from the level “Broken Chord”, the Resonance Cascade, has been unearthed by the Shield World’s destruction.

Monitor: “Inside the Resonance Cascade exists the power to summon the Forerunners. It is the only resort you have left. All of your ships and warriors will not be able to turn the tide against the Master Builder and the Array without their knowledge.”

Zooming out, we see that the Resonance Cascade is kilometers away, fragmented from a dozen or more shards of the Shield World spinning away from each other. And the Installation’s sun-portal is dying out (have I mentioned that it’s just a slipspace portal letting in light from a real star lightyears away?).

Master Chief and Marines gear up inside their Albatross as it flies towards the drifting island. Looking out the window of the rear hatch, John sees a host of Sentinels trailing them. In the distance beyond, more ship-to-ship battles rage on between the UNSC and Reconciled. Even further, the Halo is spinning, charging for its next controlled shot.

Pilot: “Brace yourselves!!!”

Through the cockpit, John sees a Reconciled Sentry-ship charge straight towards the Albatross. The pilot pulls up in time but smashes alongside the larger ship’s hull. Marines are thrown from their seats, floating in zero gravity.

The Sentinels engage the Sentry-ship as Banshees unlock from the latter’s hull. The Albatross manages to cross through the fray, but on the other side a wave of Seraphs ambush from both sides in a pincer attack.

Pilot: “I’ve to got to set her down! We can’t take on all this on our own!”

Cortana: “I’m in contact with command. I’m trying to see if we can get air support.”

The Albatross, now smoking, glides down to the surface of one of the floating shards. Three more separated shards stand between this one and the Resonance Cascade.

The large dropship plops down in a cloud of smoke. Just a moment later, the hatches of the cargo hold slam to the ground and three Warthogs come barreling out.

Buck: “If we can’t fly there, we’ll drive!”

Cortana: “We need to keep pushing. When air support arrives, they me able to give us enough cover for a pick up on the way. If they can’t… (looking at the massive gaps in the surface as the shards tangle apart) well, I guess I’m going to need to figure out how to make us fly.”


The first shard is populated by Renconciled forces encamped on low Forerunner structures shaped like great arms stretched out over a small canyon. Moving parts glide back and forth along the structures as the Warthog convoy navigates between them, all the while Jackal Snipers try to pick them off.

Faber: “I am your living god, the truth you have searched for all your lives. This Covenant, these Reconciled, you were all waiting for me.”

Passing through this gauntlet, dropships land Ghosts and Wraiths to confront you. Past them, you’ll reach the limits of this shard, as the land is wrenched upwards into a mighty ramp. Two of the Warthogs successfully make the jump, landing on the next shard. It’s gravity is oriented differently as the shard is almost at a 90 degree angle to the last shard. Landing on it usually means you’re crashing on it!

This second shard is a beautiful green area with a lake in its center. Mountain ridges rise on its extremities. With the Warthogs crashed, you’ll have to go on foot, passing through another test of your abilities, this time focused your gunplay. Brutes and Captive Hunters are dropping in all sides. Defeating these enemies, you’ll need to allocate some of their vehicles to make the jump to the next shard.

Faber: “I reclaim this ring in your honor, for you have been faithful all these eons. The Forerunners will protect you and deliver you peace and serenity. But first we must defend ourselves and our relics.”

The last shard before the Resonance Cascade is a hilly desert. Passing through another vehicle battle, you’ll see Longswords and Hornets arrive to meet the battle in the air above you. Which is good, because the gap between this shard and the Cascade is enormous. You’ll need to line up your vehicle with a Pelican as it flies down, grapples you with its magnets, and ferries you over to the Cascade.

During the short flight, you see the Sangheili Corvette rise up from behind the shard, joining the battle as drop-pods are launched. By the time the Pelican drops you off, you’ll have ODSTs and Spec Ops Elites at your back. Can’t ask for a better team!

As you make your way up a mountain side to the unearthed Cascade, the Monitor arrives.

As you draw close the peak of the Cascade, Faber’s ship returns from the Halo ring.  Continuing forward, you find a room broken free of the structure. The Monitor informs you that this room holds the machine you need to summon the Forerunners. But Faber and the War Sphinx have touched down, curious to see what you’re trying to do against their new army.

Cortana: “We trusted you. You manipulated all of us to revive Faber.”

War Sphinx: “I gave you all the answers and services you required. I cannot be blamed if they are not what you expected.”

Faber steps around the Chief and the Monitor.

Faber: “My kind is done. Their era past. There is no one to call for. What are you trying to accomplish with these communication machines?”

The Monitor raises a series of hard lights around the Chief.

The Monitor: “It’s quite simple of course. My old friend has stirred in his sleep too long, manipulating events only in the shadows. It is time to give him control.”

And then the Faber realizes what the Monitor is attempting to do.

Faber: “You will not awaken him. Not yet!”

Faber pulls apart the War Sphinx and wraps it around him, engaging its weapons and abilities of flight, and tackling the Chief.

They are launched off the side of the Cascade’s peal, down to the surface of the shard. On this beach on the tide of space, you’ll fight your last battle of the game against the War Sphinx–Faber. You’ll need to engage your thrusters continuously as Faber goes from the ground to the air, moment to moment.

Once you’ve beaten him down enough, Cortana and the Monitor will lead you back up the Cascade from another side. But Faber is not defeated, and he is moments behind you.

Reaching the room at the peak of the Cascade again, you’ll need to activate the Monitor’s hard light terminals before Faber can destroy you. Doing so, you’ll start the ending cutscene.


The Halo ring spinning behind him, Faber halts as the Chief falls to the ground. Voices rise up inside of John’s head. Not just Cortana’s, but the Didact and his many facets.

The voices begin to converse, to unify. Cortana sees the knowledge and the code becomes reality. She infects Faber’s armor, breaking it down. Faber falls to one knee as John rises.

The spinning Halo slows down.

Didact (voices combined): “You are outdated, Faber”

Faber: “I needed more time.”

With the Halo out of his control, Faber sees only one alternative. Over the battlenet, Faber calls for aid from his faithful. He stands again, face to face with this rival, on the edge of the room looking over a ruined Shield World. Reconciled ships muster behind him, as dropships draw near.

Didact: “Go then. And be ready for war. But the Array is mine now. You were never worthy of them.”

Faber leaves in a dropship and heads towards his ship as the Reconciled turn and dive into slipspace.

The enemy defeated for now, the Halo ring reclaimed, and a Forerunner returned, the Master Chief falls to the group, incapacitated.


Timestamp: "24 hours later, onboard the UNSC New Mombassa"

The Master Chief is under observation in a guarded cell. It’s not just the Reconciled who are afraid of him anymore…

There is a sliver of movement, a ripple in the air past the guards, and inside the cell the Arbiter materializes.

“Spartan, I have need of you.”



What will Faber do with his covenant? What weapons will he use against the UNSC and their rings?

What will remain of the Master Chief? Will the Didact consume him? Will the Didact be able to be tempered by the will of Bornstellar and John?

(Maybe it wasn’t just “luck”… Maybe the Didact and the Librarian’s will moved John 117 through his life, to every moment of great importance that he faced.)

Will Cortana become the new Gravemind? Will she rule over a new form of cybernetic Flood? Is the Flood more of an idea than a species? A way of thinking? Maybe the Precursors, the Forerunners, the Humans are far more related to the Flood than we realize.


Well, that's what I was imagining Halo 4 could be about year and more ago. Just took me a while to explain all the details to you! Thanks so much for reading it all! :D

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Shield and Sword: United

On Halo.Bungie.Org, I've been posting design ideas I had for what Halo 4 might have been like for some months now. Obviously, as we've gotten closer to the real thing, the more outdated my scenarios have become, but I still believe that elements of these designs might find their way in, maybe even in future sequels. No matter, it's been fun! But Halo.Bungie.Org is on a bit of hiatus, so I'll be posting my final design brainstorms here on my blog.

Previous Posts:
Mission 6: The Monitor

Halo 4 hits Tuesday and there’s still three Shield and Sword missions left off that list. Time to tie up all the loose ends! Since we’re short on time, much of these last few missions will be swift summaries and outlines, focusing mostly on the story and some of the big action set pieces. Some of the more integral scenes are fleshed out with illustrations and dialogue that I have finished. Perhaps in the future I’ll go back and expand further on some of the ideas I glance over here.

But before launching into the deep end, let’s go back and summarize where we’ve come from:

-The Master Chief and Cortana have floated in the void for years, with no idea if their distress call has reached the UNSC. During this time, John has slept while Cortana has improved upon his armor, his weapons, and his vehicles.

-Cortana awakes the Master Chief as Forward Unto Dawn reaches a mysterious Forerunner planet. A gaping port opens in the planet’s surface and the ship is drawn towards it as Sentinels and Enforcers begin to tear the Dawn apart as part of a ‘quarantine’. Master Chief leaps into space with his new thrusters and finds another way into the machine planet’s interior.

-The planet is revealed to be a Shield World, and the first one built at that. Its interior, inverted surfaces sweeps around a central slipspace portal that captures the light from a distant star. As Master Chief explores this planet, a massive Forerunner army of various robotic sentries continue to hunt him down. During his explorations, Master Chief sees signs and murals of someone called “The Begotten.”

-Eventually, John and Cortana establish a base at Hub Station 42 where Cortana can hide their presence from the Forerunner army and the presence that is leading them. Cortana sends the Master Chief to the Resonance Cascade to shut down the Shield World’s block on outgoing communications.

-Master Chief makes contact with the Sangheili, who are now on their way, but is ambushed by the peak of Forerunner robotics: the Proto-warrior. Master Chief cuts a swath through these humanoid adversaries as he races back to Cortana before they find her. The Sangheili, led by Shipmaster Rtas, enter the Shield World secretly with a new cloaked corvette and unite with the Spartan to push back these Proto-warriors.

-The Sangheili did not arrive alone though. The Reconciled, reformed remnants of the Covenant, tracked the Elites to gain control of the Shield World in the continuing post-war arms race of Forerunner weapons. They were also somehow able to enter the planet without contest and are mysteriously at peace with the Forerunner guardians.

-The Chief and Shipmaster lead an attack on the Reconciled’s foothold before the UNSC fleet arrives. In the battle, John discovers that the Reconciled had brought with them a Forerunner War Sphinx named Recondite Clairvoyant. This massive sentient machine was using the Reconciled that discovered him to reach this Shield World and was able to protect them from the Forerunner army. But now that he has a Reclaimer in his hands…

-With the Reconciled now pushed back and hunted by the Sentinels as well, the War Sphinx leads a small group consisting of Master Chief, Shipmaster, and a few Elites into the Monitor of the Shield World, a massive complex housing the data core of the A.I. in control of the Forerunner Army. Shutting him down will at last pacify this planet and allow the UNSC to arrive in something other than a hornet’s nest.

-Inside, John finds that the Proto-warriors have been learning from the Master Chief and improving. But why all this hostility from the Foreunners? It is revealed that the Didact, who shepherded the Shield installations placed the Monitor here to study the Flood and discover new ways to defeat them. A 100,000 years later, and the Monitor is as obsessive as ever, believing he is fighting a new form of Flood with Cortana as its Gravemind and her soldiers as her combat forms. Cortana shuts down the Monitor’s core and gains control of the Forerunner army as the UNSC finally arrive.

Mission Seven:

Reunion Tour
A grey storm is drawing close. A massive UNSC cruiser hovers above a vast, empty ocean. Four frigates are moving in formation alongside her. New iterations of Longswords, sleeker and more maneuverable, patrol the air. As the camera zooms in on this mustering, radio chatter starts to fade in.

"I'm reading four destroyers, five cruisers."

"They're amassing thirty kilometers east of here."

"Deciphering any of their communications?"

"Only this, sir..."

Prophet: "The Great Demon has subverted our own living gospel and deceived our Gods. But we know the way. We walk the path. And those that would halt or turn us deserve the greatest punishment..."

A pelican starts a descent towards the top of the massive cruiser . Towards the center of the spine lies an open deck like that of the Spirit of the Fire. As the bird lands, a receiving party stands at attention nearby.

"Master Chief, on behalf of the UNSC and all of humanity, I'd like to welcome you back from the dark. We missed you." The admiral reaches out a hand to shake John's.

"The name's Moreau. Admiral Moreau."

Master Chief: "Thank you, Sir. Awaiting your orders, Sir."

Admiral: "Orders? Hah, I think you've deserved a very long-overdue shore leave. Captain, show him to his quarters--"

Master Chief (unmoving): "The Reconciled are here. You need me on the line."

Admiral: "No disrespect, Chief, but we came prepared." He moves slightly out of the way and behind him two Spartan IVs walk forward, their advanced MJOLNIR armor gleaming in the sunlight.

"It's an honor and a privilege to meet the greatest of the Spartans," says one of the S-IV's as she extends a hand. She's actually slightly taller than John.

Master Chief (a little taken a back): "Not the greatest. Just the last."

Cortana (through John's helmet speakers): "But his line lives on, doesn't it? You (towards the Admiral) just had to keep playing with people's minds and bodies didn't you?"

Admiral: "Ah... Cortana (slightly condescendingly). It's also an honor to have you back, of course. But I'm afraid you've been out of the loop for too long. All of our Spartans today are volunteers and experience only small and safe procedures. The new MJOLNIRs do the rest. By the time I retire, I think every one of our soldiers will be a Spartan."

Cortana: "There's more to it than just shiny armor and fancy toys."

Admiral (ignoring the last comment): "I'm afraid we'll need to take a look at

Cortana, Chief. She's been gone a long time and seen things the UNSC has never been able to confirm."

Two technicians approach from behind the Chief, who uneasily takes a step away from them.

Cortana: "It's okay John."

Master Chief: "Cortana - she's past seven years... Can you help her?" He takes Cortana's data core from the back of his helmet, looking at it before handing it over.

Admiral: "We'll do our best."

---End Cutscene----

An elevator lowers through spinning red lights to a lower hold. The Chief and two Marines exit as the player resumes control.

You take control of the Chief with no weapons. This first part is all about re-immersing yourself with the UNSC and getting up to date on all their advancements in technology and what's happened to your old comrades.

This ship you're exploring is the UNSC Keyes.  The Marine escort will describe to you the breakthroughs in Slipspace travel, the miniaturization of MAC technology, and the advancements of point-defense lasers.

You'll also pass by hangars full of troops preparing for battle and overhear some familiar voices like Sgt. Stacker and That Australian Marine. Eventually you'll be left in a ready room with a handful of ODSTs. One notices the Spartan and approaches. He wears short brown hair and a trimmed beard. And he's voiced by Nathan Fillion.

Master Sergeant Buck: "The Master Chief. I... I can't tell you how much of an honor it is." The Master Chief just stares. This whole experience has been more surreal than exploring a small Dyson Sphere for him.

Buck: "I... uh... well. Whatever you need Chief, you've got it. A lot has changed since the war, and I have to admit, I'm still not used to most of it. So I can imagine what you're feeling right now. Well... I'll let you be." He begins to walk off.

Master Chief: "Admiral Hood. Did he...?"

Buck: "He survived. And he led us all out of the dark after you left for the Ark. But the times changed and Hood was a leader of war, not peace. And folks like Moreau here forced him into retirement once things were settled with the split-chins."

Master Chief: "Why are you still fighting?"

Buck: "Could have settled down I guess. I got a wife, but we're both still married to the UNSC. I guess once you experience thirty years of non-stop blood and glass, you never get to believe in 'peace'. It's just a breather."

A TAC device on Buck's wrist sounds an alert.

Buck: "Speak of the devil." He turns around to face his ODSTs. "Time to drop boys. We got uglies prepping bases on the nearby peninsula. Let's make sure they don't get too comfy."

The troops begin to issue out a far door. Buck has to tap a sleeping ODST in a corner, and then they both head out, leaving Master Chief alone in the ready room.

Cortana: "They're coming, John. And they don't know what they're dealing with."

Master Chief looks around. It's either being broadcast to him... or a telepathic message.

Master Chief: "Cortana. Where are you?"

Cortana: "Here with you. Not far. They think they've given me over to the ship's AI, but really, they just handed me the keys. But they're facing a massive fleet of Reconciled. They may not like it, but they need you out there."

Master: "They can fight this battle without us.”

Cortana: “No they can’t. They have learned a few tricks, but they don’t have the experience. The Admiral is actually trying to negotiate with them--"

Thunder rocks the room.

(Over speakers) Admiral: "Red alert. Multiple explosions in deck eight and nine. Emergency crews, on the double!"

Cortana: “You need to get out of here and help while you still can. I’m downloading my core to a new datapad on a terminal nearby.”

Master Chief is hesitant to disobey, but another rocking of the ship and long, low groan moves him. This isn’t the same UNSC he left years ago.

A door opens in the room. Lights begin to blink on and off, showing you the way. Through a few hallways and an armory of weapons to stock up on, you begin to cross a catwalk above a hanger, but an explosion tears through the ship to your left. Through the fire, the War Sphinx steps into sight. You're on even ground with his eyes now. On the other side of the catwalk, two technicians approach, but halt, startled by the freed War Sphinx. The War Sphinx turns to observe.

War Sphinx: "They will not keep me from my duty."

Master Chief: "Calm down. They're Reclaimers, just like me."

War Sphinx: "They are humans. You are a Reclaimer."

The hangar bay doors to the right of the catwalk open to a grey sky.

The Master Chief hops off the catwalk to the hangar floor and walks to the edge. Kilometers away, a fleet of Reconciled cruisers and corvettes are assembled across from the UNSC ships. The War Sphinx steps up behind him.

Lights issue forth from the enemy, straight towards you. But they are absorbed by an energy shield around the UNSC ship before it breaks down once and for all. UNSC frigates pass into view and return fire, grabbing the oncoming enemy’s attention. One of them is destroyed as a number of the cruisers concentrate fire.

Cortana: “Do you believe me now? They need you.”

The Battle of Resplendent Seas
In the midst of the chaos, the War Sphinx becomes a vehicle for the Master Chief to wreck havoc upon the Reconciled in a massive aerial battle. Soon the Sangheili Stealth Corvette arrives to flank the enemy and Cortana brings in the Forerunner army to drive the Reconciled back.

This is the Ark or Covenant missions of Shield and Sword. Times ten. It is a massive aerial battle, with a huge number of both friendly and enemy AI as well as number of capital ships engaging one another. Imagine the second space battle of Long Night of Solace with its epic-ness increased.

Oh, and you’re piloting a War Sphinx. There will be a few big engagements in different areas of the open level, with smaller objectives innerspread randomly between, a la New Alexandria’s mission structure. You’ll even land on the hull of a few ships (like the levels in Halo Wars that take place on Spirit of Fire) to protect or attack them.

If you leave the War Sphinx and board a Banshee or take control of a new Hornet, he will continue to follow you and assist you.

You’ll also see a new kind of Reconciled vehicle: the Sentry ship “Eidolon”, which is about three times the size of a Phantom. It’s a heavily armed, moveable launch pad for Banshees and soldiers. It has a pulse canon like the top of the Halo 3 Scarab has.

But when the epic battle is almost over, and it feels like you’ve just about blown up the Death Star…

A massive hole ripped open in the side of the Shield World.

Seeing themselves nearing defeat, the Reconciled have unleashd their ultimate weapon: a captured Halo Ring. The next controlled burst cuts through the UNSC Keyes, cleaving it into two.