Happy to announce the 2nd Annual HFFL LAN Event!

HFFL 2014 LAN logo

This year, I’m going to do something different than last year. I’m having this at my home and it will be 8 hours of gaming and more!

Mark your calendars for August 16 (Saturday). As for the time, I’m going to ask you folks to pick between 1-9pm or 2-10pm that day. Please only reply if you plan on coming to the event.

There will be a FFA and Doubles tourney. Possibly 4v4 if we have enough attend. Prizes TBD.

This is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I’ll have much more details to follow. I’ve got to secure prizes, the time as mentioned above, some logistics for additional XBOXs and screens.

Now here is where I need your help folks. Unlike last year, which was held at a LAN center, I’ll be hiring the same fellow, but instead of going there, have him come to my home. This is more expensive than last year. However, also as mentioned above, it’s going to be 8 instead of 3 hours. I was able to keep the cost pretty low with admission being $15. However, this year I need to raise funds due to the added expense. Otherwise it’s going to cost $35 per person, and I’d like to avoid that high of a cost to each, if possible. So even if you don’t plan on coming, I’d really appreciate it if you’d consider donating to the blog, via the paypal link on the main page.

Here’s the good thing about that, if everyone who came to the site in just ONE day of the 365 days in a year donated 50 cents, I’ve have enough to cover the LAN and the blog’s renewal. I hope that you find my blog is worth at least that much in entertaining Halo articles, news, art, reviews, the Spirit of Fire Podcast and so on. From now until Aug 1st, or if I raise enough sooner, I’ll be holding the fundraiser for this and on occasion post a gentle reminder. This isn’t mandatory. I’ll never ask for “dues”. My site is free to all.

If enough is raised to cover the cost of the LAN, then it’s free to come to. If not, then whatever the difference is will be split between all LAN Attendees.

Food and Refreshments will be available as part of your admission. Food will be the good old American classic summer foods: Hot Dogs and Hamburgers. PLUS, I may just make a special dish…

If you want to bring someone that won’t be gaming, that is fine. There will be a small charge for refreshments to them. That TBD by the amount of attendees.

Bookmark the Event page HERE! I’ll be updating that page with more details as I get them.



“Do you believe that the Master Chief succeeded because at his core he was broken?”

This topic came up from a tweet by RedditHalo.

I’ve been in conversations about this question from the early cut-scene in Halo 4. I do NOT consider Chief broken. Socially inept? Yes, has trouble dealing with emotions? Sure. But broken? NO WAY IN HELL.

No, he was FOCUSED. Just because he isn’t able to adapt to social settings or deal with love so well, does not make him broken. His focus aided by his luck, not to mention the biological and surgical upgrades; as well as years of training and real-time combat are what made him succeed. Chief is SO much more than his emotions or lack there of.

Chief was able to socialize to a point with his fellow Spartan IIs. Their type of socialization became separated from society as they grew, trained and fought together. They were more family than anything, except perhaps being loyal soldiers. They were picked due to their physical attributes and skills as well as their mental capabilities. They were not broken. They were the best humanity had to offer and Chief is one of the last living examples of that, within the Halo Universe.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts either way. This is a topic I’d like to hear more people discuss. That question of Chief being broken possibly foretells of things to come. It certainly has a foreboding tone to it.


Halo Toy Review: Mega Bloks Flood Hunters’ UNSC Falcon

MB grey logo
Mega Bloks Flood Hunters’ UNSC Falcon: set #97173

Technical Specifications:
Build Time: 20 minutes sort time, 60 minutes build time
Set Piece Count: 460
Minifigs: Covert Ops (Dark Grey) Spartan Mark V [B], Covert Ops (Dark Grey) UNSC Pilot; 2 Flood Carrier forms, 3 Flood Infection forms (chocolate brown)
Weapons: Assault Rifle, SMG
Accessories: N/A
Price: $55-72 depending on where you get it from at retail. I got mine for $51 on eBay. (Thanks to my wife for purchasing it for me.)
Special Features: Cockpit opens/closes; spinning and rotating rotars; front mounted gun pivots and rotates; side mounted guns have multiple pivot points; slight forward landing gear pivot; fits 5 mini figs comfortably

And on with the pics! (Click pics to make BIGGER)

MB Flood Hunter Falcon BOX
The front and back of the box. Nice representation of the set on both sides.
MB Flood Hunter Falcon BOX detail
The window for the box lets us know what minifies are included.MB Flood Hunter Falcon contents
Set contents.MB Flood Hunter Falcon sorted
All the pieces sorted out. This took about 20 minutes to do.
MB Flood Hunter Falcon base steps
The first 10 or so steps of the base of the Falcon.MB Flood Hunter Falcon 2nd steps
Many steps ahead the Falcon’s lower half is really taking shape.
MB Flood Hunter Falcon 3rd steps
Side panels are built and attached to the forward section of the Falcon.
MB Flood Hunter Falcon 4th steps wing
We move on to wing assembly.MB Flood Hunter Falcon 5th steps wing
Adding the tail section to the wing section.
MB Flood Hunter Falcon 6th steps body-wing
Now here is the toughest step in the Falcon build (it’s the same for the previous versions as well). The “marrying” of the top and bottom sections can be a little tough. Take your time, don’t try to force them together as you might pop off some pieces. Once you’ve got it lined up correctly, I suggest to start pushing the back section together, then move on to where the wing meets the body near the front. MB Flood Hunter Falcon 7th cockpit
Added the cockpit and some other details. Be careful here too. The prongs on the cockpit that adjoin to the body do not easily snap it. Don’t force this either as you don’t want to break those prongs. Once you’ve got it in place, you should here a satisfying “CLICK”. Then you know it’s in place.
MB Flood Hunter Falcon 8th side-turret
The side mounted gun is a great display of articulation with limited pieces. This was designed VERY well.
MB Flood Hunter Falcon 9th rotars
Adding the rotors to the ship. And it’s done.MB Flood Hunter Falcon weapons
We get an assault rifle and SMG with our UNSC figs.MB Flood Hunter Falcon infection form
Here we have 3 infection forms. Why they are chocolate brown, I do not know. Still, it’s good to have more infection forms.MB Flood Hunter Falcon carrier form
The carrier form. I still think the shape is funny. It should be a little more pointed at the top. That cut in the top is a little too big, IMO. I suppose it was done that way though for ease of getting infections forms in and out of it.
MB Flood Hunter Falcon Pilot
The UNSC Pilot included. Man, I just LOVE this dark grey color scheme!MB Flood Hunter Falcon Spartan
The Spartan included. Definitely one of the better painted figures as of late. The detailing on the back is awesome!
MB Flood Hunter Falcon leftovers
Here are the leftovers. I couldn’t really make anything significant out of them. So I’m calling this a refueling cart.MB Flood Hunter Falcon gunner
Here we see the Spartan in one of the side gunner positions. His hand is clipped on to the handle, while the seat has a nub that fits nicely into the figs back. This makes for a good fit and the figure won’t fall out of the ship.
MB Flood Hunter Falcon FIN
Here is the completed set with figs and the leftovers. One thing to note, I actually put more of the stickers on this time. This Falcon just looks SO much better with the stickers on them.

Summary: This set is a moderate build. It can easily be built in one sitting if you’ve got about an hour to an hour and a half. The set has nice amount of minifigures with the set, including the infection forms. If you haven’t bought a Falcon yet, I HIGHLY recommend this one!

Overall Rating: I give this set 9.5 out for 10 medals. This is a nice color variant of the Falcon. I’m a fan of the Covert Ops dark grey color. The reason I took off the scant 1/2 of a medal is for the brown color of the infection forms and the price. Otherwise, this set is STELLAR!

The price for this set is a little high, given the piece count. It’s hard to find in stores now, so you’re likely going to have to find it on eBay. I lucked out and won this from an auction there for $51. You’ll be just as lucky if you can find it for that price. Most are going for $75-80 now. ToysRUs had this priced at $72. That is WAY too much, IMO. Other locations had it for $55. Not too bad, but still about $7 more than it should have been.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think of the review. If you have this set yourself, please give me your thoughts on it too!


Halo Concept Art: Halo 4 Environments; part 5 of 5 The UNSC

Well folks, here we are at the last concept art article (for the time being). I’ve saved what I consider to be the best for last, that being the UNSC. Some of these you may have seen before, but I’m betting there are more than a few you haven’t. Read on and enjoy! (As always, click on pics to make bigger)

The concept above it titled “Pursuit.” It’s obviously a Broadsword, but what is it trying to escape from? Those do not look like Covenant vessels chasing it down. So they have to be Forerunner. Man, I’d have loved to have had a dogfight with Forerunner ships! This art is fantastic. My eye is immediately draw to the Broadsword, which of course is the focal point of the piece. The yellow glow on the ship from the glancing beam is an excellent touch and helps to sell the realism even more.halo_4_-_space_station_by_nicolas_bouvier
Another of Sparth’s amazing concepts. This is the Ivanoff Research station. More specifically the docking port. It’s amazing how much of this ended up in the game. I absolutely love this piece and would love to have it as a print. Man, why 343 hasn’t done this is beyond me. I think there’s a market for prints/posters of this stuff. WE mostly get the finished graphics as posters. Concepts like this are worth it to me. Heck, even MORE worth it, IMO. But then, you all know I love concept art.
One of Ivanoff’s corridors. Many similar details here exist in the final in-game version. This definitely feels like a space station to me. Alsmot along the lines of the Rebel corvette at the start of the original Star Wars. The orange lights as shape contrasts to the darkness of that portion of the hallway, while the lit portion is even more of a contrast. great design here!halo_4_aerial_ceremony_deck_sketch_1_revision1_jb_sized_by_jonathan_bach
A concept from a scene in the Web mini-series Forward Unto Dawn, here we have the ceremony deck that officially christens the UNSC Infinity into service. Very light and airy. I’m getting “Coruscant” (From Star Wars) vibes here!
The UNSC Infinity flies above the ceremony of it’s christening. I love how it just DWARFS everything else. Continue to look at this a bit longer. You’ll notice much more detail in the ship than with a quick glance.
The Infinity launches it’s dropships to Requiem. With dropships the size of the Forward Unto Dawn, you know the Infinity is massive! We didn’t quite see this scene like this in Spartan Ops. Instead we saw many Pelicans and Broadswords depart of Requiem. We did however see these dropships launch from the Infinity in protection of her from the Covenant fleet already positioned at Requiem.
Might this be the Composer aboard the Infinity? Why yes, yes it is. Recall that during the campaign, Dr. Tilson tells Chief that it took the Infinity months to move this from Halo Installation 03. This one became an instant classic and was used in early marketing.halo_4_concept_art_by_nicolas_bouvier
Okay, I have to admit I LOLed when I first saw this. Why? Well, don’t those three sections with the three circles within look like the Phillips “Norelco” electric razor? Perhaps that too is a nod to Star Wars as The Pahntom Menace used a female razor as the base for the Jedi communicator prop as used by Qui-gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
An unidentified UNSC ship outside of Requiem, while a (likely) Broadsword flies past. While there is no fire in space, I never mind the embellishment by artists to convey thrust in space, using fire.
One of the rooms in the Forward Unto Dawn. The dark blue/black hues give off an air of cold to the whole piece. That makes sense as she was drifted for 4 years, 7 months, and 10 days. Chief was literally frozen over as well.halo_4_fud_room_by_josh_kao
Another room within the Forward Unto Dawn. Again the same cold foreboding feel to this concept.
The above two were used for a scene in the Forward Unto Dawn miniseries. This is aboard the UNSC Infinity. Basically the humans, debris and fire was layered over the previous one, while the base layer was recolorized. It’s a great technique to use in Photoshop without having to create a whole new piece of virtually the same thing.
Once again, Ivanoff station. Love those lights and casting shadows coming off the asteroids.halo_4_infinity_interior_concept_by_nicolas_bouvier
This is another of the classic concept pieces used early on in marketing. This interior bay is quite large. While a bit dark, the treys give off a very industrial feel to the whole piece.
Originally this concept was to be somewhere within the Infinity. Technically that’s still true. I’ll explain. While we know this became the interior portion of the multiplayer map “Erosion”, we also know that War Games actually take place within the Infinity’s holodeck. So it is true, from a certain point of view. (Heh, lots of Star Wars references in this article.)
The Didact’s ship Mantle’s Approach coming to collect the Composer from Ivanoff Station. While the station is big, its NOTHING compare to the immensity of the Didact’s ship. heck, even the Infinity is small when compared to the Mantle’s Approach.
Here we see Chief as he is trying to complete his mission to stop the Didact. Much of this scene is very similar to the in-game version.halo_4_jwl_infinity_randominterior002_by_john_liberto
The above is a random interior shot of the Infinity. Man, why did we NOT see this in the game? Other than Episode 7 chapters 2-5 of Spartan Ops, we never got the chance to explore the Infinity. Yes, there were some cut scenes, but that’s not the same. I would have loved to have had the Infinity as a hub in the game that we could have interacted with. Hopefully the next game can bring something like that with it.halo_4_space_station_monolith_by_nicolas_bouvier
Once again Ivanoff. This design has always seemed a little strange to me.A station built AROUND asteroids? Heh, well, it IS sci-fii after all.halo_4_unsc_command_center_by_albert_ng
A greyscale sketch of the Infinity’s bridge. Even for a sketch, there is a lot of detail.

The next seven concepts are all differing viewpoints of the Infinity’s engine room.halo4_infinity_engine_01_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01halo4_infinity_engine_02_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01halo4_infinity_engine_03_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01halo4_infinity_engine_04_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01halo4_infinity_engine_05_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01halo4_infinity_engine_06_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01halo4_infinity_engine_07_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01It’s clear that in the concepts Forerunner tech was much more prevalent. In Spartan Ops, during the missions, we never really get a sense of that. We do just a little in the cutscenes, but it is very little.

Well folks, that wraps up the concept articles at present. As I find more, I’ll post future articles. I can’t wait to see what Halo 5 Guardians concept art looks like!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the past couple of week’s worth of articles on Halo concept art from Reach and Halo 4. Now, just because these articles are (temporarily) ending, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come back to HFFL.

There’s going to be LOTS of Halo news in the coming weeks. E3, RTX, San Diego Comicon, PAX Prime and MORE are on the horizon!

If you’ve enjoy this or any of the other concept art articles, please let me know. I’d like to read your thoughts on these. Hopefully they were entertaining and maybe even a little informative.


The Halo Bulletin for 5-29-14


The weeks that lead up to E3 always sneak up on you. Just a few weeks ago, the team was looking at the calendar and thinking “Wow! We’ve still got over a month until E3!” and now, as we band together to put the finishing touches on our E3 presence (as well as book last minute flights, hotels, and hot-air-balloon packages), we realize that in just under nine days, we’ll be on our way to Los Angeles to prep for the Xbox Press Conference and the frenzy that will follow. We’re excited about our plans at the show, our plans for those of you watching from home, and we can’t wait until the show begins. For this week’s update, we discuss Halo: Escalation, the new Minecraft Mash-Up pack, and more. Let’s get into it!

HFFL: I for one can’t wait for E3. For one, I hope the rumors are either dispelled or confirmed about Halo 2: Anniversary. Hopefully a Halo 5 Guardians trailer as well as something from one or both of the video productions. E3 promises to chock full of games for the XBOX One and Halo factors into that!

Halo Escalation #6


The sixth issue of Halo: Escalation released today! The ongoing series, published by Dark Horse Comics, spins directly out of the events of Halo 4. To check out the first six pages of Halo: Escalation #6, head here and read below for a preview of what’s to come.

The saga of Halo Wars enters the modern age as Infinity struggles to liberate the long-lost Spirit of Fire from the deadly Vata ’Gajat. Meanwhile, Petra’s search for the identity of Infinity’s spy could result in her death. The Halo universe is on the brink of a new galactic war!

Visit the official Dark Horse website to grab Halo: Escalation #6.

HFFL: Heh, I’ve already covered this pretty extensively with the preview and a spoiler discussion post. Go back a few posts on the blog and you’ll find the spoiler article. (That’s if you want to know what happens in the story of that issue.

Minecraft Halo Mash-up Pack


Last week, we shared a sneak peek at what’s coming to Minecraft: Xbox 360 edition, and today, we announced that the Halo Mash-up Pack is now available!

The Mash-up pack, expertly crafted by 4J Studios, includes a Halo-themed texture set, themed menus and user interface, craftable items and 31 music tracks across the Halo franchise. Also available are 40 pixel-perfect character skins depicting beloved Halo characters, and incredible recreations of legendary Halo spaces such as Blood Gulch, The Silent Cartographer, and more. Check out the above links for more details, and check out the below video for an awesome look into what all of this means.


HFFL: I didn’t post this earlier in the week. I’m not much for Minecraft. It feels like a huge step backwards, like when I was 10 years old. (That was a LONG time ago…) However, this pack has me at least considering it. This with Marvel…hmmm. We’ll see. Do any of you play Minecraft? If so, why do you like it? This is a question I’d really like to get some response for as your comments may affect my decision to get the game or not.

Forge Idol


The team over at Beyond Entertainment have put together a brand new Forge contest. Six 2v2 maps have been nominated, but only one Forger will be named the Forge Idol! To cast your vote on your favorite map of the bunch, head over to their official voting thread. Round one of voting will be open until May 30, and the final two contenders will face off in one final vote that will end on June 2. Once a winner is selected, we’re excited to confirm that we’ll be bringing the map into the Team Doubles playlist in our next Matchmaking Update!

In addition to the above, the Forge Idol will also have their map featured in Beyond Entertainment’s Forge Idol 2v2 tournament powered by Astro Gaming. The tournament will take place on June 28, and matches will consist of 2v2 Team Slayer on Haven, Skyline, and the winning map from the Forge Idol competition. If you’re interested in competing, grab a partner and sign up at the link above.

HFFL: I was just reading about this yesterday. While the prizes aren’t huge, they’re still pretty nice for a FREE tournament. I’d enter, but I know I’d just get trounced… I’m an above average Halo gamer, certainly not Pro status worthy. (And I’m okay with that.) If any of you decide to enter this contest, let me know and I’ll feature your team here on the blog!

Mammoth Proportions

Late last week, we noticed our friend and famous Forger petetheduck took a stab creating the Halo 4 Mammoth in Forge. Typically known for creating incredible custom game types and maps as well as Rube Goldberg machines, petetheduck describes himself as “definitely not an aesthetic Forger,” but after seeing his Mammoth, we’re pretty sure he’s lying. In his blog, he tells us that he created the below beauty in a single Forge session over the course of about 12 hours, and also gives some insight into how he constructed the transport headquarters. Lastly, if you’d like to run around inside, you can download the map variant here.


petetheduck’s Halo 4 Forge Mammoth

HFFL: I downloaded this map several days ago. It’s SWEET! Pete is, IMO, the best forger out there. He certainly is for mini-games. And this Mammoth shows he IS an aesthetic forger as well. I highly suggest downloading it. It’s fun to roam around in and on top of. Now if only 343 would take a hint and give us a map with a Mammoth on it. (Even if it’s stationary.)

Screenshot Spotlight: King of the Hill

Last week, we turned the spotlight on the Shotgun. Take a gander at the following King of the Hill screenshots, and maybe even find inspiration to make your own.

Screenshot Spotlight 5-29-14

HFFL: I’m partial to the “Clang of the Hill” and “Crack!!!” screenshots here. Are there any here that YOU like? Let  me know by replying below.

For your chance at being in the next spotlight, take a screenshot that is mostly black and white and then tag it with “blackwhite” and “Halo Waypoint,” and maybe, just maybe, yours will be featured in the next Halo Bulletin!

HFFL: Dangit… I ALWAYS forget about this. I really need to get on the ball and take some screenshots for these.

And with that, this week’s Bulletin comes to a close.
Until next week,


Halo Escalation #6 Discussion SPOILERS

Okay, after having read Halo Escalation #6, I have to say I’m a bit underwhelmed.
SPOILERS AHEAD. If you plan on reading the comics, do not read further as this article will spoil the story for you…

Halo Escaltion 6

So the cover really has nothing to do with the story inside. It is however part of a two-part cover, in which issue 7 will complete the picture.

In this issue (#6), Admiral Hood is lamenting on his career and hoping he can make things right. At first it looks like he’s going to die, but ultimately is just wounded. Honestly, I think it would have made for a better story if a character dies. Hood, while important to the overall Halo story line is NOT that important that he can’t be killed off.

The Infinity has been hit by THREE shots from a glassing cannon. It’s dead in space at the moment. Commander Bradley of the Infinity is dead. Enter the Spartans.

Sarah Palmer leads Fireteam Majestic into battle with Booster Frames to board the Rebel station. The glassing cannon has overheated so the rebel station and more importantly it’s leader Daniel Clayton , son of Captain James Cutter of the UNSC Spirit of Fire, have to wait until it’s cooled down enough to fire upon Infinity again.

Clayton orders his Sangheili mercenary force to take out the Spartans. That force’s leader, ‘Gajat, complies temporarily, but not before questioning why Clayton doesn’t just finish off the Infinity. ‘Gajat goes to his crew and instead of ordering them to attack the Spartans, he orders them to bring their ship to arms against the Infinity.

Now at this point, I already know what’s going to happen. I’m a little disappointed that I was right too. It’s a logical outcome, but I wouldn’t mind a little flare here. More on this in a moment.

After Palmer and Majestic avoid incoming missiles from the station, they board it and take it over. Just in time as the glassing cannon was just about to come online again. Clayton is knocked out by Madsen and taken prisoner.

In the meantime, ‘Gajat does as many villains do in classic stories, he is about to tell the station what his real plans are…When will villains learn, just go with your plan, then talk later. James Bond films are abounding in this respect. Anyway, as he has his ship radio the station, Palmer cuts in on the transmission, knowing what ‘Gajat has planned and tells him they are going to burn. Upon which, the station blasts the Covenant ship with the glassing cannon, destroying it.

Now here is where I’m crying foul. The Infinity is LOADED with guns. Even if they can’t fire their main laser, it has dozens of turrets mounted on it’s hull on all sides. You’d think those would be blasting away at the station, in defense. The only thing I can see why not is that Hood may have ordered them not too, in order to try to take the station and it’s people, instead of blasting it to smithereens. Hoping to get some valuable information instead.

Captain Lasky returns from his fact finding mission, empty handed. He and Palmer briefly talk then break for some alcohol. Meantime, a wounded Admiral Hood in a wheelchair (where are the hovering chairs? Thought we’d have that 500 years in the future…) pays a visit to the now prisoner Clayton. He tries to press Clayton for information on Admiral Drake, of the New Colonial Alliance. Clayton does not submit, rather stating that his (Hood’s) empire will fall.

We’re now at page 21. We see a nebula in the background with a ship moving left to right. Move to page 22 a two page spread. It’s the Spirit of Fire! But it’s still a derelict ship…then…

On the last page we see a frightening detail. It seems the crew had to abandon ship. Why? Well there are a couple of Flood carrier forms within the panels. UH-OH!

Now THAT is a very interesting plot twist at the end. Where is the Spirit of Fire headed, as clearly we see a planet in the distance. Where is it’s crew now? How did the Flood come to board the Spirit of Fire? All very interesting questions. With the title of the next issue being “New Phoenix” I think those questions may not yet be answered.

Okay, so the story all the way up to page 21 is predictable. It does continue to establish that Spartans, even Spartan IV’s, are badasses, and get the job done. Beyond that though, nothing really much is answered from previous issues. I find that bothersome. I’m going to keep coming back and reading it of course, but I’d like at least a couple of questions answered. I don’t like to be strung along. That is precisely the feeling I’m getting now with the story. They do not need to wrap up each thing in each subsequent issue, just give us a tease of an answer.

The final few pages do help somewhat in that. We know a scant bit more than we did before about the fate of the Spirit of Fire. Those details, especially the presence of the Flood on her raise yet more questions.

The art itself within very well done. I’d have to say, I think it’s the best so far of all six released issues in the series. It looks like the artists are becoming better acquainted with Spartan armor, which is a very good thing. The lighting and shading on the faces, especially that of the glow from computer screens is handled nicely.

I do recommend getting this issue. If not so much for the story, then for the art, especially that of the Spirit of Fire!


Halo Concept Art: Halo 4 Environments; Part 4 of 5 Forerunner locations

Forerunner architecture is grand. Though some would say unnecessary. Since this is for a game and not in real life, I say, why not go with grandeur!

Let’s look at several Forerunner concept environments from Halo 4.

The beam generator above has an almost skeletal carcass like feel to it.halo_4_bottomspire_03_by_john_liberto
One of many Sky Spire concepts for Halo 4. This one reflects the campaign mission that we use the Pelican in. I wish we would have more piloting in Halo. I enjoy flying about!halo_4_bridge_01_by_josh_kao
Here is a concept of the bridge we cross in the campaign. Once again, no real sense of why it has the upward spires. But then, Forerunner architecture is a bit perplexing. I like how we go from shadow in the foreground to light in the background. More often than not, that’s switched.halo_4_bridge_02_by_josh_kao
Another concept of the bridge. This showing the multiple levels of it. Note the cyan light. It’s hard to take your eye away from it when viewing this concept, huh? It’s great use of color and contrast that focuses your eye where the artist wants you to look.halo_4_concept_art_by_nicolas_bouvier_05
Above we see a MUCH grander scale of the sky spires. This concept conveys, “immensity”. The blue hues as well as the snow on the mountains really make this feel cold and uninviting.halo_4_forerunner_hallway_by_josh_kao
A Forerunner hallway. I hope we do get a prequel game where we can see Forerunners in action, using these hallways. They are tall, but not THAT tall.halo_4_gen_by_a.j._trahan
This concept is a little confusing as to it’s location. It could be Meltdown. It’s definitely not Requiem as there are two other planets/moons in the distance.halo_4_gen2_by_a.j._trahan
Another concept of the same structure. The red really commands your attention.Is that machine “glassing” that area? Hmmm….halo_4_gravitywellconcept
The above piece might be familiar to you. If I’m not mistaken, it was in the Art of Halo book. This represents the generator that we target for the Infinity to blow up. I like the dark colors of this as it makes the beam of light that much more noticeable. In the campaign, this is at daytime. I think that took away from what could have been a much more epic explosion.
Chief in the air as he is grav lifted to the Didact. Now this is more epic, IMO. Here is Chief, alone, trusting in the grav lift to get him to the Didact. He’s the only one that can stop the Didact from further human composition. The Earth in the background makes a powerful statement. It shows it’s vulnerability.halo_4_john_skydome001_by_john_liberto
Yet another of the sky spire concepts. Heh, I think someone just REALLY liked those things. halo_4_jwl_m60_cave_02_by_john_liberto
This is likely either an early concept for Erosion or Warrens (the Spartan Ops map). halo_4_jwl_pylon_underside_01_by_john_liberto
Here is one of the pylons that you have to shut down within Requiem’s core. With no figure shown with it, it’s hard to get a sense of scale. Except…the clouds in the foreground. The pylon just reeks of power!
Above is one of the stations you arrive at to shut down the pylons. I don’t know what it is about these that I seem to like the dark tones. Perhaps it makes me feel like Chief is really fighting against something dark and foreboding.
The above is an illustration showing a Forerunner location that seems to have been created before the area around it. This reminds me much of “Sniper Alley” from Spartan Ops. I always have fun playing that mission. Have you played through Spartan Ops? If not, take some time to do so. It’s a whole other campaign. Yes, a bit different from a normal Campaign. Still, it entertained me for many hours and continues to do so.
Here is a concept for the multiplayer maps ‘Monolith’. This memorial stays true to the design and scale of Forerunner architecture.halo_4_oceanview01_by_a.j._trahan
This breathtaking view isn’t specifically in the game as is. However, elements of it were likely used for parts of the campaign as well as the multiplayer map, ‘Complex’. I really appreciate the detail in this piece. This is another concept I wish I could get a print of. It would make a fine poster.halo_4_outpost_by_nicolas_bouvier
Strangely enough this looks more like Reach multiplayer map, ‘Tempest’. Perhaps that’s the reason it wasn’t used?
That’s no moon! (and it’s not really a space station either…) A pinprick of light escapes Requiem as a portal opens to accept the uninvited visitors.halo_4_requiem_sky_leviathan_by_paul_richards
The sky leviathan was to be an ambient life-form in Halo 4. Sadly, it was cut. I really hope that in the next game, we get alien animal lifeforms.  It doesn’t have to be a lot. Heck, Reach had the Moa and Guta. That was enough for me. Just something more to bring realism/life into a world.halo_4_scifair_02_by_john_liberto
I wonder what purpose is served by this Forerunner structure? The sides remind me of a ribcage. Curious? Would that make this the heart of Requiem?
The above concept is CLASSIC ‘Sparth’. Nicolas ‘Sparth’ Bouvier was one of the concept artists for Halo 4. He’s since been promoted. If you’ve never had a chance to watch one of his videos where he shows how he creates a concept, then you’re in for a treat! His mastery of digital programs for ‘painting’ something like this is nearly unparalleled.
The above concept should definitely look familiar. If I’m not mistaken, it was one of the first revealed for Halo 4.halo4_coolant_room_01_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01
Here is a rough concept of a coolant room. Even in it’s unfinished looking state, it still gives measure to the power of Forerunner technology.

The last five concepts are of sentinel factories within Requiem.halo4_sentinel_factory_01_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01halo4_sentinel_factory_02_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01
I like the above one for it’s warm colors. The light bouncing off the top of the factory adds to the realism of this concept.
Now I’m not sure why the above is called a sentinel factory. But I’m not about to argue that point. It’s perspective tells us this is a HUGE structure.halo4_sentinel_factory_04_by_goran_bukvic_additions_01
The above two show the progression of concept art. The top one is a sketch not showing as much detail, while the bottom one is much more fleshed out. Note the subtle changes in design as well. It’s clear they came from the same line of thinking though.

Have any favorites from this article? Let me know by replying below.

Tomorrow we have more than two dozen concepts of UNSC locations in Halo 4.


Controversial Innuendo in Halo Escalation #6?

Looking at the first 6 pages released by 343, on the fourth page, there is something rather peculiar.

I’ve cropped the page to show exactly what I’m talking about:

escalation6_4 callout panel

Anyone notice what’s wrong here?

Why is Palmer’s Booster Frame numbered ’69’? That’s very sexist and something that should not be in Halo. Now either 343 missed this when proofing it, or they saw it and approved it anyway, or the artist changed it after 343 having looked at the final proof.

Perhaps someone needs to say something to Darkhorse. I’ve enjoyed the series and as an adult, this isn’t as jarring to me. However, there ARE kids who read these comics. No doubt given the culture these days, they know what that means. So is that something either/both 343/Darkhorse want to have in the comic book?

Look, I’m not trying to take the high road here. I cuss all the time when I’m gaming. But in the context of this being in a comic book, which have throngs of kids who read them… Well, I just hope it doesn’t happen in the future.



Halo Escalation #6 comes out tomorrow!

Halo Escaltion 6

A friendly reminder that issue #6 of Halo Escalation comes out tomorrow. If you’re looking for a print edition, check your local comic book store.

Otherwise, you can order the digital edition direct from Darkhorse comics, HERE.

I’m REALLY looking forward to this issue. You could say there is a certain spirit of fire about this moth’s issue…



Halo Concept Art: Halo 4 Environments; Part 3 of 5; Multiplayer Maps

Well, after a quite busy Memorial Day, I’m finally able to post today’s concept art article. This one is focusing on several of the multiplayer maps in Halo 4.

So let’s take a tour of what the Infinity’s holodeck has in store for us in war game maps!

First up, Abandon.halo_4_abandon_by_jason_borne
Abandon looked very different in early stages. While still much overgrowth, it didn’t have as much of a canopy to it nor was as dark. Some of those formations in the concept above are quite alien. The two curving ones with spike coming out of them look like an alien creature, more than rock or foliage.halo_4_abandon_plants_by_jason_borne
Above it seems those curving elements might have been carnivorous plants. Now THAT would have been something pretty unique. An interactive element that will try to kill you if you get too close.
Here we see Abandon with more of the canopy. Are those buggers in the sky? The lit alcove the Spartan is standing by look like Yoda’s hut from Star Wars. That would have been a nice nod to another sci-fii franchise.
Here we see Landfall in black and white. There are certainly similar elements to this design when compared with the final version.Here though, there is much less of the pier area. Well, at least from what we can see of it.

Let’s move on to Exile.halo_4_camp_by_a.j._trahan
Exile is a colorful map. Between the grey remnants of the crashed ship, the browns of the dirt and rock and the plethora of greens for foliage, there is plenty to take in. This concept is a good reminder that you not only should have contrasting colors, as well as highlights and shadows, but textures as well.halo_4_camp3_by_a.j._trahan
Normally metal textures within a natural setting might not blend so well. However, given that this is a crash site and the human survivors have made due with what they had left of the ship, I think they blend together nicely. In the final version, I do not feel that the ship parts overpower the natural elements, which is a good thing.
Here we see the bulk of the ship’s aft engine section. Beautiful in it’s tragedy. I wish this part of the map was able to be explored as well.halo_4_vista_by_a.j._trahan
The last of the Exile concepts I have to show is from above. Here the rock outcroppings take on strange arching shapes. While arches do occur in nature, they are fairly rare and not so many in one place either. Those peaks seem very fragile.

This is no cave! (Or is it?)halo_4_cave2_by_a.j._trahan
Erosion is a map with lots of potential for forging on. The concept above brings together browns and aquamarine colors to highlight that this isn’t just an ordinary cave, but extraordinary. The piping at bottom left helps with scale.
Now here we have a LOT of piping coming from some internal structure that we can not entirely see. I like the industrial feel of this concept and have to say that I’d MUCH more would have preferred this as the final map, so long as we could build at water’s edge. I imagine in this rendering that some of the map went into that back industrial area. One thing I like about this piece is how well the water was done. The rocks and pipes below the waterline look fantastic and believable.
The above concept is very close to the final version. The main different is that the building seems to go up and form a portion of the roof of the map. That’s one thing I’m glad didn’t happen. Did you know you CAN build on the roof of the building in Erosion? It’s an excellent space. Go check out the pieces built on top of it.halo_4_eroz2_by_a.j._trahan
Another angle of nearly the same view, we see where water was to play a role in this map. Alas, that didn’t make the cut. While it wouldn’t have done much, it still would have been a nice aesthetic element. Perhaps it was cut due to time constraints?halo_4_mid_erosion_cave_frontbsml_by_a.j._trahan
Here we see a highly contrasted Erosion. If only we had the ability in forge to add that many lights to our maps… It appears as if this concept doe not have the large open area beyond the lighter portion. Rather it seems more “flat” by design. Honestly, I’d have liked that too.

So much of Erosion is unusable as a realistic map. Those greenish stalactites in the distance are just that, in the distance. You can’t build near all of them. I hope 343 takes more of that into account for the next game. If you’re going to make a massive map, make most of it useable. Please.

No, this isn’t the Composer you’re seeing. Though that is what many folks thought when they first saw this on Complex. It is surely Forerunner, though we do not know it’s use. This concept seems better than the map we got, well at least that portion of it. In the above, there are several floors, more aesthetic elements and such. In fact, this kind of reminds me of “Coutdown” from Reach. And that is perhaps why we didn’t get it as the final version.
A very different looking Adrift. It seems we were to have more of a spaceship to play on that a simple platform. While I like Adrift, I hope we do get another derelict spaceship map in the next game. Hopefully one with a low gravity area on it too like Condemned from Halo Reach. Perhaps because this concept was named for the former, 343 decided to go a different direction from it. It’s a shame how many of the Bungie things are shunned by 343. where it not for Bungie, there would be no Halo.halo_4_ravine01_by_a.j._trahan
You may have seen this concept before.It’s Ravine. Much of the map looks similar to the final. Personally, I’d rather have this version with the central platform bridges and beam of light.halo_4_ravine02_by_a.j._trahan
Here we see that the Forerunner half of the map was to be much more like a coliseum than the more trapezoidal shape we got. Again, I’d have preferred this instead. Heh, It’s really strange how much I prefer many of the concept versions over the actual maps we got in the game. One thing that really stands out above is the heavy blue light.halo_4_ravine03_by_a.j._trahan
Ravine, though not at all how we know it by today. I like the far off ground structures here.
The above is a much more majestic form of Ravine. That Forerunner structure is MASSIVE. Again we have the central platform, now with a sphere included.The bridge in the foreground is more symmetrical than the similar structure of the final version. Yep…I’d have preferred this over the in-game one as well.
Now this version of Ravine is my favorite of the Ravine concepts. It reminds me both of Forge World from Halo Reach as well as a portion of Halo CE. I hope that 343 and/or Certain Affinity will create maps at water level with this kind of detail. Water seemed like a weak spot in Halo 4. The lone being walking the beach gives us the immense sense of scale that the Forerunner structures have to them.
halo_4_skyline_vista_by_a.j._trahanFinally, we have Skyline. A rare urban environment. This concept is nothing like the final version. With many large buildings in the background, a more wide open map (I’m assuming the right area is the playable area here), this concept shows the Skyline we could have got. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the in-game version. The Paris streets in the background of the map (yes, that is what they are), added to it’s realism. But this concept says “Skyline” more to me than the actual one does. I hope this concept is revisited for a potential map in Halo 5 Guardians.

We’ve still got 2 more parts of the Halo 4 Environmental Concept Art articles to go. Tune in tomorrow for Part 4 Forerunner Environments.

Did you like today’s concept art article? If so, what about it did you like? Have any favorites in this article? If so, what about it/them make it a favorite?

Reply below. You know I’m always curious to know what you folks think of these as well.


Halo Concept Art: Halo 4 Environments Part 2 of 5 FUD crash site, Meltdown and more

I didn’t get to yesterday’s concept art article due to my family being in from out of town for the weekend. It’s now just before 7am and none else is awake. So I’m going to get one to you now and hopefully another to catch up.

First off we have some art from Certain Affinity, makers of the multiplayer map, Meltdown.

In this image we have a Forerunner structure within one of the caves on Meltdown. This didn’t make it into the map, unfortunately. It would have been good to have this in, especially if it was interactive in some way. I like the scale of the cave in relationship to the spartan.halo_4_meltdown_ice_caves_by_jason_borne
This concept shows us a similar cave, with a much colder theme than the previous. This one is more reflective of what we got in the final version. I like the overall use of blue hues to really bring out the cold and ice. It’s a well done concept, IMO.halo_4_meltdown_garage_by_jason_borne
Here we are at the front of one of the Forerunner garages. Heh, I didn’t know they had a need for garages… Anyway, this evokes Forerunner architecture quite nicely.The final version changed slightly. Use of shadow and light is decent, with the blue light at the background of the concept drawing your eye toward it.halo_4_meltdown_frozen_side_by_jason_borne
One of the portions of the figure eight styled paths, this of course on the frozen side. There is a high amount of detail in this piece for being a concept. I’d like to have this as a print.
halo_4_meltdown_by_jason_borneAnd here we have a slight transition to the “melted” side of the map. The Forerunner structure top left is going into meltdown, hence the map name. Again, the amount of detail in this is impressive. Why we don’t have an all concept or a concept to creation book that includes this kind of stuff amazes me. Yes, I know we had a concept book. But for me as a HUGE fan of concept art, it just wasn’t enough. Beyond that, I think there is money to be made from these pieces. Something I’d think 343 would be interested in.

Now let’s move on to the Forward Unto Dawn’s crash site on Requiem.
The crash site of the Forward unto Dawn (FUD) was used heavily in the ad campaign for Halo 4. The piece above should look fairly familiar to you. It’s another very well done concept with plenty of detail. What really makes this stand out is the contrast between the bright light shining through at top, down through the wreckage to the fires burning below. halo_4_7849-b849e
This may or may not be the FUD. If it isn’t, then it’s the Infinity. Either way, the dark blue hues mixed in with greens make this almost moody, but for the contrasting light on the left of the piece.halo_4_crash_moodpaint_crop_by_a.j._trahan
Master Chief walks among the smoldering remains of the FUD. Here, even in rough texturing, we can see the separation of foliage from wreckage, burning embers to twisted metal. Take a CLOSE look at this piece (click to make bigger), and you’ll see how color was layered on the concept. It’s quite a work of art.
Strangely enough when I downloaded this, this is exactly how it appeared. I think it was reversed somewhere along the way. You can tell by the UNSC logo on the upper portion of the wreckage being backwards. Regardless of that, the many shades of grey tell the tale of the armored remains of the FUD. A once proud ship in service to the UNSC, reduced to scrap.halo_4_john_m20_04_by_john_liberto
Here is an even earlier concept similar to the first FUD piece seen above. While not as detailed, it helps the person making the decision on which way to take this piece a good visual representation of the scene. I sure wouldn’t want to breathe that air!

Now this piece looks pretty similar to the art used of the cover of Halo 4. Huge chunks of falling debris entering Requiem’s inner levels. Scale is a little difficult to measure here with your eye. However, I believe that wasn’t the intention of this piece, but rather to show the remnants of the FUD as the fell. The mostly centered light shines brightly on those pieces towards the center and dissipates as it flows towards to outer edges of the concept. Quite believable.halo_4_mid_mp5_02_recentcrash_sml_by_a.j._trahan
Here is another example of a sophisticated concept. Many things happening at one. The burning of the large engines, Chief walking away, small fires on the ground and the piercing light from the clouds make this piece visually exciting and hard to look away from after a few seconds. I’ve looked at this piece many times and still manage to find something different that I hadn’t noticed previously.

Let’s have a look at some miscellaneous concepts from Halo 4.
Not really a concept in the sense of how the others in this article are portrayed, this storyboard of Chief’s rescue is a good representation of the scene in just a few panels without having to tell the whole story.
The above three I’m a little perplexed by. Is it the destruction of Requiem? The first of the three says no. So what is this then? A planet being ripped apart by Requiem? This is something I’m going to have to get to the bottom of. The progression of destruction between the second and third of these is quite dramatic. With the large chunks off to the side barely moving between the two pieces, the two together say that this disaster was sudden and immediate.halo_4_camp2_by_a.j._trahan
What I like about the concept above are the techniques employed throughout to show various elements. The metal isn’t quite finished in rendering, yet easily discernible as metal. The foliage in many spots look like quick brush strokes, yet perfectly blend in with the rest of the piece.halo_4_cavecrop_by_a.j._trahan
This is another concept that I’m not entirely sure where it’s supposed to be. To me it seems this should be part of the Infinity, yet the title of the art does not convey that.  What is interesting about the art is the contrast between the dark foreground and light mid- and background. As well, the spotlight in the upper right corner draw my eye there, though I’m not sure what the artist wants me to see. The almost iridescent colors throughout say that this is industrial by nature.
You may have seen the above concept before. Once again there are several things going on in the piece that keep your attention. Chief in the foreground for one. But how about those tangling above ground roots of the trees? Not to mention the flying squid in the background. We didn’t get to see those animals, in-game. The trees themselves were much more dense in the game than they are here. Shame as I would have loved to have explored this area.halo_4_thicket_001_by_john_liberto
And finally for this article, we have a mysterious Forerunner structure right in the middle of the jungle/forest. This actually reminds me much more of something from halo CE, than Halo 4. Perhaps that was what was trying to be mimicked here. Would this have been another portal to another place in the campaign? Deeper into Requiem? It’s rich dark colors make this piece rather foreboding. I wouldn’t want to go in, but as Chief, well, he isn’t afraid of anything.

In the next Concept Art article, we’ll take a look at some other multiplayer maps in Halo 4.

So did you see any concept art new to you in this article? Any ones you really like? Let me know by replying below!


What If there were a new race introduced into Halo?

This article was sparked by a discussion on Halo Reddit. The question there was: What kind of enemies do you want/think we will be fighting in Halo 5?

Here was my response to that question: 

It’s pretty well assumed we’ll face off against the Storm faction of the Covenant again. We’re going to have to take Jul ‘Mdama down. As well, I’d guess we’ll see the same Prometheans…AND a few more. Originally there were 6 planned Promethean types to fight. However, 343 was having a hard time designing the Knight that they never got around to the other three. Those were to be named: King, Queen and Pawn. The Crawler is considered the pawn now, so we might only get two more new Promethean enemies. As for a new Covenant race, I’ve been wanting a new race for quite awhile now and fully support this idea. As to what kind of race, your suggestion of a feline race would be welcomed, though I’m not sure how well it would fit into the Halo-verse. It would have to have some feline properties, but not look specifically like a feline. Note the Brutes are simian in nature, but do not exactly look like Apes. Similar with the jackals/birds, Elites/Dinos. Actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing an all new race come in to play, but not as a part of the Covenant, but a whole other race to contend with. This could cause 3 or 4 way battles between, Humanity, Covenant, Prometheans, New Race.

So with that in mind, would you folks like to see a NEW race in Halo? Either aligned with the Covenant OR a race independent of any currently in Halo? If so, what kind of being would you want it to be related to? 

I do like the idea of a feline enemy race, however, I’m concerned that they would look TOO cat like. The Jackals are a good representation of a avian-like race, without looking TOO much like birds. With this in mind, can you come up with a drawing of a new race for Halo? Base it off of something here on earth. Something relatively like the other races of Halo, i.e., two arms/two legs/one head. In other words, humanoid.

I’m going to work on something feline related. Feel free to use that theme too or pick something else. I’d love to see what you folks might come up with. If you do draw something, send it to [email protected] and I’ll post it here on the blog in a follow up article to this one.