Thursday, January 12, 2012

Halo: Part 4: The Light at the End

-----Part 4: The Light at the End-----

-No Stone Unturned (Halo 3: ODST OST):

     Halo Reach eventually came out and I had been playing it on and off throughout the year. It started out very strong; I played pretty much every day, just like with any Halo game that comes out, but eventually, my play time began tapering off. It was pretty typical of me to do though; that's what happens to just about every game I play after a while... By no means, however, does my waning interest in multiplayer effect my overall interest in Halo- far from it, in fact; my interest was still growing at an exponential rate.

     I was still constantly doing research in my free time and keeping up with any and all news. During the summer, Bungie had been celebrating its 20th birthday and to keep up the festivities, they were auctioning off a bunch of very exclusive items, including, but not limited to original, one of a kind concept art from the days of Halo 2. Unfortunately I was unable to win anything from the first set of auctions. It was saddening, indeed, especially to see the Master Chief Helmet Detail piece get away from me... I couldn't really help it, however, as I was getting surgery done as the auctions were ending. But hope yet remained, as there were another set of concept art auctions.

     Luckily, when the next set of auctions rolled around, I was lucky enough to win a huge piece of concept art, including nine separate pictures of the Covenant Ghost. Seen below:

     A couple weeks went by and as luck would have it, I got an email telling me that I had a second-chance offer to buy the Master Chief Helmet Detail picture that I thought had gone away. I didn't waste a second jumping on the offer. It too would be mine.You can see it below:

     I was also able to nab 1/100 prints of the Master Chief concept art that was famously fucked up by a flood in the Bungie Studio back when it was in Chicago. My collection was becoming something notable, though not to too many

     July had finally come and along with it, San Diego Comic Con 2011. This time around, I was there to see 343 Industries talk about their first game, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition. I was excited, of course, but this also meant a chance to get to talk to those whom I had met the year before. The first thing on the Comic-Con schedule was an action figure signing by Todd McFarlane. While in line to buy the figures to get signed, I happened to see Alison Stroll and David Ellis of 343i come over. I called Alison over and we talked for a bit. They were there to do a quick interview with Mcfarlane for Halo Waypoint. The convention had just began and I had already gotten to see those who I wanted to talk to; I felt this was a great start.

     During the 343i panel, I was able to get the very front and center. It was fantastic to be at, I guess I'll just leave it at that, as the game is now out and there's no point in going through what news was said... Although I will say that during the panel, Dan Ayoub, who was the Executive Producer on CEA, was sporting a shirt that I found to be something of a personal holy grail. It was a simple black t-shirt, but down the left side there was a faded '117.' As soon as the panel ended, I, along with a couple other intrigued folks came up to the stage and tried asking where we could buy it, but it was for not, as we were shooed from the stage by security. Before the end of the show, I happened to pass by David Ellis, who I had actually not met before. It was actually somewhat odd, as I only knew it was him from seeing his badge for a fraction of a second. We met and talked for a bit before bidding adieu to one another.

     During this con, I had actually began talking to a number of other Halo fans on Twitter. It was the first time I had been really connecting myself to the community past those working at 343i. I was making new friends, and it felt great.

-Greatest Journey (Halo 3 OST):

     The school semester had just started, but I was already heading back out. This time, I was heading out to Seattle for the first time to attend PAX, but much more importantly, Halo Fest. Oh, indeed this was my own personal Mecca, and I would not miss it for anything. 

     Prior to Halo Fest, however, 343i was holding a set of contests, one of which, was a machinima contest. I had just finished a new video that was a tribute to the Halo franchise celebrating the 10 year birthday that was just around the corner.

     I entered it, but I ended up needing to change the song due to copyright issues, which meant also needing to recut it a little bit. Unfortunately, I had to use a song that I already had used in the past... but it yielded so much less work for me to do and it was considerably short notice. But it would have to do and I would have to make the best of it. The Halo Fest version can be seen below:

     Unfortunately, I did not win the grand prize of getting a voice role on an upcoming episode of Red vs Blue. I did, however, manage to be one of the finalists, which meant that despite the video not actually being the conventional machinima, my video was still seen by those at Rooster Teeth and they thought it was good enough to be a finalist. If nothing else, I'm happy for that.

     So I finally made it to Halo Fest 2011. I would've been able to visit Bungie, but my flight arrived too late for me to make it, you can imagine me giving a slight sigh as you read that, but it was okay, as that's not why I was there. I was finally able to meet those that I had met on twitter and while I was relatively shy, it was still awesome to finally meet my friends for the first time, but once bsangel had pointed out how I hadn't introduced myself, it became something of a joke.

     I am about to commit a grave crime, in that I don't want to get into much detail about my time at Halo Fest. What I will say though is a short story that actually made its way on camera. The moment I walked into the building and stared at the big 'Halo Fest' projection on the ceiling, I was in absolute awe. I was standing on the escalator to what I could only imagine was the promised land. I walked through, mouth agape, marveling at every single bit of everything within the Halo Fest grounds. I meandered about until I found myself in the gift shop where I began purchasing things that I knew I would not be able to carry back to my hotel room, but I bought nonetheless. As I checked out, the lady politely asked how my day was. I stood silently for moment, thinking for the right words, until I finally said, "I don't say often that I am in heaven, but I am in heaven right now." What I, of course, neglected to mention, was that I am an Atheist, and that what I just said really meant a lot more than it may actually have seemed.

     After one of the many panels that I attended, I finally got a chance to talk to Alison. We talked for a bit and I told her that story. She liked it so much that she wanted me to tell that story again, but on camera, for a future video that would be on Halo Waypoint. You can watch it below. Every single time I watch it, I feel super nostalgic and I wish I was back there, and next time it rolls around (which will hopefully be this next PAX and every other PAX thereafter), you can bet your sweet ass that I will be there. You can also check out my photo album from Halo Fest.

Halo Fest Album

     I also was able to ask a question during the Halo 4 Panel, but instead of just doing that, I wanted to do something a little more special. I wanted to thank them, personally, and on behalf of the entire two-tiered theatre behind me. I had rehearsed it so many times the night before and when it came time, it went off without a hitch. I even got the entire theatre to applaud, which felt just as good and even better than how I imagined it. My follow-up question, however wasn't so spectacular, as I had to come up with one on the spot, but I was left with my hands shaking and my voice stuttering. In the video below, you can skip to 38:46 to hear me and my thanks.

     And finally, I was actually able to obtain the 117 shirt that I craved so. The shirt is reserved exclusively to 343i employees, but, and this is not a lie, since I am One One Seven and my obsession is known by those at 343i, I got one. My endless thanks go out to Alison Stroll and Dan Ayoub for hooking me up when they wouldn't help anyone else on that particular matter.

-The Light at the End (Halo 3: ODST OST):

     With Halo Fest 2011 behind me, I didn't have too much on the agenda in terms of Halo-related things. Halo CEA was just around the corner and I had heard of a new contest, bigger than either of the two I had done before. No, this would be my biggest challenge yet. This was the contest that would complete a dream of mine- the dream to become the biggest Halo fan ever, officially. 343i, along with and Spike TV, was holding the 'Halo Fan of the Decade' contest, and I knew without a doubt that I would win. I was only able to enter ONE picture to prove myself to the judges. I began putting together a collage of pictures from my collection album on facebook, but I didn't feel it, I could do more for it. As a side note, while I was putting together the collage, I got a facebook post from Kozi linking me to the contest page saying, "Do your thing, sir." Little did he know, I was already working on it. :)

     So I drove home for the weekend with all my Halo stuff that I had at my apartment at school. I spent my entire first night, after driving six hours, carrying my entire collection down two floors to my basement where my LAN system was, which would be my backdrop. I had spoken to my dad earlier that week and he got shelves put up in my basement, one of which was above the TVs. I spent the entire next day and morning of the day after putting together my picture, filling it with every piece I could fit. I would have my TV's, each with a different Halo game on it, my framed Halo Legends posters, my original concept art, and my employee-only 117 shirt. I had this.

     So, November 7th came, which was the cut-off date and judgement day. The only way I knew if I had won was by getting a phone call, and it didn't come. Now, if you hadn't noticed November 7th is 11/7, so I make the day a personal holiday in which I celebrate a number of things, one of which, obviously, is Halo. By the end of the day, I was slightly disappointed that I had never gotten that call...

     The next day came, I went to class like usual, but when I got back, I had a message in my twitter inbox from Halo Waypoint asking if I was the same Jake Wheeler from the Halo Fest machinima contest, I said yeah, and then they asked for my phone number and email address. A sudden skip of my heart. "Why?" I asked. The response? They have been trying to get ahold of me for winning the contest. The temperature in my blood rose sharply, my breath getting heavier by the second; I had done it. I had won. I got a call from an unknown number. I picked it up and spoke to a man from Spike TV discussing the details of everything, now that I had won. I got off the phone and paraded about the house, cheering at my greatest victory. I had made a dream of mine come true, a dream that had been manifesting itself over the past nine years.

     So, my picture was featured in the premiere commercial for the Living Monument and Halo CEA. There was kind of a mix-up in times and when the commercial was on in my timezone, but thankfully we recorded the entire movie that was playing in the meantime and we were able to see it nonetheless. I received tons of congratulations from people, including those at 343i, and after Halo Waypoint tweeted about it, I got about 40 new followers, which was really nice because I am something of a whore for followers and views (that includes this blog).

-Heavy Price Paid (Halo 2 OST):

     Prior to Christmas, the Child's Play Auction dinner was held, and thanks to a friend of mine who was attending, I was able to get my hands on a one-of-a-kind piece of Halo 4 concept art, signed by Sparth. Now, it was done digitally, which means that it's technically a print, but I was assured that this was as original was it would come in a physical form, and that there was only one of these. There was also a set of online auctions on ebay for Child's Play, which was put together by my friend Laird. I was able to nab some more items, one of which was another one-of-a-kind piece of fan fiction that I fell in love with- "Halo: A Fistful of Arrows."

     I won the one-and-only copy of Levi Hoffmeier's Halo fan-fiction book, "A Fistful of Arrows,"  as well as a copy of "Halo Evolutions I," which is also signed by all the authors. Very cool if you ask me. I did feel bad though, a friend of mine contacted me right after the 'Halo: Evolutions' auction ended asking me if I had won. I told him I had and as it turns out, he had put in a bid for $50, three seconds before it ended. For some reason though, it didn't register or something and I ended up winning it for $46. From what I remember, I had put in a max bid of $60, but even still... And to be perfectly honest, I don't need it. It was something small I felt I could get my hands on while getting more money towards the charity. So Keith, if you're reading, contact me about buying it. I was serious before when I asked if you were looking to get it before xmas or not.

     I don't know, I kind of feel as though I'm not living up to the title of Halo Fan of the Decade. Which, to some of you may seem like the dumbest thing that I've ever said, and in a certain respect, I'd agree. It's melodramatic and is a "first-world problem." But I feel like I'm not doing enough, ya know? I could be doing more than just outright buying stuff for my collection. It was briefly mentioned a couple times after I won, and probably even more so without my knowing, but despite going out of my way to do stuff for Halo, like canceling my flight or driving 12 hours and spending two days just for one picture, the only thing I really do is just spend tons of money and collect everything I could. My friends in the Halo community do so much more than I do. They moderate forums, they create community sites, they lead the Halo community. Meanwhile, I sit in the dark corner surrounded by my stuff. I sit and observe those who are such big fans that they take the time to help all of the members of the community. Am I just biding my time for something?

     When the Halo Fan of the Decade contest came up, I had next to no doubt in my mind that I would win, and I wasn't the only one. My initial picture that I was going to submit was a collage. When I was putting it together, Kozi wrote on my facebook wall. He linked me to the contest page and said, "Do your thing, sir." I was already ahead of him at that point, but it's the same story. I KNEW I would win, with only the briefest moment of hesitation when I saw my friend Kevin's entry picture. But even after seeing it, there was still no doubt in my mind that the title would be mine.

     Even the night before the auctions were ended, I tweeted about how I was sure that the 'Fistful of Arrows' book would be mine. My friend Kevin brought up how I was so secure about winning it even with another 12 hours on the clock. I played it modestly, saying that in all honesty that I wasn't so sure about winning, but in the back of my head, I knew that it would be mine. Am I some sort of psychic? While I like the idea and think that would be sweet, I highly doubt that's the case. I just knew that it would be mine, despite any and all other people that were also reaching for it. My reason for collecting is now in flux. I am not being the halo collector in hopes that one day, I'll be crowned king. Now my collecting is something that's just gluttonous.

     I need to find a new goal, something to work towards. The feeling is very reminiscent of when I used to play WoW. My ultimate goal in the game, past getting to level 80, was to gain the title of Ambassador. When I finally got the title, I literally didn't know what to do anymore... so I stopped playing. I would eventually come back for a short time, but now it's as far away as I can make it.

     Perhaps I should semi-reveal an idea of mine that I've had since Thanks Giving? My friends, Colin, Kozi, Dan, Chris (Dan's brother), and Eric decided at the end of the summer that we would be going back into the world of machinima. We didn't have a name for our team or anything like that. Everything was very spur-of-the-moment. I had a couple story ideas in mind, but we ended up putting those on hold and we came up with a new story that hadn't really been seen within the Halo Universe. Perhaps I should've started with that- We wanted our story to fit within the boundaries of the Halo timeline, where it wouldn't effect anything in the canon. It would be a stand-alone story that would fit loosely into parts of other stories.

     I was tasked with writing the script throughout the semester, but school came up and I got distracted by everything else that I never ended up writing it. There's some material for the characters and a story outline, but that's about it. Since being home we haven't talked about much, but I would very much like to get back into it, and write with them instead of me, by myself. I feel ideas may flow better that way. But the idea I had during Thanks Giving was something very different. I was thinking about The Halo Retrospective that did to celebrate the 10th birthday of Halo. I thought, what if we did a documentary of sorts? A series-long version of The Halo Retrospective? I would liken the series as being similar to like Ancient Aliens, or Halopedia done in a weekly show on youtube. We would delve deeply into certain story lines and characters and elaborate on them, theorize and talk about possibilities. We could also go into the community as well. We could go out and get interviews with major members of the community and maybe even those at Bungie and 343 Industries. This is the first I've brought this up to anyone, sans Kevin, who I had been talking to when i came up with it. It was my way of giving back to the community, I suppose, not to mention that it would yield much less work than other projects we had in mind... I'm not sure though.

     I have been reorganizing my Halo collection on the shelves in my basement, as well as creating a massive battlefield with my Halo Mega Bloks on the shuffleboard just below the shelves. I've just bought a bunch of materials to help make the flat wooden top of the shuffleboard into a mountainous rough terrain with shrubbery about. I started carving out foam, but it's messy as hell and I don't know if I'll have time to finish it before I head back to school, and most definitely not before my interview with The Running Riot Podcast this Saturday night, which reminds me!

Tune in at 10:00PM ET/ 9:00PM CST to the Running Riot Podcast, where they will be interviewing me on my contest win and my collection!

-At Any Cost (Halo Reach OST):

     I'd like to take this time to really thank those that helped me reach this point- Alison Stroll and everyone else at 343 Industries, everyone at Bungie, Laird Maclean, Levi Hoffmeier, Kevin Hurd, and everyone else whom I consider a friend within the Halo community, but most of all, I'd like to thank my mom and dad. My mom was, and has been, willing to put up with mine and my dad's spending on all of this Halo merchandise, and my dad who, more than pretty much everyone, understood my passion for Halo and helped fuel it, and spent so much money on it all, because my parents are willing to support me and what I strive for, at any cost. Thanks.

----------The End----------
-----...for now, at least.-----

     So thank you, any and all who read this, and even more so to those who found it entertaining in any way. And while this is the end of my story, it is only the end for now. Time will bring more, as it naturally does. 2011 brought so many great things for me, and I can easily say that it's been my best year...ever, but now that it's 2012, I do worry, but newer and bigger things will come. So I end this story with one of my favorite songs from the Halo catalogue, "The Light at the End," by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori from the Halo 3: ODST OST. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Wake me, when you need me...

1 comment:

  1. Maybe your calling is to have collected all this Halo memorabilia and observing so many events that make up the Halo fan experience, culminating in being the fan of the decade, so that you are the one in the best position to put this machinima idea you have together. =)

    But no matter what you do next, one thing you shouldn't worry about is comparing yourself to other community members or worrying that you somehow don't live up to your award. I haven't been lucky enough to work with the folks at 343i as much as you have, but even in my short time with them, I know they look at more than simply who collects the most stuff when accounting for their fan base.

    Love the blog. Keep on writing!