News:Halopedia News Issue 3 - A lofty Interview
Issue 3: A Lofty Interview!
Story by CIA391
October 15, 2017
Hello everyone, this week is a really special issue of Halopedia news. A interview with Stephen Loftus(ScaleMaster117). This week won’t have much in terms of other news because we wanted to focus on the awesomeness that is Stephen Loftus.
Who is Stephen Loftus
Stephen Loftus is an awesome scale-modelling fan who has done lots of projects from individual projects, to several official ones where he has helped 343i make several Halo books more accurate and better, such as the recent Halo Warfleet, to as far back as the first Halo Visual Guide. But of course, I think you’d all rather hear all this from the man himself, so let’s get right to it.
CIA391: "Hello Stephen, welcome to Halopedia news, it’s a real pleasure having you chat with us, and to be our first interview. So to start you off easy, how did you start your Halo Journey? Your epic Halo origin story one could say!"
Stephen Loftus: "OK, well, for an introduction, my name is Stephen Loftus and I was introduced to Halo about a year after it came out. I had seen the early game commercials and it looked interesting but I didn't own an Xbox (or any console at that time). Later on, I was a friend's place who had an Xbox and the game and we played through the campaign and faced off in some split screen multiplayer. I was hooked! I found out about the Halo novels and pretty much devoured any Halo-related info I could get.
After 2003 when the PC version came out, my long-time passion for scale model building got me interested in building the Pillar of Autumn ship around 4ft long. I had done a lot of research about it when making the design for the model. That build/research came to the attention from someone from Halo.Bungie.Org (HBO) who invited me to partake in a discussion ongoing about the Autumn. I joined the HBO forum family and began to write some tech and scale articles based on my continuing research.
A few of the early research and calculations I worked out have since become canonical in the Halo fiction. Early examples include the dimensions of the CCS-class cruiser, CAS-class assault carrier, planet Threshold, and moon Basis. Later I established the overall size of High Charity, the Forerunner Dreadnought, and the Ark. I also defined that the cruiser shown in Halo 2 was the Marathon-class mentioned in The Fall of Reach novel.
This was before my involvement with 343 Industries. In 2007/2008 or so I ended up in a Halo 3 custom game with then-newly-hired 343i writer Jeremy Patenaude. I knew him from his Ascendant Justice blog site and he knew me from my HBO forum presence. We spent a couple of hours just playing and chatting over Live.
In 2009 after the first edition of the Halo Encyclopedia came out, (and everyone knew about the many errors it contained) he asked if, when I gave it a read through, if there was anything I thought was wrong or should be changed to provide my thoughts. I submitted my corrections and many of those ended up in the subsequent publication.
Late the next year the Halo: The Essential Visual Guide project landed in his lap. He went to his management and asked if he could reach out to me as his fact-checker and proof reader. To my surprise, they were familiar with my HBO articles and forum posts. I was happy to do so and we worked on that for several months.
Since then, they've reached out to me to perform similar read-throughs for their other reference book projects which to date now also include the Halo 4 Essential Visual Guide, Halo Mythos, and most recently Halo Warfleet.
I was more involved with Warfleet compared to the others. I provided a lot of upfront info before I even had a rough draft of the book text. I began providing ship data, renders and graphics, and many fictional nuances only the most well-informed Halopedians would pick up on. ;)
I still peek in on HBO frequently, but spend a lot more time with Halopedia now. I don't have a ton of time to do a lot of editing but I check out the discussion pages and recent edits and when I can add something to the discussion or content."
CIA391: "Well that is quite the origin story, from fan to consultant. Care to go into detail about some of your favorite individual projects you've done? You've done so many throughout the years it is impressive."
Stephen: "My favorite project I've done is my own personal Halo Bible. I started it in 2003 or 2004 shortly after I had Halo PC. I began cataloguing any Halo canonical facts I could from the games, novels, Bungie's website, basically any official sources. I devised a way to track where I logged the info from so I knew it was canonical, or in rare cases conjectural (but based on or derived from canon) or calculated. About the first week of working on it, it was a meager 50 pages. As of this interview it's 1,164 pages of 10pt type with no images.
My second favorite article has to be my cascading scale charts. It incorporates all important Halo objects from Halo 1, 2, 3, 4, Reach, ODST, and some Halo Wars. I haven't updated it for Halo 5, Halo Wars 2 or non-game assets. I update as I get info. The graphics cascade from the very big (Dyson Sphere) to the very small (Cortana's AI data chip) with everything else in between.
I've drawn a bunch of clean graphics I've done using Adobe Illustrator of Halo symbols and signage. I've also done a number of tech analyses on various subjects like the Pillar of Autumn, Pelican, discussions on calculating the sizes of things in Halo, etc."
CIA391: "Was there any major differences from doing your independent projects to working with 343i?"
Stephen: "The format is totally different. When it's my own article I was free to take all the time I wanted and could include whatever I wished with no limit on length. With the reference book projects I've worked on, the content is pretty much set in stone as of my first opportunity to review. Things like page topics, page count, etc., are already a known factor in many cases. There are often constraints as to how many words will fit a paragraph or caption/label, so you need to be creative with what you write and you sometimes need to choose what should be added or removed."
CIA391: "Speaking of working with 343i, how was working with them? I am sure a few are curious to how it even works."
Stephen: "For my involvement, it's often done over email. On rare occasions we'll Skype chat if there's a particular segment that needs to be discussed in detail. I often will be sent the latest version of the book in whatever form it's in. In either Word or PDF form I can use the Track Changes feature or highlight or leave speech bubble notes. My primary task is correcting anything where canon is in question. Secondly, I'll make suggestions where there may be blanks. Thirdly, I have a university background in English so I also review for spelling and grammar.
But it's an amicable back and forth with their writing team and myself. The main author provides a review to their folks and me, and I send my copy back with notes. If there are any questions or if they need clarifications as to why I left a particular comment, we'll have more email discussions over it. I'll often include renders or images to illustrate my point. They incorporate their own review changes and mine and it goes back to the publisher for integration. I'll know by the next review copy if my changes/suggestions made the cut and we'll go over it again. Sometimes I will get a few pages or a section; other times a full book to review. By the time any of you get to read the book I've probably read it all through 8-10 times close to a year before. :)"
CIA391: "Was there anything you got to decide for 343i?"
Stephen: "There is a small list of contributions that I directly influenced. I'm first of all grateful that some of my really early work in research and calculating things was incorporated into the Halo canon. Since working on their reference books, there have been times when a piece of information was not in the book and when I came across blanks I'd place something there. They'd review and if my suggestion wasn't violating anything they knew was coming up, they'd often include it. It's really a very collaborative work process though. We work very well together.
So with the first 3 books I worked on (the two Essential Visual Guides and Mythos) I was only adding a few things here and there if I encountered blanks. The page format was rather templated so we had a lot of gaps initially...for instance, many of the character weights. I recall that Dr. Halsey's weight was determined in the first Visual Guide as 125 lbs. Since she was also in Halo 4 they had a new entry for her with updated info and images and I noticed she was still 125 lbs. The render was from the end of Spartan Ops where she'd lost her arm. I suggested lowering her weight mainly due to some time passing and the missing arm. :) Something else I added was the Prophet of Truth's date of birth. His date of death is known as we see it occur in the game but 343i had added a birth date for him. Seeing how he was stabbed in the back by the Arbiter, my thoughts went back to my Shakespeare class and Julius Caesar. I left 343i's year but suggested the day/month change to be the Ides of March. :) It has no impact on the fiction but it's a fun nugget to discover."
CIA391: "I am sure you have quite a few stories working with 343i."
Stephen: "One thing I enjoy doing is providing them with graphics and renders to help illustrate my points when there's a question. It was much more prevalent with Warfleet, compared to the previous books. Before I even got my first review copy, once I knew the 10 main subjects I went to town providing them a lot of up-front info to pass along to the cutaway artists. Even before I knew the book would only be ship-based, I did a quick 2-hour render one afternoon of my own cutaway of Sword Base just as a proof of concept. I also had done a render of the Ardent Prayer using the interior and exterior assets from Halo: Reach before that page was started in Warfleet. To my surprise and delight, the artist went with my render angle, basically painting over my image and then doing a few extra sections and details. You can see some info made it and some did not. I did similar treatments for each subject."
CIA391: "I am sure you managed to hide a few Easter-eggs in the work you done with 343i, care to share or hint to a few?"
Stephen: "I can count almost 60 distinct additions I've personally made to the Halo canon over time. Not all in the form of Easter eggs though. Some things that can easily be found would involve knowing some things about me. I was born in 1971 so some overt '71' references may be by me. ;) The Savannah and the Scythe come to mind. :) For some things, I want to add this data to my own Halo Bible and want it organized better for myself, so I nudged them to let me name the freighter ship and class in the Halo 4 multiplayer map, Adrift. Since it was a mining freighter, I decided on a locally famous mining town only an hour or so drive from where I live, called Springhill. The ship name Heavy Burden came from it literally carrying heavy ore and also sounded to me like other Halo freighters we've heard of like This End Up, and Horn of Plenty.
My own hometown of Moncton is now the class name for the MAC station design like Cairo around Earth. That suggestion was one of a few I tossed out just to get a name so I can organize it in my own doc better. Plus Cairo's about my favorite model in all of the Halo games. 343i then further honored me on that page in Warfleet. I'm very grateful. I was able to pass that honor to some friends and Halo community names in Warfleet, such as my friend Eugene who, back in 2002, was responsible for introducing me to Halo in the first place. You may also recognize a few of the human 'naval architects'."
CIA391: "Are you working with 343i right now on some secret project?"
Stephen: "Warfleet was the end for right now. I'm still under contract with them but I've not been told of another project as yet. I'll be happy do lend my efforts to Halo fiction again, should they ask though. We stay in contact throughout the year periodically, and I still help them voluntarily during non-project times when they ask."
CIA391: "We admit we love the idea of a personal story bible, 1,164 pages that is impressive. Care to show us a page, and show us the process behind making it?"
- Note: We got given a PDF of the 3 pages in this. Click File:News Issue 3 Halberd SLoftusDoc.pdf to view them.
Stephen: "I'll include 3 pages as there can be only a partial topic per page if it has a lot of info. The pages I'll provide are just on the Halberd-class destroyer. It contains some of the types of ways I catalogue things. Since Warfleet had a more realistic mass value than previous lore, I've kept the now-erroneous values with their sources, but have marked the text in red indicating overridden canon or an error. My sourcing is done with abbreviations and page numbers in very light gray so the info is there but not in your face. Depending on the type of info I use tables or bulleted lists a lot. There's some written paragraphs but they are sparse. If I use specific data points I can stay within canon. If I started writing a lot of prose I'd tend to start introducing opinion and stray from the fact of the matter. My Halo Bible is basically done in the form of: UNSC Covenant Flood Ancient Humanity Forerunner Timeline
When there's a new book, game, comic, etc. out, I try to catalogue all the facts I can ascertain from it. Sometimes it gets unwieldy fast. A new UNSC ship entry, say, will go in the area for ships but if the ship data includes the commanding officer's name, now I need to go to the UNSC Personnel section, Navy table, and add that person there. If the ship's mission had it at a new colony, I have to go t the planets/stars section and add that in there. If we know when it was at that colony, an entry is made in the Timeline section. One new piece of data can spawn all kinds of updates all over the book. It's a challenge to keep it all cross-referenced."
CIA391: "About the scale project you done. Did you ever expect it to get so big, and to get support by 343i to get it put on Halo Waypoint back in the day(for those unaware that project was put on Waypoint prior to 2014)."
Stephen: "The scale project just evolved as info became available. So it grew on its own as I obtained access to more and more info on various objects in the Halo games. I'd received a lot of private emails of folks who came across it and found it useful. Some were making their own roleplay games or tabletop games. Some just thought seeing the objects in relation to others useful when reading the novels. I assume 343i thought it useful enough resource for themselves that they wanted to include it when Waypoint was in its infancy and they were looking for content. I recall that my first scale chart on Waypoint had to be edited by me as they wanted the resolution to Waypoint's standards and because it was world-wide they asked me to remove all text (so it wasn't region-specific). I was also happy to see black silhouettes in the dimensions areas of the Warfleet book. :)"
CIA391: "If you could bring something back into the Halo Story, what would you bring back?"
Stephen: "That's a tough one. I suppose I found it most enjoyable when there was a war on with the Covenant before Halo 3 came to an end. Pre-Forerunner kind of tech for humans. I'd love to bring back stories set in that timeframe between 2525 and 2552. There's still so much potential there. I'd like to see games come out (in the way ODST and Reach did) that take you out of the main story arc and give you a side-quest so to speak with new and interesting characters that do something that helps contribute to the main story while being somewhat tangential to it."
CIA391: "Well we thank you for being our first interview, and we hope to have you back on again in the future."
Stephen: "Thank you for the interest in the interview. It was fun! I'll be happy to do this again should you wish to. I'm a frequent lurker on Halopedia. While I don't have the kind of free time to devote to major updates, I make minor corrections now and then and watch for the Discussion pages if there's anything I can contribute or clarify."
Thanks for reading!
This issue was a blast to make and do. Stephen was a great chatting too, and I hope you all enjoyed this chat I had with him. See you lot next time everyone!
- CIA391 - Editor N' Chief