Sunday, 8 June 2014

The boring research bit

I have a Geek Lair. It's a spare bedroom decorated in full geek colours. One wall has a 14 foot graffiti mural of Godzilla fighting an anime robot. Another has stuffed latex heads of the Alien and Predator mounted as if I'd shot them and collected a trophy. A third wall proudly flies the flag of Dr Doom's kingdom of Latveria. 
The Geek Lair.

The final wall has a five foot transfer of Commander Shepard in full Mass Effect 3 pose. She - Commander Shepard to me is female - looks utterly badass. It would provide me with a perfect image to work from.

Of course, Shepard is available to play as both male and female. I am, for those who wonder, unquestionably male: a 6'5" monster of a bloke who looks predestined to play rugby all his life.

As tempting as a wig and svelte look was, I decided I was going to be a male Shepard.

A quick web search led me to various Cosplay message boards, all with different suggestions on how to achieve the right look. It soon appeared that there's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to do Shepard; it's a character whose looks you can customise, whose armour you can tweak, and who appears in three games with slightly different armour.

Commander Shepards. Both equally valid.
This was a relief, as it meant any mistakes were forgiveable.

Better still, though, was the availability of templates. Within an hour I'd found a complete template for creating Shepard's signature N7 armour, all laid out with easily modifiable tools from a guy called Julian Beek. I downloaded it in full almost immediately. I'd add a link, but his blog seems to have vanished.

Of course, it wasn't going to be that easy. The templates were the most complicated kit instructions I'd ever seen; the equivalent of creating a whole room of IKEA furniture with only the blueprints, in Swedish.

Still... that's what I had to work with.

And I was going to need tools.

Curses, tools!

I live about a mile and a half from town. Rather than catch the train, I figured I'd walk in and begin the long, arduous slog to personal fitness that would accompany my transformation to Commander Shepard. This proved to be a mistake. It was a blisteringly hot day for England - by which I mean it was a pretty average temperature day for the Southern US, or surprisingly chilly for the Middle East. Either way, I ended up like a panting sweaty fat man as I loaded up on craft-related junk.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I was going to need foam (specifically EVA foam) if I was going to make foam armour. This turned out to be very difficult to obtain in the UK: hardware shops and superstores just don't stock this kind of stuff. I also didn't want to buy something off Amazon, in case it wasn't the size or type I required.

I applied a little lateral thinking. In the UK, there's a store called Argos. It sells all kinds of household nonsense, with customers forced to leaf through a catalogue and order their objects in a depot, with objects arriving creepily on a conveyor belt - a bit like a sushi restaurant crossed with a gameshow.

Mutlicoloured saviours of foam!
Here, I found the perfect product: Chad Valley Tumbler Mats. They are great for kids, but even better for crafty sods who wanted to cut up foam to make power suits. Soon four multicoloured slabs of 6mm thick EVA foam arrived for me to collect. A quick spray of paint would disguise the garish colours, and I was confident I could hack them in to any shape required.

Cost: £9.99 ($15) for a pack of four 60cmx60cm squares

Following tips online, I also picked up a few tool essentials: a glue gun (£17 or $30), a heat gun - effectively a high-powered blow dryer (£18 or $30) and a soldering iron to burn out grooves (£10 or $17). I already owned a really good craft scalpel, with a crazy amount of spare blades, a pair of scissors and pens and pencils

Finally, I picked up the paints I needed at Wilco. These were a few cans of Plasti-kote matt grey spray paint for the armour (£6.99 or $12 per can), and two smaller cans of matt white and insignia red (£3.45 or $6 per can). 

I also bought a roll of masking tape for the spraying, and a roll of gaffer tape (duct tape) in case anything broke. 

Now I was ready to get to work. All I had to do was mess around with the templates in GIMP, print them off, and start making stuff.

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