I’m finally going to take a chance to talk about the completion of my N7 armor by my wife Jen, who toiled over a hot knife for many days and nights in an eventual crunch that lead right up to before we left for Dragon*Con. Now, let me say this about her first – she’s probably the best prepared person I know. I intentionally put everything off until the last minute, but she will plan months ahead of time just to have her bases covered. It’s actually a nice dichotomy of our relationship, albiet our differences are slightly annoying to each other.
Being said, the amount of research she did in preparation for this project was staggering. She found out not only how to build the damn thing, but maybe more importantly had to learn how to correctly use the new tools at her disposal. She’s now a master of the Dremel, and I’m pretty sure we purchased just about every attachment there is for it.
But I digress. I’m not here to talk about build specifics, but rather tell the story of what the final build moments were like, and how we completely gave up at one point.
So, about a month before con the pressure starting stacking on a bit. I can’t speak directly for her (hence I’m prodding her to make her own post), but while she was confident in her abilities to finish the armor, there’s a lot of things that either went wrong or just took way longer than expected. One of the biggest hurdles we had was properly sizing all the pieces together and on me. This especially became a challenge when trying to finish the thigh pieces, which became the bane of our existence.
About 2 weeks from departure, Jen was trying to shape and fit the thigh pieces to me while keeping the belt loop aligned with the cod piece and the front torso. It was easier said than done – no wait, it doesn’t even sound easy. Options for us at that point were limited, as there was already a lot of time lost into trying to figure out the problem. Recutting the thighs entirely wasn’t feasible given the detailing required, and it was too late to do anything to the torso. She also cut out 3 different cod pieces but none of them fit quite right.
Just to compound the troubles, there was a lot still to be done and not a lot of time to do it – painting, finalizing the back pieces with the LEDs, making both shin and boot pieces, attaching the emblem, along with any other final touches. So as frustrations mounted one fateful Sunday evening, as gracefully as I can put it, she gave the fuck up. And for good reason.
As much as I wanted my costume, I did understand why she wanted to quit after the months of working endless hours on it. But as fate would have it, Jen got an epic second wind. A couple days after putting it aside, we just decided to stick with a compromise on the thighs and move onto something else. And in retrospect, it didn’t even matter and no one noticed. It’s just hard when you’re so focused on doing something and want it to be perfect to step back for a second and re-shift your priorities.
This being said, it was still a stressful lead up to con. I helped when I could, with what I could, and actually ended up painting the armor the weekend before we left. After many, many episodes of Eureka, we both were up until about 4am the night before we left finishing strapping, fitting, and just making sure it looked good. And it did. It really did. For all our combined perfectionism, when I saw this picture of myself (left) from that evening, I got incredibly giddy and immensely happy, not only because of how it looked, but because my wife put her heart and soul into making it for me.
So, the time had come. We packed everything up nicely into two trunks I got from WalMart (http://www.walmart.com/ip/Contico-Storage-Locker/2476189), paid those lovely airline fees for extra baggage, and made our way down to Richmond and ultimately Atlanta. I’d do it this way again though, without a doubt, because despite the fees it was easier and cheaper than shipping would have been.
Everything made it down safely, and we both had a brief moment of relief. Admittedly though, it was very hard to unwind from the stress and effort it took to make it happen. In the end it was definitely worth it, but we would never do things that way (last minute) ever again. Not like we had a choice really though. We did our best!
So onto the actual wearing experience. Thursday night, we attended a little meet and greet with folks from the N7 Elite Costume group, which we joined in the course of making the armor. Some of the tips they gave Jen were invaluable, and the group is filled with super nice and very talented people. After chatting with some really skilled builders and seeing some amazing armor pieces, I felt a little intimidated, but mainly just really excited to get to wear my set.
And so I did on Friday night. We strapped everything on and headed down to the Marriott lobby. I’ve done many costumes over the course of many years, but this was a different experience entirely. Not only was it incredibly popular and well received, but I felt a total badass. Savior of the Galaxy and all that jazz. Many pictures were taken by many people, but one of the highlights from that night was a BioWare employee coming up to us and saying how it was one of the best Shepard costumes he’s seen (!) Jen felt vindicated (I hope), and after an hour or so of walking around we went back upstairs.
Now, on to the downside: the thighs. AGAIN. The problem was, and we kind of anticipated this, whenever I walked they would start to shift down to my knees. When walking around the hotel floor, I could manage the problem by just pulling them up once in a while. But the real problem was the parade was the next day, and we had to come up with a solution before the morning.
Thus, we decided the best course of action was the secure the thighs to the torso on the sides. Some others had suggested it earlier, and it ended up working out great. With two straps on either side, they stayed in place when I walked (read: waddled) and seemed to do the trick. After some further adjustments to the inner straps and belt, we called it an early night for the morning.
So, onto Saturday. The plan was to meet early in the lobby and walk down with everyone to the staging point. Unfortunately, we ran a little behind, but weren’t in a huge rush because we could still walk down separate. As we headed down though, we saw everyone still in the lobby. With the group was Mark Meer, voice of Commander Shepard, and Rana McAnear, the face model for Samara. Mark was wearing an amazing half paragon/half renegade armor build, and Rana was in her well-known, stunning Samara outfit and makeup.
Slightly nervous, the first thing I did was introduce myself to Mark. There he was, then man who’s voice I listened for over the course 3 very long games and who was the catalyst (no pun intended) for all of the wonderful experiences I had throughout the story. I didn’t know what to expect, but he was incredibly gracious and pleasant, as was Rana. They’re both down to earth and incredibly fun to be around. I didn’t fanboy out, and tried to act as normal as possible, but I came close when they both graciously complimented my armor.
And it just got better from there on. Picture this: there I was, in my N7 armor, walking with Mark and Rana dressed as their characters from the Mass Effect series, alongside a Garrus, a Tali, and several Asaris. Every block we passed had people staring in awe and muddling “Oh my God” as we made our way to an, unbeknownst to me, even larger group. During one massive hill we were trying to all tackle, I said to Mark “Commander Shepard may have fought the Reapers, but he was unprepared for the true challenge that lay ahead: inclines.” He laughed.
As we made our way to the assigned area, more and more people started pouring in. Just when I thought we had everyone, someone else in an amazing costume would show up, and I’d hem and haw over what they were wearing. From baby EDI to renegade FemShep, we had just about all the major characters in our contingent.
So, one thing to mention before I lose my train of thought – comfort. I thought I’d be dying of heatstroke in the costume, but it really wasn’t that bad. It’s more so that it didn’t breathe, but outdoors with the breeze I barely sweat at all. Even inside, I didn’t break into a slop sweat, and if it weren’t for massive crowds of people I would have worn it for longer. There was an issue the right bicep though – it was a bit too tight and hurt after a while, but’s an easy adjustment and has nothing to do with wearing it overall. So yeah – not too shabby.
Once the parade got started, the combined might of our Mass Effect goodness brought smiles to children’s faces and cheers from many. We hammed it up and gave a lot of high fives, and to this day I’m still hunting Flickr for more pictures that people took. Every once in a while, Mark would stop in front a group of people, ham it up, and the crowd would love it. Some people recognized him, too, and lost their shit (I’m too far back in that video, but you can see Jen!)
The only downside of the experience was this weird furry/Team Fortress group that would casually work their way into our contingent. Whether out of ignorance or on purpose, Jen shot them down on several occasions and tried her best to make them keep their distance. Can’t win ’em all.
So with the parade finished, I got some quick pictures with Mark before the photoshoot later that day, which I knew would be inevitably crowded. He again was as nice as could be, and I thanked him immensely for walking with us.
Onto the final bit. If you’re still reading, I commend you. The big Mass Effect photoshoot was later that day on the 10th floor, and it was a doozy. Far more people were there than those who walked with us in the parade, including a Wrex, Mordin, and many, many Shepards. I took part in the Shepard group pic, along with the big overall group pic that was taken at the end. I sort of nudged myself behind Mark and Rana, but not intentionally, it just ended up that way. There’s a picture out there somewhere of Rana acting like she was picking my nose with two fingers, and if I ever find it I’ll share.
We also got a group picture with Chris Priestly of Bioware, who I could tell was just as astounded as we all were. That kind of sealed the deal there and brought everything full circle. So, after taking some side pictures with some friends and getting some shots with Rana, I called it. I hung up my sweaty jumpsuit and didn’t wear the armor on the last day – partially because one of the thigh straps broke in the last 15 minutes I had it on.
So that’s it. It was a wild ride, but I had a great time wearing it, and can’t thank my wife enough for all the time she put in. It’s not the end though – there’s some things she’s going to improve (to an extent) for version 2.0, which you’ll see me sporting next year; and if all goes well, Jen will be wearing her FemShep armor, too.
You can see all the pictures from my camera on my Flickr site here.
To close, here’s some random pictures others took of me in the armor: