Last week at Epic Games, we were treated to a visit by a member of the Onyx Guard. Actually, it was cosplayer Tonka1675, who created an amazing replica of the Onyx Guard armor. Epic Games Technical Support Manager Preston Thorne joined Tonka on his tour of the studio as Dr. Adam Fenix.
Tonka was really excited to meet the artists who created the Onyx Guard character, and they were just as excited to meet him.
The original concept was drawn by Senior Concept Artist Jay Hawkins and it was modeled by Senior Character Artist Mike Kime and skinned by Senior Artist Mike Buck. Technical Animator Jeremy Ernst did the rigging.
Senior Environment Artist, Bill Green, invited Jordan to a photo shoot this past weekend and he kindly obliged. The photos are fantastic! Thanks to everyone who participated in the tour and to Tonka and his wife for taking the time to make everyone’s day here at Epic Headquarters!
We had the chance to ask Tonka a few questions about Gears of War. his Onyx Guard armor and what he has in store for us in the future.
Flak: How long have you been playing Gears of War?
Tonka1675: I started playing Gears 2 because a lot of my 300 Spartan costuming friends played it on Friday nights. At first it was very hard to adjust to the 3rd person viewpoint after so many years of playing FPS, but after playing through 2 I went back and played through 1. I really began to love the series during 3’s beta release, and that’s when I knew I had to do a costume from the series.
T: The great cinematics, gritty and detailed characters and environments, and Horde mode!
F: What made you decide to do a Gears of War cosplay?
T: This project started as a group. All of my Gears friends have their own character that they use exclusively when they are on the COG side. I loved the Onyx Guard from the minute he was released as a MP skin, so I claimed him. As things came up, it slowly dwindled down to just me in armor, but a few of the others have pulled off non armor versions in time for Dragon Con this year.
I have been costuming for a long time, but seriously for about 10 years. My beginning with serious costuming started with the 501st legion, a Star Wars costuming group that focuses on raising money for children’s charities, and is where my background in armor making comes from. About 4 years ago I started branching out into other genres and now I really try to focus on learning at least one new costuming skill per project.
F: Could you tell us a little about how you made the Onyx Guard?
T: Because I knew I was going to have to start before everyone because of the greater number of pieces, I started way back in January. After a month of planning and starting on the basic pieces. One night I just happen to be bored and posted a shot of the Onyx Guard to my facebook page as a future project. That’s when my Friend Preston Thorne stepped in. Preston is an employee at Epic, and went through the process of getting me approved to receive unreleased references. That’s when things really started picking up because I didn’t have to wonder what something looked like, I had every angle I could possibly want.
I started with the chest/back because I knew that it would be the key to getting the proportions right. Every armor piece on the costume is made from EVA anti-fatigue floors mats, so the process involved making paper templates from the references, cutting it from foam, dremeling or adding the details, heat shaping, and then painting with Plastidip spray and adding the attachment points. The helmet is made through the pepkura process of making a base from cardstock and layering it with fiberglass, bondo and spot putty. The lancer is a repainted NECA lancer where Preston gutted the existing electronics and added LED’s, and I created waterslide decals to replace the ones I painted over. Thankfully I’m a teacher, so I had the entire summer to work on it.
I won’t say that it’s perfect, but it is accurate to the point that I recreated the boot soles and added parts like the helmet jaw line eyelets/lacing that aren’t even visible when playing the actual game!
T: Officially, 6 long months! Though as I have learned over the years, a costume is never really finished. It will continually be in the process maintenance and upgrades like adding new weapons!
F: What was the hardest part about creating it?
T: The hardest part was that while I knew quite a bit about armor making and how it needed to function as a costume, but I hadn’t ever worked with any of the materials that I made this costume from. I had to learn the pepakura process, how to work with foam, EL and LED lighting, sound boards, and creating 2 part molds! Throw on top of that the fact that it’s very hard to get the proportions right because the Gears characters are so much more massive than the average person, it was quite a rewarding learning experience!
F: You recently visited Epic Games Headquarters as an Onyx Guard, how did that go?
T: Everyone at Epic was so welcoming and complimentary of the work I had put in. One of the highlights was the opportunity to meet both the Illustrator and 3d modeler of the Onyx Guard. It’s one thing to be told by other costumers you did a great job, but when the people who created the character are blown away, that’s the greatest compliment a costumer can receive!
Another highlight was getting to play Gears Judgment with the game testers while dressed as the Onyx Guard! The new controls took a bit to get used to, but I can’t wait until it releases next year!
F: Your wife also does cosplays, are you two going to any conventions this year?
T: Absolutely! We are leaving in a few days for Dragon Con in Atlanta, and we are looking forward to meeting other Gears costumers at the Gears of War panel on Sunday. We also will be attending a gaming convention in Raleigh, NC in 2.5 weeks.
F: What is your favorite part about doing cosplays?
T: Definitely making them and helping others to make their costumes better. I love the challenge of taking on costumes that require me to develop or learn new methods to accomplish. I rarely ever take commissions because of the time involved, but I love to get together with other costumers and have workshop days where we all bring projects to work on.
F: What is coming up in the future?
T: The plans for next year include a Steampunk Spiderman, Mass Effect N7 armor, and Neo from the Matrix Reloaded. Neo was my last costume I made before I got serious and I’d like to see the difference in what I can do now compared to then. I also used to compete internationally in Martial Arts, so a Green Power Ranger may be in the future if time permits!
Thank you Tonka!