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Millions dead; posters ruined.

Game: Halo: Reach Release:Sep 2010 Platform: Xbox 360 Creative Director: Marcus Lehto

If they can be called anything, Bungie are dedicated and thoroughly talented world builders. Technical merits of the franchise aside (as compared to others in the genre) the dedication and energy invested into crafting the Halo-verse reaches levels only surpassed by science fiction pillars like Star Trek, Warhammer 40K, and the increasingly convoluted Star Wars universe.

Thats why upon first booting and playing Halo: Reach, I was not surprised to see more of the same level of dedication and attention to detail. Nonetheless, as I have been in the past by previous Halo outings, I became enthralled and interested with the smaller touches, the almost unnoticeable strokes of world building that an average player might stroll right by. Like these amazing posters for instance.

Dead colonist amidst UNSC/Reach propaganda posters

Strewn throughout the Reach campaign are posters which feature images and text that seem to communicate a variety of ideas about the Halo world; cryptic advertisements for organizations, government programs, and populist messages that the people of Reach commonly understand. They provide another facet to the world of Halo and feel uniquely inspired by design of the mid-early 20th century while still maintaining an appropriate “Halo-ness” aesthetic.

As seen previously in Excellence in Achievements (#2) – TF2 the works of Lester Beall have sewn a legacy throughout the 20th century and into today. Both exemplify a simplified style depicting structures and shapes of solid color. You can see the similarity in his works and the minimal style of the Reach posters here:

Posters for the Rural Electrification Administration
by Lester Beall – circa 1934
Posters from Reach campaign

Although they can be found in almost every location in the game, these works are primarily found in the first playable mission “Winter Contingency” which takes place amongst a small cluster of inhabited/agrarian places on Reach. It makes narrative sense that in order to maintain a happy, productive, and loyal populace this type of positive reinforcement would appear most frequently where they live and work.

Bear in mind that since I have zero reference other than context, I have given all these posters tentative titles:

One Man Army

The reason for this title should be fairly obvious. I doubt this is actually meant to be a piece of military propaganda but the tie-in with the Master Chief (referred to frequently as a “one-man army” in various direct and indirect ways) seemed to fit. It actually seems more about the power of the individual and that everyone plays an equally small but important part in a much bigger role (the outward expansion of the human race, the war effort, etc). The only perplexing thing is the dead-on recreation of the Purina logo in the bottom right. Not sure what’s going on there.

Original in-game poster Redrawn vector version

Recreating this was a bit of a challenge as the figures themselves are quite pixelated on the in-game art. It appears as though two separate figures are depicted (male/female?), but it could be a result of the compression on the texture file.

Local 542

Given the setting of where this poster is encountered, these silhouettes are reminiscent of grain silos or some kind of agricultural storage structure. The number at the top denotes absolutely nothing relevant to the Halo fiction, but with the civilian locale I imagine it as being some kind of labor union number; at the very least something significant to the work force of Reach. Not sure if the “M” shapes are meant to stand for the letter or depict some kind of wave/energy source coming from inside the structure shape. I like the the ambiguity of this one a lot.

Original in-game poster Redrawn vector version

Recreating this one was a simple affair; the typeface used at the top is Futura Medium.

Arisol 9 – The List

The world ‘Arisol’ appears on another poster covered below. It seems to be utilized as the name of a company or specific location on Reach. The number ‘9‘ designation is a little interesting given that on the list at right the numbers ‘One’ through ‘Eleven’ are spelled out but with ‘Seven’ and ‘Eleven’ seemingly crossed out after the creation of the poster, leaving exactly 9 items remaining on the list. As reader ‘chris’ below pointed out I don’t know how to read. The poster is mysteriously missing a tenth list entry and thus the correct math leaves 8 remaining items and renders my entire point useless. Also given Bungie’s penchant for bizarre numerology usage through the Halo and Marathon fictions: 7 + 11 = 18, 1 + 8 = 9. I’d like to imagine this as being a poster denoting important locations for the Arisol Corporation, and that stations ‘Seven’ and ‘Eleven’ are out of comission or destroyed by the Covenant. The Purina logo also appears here next to some text that is for the most part nonsensical.

Original in-game poster Redrawn vector version

Recreating this poster proved slightly challenging in deciphering the “AFE” or “APE” text toward the bottom of the poster. The typeface for ‘Arisol 9′ is again Futura Medium; the list itself is set in Times New Roman bold.

Reach OSHA

Perhaps the most straight-forward entry in this series but it would have felt incomplete without its inclusion. I particularly like the stylized face here and its resemblance to the PBS logo. The text in the upper-right is a 98% fabrication on my part. At the very least it feels appropriate since overall the piece is obviously drawn from the types of OSHA guideline flyers you find in a break room at work or a loading bay in a warehouse.

Original in-game poster Redrawn vector version

Strangely the hardest part about redrawing this piece was getting the fonts correct. The top ‘Warning’ is set in a horizontally stretched version of Arial (not Helvetica, strangely) Bold, and the bottom line is Eurostile Bold. I don’t know if Eurostile is the actual font for the in-game art, but its a very close match.

Fight for Her (Reach edition)

This is one of my favorites of the bunch. It’s simplicity is only matched by the great story it seems to tell. Again we can pull from the context of the setting here and surmise that the arrows along the bottom serve a double duty: both depicting a stylized reprsentation of the forested areas on Reach as well as pointing upward toward the “sky” and the 3 black circles above. To me, these circles clearly stand for some kind of astronomical bodies. Looking into the expanded fiction of the Halo-verse, we can see that Reach does in fact have two moons (Csodaszarvas, Turu) which I think is quite clearly depicted here by the 3-circle glyph (Reach and its two orbiting moons).

To me this is sort of reminiscent of the “Fight for Her” poster seen in the first level of Halo: Combat Evolved. A sort of patriotic reminder of what exactly is at stake and of the planet you as a citizen of Reach are working so hard to preserve and grow.

Fight for Her poster -
in-game Halo: Combat Evolved

At this point I was becoming quite interested in what I have previously called the “Purina” logo and what it meant exactly. I have not been able to decipher it as of yet despite trying to extract meaning from it (5 squares? the importance of 5? checkerboard pattern?) as related to the existing fiction of Halo.

Original in-game poster Redrawn vector version

Love this one, so simple to redraw and the black-on-yellow combination is striking.

Arisol 59

This is my other favorite of this series. Any type of graphic that utilizes what I call the “8-bit” approach automatically wins points in my book. The “8-bit” approach in this sense refers to two planes of color (in this case yellow and white) used to represent a large open space like a field or a body of water. Think of how many classic NES games that utilize a simple plane of green underneath a plane of blue to depict a sprawling field on a bright sunny day. I could post about this phenomenon by itself some day. Here this technique is used to great effect. A stylized factory building some kind sitting along the horizon, the exhaust of its process billowing into the sky. This poster more than the previous ‘Arisol 9′ piece is what leads me to believe that Arisol is the name of a company.

What the “59″ means here is ambiguous but I just really love the simplistic, flattened Chuck Jones quality the structure and “smoke lines” have. Also, the “Purina” logo makes another appearance.

Original in-game poster Redrawn vector version

As before with the other posters, “Arisol 59″ is set in Futura Medium. A great font that lends a clean, industrial and slightly “retro” look to these works of art.

Conclusion

As tools for world building these pieces perform flawlessly; releasing tiny bits of visual information into the player’s mind that solidify Reach as a real place occupied with real people. Unfortunately, the almost surgically minimalist design aesthetic these posters utilize offer little to no actual insight or story component about the Halo-verse. However the interesting little corners in the fiction they carve out help to sell the reality of this virtual space perhaps a little more than one would appreciate at first glance.

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Posted in Art & Design, Games, Halo: Reach, Typography
12 comments on “Millions dead; posters ruined.
  1. Britton Stanaland says:

    it seems to me that the posters say “ARI SOL” and not “ARISOL”

    • admin says:

      I don’t disagree with you necessarily, because separating out the “SOL” gives it some additional credence in the Halo fiction (Sol=Earth’s solar system, like many great sci-fi universes) but for whatever reason as I was re-creating them it just “felt” like it was intended to be ARISOL as one word. I appreciate the comment!

  2. Adam says:

    Nice recreation. A fellow HBO fan also did some recreation on his part (see http://halo.bungie.org/misc/sloftus_signs/ ).

  3. Schedonnardus says:

    “Sol” means “Sun.” Not Earth.

    • Sean Haas says:

      Correct, I suppose I meant to relate “Sol” to the name our solar system that Earth is in, and not the planet itself. My mistake.

  4. chris says:

    there is no “10″ on the list so only 8 items remain, not 9.

  5. Tim says:

    Just a quick note re: the ‘purina’ logo; it’s very reminiscent to me of the CFA logo (an australian volunteer emergency services authority)

    See: http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/

    • Sean Haas says:

      Tim, thanks for the addition! Very interesting that their logo is more or less an extended version of the same mark. From what I know, isn’t the checkerboard pattern used extensively for Australian police vehicles and uniforms as well?

  6. Dai says:

    The ‘Purina’ logo also appears (kind of) in-game on the ‘Operator’ armor shoulder worn by Emile (and available from the armory for purchase): http://images.wikia.com/halo/images/9/9a/Operator_Shoulder.jpg

    There are other ‘trademarks’ or equipment / ordnance identifiers at various places in the game – Misriah Armory, the Gungnir mark on the eponymous helmet and the Spartan Laser, and the T-shape mark on the ‘Commando’ armor. Just FYI. Not that I spend way too long speculating about this.

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