Exclusive Forward Unto Dawn Interview With Frank O’Connor & Kevin Grace

It’s with great privilege and honor that I bring you the first in a series of features detailing the upcoming Halo film project Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. Stay tuned for more, but for now, enjoy what these lovely chaps have to say…

For more great Forward Unto Dawn content, don’t forget to check out ReadyUpLive.com, CruelLEGACEYproductions.com, and IGN.com

<3 Grim

One on 1 with Josh Isom/Hitmonchan107

So I’m going to try something a bit new for a little while on the GBO Blog. I got to thinking about the gaming community and kept coming back to how much I love all the people involved. I’ve been honored to have so many awesome conversations with people in the industry from common fans to community managers.  I wanted to see if I could capture a little bit of the magic in those moments and bring them to you, so for the near future, I’m going to share conversations that I have with various people in the community. Hopefully you get a chance to see a new side of each of our participants, and at the very least have your eyes amused for a moment or two.

We start off with Josh Isom, though most of the Halo Community will know him better as Hitmonchan107. He’s an avid contributor to both the HaloGAF and Halo.Bungie.Org communities, even enjoying a stint on staff at HBO before moving on to bigger opportunities. Josh now finds himself the Community Manager for Trendy Entertainment in Gainesville, FL. He was gracious enough to spend some time talking with me about a number of different topics. Hopefully you have as much fun reading as we did speaking…

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GrimBrother One: Okay… so, how long have you been “gaming” in general? Any earliest memories of a particular game or system?

Josh Isom: The earliest memory I have of playing video games was when I was four or five. I remember playing DuckTales on the NES. I was frustrated by a witch or something like that, and I yelled, “You bitch!” I think that was also the first time I got in trouble with my parents for cursing. Heh.

GrimBrother One: Lol, of course, you really were only mispronouncing “witch”, right?

Josh Isom: Haha, maybe. ;)

GrimBrother One: Who knew DuckTales was rated T for Teen

Josh Isom: I remember my mom handled that very well. She sat me down and told me that bitch meant a female dog, but that it shouldn’t be used for anything other than that.

GrimBrother One: There’s a project we should start. A DuckTales reboot that’s a much darker story… I’ve got a few ideas in mind for the Bi – I mean Witch

Josh Isom: As long as it has the music from DuckTales, count me in.

GrimBrother One: Done. I’m already on Kickstarter’s website…

Josh Isom: Haha!

GrimBrother One: That’s industry standard by now, right?

Josh Isom: I smell a lawsuit cooking.

Josh Isom: Kickstarter is fantastic. I love seeing people paying for a product based on the idea alone. At the moment, it seems like the products that get the most support are the ones that tap into our nostalgia, but hopefully it’s drawing more attention to the lesser known ideas on the site.

GrimBrother One: Yeah, people seem to also be buying into the personality behind it as well. I think that especially in these early goings, it’s an incredibly important factor. Tim Schafer’s success relative to many other potentially equally-cool ideas seems to show this.

GrimBrother One: Your mother was right though, and it’s still a very important life lesson that the word Bitch only be used when referencing a female dog.

Josh Isom: That’s actually one of the reasons why I stay away from mainstream rap. Hearing women objectified and being called bitch infuriates me to no end.

GrimBrother One: Completely agree there. On a slightly related note, it’s also why I tend to really enjoy playing games with a strong and (more or less) unobjectified female lead or costar. FemShep for the win.

Josh Isom: You know, I have yet to play through Mass Effect as FemShep. I keep hearing that I’m not playing Mass Effect if I’m not playing as FemShep.

GrimBrother One: You keep hearing correctly, in my humble opinion.  There’s just something about the combination of the way Jennifer Hale delivers the dialogue and the way the Mass Effect universe reacts to and interacts with FemShep that just creates a much richer experience. Again, in my opinion of course.

GrimBrother One: So, the other side of your life is Journalism. How long have you been involved in that?

Josh Isom: Honestly, I didn’t get involved with journalism until my freshman year of college. I joined the newspaper staff of the community college near my hometown, and I nearly failed it. I hadn’t taken a single journalism course in my life, and I hadn’t read a newspaper in ages, so I wasn’t familiar with that style of writing. My first story was about people and their fear of donating blood or getting their blood tested. I remember my editor sat down and tore it to shreds. She didn’t tell me it was shit, but she didn’t have to. The red marks on the paper said everything.  That was also when I learned the first draft of anything is going to be terrible. Writing is hard work. I think people look at other people’s writing and think, “Man, I’m never going to be able to write like them. The diction, the syntax — it’s all perfect.” That doesn’t happen on the first try.

GrimBrother One: What’s funny is that if that’s true, then your writing has certainly come a long way in a short time.

Josh Isom: It’s certainly something I struggle with now. I’ve gone back and read Frankie or Urk’s old weekly updates, and I get a little discouraged at my own writing.

GrimBrother One: Join the club. I’ll get you a t-shirt.

Josh Isom: Yes! I’m a part of something! I feel so special now. I…belong.

GrimBrother One: You’re always welcome here. Until you become too talented… then we hate you too. Not long ago you enjoyed a great stint on the staff at Halo.Bungie.Org not only doing some great writing for some of the Front Page (it exists) posts, but also doing some excellent fact-finding and digging as well.  How did that come about, and did it teach you anything different about the skill?

Josh Isom: I remember digging for hours through trademark filings and business incorporation paperwork. I think most of that came about from being genuinely excited about journalism and fact finding. HBO reignited my flame for writing that college had killed. UF has one tough journalism program. I felt the style of writing they were teaching was stifling. It’s hard to describe. But with HBO, there are no pre-determined writing styles I have to follow. It was liberating. More than anything, my short time there helped me decide my future career path as a community manager. Also, there was a front page? Holy shit.

GrimBrother One: I know, right? I should go post about that… But where?

Josh Isom: hahah! :)

GrimBrother One: So let’s talk about that career path you mentioned. You are with Trendy Entertainment. How did you get involved with them, and how did your role evolve at the studio?

Josh Isom: I started as an intern at Trendy Entertainment back in July of last year. There wasn’t really a community management internship position. But I asked Phil, our marketing director, if I could help the CM at the time, Justin Danford, with forum moderation and news posts. So I guess I kind of wormed my way in to the studio. Danford stepped down in January of this year, and thankfully Phil and the rest of the team asked me to step in as community manager.

GrimBrother One: So how has it been going so far at Trendy? What would you say the studio is known best for and why should we play their games?

Josh Isom: My time at Trendy has been equal parts intimidating and exciting. It’s strange to manage a community that someone else cultivated. It’s like marrying a widow. She loved someone else dearly, and I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to love again. But I’ve made it my goal to be as available as possible. It’s led to some sleepless nights, but I think the effort has been worth it. This community is filled with very talented, passionate people, and I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else. (Especially the guys and girls who hang out in our Cutest Pictures off-topic thread. They’ve made my day brighter on so many occasions.)

I think our studio is known for our community engagement and our willingness to incorporate community ideas. Our team is committed to delivering a product that people want to play. One of the new modes we’re coming out with this week, a new PvP mode, comes from our community’s desire to see a stronger PvP element in the game. It’s exhilarating to be a part of a company that takes community seriously.

GrimBrother One: So the latest game at Trendy Entertainment is Dungeon Defenders, and as everyone should take a moment throughout the day to do some pimpin’, we offer you the stage. For anyone who doesn’t know, what’s it all about?

Josh Isom: Dungeon Defenders is a tower defense/action-RPG hybrid. It blends the defense building of a tower defense game with the one-on-one combat, character leveling and loot of an action-RPG. It sounds like a strange mixture to be fair, but I think people should download the demo and try it out for themselves if they haven’t already. There are other challenges in the game if tower defense isn’t your cup of tea, like Monster Fest, which gives players a set number of lives and enemies to kill within a certain amount of time. My personal favorite is Assault where players have to run through enemies and defenses to destroy the cores.

GrimBrother One: Core stolen?

Josh Isom: CORE DROPPED.

GrimBrother One: My thoughts exactly

Josh Isom: It does remind me a little bit of Invasion without the wave progression. For the record, I love Invasion, especially the custom map from the HBO community with the first wave of invading Falcons. Good times.

GrimBrother One: Lol, speaking of which, since many of our readers would be coming from the Halo-side of things, do you have any particularly special memories involving the Halo Community?

Josh Isom: I had a blast hosting the Halo Community Tournament last year. Trying to coordinate more than 400 people in one event was something I hadn’t tried before. There were a few missteps, but for the most part, it went off smoothly. And meeting the fans at Halo Fest at PAX Prime was entertaining. Seeing the online personalities in real life was a treat.

GrimBrother One: HaloFest was definitely amazing. It’s always an awesome mixture of feelings when you finally get to put those faces to a Gamertag or forum handle.

Josh Isom: I also really enjoyed playing in the HaloGAF Customs Nights last year. It brought back the LAN-like nostalgia I hadn’t experienced since the Halo 3 days. That was around the time my neighborhood got DSL. I lived with dial-up internet until I was 18 or 19 years old. High-speed Internet is still a relatively new experience for me. lol

GrimBrother One: I remember dial-up… that’s when you knew it was working because it sounded like it was broken.

Josh Isom: YouTube took forever to load, so I never randomly looked at cat videos. I generally stayed in the online forums, the weekly updates from Bungie and maybe a few gaming news websites. My Internet days pre-DSL were abysmal. But now, I can watch cat clips all day. Life’s good. My girlfriend told me she used to have a dance she would do during the dial-up noise. I never went that far. I just memorized exactly how it sounded. It’s a noise that haunts my dreams.

GrimBrother One: Sheesh, a site like HBO would be a GODSEND in situations like that!

Josh Isom: Thank God for HBO! I love the minimal aesthetic. Perfect for the 56k kids. ;)

GrimBrother One: Amen to that! I’m pretty sure Louis Wu actually invented proper dial up. It was only 49k until he added the extra 7 in there.

Josh Isom: hahaha!  I love Claude. He is one of the nicest (and tallest) men I have ever met. I remember meeting him at PAX last year. I was feeling awful because my internship at Trendy meant I didn’t have time for HBO, and he made it very clear that he didn’t require a time commitment from me. He is the Godfather of the Halo community for a reason. I have no clue how he has time for everything in his life. I could learn a few things from him.

GrimBrother One: I’ll second AND third that, my friend.  Alright, let’s get a few rapid-fire answers to wrap things up.

Josh Isom: okie doke

GrimBrother One: Apples or Oranges?

Josh Isom: Apples

GrimBrother One: Cake or Ice Cream?

Josh Isom: Cake

GrimBrother One: Red or Blue?

Josh Isom: Blue (Pokémon Blue, son.)

GrimBrother One: Jello: With Fruit or Without?

Josh Isom: Without. I hate the chunks. Bleck.

GrimBrother One: Huntress or Countess?

Josh Isom: Countess.

GrimBrother One: Nintendo or Sega?

Josh Isom: Nintendo. No contest.

GrimBrother One: Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct?

Josh Isom: Killer Instinct. My first and favorite fighting game ever.

GrimBrother One: You and I are now best friends. All others need no longer apply.

Josh Isom: Nice.

GrimBrother One: About the game project we were talking about starting… I think we’ve found another franchise to resurrect.

Josh Isom: YES. I keep hearing rumors about Killer Instinct 3 on the Internet. I hope they’re true.

GrimBrother One: You and me both.

GrimBrother One: Josh, thanks so much for your time here, and thanks for all you’ve done for the HBO & Halo community these past few years.

Josh Isom: Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you again! Don’t be a stranger. :)

GrimBrother One: No worries there!

Thanks so much to Josh for joining us. Definitely check out Trendy Entertainment’s Dungeon Defenders on XBOX Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC. We’ll be back with another guest in the near future, so stay tuned!

Update 1-21-12

Temperate Greetings and Artifacts of Expression

64 cloudless degrees Fahrenheit make for a beautiful setting to spend speaking with you all this morning. Since our last update, the gaming community has been at a pretty standard buzz level (other than the SOPA/PIPA rage moments), as catch-up is attempted on titles unattended while attempting to simultaneously quell the painful longing for upcoming ones.

During that time, I also received a suspicious package in the mail. Upon opening it, I realized that my gift from the epic HBO Secret Santa event of 2011 had finally arrived. What I found inside was a Polyvinyl Chloridic device I would later learn was the “Grim Scepter of Editorial Authority”. This information was found inked upon the tattered parchment included within the package. The page told of a perilous journey to distant lands to obtain the device… the scepter I learned “grants the wielder the confidence to speak as they see fit, whenever it so pleases them…” What an amazing gift! Forerunner Schmorerunner… here was an artifact for the ages! Many thanks to my mystery adventurous gift-giver, and another round of thanks to HBO member JD Quackers, who so selflessly and smoothly put together and carried out the whole event with near-flawless execution and integrity.

The Gratitude Continues

As many of you know, I started the Age of Gratitude Project midway through last year to celebrate the lead-up to Halo’s 10th Anniversary. The site now contains just over 60 submissions from fans across our blue space orb, with 9 new entries being added just this past week. The new entries include submissions from Ecuador to the Netherlands and various locations in between. It’s a great feeling to know that there are individuals out there who share an intense passion for some of the same things as you. The sense of community I always walk away with after reading everyone’s entries is both humbling and inspiring. Definitely check it out if you get the chance, and add your own story to the fold if you feel so inclined!

It’s a Terminal Illness

Recently, the lovely Jillybean brought up an idea to the Halo.Bungie.Org forums about putting together a fan-produced/performed radio play based on the Halo 3 Terminals, done in the similar style as the Halo: ODST “terminals” (also known as “Sadie’s Story”). The response was fantastic, and I know that submissions for auditions from everything from VO talent to artistic ability have poured in from incredibly talented members of the Halo community. The venerable Louis Wu himself has stated time and time again that the passion and drive of the Halo Community’s creativity is almost impossible to turn your back on. It truly is incredible to see individuals come together at a moment’s notice to work toward a common goal, and I absolutely cannot wait to see the end result.

On a slightly related note, it further brought up something that I have been wanting to see on Halo Waypoint for some time now: All of the various terminals from the different games as well as any canonical ARG’s (such as I Love Bees or Iris if 343 Industries so sees fit). I absolutely loved the integration that was made with the Halo: Anniversary terminals on the various Halo Waypoint portals (console, web, mobile). I loved the fact that you could enter in codes on a Forerunner-styled interface and unlock the Anniversary terminal cutscenes for viewing and perusal right there within Waypoint. So how about doing it for the others? I would love to see the chase be on for the way to unlock the content from the full Halo 3 terminals (both versions), the I Love Bees & Iris content, Sadie’s Story from Halo: ODST, and the Data Pads from Halo: Reach. Each of these holds what is to me an incredibly precious and important part of the greater fiction in the Halo Universe, and it would be great to not only make it more accessible to fans in a literal sense, but also introduce newcomers to some of the deepest recesses of the Halo story. So how about it, 343?

Drop Podtacular

Speaking of Halo: Anniversary, fellow Halo Waypoint Monitor Rukizzel and myself joined our good friend Duststorm over at Podtacular to record Episode 269, where we discussed our thoughts on the game. Podtacular is always a fun listen no matter who the guests are, so go and check it out and tell us your own thoughts.

Setting a New Trend

I want to take a moment to congratulate one of HBO’s own, Hitmonchan107, for becoming the new Community Manager at Trendy Entertainment! If you don’t know much about them, you should definitely check out their title Dungeon Defenders, which can be found on various digital-distribution channels including XBLA, PSN, and PC, as well as on Android and iOS platforms. Best of luck from all of us at HBO and in the greater Halo community, Hitmonchan! We know that the Trendy community is only going to become stronger with your presence there.

Cry Me a River

Recently HBO member and good friend The Lionheart announced an awesome and ambitious project to create Halo campaign based in the CryEngine 3 infrastructure.  A bit more information can be found in that link, with more info due on February 14th on how you can be involved with making this Sigma Octanus IV – based campaign become a reality. Definitely keep an eye out for that one.

Insert “Cry”-related pun/segue here: __________

Speaking of which, I was fortunate enough to be able to pick up the original Crysis on XBOX Live’s Games on Demand service. Wow… until a couple of years ago, while I loved my PC and playing games on it when I could, I hadn’t owned one that had the capability to number crunch the Human Genome Project, put a satellite into orbit, or run Crysis on full settings. All of which are related. I also liked just being able to experience the game from my couch, which won’t fit so comfortably in the room where my now-much-beefier PC currently resides. And um, Achievements, hello?

Anyway, I really enjoyed the game. Beautiful environments, and some really awesome gameplay mechanics that made for a very rich experience overall. I loved being able to switch back and forth between cloak and maximum armor, and approach most of the encounters however I so felt. The game felt very balanced and was a lot of fun to play. I will definitely look at picking up the second game soon to continue on with the story which, while not overly ground-breaking, was very satisfying in its own right.

Liquid Snakes & Lifeguarding

In addition to Crysis, I also was able to pick up the Limited Edition of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. I recently played through MGS3 (as it came first in the timeline of the fiction… that’s how I roll) and grabbed the Achievement for not killing anyone the whole game. Well, with one ill-fated gamesave-reload that is. Funny story incoming… I was nearing the end of the game, and snuck up on two enemies near a river. I tranquilized one successfully, and then proceeded to do the same to his unsuspecting polygonal partner. Unfortunately, the bastard fell into the stream, instead of away from it, and began to drown in the 4 inches of Russian water (see what I did there?). I instantly turned from “Snake-the-tactical-espionage-expert” to “Snake-the-Bay Watch-triage-expert”, repeatedly pressing X to try and pull my water-logged victim to safety. To my dismay, despite there being button commands for everything from “stab a frog with a fork and eat it” to “dress like a scientist and read the latest issue of EGM”, there was no “resuscitate the drowning enemy” command. Are you kidding me?! You’ve got 12 things in your backpack marked  “CQC”, but nothing for “CPR”? Awesome… So I figured I would just reload the checkpoint. Except that there are no checkpoints. And in this day and age of autosaves and hand-holding, I hadn’t manually saved in about 2 hours. Granted, for a MGS game, that usually only equates to about 20 minutes of actual playing, but still. I was so mad I turned it off and went to bed, but was too mad to sleep so I got back up, and played until like 2 or 3am until I had gotten back to where I started. You can be absolutely sure I lured that guard the hell away from the water before I made him start counting Овца.

Such Sweet Sorrow…

So that will be all for now. This coming weekend your Grim Uno will be found working in one of his other passions, international motorsport. I will be working (in a PR/Community Management role) with a number of teams and drivers contesting the 50th running of the Rolex 24 Hours in Daytona. Trust me though… if my plan works out, you might see a little piece of Halo running around the track as well. We’ll see ;-)  So until next time…

2KHMX-M97R4-PR2K3-PQVCM-M9YRZ 

Oh, and uh… Roll Tide.

<3 Grim

Update 1-7-2012

Thanks for tuning in to the first of hopefully many musings on my life and times in the Halo Community and the gaming industry at large. Hope you enjoy your stay. Don’t forget to wait on your tippers.

Closings and Openings 

2011 was an incredible year to be a video game fan in general, but an especially amazing time to be a Halo fan. With the year kicking off with the outstanding (in my opinion) first entry into the Greg Bear-penned Forerunner Saga, Cryptum, and continuing on through the announcement of Halo: Anniversary and Halo 4 at E3, HaloFest at PAX Prime, Karen Traviss’ Glasslands, and the actual launch of Anniversary on the 10-year mark of the franchise in November…

2012 looks to be no different, with Primordium, book two in the aforementioned Forerunner Saga launching earlier this week. If you haven’t gone and gotten it yet, I recommend it. It shakes the foundations of the franchise’s already deep fiction, and really sets an intriguing table for our epic embarking into new territories with Halo 4 later this year. Read it before you are spoiled, and preferably before any Halo 4 story details come out (probably via the French). There’s plenty more I want to say about Primordium, but I’m going to hold off until more have had a chance to read it, and I’m a bit freer with what I want to say…

Wunicorns and Wainbows

In a related note, the dedication page in Primordium is aimed toward Mr. Bungie.Org himself, Claude Errera. Or as the internet world knows him, “Louis Wu”. Or as I know him, “My Master”. Or as his wife knows him, “[REDACTED]“. Wu’s contribution to the Halo Community at large cannot be understated. Especially the large part (have you seen the man?). He has fostered the growth of an incredibly passionate fanbase and helped to highlight some of the most amazing, loving, in creative corners of the community. Halo would be a lesser experience if not for his work, and the work of others he has inspired. I hope he knows how much he is appreciated.

Discussion Time

Speaking of the Halo story, there are some awesome discussions taking place around the HBO and Halo Waypoint forums lately. Keep in mind that these are absolutely spoiler territory for a variety of different pieces of the fiction, so consider yourself warned. Here are a few of my favorites, and if you feel so inclined (and can figure out how to post on HBO), join in the discussion!

anoton1972′s analysis of the Sangheili Arum (as described in Halo: Glasslands

Mid7night’s Primordium musings 

Grizzlei’s Primordium thoughts via his blog

Postmortem’s questions on visibility in space, in which brilliant minds collaborate to discuss theories and answers 

Avu Med Telcam’s thoughts on the “Timeless One” from Cryptum & Primordium 

Stephen “Scale me, baby” Loftus and his thoughts on Homecoming’s (from Halo: Legends) fictional astronomical/geographic location

Ducking Hilarious

If you are into great cartoons, and Halo, then you will ABSOLUTELY want to check out HBO’s own petetheduck and his hyperamusing spot on the web: http://idleduck.com/ The art is super fun, and the humor always giggle-worthy. If you only have time to do one thing today, tell your loved ones you love them. If you have time for two, then read this website right afterwards.

Best Wishes

I wanted to personally wish Bungie’s newest Community Manager (Assistant to the Community Manager?), and longtime Halo fan DeeJ, the absolute best of luck in his new role at Bungie. So far it looks like he’s been doing an outstanding job, and I’m sure it will continue as he becomes a deeper part of Bungie’s next adventure. Great job, DeeJ, here’s hoping that grass is just as green as we all dream it is! ;-)

Yes Virginia, There Are Other Games Out There 

So, as many of you know already, I’m not just a Halo fan. I have a pretty darn eclectic taste in games of all walks and platforms, actually. Just last night I went to war with GrimBrothers III and IV defending the honor of the the Emperor in Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, an extremely fun and well-polished title. We were rocking the Exterminatus (Horde) Mode and dispatching orcs like so many chicken wings past conquered. 

Also on the docket has been some good times with friend and fellow Halo Waypoint moderator Rukizzel on the newly-released NFL Blitz. Did I mention that my “day job” has an old 1999 Blitz arcade cabinet? Yeah… more on that another time.

Also recently grabbed the Season Pass for Gears of War 3 during the holiday sale on Xbox LIVE and have been Ramm-ing it hardcore with Grim Superfriend Macsimos 326. Good times indeed.

What have you guys been playing? Besides Skyrim, I mean…

That’s All… For Now…

So until next time, thanks for listening. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. Or a brownie. They are delicious.

YVG4M-KC679-FYRX9-RQDWH-2663Z

<3 Grim

 

A Grim Future…

Sometimes I wonder myself how many plays off the word “Grim” I’m going to be able to make before someone sneaks up behind me one day and takes out their literary frustration out on me. That being said, welcome to this new little corner of the web. Regular visitors of HBO (and other forums, for that matter) will of course have become used to seeing my prose smattered about the usual digs. I’ve received more than a few requests inquiring if I might start giving a bit of a “Community Report”, based on what I see happening around the Halo Community, specifically HBO. It’s actually an idea that I had been kicking around for quite some time now, and I’m humbly happy to oblige.

I will say though, that I won’t be sticking just to HBO. In fact, it won’t always be just to Halo either. I think it’s important to come up to the oft-rumored surface to take a look at the grander picture. Sometimes it will also remind you just how good you’ve got it being surrounded by the community you know and love.

So that’s what I’ll be doing. As often as possible, I’ll be bringing you my thoughts and opinions, good, bad, or unfathomable, on the Halo Community and the gaming industry as a whole.  I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts and opinions as well (well, most of them, but I’m too lazy to actively discriminate), so feel free to leave comments, questions, or good recipes for making excellent thai food at home on a limited budget.

And thank you to each and every community member that has made me feel like a valued (or at least tolerated) part of your recreational lives. You all really do mean the world to me. So here we go…

<3 Grim

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