Jacob's Halo Cake
Oh yeah, a Halo cake. Being a big fan of Halo, I was more than pleased to volunteer for a Halo cake. Until I volunteered anyway. With so many possibilities and being a fan it definitely made it more difficult to choose what to make. At first I was strictly going to make a level from the game. Then a multiplayer level. I was bent on Zanzibar because I really wanted the large wheel rotating on a cake. But after sketching and playing around with ideas I couldn't decide what would be cake, I didn't want the "ground" as cake again. There there is scale. What scale do I want? The large toys with will limit me to a very small scene or the small toys where I can show more? With Halo 3 coming out I decided I wanted to try to mix all three games and try to mix a little of each into the cake. I decided on my own montage level. I have a base loosely based off of the Halo 3 beta level Valhalla (not sure what'll change on final release), background from Coagulation, toys from Halo 2. I suppose there isn't much at all from Halo 1 except for the music I mixed for the cake. I started off with this sketch as my basic design. I laid out the toys I had to see how large everything would need to be for movement, scale etc.
My favorite idea was making the Warthog drive around and not just move forward and back 2 inches. This was my first big test. Without this, I had to redesign. How lucky am I, just days after deciding on this concept a friend at work offered up his car window motor after the window mechanism broke. I would need a lot of torque to run the Warthog and this was it. I tested the motor after modifying it with a gear (and epoxy) on the counter. I found that I had ordered too little length of chain (only 6 ft) and that now limited how large the base could be in the center. Man, 6 feet sounded like plenty. After that test was successful I needed to build the base for a final test. Can it pull the Warthog? Can it turn the Warthog? It turns out it did great on the MDF. I still wasn't sure about adding sticky plastic under the plastic wheels but I assumed it would be fine.
Next was random motion. I don't typically have random motion on the cakes due to the set rpm of the motors. I'd bought a Prop-1 controller board originally for the Halloween cake but ran out of time before testing. This time I really wanted to give it a go. I'd bought 6 servos as well, 3 180s and 3 continuous. I made a really nice foamcore test unit for everything which I'll be keeping for future cakes. After asking around the EFX-TEK forums for help, JonnyMac helped me out big time....uh by actually writing the code for me. I need some serious practice at writing code for sure. The Prop-1 board controls 3 of the Spartans. The Master Chief on the base, the red Spartan in the rocks, the active camo Spartan in the back and the ray of light from the base center. The servos run a random pattern each which I find really cool. Much neater than the standard back and forth motion I usually have. The base center lights up about every 15 seconds and stays on for about 10 seconds. I'm not exactly using the board to it's full potential but hey, it's a start and I think it added a LOT to the cake.
After I knew the Warthog would work and I had some code for my shiny Prop-1 board. I had to get to work on the base. I mocked up the base in 3D software base on a couple images online. The Halo 3 beta just ended after I'd decided what I wanted so I wasn't able to hop in the game for further inspection. Ah well, it's my own level anyway. From the 3D render I plotted off some templates of cross sections. From these I cut out foamcore and styrofoam to make the base. I mixed 2 green and 2 blue LEDs for a teal color. Here is a test shot of the base assembled with lights installed. I did have the side panels set away from the structure as I remember it but once it came down to fondant frosting, the weight made it sound like a bad idea so I glued them all together instead.
After that it was mostly standard motors and lights. I was quite proud of my Ghost movement however. It is a strange contraption with a oblong hole around a bolt and a wheel. When pulled and pushed it tipped the Ghost toward the direction of movement...just like the game, whoo hoo! Here are some shots of the underside of the cake. Banshee mech. Spartan armor and sniper mech as the motor turns, the nails press the leaf switches together closing a circuit to the EL wire. Active camo Spartan mech. Spartan in the rocks. Prop-1 controlling 3 servos before the lights were hooked up. Motor running the chain to move the Warthog. Most everything on there before final flip of the cake and wiring run down to the Prop-1 and other lighting.
The parents of the birthday boy came over the night before to help with the fondant frosting which helped a TON. John (Jacob's dad) also took the screen grabs for me of Halo 2's Coagulation so I could Photoshop them together for printing. I mixed the music using Audacity from the original game music and by adding my own sounds in the background gathered from John and internet soundboards.
There is also a skull hidden behind the Banshee in the crevice atop the cliff. I don't think anyone saw that at the party :P.
The Bad: Not everything works. The flashing LEDs I'd put in the Banshee to simulate it firing just stopped flashing the night before the party. The little circuit board controlling my fading blue LED for Cortana also popped. No idea what happened but I was able to weasel a plain old blue LED in there instead. The Cortana hovering over the control panel and fading in and out and flickering just didn't look right without the fading but ah well. The active camo Spartan did move and turn but once I added the EL wire my movement groove was too small for the shaft/solder joint/EL combo and the soldered joint popped off, bad planning there. Once it's together that far there is no going back to fix this stuff as it is always almost zero hour when it does happen. Also, the ground is just plain green. I meant to have a more hilly terrain and more color but I simply ran out of time. Note to self, don't work 60+ hour weeks at work and attempt to make a cake.
The cake in action (26 mb)
Red Spartan (2 mb)
Ghost (3 mb)
Banshee (3 mb)
Warthog (4 mb)
Active Camo Spartan (xxx mb)
Master Chief and Transporter (3 mb)
Strafe Fight (2mb)