Super-fan/fiction aficionado, Stephen Loftus makes some very informed guesses at Halo’s scale.
This piece represents Stephen’s extremely detailed look at scale in the Halo Universe, circa October 2006. Take a look at a collection of updated images, engineered specifically for Halo Waypoint by pressing the A button, then find out just how Stephen does it below:
Determining a system of measure
The folks at Bungie were smart in making well over 90% of the characters, weapons, objects, and environments in Halo: Combat Evolved a consistent and uniform scale. It makes determining the true sizes of items in the Halo universe a feasible endeavor. Most 3D programs can determine the outer boundaries of any object made or imported within them. For the purpose of what’s being discussed and shown here, the 3D program is 3D Studio Max. An arbitrary system of values is given to each object imported into the program, and these numbers are consistent with each other.
Is this accurate?
Once we have access to numbers, they need to be made meaningful. To make them mean something in the real world, we need to at least have a definite value to calculate against. The easiest choice is the height given for the main character, Spartan-117. There is still debate as to how tall John really is, but the most accepted value is around 7ft tall. We'll assume for this discussion that it is, in fact, 7ft tall while he's in his armor.
For example, when looking at the Chief’s model in 3D Studio Max, it shows the Spartan mesh and the related properties for it. The Z value is the most meaningful one for this discussion. According to that number, the Spartan mesh is 0.704 in height. What does that number mean?
It's a number that tells us the mesh is that high in the vertical plane. It's helpful to game developers for ensuring that a character can walk through appropriately-sized halls and doorways by making them at least 0.704 or greater as well as other purposes. We need to turn that number into a meaningful value. If we were to multiply the number of the Mesh Value by ten, and called the resulting number a value measured in feet, then the Spartan mesh would be 0.704 x 10 = 7.04 (feet). That makes John just a hair over 7ft tall...that works for me! Ten may be an overly simplistic value. Perhaps it should be 10.06554 or something similar, but the point is just to get a number that allows us to translate meshes in the Halo universe into real numbers that are meaningful.
As more cross-referencing is done, it becomes apparent that the 'ten factor' works for other sources as well. One that comes to mind is that the weapons for the Joyride Studios action figures are scaled to their figures the same way the mesh Marines have similarly scaled mesh weapons. The MA5B Assault Rifle is the same length whether you use this system to determine its real world value or you just take a Halo action figure's AR, measure it, multiply by the figure's scale, and you'll get the same number.
Another example is the size of the Pillar of Autumn. Much like the Spartan mesh, we can see the three values of the outermost boundaries of the Autumn. The number that represents its overall length is 384.064. Remember that both the Master Chief and the Pillar of Autumn are the same relative size to one another. So we have to use the same conversion number, ten. So 384.064 x 10 = 3840.64 feet. This is where it gets creepy. If we change the value to metric, 3840ft becomes 1.17km. Does the system work? Did Bungie intend the Autumn to be 1.17km long? Or is it just another coincidence of the number 117 showing up so frequently with them?!
By determining a conversion factor to translate a mesh value into a known one, and having some known value by which it can be verified, the items, characters, vehicles, and locations in the Halo universe can be calculated.
The image gallery provided with this article display many of the ships, vehicles, and weapons from Halo. Each chart is consistently scaled to itself, and the small item on each chart becomes the basis of the one following so you can see the very large down to the very small. The formula determined above is used to obtain the values listed for each object. There are a few exceptions as I tried to logically place a few Halo 2 objects on the chart and determined their values through other scaling means, usually in reference to a known value.
For more information about Stephen Loftus’ analysis of scale in the Halo Universe or other articles he’s done, visit HBO at http://halo.bungie.org/ and stay tuned to Halo Waypoint!