Cosplay can be described as an outward expression of passion. A formidable force that unleashes creativity, inspiring players around the world to produce jaw-dropping renditions of their favorite video game characters.
Franchises like Mass Effect and Dragon Age have long historical connections to cosplay, and with international events like gamescom, it’s not uncommon to see famous BioWare characters like FemShep make an appearance on show floor.
The Ranger: Inspiring a new wave of BioWare themed cosplay
It was during a similar expo, EA PLAY 2017, that Elliott and Carla Politte, the husband and wife duo behind Irradiant Cosplay, caught their first glimpse of Anthem.
“I remember seeing Anthem and being immediately drawn to its mysterious world, the idea of the game, and the design of those incredible javelin exosuits," said Elliott. As the Anthem Official Gameplay Reveal (2017), took them on a journey that teased a landscape of primeval beauty, the couple had an ambitious idea: To build the first ever, fully functional, cosplay of the Ranger to showcase at DragonCon 2018.
Irradiant Cosplay’s amazing Project Anthem
Before work could begin on Project Anthem, one question needed addressing; how do you re-create a character from a game that doesn’t release until February 2019? “By going through every sequence of the Reveal Trailer, frame-by-frame” Elliott explained.
Capturing the Ranger from every visible angle gave them enough reference material to begin replicating the exosuits cosmetic appearance and functionality, and to begin mapping it to Elliott’s body shape and height.
Rendering Process: 3D map of the Ranger used to fit Elliott’s frame
“I’m a 6'3" athletic guy, and the armor shown in the trailer was on a more petite, but still athletic, female Freelancer who was quite a bit shorter than me. To work around this, we carried out a virtual scan of my body to make a 3D model, ensuring all of the suits portions were correct” divulged Elliott. “Portions are always the one thing that I’m always extremely focused on, as they can visually make or break a project aesthetically.”
Close up progression render of the Rangers helmet design
All creative projects face unique challenges as Elliott explained, “Our first mistake was thinking we could just 3D print everything, like we've done for past projects. Portions of the armor were too rigid and we had to rethink our approach to building its digitigrade legs.”
Carla adjusts the suits the digitigrade legs
They were eventually welded from steel and everything was hand-built around them using foam, ensuring all sizing and portions remained true to the suits blueprint.
Accuracy of the armors portions was critical to the final design
Trial and error also allowed them to realise the magnitude of Project Anthem. “This was really big. So, we sought help from a few people to ensure the project was complete for Dragon Con 2018.”
Another challenge was building the functionality of the Rangers helmet, which uses electronic wiring to power its motorized faceplate.
Ranger faceplate functionality as it appears in-game
“This was a headache to get right” Elliott recalls, “We ended up making the visor work with an Arduino Micro that’s hooked up to buttons at the rear of the helmet, and on the lower left chest piece.”
Elliott demonstrating his exosuit's faceplate functionality
Pushing these opens the visor, pushing them again slams it shut and turns on the helmet’s lights. All the wiring to power those mechanics are nested in the back of the helmet, along with the battery.
“We also use other electronics in the javelin as well,” Elliott revealed. “I used an Adafruit Arduino Waveshield and Voice Modulator to custom build a pitch shifting vocoder for vocal transformation, and a sound effects rig setup enabled through an Arduino Board that’s hidden in the body of the exosuit.”
Cables inside the back of the suit power helmet mechanics
Sound effects and music are triggered by buttons that run to the tips of his fingers, and the speakers that amplify these armors effects are powered by two ultra-light JBL Clip 2’s located in the suits hip joints.
“There are also other LED lights in the back vents and leg vents, but they were wireless and just needed to be charged before use” said Elliott.
In terms of coloring the Ranger and building its weaponry Elliott said, “We actually made contact with both EA and Bioware, to try and obtain more information on these specifics. That proved quite difficult due the secrecy that often surrounds the development of a video game ahead of launch. We were told though, that the studio would be really excited to see what we came up with.”
True to blueprint: Hand built Anthem weaponry and loadout
It took a lot of ingenuity and over a year to complete. “Suiting up in a 9 ft tall javelin exosuit for the first time is something I’ll never forget!” Elliott disclosed. “I’m ecstatic with how it turned out and couldn’t feel more badass wearing it, but I kind of think that’s how the dev team at Bioware envision Freelancers feeling.” And the first time cosplay fans saw it in Downtown Atlanta during Dragon Con, the reception it received was unreal.
One combat-ready Ranger prepared to engage cosplay fans
“I am always amazed by the creativity of our fans. We love it when our community embraces our characters and lore and brings them to life! We are all super impressed by the work from @irradiantcosplay, this is one badass ranger”. Jon Warner, Lead Producer on Anthem.
Inspired by Irradiant Cosplay or Anthem? Why not download the official Anthem Fan Art Kit containing renders, screenshots, videos and graphics and create your own fan art.
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Cosplay photography by Paul Cory